Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Merciful Traveling - Some Thoughts on Faith (Part Two)

Allow me to set the stage.

My faith was formed within the Mennonite church.   I was surrounded by four-part harmony and responsive readings from the Mennonite Hymnal,  acts of service and kindness, and words of instruction from our pastor (who was always male) from the pulpit.

I got bitten by the charismatic bug when I was a teenager.  Raising hands, "words" from God, and dancing in the aisles - together with the excitement for the unexpected - pulled me in.  "This is where God is", I thought.  (And He was there..... and a million other places.)

The charismatic bug propelled me to a stint with Youth With A Mission, which confirmed that, Yes, indeed, God is where the Charismatics are.  There is life here, I thought.   Speaking in tongues, prophesy, "inspired" worship - we had it all, and I bought in hook, line and sinker.   (There was life there, mostly in the relationships I made and in the space to test my newly minted adult wings.  God was there, but He would have been the million other places I could have found myself in too.)

The rest of the story goes a little like this.... Newly married couple looks for church.  Walks into one that meets in a school gym and falls in love with a bunch of people who love them back.  There are smatterings of Charis-mania and Evangelicalism.  There is top-down leadership and a strong sense of what spiritual authority is and what it looks like to "come under" it.  The expectations are high, the authority is assumed, and the conformity continues.  But this all exists beneath a blanket of people who really love us and care about us.  Who still do.  And who we love right back.

And that's where I was for a good many years.  Me and Mike and our growing family of 3 girls.

We did it all - house group leadership, worship leading, nursery, Kid's Church, Core leaders, and more.  We did it because we wanted to be part of something.
         To be obedient and giving.  
         To be accepted and to fit in.
If God tells someone above you that you would make a great house group leader, you feel honored, chosen, and you say yes.  (And it feels so damn good to be in the inner circle).

Yes becomes yes, becomes yes and soon you've "yes-ed" your way through many years.  The years are good, but sometimes painful and confusing.  Sometimes they make you question whether God only talks to people more important than you.  People who are in the church full time and don't know what it's like to work downtown or uptown, rubbing shoulders with the everyday man.  Sometimes you don't agree and something doesn't sit right.  You're asked if you're hearing from God "right".  If you were, surely you would have heard something else.

Somewhere along the way of "yes" and listening to what God was saying to someone else (and sometimes you?) you lost your way.  Doubt and cynicism crept in.  "Doubt is dangerous, it leads to a slippery slope" you're told.  And you believe it.  

Leadership crumbles and the ground gets shaky.  People around you are questioning structure and authority and asking questions.  You don't want to admit it out loud, but they're the same questions you're asking in your own dark place where no one goes but you.

You find yourself questioning authority instead of coming under it.
"Where is God?" you ask.  You can't seem to find Him anymore.
He's buried beneath the rubble of the expectations and authority and "certainty" that's crumbling around you.

It's scary, to ask the questions.
Doesn't that mean you have no faith?
That faith is faltering?
That you're not strong enough -
       Committed enough -
          Convinced enough -
              Devoted enough -
                  Serious enough -
                      Spiritual enough -
                           Humble enough -
                               Converted enough -
                                   Dedicated enough -
                                      "Called" enough -
                                           Anointed enough -
                                              Holy enough....

and enough and enough and enough.  And ENOUGH.

You know He's there.   

He's there, right?

Nothing fits anymore.

This doesn't feel right.
I can't do it.
(Don't judge me.)
We can't do this anymore.
(Will they still love us?)

All you know is that if you don't go looking for Him, 
apart from the church
you wonder if you'll ever find Him, or if you'll even care.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Merciful Traveling - Some Thoughts on Faith (Part One)

If some of you thought that this title sounds familiar - you're right.  It's a switch-up of the title of my most favorite book of all time  -  Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies.  It's my way to honor the part her words played in my own traveling tale.

I read Traveling Mercies many years ago now.  There are some days when it feels like yesterday - for I can still feel the raw and vulnerable state of being that I lived in during that season every now and again.   I was living in an emotionally unknown place.  The ground was shaking underneath my feet and the old answers and anecdotes that had always worked were coming up short.  I was well into a crisis of faith and belief (and truthfully as you'll read, I still live with one foot planted there).  I didn't know where God ended and "church" began and the whole conversation surrounding that was murky and grey.  I didn't particularly like the God I had been following.  I wasn't buying some of the things I had been told about Him and the way He  supposedly did His business.  I was unsettled and confused.  All of this led me and Mike to a transition I'll tell you more about as we go along.

Somewhere in the middle of this, I began to read Traveling Mercies.  I wish I could remember who recommended it to me, for I'd owe them a debt of gratitude.  What I do remember is lying in my bed, devouring her stories, re-reading her words, and feeling peace settle into my spirit after a very long absence.  Anne is a story-teller, but she is a master wordsmith.   She weaves her yarns with honesty and full-disclosure.   Her irreverence makes you laugh with abandon,  and she paints pictures and images of God that made me want to find Him again.

There were days I'd be reading and I'd pause after a paragraph and read it again, out loud.  I loved the sound of her words on my tongue and the richness they encompassed.  As I read those words out loud, I'd often weep.  I'd stop for awhile and clutch the book to me, for it was as though healing was happening in very cold places that had felt dead for so long.

And so tonight I have decided to begin to tell some of my own "Merciful Traveling" stories.  I have felt the tug for sometime, but wouldn't give in.  And now I will.  I don't know what they will sound like or look like - only that the place I am today is far removed and different than the place I've come from.  Sometimes I don't know quite how I've arrived here, but here I stand, nonetheless.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Gentle Giant

We celebrated 39 years of Mike yesterday.

As I frantically assembled his favourite meal, the girls finished up their birthday cards and pictures.

As I cleared the clutter off the dining room table and set it with place mats, fancy napkins and wine glasses, the girls taped their birthday sign to the front door and waited to surprise their daddy.

When he walked in, he feigned his surprise with perfection and enjoyed hugs and kisses from all of his girls.

Finally we sat down together to eat.

As is tradition in our family, at your birthday supper, we go around the table and offer a favorite thing about the birthday person, or something they do that you're thankful for.

Sasha was quick to go first.  "I'm glad that you don't hit us or slap us", she said, while looking up at Mike with her toothless grin.

We all laughed a little.  But we knew what Sasha was saying.  Her daddy is gentle.  And for that she's thankful.

Ellie went next.  "I love the way daddy plays with us."  (I still love the presence of the word "daddy" in her vocabulary - such a more endearing term than "dad".)

We knew what Ellie was saying too.  She's got a daddy that plays games, does puzzles, and hangs on monkey bars.

I went next.  I told the girls how thankful I was for them to have a dad who is quick to say,
"I'm sorry"
"I made a mistake"
"Will you forgive me?"

Hannah finished us off.  "I'm glad that dad makes us laugh".  And he does.

There is something about the sparkle he gets in his eye when he knows he's got the girls eating out the palm of his hand.  Those times when he's the only show in town and they're his adoring fans.

We live in a house with the Gentle Giant.
His voice is soft and he loves hugs and kisses on the lips.

His wish for his birthday evening was to have the girls give him a good back-scratch and play a game of Dutch Blitz.

He's with his girls in all of the ways that matter.
He's not perfect, but he's here.
He's gentle and funny and present.

And we're so glad he's ours.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Invasion of the Reimer Persuasion

Last week was a wild one.

We are still recovering from the sheer amount of talking alone that went on at this house.

Very late, last Tuesday night, our very dear friends, Shawn and Tanya arrived for a visit all the way from Vineland, Ontario.  

But the story starts, where most good stories do - in Winkler, Manitoba.

Tanya and I have been friends since elementary school in Winkler.  Amazing, isn't it - that we've stayed friends all these years?  Not only Tan and I, but the same group of girls who were together through elementary school, junior high, and then high school still call each other the best of friends.  I don't know how these things happen, but I do know that when we get together now, we still laugh just as hard and as often as we did when we were 15 years old.

Tan travelled the world after high school and then ended up meeting Shawn right back in Winkler where he had travelled from Southern Ontario to go to College.

I'll never forget the first time I met Shawn.  Tan and I were having a drink at Earl's on Main Street in Winnipeg when this unbelievably tall guy walks up and begins talking.  And talking.   And talking.  After that he did a little more talking.  Let's just say he didn't win me over that night.  But he has since.

Tan followed Shawn to Ontario, fell in love, and never left.  They have 3 beautiful boys of their own, and 2 International students that live with them who they love like their own.   They live out  in the country, in Vineland, surrounded by vineyards and open space. 

Shawn is an amazing muralist and graphic artist who runs his own business in Niagara.  He dreams things and then makes them happen - full of adventure and very little fear.  Tan creates a soft place for people to land.  Their house is always open and full of bodies and mouths to feed.  There is nothing she loves more than filling up hungry tummies and and then taking time to hear stories.  Most of everything I've learned about seeing hospitality and generosity as a gift, I've learned from her.

Though we haven't lived in the same Province for nearly 16 years, we've always stayed up on the day to day comings and goings of each other's lives.  When we had infants and toddlers we'd call each other almost every day as if to say, "Hi - I see you, I know you exist.  This is hard, isn't it?"  Usually Tan was sharing a recipe, and I'd be giving medical advice over the phone line.  We heard about pregnancies, new babies, exhaustion and the mundane parts of life.  And we laughed.  Sometimes we'd just hang up.  That's the way our friendship is... if something happened, or if one of your kids needed you - there was no need to make a graceful exit from the conversation - just hang up with no explanation needed.

I'm so thankful that I didn't let my first impression of Shawn dissuade me from a relationship with him.  One of the best parts of the time that's passed is that Mike and Shawn have become really close friends.  They really like each other.    Spending time with them is a gift for both of us, so it was with great anticipation that awaited their short but sweet stay in Vancouver.

Though they came during the coldest cold snap we've experienced since living here, complete with snow on the ground, we had a fabulous time!  Here are just a few snapshots from the highlight reel.

Thursday morning we headed out early for breakfast on Commercial Drive at a little restaurant Mike and I have come to love.  It's called "Sorry Babushka".   

We weren't sorry we came, and weren't sorry for what we ordered, but we were sorry that it was frigidly COLD in the restaurant.  Vancouver establishments just aren't cut out for minus 4, apparently.   We kept our mitts, toques, and in Shawn's case, earmuffs on the entire time.

Of course, Shawn had to make a new friend at the restaurant.   He sat down with the owner and wanted her to tell him the story of why the restaurant is called "Sorry Babushka".  She told him the story was printed on the menu, but Shawn said, that he wanted to hear it directly from her.  She indulged him, and we left.  Little did we know that that little exchange was going to set the scene for the entire day.

Off to Granville Island we went, ready for some exploring.

Shawn looked right at home.

The first place we stopped at was an artist's studio.  Shawn marched right in and began chatting with one of the artists, Cheryl,  about her work and her vision.  This was all well and good.  In fact, you could see the delight on Shawn's face as he chatted away about the pieces she creates.  Shawn, however, has difficulty tearing himself away, as is demonstrated by Tan's exasperated look in the next photo.

Here just a few of the pieces Cheryl and her partner, Mike, have created.

Next we were off to the Market.  The fresh fruit and flowers, the sights and smells of all of the different vendors cooking up delicacies for visitors is one of my happy places.  I knew Tan would feel the same way.  We could wander up and down the aisles of a grocery store together and be happy.  For a culinary Queen like Tan, this was a little piece of heaven.

And what did you know?  Shawn made another new friend.  Here he is chatting with the candy maker about the process of making caramel.

Just when we thought he had made enough new friends, he marched up to chat with this Wizard.  He wanted to know how one becomes a Wizard in the first place.  He got just what he wanted.

Shawn was right.  A place like Granville Island is much more fun when you take the time to hear the stories behind the artists.

Just don't expect to get anywhere in a big hurry.

Thursday just happened to be Hannah's 12th birthday and the day of her first ever basketball game!  We went to the school to catch the action.  She may have had the loudest cheering section in the history of Confederation Park.

After the game it was time for Hannah's party with Uncle Shawn and Auntie Tan.  Hannah got all of her favourites - sliders, salt and pepper riblets, ketchup chips, and Root Beer.

And then it was present time!

One thing Shawn does in his business is make vinyl stickers and decals.  He took the header of Hannah's blog and made it into a giant sticker to cover a scrapbooking album.

The next day was full of skiing and boarding for Shawn and Mike up at Mount Seymour while me and Tan shopped at Metrotown all day.  Though it rained up on the mountain ALL DAY and completely soaked them to the bone, it looks like they made the best of it.

We had an Indian feast without the kids at Bombay Beat on Hastings for supper that night.

Saturday was our last day together.  Thankfully true Vancouver weather appeared for that one day.  There was no rain and no snow in sight!  It was a perfect day to head out and explore downtown and Coal Harbour.

Shawn's creativity doesn't take holidays.
Thanks, Mike, for keeping my head dry.

Great balance, Shawnie!

We stopped for lunch at "Red Robin" which we're sure has the best people-watching windows in all of downtown Vancouver.

After shopping on Robson, we needed to quickly head to some "real" mountains, as Tan called them.  We drove home over the Lion's Gate Bridge, through North Van, and then up to a great viewing point near Grouse Mountain.

Shawn had been waiting for a chance to do this all weekend.

Too soon, our time was over.  Sunday morning meant an early trip to the airport to see them off.

Our girls were  so sad to see them leave.  They made rich deposits into the girls while they were here - drawing, talking, and playing games.  There's a reason they're Uncle Shawn and Auntie Tan and always will be.

We're already planning the next time we get together - this time with our 3 girls and their 3 boys.

Even if it's not for awhile, it doesn't change our friendship and the value they hold in our lives.
We're so glad they came.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


We've always called her "Birdie" - since before she emerged and was still nestled in the womb.
We don't really know where the name came from or why it became hers, but she owns it now.

It fits her - our Hannah Elizabeth - who turns twelve years old today.

Twelve is such a unique age.
Not still a child,  but not yet a teenager.
It's as though she has her right foot in one world and her left foot in another.
Observation and experience tell me it's not easy to straddle that line of "in-between".

Often it's clear to me that she doesn't know which song to sing - the old or the new.
But here's the thing - she keeps singing anyway.
That voice finds itself....
.... in the way she writes stories - full of rich characters and poetic description.
.... in the way she is finding her sense of personal style and taste.
.... in the way she moves her tall, angular body to tell a tale in contemporary dance.
.... in the way she asks questions and reads to find answers or satisfy a longing from somewhere inside.

I am learning to recognize her voice.
It sounds different than it used to, and sometimes I have to listen more deliberately to make it out.
But that tone - that one that she was created to produce - rings underneath the new and the experimental tune.

She is learning to recognize it too -
to hear her voice and know when to sing loudly or when to drop off to find the notes that fit her best.

Today she is twelve, and I'm grateful our Birdie's voice sings.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

CBC's "8th Fire"

Back in my first year of post-secondary education at The University of Manitoba I was a lowly Arts student.  People make fun of Arts degrees all the time.  But when I think of all of my years in University, that first year was the richest one for me in the category of uncovering my true passions.  I was taking courses from all over the map.  When I registered for classes that summer, I simply thought, "what am I interested in?" and went with it.

And so I found myself sitting in Professor Emma LaRocque's Native Studies course on my first day of class.  Her lectures were interesting and insightful, but it was one book on the required reading list that captured me.  The Dispossessed, by Globe and Mail reporter,  Geoffrey York still has a place of honor on my increasingly full book shelf.  Reading it changed me.  It changed the way I saw First Nations people and how I understood their story.

I tell you this, because I want you to understand that part of the reason I so passionately care about the situation in Attawapiskat, is rooted in the days I sat in that huge lecture hall on the U of M campus listening to Emma LaRocque's narrative, and furiously turning the pages of The Dispossessed in my south-end apartment.

There is something more that is fueling my passion and creating more roots this week.  CBC radio and television is beginning their series called "8th Fire" - exploring First Nations people in Canada in a way they haven't before.  It's a chance for you to listen and watch and connect with First Nations people who are telling their story.

This morning on The Current, Anna Maria Tremonti hosted a show called "Father's without Father's - Aboriginal Men in Canada".  The show was recorded in a "town-hall" style forum in Whitehorse, Yukon last night.  It was such a compelling, honest conversation, and simply needs to be listened to.  To make it easy for you, you can listen to the podcast of the show here.

CBC television begins its 4 part Doc Zone series "8th Fire" tonight, hosted by CBC Manitoba reporter Wab Kinew.  I developed enormous respect for Wab after his coverage of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in which he told the personal story of his own family's experience with residential schools.

I can't make you listen, or watch.  And just  simply watching or listening won't change anything.
Hearing the stories will.

I hope you'll be hearing them along with me.
I plan to let the roots of passion go a little further down.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tough Slugging Makes a Pretty Sound

As long as I can remember, Ellie has talked about wanting to play violin like her daddy.

There is almost always music playing in our house.  It's always been that way.  When the girls were wee, if it wasn't playing on our stereo, it was Mike playing Bach or Irish jigs and reels on his violin.  Ellie gravitated to it right away.  Hannah said from the beginning that she wanted to play piano, but for Ellie it was violin.  Period.

She began her journey as a violinist a few years ago.  Her first year was a bust.  Inexperienced teacher coupled with a daddy who was living across the country for half the year didn't lend itself to huge gains. Last year was a catch-up year that included going back to square one with correcting bad habits and learning proper bow-hold and technique.  Her teacher was quite good, and she made huge strides.

This year began with a new teacher at the British Columbia Conservatory of Music.  The studio is located a five minute walk from our house so it just made sense to switch.  After a few "trial and errors" in finding the right fit for a teacher, Ellie (and Mike) settled on Iris - a young energetic woman who has a lot to offer.

Ellie has always wanted to play the violin.  BUT, Ellie has not always wanted to practice the violin or go to her lessons.   There is a great big difference between the two.

Over the first two months of lessons this fall, Ellie's attitude at practice time with her ever-patient and supportive daddy were was less than stellar.  Tears.  Complaining.  Play a bit.  Tears.  Whining.   Play a few measures.   A few more tears. Grumbling and muttering.  Play a few more measures.   Throw in a few more tears for good measure.  Play a little bit more.  Lesson over.  That's pretty much how it went down.

One Saturday, after a practice session that went down pretty much like the one described above, Mike had had enough.  In a calm and controlled voice he informed Ellie that they had just had their last violin practice session.   Their last session IF her approach to practicing and lessons did not change.  She had a choice to make.  Change her approach and attitude, or quit violin.  No negotiation.  He gave her two days to make her decision.  Ellie was stunned.  She ran up to her room and proceeded to sob into her pillow for a good hour.

When I came in to chat with her you could see and hear the internal tension.  "I don't like practicing.  I don't really like going to lessons.  But I want to play violin!  I don't know what to do!  What should I do?"  After the tears slowed down we had many conversations over the course of the next two days about this dilemma.  We made charts and lists.  Pros and cons.  Ellie asked for the opinions of others.  It was clear that she liked playing violin at recitals.  That's seemed to be the only part she really liked.

Although she was conflicted, we left the decision with her and were determined to follow through.  That meant taking our chances and being OK with Ellie quitting if that's what she decided.   Mike and I both secretly hoped that she wouldn't go that route.  But we had to step back.

The decision had to be made by the end of dinner on Monday, as her lesson is right afterward.  She was either going to go with a new approach, or she was going to inform Iris that she was quitting.  In true Ellie form, she kept us hanging until the end.  She then decided in the van on the way to her lesson that she was going to give her violin another go.  (Insert parental sigh of relief here).

This new approach has been a marked improvement.  Lesson times illicit (almost) no tears.  "Sometimes it's just so hard, dad!"  She doesn't complain and most importantly, doesn't make those thirty minute sessions torturous for Mike.  They're actually kind of enjoying them now.

Just before Christmas, it was time for Ellie's Christmas recital.   Much practice ensued over the weeks prior.   Mom was recruited as the accompanist.   This was the part she liked, and she was nervous but excited to play...

We were so proud of her.
Most of all, we knew she was proud of herself.  
Hard work equaled success.

I know the ability to play a musical instrument isn't everything.
But being committed to something and seeing it through - especially when it's hard - is one of the best life lessons you can learn.

I'm still learning that one too.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Baby (Steps) Slides

Remember this post?

I thought if I was going to bring you all into the warped inner workings of my mind and my crazy fears, I should at least keep you posted on what's happened since.

A few weeks before Christmas we headed up to Mount Seymour for the first time to get fitted for our skis and boots.  Mike wanted to take the girls out on a few runs too.  It was a perfect day - brilliant blue sky and not a breath of wind.  I maintained that I was just going to get fitted and then watch.  After all, I wanted to have my first real lesson from a professional before I ventured onto the slopes.

Mike convinced me to at least go out onto the snow and see how the skis felt, so I did.  He then convinced me to head out toward the bunny hill with them (on my skis), so I did that too.  There  was a wee hill that led to the start of the bunny hill so with Mike's encouragement insistence I thought I could at least give that a try.  I was in true "Karla form".  That means my voice was getting a little louder, harsher, and a tad bit meaner.  But I did it.  And while the rest of the fam was off charging down the bunny hill I took off my skis, climbed back up that minuscule hill, and did it again.  And again.

Yesterday morning we were off to Seymour again.  The weather was not so perfect this time around.  The rain was pouring as we left our house but turned into beautiful flakes of sticky snow as we made our way up towards the peak of the mountain.

In my head my plan was to repeat the same process as the first time.  But after one run down that little hill, I was feeling like I could take on more.  I alerted the troops that I was ready to make my debut.  On the bunny hill.  That's right - the bunny hill.

I made it down the first time unscathed.  And a wee bit proud of myself.  My adoring fans were waiting for me at the bottom cheering wildly.  OK, maybe not cheering wildly.  But there were a few "good jobs" to be heard from the girls and Mike at the bottom.

Next came the Magic Carpet ride up the hill.  As with all things I've never done before, I was cautious, wary, and nervous.  I told the handsome young Australian gentlemen working the carpet (why are there so many Australians that work on ski hills anyway?) that it was my first time and asked him if he could put his hand on my back as I got on to make me feel more secure.  Yes, sometimes, my children have good reason to want to avoid being associated with me in public places.  I made it up the hill and was ready to go again.

And what follows, dear readers, is my second run on the bunny hill at Mount Seymour.

As I careened somewhat slowly glided down the hill, I felt like I was nailing it.  I was making turns and going faster than I went my first time.  I thought that when I would eventually watch the video I'd be amazed at my prowess and skill on the slopes.

Funny thing is, when I watched the video last night I laughed out loud.  I looked awkward and rigid and kind of, well, slow.  But that didn't take away from the fact that in my head I thought I was a superstar.  And I did it.  Many times.  And I'll do it again.   And again and again and again until I can move from the bunny hill to something a little bigger.  It might take me until the end of the ski season, but I'm OK with that.

That's how I slide.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My One

Every class has one.  
My one.  (Sometimes two).

The one that steals my heart.

My girls know exactly what this means.

Each of their classes holds a student that calls out to me from their depths - and into my soul -  and causes me to ache.

It's always been this way for me.  My girlfriends from childhood know it about me.  Knowing I can hardly stand to even look or see sometimes, when the vision in front of me is just too much.   When what stands in front of me tells a silent story of heartbreak, loneliness, or injustice,  it holds me hostage.

Wherever I find myself - there is always one.

I remember the one, back from my second year of teaching.  He was different, awkward, and often alone.  There was trouble at home.  He was isolated and misunderstood.  There were prickles developing where wounds once lay.   I knew from the moment I laid eyes on him he'd be my one.   I remember one day, after dismissal, talking to my principal about my one and saying with tears, "but he just breaks my heart".  We stood there for a moment and shed tears together because it was that kind of school, and sometimes broken hearts are worth it.

Every year of teaching brought one more into my life.

And then my girls started school, and there have been many.

Hannah is with the same students she was with last year.  They have the same teacher and they know each other well.

When Hannah came home last year and told me about "R" in her class, I knew she just might have the same affliction as me.
"He's different", she'd say.
"I think there might be something wrong with him",  came the compassionate observation.

We learned about "R" together.... and soon he was our one.

"R" looked down and often talked to himself in mutters and murmurs under his breath.
He wandered alone at recess, sometimes in circles.
His gait was awkward and deliberate.
He was assigned a full-time educational assistant, but fought the help with nearly all he had.
The games he played inside his head were misunderstood and refuted by his classmates.
His attempts at social interactions were sometimes inappropriate and difficult to accept.
He loved Math and thrived within its logic, order, and predictability.
Just different enough to know he wasn't the same....

Thankfully, "R" had a teacher who wanted to know him.
She fought to keep him in the school when his parents thought a fresh start elsewhere would be better.
She educated her students on who "R" was and who he could be.

Just a few weeks before Christmas break, as the girls and I were walking toward the school, we watched as "R" ran awkwardly on the path though the grass carrying his saxophone.  You couldn't miss him.   It was a misty morning, and the grass was slippery.  Suddenly his foot slipped and his body flew up in the air and he landed hard on his saxophone case.  Despite the hard fall, he was up instantly, head down, saxophone back in hand and continued his shuffle toward the school.  I ran up to him and asked him if he was OK.  "I'm OK", he muttered, without looking up at me.    Hannah came up behind me and said, ""R" always falls, mom.  He's used to it."

I looked at the girls and said, "It breaks my heart, you know."

It was one of those moments when you wish you could look away or turn yourself off or disconnect....
....to save yourself from the brokenness and the weight that goes with you for the rest of the day and then resurfaces every time you see his face.

He was my one.

On Tuesday, the first day back after the holidays, Hannah came home from school and we started to chat about the day's events.  ""R" is moving", she said with worry.  "He's going to a different school.  I don't know if that's a good idea".

My heart dropped as she said it and I sensed her worry for him.  He was safe where he was.  He had a support system and a teacher who knew him.  And now I felt the weight of wondering how he would cope and who would advocate for him.

Tuesday was his last day.
He was my one, and now he's gone.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas (Random) Round-Up

This morning is the first time that I have been completely alone in a free-standing building or shelter in over two weeks .  I like being alone.  I like being around people too, but I really need my time to be alone.

I have a lot of organizing, cleaning up, grocery shopping and un-packing to do today.  But because it's my first time being alone in two weeks, I'll probably wander around the house a lot, read some, sneak in a nap and then pick up the girls from school.   I'm that productive.

You know how you always hear it said about Manitoba, "but it's a DRY cold"?  Well, it is.  Considering the fact that it wasn't even cold while we were back, the dryness factor hit me hard.  The inside of my nose is sore, my skin is flaky and itchy,  and my lips are cracked.  It's been misty and rainy here since we got back and when I go outside I breath in the moist warm air as deeply as I can.

I couldn't believe how warm the weather was the whole time we were in Manitoba.  That, coupled with seeing almost no snow made it a little surreal.  On our last day we got a good hit of cold, gusty arctic air as we made our way to the airport.  It had to happen.   It was the kind of cold that takes the wind out of you.  One gust like that and I really felt like I was home.

Our girls are amazingly resilient.  Our schedule was jam-packed every single day we were gone.  Sometimes we'd have three different places to be on a given day.  That combined with sleeping in different beds and going to sleep way too late every night did not take them down or out.  They just rolled with it, and I was very grateful.

I like my own bed best.

The stars aligned and we were able to house-sit for friends of ours for all of the time we were in Winnipeg.  You don't know how valuable that was to my state of mind.

Best Christmas Gift.... you know the old "mixed tape" you received or made for your significant other back in the day?  Well, our neighbor and pal Adrian Wortley lovingly and thoughtfully made me and Mike his own version of the mixed tape full of interesting and talented Canadian Indie music.  Best song featured by a long shot is the Kathleen Edwards tune "Scared at Night".  Chill-inducing.  You know someone must really think you're OK if they make you a mixed tape.

It was the Christmas of bacon.  I don't know how or why it happened, but we ate more bacon during the two weeks in Manitoba than we've eaten in the last 10 years.  It was good, but it was a lot of bacon.

Speaking of bacon, I had some pretty tasty salty and greasy slices of it one morning at the old Sal's on Pembina.  There's nothing like a Sal's breakfast....

.....well, almost nothing like it.  I think I may have found the new object of my food lusting.  The Mexican Breakfast at Stella's should be illegal - it's that good.  Why had I never tried it before?   I fell in love with it for the first time at the new Stella's at Portage and Memorial in the Plugged In Gallery on Christmas Eve.  

The new terminal at the James Richardson International Airport in the 'Peg is pretty sweet.

Winkler (the home of my youth) has become a cosmopolitan city overnight with the addition of the very urban vibe found at "Jonny's Java" on Main Street.   You've come a long way, baby.

I got to squeeze some squishy 3 month old baby cheeks and stroke some of the softest skin under the chins of my favorite one year old girls.  (Did that sentence just make me sound creepy?)  Those were some of the best moments.

We played a lot of the Blitz.
Dutch Blitz.
And I liked it.

It was good for the soul to hear Mike play his violin with Terry doing his thing on guitar and Caleb joining in on percussion.  Sweet music.

My kids are tall.  That was by far the resounding refrain we heard everywhere we went.

It does the heart good to see Winnipeg basking in the glory of the having the Jets back.  The number of people wearing Jets gear around town was astounding.   It's brought the city together in a way nothing else could have done.  There are no fans like Winnipeg hockey fans.   What a perfect Cinderella Story.

We have really good friends.  Friends that we were able to spend time with, and those who love us even when we couldn't find the time to squeeze them in.

I love tradition.
I love that our New Year's Eve night was filled with it.
I love the people we spent it with.
Plus - the Jets won and the ribs were amazing.

Time goes by really fast.  Pause button?  I'm still looking for you.

I love Winnipeg, but I love the West Coast too.