Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Tale Of Two Mothers - Reflections of Connecticut

Today somewhere in Newmarket
A mother just like me
Is searching for a special box
To place beneath a tree
The box is for her child
Who will wait expectantly
To open it on Christmas Day
Wonderin' what it could be

This season is a special time
For friends and families
We gather with our loved ones
And make new memories
We share our gifts and celebrate
With joy and laughter too
And join our hearts together to pray
For peace, the whole world though
And now somewhere in Newtown
A mother just like me
Is searching for a special box
To place beneath a tree
The box is for her child
A casket it will be
To bury her beloved
In the Newtown cemetery

For what should be a special time
For friends and family
Is replaced by pain and sorrow
Through this senseless tradgedy
We cannot comprehend their loss
Or what they're going through
But families all around the world
In part, are suffering too.


May the God of all peace and comfort, draw especially close
 to the families of Newtown, Connecticut this Christmas.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Signpost

You were the signpost that showed "The Way"
As I wandered along life's road one day
Like an autumn leaf, that was blown and tossed
Unaware that I was even lost

You spoke God's truth and so much more
In ways I'd never heard before
I saw such love and joy in you
I felt compelled to follow too

And many others came to know
And lives were changed from seeds you sowed
 A quiet beauty you displayed
Just simply living out "The Way"

Then pain and sickness came around
And knocked the faithful signpost down
Still, from the stricken place you lay
With courage, you still showed "The Way"

The signpost has now gone for good
And few can stand where you once stood
But I am grateful for the day
The signpost once showed me  "The Way"

In memory of Cathy.
Sunrise 23/02/60 , Sunset 13/10/12
 Thank you for pointing me in the right direction.
 Eternally grateful.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The War of Words

You became my hero yesterday. Right there in McDonalds. And I would stick a purple heart on your chest if I could because what you did was heroic in my eyes. How courageous you were. How bravely you battled and struggled and fought - until you won. And I was so proud of you.
 I am so proud of you.

I realized yesterday that you fight this battle every day. This war of words. 
This is the life of one who stutters.
It is a struggle. 
Internal and external. 
Every. Single. Day.

You had to place your order and I made the decision not to speak for you any more. And you were nervous and anxious. You stuttered and stumbled and blurted it out.
 She didn't understand what you said.

Both of you looked to me for interpretation and clarification. 
And I looked the other way.

It hurt me to do that. I know it hurt you too. But I know there are bigger battles 
ahead for you, so I had to let you fight this one alone.

And you did.

I wondered...what would it feel like if I was to run every race and never get to the finish line?
To go on a diet and never lose any weight?
To keep writing exams and never pass?

Surely I'd feel defeated. Surely I'd lose hope.
Surely I'd give up.
I think most people would.

 Yet you don't. You get up every day and go out into this world
and fight this battle. This war of words.

Yes, there are victories. But there are also crushing defeats.

 And wounds that may not heal. And scars I'll never see.

So I had my own war of words. With God. And it was ugly.
And I asked him how he expected me to stand by and watch my son suffer.
And he reminded me that he saw His Son suffer.
In a garden.
And on a cross.

So son, I hope you know this: even though I cannot fight this war for you,
I am always, always on your side.

For Elliot. My son and my hero.
You can read the poem I wrote for him here

Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Necessary Leaving

One day my precious baby girl
Outgrew the walls that were her world
A flower that began to bloom
The moment that she left my womb
The cord was cut, we were apart
So she could grow inside my heart

But birth is not a time for grieving
It's just a necessary leaving

One day my precious little girl
Outgrew the walls that were her world
The time had come, for her to roam
Inside a place that wasn't home
I let go of her tiny hand
And left her in a foreign land
But school is not a time for grieving
It's just a necessary leaving

One day my precious teenage girl
Outgrew the walls that were her world
Her new home, where she now will stay
Is several hundred miles away
Far from my grasp and out of reach
She'll learn the things I cannot teach

For me, this is a time of grieving
For "Tee" - a necessary leaving

For my sister Sharon and my niece Teresa.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Love Thy (Noisy) Neighbour.

I got some advice from my mother when we bought our first home 5 years ago. "Make every effort to live in peace with your neighbours. In an emergency, they will be there before the police, ambulance, fire department, family or friends."

Sound advice. But I was quite sure I wouldn't need it.

The moment I moved into my house, I immediately liked my neighbour,Tracey. She was a single mother to three older boys. She was everything that I wasn't. Smart, funny, confident, engaging and perhaps the most practical person I have ever met. I admired her. Soon it became clear that we were more than just neighbours. We were friends.

Tracey and I lived happily alongside each other for four years.Then one day she decided to put her house up for sale. I was devastated. Who could possibly replace her? I wrote my feelings about her moving here

My new neighbours were a young Chinese couple in their thirties called Bill and Helen. They were joined by his parents who came straight from China. An elderly couple who spoke no English whatsoever. They seemed like really nice people. I liked them.

But a few months later everything changed.

My neighbours got a dog. A Golden Labrador. They called their dog Sunday. "Sunday". The very name suggests peace, calm and tranquillity. The dog was anything but that. She barked constantly. She barked loudly. I soon became very irritated with the dog. And with my neighbours.

I started to spend  less and less time talking to them. Gone was the cheery "Good Morning."  Gone was any advice about gardening and lawn maintenance. I no longer lingered on the driveway to chat after we finished grocery shopping. I made the excuse that I was carrying cold items that needed to be kept frozen. Which was partly true. I'd become cold hearted toward them. And freezing them out.

Now there wasn't only a privacy fence between us. There was also an invisible wall.

The emergency situation that my mother told me about happened late in the Spring. I was mowing the lawn and had to adjust the height of the blade. By accident, I placed my hand on the engine, badly burning three fingers of my left hand. My husband was gone for the day with the children and I had no car. Even if I did, I wouldn't be able to drive because of the extent of my injuries. I began to panic. I needed help fast. My neighbours!!! But instead of going to Bill and Helen, I bypassed them and went to the next house over. I would like to say it's because I knew Tiziana better (which is true, as our children have played together for years) but we all know that isn't the reason. It was because of the dog. It was because of the wall.

Although I could still hear my neighbours and their dog, I'd built a wall so I didn't have to "see" them.

Early in June I was out one morning watering my garden, when I heard a strange sound. It was a soft and rhythmic sound not loud or annoying in any way. But once I realised it was coming from my next door neighbours, I became irritated by it.

Intrigued as to what was making the noise, I peeked through the slats in the fence, and saw the elderly couple trying to sand the deck by hand with tiny pieces of sandpaper. Their deck is bigger than my deck, and my deck is huge. It was already about 30 degrees in the shade and the forecast promised it would get much hotter. They shouldn't be working like that in this heat. It would take them forever.

I watched them in silence for a few moments, but I knew exactly what I had to do. I ran to my garage and found the electric sander and some medium grain sandpaper. I took it next door and handed it to the old man. I  tried without success to explain to him what it was, but he didn't understand.So, I located the outlet, plugged it in and gave him and his wife a demonstration. I watched their faces change from bewilderment, to confusion, to understanding, to pure unfiltered delight.I will never be able to accurately describe the look on their faces when they realized that I'd handed them a tool that would cut their labour by about 90%. They looked at each other and laughed and laughed saying "Thank you, thank you, thank you." And they bowed. I was completely humbled.

Back in my garden I listened to the all the "noise" coming from my neighbours back yard. I listened to an old couple giggling like school children, having discovered power tools in the sunset of their days. I listened to animated chatter in a language I couldn't understand, but no translation was required. I listened to the electric sander gently humming. And I listened to Sunday barking. But at that moment I was no longer bothered by it. I lifted my garden hose high and to the right, so that it would water their vegetable garden. Then I listened to the sound of the water falling on to the dry earth. These were the sounds of forgiveness.

And there was another sound. A quiet crashing sound. It was the sound of an invisible wall coming down. No one heard it but me.

I would like to say that from that day Sunday became a well trained dog and stopped barking, but that is the stuff of fairy-tales and this is real life. Sunday did continue to bark, but somehow I learned to tolerate it.

I began to see my neighbours for who they were, a sweet, kind, hard working and happy family, who just happened to have a noisy dog. Bill and Helen worked very hard at their jobs and his parents worked hard at home and in their garden. I would see the parents all over my neighbourhood taking the dog for a walk and rummaging around in the recycling bins looking for "treasures."

Last week the old man saw me running. I was running very slowly because I was recovering from surgery. He gestured that he wanted to run with me. So we did. And for around 2km we shuffled along slowly together. We didn't speak, but then again we didn't need to.

Two days ago he gave me the first fruits of their labour from the garden. 5lbs of tomatoes.

But then yesterday a terrible noise came from next door. An awful noise that I never, ever want to hear again. It was a scream, followed by loud hysterical crying. I looked out and saw the police in front of my neighbours house. They had come to deliver the news, that they had just pulled the old man's lifeless body from Bond Lake. He had taken Sunday for a swim and then had a stroke while in the water. He died at 8pm last night.

The crying went on all night.

And so perhaps now I can be to this family in death, what I had failed so miserably to do in life... a good neighbour.

"Love your neighbour as you love yourself." Romans 13: 8-10

Sunday, May 13, 2012

When I Became A Mother

When I became a mother
Something was birthed in me
The power to love another one
So unconditionally

When I became a mother
My heart just grew and grew
It multiplied and magnified
And flowed with love for you.

When I became a mother
Part of my heart left me
And went to live within the child
Who once lived within me

When I became a mother
I never thought I'd see
Growing before my very eyes
Ones, I wish I could be

And now that I'm a mother
It melts me through and through
To hear my sons, say these few words
"I want to be like you"

And now that I'm a mother
My prayer will always be
Son be a better, greater, wiser,
Reflection of me.

Dear Elliot and Ethan...thank you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy 11th Birthday Ethan


Eleven years ago today, God
Thought I needed to be reminded of 
His incredible love for me
And gave me the gift of you. I can
Never thank Him enough.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Touched by an Angel in Walmart?

My plans for the evening had gone south.

And since I didn't fancy spending the evening with the three people I share living space with and since I also  needed a new can opener, deodorant and a birthday card (in that order) I decided to go to Walmart.

It was only when I pulled into the car park, that it occurred to me I still had my house clothes on. A floral shirt, old jeans and green Christmas socks. What did I look like? But who dresses up to go to Walmart anyway? Oh Lord. I could only hope and pray that :-

a. I wouldn't see anyone in Walmart that I knew.
b. I wouldn't get my photograph secretly taken for  "The People of Walmart"

Have you ever seen "The People of Walmart?" If not click here at your own risk. You were warned!

So this had to be a quick trip. Too bad. I wasn't in a hurry to go back home.

I got the first two items, and then went over to the greeting cards. I spent a few moments browsing, when I  heard a voice..."My, that's a lot you're carrying there." It was an elderly gentleman. Dressed casually but smart. Perhaps in his mid-seventies.

At first I thought he was talking to someone else, but we were the only ones in the aisle. He didn't look crazy, so I assumed  he must be talking to me. But carrying what? I only had two small items in my trolley.

"Excuse me?"

"I was just thinking it looks a little heavy for you to carry"

Was this sarcasm? "What?" Perhaps he was a little crazy.

"Oh..," he said laughing. "...not what's in your basket, I'm talking about what you're carrying on your shoulders. Looks like it's a heavy load".

I was speechless. Was he a mind reader?  How did he know I was worrying in Walmart? Was it that obvious? Written on my forehead? I didn't quite know how to respond.

"I was just going to get a coffee .Care to join me?" he said.

I'm not sure why, but I nodded, dropped the card into my trolley, and walked with him to McDonalds. He ordered a coffee. I ordered an orange juice (and a sandwich of high calorific value - yes I'd already had supper, but it was that kind of day.) And before I could get the money out of my wallet, he thrust a twenty dollar bill into the cashiers hand. He paid. I felt a little guilty, but he was quite insistent.

We sat down and there was no awkward silence. We began talking about the weather. Seriously we did. Just weather. For about 15 minutes. The mild winter. The early spring. The gusting winds this evening. Weather. And yet somehow it was the most refreshing conversation I'd had in a long time.

After a while he got up to leave and we shook hands. Then turning he said... "God has only given you two hands, so don't carry any unnecessary bags."  Then he added with a chuckle... "Especially now they charge you 5 cents for each bag. You take care now."

And then he was gone.

I went to pay for my items plus one more. Some gum. Then I realized... he didn't buy anything!

So what exactly did he come to Walmart for?

Maybe he was lonely. Maybe he was just a kind old man with money and time to spare. Maybe he felt sorry for me, because I was dressed like one of the "People of Walmart" and looked like a hobo. Maybe he had Alzheimers and forgot what he came for. Or maybe, just maybe, he was heaven sent for such a time as this. I don't know if he was an angel (the jury is still out on that one), but he was most certainly a blessing in disguise.

I hung around for a while to see if he would come back. He didn't.

I know you can always find a bargain in Walmart, but sometimes you can find more that you bargained for. And in keeping with the logo, his advice saved me money and aimed to help me live a better life. And what did it cost me? Nothing. A mere 15 minutes of my time.

Some of the best things in life are free. Like good advice. So I took it and tried to let go of the the issue that's been bothering me. Hakuna Matata.

Of course I will go back to Walmart.With a better wardrobe choice next time. And you can be sure I'll wander up and down the greeting card aisle. Because well, you never know!

Hebrews 13 v 2 "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it"

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mission Accomplished.

 We were on a mission.

She was cold, tired and hurting. At 1 hour 46 minutes and 15 seconds she ran across the finish line. Her race was over. And by all accounts her mission was accomplished. Almost. She still had something left to do.

So she grabbed a bottle of water, collected her finishers medal and put on a thin plastic poncho to protect her from the extreme cold wind. Then she started running again. This time in the opposite direction. Running back.

She ran for about half a kilometer until she saw one of the runners from her group. Then she turned with them and ran them home. All the way to the finish line.

She did this again. And again. Approximately 9 times until all of her runners were finished.

She is Angie.

"'Leave no man behind"

You will hear this phrase used by the military.The U.S marines. It's like an unwritten code between soldiers.When they go out on a mission, no matter how tough the battle is, they will
 never leave a soldier behind. Ever.

Angie is a marathon instructor and I am one of the runners in her clinic. She knows a lot about marathons, because she has run many of them . She knows about the physical and mental stamina that is needed to endure and complete the race. She knows it can be tough out there. So whenever she takes us out for training or for a race, she practices a code. A clinic instructors code. Leave no runner behind.

Since she is fast, Angie is usually one of the first to finish. But she's never truly finished until the last runner gets to the end. Sometimes she has to wait for us, sometimes she has to call us and on occasion she may have to drive to find one of us . But we're never left alone.

On Sunday I was on a mission too. A simple training exercise. It should have been easy, but shin splints made it feel like mission impossible. Still I soldiered on. And just when I thought I couldn't go any further, there was Angie running toward me. She came back for the last runner. Me.

We were 600 metres away from the finish line. At the end of the race there are always crowds, cheering, music and festivities. I tuned out all the noise so I could listen to the voice that I've come to know and trust during my training. Angie. She ran alongside me with encouraging words until I got to the finish line.

After the sweet exchange of salty tears and much saltier sweat, she said "You did it Elaine, you did it."  But I knew it I didn't do it on my own. It was a team effort. We did it together.

At 2 hours 23 minutes and 45 seconds I stopped running. Then and only then could Angie finally stop running too. I realized that although mine was a solo mission, Angie's wasn't. Her mission ended when mine did. Mission accomplished.

I am glad that when I race, I only have worry about getting myself to the finish line. But I am so grateful for the leaders like Angie, Colin, Monick, Megan, Dom and Diane who make it their mission to bring every last runner home.

March 4th 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Late for Lent

I'm late, I'm late....for a very important date.

It's Ash Wednesday. The first day of Lent. And I (almost) missed it.

How? It's on the calendar. It's like a red letter day. For Christians, that's right up there with
 Christmas and Easter.

Lent. The forty day period leading up to Easter. A period of fasting or abstinence.
 A period of self-sacrifice.

It's observed by some faiths and religions. It's observed by people who say they are not religious.
Some are more religious about it than others. Some even go as far as to spend time in
prayer and fasting deciding exactly what to abstain from.
I however never even gave it a second thought. 
Until right now. And it's almost over.

Lateness is the theme of my life. I race around like the White Rabbit. Always running. Always late.

So this afternoon, after a morning of running around, I sat down for a while at my computer. First I checked my mail,  then I read a few blog posts, then went onto facebook. And as I was staring 
at the blinking screen, it stared back at me.
 And there was the answer 
to my tardiness.

My laptop is a distraction. A big distraction. My biggest distraction

I turn it on to send an email, or write a blog post, or read other blogs , or go onto facebook,
 and before you know it I've spent an hour or two or three...  
...and then I'm late.

I'm tired of being late. It's exhausting.

It needs to stop and a big part of stopping it will be to rid myself of distractions.

So I made a decision. I'm not going  to "give up" the computer during Lent, but just to use it later. Much later. After 6pm. When I've done everything else that I want or need to do. I may be a little late 
responding to emails and messages. I  may miss birthdays on facebook. I'm sorry.
 If I miss yours I'll  be sure to send you a belated message.

I'm posting this now because I had problems all day yesterday with blogger.
 And now it goes OFF.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Snow Day

A don't wanna sit down day
A let's paint the town day
A get up and go day
Hooray - it's a snow day

 A do as we please day
Who cares if we freeze day?
A no place to go day
Why work - it's a snow day

A play on the drive day
A glad I'm alive day
Don't go with the flow day
Stay out - it's a snow day

Turn your frown upside down day
An act like a clown day
A put on a show day
Make men out of snow day

It's a family fun day
A who needs the sun day?
A lets grab a sled day
Go down hill instead day

 So, "Hakuna Matata"
No worries, just laughter
Whatever comes your way day
Celebrate - it's a snow day

Thankful for the 12 cm of packing snow. Good times.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Waiting Room

Yesterday I went to the walk-in clinic with my 13 year old son. He'd hurt his finger playing soccer the day before and it was now very swollen.

Earlier, both children had been at a dentist appointment. I didn't want to take both of them to the clinic, so I stopped at home to drop off my other son.

While we were there, I told my 13 year old to get his iPod or a book, so that he'd have something to do in the waiting room. He refused to get out of the car. I told him that there was no way I could predict the length of time it would take to see the doctor. Still he refused. I could've got the book for him, but I want him to learn to take some responsibility for his actions. I asked him one more time. He said no so I took him to the clinic sans entertainment.

I asked the receptionist how long she thought we would have to wait. She estimated 20 minutes. No worries.

I pulled out my book (which I had in my bag for their dentist appointment) and started to read. My son however, became bored after about 5 minutes. Having Aspergers Syndrome, anxiety and a sore finger made it very difficult for him to relax. "When are we going to see the doctor?" he asked me. "I don't know" I said. He then proceeded to ask me this question over and over at two minutes intervals.

An hour later, we were still waiting. My son was ready to have a meltdown. So was I.

Then they called his name. But called 5 other names before his. We were told to go to "Booth F"
and I knew they would be seeing the people in " Booths A-E" before we would be seen. Great.

"Why is the doctor not coming yet?"  or "Why is she wasting the doctors time when all she has is a cough?" then "Doesn't the doctor know how to tell time? And I couldn't give him an answer.

People with Aspergers need absolutes not ambiguity and uncertainty. They don't like when routines are switched or changed. They like things to be predictable and orderly. His plans for how he was going to spend his Thursday evening had suddenly and dramatically changed. He was freaking out.

Still waiting.

Then came the nurse who asked questions, took notes and told us that the doctor would be along shortly.

Still more waiting.

Finally, 1 hour and 47 minutes later, we saw the doctor.  He like me, suspected a broken finger. So he sent us upstairs to have an x-ray. But first we'd have to sit in another waiting room.

Half an hour later we came back downstairs. The doctor confirmed the fracture and we went to the treatment room to have his finger isolated and placed in a splint.

It's hard to wait and my son proved to be a very impatient patient.  I think the waiting room experience was more painful for him and perhaps worse than any pain he felt in his finger. Life threw him a curveball. He wasn't prepared. But I should've known better. I should've just gotten the iPod for him myself. This was not the time to teach my son a lesson. It was time to be supportive to him. He has Autism.

But I can relate.

It's been a tough week for me. I too have been in a few waiting rooms myself. I've had some "abnormal" test results. Further testing has proved "inconclusive". I've been here before. Some of you know my history.  Here we go again.

I guess what this means is, I'm going to have to ride the roller-coaster again while strapped in the waiting room chair. It's a white knuckle ride with no screaming allowed. There will be "I don't know's, maybe's and uncertainties." My short term plans and goals may have to change or be placed on hold.

And I'll have to wait.

I just ask you to be patient with me.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Love is in the Air

Photo credit: Louisa Miceli

Cupid transcribes, tidings of love
With colours - red and pink
Yet wrote on skies of powder blue
In cotton cumulus ink

And with his arrow shaped a cloud
This statement to declare
A quiet moment, echoed loud
Look, love is in the air

For Susan, with love...

Happy Valentines Day

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Season of Friendship.

Four Season Painting: Luiza Vizoli

I paused and I pondered
Reflected with reason
Why every friendship
Is much like a season

There are cycles to all things
Friends come and they go
When compared to the seasons
 I've now come to know

~ - ~ - ~

Quite often a friendship
Reminds me of Spring
It blossoms and grows
With the new life it brings

While others, like Summer
Are enduring and long
Through storms and the heat
Somehow still remain strong

~ - ~ - ~

Some friends burst with colour
Like an autumn display
'Til cool winds of change
Cause a falling away

Winter friendships turn cold
We may never know why
Become distant and frozen
And eventually die 

~ - ~ - ~

To friends who are constant
Steadfast and true
I will try to be both
 Spring and Summer to you

But sadly, some friendships
Are not meant to last
I take comfort, like seasons
These too soon shall pass

*Please note: I think all seasons are beautiful, and every friendship can add 
some meaning to your life*

Sunday, February 5, 2012

When the Write Words are all Wrong


Unspoken. Spoken.Written.

They are still the most effective method of communication that we have.

Words are powerful. The right words can uplift or elevate. They can empower us. Change us. Make us smile. Make us feel good. They can turn a bad situation around. And the right words can heal.
However, the wrong words can tear down and destroy. They can hurt and wound. And oh how they do.

"Use your words..."

When I used to work in Kindergarten, perhaps the phrase I would  find myself saying the most is "Use your words..."  Young children, having neither age or experience, are not well schooled in social interactions and conflict resolution.They usually default to their fists when backed against the wall. I remember an incident where two little girls were involved in a shoving match. "Use your words" I encouraged. She crossed her arms, screwed up her face and spat out "you stinky poo-poo head..." Not quite the words I was expecting.

Recently I wrote an post on my blog and featured my friend as an example in an illustration. I wanted to show everyone what a valuable lesson I had learned from her. I chose my words very carefully and thought I'd used the write words to show how different we were.She calm and orderly. Me crazy and chaotic. I thought I had highlighted some of her finer qualities, such as discipline and organization. I thought she would like what I'd written. She didn't. Obviously I thought wrong.

I sent her a text to see if she'd read the post


I then left her a phone message followed by a message on facebook.

More silence.

How could this have happened? Even if she had misconstrued or misinterpreted my words, surely she could read my heart? I would never do anything to hurt her. I was trying to build her up, not pull her down.

Still there was silence.

So finally I sent an short email. No flowery poetic language. Just the right words. The right word.

 Sorry is not an eraser.  It doesn't take away.

It's more like a Band-Aid.

It covers the wound, so healing can begin.

After my children have had a fight, I will often tell them to say they are sorry. Sometimes they are reluctant.
"I don't feel sorry" they will say. "Maybe not, but your brother needs to hear it..."

So I chose to say the right words and begin to repair the bridge from my end. My friend needs to see it and hear it.

And hopefully time will heal.

But if sorry isn't the right word, I'm not sure what else I can say?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Winter Lace

Click image for more detail

O seasonal celestial skies upon this orb, has graced
A crystal crochet covering of pure white winter lace

This frosted silent shroud settles on limbs exposed and bare
And forms a glittering glaze to showcase natures earthenware

 Standing in snowy stillness mortal eyes in awe, survey
Such ornate frozen forestry on delicate display

Photo credit: Jean Yokarinis.

Dear Jean...thank you for capturing winter so beautifully.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Go The Distance

I know I can go the distance
Though the road ahead is long
Seeing you in the horizon
Makes me feel, I too am strong

I know I can go the distance
Though a hill I have to climb
When you gently come beside me
And you whisper "take your time"

I know I can go the distance
Though each step I take is tough
Your words challenge and encourage
When I've simply had enough

Yes I know I'll go the distance
I will make it to the end
And I'm thankful that you take the time
To run with me, my friend.

For Carey
and my "ATB" running friends
Thank you

Thursday, January 19, 2012

When Someone Other Than God is Watching

There is a tree-lined public pathway that runs along the southside of my house. I suppose you could call it a shortcut to the main road, Yonge Street. However, I think if you were to time yourself taking the path versus the street, the path probably only saves you seconds rather than minutes.

The public path a few weeks ago

While I will be the first to admit that I use this path often, I find that it is more of an
 inconvenience to me than a convenience.
 For two reasons...

Firstly there are no garbage bins along the path. I  have called the city to request one, but they told me that having a garbage bin would "attract too much garbage". Hmmm... really? Anyhow with no bins, the garbage often ends up being thrown or blown into my backyard.

Secondly, since some of  the city trees overhang my property, it is my responsibility to trim them
back on my side when they become overgrown during the summer
 and rake the leaves when they drop in the fall.

So, I was delighted a few weeks ago when the city works department came along the path and not only trimmed the trees, but pruned them back. To almost nothing. Less yard work for me!

The pubic path today

Last week while I was upstairs cleaning the window in my sons bedroom,  I noticed something. Somethng I'd never noticed before in all the five years I've lived here.
I noticed the view. I could now see the neighbourhood all the way to the main road and beyond. Wow.

I noticed something else too. I found that I could see into some of the rooms of my neighbours house (which is lovely I might add). They seem to have a flair for interior design.

The removal of the city trees had given quite me the vantage point

For a while I stood there checking out the scenery, but then it hit me. Oh no... no, no, NO!

I rushed downstairs and ran out into the backyard.  Once there, I lined up the chairs neatly on the deck. Covered up the empty rabbit hutch with a tarp. Straightened the crooked bird feeder and added some bird seed. Put away the ladder from the pool. Hid the lumber from last years deck project under the stairs by the garage. and returned the boys bats and balls to their rightful home, the toybox. Phew.

So you're probably wondering what initiated the sudden frantic backyard activity. Well I'll tell you. I suddenly became aware of the fact, that if I can see my neighbours house so clearly, then they can also see mine. And if they can see mine, then they will see that this quite ordinary, Contrary Mary doesn't grow a such a great garden after all. Or keep a tidy house. And now the whole neighbourhood knows 

Isn't it funny how we change our behaviour when we think others are watching.
We have to keep up appearances.

Take reality shows for instance. You have to laugh at them. The producers want the stars to "be themselves" and "act normally" in front of the cameras. But we all know they don't. They will either be super nice or behave really badly just to boost the ratings.

And it happens in real life too. We keep ourselves in check when there are people around us.We choose different clothes, put on make up, tidy our homes, edit our words, make different decisions and moderate our behaviour when we're in public. And so we should.

But what if who we are in public, is nothing like who we are in private? What then?

The bible gives some insight. 'Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of wickedness..." (Luke 11;39)

Jesus was referring to the religious leaders who outwardly seemed good and did what was right, but inside their hearts were evil. He tried to teach them that their inner character mattered more to God than their outward appearance.

"The Lord does not look at the things that people look at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. "(1 Samuel 16:7 )

 God is Omipresent and He sees everything all the time. He can see above all the privacy trees,
 but is mostly concerned with the matters of the heart.

He's doesn't care how my deck chairs are lined up, but would like my attitude fall in line with the teachings of Jesus. A crooked birdfeeder is insignifcant compared to a crooked and deceitful heart. I can hide the lumber anywhere, so long as I don't hide from His truth. Do you see where I'm going with this?

This is liberty, at least for me. Most people close to me know I'm no Suzy Homemaker. Things are rarely if ever in place. And nothing matches. I can't keep up. I have lots of friends who have really lovely homes and one day I hope to have one too. But right now the only interior renovation work will be taking place deep within my heart. Where only God is watching.

And in the meantime you will find me walking up and down the public pathway sprinkling
Miracle Gro on the soil and praying this miracle will work.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

when it all comes down ...there are memories

Why are people in such a hurry to take everything down?

Today after bible study I went to do some grocery shopping and buy a birthday card.

I turned into the card aisle to be greeted by a sea of red and pink. Valentines Day cards are here. And some Easter cards too for that matter. And here I was thinking I might get a Christmas Card or two on sale.

Phew, they got rid of the holidays in a hurry.

I got home and saw the two Christmas wreaths on the door; and the reindeer; and the snowmen

 And I didn't want to go inside, because today is the day I've designated to take down my Christmas decorations (collective gasp from the readers)
"They're not down yet?" ;"The tweflth day of Christmas was Jan 6th! ";"I think it's bad luck to keep them up for this long" 

 To that I say Pfft!

I like to linger and enjoy the good times. I really enjoyed Christmas this year. I did more than I normally do, because my parents were coming. And I went a little overboard with the decorating. My friend Elizabeth loaned me a some decorations (that I probably didn't need, but boy did they ever look nice) I'm just not ready to take them down, partly because of the memories, but mostly because it will be a lot of hard work. Tearing down will be a enormous task. My front room looks like a scene from hoarders.

 Instead of going inside to take everything down I stayed outstide and put something up.

We only have a handful of snow here right now. Normally at this time of year, we're buried under mountains of it. And wiith the unseasonably warm temperatures, I'm not sure we'll get anymore snow anytime soon

So, with my groceries melting on the doorstep, I stayed outside and built a miniature snowman. By myself (i wonder what the neighbours thought). But it was fun. And it will make for a good memory when I'm old (well, older because, according to my children I'm already old)

I think my snowman is great. Like most good things he won't last very long.
 Especially in these temperatures.

But when he melts at least there will always be...

...the memories.

(Now I'm going inside to take the decorations down. Well, perhaps later. Or maybe tomorrow)

*btw...this is not my snowman, because I couldn't find my camera, because it's buried under a ton of Christmas stuff, that I've yet to put away*

Monday, January 9, 2012

When you're running... on empty.

Last week I woke up early to take my son to his hockey game. My dad, Ethan and I got into the car to drive to the hockey arena. I pulled out of the driveway and no sooner had I done that, when the low fuel warning light appeared on the dash. Grrr...I hate it when my husband does that!

Although I knew I would pass three gas stations on the way to the arena, I didn't have time to stop, because I was already running late. It was then that I heard the familiar voice of my husband ringing in my head. "Don't worry, you can drive at least 40km with the gas that's in the reserve ".  He always says that to me because he always leaves it empty. But since the arena is only about 10km away I wasn't too worried. I drove straight there promising to get gas on the way home.

After the game, I stopped at the first gas station and pulled up to the pump. I flicked the release button to open the door of the gas tank and... nothing. I tried it again and again nothing. I flicked it over and over. The door would not open. My dad got out to help me, and he couldn't open it either. The two of us tried for about 15 minutes to no avail. We couldn't open the door so we couldn't fill the tank. Unable to get gas at a gas station. Oh the irony.

My car is new so  I decided it would probably be best to take it back to the dealership. Again I heard my husbands familiar (and now very annoying) voice saying "Don't worry, you can drive at least 40km with the gas that's in the reserve". Really? I did some quick mental math and concluded that since I'd only driven about 10km, I could possibly make it to the dealership which was about 25km away. I didn't want to take the risk, but what choice did I have?

What followed next can only be described as some of my worst driving ever. Canada's Worst Driver? At that moment...yes I was. I was so anxious that the car would choke and die if I stopped that I tried my best not to. My husband said it could go for 40km, but how did he know? He'd certainly never tried it. And what if he was wrong?  What if it only did 39km? or 35km? Needless to say I was erratic badly drove Even went through an amber light or two. But don't tell anyone.

At the dealership, the mechanic took approximately one minute to diagnose the problem. He looked at my car and told me there was nothing wrong with it except for the fact that it was frozen. Pouring hot water over the door would've released it. That's it. Frozen. I myself stood frozen for a moment. Feeling stupid.

Why do car mechanics always state the obvious and make me look dumb? DON'T answer that!

As I drove home I thought about how I could've avoided this situation. Carrying extra gas wouldn't have helped me because I couldn't even get into the tank. I knew the secret. It was something my good friend Liz told me.

You see this would never have happened to Liz, for one good reason. Her car is never empty. Ever. Liz keeps the car full and refills it when the tank reaches the halfway mark. She has never seen the low fuel warning light. She doesn't need a low fuel warning light.

Hmmm. A valuable lesson there me thinks. And not just for driving.

I also found that last year when I did my half marathon training clinic, my instuctor Monick would remind us all to "Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate". Two weeks before the race she layed it on really thick. "I don't care if you're thirsty or not....DRINK"

That advice made all the difference for my race. I ran more efficently. I avoided the build up of lactic acid in my legs . And I ran a lot faster. My personal best, shaving a whopping 25 minutes off my time.

But I haven't been applying that principle to my personal life.

Lately I've been feeling dry. Empty. Completely drained. And it's not just the post Christmas blahs or the fact that I'm missing my parents. So why?

I didn't have to think for very long or look very hard for the source of my drought. It lay on my beside table covered in a fine layer of dust. Just when did I last read my bible?

"...but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14 NIV)

The word of God is a source of living water for me and I haven't been reading it. Hence the thirst. Simple really. Nuff said.

So today I picked it up again. And not just the familiar favourite parts, but something new and fresh. I also started reading Max Lucado's "God's Story, your story".

Ahhh...that's better.

Life can be draining. Very draining. So it's good to be spirtually filled. And keep topping yourself up. Daily.

Because you never know when a situation may arise that keeps your gas door from opening.

And you can only go so far on your reserve.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Arrivals and Departures

I love airports. And many years ago, before having children and 9/11 changed everything, it was my favourite place to go. Twice a month I would drop my husband off at the departure lounge for his business trip, and then I would spend an hour or two checking out the shops. And also watch the people.

The airport is a most fascinating place. I really don't think there is anywhere else quite like it. I mean what hasn't happened at the airport? There's crime, mystery, drama, suspense, and hundreds of people, often in a highly emotional state. I'm sure there's been death and perhaps even an birth or two (although I haven't seen it). It's like an ongoing reality show.

I soon found though, that I preferred to spend more time in arrivals than in departures.

Departures always seemed so sad, So final. People going home, going away, running away, leaving someone, saying goodbye.

But Arrivals...ah, now there's a happy place. The people coming through the gates in the arrival lounge , no matter how tired, or how long a journey, were just so glad to have reached their destination. And then, when they made eye contact and connected with their loved ones, the reunion was inevitably sweet.

So imagine my delight when three weeks ago I got to go to my favourtie place, to meet two of my favourite people. My mom and dad.

My parents were coming to spend Christmas with me. I was so excited about this that for once in my life, I actually arrived half an hour early at the airport. Their flight was delayed by 45 minutes so I had time to kill. Bursting with anticipation I paced up and down. I was way too anxious to read a magazine, so instead I did what I always do in arrivals. I watched the people.

Because I was already brimming with emotion, I shed a tear each time I saw a traveller greeted by family or friends. By the time I saw my parents, I couldn't hold back. The levee burst and I wept openly. It was the most wonderful reunion.

Three weeks later, I made the same journey to the same place. However my experience was remarkably different. I was still very emotional, but this time instead of saying hello,  I was saying goodbye. I was overwhelmed with sadness as I watched my mom being taken through airport security in a wheelchair. This was the hardest goodbye ever.

I miss them so much. Nothing prepared me for the emptiness I feel without them.

But here's the irony. In arrivals I did three things. I hugged my parents, I kissed them and I cried. In departures, again I hugged them, I kissed them and I cried. The same act, in the same place, but the experience was poles apart.

Arrivals and departures are different.

And life is just one long series of arrivals and departures. They are played out every hour of every day. Much like at the airport.

Most of us arrive (are born) into a family where we are expected, anticipated and loved. Upon our arrival there is fanfare and tears of joy and happiness. And when we depart there is a sense of loss and sadness. Tears of grief and sorrow.

And it's not just life and death. Our children arrive in kindergarten and then depart for university, leaving us with aching hearts and an empty nest. Seasons come and go.  So do relationships, pets, events, activites and jobs. A new year has just arrived and in 360 days or so it will depart. Arrivals and departures, comings and goings, to-ing and fro-ing, hatch and dispatch.

We do it all the time, yet still find it hard to say goodbye.

I believe that one of the reasons saying goodbye is so hard, is that we were never meant to.

 "God has placed eternity in the hearts of men..." Eccles 3 vs 11.

Look at all we do to extend our lives a little longer. Diet, exercise, pills, anti-aging lotions and potions. The truth is we just don't want to go. None of us. Ever. And yet one day... we all will.

I like to think that maybe all of these arrivals and departures are somehow preparing us, not for death, but for the afterlife.

I certainly take comfort from the fact that one day there will be a Heaven. Eternal life. No more goodbyes.

As a believer I'm awaiting my final departure.  It will be heralded by the arrival of Jesus. "The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised..." 1 Corin 15 vs 52. But since I don't know when that will be, I guess here is where you will find me. Waiting.

So I suppose I may as well plan another departure. But it won't be a sad one. I'm looking forward to the day when I can go to Lester B. Pearson airport departure lounge, to take an outbound flight YYZ to MAN. And when I land 7 hours later, I'll see the faces of my mom and dad waiting for me in arrivals.

I can hardly wait.