The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

18 February 2011

Just so

I just got an email from Schmapters (why be coy... we all know I mean Chapters, Canada's largest retailer of books and bath products) (and yoga mats).  The subject line reads: you could be reading on a beach in Jamaica.

You know the wisdom which says that the dream is often better than reality?  That's how I feel about this email.  I was briefly transported to warm sandy beaches, lovely tall drinks with paper umbrellas in, an unending supply of just the right books, and the absolutely perfect bathing suit.

I deleted the message.

If you don't understand, you must be a man.

17 February 2011


Do you have friends that bring you joy, ease your spirit, inspire you to be better, show you by example what Jesus meant when He said, "Love one another"?  I am so fortunate that I have several, and one of them is celebrating a birthday today.

I don't write this to single her out, or make her uncomfortable because I'm not even going to mention her name. I've just been thinking about her today, and how she embodies those famous words of St. Francis exhorting us to preach the Gospel at all time, and if necessary to use words. 

Some people, like this friend of mine, have a gift to love. They live ordinary lives, and appear to be average people. You don't often find them doing extraordinary, obviously heroic jobs....but they do the hardest thing of all extremely well: they reflect the love of God.

It brought to mind a scene from C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce. A procession passes by one of the main characters, suggesting the woman being celebrated is a great saint, someone famous that everyone knows about. It turns out she was a simple housewife who lived her life quite anonymously, but she had spent her life loving.

How many people do we know, or maybe pass on the street, that we are tempted to call ordinary or average, but really are very special?

Happy birthday, friend.

Kids these days

I've recently begun a new job, which brings me into contact with children. Other people's children.  You know what they can be like. Wonderful, challenging... surprisingly unlike your own.

I laughed at myself when I had a moment for reflection on my first day, because I found myself using the same language with these 'other' children that we do here at home. For example, making them look each other in the eye and say "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you".  I expect them to respond respectfully to my authority as the adult in the room. (I'm not a martinet by any means, but when I say "Don't hit him" I expect to at least hear an "ok", not, "I don't care") 

Imagine my dismay then, when I found myself chasing a child around the room while 23 others sat in a circle on the floor.  This boy would not join the others, would not sit on a chair for a time out, would not come to me when I called him, or stop running. I chased him around the play kitchen, the art easel, the activity tables, the bookshelves, trying to literally corner him to a stand still.  I had an out-of-body experience brought on by the death of my pride. I knew it was ridiculous behaviour on my part, not at all conducive to encouraging his classmates to consider me someone who had a handle on the situation. I knew it was the wrong thing to do: you don't run after a child - it encourages them to keep on running, and it sends all the wrong messages about who is in charge. I knew all that, and told myself that,and yet I still did it. 

I couldn't believe that five year-old boy would not listen! I've got a pretty good drill sergeant look, perfected from years of observing my dad use it on his men (and on me, big old softy that he was). The Peanuts here at home are by turns contrary and rebellious so it's not like they jump every old time I or their parents tell them to. We get questions, protests, refusals like any other household with children experiences.  But ultimately, the lines are clearly drawn: we are the adults, and they are the children. They know they've gone as far as they can when we tell them that very thing, case closed, often in the words we promised ourselves we'd never use: Because I said so.

Remember consequences?  Being grounded, kp'd, and so on? The concept seems very out of vogue these days. There are consequences in this house for disobedience, however old fashioned that may be. Whether it is sitting on the stairs for a timeout, or going to bed early, or no tv or Wii privileges for a specified time, an effort is made to help the little, unformed, not-quite-ready-to-take-on-the-world people understand that not everything they can think up is a good thing, that when you flood the kitchen floor on purpose because you thought it would be fun to have your own water slide, you have to make up for the damage somehow. 

The only recourse we seemed to have in this situation was to tell the child we were going to write a note home to mom that he didn't listen in class. I'll bet he's very sorry for his actions, and will never, ever do it again.

16 February 2011

ctks - Three style

Today's installment of Cute Things Kids Say - fly-on-the-wall observations of the goings-on of the Peanuts (my nephews One through Five) - is about Three*.

Number Three Nephew has just lost his third tooth, finished reading The Hobbit (I think maybe not so much because he really enjoyed the story, but because a friend was also reading it and they were racing each other to the end.) He is known around the house for 'just getting on with it'. While his brothers may flop and fuss when they are given something to do, Three shrugs his shoulders, gets the job done, then moves on to far more interesting things. Like hockey.

Three is disciplined in perfecting his skills. He'll borrow books from the library to learn hockey (or soccer) drills, and then spend hours on his own practicing them. He's fierce in his team allegiances, and feels their losses deeply. He's got a mind like a steel trap covered in honey - once a fact enters in, it is held firmly. He remembers who scored the goal in which game between two countries in the last World Cup and what the final result was. And not just the glamorous finals either, but the ones between countries you may not even realize have teams. You may try to talk to Three about his day at school, or if he prefers Toy Story 3 over the original, and he will manage to bring the conversation around to sports.

Number Three Nephew has a wonderful talent for mimicry. When he quotes movies, he doesn't just recite the dialogue, he's got the voice and timing down cold. He has a well-developed sense of funny with a fine tinge of irony. He is also generous beyond his years. While many children his age are still self-centred, Three wants to share his wealth, whether birthday loot or a school prize, with others. He had a day out with his parents one day, and was very concerned that his brothers be included somehow. He brought them home a pound of chocolate.

Listening, however, is not his strong suit. His mom recently asked him if he just didn't hear her; did he maybe have trouble with his ears?
"Well, I try to listen," he said, "but when you start talking, my mind starts thinking of something else."

* Three is seven years old.

12 February 2011

Of bowls and bottles and boys

If you have any contact with the outside world, you know that last weekend was the annual glittering extravaganza known as Super Bowl. There are always roman numerals following 'Super Bowl', but I don't know how far along the number line they've moved. If the years go by as creepingly as do the yards in the actual game, then they should be at Super Bowl 2.0 by now.

According to our custom (10 years in the running, though for me it was only take two) friends of the Nuts came to spend the weekend with us. Among them are four boys, mom and dad... and the occasional Korean (this year there were two). In case math is not your strong suit (I had to count on my fingers) that brings the population of The New House to 16, broken down this way: 3 females, 13 males; 9 children, 7 grown ups.

In previous years we tackled the Super Bowl weekend like a military challenge. We planned, made lists, had run-throughs, laid up supplies, and cooled as though for an actual army. We used disposable plates, bowls, cutlery, and glasses. We had enough liquids on hand to quench the thirst of every person actually at the Super Bowl.

This year we simply didn't have the time or the inclination to get all het up about the details: they were coming, the game would be watched, and along the way, people would eat, drink, be merry, and sleep. And so they did. On our daily dishware. 16 people use a lot of glasses! And 7 grown ups go through a lot of bottles. Super Bowl ads feature beer, you see, so of course we were compelled to drink beer. Canada is so smart to control liquor advertising: alcohol consumption among Canadians is virtually nonexistent now that advertisements for the stuff are controlled. (Actually, all that has happened is that we are left with really dull commercials, while our American friends get to see the really fun ones) In any case, by the end of the weekend, our bottle return could have funded a Super Bowl beer ad of our own. I was quite proud of myself, for one of the bottles was mine.

During the pre-game hooplah when divas were singing and men were running through banners, our living room reached maximum capacity. Not a square inch of open space could be found on the floor, as every little bit of real estate was filled by gangly limbs in constant motion. We were fairly evenly divided in terms of team support and boys would valiantly and enthusiastically defend their choice against suggestions of lunacy from opposing supporters.

Swept up in the excitement buzzing through the room, and the larger-than-life-ness of the event itself, Four was completely overcome with excitement as his chosen heroes strode forward to face their fate. From amidst the sea of eager faces, he stood up, shouting, "Pittsburg!" with all his might, pumping his fists in the air with glee.  Then he quickly sat down, because he knew if he was caught standing, he'd be banned from the room.

I couldn't tell you anything about the game now that it's a week old, but wasn't that Darth Vader Volkswagen commercial brilliant? Which makes me think: if we limit beer ads to control drinking habits, shouldn't we also limit foreign import ads?

02 February 2011

Of asking and receiving

Those of us Catholics who go to Church, and maybe read a little Scripture are familiar with these words: ask and you shall receive. (If you're old school, you may prefer this one: ask and ye shall receive. It means the exact same thing, it just sounds more days-of-yore)

Back in my youth group/young adult group days, when I spent a great deal of time in prayer, and thinking about prayer, and talking about prayer, and asking questions about prayer, I was told again and again that it is good to just talk to God... lay it all out there, to not be afraid to ask for what is needed, even wanted - to even 'lay a fleece before the Lord' and challenge Him to come through in some specific way.

Did you just gasp? I'm pretty sure I heard a gasp.  I'm not disputing the merit of honesty in your relationship with God - on the contrary, anything less than utter honesty with God is like Number Five Nephew hiding his face behind his hands and thinking I can't see him. God already knows your need, want, anger, fear, sorrow, joy, fatigue, worry, hope.... He knows the bills you've got waiting to be paid, the fight you just had with your husband, how hard it is to resist the chocolate chips in the cupboard. Because we're prideful creatures, and because God likes us to make use of the gift of free will; He wants us to ask. Like any parent, He likes to give - He doesn't withhold out of any miserly tendency we may sometimes imagine from Him.

So we've established that it is good to ask, and that God knows what we need. Two challenges remain. One, is to accept what is given, and the other is to let go. I'm a bit (just a bit, mind) of a control hound, so when I ask God for something, I tend to get very specific. For example, if I were to ask Him for a job (as I have done, recently) I would tell Him: "Dear Lord," (it's good to be polite when asking for a favour) "I really really need a job.If it be Your will, please provide something that is satisfying, doesn't take away from my writing, and doesn't contradict Your teaching. Amen." I'd probably throw in some riders, like how I would like it to be flexible to allow me to travel, don't want it to be in some nasty office building with ugly cubicles, and so on.

Do I think that God isn't aware of my heart, my desires, my needs? Do I think that I could design the perfect scenario for myself?  Am I likely to consider my spiritual health, the state of my soul - not to mention everyone else - while being concerned about my own convenience and comfort?  God sees the whole big tapestry, while I see only the tangled threads of my ever-changing ideas and plans.

I'm learning that abandonment to Divine Providence  isn't only about accepting what God provides, it's about trusting God to know what to provide.  God knows exactly where I am at right now. He knows what I need in order to grow as a Godly woman. He knows the present state of my family and our particular needs at this time. He knows what opportunities and challenges will present themselves in the future, and what I will need in order to meet them. He knows - better than I - what I am capable of doing right in this moment because of what I have endured to get here. How I restrict His generosity and creativity by putting my expectations and demands into a little box! 

Time to let go.