Friday, December 31, 2010

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful

All my regular readers have probably noticed by now that I post on Saturdays. Last week I didn't (Christmas etc.) and this week, it's going to be a Friday post - mostly because I want to reflect on something I learned in 2010, and write about 2010.

I have discovered a very simple truth and have thought about it time and time again this past year. When I created my Facebook Year In Status, I noticed it was one of the first statuses I posted in 2010. I pondered it again this fall, and it soon became the inspiration for song lyrics (stay tuned!) The truth was solidified yet again as I walked through the mall the other day.

I'm sure many women and girls have experienced this plight:

You're walking around the mall. The din of voices puts you into a slight trance. There's so much to look at, your eyes glaze over a little. Too many lights, too many products, too many people...but of all the shoes, tops, earrings, leather jackets, bags and other things to observe at the mall, aren't the other people the most interesting?  Here's just an example: your focus zeroes in on a girl with, let's say, gorgeous, thick, long, sleek, shiny jet black hair. You think, "I love her hair. Her hair is beautiful." You then think, "I wish I had her hair," believing that if you had gorgeous, thick, sleek, shiny black hair, you'd be beautiful, too. You then realize that you could pop in to Shoppers Drug Mart, buy a box of black hair colour, some extensions, a hair straightener and some product that promises to turn dull hair full of breakages into perfect, shiny locks...but...would you actually look good with that kind of hairstyle? Probably not. This leaves you feeling substandard because it's improbable that you would achieve the same hair success as that girl. You wouldn't look as good as that girl, if you had her hair. Then, all of a sudden, your own hair is really terrible. This is depressing.

There are many variations of this same experience. Women are on a quest to be beautiful - and there are so many parts to it, this can be exhausting: hair, skin, eyes, body, clothes... I wonder: how many people have been subscribing to this faulty logic? I have, for years.

During the time I was at the mall, this kind of logic may or may not have woven through my brain several times, without me trying to dissuade it, until I realized that all the girls I noticed beautiful things about were all very different from each other. Whatever does this mean?

There is more than one kind of beautiful. In fact, there are many kinds of beautiful.

There are SO MANY kinds of beautiful.

You have your body, your hair colour, eye colour, skin colour for a reason...don't fight it!

My skin is VERY fair. For years and year, I fought it. I was determined to be tanned. I got sunburns when I was younger. I remember, when I still lived with my parents, I would run outside in the summer if I had ten minutes to spare, just to get in the sun to "darken up." I tried desperately to be outside in the sun each day to "build my tan." Why? Because every single girl in magazines, movies, advertisements, commercials on TV - they were all tanned! So again, I reasoned, "if I'm tanned, then I'll be beautiful."

Looking back, being fair-skinned, this was a hilarious thing to do.

Thank goodness for the recent skin cancer awareness and the even more recent Twilight craze. Now it seems that many more girls are desperately trying to look like the porcelain Bella Swan, or one of her vampire friends. This craze has been very good for me. I don't even have to try! (haha)

Even so, I have to confess that it was only just this past summer, in 2010, in my 29th year for goodness sake, that I finally decided to stop fighting it. I have fair skin. My body has no idea what "tan" means. I will never be tanned. But this can still be beautiful. In fact, I actually wore sunscreen every day this summer, even if I wasn't going to be outside for a long time, and I didn't get one sunburn.

There are SO MANY kinds of beautiful.

I'd like to encourage you to be your OWN KIND of beautiful. Don't try to be like someone else. Being your own kind of beautiful is what makes you so beautiful. Your personality, your character, your passions - these qualities all shine from the inside of you, making you a beautiful individual inside and out. Hold your head up high because you are you, and you are beautiful. You are a wonder.

OK. You might think, This is nice to read. But we ladies need to hear this, REGULARLY. It's amazing how one compliment can fuel your self-esteem for days. If the cashier at the grocery store tells me she likes my hair, I think, "Yes! Take that, girl with sleek, jet-black hair!" The cashier's compliment pushes my shoulders back and my chin up, and makes me feel lighter. Being told you are beautiful has a profound effect on you, doesn't it?

As today is December 31, I have my New Year's resolution in order: I'm going to tell people they are beautiful (or one of beautiful's many derivatives) REGULARLY, in 2011. We need to hear it - it helps us believe it. A little compliment goes a long way. It's not hard to do.

Oh, and a little P.S. for male readers: I know men don't have the same need to be told they are beautiful as women do...but men need to know how important it is to tell the women in their lives they are beautiful. I also understand that men need compliments, too...just more in the "handsome/strength/capability/gentleman/protection etc.etc." kind of department, so this also part of my New Year's resolution.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Back to the Stable

Over the past couple of days, my Christmas thoughts have travelled back to the stable: where it all began. Sure, we don't know exactly what time of day Jesus was born, or even exactly which day he was born, but either way, it happened. Our Saviour was born, and we celebrate his birth at Christmas.

We know that a pregnant Mary, along with Joseph, travelled to Bethlehem to comply with a Roman census. We know that when they looked for a place to stay, the inn was full, so they were given the stable.

In my mind, probably like most, I picture the nativity scene - Mary and Joseph gazing adoringly at their little new bundle of joy, the Son of God, in a stable.

I started to wonder about some details. Sure, I'll never know about these things, but it's still fun to ponder them:

I wonder if before Mary and Joseph set off on their journey, Mary's mother gave her some woman-to-woman advice: "Now, Mary, when it's time to give birth, you'll feel contractions...and they will HURT. When those contractions are really close together, like less than a minute apart, you are probably going to be ready to push." Or, "When you're in labour, remember to breathe in with your nose, out with your mouth." Or, "You'll have to check to see how dilated you are, and when you are close to 10 cm (or whatever their unit of measurement was!), start to push like you've never pushed before!"

Was Mary afraid? Probably not. God was with her - knitting His Son being together in her womb - how could she avoid feeling an overwhelming sense of peace?

Did Mary have a long labour, or a short one? I can only assume that the labour wasn't all that bad - the Son of God must have made things easy on her. What about Joseph? Did Mary tell him, "Joseph, you have to check to see how dilated I am! CHECK!" I wonder if Joseph, in an I-have-no-idea-what-to-do manner, ran to the innkeeper for help when Mary was in labour. Did they collect some women who were staying at the inn for assistance? I can just picture a plump, matronly mother of eight marching to the stable and taking charge - sending volunteers in all different directions for hot water and clean linens, and wiping Mary's forehead with a cool cloth. Maybe the stable was buzzing with activity.

 I bet the birth was straightforward (Jesus probably wasn't a breech baby) and I doubt there would have been any complications (of course God made sure that His Son was born without difficulty!) Who cut the cord? I wonder if Joseph did. I wonder if he was excited to cut the cord, or a little nervous.

What about the animals (the "friendly beasts")? Some people argue that animals have a keen sense of the spirit world, unlike most humans do. Did they sense that something supernatural was happening within their stable? I mean, the Son of God in human form was right there, in the cow's manger. What was their reaction?

Wow. Can you imagine being there and witnessing this glorious event? Wow.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wonderful Christmas - Dichotomies and All

This past week, I came across some Christmas poetry I have collected over the years. It seems that every Christmas, I am overcome with its mystery and its meaning. Every Christmas, my current emotional state of mind has combined with thoughts of the season, and out comes some sort of poem.

This year, I was struck by the dichotomy of Christmas. We yearn to get to the place where we can reflect and wonder, relax alone in a dimly-lit room pondering what Jesus' birth means for all the people on Earth. We can't wait to spend a wonderful time with family and friends (and according to pop culture's holiday songs, it ain't Christmas if you aren't stationed in front of a warm, crackling fire, out skating on a frozen body of water or jingling some sort of bell).

Ironically, nowadays, in order to get to that place, society demands that we race around the mall, around the clock, buying the latest technology or toy, decorating the house with endless Christmas paraphernalia (although I have to say I kind of like driving by those huge lawn snow globes with Rudolph, Frosty or a random penguin trapped inside), organizing get-togethers with everyone we know and everyone we haven't seen in ages--over and above the usual daily responsibilities we have--it's exhausting. It seems like we have to undergo a hectic couple of months in order earn the pleasure of executing traditions and enjoying quality time with the people we love. We suffer a nightmare before Christmas to make all our dreams come true. We have to speed up so that we can slow down. We buy gifts for the ones we love to celebrate the Gift that God gave us - which is really the only Gift anyone will ever need.

It doesn't surprise me that in one sense, Christmas has transformed over the years, while at the same time, traditions have still held steadfast. For example, as I walked into the Superstore today, I was greeted by a recording of the Glee cast singing "Deck the Halls" on a portable CD player on the floor of the entrance - old has been incorporated with new. Nativity scenes are stocked next to Santa decorations. We madly shop for the best gifts to give on Magical Christmas Morning (or if you're Dutch, Mysterious Christmas Eve). Some things change (as the world ages) alongside other things we try desperately to keep the same (traditions).

This year, don't let the means become the end. Take some time to enjoy the "saturated" feeling that December brings. Our homes, offices and stores alike are full of decorations. Christmas music (old and new songs alike) soundtracks your everyday errands. The ground is (hopefully!) covered in snow, insulating everything. We as people are saturated with almost an entire year of events that have occurred, and we are only a couple weeks away from starting a new, fresh year. Take some time to appreciate the quiet, simple, glorious aspects of Christmas, before it's gone for another year. Remember, thanks to God, you already have all you need.

Below is a little piece I wrote in reference to my "Dichotomy of Christmas" theme this year:

2010: The Dichotomy of Christmas

The table is set; the candles are lit
                                                We fight for a parking spot only to lose
Mom beckons to everyone, “come in and sit.”
                                                There’re too many smart phones – how ever to choose?

Turkey is savoured, trimmings devoured
                                                I conquered the lineup – only to find
Faces are smiling; not one soul is sour
                                                To my dismay, I left my wallet behind

Loved one join hands, and in one great voice
                                                Heart races as I try to race against time
Old carols are sung; the people rejoice
                                                To decorate, shop, wrap and tag, wine and dine

Later, alone, I’m sipping my cider
                                                Where did I put the Nativity pieces?
Reflecting on Christmas, my smile becomes wider
                                                Where are the Mary and Joseph and Jesus?

The lights in my heart blind the lights on the tree
                                                Why do I feel like I need to pretend?
For Christmas—it no longer mystifies me.
                                                When did the stressful means become the end?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Balance: Mind and Body

I was running down the stairs this week in response to Emmett crying in his playpen. I was in the middle of putting my socks on, and I had one sock (a heavy slipper sock) on, and one off. You would not believe how discombobulating and dizzying a feeling it is to run down the stairs with one socked foot and one bare foot. I could hardly keep my balance. My brain was completely confused.

As soon as Emmett was cared for, I put my other sock on. Why? Because apparently it's a liability for a klutzy person like me to be running around the house with only one sock on. Also, because people wear two socks...obviously.

That dizzying feeling I had reminded me of having a migraine. Any migraine sufferers out there? You probably know exactly what I mean. The odd time I get a migraine, I get that terrible visual "aura" that involves half of my vision being blurred away. When I look at my face in the mirror, I only see half of my face. When I look at my hand, I only see part of it, and it doesn't even feel like it's attached to my body. With that weird feeling going on, I can hardly walk straight. So what do you do when you have a migraine? You take something, shut out the world and lay down until your balance comes back.

When I was thinking about these things, this is what I wondered:

OK. Obviously when our bodies feel "out of balance," like in the circumstances I described above, we immediately rectify the situation. We don't function well when our bodies are out of balance, so we fix it. I feel like it's almost redundant to say this because it's so obvious.

What about our minds? What about our lives?

We all know that the key to life is balance. As soon as your life tilts out of balance, everything seems to go awry. If you work too much, your home and family suffer. If you don't spend enough time with God, His peace seems further away and less able to calm the storms of a busy life.

To let your mind (especially if you're a worrier) or your life (especially if you have many responsibilities) get out of balance is easy. To realize that you haven't experienced real balance of your mind in several months is not uncommon. Sometimes we are so busy that we don't even have time to recognize the imbalance of our lives!

I wondered at how simply and quickly I put my physical body back into balance...but why have I neglected my mind...why have I neglected my LIFE?

I let my sock experience be a reminder to me that on busy days, when I'm running around trying to accomplish too many things, my mind is just sitting there, having its own migraine. (Ironically, those are the days when I'm prone to getting an actual, physical migraine.) My mind is just waiting for me to "take a chill pill," shut out the world and just "be"...because we are much more capable of handling life's challenges and enjoying life's blessings when we can "walk" straight!

If your life is full of the one-sock-on, one-sock-off kind of days, I implore you to put the other figurative, fluffy sock back on! Walking the tightrope of life is impossible without balance--physical and mental balance.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Smell Memories

You may have heard before that the sense of smell is the most powerful sense to trigger memories. In writing, it's also an extremely powerful descriptor. If you read about the way something smells, more than anything else, the idea of the scent can really make you "experience" what the writer described. For some reason, the sense of smell provides such a vivid experience - it really "takes you there."

I remember a while back, I caught the scent of something (I don't even remember where, or the context, or anything) - and I couldn't place what it was...but the scent was so powerful to me that it brought me back to such a vivid, specific place. The smell was a food smell, and it took me back to the house I grew up in. I remember the beige brush strokes on the kitchen cupboard, and the dark red, cylindrical cardboard container it came in. From that I remembered what it was - those Sun-Maid raisins that came in the dark red container with the dark red lid. Isn't it interesting that the scent of something can take you to where you remember smelling it before? To me, the raisin smell is somewhat...comforting...maybe calming? (even though I don't really adore raisins - they are just OK).

I have the same thing happen to me every year when the Christmas decorations are unpacked. The smell of the wreath, the old tissue paper protecting all the breakables, the pine cones - the scents themselves - trigger memories of Christmases past and create that much more enjoyable and reflective a decorating experience.

Here's where it gets really interesting. Everyone has their own opinion about smells, of course (for instance, consider all the different kinds of perfume or cologne out there). We all consider different smells in different ways, which makes the sense of smell that much more complex. What do our preferences say about us?

The variety of perspectives on smells can get even more complicated because smells are connected to memories. Everyone has different memories, so smells can mean one thing to one person and something else to the next person. Wow. For example, even though we all prefer certain types of perfume/cologne, there are only so many out there, so think of all the different women who wear one type of perfume. One guy might hate that perfume because it reminds him of a horrible girl, with an outrageous temper, whom he dated in college. Maybe he loved that perfume when he loved that girl, but then he had no choice to but to hate the perfume when things went sour in the relationship because of how closely connected the smell was to his perception of the girl. Another guy might love the perfume because it is the most vivid memory of his mother, who passed away when he was a boy, in a tragic car accident. Wow. So smells are powerful emotional triggers, too.

Wow. Who knew that this whole smell thing could be so interesting?

Since I learned how powerful the sense of smell is in describing things and triggering memories, I've made a conscious effort to use it in writing...(and, of course, I figured I should write a blog about it as my tribute to the wonderful sense of smell! However, I didn't always think that way. For me, for many years, the sense of smell sat on the back burner. Music/sounds and visual pictures always seemed to take the forefront. Why? I wonder.

For those of you who love interesting/useless facts, here's a site I found and some fun facts about the wonderful sense of smell:

Sense of Smell Facts

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Perceptual Vigilance

When I was pregnant and Joel and I were shopping for strollers, all of a sudden, there seemed to be way more women pushing strollers on the streets of St. Catharines than ever before.

A lot of people like to create a sentence to help them remember the four letters in their license plate. For example, say your license plate started with ABCD, it could stand for "All Babies Cry Definitively" or something. As soon as Joel came up with a sentence for his license plate, I was seeing it EVERYWHERE. Every time I drove anywhere, I saw at least one vehicle with the same letters on its license plate as Joel's.

This is perceptual vigilance: notice something somewhere only to subsequently notice it everywhere. I have wondered about perceptual vigilance for years, and only today did I discover the term for this phenomenon.

This is so interesting. The topic of perceptual vigilance makes me wonder if I should manipulate it by going around trying to find nice, beautiful things or words or whatever, and notice them; make a really clear mental picture of them - talk about them - in the hopes of seeing more of these beautiful things or making more of these beautiful things happen. Perhaps that would make life a little sweeter?

When I was looking into this topic (I haven't done very much research yet; just enough to figure out the term and get a little background), I first stumbled upon a lot of web sites about these two, let's say, interesting ideas:

1) sites about happening upon sequences of numbers everywhere, and what it means (think of The Number 23 with Jim Carrey).
2) sites offering motivational self-help regarding the Law of Attraction (like The Secret by Rhonda Byrne). (Basically, the Law of Attraction states that you attract what you think about, so you should deliberately think about positive things and push negative thoughts out of your mind.)

So, does this mean that we can either accidentally or deliberately see or think about things and then see or get more of the same?

You might ask, "What about environment?"  I suppose a person's environment plays a huge role in this concept because if you are surrounded by great things, noticing and thinking about great things (and thus being positively influenced by them) should be easier. (This must be why Dale Carnegie encouraged people to surround themselves with successful people.) Similarly, those who live surrounded by poverty must find it harder to notice beautiful things. However, we all know that you can still think positive even when life dumps negativity on you (it's just way more challenging). Maybe that's the point. Perceptual vigilance will just happen, whether you try or not - whether it's intentional or unintentional. Maybe it's that simple? I wonder.

There's a lot more to be discussed about this - such as how God is reflected in this idea...which will have to wait for another blog post. Let me know your ideas and thoughts!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gluten Freedom

Hi. My name is Christina Durksen, and I'm a celiac.

OK. That sounds way worse than it actually is! I was inspired to write today about being gluten free because several people over the past few months have talked to me about taking gluten out of their houses, or have suspected people they know to be celiac. I thought I'd share my story and offer some encouragement.

To have celiac disease means that you cannot eat gluten (or else you could suffer quite the array of consequences...both immediate and eventual). It's an auto-immune disease, not an allergy. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and oats...although oats is a controversial one. This means you can't eat a lot of things.

I remember when I had the scope of my stomach/small intestine about four years ago, and then I was told by my gastroenterologist that I had to stop eating gluten. Even though my mom, sister and brother had been on a gluten-free diet for at least a year by that time, I was crushed.

I spent one last week binging on my favourite celiac nightmares: McChicken sandwich from McDonald's, chicken pitas from Pita Pit, Cheese Cappelletti from East Side Mario's, Cold Cut Trio from Subway...and then that was it. During my first shopping trip for gluten free foods, I almost cried in the grocery store. I remember violently throwing cans of soup back on the shelf because EVERY SINGLE ONE had some variation of wheat in it. The first loaf of gluten-free bread I bought tasted (and smelled) like Play Dough.

After a few little meltdowns that first week, I realized that my sister Danielle, who had been gluten-free well before me, had never complained about it. Well, if she could do this, then so could I.

Any time someone learns that I can't eat gluten, he or she says, "Oh my goodness. That sucks. I would never be able to do it. There are just way too many foods that I'd have to stop eating. Oh, man that sucks" or something like that.

OK. It kind of sucks. Danielle and I sometimes fantasize about what we'd eat if we could cheat on our diet. If Joel and I are out to eat, and he gets some kind of mouth-watering, warm baked bread, I smell it. OK, no, I inhale it. Believe it or not, just smelling something that has gluten in it is pretty satisfying. Pathetic, perhaps, but definitely satisfying. I can still remember what warm baked bread tastes like, and just the memory ignites a little euphoria in me.

Nevertheless, I haven't really found it too difficult to be gluten free. Every few months there seems to be something new out there that we discover we can eat. When Pizza Pizza came out with the gluten free crust, we were singing, "Hallelujah." When I realized we can eat the cheese sauce mix from Kraft Dinner boxes, just replacing the wheat noodles with rice ones, I Hoovered a huge bowlful down while still standing up in the kitchen (couldn't waste time walking to the table and sitting down.) One of my mothers-in-law bakes absolutely delectable gluten free food for me, like oatmeal chocolate cookies and lemon coconut squares. My other mother-in-law supplied me with THREE kinds of gluten-free pies for Thanksgiving this year (THREE!!!). Getting your hands on gluten free baking isn't as easy as running out to any given grocery store and getting an inexpensive box of cookies, so I don't eat a lot of it. Now: if you only eat cake maybe five or six times a year, you really appreciate that cake.

Life is pretty good. I don't feel robbed of any of life's enjoyments just because I can't eat gluten. We have ways. We know which stores carry the best gluten-free bread. We know where to get the best soup (yes, there is gluten-free tomato soup out there!). We know what brands of what things we can eat now, so shopping is a breeze. At weddings, instead of eating the pasta course, I drink another glass of wine. That's not so bad.

So I wondered about this: Why was I so crushed when I found out I had to stop eating gluten? Because when I stopped eating gluten, it wasn't that bad. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

I think that decisions and restrictions are much easier to deal with when you have no choice in the matter. In order to deal with the more obvious, sensory, physical temptations and difficulties of a decision/restriction/change, you have to reconcile your choice mentally first. If you tell yourself that you absolutely cannot change your mind - put up a wall instead of allowing yourself to rationalize excuses - then you can accept having made a tough choice. Ironically, there is a sort of freedom in having no choice. Then the blissful aroma of freshly-baked apple crisp is totally manageable. In fact, it's enjoyable.

If you would like to know more about celiac disease, is a great starting point. Link below.

Also, if you would like to know all the good places to go for gluten free food, message me through Facebook or e-mail me at

Friday, November 12, 2010

Serenity Now

God, grant me the serenity 
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

OK. Most people are aware of this famous prayer. I have been thinking lately about this...serenity. What to change, what not to change.... I have wondered often throughout my life about this.

I'm going to discuss personality traits here, although this obviously applies to circumstances and events, too. That would be a whole other blog post.

We all have personality characteristics that are what make us, us. I understand that to change your inherent self is counter-productive; to fight something that cannot change is like pounding your fist into a boulder and expecting it to crack open. I get that. In my case, I'm quite inquisitive, and a real talker. I'm always the last person to finish a meal because I'm talking more than eating. When I was a kid, my parents had to establish a rule when we were watching TV: "No questions until commercials". I don't think I could become really shy and also stop asking questions because I would be denying myself expression - how would I perpetuate? Everyone has traits like this; ones that ought not to change. They must be accepted.

I also understand that there are things that can, and in some cases, ought to change - for example, I tend to worry, and I know that worrying is counter-productive to a healthy self. Thus, I ought to change that.

However: sometimes there are traits and tendencies whose places in your life are difficult to judge. The line is too fine. What to change, what not to change...

How do you know the difference? How do you get the wisdom to know the difference?

OK - let me think of an example here. I'll use one of my own traits again.

What about...what about my need for order? When my house is neat and clean and free of clutter, I feel relaxed. When my house is not, I feel stressed. So the questions is: is that an okay thing? No need to change it? Or is that counter-productive to a healthy self - the whole getting stressed when things are cluttered? Is that really a cause for stress? Come on; there are a lot of other problems in life that are more worthy of stress than a house that needs dusting. So is this a negative or a positive trait? It seems that it could be either.

What if...what if, in some cases, it's not the trait itself that is something positive or negative to self, but how the trait is exercised? I mean, in the case of being a neat freak: sure, it's good to have a house in order, but to get stressed out about a few things lying around the living room (including a ton of baby things!) is kind of silly. If I were able to discipline myself to exercise this trait to my self's advantage: would that be serenity? I mean, a house free of clutter and no stress...equals a win/win? A state of repose?

Can there be variations within the things we ought to change/ought to keep the same so that wisdom is required to figure out how to modify the traits so that they inherently stay the same but don't become negative?

Hmmm....I wonder. Maybe.

P.S. See - a lot of questions :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Wonder of the Working Mother

I'm on month #7 of my maternity leave. I have 5 months to go. Yes, that's still a while, but I can't help but think a little, here and there, about going back to work.

By the time I go back to work, Emmett will be about 11 months old. What if he's not walking yet? What if I miss his first steps? What else will I miss? Right now, if I am away from Emmett even for a couple of hours, I miss him. What's it going to be like when I'm away from him for a whole day? Four or five days out of every seven? My heart sinks--a lot--when I think about that.

Anxiety started creeping into my gut as I started wondering how in the world would I be able to get enough quality time in with Emmett after work and on weekends, spend time with Joel, keep my house clean, get enough rest myself and have some time, here and there, to think/reset/recharge/destress. How? Is this even possible?

My thoughts then spread out to all of the wonderful women who I know that work and have children. You know who you are! There are varying degrees of this phenomenon, whether you work from home or out of the home, whether you work part time or full time, but either way, I can only imagine how challenging the life of a working mother must be. How? Is this even possible?

Here's a shout out to all of those wonderful working mothers. Don't be surprised if I call or message you about how you do it, how you get through the days, when I go back to work. I don't quite understand how someone can really do all of these things without frustration, stress, being tired, wishing that the eighth day of the week would please appear already, and then trying desperately to fit everything that would fit so much more comfortably in eight days, into the ritual seven that we were given. How? Is this even possible?

It's a wonder: the working mother. Working a full-time job, maintaining relationships and keeping a home is a challenge. Raising children, loving them, being there for them, protecting them, teaching them, training them, providing for them and fostering their passions is also a challenge. To put them together sticks a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye for the women who do this, a wave of emotion through my chest and the desperate clicking away of my brain to calculate a plan of how. How. How can I make this possible?

So far, from the perspective of a not-quite-working-mother-yet, I've come up with one solution. Through all of this I am reminded by a still, small voice that God is faithful. Always faithful. He gives us "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow." I can't help but choose to look forward to the next several years of my life as awesome years; probably very busy years, very tiring years, but awesome years nonetheless.

Both now and continually through the coming years, I wish all of you working mothers the BEST:

May God's faithfulness be your rock
The only rock that will never roll
May He lead you to green pastures and still waters
May He restore your soul
May His own dear presence cheer and guide you
Build up your self-control
Provide you with patience
For all the hard days
Remind you of His faithfulness
In all His loving ways.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Physical Space Between

I was in Wal-Mart the other day and something interesting happened. I was standing in line to check out, and amid the busy lineups, children crying and bright lights, I noticed something.

A man was walking from the opposite end of the checkout toward me. I didn't think anything of it; I didn't think he was walking toward me. I saw that he was walking toward the woman in line behind me. Before he walked up to her, before he said anything to her, I could tell that he knew the woman behind me. I think that's why I didn't think he was walking toward me - because he walked in a way that signified closeness; he walked in the way you would walk toward someone you knew.

How do I describe this? It was really cool, like the space between them was connecting them. His body language relaxed as soon as he met the woman's eyes. He was communicating with her before he even spoke to her.

That got me thinking. I wondered at how different our body language is toward people we know versus complete strangers. Even more specifically, how different our body language is toward people we know quite well (co-workers, acquaintances) and people we know on a more intimate level (family and close friends). The gap of physical space between two people who know each other well seems calmer, smaller, softer, sweeter, as it closes in. The gap between people who don't know each other, well, it is more solid and less noticeable because we expect gaps of space between us and those we don't know.

I understand the concept of body language. Of course, we can read so much more about someone by looking at what their body is saying than by hearing them speak words. In this case, the body language went a step further and stretched out into the space between two people, as though that space was alive with something. A space - nothing - full of something.

I'm going to the mall today, and now I can't wait to observe more people and the spaces between.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Comfort Maple

Preposterously, I have only recently learned of the Comfort Maple, a tree gracing a plot of land in Pelham, believed to be the oldest sugar maple tree in Canada. It's approximately 500 years old. Wow. "Born" approximately in and around 1500. Perhaps it was even a tiny seedling when Christopher Columbus discovered America.

Anyway, Joel told me about the Comfort Maple when we were out for a drive, several weeks ago. We were on Cream Street in Pelham, but we must have been on the wrong section of Cream Street or something because we didn't actually get to it that day. I thought, oh well.

Yesterday, I went for a drive as something to do with Emmett. One of my favourite aspects of the fall colouring in the Pelham area, which I am lucky to live very close to, is the way the bright colours of the leaves seem to turn the entire sky, the entire daylight, brighter than usual. Like someone turned an extra light on.

My navigational skills are incredibly lacking (usually when I think I'm going the right way, I'm not. Sadly, that has ironically become my navigational strategy: go the opposite way that I think is the right way). I ended up bee-bopping up and down various roads, until I was on Balfour Street and decided to turn right on Metler. Then I saw the sign: Comfort Maple.

I drove down the little drive to where the tree stood. Majestic. Absolutely huge. Old. Strong.

I read the sign, which described a little history about the tree: it had been preserved by the Comforts, who had owned that property for generations. It was dedicated to a family member named Earl. At the bottom of the sign was the statement, "O Lord, how glorious are thy works."

With my hands still wrapped around the steering wheel, a light drizzle pattering across the windshield, and no one else in sight, I felt comforted. Comforted that such an old tree was still alive. Comforted that we have such a powerful God who created things that can be alive for 500 years. Comforted by the beauty of the gnarled branches, the thickest trunk I've ever seen, the bright yellow leaves gingerly leaving the tree to rest on the ground. I wondered at how many seasons this tree has seen, how many lifetimes this tree has lived.

O Lord, your works are truly glorious.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Um...and Similar-Sounding Pause-Fillers

Most of us do it. We say "um" or "ah" or something like it, to fill in those awkward pauses within our sentence-making. Perhaps we aim to sound fluent or speak beautifully, but usually our brain breaks in between strings of words and we draw that horrible know, that place where we need to stop briefly and think about what to say next (which is a good thing!). Most of us aren't comfortable with an actual pause - we feel the need to fill the pause with sound, which ironically ends up being a non-word such as "um" or "ah".

I went to Niagara College with a delightful colleague who was originally from Nigeria. When she was doing a talk in front of the class, she, like most of the rest of us, uttered the occasional "um." No one thought twice of it. What I and a couple of my carpoolers found out on the way home from school that day (she was in the carpool, too) was that she actually thought that was what you were supposed to do, here and there, while speaking, in English. So she learned to start talking that way, too.

Huh. So enough people say enough "ums" that to someone whose second language is English, these "ums" are deemed a deliberate part of the language.

I laughed. I thought, how funny. I was immediately self-conscious of all the "ums" and "ahs" and the like that flow from my mouth every time I talk...which is a lot. Yuck. I wish I sounded more fluent.

I also learned that if you omit the "ums" and just stop for a minute, you actually do sound a little more fluent, and the pauses are actually quite attractive! I think they command attention. It reminds me of the simple yet strong speech the Lord of the Rings characters all have.

Don't get me wrong. It's been like six years since I've been in that course at Niagara College, and I've spent the better part of those six years adding thousands of "ums" to my "um" tally (I'm assuming there is a tally somewhere in my brain; I just don't happen to know the total off-hand)...but I was thinking about it the other day and I thought I'd try to practice the so very classy and attention-commanding pause. We'll see how that goes.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Music is so abstract. It's tangible, but you can't see it. You can visualize it, but you can't really touch it. You can hear it and even when you can't, you can still feel it inside. You can taste it as though it was full of flavour or hear it with grave distaste. Music can force you to move even though it isn't there physically pushing you. Music is so abstract.

I want to sing. I want to project the happiness, the passion and the emotion already emanating from the sound. The sound. I want to express the sound I hear myself. I want to create my own music. You can't see how I make the sound - you can only hear it. Oh, the mystery and the melody of sound. Normal sound taken to a new level. A breakthrough. The same way that singing is a on a different level than speaking, musical sound is that of another plane of reality.

Could we survive without music? Or would we be zombies with pasty gray complexions, wandering monotone across the scales of life? Maybe we would still live; maybe our hearts would slowly beat - but our emotional centres would be hollow. We'd have no radio industry, no performances, no soundtracks, no recording equipment, no instruments, no night clubs, no dance classes, no movement, no expression, no vibrancy, no colour, no inspiration...

...could we survive?

I can't see music, but I can feel it moving people around me. I can't reach out and touch it, but somehow it has reached out and touched my soul. Music.

Check out some of my and my sister's music (Zusters):

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Baby and the Dog

I have a two-year-old Jack Russell named Lucy and a five-month-old baby named Emmett. Today they really bonded. I've never heard Emmett laugh as hard as he did today, watching Lucy run around the living room and jump on and off the couch. Thank goodness for the simple things in life that make us smile and laugh...oh, the sound of a baby laughing!

This made me wonder, though, why did a dog make Emmett laugh harder than I or my husband could make him laugh? She didn't even try. She doesn't even know that she was being funny (to a baby). When Lucy jumps around like that, I get annoyed. I definitely don't find it hysterical. Is a dog running around a very simple form of humour? One that adults, in their advanced stage of cognitive development, can't appreciate anymore?

What is it in our brains that make us find things funny? What tells us to make the laughing sounds? Not to mention the fact that I'm pretty sure adults can (usually) control our laughter, whereas babies sure can't. They just let themselves pretty silly things.... Babies also seem to laugh at things for some time before they can generate their own humour. soon as a baby starts shrieking for joy, I can't help but laugh myself.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

OK I'm Finally Doing It

So I know people have been blogging for quite some time now, and I know someone like me (someone who loves to write!) should have hopped on the blogging bandwagon a long time ago. However, here we are today, October 12, 2010, and I've finally done it. I've created my first blog. Better late than never.

I love to think and I love to wonder and I have more spare time than I've had in years, so I'm going to take a stab at it. The last time I wrote consistently about whatever places my musing mind took me was in OAC Writer's Craft. I'm pretty excited to have created a new outlet, here and now.

Here we go.