Thoughts on relationship in a polarized world

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Edit: Please note that I have added a significant number of words to this essay.  I realized upon further reflection, and based on some feedback, that I skipped a vital part of my journey and my family’s journey in the process of getting to where we are today, and also that I left some of my thoughts incomplete.  For those who have already read the original post, I thank you for your time, and encourage you to read it again when you have a few minutes, to get a better understanding of my family and faith history as well as my viewpoints. 

The situation happening at the southern border of the United States has got everyone in an uproar right now, and as usual, opinions are polarized.  Even I got caught up in demonizing a friend who was posting on Facebook from a Republican perspective.  I know, I know.  That sounds horribly vain – “Even I…” like I’m some sort of saint who always treats everyone with compassion.  But it really does go against my grain to end a friendship over a difference in values.  We’ve been friends for about 5 years and I’ve always known we came from different political camps.  What changed?  I felt pushed past a tipping point, and reacted in anger to something she posted on social media: something I think we all do from time to time.

It turns out that, for me, reacting in anger is rarely a good idea.  I don’t think clearly there, and I do damage to relationships.  Not to say that feeling anger is bad.  Anger is an important message that tells us when boundaries have been crossed.  The trick is learning how to use anger in a productive way. So what is a better way to engage when faced with a person with whom you just can’t see eye-to-eye or who offends or hurts you?

Here’s what I think.

Every person sees life from a particular frame of reference – their own.  Even people who grow up in the same family don’t end up with the same frame of reference.  We are influenced by our innate personalities, conditions in our home and environment as we were growing up, our position in the birth order of our siblings if we had any, our family traditions and history, the religion, or lack thereof, that we were raised with, who we come in contact with, what kinds of people we are exposed to, what kinds of experiences we are exposed to, where we went to school, what subject options were available, and who taught them, what the important people in our lives believe, the wounds we suffer and nurse, the healing we work through and where we are in that journey, the sources of love and fear in our lives, the way our families experience and handle money…the list is inexhaustible.

In my case, I was raised in an evangelical Mennonite home, as a missionary kid in Botswana, Africa, and then a pastor’s kid in British Columbia, Canada.  As the eldest of three spirited girls, and first-born to an emotionally wounded mom and a helper/fixer dad, my peacemaker personality (Enneagram 9 if anyone is interested) grew into a deep need to avoid conflict at all costs in order to keep my inner sea calm.  This often meant that I didn’t speak up if I disagreed with something.  But if I was with two people who disagreed with each other, I was able to see and explain both sides of the story – I still am.  I put a lot of effort into being the easy child, who followed all the rules and made life easy for my parents.

At the same time, I was being exposed to a cross section of the world that most kids don’t get to see.  Being in Botswana allowed me to live life with people who were very different from me, though still within pretty clear bounds of conservative Christianity and the missionary community we lived and worked among.  I believe that a large part of my acceptance of people as they are stems from my experience in the missionary field with my parents. My friends were Batswana, and Indian, and South African, and Scottish, and American.  My parents worked hand-in-hand with locals and expatriates alike.  It was beautiful.  Their model of kindness, inclusiveness and respect is a huge part of who I am today.

In terms of my faith, as a child I dove into Evangelical Christianity head first.  We moved from a Mennonite church to a more “charismatic” church, which gave me some new ideas about what a worship service would look like.  I adjusted and continued my faith journey, not questioning anything I had been taught until…I met my now husband who grew up with a different kind of Christianity and was at that time agnostic, experienced a very different home life, and had a very different personality than mine.  What an upset!

My early adult years were hard for me and for my family.  We each had to work through a lot of our own preconceived notions about life and love and family and relationships.  My mom was in the midst of some very difficult and amazing work surrounding her own childhood wounds and how they played out in her relationships, I was learning how to leave my parents and become a new family with Devin, my Dad was learning how to let me go, my sisters were watching things play out from their teenage lives, and all the while, I was struggling with what it looks like to be a Christian in the world that I was discovering as an adult.

I have ended up in a place where I disagree with some of the ideas and values that were part of my church upbringing.  But I can also still see how it would be difficult to give some of that up.  Our family has come through fire to become a family that can talk honestly to each other, even about hard things, and still be in relationship.  We apologize sincerely and quickly.  We don’t all agree on all issues, but we do agree that LOVE is more important than being right.  My Mom is one of my dearest confidants and friends, and her modeling of self-work and healing has been vital to my own process.  I am amazed at the amount of love she has for people and the integrity with which she lives her life.  My Dad is as passionate as ever about being a great father and a Godly man.  We enjoy spending time together and learning from each other.

When I consider the nature of Evangelical Christianity here in the United States, I think the worldview of those church members is very different depending on where in the US you are.  Generally, the east and west coasts are more politically liberal and also more multicultural than the central states.  (There are also north versus south differences.  I’m not a historian or an economist, so this is vague and extremely general.) I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they also tend, then, to have a very different flavour of Evangelical Christian. The closer you get to a big city, the more pronounce this difference seems to be.

What this tells me is that the more exposure you have to people who believe different things, the more likely you are to expand your own worldview.  If it is normal in your town for people of different cultures to participate in each other’s lives, you’ll grow up with a more inclusive view of other races.  If you grow up being fed the stereotype of another culture rather than actually being a part of their lives, you will form some very deeply held ideas about who “those people” are.  I personally really struggle with what looks to me like racism and a general lack of compassion for others in some parts of Christianity in the US.  However, I am beginning to understand how these attitudes that seem so anathema to me could be considered normal in those circles.

Please, please understand…empathy does not equal endorsement.  Just because I can attempt to put myself in the shoes of people that, to me and many others, seem racist, doesn’t mean I am excusing their behaviour.

Consider this:  you are living in a primarily white middle class neighbourhood in the US, and for the most part your experience of  non-white people is that: a) you can’t understand what they say because they speak a different language, b) they eat things that smell odd to you, and wear clothes that look strange to you, c) they have customs and worship practices that smack of everything that your customs and worship practices are not, and d) your parents and family for generations have taught you that the way you live and believe is the only right way, and that any questioning of that belief will send you to eternal damnation after you die.  Perhaps they are Muslim.  Your very spiritual existence depends on “othering” those who are different from you.  How easy would it be to change that way of thinking?  Any real change would probably take generations to affect how you live and interact with others.

“But we’re in the Internet Age when information about the rest of the world is at your fingertips”, you protest.  “They have no excuse!  It’s there for the learning. ”

Most certainly, except that perhaps you have also been taught that only the sources of information that already comply with your world view are to be trusted.  That narrowed band of influence immediately removes all the information that could help you learn better to be better.

“I grew up that way, and I found a way out”, one might argue.

Well done.  I mean it.  I have found my way out of some ideas from my evangelical roots that were harmful, and know better now.  Consider, though, what spurred your change of mind or heart?  Also, what is innate about your personality that might not be present in another?  In my own story, it took falling in love with “the wrong guy” and attending my local secular college for me to start pushing against what I had always “known” to be true.  My innate ability to see things from different perspectives afforded me an avenue with which to expand my worldview as I was exposed to new ideas.  But if someone’s personality leans more toward attaching to an authority figure or following the rules, then it will take an authority figure’s shift or a rule change to help them start to see a different way of being.  If you are someone who has always followed their own path, and independence of thought and action is one of your driving motivators, then all you need is for something to seem a little off for you to start down a different path than your upbringing was pointing you toward.

This is not to say that people should be allowed to be bigoted or racist or hateful or hurtful without challenge.  I think it is important to call people out on things they do that hurt other people.  But I think it is important to do so in a manner that takes into account their upbringing and world view.

Be aware of your motivations and expectations.  In my case, I had been expecting something of my friend that she wasn’t ready for.  I expected that she should be able to understand all sides of the issue the way I do, and come to a similar point of view because we both believe in the same Jesus and both study the same bible.  However, that’s not her personality style nor does that jive with her life experience.

I may never know for certain what someone else’s motivations are, or what they really wrestle over in their hearts.  I may never change someone’s mind, or I may plant a seed that will germinate and grow later.  That is not up to me.  What IS up to me is to treat them kindly and do my best to understand where they are coming from, while also being clear about my own beliefs and values.

What I will hope for is that, going forward we will all consider how our words and actions and Facebook posts might affect those around her who we claim to love.  I have learned that lesson in a hard way this week when another acquaintance misunderstood my intentions.

It is absolutely one’s right to have opinions and to express them.  It is also important to be willing to fight for what we think is right.  But I think it’s also everyone’s responsibility to express those opinions in a manner that doesn’t alienate or ostracize those who see the world differently.  Calling people names, demonizing them, giving up on them, and failing to try to understand why they think the way they do – these do not effect positive change.  What does change a person is being heard, understood, healed, and gently guided toward a different way of thinking about something they may not have considered.  Try to force a new value system down someone’s throat and they will fight with everything they have.  Help them deal with the source of the fear that is keeping them where they are, and they won’t have a good reason to stay there anymore.

One last thought…I think when it comes to fighting systems that need to change, it is important to be loud and persistent and demand change.  When engaging with people who need to grow, it is necessary to be kind, compassionate and empathetic.  Any other way just causes more hurt.

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Love Thy Neighbour

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With all of the opinions and scriptures, accusations and recriminations being fired back and forth between both sides of the Homosexuality debate, I have become heart-sick at the hurt and pain being caused by and felt by so many people in both camps.  It is such a controversial issue for many, and while both the US and Canadian governments have now ruled that gay marriage is legal, giving gays the same legal rights and recognition as any couple, many people are struggling with this decision on a personal and spiritual level.

I’ve been open about my own position on the matter in personal conversations with my friends and family, but have never published it here because I’ve been afraid of the backlash.  I feel like I have reached a point in my own journey where I can do that and handle whatever might be sent my way.  This is my blog, which you can choose to read or not.  However, my intention is not to offend or hurt anyone, simply to open up another potential perspective for people.

So, lets start with this: My background is Christian.  I was raised in a conservative Christian household, as a Missionary Kid (MK) in Botswana, Africa, and then later as a Pastor’s Kid (PK) in British Columbia, Canada.  I went to a Mennonite high school, complete with mandatory bible classes and lessons on abstinence instead of birth control.  I LOVED my school and am grateful for the 5 years I got to spend there.  But then my high school made my sister feel judged and unwelcome when as a teenager, she made some decisions that led to her becoming pregnant. That did not feel like Love to me.

As a young adult, I attended my local college, started dating my now husband, and was exposed to a larger world where opinions different from my conservative upbringing were suddenly available to me.  I stopped going to church for a while, partly because my Sweetie and I couldn’t handle the disconnect between the Love commanded in the Bible, and the Condemnation actually being practiced and preached in church. The homosexuality issue was a huge part of that. We have since come to terms with the fallibility of humankind, and the limitlessness of God, and have found a church where we feel loved and supported.

Part of the expansion of my world in college was getting to know my Sweetie’s brother and his partner.  They were the first openly gay people I had ever met.  Until then, I had been totally unexposed to the gay community, and had a vague notion that the Bible said homosexuality was wrong.  It wasn’t really a large issue in my life and I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it.  The concept of two men in a romantic relationship made me uncomfortable because of its newness, but I quickly learned that they were just two people in love who wanted to share their lives with each other.  Without aggressive teaching against homosexuality, it was relatively easy to accept their relationship as it was – full of love, respect, fun, and commitment.  I quickly grew to love them as my own brothers.  Perhaps my parents and teachers will feel like they failed in properly training me in the ways of the Bible, but really they should be proud that they instilled kindness and love as my primary values.

I haven’t always agreed with every decision my homosexual brothers have made, in the same way that I have not always agreed with every decision my own heterosexual sisters have made.  But their sexual orientation is a separate issue – I can’t make myself see that as a decision they have chosen for themselves.  Knowing them as well as I do, there is no arguing who they are at their core, and that includes their homosexuality.  I don’t believe they could choose to be (not just act) heterosexual any more than I could choose to be an elephant.

Now, here is where I expect to start getting some argument from my more conservative friends and family.  If the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, then it can’t possibly be core to their identities – they have chosen to live a life of sin.  Or they were damaged emotionally as children and can’t help the way they feel, but they are broken and need healing.  To anyone who makes those arguments, my question is this: Have you gotten to know someone who is gay well enough that you have had intimate conversations, gone vacationing together, and made them part of your family?  If you haven’t, how can you presume to have an opinion about whether their sexuality is innate or chosen?

If you do have close relationships with homosexual people and still believe their homosexuality is evil, have you looked into the history of the word “homosexual” in the Bible and considered the cultural context?  I’m guessing you have done so with other issues such as the acceptance of slavery, polygamy, racism and sexism in the Bible, all of which are rejected by most Christians these days.  If you haven’t considered these things, how can you be sure that committed, loving homosexual relationships are condemned by God when Christianity no longer condemns interracial marriage, no longer accepts slavery and polygamy, and for the most part no longer prevents women from holding leadership roles in churches.

There is plenty of brokenness in every person – it’s an unfortunate part of being human.  But what I’ve discovered after many discussions with my gay friends and family, is that the brokenness involved with their homosexuality has nothing to do with conflict over who they are.  They know who they are, and have found extreme relief in accepting their own homosexuality.  Any remaining conflict for the people with whom I have a relationship has everything to do with how they are treated or expect to be treated by others.  So here, finally, I come to the main point of my post.

In both Canada and the United States, we are free to follow whichever religion we choose. (Note how this is clearly a choice each person has a right to – whether you are born to a religion or not, you can choose to worship in whatever way you please.  This right is not unique to North America, but there are plenty of places where being a Christian is illegal.)  As such, if you choose to interpret the Bible to mean that homosexuality is a sin, that is your right, and no one can take that from you.  Chances are there is something that you feel is core to your being or core to your spirituality that another religion sees as a sin, and they have a right to believe that too.  We also enjoy Freedom of Speech, which means that you cannot be arrested for expressing your opinion.

My challenge to those who believe that homosexuality is a sin is two-fold:

  1. Consider how your words and actions might make others feel.  While it may not be your job as a Christian to approve of behaviour that your religion says is a sin, as a Christian it IS your job to spread the Love of Jesus.  Do you think telling people that they are an abomination makes them feel loved?  What is your true motivation for posting articles condemning homosexuality – do you think that will convince homosexuals that they should come to you for spiritual counselling?  Are you looking to have your beliefs confirmed by like-minded individuals?  Are you inviting debate and open conversation?  Being legally free to express your opinion does not necessarily mean that you are obligated to express that opinion in mixed company and without a sufficiently close relationship to soften the blow of your words.  Whether homosexuality is a sin or not, relationship is more important.  This is something my parents taught me – the value of relationship over rightness about theological argument.  Holding too close to the latter may create a rift in the relationship that is very difficult to repair.

     

    And please don’t tell me that you “love the sinner but hate the sin” (I have more to say on this phrase but that’s a whole post of its own).  Do you actively campaign against sin in your own communities and in your own intimate circles? Do you post articles on Facebook condemning divorce, laziness and pursuit of wealth in Christians – all biblical sins that have become accepted as a fact of life these days?  Or are you picking on homosexuality? Is there a chance that your own intolerance and judgement of people in the LGBT community is a sin that you are committing in the name of righteousness?

     

    I have considered that my words might make you feel uncomfortable, and I expect that you will react.  I hope that you will react by thinking and praying about the consequences of loudly and publicly objecting to homosexuality.  Are gay people hurting you by being gay?  How?  Are you hurting gay people by objecting strongly (a nice way of saying “condemning” but I don’t want to make assumptions about your motives) to something that they believe is innate to who they are?  Probably.

  2. Actively get to know someone in the homosexual community and have an open dialogue with them about their own experiences and feelings.  Choose to listen rather than try to change them, and learn about the struggles they are actually experiencing, not the struggles you imagine for them.  Meet them where they are and leave your own beliefs on the side for a while so you can truly get to know them.  You are not responsible for their salvation, Jesus is.  Your Love will prove your Christianity to them more completely and more honestly than your judgement or attacks with bible verses.

Now, I also have a message for those on the pro-homosexuality side of the equation.

I know that people in the LGBT community have felt condemned and pushed aside by the religious community for a long time.  I know there is a lot of hurt there.  It makes me so sad to see how The Church has failed to love and embrace this part of the population.  Granted, more liberal-leaning Christian denominations have begun the process of adjusting to this new world of inclusiveness for homosexuality.  But many Christians have spent their entire lives being taught that homosexuality is an abomination.  For right or wrong, modern translations of the Christian Bible have interpreted the ancient texts to be unequivocal about this.  When you are brought up from birth to believe that the Bible is the Word of God and is infallible, it can take a while to adjust to other ideas.

Many Christians are feeling like core parts of their belief system are being threatened right now.  It’s not that the idea of homosexuality-as-sin is a core part of Christianity, though with all the articles and opinions being bandied around on the Internet these days you’d think it was THE essential tenet of the religion.  The issue is that Christians in particular are being demonized by liberal media and pro-LGBT groups for their religion.  It feels like reverse discrimination and they are very humanly fighting back.  Some might think it’s only fair after all the hurt inflicted on the LGBT community by people claiming to do so in the name of God.  But most Christians are only humans trying to do their best and live their spirituality in the way they understand it.  The acceptance of homosexuality as normal and celebrated feels like a slap in the face of Christianity. Being condemned as homophobic or bigoted for their beliefs instills fear that their freedom of religion is threatened.

Not all Christians who believe homosexuality is wrong are bigots (bigot: a person who is intolerant to those holding different opinions) – regardless of what it feels like to you, they are not out to spread hatred.  (Side question: are YOU tolerant to those who hold a different opinion than you do about homosexuality?)  In fact, I’d argue that many Christians who are actively campaigning against homosexuality and gay marriage are doing so because they truly ache for the LGBT community and want salvation for them.  It breaks their hearts to think of a whole community of people being deceived into thinking that their sin is actually something to be celebrated, because then they will not go to heaven.  They aren’t being exclusive – they genuinely want to help save you from eternal pain and suffering in Hell.  This may not seem logical to you, but since when has human emotion, or even spirituality, been logical?

Others are caught up in the political debate and may have forgotten that their assignment as Christians is not to determine civil law, but to love their neighbour.  Please try to understand that they are human too, and we all get caught up in these things from time to time.  The first part of this blog post is for them.

I’m not saying that some groups aren’t actively being hateful and bigoted – hello Westboro “Baptist” Church.  I personally believe that Satan is campaigning with them and trying to disguise himself as Christianity to discredit those who are truly trying to do God’s work.  Most Christians don’t condone what Westboro is doing so please try not to judge them on the actions of that group and groups like them.

So, my challenge to the pro-LGBT community is as follows:

  1. Try to understand that generations of Christians are having their beliefs challenged in a way that they have never experienced before.  You know from experience that it’s a hard pill to swallow – to be judged for something that feels core to your being.  I see a movement spreading among Christians (especially the younger generations) that is beginning to accept the idea of loving not judging, with many even advocating for the rights of their gay friends and family and including LGBT people in their religious leadership. It will take time, please be patient.
  2. If a conservative-thinking person tries to get to know you and wants to listen to your story, be vulnerable and open.  It may be hard to do so when you are worried you’ll get judged, but try to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are trying to expand their horizons and truly want to understand where you are coming from.  I believe that if enough people witness the reality of committed gay relationships, they will see the difference between what may be condemned in the bible and what is actually being celebrated in the LGBT community.

I have not delved into scripture in this post, largely because I am not a biblical scholar, but also because this post already feels like a short book rather than a blog post.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I have had to really struggle with this issue because, no matter on which side of the coin I choose to land, my position causes a disconnect between me and people I love.  However, I wanted to include links to some of the reading I have done lately that has helped to solidify my theology on this matter.

  • Are You Open to an LGBT-affirming Biblical Perspective? – Written by a married, heterosexual United Methodist pastor.  This article challenges traditional interpretations of the New Testament passages that Christians usually cite when arguing against homosexuality.
  • Are you In or Out? 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy – Written by a heterosexual Christian speaker, author and educator who advocates for inclusion of the LGBT in the church.  This article focuses on these two passages, and goes into a deep analysis of the origins of the words that have modernly been translated as “homosexual” in the Bible.
  • The Bible and Homosexuality – This is an article and a video.  It features a young gay Christian man who has spent more than two years intensively studying what the Bible says about homosexuality.  He published a book, and also speaks on the topic.  I encourage you to read his short bio before watching the video.

There are many more articles, books, and recordings published on the Internet that will make these same arguments. The ones above are those I have read that I think are clearest and least fraught with leaps in logic that might not make sense. There are also many, many articles posted on the Internet that use the same Bible passages to condemn homosexuality.  I have read a lot of those, too.  But none of them have explained the original meaning of the words discussed in the links above to my satisfaction.

I have a lot more to say about this topic.  Now that I have broken the seal, I expect that I’ll post more articles.  In no way am I trying to drive a wedge between myself and my conservative friends and family.  I feel quite strongly about this topic, but not without a lot of study, prayer, and personal experience.  I believe that you can’t really claim to have formed an educated opinion on something until you’ve looked at both sides of the argument.  Having come from a conservative Christian background, and growing to a more liberal Christian adulthood, I can see both sides of the issue, and have still set down on the side of acceptance for homosexuality.  I don’t think I am going to change a lot of minds with what I’ve said here.  But what I hope will happen is that my words will encourage people on both sides to consider where the other side is coming from.  I believe that above all, kindness and love are my calling.  And that is what I am trying to spread to all within my sphere of influence.

I welcome civil, loving discussion about this topic. However, anything that smacks of judgement rather than legitimate attempts at understanding from either side will be deleted or will not be posted. Since it is my blog, I get to make the rules. 🙂  Consider yourselves warned.

Food for Thought on a Monday Night

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1. Homemade low country boil (crab, shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn cooked in broth) is awesome. I used this recipe as my inspiration.

source: flickr.com

source: flickr.com

2. There is loud, and then there is “I’m in the bath, and excited and taking advantage of the acoustics” loud.

3. Today, the Bean learned that you don’t put soap in your eyes.

4. Today, Mummy learned that the Bean still needs 100% supervision during bath time. Sitting right beside her reading does not count.

5. It pays to ask questions. Today, we got a huge discount (more than 50% off) on our tickets to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo because I thought to ask whether they have a deal for Oakland Zoo members.

6. When you go away for the night, there is no cleaning fairy that comes and makes sure your house feels like a hotel room when you get home.

source: flickr.com

source: flickr.com

7. Lest we forget: November 11 is Remembrance Day (Canada) and Veteran’s Day (US), and we must not forget to honour our soldiers: the fallen, the veterans, and those still in active duty. Thank you to all who have sacrificed so the rest of us can experience freedom.

8. I have missed blogging and am determined to get back to it on a more regular basis. This is a nice easy start.

School Helped Me Learn About Life

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The Assignment: Write a 500-1000 word essay about memories of your mother or childhood growing up.

My daughter recently started preschool, and this exciting milestone has me thinking about my own experience with school.  I loved school and I learned a lot of academically, but the moments that stick out most in my memory are not necessarily the pleasant, happy experiences: they are the experiences that taught me about life and about myself.

Noddy in his car

courtesy bbc.co.uk

Some of my earliest childhood memories occurred at school.  I went to Noddy Nursery School when I was three or four years old.  I clearly remember lying down on a mat for naptime every afternoon, and painting and colouring.  I remember playing outside with my friends and I’m pretty sure I got at least one skinned knee on the playground.  This early school experience taught me about following directions, getting along with my peers, and the value of a predictable schedule.  I’m still very good at following directions and getting along with people, but I tend to struggle a little with discipline and scheduling.

My first strong memory of Kindergarten was not as positive.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Kindergarten; but there was one particular incident that haunts me.  One of the other children was being disruptive in class.  Our teacher had asked him several times to be quiet, and he kept acting up.  Finally, she yelled at him and sent him to the principal.  I was a sensitive kid, and was pretty sure that it was not a good idea to get yelled at in school.  I started crying.  I knew the teacher wasn’t angry at me, but I felt the embarrassment and fear of being  “in trouble” as if she had been shouting at me directly.  Memories of that feeling have stayed with me ever since, and I still do my best to avoid being “trouble” for others.

One of the few times I did misbehave in school was in grade 4.  I was outside in the corridor working on a school project with a classmate.  Our teacher had warned us that the privilege of working on our own outside required our solemn promise to stay there and focus on our work.  After working for a while, we heard noises coming from the auditorium.  Despite our promise to our teacher, curiosity won the battle and we went to investigate.  We were caught snooping around and lost our freedom to work outside.  I was mortified.  I wasn’t the type of kid who misbehaved, and I certainly didn’t want my teacher to think any less of me.  Once again, my foray into rebellion was quashed quickly and I returned to being a “good girl”.

world map

Our journey home from Botswana to BC in 1986

Grade 5 was another interesting experience for me; it was the year we moved back to Canada from Botswana.  In Botswana, the school year starts in January; we left Botswana in June, so I had already had 6 months of fifth grade before starting again in September.  The curriculum was quite different in my new school, but even so, I found that first year of school in Canada to be a breeze.  Making friends wasn’t too hard, and I’m pretty sure I was in the “cool kids” group.  The culture shock that so strongly affected my mother didn’t seem to bother me much.  In our move from Africa to North America, a pretty major shift, I learned that I adapt quite easily to change, and that I can adjust my behavior to help others feel comfortable with me.  My mother used to tell me that I would come home from playing at a friend’s house, and I would talk like that friend for a while before slowly reverting back to my own cadence and tone.  I was a social chameleon.

My admittance into the “cool kids” group didn’t last long, however.  In grade 6, a new student joined our class from another school and she was instantly disliked by my group of friends because she was different.  She was a year older than us and had failed a grade in school.  She was overweight, a little strange, and from a poor family; exactly the kind of hard luck case I have trouble resisting.  I was raised to be kind to everyone; Denise was lonely and needed some kindness.  I took her on as my friend, and was immediately dropped by my “best friends” as a social outcast.  Another quiet Indo-Canadian girl joined our crew and we were a threesome; totally inseparable.

I have some wonderful memories of hanging out with my new best friend, Denise.  She introduced me to the Monkees and we made up dance routines to Bangles songs.  When we joined the Jive Club after school, we were the two odd girls out, so we learned to Jive with each other, taking turns with the “boy” steps.  “Rockin’ Robin” will always bring back memories of dancing on the school stage with Denise.  These memories are important to me because they are the result of following my heart instead of what others thought was best.  I was true to my values, and that has been an important theme for my life.

My early memories of school are an integral part of my childhood.  School was important to me: it contributed strongly to my identity and self esteem, it was where I learned much about myself and others, and it was where I started to figure out how to interact with other kids my age.  In fact, I can’t reminisce about my childhood for very long before a school-based memory pops to mind.  Sure, I worked and played at home and out in my community, but a good portion of my childhood was spent at school, and it was a valuable experience.

15 Things That Made Me Smile This Weekend

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In chronological order…

  1. Getting the Bean back to sleep for another hour and a half of sleep after her 4:45am wake-up on Saturday morning
  2. Giggles and smiles from my Bean
  3. Having tea with a friend
  4. Seeing the sun streaming down through the clouds
  5. Going for a walk with my Sweetie, my Bean, and my Dog and stopping for coffee along the way
  6. Getting a thank you note in the mail from a close friend
  7. Having friends over for dinner and making everything from scratch
  8. Sleeping in until 9:30am on Sunday…sleep, glorious sleep!
  9. Brunch at our favourite little diner
  10. Driving along the coast on a sunny day
  11. Seeing the beautiful fall colours on the trees
  12. Watching the Bean walk across the house with her walker all by herself! (I just helped with steering)
  13. Meeting friendly neighbours as I walked the Dog
  14. Quality time with my Sweetie with the TV off
  15. Finally getting back onto my Blog

Hope you had as great a weekend as I did.

I’d love to hear what made YOU smile this weekend.

On the Kindle: The Tavernier Stones by Stephen Parrish

This modern-day treasure hunt features an Amish (turned modern but still conservative) cartographer, John Graf, whose hero, 17th century mapmaker Johannes Cellarius is discovered in a bog after floating to the surface.  Cellarius is clutching a huge ruby in his dead fist, sparking a race to find the rest of a treasure thought to be the lost Tavernier stones.  One reviewer likens it to Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, which I LOVED.

I’m not very far into it, but so far, it looks interesting.  I’ll give my opinion when I’m done.  But if you’ve got a Kindle and you like stories involving puzzles and mysteries, you might as well pick it up – it’s only $2.99. 🙂

Cream cheese – the food of the gods?

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image courtesy of zazzle.com

Yesterday, I was having a lonely, bored day.  The Bean’s therapy was cancelled, none of the friends I contacted were available to get together, and I was a little down.  I took the Bean to the park, hoping to strike up a conversation with another Mom, and my wish was granted.  We made a couple of new friends, and my day got better…until our Realtor called with news of even more delays and ridiculous requirements from our Lender.  Grrrr!

I got the Bean down for a nap and took one myself.  Two hours later (yes, it was wonderful), we woke up feeling refreshed and hungry.  Yay! Snack time!  I got the graham crackers down for my daughter and decided to have one as well.  But my graham cracker needed something – hmmm, cream cheese!  After we finished the last few graham crackers in the box, I went on a hunt for other things to smear cream cheese on.  As it turns out:

  • baked tortilla chips with cream cheese – YUMMY!  I was dabbing my cream cheese-coated knife into the bottom of the bag to gather up the small chip bits that were left.
  • fig newtons with cream cheese – not as good as I was hoping.
  • toddler biscuits with cream cheese – better than toddler biscuits without cream cheese, but still bleh.
  • carrot sticks with cream cheese – not great.

I had to add the carrots in there for the sake of experimentation, and also so I could say I had some veggies in my snack.  Cream cheese – the food of the gods?  Maybe just the food of bored Mommies, but try it with the chips!

On the Kindle: The Imaginings by Paul Dail

I came across this book because my brother-in-law knows the author and was recommending the book on his Facebook page.   The initial release of The Imaginings was on Kindle only, and at such a great price that I had no excuse not to buy it and check it out.  It’s a story in the “Horror” genre, so at first I was a little worried I wouldn’t like it.  I LOVE thriller novels – Dean Koontz is one of my favourite authors.  But I don’t do well with gory scenes and lots of ugliness.  And in fact, near the beginning of the story, there IS a scene in a tree that almost made me stop reading.  But I kept going and I’m so glad I did.

The Imaginings is the story of a young man, David, whose life is changed forever when a demon starts to terrorize and pursue him.  His wife is killed when their house burns down in a blaze (started by the demon), and David escapes with major burns on his body.  He is drawn towards a cabin, where, chased by the demon, he brings terror to the family who has just moved in.  David saves their young daughter’s life by offering himself freely to the demon in exchange for her freedom.  The story follows him as he flees and seems to escape the demon.  But strange things start happening around David, and he starts to black out.  People he is connected with are murdering others, and he starts to suspect he had something to do with it.  Meanwhile, Jeannie is being cared for in a group home because she refuses to talk.  She has a supernatural connection to David and knows she has to confront him.

I won’t say much more about the story, because the best part about this book is the journey.  There are so many little “ah ha” moments, and the ending has a neat little twist that had me ruminating for days after finishing the book.  If they ever made a movie out of it, though, I don’t think I’d be able to watch it.  One of the beautiful things about reading is that you can censor your own imagination.  The plot of this novel is so engaging, that I didn’t want to stop, so I glossed over any scenes that dipped too far into the horror side of things.

This is Paul Dail’s first novel, and I wish him great success.  I have such great respect for those who have the imagination and drive to write novel-length projects, and this one is first-rate.  In an email to Paul early in my reading of the novel, I told him that his story reminded me of Dean Koontz’s style.  After finishing, I need to amend my statement – Imaginings was as enjoyable to me as any Dean Koontz novel I’ve ever read, but Paul Dail has a style all his own.  I look forward to reading his next novel, and I hope the sales go through the roof!

You can buy the book on Amazon, and you can also check out Paul’s website for more information

Happy Easter

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I have to admit it…I’ve been a little lukewarm about Easter this year.  We haven’t been to church in a long time and I’ve been feeling strange about celebrating Christian holidays without the traditional churchy stuff surrounding them.  It was the same at Christmas.  The Santa Claus hype and present shopping were so empty because I wasn’t focusing on the real meaning of Christmas.  At Christmas, I worked through it by deliberately choosing to focus on the birth of Christ and letting the rest of it be icing on my spiritual cake.  I read my Bible for the first time in a long time, did some praying, and really felt the message in the traditional Christmas carols.  It worked, and I celebrated the birth of Christ, not just a cultural holiday.  But the lesson seemed to fade into the background over the next few months, so when Easter started approaching, I was back to feeling that emptiness again. 

This morning, I woke up very early with the Bean so I had a lot of time to think about things.  While I was cuddling and playing with my daughter, my heart was calling out for some answers.  “Remind me why this day is important”, it cried.  “It used to be about more than chocolate.” 

Larry (left) and Bob from Veggie Tales

I decided that it was time to start teaching my daughter about, and reminding myself of, the reason why we keep Easter Sunday and Good Friday sacred.  So I searched Netflix for Easter programs, and, would you believe it, the only ones I could find were Veggie Tales episodes!  If you’re not familiar with Veggie Tales, let me explain.  It’s a cute and smart Christian cartoon featuring – you guessed it – talking vegetables.  Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber are the hosts of the show.  They use bible stories and modern parables to teach moral lessons to kids, and there is usually a joke or comical reference that only adults and older children will chuckle over, just to keep everyone engaged.  I love it! 

The lessons in the episodes we watched today were exactly what I needed.  The moral of the first story, “The Night Before Easter“, was that Easter is about loving and serving each other.   They quoted Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  I took the verse as a reminder that, as a wife and mother, my job is to love and serve my husband and daughter (just as it is my husband’s job to love and serve me and my daughter.  Don’t want to get any feminists on my back – I’m an equal rights kinda girl).  So I continued with my plan to set up an Easter treat hunt, and I made breakfast a little more special.  And it paid off in spades.  The Bean had fun picking up the ducks and eggs I had scattered and putting them in her plush duck Easter basket – for a few minutes at least.  And my Sweetie enjoyed hunting for the hidden treats I’d bought for us to share.  Then we had breakfast together, and I got a huge hug and “Thank You” from my husband.  What a great way to start an Easter Sunday celebration! 

We’re not planning to go to church today, but that’s okay.  I feel like God has touched my heart right here at home.   Instead we’re going to enjoy the company of some wonderful friends and visit a farm in Petaluma.  I’m so grateful for all that God has given me: a loving family, good food to eat, great friends, a beautiful earth to enjoy, and the hope and salvation brought by the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son. 

I was tempted to end by saying “Amen”, but that seemed a little cheesy coming from someone who hasn’t been to church recently.  (wink)  So Happy Easter, and I hope the day brings you hope, peace, joy, and lots of candy!

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