Dancing with Myself


I went to a wedding this weekend.  It was beautiful, it was lovely, it was awesome!  It was my brother’s wedding, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.  It was my little brother’s wedding.

He’s not that little, I mean, he’s 27.  I am 29 and my wedding hasn’t happened, and I’m totally ok with that, because I haven’t found someone I want to walk down the aisle with, and I refuse to settle.

The thing is, a couple times during the evening, I was told the following things:

“You’ll never get a boyfriend if you keep doing that [taking ridiculous selfies].”
“I hope you can find someone to be happy with.”
“Your time will come.”

The ‘your time will come’ didn’t bug me quite as much because it wasn’t quite so condescending, despite the fact that I don’t think any of them were meant to be condescending.  In fact, I suspect the last two were meant to be encouraging, but… anyway.

The first one made me jump to my own defense.  See, normally I’ll take those comments and accept them, assuming that perhaps the person is right and I am doing something that’s keeping me single.  After reading a blog post though about food shaming and a lady who stood up for herself, I decided I’d do the same.  The conversation went down like this:

Me:  (sitting taking ridiculous selfies of myself at the dinner table)
Someone:  You’ll never get a boyfriend if you keep doing that.
Me:  No.  I don’t think that’s true.  There’s someone out there who will love me for all that I am, stupid selfies and all…. and if there isn’t, well, then I’ll be happy being single because I don’t want to change just to get a guy to like me.

I felt pretty proud of myself, because normally I internalize that stuff, but while I do believe the person who said it was just telling me something they thought would be helpful information, I don’t believe it to be true for a second.  I’ll find someone someday with a silly side who loves that I take stupid selfies.  It’d be awesome if he’d even lean in for a couple every once in a while.  I’ve been taking selfies since before selfies were cool… legit… I’d turn my disposable cameras around backwards and then be mad when I’d develop the film and half of the pictures were of half of my face cut off because it’s hard to angle them when you can’t see a screen.  Technology has made them a lot easier!  I’ll post some of mine from my bro’s wedding for you to see… haha I figured I wasn’t gonna look that dolled up again until my own wedding day.  Some people say they’re attention seeking.  Some say they’re narcissistic.  I think they’re just plain fun, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.

 

To “I hope you find someone to be happy with” I responded that I’m already happy, and that a man can make me miserable if he’s not a good choice, so I’m not just going to settle for someone for the sake of being with someone.

 

Lastly, to “your time will come” I simply said “thank you.”  This person was pretty much a stranger, and didn’t really know me, so had no way of knowing that I don’t resent my lil bro for getting married before me.  Also, can I tell you how much I LOVE my sis-in-law?  My brother’s got fantastic taste.

 

With my new-found self-confidence that evening, I got out on the dance floor and danced like no one was looking, even though people were watching.  This is not like me, I promise.  I had grandparents watching, and sometimes they were laughing… because, well, I was doing the lawnmower and the shopping cart… I deserved to be laughed at haha.  But you know what?  I had fun.  I dragged my grandmother out on the dance floor, and I taught her how to slow dance.  That was so much fun, and it’s a memory I’ll cherish forever.  My grandma had never danced before, and she even came out on the dance floor during a fast song and started shuffling and moving her arms to the beat… determining that “I think it’s just about having fun!”  and she’s right.  So it doesn’t matter who’s watching.  It doesn’t matter if anyone thinks you don’t look amazing.  It doesn’t matter if all you know how to do is shuffle to the beat or jump up and down (hello high school lol).  My step-Dad taught me how to polka, and it was fun!  and I don’t care if I didn’t look good doing it.  My Grandma was right, it’s just about having fun.

 

Anyway, selfie time!  Here they are!  Allow me to state that as someone who enjoys taking pictures very much, the ability to play with the light from behind me, whether it be from the sun-reflected lake or bouncing off the glorious fall leaves… it’s fun.  I suspect the admonition that stupid selfies won’t get me a boyfriend probably comes more from the 2 silly ones (which, by the way, I didn’t post on Facebook and am only putting here to make a point), but anyway…. here they are.

 

 

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Yeah. This.


These are the things I’ve been trying for …. a long time …. to articulate.

I haven’t been able to.

So I haven’t done it.

Now, granted, I don’t relate to every single bit of this, but I sure relate to a heck of a lot of it, and I couldn’t have said these things better myself.  Perhaps I’ve been too scared?  Anyway.  Who cares?  I found someone who can say it for me, so here it is.  The post is called “Are you sure you should eat that?”

Thanks so much, Jenny Kanevsky at In Other Words… you’re on my follow list and I will be sticking around.  I found you on BlogHer and I’m so glad I did.

Back Roads Road Trip


I had an amazing weekend.  My brother is getting married next weekend so his fiancee’s bachelorette party was this weekend at a spa called Scandinave at Blue Mountain near Collingwood.  I was very excited to go hang out with the girl who’ll be my sister in now less than a week, and the other friends she’s chosen as her bridesmaids.  I was also very excited because, since it’s a 3 hour drive back to my home in South Central Ontario from Collingwood, I opted to crash for the night with a friend in Wasaga Beach.  I haven’t been to Collingwood since I was in Junior High (and it was in February!), and I’ve never been to Wasaga Beach, so it was an exciting opportunity!

Now, most normal people would plug their destination into Google Maps and take the route they’re given.  I’m admittedly not that normal.  I plugged my destination in, and laughed when it said the best way to go would be to take the 403 to the 407 to the 410 to 10 and then hit some county roads.  But that’s not how I roll.  When it’s this nice outside (it was 24 degrees today and 23 yesterday), I prefer not to sit in traffic.  I’d rather take abandoned county roads that I hardly have to share than a 400 series highway.

If I hadn’t taken said abandoned back roads, the pictures you’ll see in a minute wouldn’t have been possible.  It’s a lot easier to pull over to take pictures of fall foliage on Nottawasaga County Road 10 than it is on the 410.

As I drove through 6 counties (Brant, Waterloo, Wellington, Dufferin, Grey, and Simcoe) and switched through 4 radio stations, I had time to reflect on some amazing sights.

Saturday morning, I woke up at 5:50 am, knowing I wanted to be in Collingwood at 9.  It has been a really long time since I’ve seen the sun rise.  Yesterday morning, it took my breath away.  Does this get old?  Those of you who regularly watch the sun come up… do you get used to it?  Because I don’t know if I could.  Watching the sun crest the horizon of gently colouring fall trees then kiss the tassles on the top of stalks of corn, while the fog burns off with the coming heat, I couldn’t help but wonder if I regret that I don’t see this more often.  But… would it get old?  Would I get used to it and just not think about it anymore?  I guess I don’t know.

As I drove through windmill country near Shelburne, I shook my head at the intrusion into the scenery but then found my brain wandering toward whether they’re beneficial or not.  There are also signs all over wanting the wind farms to stop.

As I belted country songs out at the top of my lungs while I drove, Jason Aldean’s song “Fly Over States” came on the radio and I identified so much with it because… well…. how many people miss this view because they can’t handle the extra half hour it takes to avoid the 400-series-highways?

So things like the fog, the corn fields, the colourful fall trees… those are memory markers for this weekend.  Things like birds flying through the bright blue sky on Melancthon Side Road 30 as Grey County welcomed me…. priceless.  Things like the pictures taken from pulled over on Nottawasaga County Road 10, County Road 124, and Tenth Line (I pulled over for all of these pictures)…. they’ll stick.  Things like cresting hills with colourful trees and a stunning view of Georgian Bay on a hazy afternoon will take your breath away.

After a phenomenal day relaxing in the Scandinavian Baths at Scandinave Spa (can’t say enough good things about this place, by the way — want to enjoy a day of relaxing?  Take a book and go to Collingwood.  Fantastic.  I bet it’d be best in the winter, but who knows?)  the bridesmaids and I went for dinner right in Collingwood.  We laughed, we ate, we laughed some more.  We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore.  Then I headed for Wasaga Beach.

Ps I’m super thankful for GPS devices after this weekend…. I’d never have found my friend’s house in Wasaga without my phone.

As you arrive in Wasaga Beach, all you smell is Campfire.  To me, that’s what Wasaga Beach will always smell like.  That, and Georgian Bay.  But that comes later.

I had such a fantastic weekend, I just don’t think I could put it into words… I’ve been trying… I may have lost you by now…. but I digress.

When I arrived at my friend’s, we chatted, we bonded, we had refreshments… I met my roommate (a gecko named Lee), and it was just so nice to see her.

Today we headed down to the beach with her paddle boards to Georgian Bay and set out.  We both ended up swimming, me fully clothed, because when Georgian Bay beckons…. I wound up having to drive home in my bathing suit and the shorts I slept in because I wore my only shorts and tshirt in the water.  I couldn’t get over how, even at 20ish feet over our heads (we were pretty sure there were whales out there), you could still see the bottom.  Growing up camping on Lake Erie, I’m not used to seeing the bottom of the water I’m swimming in.  It was so calm and so beautiful… but the water was so cold.  I mean, it is Georgian Bay… but… it was still an amazing beach day.

As I drove out of Wasaga Beach headed for home this afternoon, I noticed that all the flags on the lamp posts said “The Beach is Just the Beginning” on them.  And I think they’re right.

This whole weekend, all I could think of is …. if we’d just slow down and drive the back way, what wouldn’t we miss?

 

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When we don’t realize what we’re saying


I am single.

That’s not a secret.

At this point, it’s not my choice.  At most points, it hasn’t been my choice.

As a result, I don’t have kids.

Again, not my choice, because I’m not married and while I admire single parents and hold them in high esteem, it’s not something I see myself entering into by choice.

There are a bunch of articles floating around the interwebz about “the things that single people are tired of hearing” and normally, I don’t share them, but since I’m writing this out of a place of genuine emotion, I’m doing it now, on account of …. I’ve dealt with every single one of those.

Disclaimer:  I want to tread lightly here.  Before I go further, I should point out that I’m quite sure that there are things that married people and parents are tired of hearing, too.  I’m certain of it.  I don’t know what they are… I do my best not to gripe about this to my married friends.  We don’t talk about this.  But I’m sure there are things.  In fact, some of you might be annoyed with what I’m about to say.

But…

Here it is.

“Just wait til you have kids.”

This is how the conversations go:

“What’d you do last night?

“Ordered a pizza and watched Netflix for 6 hours.”

“Ugh, I wish!  Just wait til you have kids.  I never watch TV anymore.”

The one that stung the most was “I don’t think we’re really the best teachers we can be until we have kids.”  While that one wasn’t said to me or directed at me, it happened.  I said nothing, because I know your intent wasn’t to hurt me.  I know that.  I know I was just in the room while you were reflecting on how being a parent has made you a better teacher…. but it still hurt a little bit.  Because I may never get that.

And you know what?  Fair.  You’re busy.  I get that.  Kids are busy.  I watch you guys parent your kids and I think you’re superstars.  There’s a big part of me that has considered in a very real way whether I’m selfless enough for kids.  It’s a lot to give up.  It’s a lot of freedom that you no longer have, and I see that.  I don’t know how you do it coming home from working all day long to parenting your kids with everything you have in you.  Especially my teacher friends…. you spend all day with little kids, and then go home to kids of your own.  I know it’s not the same kind of care, but trust me when I tell you I legit think you’re superstars.  Also, if I’ve met your kids, please know that there’s a pretty good chance that I love them to death.  If you’re important to me, so are your kids.  I love your children because I love you.

But when your answer to asking what I did the night before, or what I did on the weekend, or what I like to do with my free time is to shake your head and say “just wait til you have kids,” I don’t think you realize how much that hurts…. because I’d give my left arm to be able to have kids right now… but it just hasn’t worked out yet.  It might never work out, and I have to be ok with the possibility of that reality or I’m going to be miserable until I die.  I’m only not-even-30-yet so if I never get married, that’s a long time to not be married and not have kids.  It’s also enough time for it to still happen, and I totally understand that, but I have to be ok with the possibility of it not going the way I’d like.

I understand that I could do other things.  I do enjoy Netflix though, especially since I just discovered it on Monday (oh my gosh, do you watch Suits!?).  But while I am single, and while I have no children, I have chosen that instead of sitting home and wallowing, I will do what I’d like with my free time.  If that means that I watch Netflix for 6 hours, then sometimes, that’s what it means.  Sometimes it means I take my dog on nice, long walks.  Sometimes I play my violin for hours until my fingers are numb.  Sometimes I go to Bible Study.

I can’t have kids right now.  At this moment, where at 10 pm on Saturday I’m sitting on my couch alone watching TV, I wish that I had a baby monitor on and that I was listening to make sure kids were still sleeping.  I wish I was hanging out with my husband.  But… that’s not my reality.  When you’re putting your kids to bed, please know that I would rather be putting mine to bed than watching TV at most times.

So when I tell you that I watched Netflix for six hours straight, and you wish you could go back in time to that, it would probably do us both a lot of good to remember that there are plenty of times that I’d like a time machine to propel me forwards.

Can we all just be happy with what we have, instead?

No one gets hurt that way.

Thanks.

When English Fails ( … or why I got baptized twice)


Dear readers, I’ve missed you terribly.  I’ve literally been blogging for my supper on another platform the past two months, as over the summer I take up a job as blogger for a kids’ camp.  This process leaves me so little time that all of you who follow me here wind up sorrowfully neglected.  For that, I am sorry.  But I’m back now.  And now, for the first post in three months, prepare to be nerded out upon.

I’m a bit of a language nerd.  I probably should have gone to school for linguistics.  Whenever I’m listening to a sermon and the pastor goes into the etymology of a word or explains the meaning of an original Greek or Hebrew word, I get so much more out of whatever’s being said, because my brain works that way.  When I was a teenager I had this lofty goal of being able to speak 10 languages by the time I was 30.  I’m not going to make it…. I speak approximately 2.5 (my Spanish is RUSTY and while Latin was fun, it has no practical application so I don’t count it), and I have just over 3 months until my 30th birthday.  7.5 languages in 3.5 months will not be happening.

All this to say — I’m fluent in French, and being fluent in French has shown me a lot of the places where English just falls on its face.  If you already speak French, you can skip this paragraph as it’ll be an explanation you likely won’t need.  You see, in French, there are two ways to say “to know” whereas in English there is only one.  In French, there are at least two ways to talk about loving someone…. English?  One.  In French, the need for that cliché “I like him but I don’t liiiiiiike him” distinction wouldn’t have been necessary when we were teenagers, because we’d have just used a different verb.  But I digress, back to knowing.  There are two ways in French to say “to know.”  Connaître (to know) and Savoir (to know).  The difference is…. Connaître refers to knowing someone on a deeper level and Savoir refers to knowing about someone or something.

If I wanted to describe knowing my best friend, I’d say “Je connais ma meilleure amie.”  If I wanted to say I know how to get to the store, I’d say “Je sais comment aller au magasin.”  And everyone would understand that I don’t mean I know about my best friend or that I intimately know the way to the store.  See how much better that is??

And now for the point.  I’ve recently discovered God in a whole new way.  Through a process of getting so endlessly tired of ‘religion’ (the art of following rules for the sake of following rules and usually losing Jesus in the mix), I went on a quest to find Jesus and bring Jesus back to the forefront of my faith journey.  You see, I’m a Christian…. but I’m one of those Christians that’s aiming for Follower of Jesus.  But this has not always been true of me.

I have spent YEARS (regrettably) doing the ‘church thing’ because I knew it was the right thing.  And only for that reason.  Not because I truly wanted community with fellow believers.  Not because I deeply wanted to know God more.  Not because I relished opportunities to enter into service of my King with fellow believers.  Nope.  Because it was right.  Because it was one of those things I was supposed to do.

And this sounds incredibly lame but I can’t think of a better way to say it.  I’ve found Jesus.  I am sitting here, writing to you, with a heart full of wanting my faith to go deeper, wanting to know my Saviour more, and never ever wanting to be in a place again where I’m complacent and going through the motions.

This process of connaître style knowledge of God led me to a decision this summer while at Camp.  I decided to get baptized a second time. 

I’m quite sure there are some of you out there going “whoa!  Doesn’t she know that baptism isn’t the way to Heaven and blah blah blah judgement.”

I do know that.  Je sais.  Je sais.  (see what I did there?)

I have not usually heard or felt very clearly any instructions from God.  I suppose that’s probably because I was rather far away or for whatever reason… I don’t know.  I mean…. who am I to suppose I know why God works the way He does?

Anyway.

This summer, I could not shake the notion that being baptized a second time was something God wanted me to do to make this new commitment — this finally realizing that I’d been using the wrong verb all these years — a public thing in front of people I cared about, who cared about me, who loved me, and who would keep me accountable in this next step.

I was baptized the first time when I was nine years old after having given my heart to Christ at eight after a Campfire at summer Camp (the very summer Camp where I now spend my summers blogging).  I understood what I was doing, sure… but it was admittedly far more of a ‘savoir’ understanding than a ‘connaître.’  I think that makes sense at 9 years old… but it doesn’t make sense at 28 and 29 years old to have a view of God that is distant and limited… not when you never walked away.

So I started seeking.  And finding.  All of this seeking and finding culminated in a conversation with one of the pastors of my new church, who happened to be one of our family camp speakers… asking basically if it’s ok to be baptized twice.

He explained baptism this way (language nerd alert):  the Greek word bapto means to wash… it was what would have been used for the people at the time going to the ritual baths and continually cleansing themselves.  The Greek word baptizo means transforming something in a way it can’t go back from.  Kind of like pickling a cucumber.  Once a cucumber has been turned into a pickle…. it doesn’t turn back into a cucumber over time.  So when I asked him if it was ok to be baptized twice, he explained that as an outward symbol of an inner commitment, if I was sincerely feeling like God was telling me to do something, I shouldn’t ignore it.  Not that one needs to be re-pickled, but as a demonstration of what God is doing right now.  Were we to have the conversation again verbatim next summer?  Yeah… it’d be a different answer… but given the transformation and my rediscovery of the Jesus I’d left hidden just beneath the surface, we both felt it was an appropriate expression.

My former Youth Pastor was up for our last week of camp.  He was the pastor for teen camp, and so I asked him if he would dunk me in the lake.  It was truly a memorable experience for me, and one I’ll refer back to for years as that moment when I said “I’m all in.  I want to KNOW You, and I will walk with You.”  Our worship leaders for the week jumped in and led those watching in “My Lighthouse” by Rend Collective while I got dunked (do you know Rend Collective?  For those with a soul that sings folk music, it’ll be a breath of fresh air I promise), and I walked out rib-cage deep into the not-quite-warm-enough lake and came up a different person.  Symbolically, of course, but I know that I was being obedient, and I know that Jesus was smiling.

And I love that.

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The Keys to Traveling with Pets


I was recently approached by a fellow writer named Kendra who wondered if I’d collaborate with her on a project to share tips for traveling with pets.  If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know my Kloë is very important to me, so naturally this appealed to me, because I’ve got a pretty standard set of routines for when she and I travel together.

I was surprised to find though that Kendra’s (check her out on Twitter at @KendraThornton) routines are completely different from mine.  Check out what she has to say on how to travel with pets.

Going places with pets is a great idea especially if you love bringing your pet along. However, a good amount of planning is necessary to ensure that your furry friend has a fun trip too. I always go through a checklist to ensure that our dog has treats, water, food, treats, favorite toys and blankets so that she is always comfortable. My extended family is planning a trip to Chicago at the moment, and so it’s very important to me to get things all planned out before they leave as they will be bringing their dog. These are some of the best tips for traveling with pets that I have found.

Bring a Crate

Even though you may not want to crate a dog, I have found that they really like to be in a crate on vacations. It’s a familiar place, and it makes them safe no matter where we go. I bring along toys and blankets that are familiar to our dog so that she has the same scents and touches of home that make her feel safe. Before putting her in a crate, I always take her on a long walk for exercise just so she wants to rest in her crate when we get back.

Finding the Right Hotel

Some hotels out there have wonderful pet policies and even some amenities for pets. Whenever we travel with our dog, I pick a hotel that offers some kind of doggy breakfast or play area just for pets. If she starts to bark in the hotel room, I always take her out right away and burn off excess energy with a fun run around the hotel grounds. I suggested my family stay right in downtown Chicago, not only are there plenty of places to stay, but they are close to all the sites and are pet friendly too!

Staying Safe

Whether you plan on traveling on a plane or going out on a boat, it’s important to take the necessary precautions. Dogs and planes don’t really mix, but if you do plan on flying with your pet, always bring their favorite toys and follow PETA guidelines. If going out on a boat, make sure that pets have a flotation device on at all times.

Keeping Dogs Calm

One secret to ensuring that my dog is comfortable in new places is to bring along lavender oil. I find that just rubbing some on my hands and petting her will relax her even when she is frightened or not feeling well on long road trips. In addition, we take frequent stops so she can get out and look around while we are driving.

It’s important to plan ahead when bringing your pet along on any vacation. It will make their vacation just as fun as yours.

So my thoughts are as follows… I think Kloë would lose her mind if I crated her.  I have a hatch back so I lay the seats down and pad the back with a nice blanket, which gives her space.  I do this if I have little enough stuff that she’s ok back there sharing space with my stuff.  Otherwise, I leave the seats up, and she snoozes in the back seat on a hammock that prevents her from falling in between the seats into the foot room.  Mine looks about like this, though I bought it at Wal Mart for $20.00.  It’s lasted since she was super little, so it was a great purchase.

I have never taken Kloë on a plane, train, or boat.  If I do, however, I’ll be sure to take Kendra’s advice to heart!  Very good tips.

Lastly, I am totally going to try the lavender oil.  Kloë has taken recently to absolutely freaking out when we set out on car trips.  She doesn’t get sick or anything, but she cries for probably half an hour until she gives up the fight and stops the flip out.  When we head North for the summer, I’m going to try it.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

 

Do you have any tips for traveling with pets?  What do you do?

This too shall pass…


It was hot today… but… Canada hot.  And I know I’ve never really been anywhere that has real hot.  Washington, DC on the 4th of July might count, but I don’t know if it does.  I’ve never been anywhere near the equator, a desert, or a jungle.  I’ve only ever experienced Canadian hot.  So take my assessment with a grain of salt…

Allow me to geek out for a moment when I say that my favourite part of this part of the year, this mid-May mid-Springtime bliss, is the thunderstorms.  Cold fronts meet warm fronts.  High pressure systems meet low pressure systems.  The battle lines get drawn in the atmosphere and we get to watch the spectacular fight to see who wins.

Today was one such day.  I was sitting in my basement watching the finale of The Voice after work.  I had a very, very hard day and getting through it was enough of a chore that I just wanted to turn my brain off.  The trouble was though that I didn’t turn off my brain at all, because it was the first time I’d been able to sit down at my computer for longer than 10 minutes in a little over a week, which left me with almost 100 new emails to read — mostly blog posts from other bloggers I love.

The utter difficulty of pretending to hold myself together through this day, and knowing that there are others just like it coming, made the idea of cooking myself my own dinner sound really unappealing.  Remembering my colleague’s leftover Chinese food today at lunch, I caved and I called my order in.

You see, from my basement, the world outside looked peachy keen.  It appeared to be sunny and I knew it was warm.  I stepped outside though to go pick up my dinner, and because this was a rare occasion that I forgot my phone, I can’t show you what I saw from the parking lot.  I’ll have to tell you.  There had been thunder rumbling behind my house to the South West, complete with the blackening sky and the ominous calm stillness to the air.  The thunder rumbled low and constant, maybe 15 seconds at a time.  I just stopped and listened for a moment… while to the North and the East, the sky was blue, the clouds white and puffy.

Parking lots haven’t been my friend these last 24 hours, so being stopped in my tracks in sheer awe while standing in the middle of one wasn’t what I expected this afternoon.  But that’s precisely what happened.  I got out of my car to run in and pay for my dinner, and I literally stopped and stared.  I’m mad that I didn’t have my phone.  To the East, a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds was arced with a vibrant rainbow.  To the South and West, the sun fought hard to pierce through the darkness threatening to engulf it, and the rays shone through, but only a few.  To the South West you could see the shelf lines – the lines where cold meets warm and high pressure meets low.  The front had drawn its battle lines.  It seemed like it wouldn’t be long before the sun was swallowed by the ominous looking thunder clouds.

This whole analogy feels kind of like my soul.  The light is trying to pierce through.  I’m trying to shine my way through darkness that threatens to swallow me up, and right now it feels like the darkness is going to win.  Those thunder clouds are going to get my sun.  But that rainbow reminds me of a promise made so many, many years ago…. and I know that the sun never loses the battle for long.  And I can cling to that.

I got home and grabbed my phone, and took a stroll up and down my street.  As I walked for just a few minutes, I once again heard the constant rumble of the thunder, but at the same time I listened to the birds chirping and the mourning doves singing their sorrowful song.  I love mourning doves.  And I wonder… the birds have to know that something’s brewing up there.  Animals sense things much better than we do, and I could sense it.  Did the birds know it wasn’t going to be as bad as it looked?  Is that why they were still being brave and carrying on with their day?  Do they know a secret that I’m not in on?

photo 4(2)photo 2(8) photo 3(6)

All of this reminded me of that saying — Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.  Normally, I’d say I agree with that statement, but in this case I just don’t.  I can’t get behind that this time around.  And so in this stormy season I may not be dancing, but I will be clinging to the promise of that rainbow.  This too shall pass.

Cuz the funny part….. it didn’t rain until 6 hours later than expected, and the severe warned storm just never showed up.

 

On Mentorship


I’m not sure when I got old…. but somewhere along the way I guess I sort of did.

It doesn’t feel like it was THAT long ago that I was in teacher’s college, trying to get my feet underneath of me in a pretty challenging world.  I was trying to learn how to teach.  I was trying to learn how to take the stuff that I knew — mostly a compilation of useless random facts that have been filed and categorized into something somewhat mildly useful — and impart it to rooms full of young, mostly only semi-interested minds.

It doesn’t feel like it’s been THAT long since I sat down at my kitchen table in a small little farming community in the Niagara Region, poring over applications to teacher’s college and wondering where I was headed.  Would I be accepted to Western, and move to London?  It was what I wanted.  Would I be accepted to Nipissing, and move to North Bay?  Would I be accepted to Trent, and move to Peterborough?  Would I be accepted at all??  It became this kind of existential crisis where my entire future (or at least, what I thought I knew of it) started to hinge on the essays, the grades (which weren’t great, hence the existential crisis), and the shoddy list of volunteer experiences.  I was afraid I’d end up moving to New Zealand to get my education (because Christmas on a beach), and my Momma was afraid I’d leave and meet a guy at the beach, never to return.  Luckily (for my Momma I suppose), this was not the case, and to Peterborough I traipsed off… flung very quickly into placements where all of a sudden, I was responsible for the learning of teenagers.  Once upon a time, I thought I wanted to teach 14-18 year olds… my how times have changed — My most popular Facebook posts are quotes from my Kinders and my Grade 1s.

Because I went to teacher’s college in what’s called the Consecutive route, I just did one year of schooling focused solely on teaching.  There’s also this deal called concurrent education, where students take education courses interspersed through their undergraduate work, and do placements on Mondays until the end of their time in school, when they start to do multiple week blocks instead.

My first placement was a tutoring block where I spent 3 weeks working daily with a few different kids, pulled out of their classes, to focus on reading skills and help them with writing.  I was privileged enough to work under an amazing mentor.  She was my first associate teacher, and she and I developed a solid mentor/mentee relationship in just under a week.  It was Cindy who I felt was the only one I could go to to ask questions like “how do you be a Christian and work in public schools?” when all my professors were making it sound like it would be impossible.

My next was teaching Grade 9 Core French.  My associate teacher in that one helped me SO MUCH in understanding that there’s more to teaching French than being able to speak it.  She gave me the skills I needed in three short weeks to help translate more than the language — she showed me how to translate the passion I had for kids to learn it, both in how she taught and in the feedback she gave me.  I truly valued her mentorship.

Being in a consecutive program, we had “extended blocks.”  I had 10 weeks in one placement.  Over an hour from my house in Peterborough.  My associate teacher and I clashed in nearly everything we talked about.  Her ideas about how I should be teaching were not mine, but I assumed I just didn’t know better.  After all, my knowledge base in Grade 11 Anthropology and Travel & Tourism was non-existent, so I assumed I just didn’t know what I was doing.  I felt like I tried to be what I was being asked to be, and it wasn’t working.  I was miserable, and I almost dropped out of teacher’s college during that 10 week placement.  It took many, many tearful conversations with my Mom on the phone to convince me to just stick it out and if it wasn’t what I wanted after all, I’d at least have my expensive piece of paper.

I didn’t realize it then… in fact, I didn’t realize it until last year… but our mentorship relationship was not well suited.  We didn’t fit.  While she was a fantastic teacher, she wasn’t the teacher that I saw myself being, or that I thought I even could be because our personalities were so different, and so I had a difficult time learning from her.  I had the feeling that she expected me to teach like her.  That may not have been her intention, but I felt intimidated.

Fast forward a few (*cough* 6) years, and now all of a sudden, somebody somewhere considers me old enough, experienced enough, and mature enough to mentor others.  I started last year with my first student teacher, and it took me a while to feel comfortable in that role.  Mentoring someone else… teaching someone how to teach…. when did I become responsible enough to pull this off?

At 3:30 this afternoon, I said goodbye to two more student teachers.  I took on a 3rd year student teacher in October, and then when the opportunity arose to take on a first year student who would be mentored by the third year (and by me), I signed up.  It was an incredible opportunity for me, and, judging by the difficult goodbye the three of us experienced this afternoon, I suspect it was meaningful for them as well.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the value of a solid mentor in the last few weeks, but particularly in the last week as they finished up a solid week block (instead of just being in on Mondays).  It just hadn’t occurred to me that I could be seen as a solid mentor.

I don’t feel old enough, responsible enough, mature enough, or experienced enough for this to have happened…. but somewhere along the line it seems to have.

What about you?  Have you ever found yourself in a spot where you were mentoring someone?  Have you been mentored?  How was that experience for you?

photo 3(5)I nearly wept…. couldn’t even handle it… I’m gonna miss those girls.

 

 

Meet Manira (Why I won’t give up my World Vision Sponsorship)


I sponsor a child through World Vision.  Her name is Manira, and I love her.

She lives with her parents, her brother, and her sister in a French speaking country in Africa (Score:  I can write to her in French!), and I’ve been sponsoring her for 5 years.

Allow me please to tell you a little about her.  She’s 10, in Grade 5, and her favourite subject is biology.  She’s a beautiful girl with a gorgeous smile.  She told me once in a letter that when she grows up, she wants to be a nurse.  The fact that she is even in school right now, learning and loving biology, warms my heart right up.  She loves to dance and sing, and being the oldest child, she does a fair bit of babysitting while her parents work.

Five years ago, I had no real inkling to sponsor a child, but World Vision literally came knocking.  They showed up at my apartment door and asked me to consider sponsorship.  The representative showed me pictures of kids who needed help, and she explained that for $35.00 a month, I could provide benefits not just to this beautiful girl and her family, but to her community as well.  In my profile on World Vision, I can look at a community report along with updates on Manira.

Look at the things going on in Manira’s community (pasted verbatim from my World Vision profile).

Education

  • We helped build and equip four classrooms at a primary school, easing overcrowding and improving the learning environment for children.
  • 14 literacy centers are offering basic classes in reading and writing for adults and young people who did not have the opportunity to attend school, equipping them with important skills for everyday life and making it easier for them to start small businesses and manage their households. 350 people attended the literacy centers.
  • Teachers were trained in new teaching methods to strengthen the quality of education.
  • Awareness campaigns were held on the importance of education for all children, including girls, who are often kept home from school to do chores and married early.

Health and Nutrition

  • More than 2,500 malnourished children and nursing mothers were treated at nutritional recovery centers operated with World Vision’s support.
  • We partnered with the Ministry of Health to hold immunization campaigns, helping them reach more children with life-saving vaccines.
  • We supplied two health centers with antimalarial medication, distributed 2,025 mosquito nets, and organized two malaria-prevention campaigns. We also facilitated training in malaria prevention for 16 health officers.

Agriculture and Environment

  • A veterinary store was opened to improve availability of feed and medicine for livestock, which are the primary source of food and income for many families.
  • An assessment was carried out to determine the status of 25 community grain banks. We followed up with training for the committees who manage the grain banks and stocked them with 63 tonnes of millet to reduce families’ vulnerability to drought.
  • We worked with community partners to restore 108 acres of environmentally degraded land.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

  • Eight borehole wells were drilled to decrease the prevalence of waterborne illness. Children can now attend school instead of fetching water and women have more time for business activities and to care for their families.
  • We contributed materials to help 53 families build latrines, improving sanitation.
  • 60 women have formed volunteer groups to promote healthy hygiene and sanitation practices in the schools and the community.

Economic Development

  • Two vocational centers were established to train women in sewing so they can provide for their families.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about Manira in the past 24 hours since the Internet exploded with news of World Vision (US) changing their hiring policy twice in rapid succession to accept and then reject those in same-sex marriage relationships in their hiring process.

My opinion on the actual mechanics of that decision isn’t really relevant here for a couple of reasons.  First, World Vision Canada is a separate entity, and I actually kind of liked their statement in response to it all.  Second, I truly believe that my need to continue giving sponsorship to this child is so much more important than any of the kerfuffle that’s gone on the last couple of days.

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours sifting through mainly reactions to the events that have transpired, though I will admit there were a few well crafted responses.  Jen Hatmaker’s is one of them.  I really resonated with hers, as I do with pretty much everything she writes.  I think she and I would be good friends.

What broke my heart while I was reading was the sheer number of people who have decided that, effective immediately, they needed to withdraw their support of children who so desperately need that involvement in their community.  I mean, do what you gotta do I guess, but I immediately pictured Manira, who’s able to go to school along with many other girls in her community.  She’s able to just love biology, and her dream of being a nurse has a chance at actually happening.  I know I’m not solely responsible for those things, and it would be naive of me to think so, but the thought of withdrawing my support from her over a decision made at the administrative level made me kind of sick to my stomach.

My thoughts on anything else, right now — they’re completely irrelevant…. because I feel so strongly that my support needs to stay with Manira, not with a side on the issue.

Are there other charities doing equally great things in communities around the world?  I’m sure there are.  But if I just threw in the towel because I didn’t like an administrative change, who would explain to Manira why she had support one day and then didn’t the next?  I sure wouldn’t want to.

In fact, you know what?  I’m currently prayerfully considering sponsoring a second child, because I think that the needs of the orphans, the marginalized, the poor, and the disenfranchised are bigger than administrative decisions that impact offices in corporate America.  I have an opinion on the right vs. wrong side of the debate itself, but that’ll only detract from my point here.  It’s not important what I think about gay marriage.  And while it IS important what scripture says in every instance in life ever, about everything, I can’t help but think that for me, it’s more important that I love Manira than that I get up on my soap box and start to preach, one way or the other.  After all, I think the greatest commandment is love, is it not?  Yeah.  Love.

 

Where I’ve Been: Why I’m Abandoning NaBloPoMo


I am a writer.

I’m a writer because I write.

But it has occurred to me lately that I should occasionally ask myself why I write

To put it incredibly simplistically, I write because I don’t tend to know what I think until I’ve written it.

It makes me wonder then — why do I feel like I need to write every day, if I don’t have anything of value to say?  Why do I just spew words for the sake of spewing words?  Why?  Is there value in self-reflection?  I would argue that there is.

The last few months, I’ve been desperately trying to garner more followers to this here blog, and I suppose I’ve succeeded in that aim, but I’ve noticed a pattern.  The days I gather followers are the days when I’ve posted something that I thought up myself, or at least when I’ve taken a prompt and run in my own direction with it… not the days I’ve taken a mindless prompt and hardly given it any original thought — writing just for the sake of writing.  Is that any different from talking just to talk?  Should I be writing just to write if I shouldn’t talk just to talk?

This is the reason I’ve written nothing since March 7th.

This is the reason I’ve abandoned NaBloPoMo altogether.

Writing should not be a chore.  I love writing.  I write to think.  Some things, I guess…. just don’t really need to be thought about?

I’ve been pondering something else alongside all of this…. You see, if I truly do write to think and process ~ and I believe that that’s true of me ~ shouldn’t I be using this craft for something deeper and more substantial?  Could the words that spill out of me so effortlessly using a keyboard or a pen not be used to Worship and glorify my Creator when the words I speak so often get ixed mup and tangled so badly that I forget what I was talking about?  I know, I know… this doesn’t happen all the time.  I’m pretty well spoken verbally as well, but I find that when I pray I am so easily distracted that I’m talking to God about something and SQUIRREL!  Yeah… that’s about how it goes.  I teach like that some days, too…. it’s pretty fun when you have to rely on students to put your train back on its’ track.

But if my brain processes better while I write, if I focus better while I write, and if I’m better spoken and far more eloquent when I write than when I speak, why wouldn’t I talk to God like that?  I must admit, I’ve never written a prayer.  I know many people who have.  I know many people who admit that it helps them focus, because it’s like writing a letter to a dear friend.

So I’ve abandoned NaBloPoMo, for March anyway.  I don’t think I’ll go back to it for April.  I haven’t given up anything for Lent, mostly because I was afraid I’d fail…. but maybe even though I’m late I can add something in.  I have a blank journal beside my bed, and I’d like to pray with a pen in my hand from here on out.  I’d like to see if it can add some focus to my conversations with the One who matters most, since, you know, SQUIRREL!

I’ll keep you posted.  Until then, though, I hereby announce that I am no longer committed to blogging every single day, lest feeling like I’m forcing myself to do it sucks the joy and the life out of it.  I will still continue to receive all of the prompts into my inbox from The Spin Cycle, Mama Kat (check out her Writer’s Workshop, too), Holley Gerth (check out Coffee For Your Heart), BlogHer’s prompts, and The Daily Post, but I reserve the right to pick and choose the ones that I tackle, if I choose to write any at all.

And who knows what kind of gold I’ll crank out now that I’ve relieved my own source of pressure?