Friday, May 27, 2011

A Cry for Help

Emmett: 2 weeks old. Photo by GingerSnaps Photography


When a baby cries, your heart may break a little. Your own eyes might fill with a few tears.

When a baby is still crying after you have met all its needs, you may grow frustrated. You might cry a little yourself. The sound might grate on your nerves and cause a headache.

Yesterday afternoon, I was trying to get some work done while Emmett napped. Needless to say, he didn’t really nap. We experienced a couple of those frustrating hours in which I tapped at the computer, then ran upstairs, laid Emmett back down with his blanket, then ran downstairs to do a little more work, then ran upstairs, changed Emmett, ran downstairs, typed again for 15 minutes while his whiny cry tensed all my muscles, then ran upstairs, gave him water, gave him Tylenol (he’s teething) and so on. By the time I had given up on any sort of efficient work and was making supper, he had finally fallen asleep.

While I peeled potatoes, I heard Emmett wake up and whine again. I griped and complained to myself, trying to chop up my frustration while I cut up the potatoes and violently threw them in the pot.

Then this thought hit me, right in the centre of my mind:

“To God, sometimes my cry sounds like a baby’s cry.”

When I then heard my baby’s cry drift down to the kitchen from up the stairs—his innocent, small, simple cry for help—I tried listening to it from the perspective of God listening to us when we cry.

As children of God, sometimes we resemble our own children:

·         Babies are beautiful—especially to their parents. We delight in recognizing our features in them.
o   We are beautiful to God. After all, every human being was created in His image.

·         Even when babies disobey or scream and cry about things that seem so ridiculous or insignificant to us, we love them anyway. We can’t help but love them.
o   Even when we cry and complain or do things that God would rather we not do, He never stops loving us. Never, ever.

·         Babies cry when they need something.
o   We cry (or complain or grumble or think accordingly) when we need something, too.

·         When Emmett called out to me, I came to him.
o   When we call out for help, God hears us, too. When we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.

·         Mothers know their babies’ needs better than their babies do.
o   God knows our needs better than we do.

·         Babies get what they need from their parents: clothes, food, shelter, love. For babies to get what they need themselves would in some cases be difficult and in other cases would be completely impossible.
o   We get what we need from God. In some cases, doing it ourselves is really difficult, and in other cases, doing it ourselves would be completely impossible.

·         Babies’ needs, to them, are really hard to attain, but to parents, are really easy to meet. It’s easy to nurse or feed a baby a bottle, give them a blanket or soother, change their diaper, pick them up and comfort them when they are crying.
o   Our needs sometimes seem impossible to meet to us, but to God, meeting all of our needs (even the needs we don’t realize we have) is incredibly simple.

·         Even when we know that a baby doesn’t need anything specific, we still go to the child to offer it love and affection.
o   God constantly covers us with His love and is always in a position to gladly bless us.

·         In Emmett’s case, as he is teething, I did everything I could to alleviate his discomfort. However, I also recognized that he needs to go through the teething process because it’s part of his development. He can’t eat what he needs to eat as he grows without those teeth. So I helped him to deal with it.
o   There are also times and seasons that we need to endure so we can grow and develop as people. While God is always there to help us out (His burden is light), we still have to go up certain steps so that we can get to the next place that God has intended for us to go.


This thought made me realize that maybe in some areas of my life, I should grow up a little. I mean, I shouldn’t lend worry a hand by fretting. I shouldn’t lend negativity a hand by grumbling and complaining about my problems. Shouldn’t I know by now that God is a loving parent, Who meets all of our needs according to His riches (and goodness gracious, is He ever RICH!)

Even so, it’s nice to know that God hears me when I call.

Before I finish, I must mention one large difference between us as adults or parents and God as our Father: while at times we can get frustrated by a baby’s incessant screams, and our patience becomes paper-thin until it threatens to shred away, God is always patient. He never gets frustrated.

Even though yesterday afternoon was frustrating, I was glad to enter the evening with a nice piece of insight about the way God considers us and the way we ought to try to be. There is something comforting about knowing that God tenderly cares for us even as parents care for their little children.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Collider

This week, at a sunny, quiet juncture in my mind,

the thought:   “Wow! I love Sam Roberts’ new album, Collider!"

intersected with the question:      “I wonder what I should write about for this week’s blog post?”

The thought and the question got acquainted with each other, and the resulting post was created: a review of Sam Roberts Band’s new album, Collider and some things I wonder about Sam Roberts.



Collider is Quebec-born Sam Roberts’ fourth major label album. I officially became a fan of Sam Roberts when Chemical City (second album)’s single “Bridge to Nowhere” was released. Love at the End of the World (third album) was released in 2008, and I sang its first single, “Them Kids” at my wedding reception. Yes, I totally rocked out while Joel played his electric, with the rest of the awesome band Mosaik backing us. (It was so cool.)





Sam Roberts Band’s music has a “sound” all its own. This belief was confirmed yet again after listening to Collider for the first time. His songs are developed from true rock ’n’ roll roots. His attention to detail is proven in the variety of layered sound surprises and interesting guitar riffs of his tracks. At many points in many songs, many tones are meshed and softened into a bluesy blend. His sound is energetic. Whenever I listen to Sam Roberts, my mood jumps up a couple notches on the “happiness” scale, and I can’t help but start moving around. Sam Roberts’ voice is clear and light—he sings confidence without sounding pretentious. Not only is the music fun and enjoyable to listen to but also the lyrics are snappy and clever (such as those in “Sang Froid”: “We’ve been shining on the front lines burning in the sunshine/ We’ve been dancing in the headlights standing on a landmine”).

Joel and I have spent many summer nights out on our deck with friends, with reliable Sam Roberts keeping the mood light and easy in the background. As perfect as his tunes are for background music, though, they also deserve focused attention—a one-on-one active listen—to fully appreciate his musicality and lyrical intelligence.

When you come to appreciate a musician, his individual sound and the mood his music creates, anticipating the release of a new album is extremely exciting. When your patience is rewarded with a solid album of really awesome songs confirming your status as a fan, a very great feeling of satisfaction results. 

This is exactly what I felt when I heard Collider: a great feeling of satisfaction.

Right off the hop, I really liked the songs, “Without a Map,” “Twist the Knife” and “Tractor Beam Blues.”

As soon as “Without a Map” starts, the drum beat and bass line have you bobbing your head. Even Emmett bobbed his head to it. I love the lyrics of the chorus, too. They are succinct, they rhyme, so they were easy to remember and they efficiently tell the listener much.

“Twist the Knife” is a little more serious. I really connected with the opening bars. The guitar just strums a few simple chords, but they draw you in. Then he proceeds to tell you a story that tugs at your heart.

“Tractor Beam Blues” is the last song on the album. Almost always Joel and sometimes I really like the last song on an album. This leads me to believe that musicians deliberately put one of their best songs at the end. Anyway, “Tractor Beam Blues” has a fantastic call-and-response in the chorus, which I absolutely love.  (“Is love enough?”  “Yes, it is.” “Is hope enough?” “I hope it is!”) Why? I love to participate in a song. I love answering a question that a singer asks. OK, yes, he also wrote the answer, but I think when songwriters provide a call-and-response, they create unity within their audience by giving an opportunity for listeners to participate. 

Another quality I noticed in Collider (although as soon as I mentioned this to Joel, he told me that Sam Roberts has done this in all of his albums) is that Sam Roberts sings little (sometimes slightly sardonic) nuggets of wisdom in many of his songs. Delivered in the midst of catchy-yet-quality music, these nuggets pack a shiny punch. Here are a few of the many examples from Collider:

“No one is free ‘till all of us are free.”  (“The Band vs. The World”)

“Life will give you what you take.” (“Twist the Knife”)

“The only thing that tomorrow brings is that it will become today.” (“Longitude”)

Sam Roberts Band. Photo courtesy of canada.com.

Now, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Sam Roberts or any of the other band members. (Please note that one of my dream jobs would be interviewing and writing articles or reviews about musicians, bands, artists, etc.). One day, if I ever do get the wonderful opportunity of meeting Sam Roberts, these are some of the questions I would ask him:

1.       When you were younger, did you expect to be where you are today? Was being an award-winning musician your dream when you were younger?

2.       Do you have certain life experiences, places or people that provide inspiration for your song writing?
3.       What advice can you give to aspiring musicians today in terms of gaining an audience and getting their music “out there”?

4.       What is the most challenging process or part of writing and recording a new album? Why?


I want to end this post with two questions for you:

1.       If you have heard Collider, will you please share your thoughts about the album? I’d love to discuss Collider further.

2.       If you haven’t heard Collider, will you please give it a listen? I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Coffee Love




I love coffee. Coffee, coffee, coffee.

Sometimes I daydream about the coffee experience.

When Joel gets up for work, he makes a pot of coffee. As the coffee starts to brew, the strong, awakening scent dances through the kitchen, waltzes up the stairs (seriously, three beats per bar), sashays into our room and tickles my nose. Yes, Folgers, coffee is (one of the) best parts of waking up.

About a year ago, when Emmett was first born, our schedule was all over the place. However, I made sure I fit enjoying a cup of coffee in at some point in the day. I looked forward to that glorious cup of coffee from when I woke up to when the first sip burned my eager mouth.

My Oma used to have glass mugs for coffee. I remember when I was a kid, loving to watch my parents, my Oma, my Opa and my aunts and uncles prepare their coffee because I could see everything. I loved to watch the white cream burst into the rich coffee, creating a billowing cloud in the blackness before turning the coffee into a beautiful light tan colour.

As much as I love my collection of various coffee mugs (a Starbucks mug, a Batman mug, a couple of “Emmett” mugs, my go-with-anything-green Zellers mugs, our “New Dad” and “New Mom” mugs and our tiny white Corel “church” cups), don’t you think the adult version of the sippy cup (also known as takeout coffee cups) brings the most satisfaction? My sister makes these little fleece sleeves to put around Tim Horton’s cups that just make you feel like you are in coffee heaven. Warm, soft, happy—satisfaction.

Coffee is so wonderful: I love the look of the different coffee brand labels. The gurgling sound of the coffee maker. The aroma of a fresh brew. The coffee cup selection. The mixing of the coffee with cream (no sugar, please). The little spoon clinking happily against the sides of the mug. The biting taste. Starting to feel more awake and alert. Feeling extra enthusiastic doing whatever I was doing (talking, typing, reading, talking, thinking, talking). The whole idea of the “coffee break.” Having something to look forward to. Having something to look forward to daily.

Atop all of these amazing pros perches the social pro of coffee. I love getting together with someone for coffee. Coffee shared with a friend tastes sweeter. (See, this is why I don’t need sugar.)

“Let’s get together for coffee.” “Let’s meet for coffee.” “Wanna go out for coffee?” “Let’s talk over coffee.”

I started thinking about the fact that coffee shops have become meeting places of all kinds. Going out for coffee is an acceptable compromise for a couple still getting to know each other—it’s still a date but not as “involved” as dinner—more casual, less expectation. Tim Horton’s is a regular meeting place for old friends. Whenever the drive-thru is so long that I decide to go inside, I see people slumped in chairs that look like they live there. Some of them probably do pretty much live there.

What about business? Interviews? Deals? Run-of-the-mill meetings? Many a business idea has been discussed over coffee.

I wonder about all the conversations that take place in a coffee shop. You know the expression, “If these walls could talk”? To hear the walls of a house dictate the conversations had over the years would be really interesting, but what about a place that people go to just to talk? Imagine if the walls of Tim Horton’s could talk. Imagine if Starbucks had ears. What would it be able to tell you?

What kinds of things would it remember? What would it wish it could forget? 

Breakups, date interview questions, opinions, funny banter? 

Secrets, wisdom, mindless chatter? 

Complaints, news, senseless mumbling?

I’ll end this post with an interesting quote I found when I looked around at some sites online about coffee. This one, in reference to those who are dependent on coffee, is from http://www.cofei.com/culture/social-aspects-of-coffee.html (last paragraph):

“As addictions go, coffee seems harmless enough and, unlike some addictions, relatively affordable. And according to a British study, coffee drinkers show a lower suicide rate than non-coffee drinkers, and an even more recent study showed mental functions operated at a higher level when coffee was poured into the cup, though sad to say the study also showed that the coffee drinkers were more easily swayed as far as their opinions went, so happy were they with life.”

Yeah…right. Watch out, coffee lovers! Don’t invite the pushy salesman who came to your door in for coffee! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Moments from the First Year

My son Emmett is officially a one-year-old!


During the past year—my first year as a mother—I have ridden a dangerously unpredictable hormonal roller-coaster. I have cried tears of joy, tears of frustration, tears of fright, tears of the “Oh-my-goodness-he’s-my-baby-and-he’s-so-beautiful” kind, tears of the “Oh-my-goodness-I-am-responsible-for-a-human-being” kind and many, many, many tears of laughter.

Babies don’t understand humour the way we adults do, so it amazes me that babies can make us laugh so much, so hard. Are babies inherently hilarious?  Maybe it's because of their innocence: they aren't trying to be funny.

Or maybe it was just the hormones.

Here are a few memorable moments from the past year in my life as a mother of a new baby:


Baby Doll

One day, I was at my parents’ house, and we were discussing how newborn babies are completely disproportionate. If you really think about it, and compare your proportions to a baby’s, it’s kind of frightening. Their head comprises a startling large percentage of their total size. The length of their torso and the length of their legs are roughly equal. The size of their hands and feet in comparison to the size of their head is very small. Have you ever held your hand or foot up to your head? They are probably roughly similar in length to your head. A baby’s hand or foot? Freakishly smaller!

Their facial features are also really big on their faces.

When I mentioned the facial features, my mom said, “Yeah—they’re like a blow-up doll that hasn’t been blown up yet.”


Before inflation (2 days old):




A little more blown up (1 year old):



Drunk Baby

When Emmett was a newborn, after feeding him, I’d prop him up and laugh at him. He’d always have this super-full-and-satisfied look on his face. He would gurgle unintelligible things with his eyes barely open. I couldn’t help but be reminded of a really inebriated person at the tail end of a crazy night of drinking—someone who could no longer function. One time, after feeding him, pretending to be Emmett, I said, “Man, I shouldn’t have had that last beer!” Then he puked all over me. 




 Food-Inspired Imitations

You know how when you defrost frozen berries, they get really liquidy? I fed Emmett frozen defrosted berries one day, and he got berry juice all over his mouth, and the dark purple juice happened to form perfect “lipstick” marks around his own lips. He looked so pretty! The first thought that came to my mind was, “He looks like a geisha!” So I took pictures.
















Emmett preferred pureed food for a long time. While he liked peas when they were blended into a bunch of other food, he didn’t seem to like whole ones. I tried giving him a whole pea, and he made a face. He just wouldn't give whole peas a chance. The first thought that came to my mind was, "He looks like Gollum from Lord of the Rings!" So I took another picture.

 
















Calcium Deficiency

You know how when you put a baby in the next clothing size up, and their clothes are a little big at first? When I first put Emmett in 18-month sleepers, and he crawled around, he would crawl his feet right out of the sleeper legs. My mom observed, “He looks like one of those people—in that milk commercial—who aren’t getting enough calcium.” I guess as soon as my blow-up doll got a little inflated, he started to look a little deflated.
















Babies and Dogs

I thought our Jack Russell, Lucy, was smart enough as dogs go. I mean, she understands some words and some commands. She listens. She obeys.
















Then Emmett came along. He seemed to develop at the speed of light compared to Lucy. A few of my friends (who have babies and dogs) have commented that while babies keep getting smarter, dogs just stay the same, which makes the dog seem kind of dense. At this point, Emmett knows Lucy’s name. If I ask Emmett, “Where’s Lucy?” he will look for her and wave at her.

 I am not so sure that Lucy knows Emmett’s name. If I ask Lucy, “Where’s Emmett?” Lucy perks up her ears, cocks her head to one side, runs to the front window, looks outside and then starts running all over the house. (Emmett was sitting right by her.)



911 Call

Babies are drawn to electronic devices. If a cordless phone, an iPod, a cell phone or a remote control is lying around, Emmett’s laser-beam eyes zero in on it. When Emmett started grabbing the phone and pushing buttons, I remember saying to Joel, “Um, yeah, we probably don’t want Emmett to do that. I don’t want him to dial 9-1-1 or anything.” Joel said, “Oh, come on! He’s not gonna dial 9-1-1!”

Cut to about two weeks later. Emmett grabbed the phone, pressed the “talk” button, and then dialled 9-*-*-1-1. While under Joel’s supervision. 

Another time: 6-1-1. Pretty close.

A third time: 9-9-1.








He’s obviously not so smart that he knows how to do something he never learned. What I learned, though, was that if you think your baby won’t be able to do something, however random a thing, think again. 



Life Call

Remember the Life Call commercial from a long time ago, with the old woman who fell down and used her Life Call device to call for help, exclaiming, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”


Well, Emmett had the opposite problem when he started pulling himself up to stand in his playpen and crib. In his case, he got stuck standing up. He would cry for me to come and help him down because he hadn’t learned how to lower himself back down to sitting. In his case, his cry for help was, “Help! I’ve stood up and I can’t get down!”



Dance, Dance, Dance!

We love music at our house. We have music on all the time. Emmett has listened to a wide variety of music in his first year. We’ve really been encouraging him to dance to pretty much any kind of music: from Raffi to the Foo Fighters to House of Pain to the Beatles to background music on CTV news’ weather forecast, and everything in between. I love it when babies dance. 

Emmett’s gotten pretty good at dancing. He has a couple of different dances: the torso dance, convenient while one is in the sitting position, and for serious dancing, he goes onto his hands and knees to feel the groove. He’s even found a way to dance when he’s lying on his change table (wiggling like an inchworm and puffing up his chest like a penguin), dancing to even tunes as “undanceable” as me singing scales or “Doe, a Deer.” Here’s a video of Emmett dancing. I love it.

video


First Birthday

You’ve probably heard this before, but in case you haven’t, I posted a link to Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy segment in which he compares one’s first birthday to one’s last. Indeed, they are very similar. Need I say more?