The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

26 June 2011

Public Service Announcement

This is a public service announcement:  Ladies, do not, never ever - no matter how good an idea it may seem at the time - try new products or techniques five minutes before you absolutely must be out the door.

I bought new eye shadow this week (it was on sale [warning alarm #1], and it was pretty).  Nowhere did I see in large print - which would have been helpful - some sort of notice that it was a palette of cream eye shadow, not powder. Cream shadow (or blush, or foundation...) is a very different animal than powder make up.  It requires different application implements, knowledge of different techniques, and an understanding of its unique pigment saturation.

Running a tad late this morning, my first mistake was in deciding to open the new package in the first place. Mistake #2 was in opting for a full eye, mascara and the works.  As I also had quite a headache, deciding to add  extra weight to already aching eyelids may not have been my brightest moment of the day. I noticed the little pots of colour looked unusually smooth (warning alarm #2), but it wasn't until my brush slid around on the surface (#3) that I realized what I had gotten myself into.  Did I retreat?  Act sensibly, wisely, rationally? No!  Where's the fun in that?  I charged ahead, applying colours normally only seen in goth clubs. Here, I had to make another decision: wipe the slate clean and still make it to Church on time, or forge ahead and try to make the best of a difficult situation.  I opted for the latter, of course, which involved further application of some old stand-by powder shadows, hoping to 'correct' the plague-survivor effect I'd created.  Only the powder reacted with the cream by ratcheting up the intensity by about 47%... the plague-survivor I resembled now hadn't slept in a week and recently got in a fight. Lovely.

Naturally at this point there was only one thing I could do.  More mascara.

Dear Reader.  Learn from my mistakes:
- do not buy unknown product on sale.
- don't fool yourself.  Whatever you learned from Carmondy what's-her-name on that show, five minutes is not enough time.  You'll make crucial mistakes, like giving yourself black mascara freckles across the bridge of your nose,and then when you try to remove them, you'll wipe holes in the carefully applied foundation. Disaster.
- get up the first time the alarm goes off (or at least the third) and save yourself the grief.

25 June 2011

Of ducks and frogs

There is a game we used to play at summer camp. For some reason we counsellors really enjoyed it, while it annoyed the campers.  Perhaps that’s why we liked it so much.  It goes like this:

Hey, Warren, wanna buy a duck? (asks Tash)
A what?
A duck.
Does it quack?
Of course it quacks, it’s a duck!
Hey, Carly, wanna buy a duck? (asks Warren)
A what?
A what? (Warren to Tash)
A duck! (Tash to Warren)
A duck! (Warren to Carly)
Oh.  Does it quack?
Let me check. Does it quack? (Warren to Tash)
Of course it quacks, it’s a duck! (Tash to Warren)
Of course it quacks, it’s a duck.  (Warren to Carly)
Hey Sarah, wanna buy a duck? (Carly to Sarah)
A what? (Sarah to Carly)
A what? (Carly to Warren)
A what? (Warren to Tash)
A duck (Tash to Warren)
A duck (Warren to Carly)
A duck (Carly to Sarah)
Does it quack? (Sarah to Carly)

And so on and so on, incorporating all the people in the room.  It’s chaotic, it’s noisy, it’s annoying as snot and we loved it because the kids tired of it before we did.

We’re reliving The Duck Game here in the House of Nuts on an almost daily basis.  Someone will say something at the supper table, which he will then bring to a brother’s attention. “Three, hey Three!  Did you hear that?  I just said, ‘Pass the mustard.’  Get it?”  At which point two or three brothers will join in with chortles, repetition and many interpretations of what was said, how it was said, how they would have said it, all admiring their great wit.

The smallest of the small is not beyond playing The Duck Game. The other day, I called a good bye to the boys where they were playing downstairs.  As Four came springing up the stairs (he’s a frog in boy’s clothing), I said it was the best part of my day.  “The best part of my daaay... with youuuuu!” he sang, leaping into my arms and clinging like a tree frog.

He was followed by Five, who launched himself against me (the headbutt is his preferred expression of affection) and then he said  “Good night, Tante Tess!” and giggled.  “Four,” he chortled, “I said good night to Tante Tess. Did you hear me?  I said, “ I said good night”.  Isn’t that silly, Four?”  To which Four agreed it was very silly, and all the way back down the stairs they recounted the incident to each other with great delight.

My sister and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, “Wanna buy a duck?”

19 June 2011


My pants are soaped - Five, after riding down a wet slide.  He meant 'soaked'.

I want to wiss - Five, asking if he can blow the whistle on my key chain.

I want to be in my tummy.- Five, informing us he wanted to go topless.

Can I go to the water mountain? - A kindergarten student at school asking if he can get a drink from the fountain.

Freddie McCurry is a good singer. - One, while playing rock band.  I'll let you figure out who he was talking about.

Two mothers were sharing stories about what their kids do. They discovered that their boys liked to hop or jump or leap everywhere.  "Isn't it nice," asked one mom of the other, "that they still like to skip?  My guy bounces everywhere."
"No way, Mama!"  Piped up the bouncy boy in question, "I haven't done that since last week!"

A sad life

Woe to me.

Oh, I know there is real strife in the world. Right at this moment, one friend is suffering pregnancy complaints while working full time and raising a family. Another is chronically sleep deprived with an infant and four other children along with several health issues.  Still another is coping with a life turned upside down, and my own sister is struggling to get her health on track.  Further afield, others are dealing with wild fires, flooding, tornadoes, drought, famine, earthquakes.  Every statistic you read in the paper is a human story, a personal drama.

Now that I've established my empathy cred, listen to my tale of sorrow:

I can't seem to get the music mix right for in my car.  If I select Radiohead and Depeche Mode for the CD wallet, guaranteed what I will want is Alanis and Kelly Clarkson or Scorpions and Finger Eleven.  I try to prepare for this by loading the wallet with a little bit of everything, but what usually happens is one of the discs will appeal more than the others, and the whole six hours to Ottawa will be spent listening to talk radio because I just can't listen to The Tragically Hip one more time.  I was just talking to a friend about doing a road trip from sea to shining sea across Canada, and my mind breaks down and whimpers at the thought of the music selection you would need to fuel such an endeavor.

I understand that the fancy new cars allow you to load all your MP3s directly on the on-board computer, but in my world MPs are military police and have nothing to do with music whatsoever.  In those fancy new cars you probably only have to think of a song for it to be broadcast in surround sound. That would be dandy, except I'd be listening to Copacabana every 20 minutes.

So you see, while my life may not be tragic, it is very, very sad.

14 June 2011

Behind the face

Don't judge a book by its cover.

Is it really possible to not take into consideration what a thing - or person - looks like? We get cues about how to behave and what to expect from appearances.  For example, when crossing a steep ravine on a wooden bridge, if the slats look like they are ancient and appear to be rotted at the edges, you would judge that bridge to be unsound.  If the principal asks you to step into her office with a scowl on her face, you would judge yourself to be in trouble.

What about how a person looks?  Their hair, eyes, expression, clothes?  It's hard to not let that influence your perception of them before you get to know them.  For example, I'm working with a new group of people and all of them are blank slates to me.  I don't know their stories, their talents, passions, pursuits, their opinions or preferences.  I have formed an idea of what each one is like based on what they look like: this one is a little grumpy, that one very hip and fun, the other studious and disciplined.  As I'm spending more time with them, their personalities are becoming more clear to me, overshadowing my imagined ideas of them - and as I get to know them, their appearance is also morphing, blending into the entirety of who they are, rather than a caricatured assortment of features and details.

On the other hand, there is a group of people I know entirely virtually.  I talk to them online and have never met them or seen pictures of any of them.  In this situation, it is their personalities coming through their typed conversation that is forming my mental image of who they are, what they look like, sound like, what they do when they're not attached to a computer.  If we were to all gather together in a room, would we be able to put names to faces based on real life conversation?  How surprising would it be to see each other in person?  Would our opinion of each other change, based on what we see?

Is our face the cover, or the window to who we are?

Proof of life

My sister heard that phrase from a mother of seven children.  The crumbs on the table, the toys on the stairs, the broken bike in the driveway... they are proof of life.  Signs that the home is full of thriving, vital, busy, energetic, happy little people.  I once made a list of the toys I found in the lawn, and while I don't have the list anymore, it went something like this:
3 little plastic balls - yellow, green, red
2 soccer balls
1 basketball
2 plastic swords
1 shield
1 sock
3 lego people
4 sand shovels
6 hot wheels cars
2 dump trucks
1 Tonka truck
2 tricycles
1 scarf
2 plastic cups
2 bottle caps
1 water pistol
5 big boy bikes
1 bike carriage
1 bocce set

a little mountain of special pebbles

Four and Five like to play in my room, turning my makeup brushes into beards, pretending my hair clips are sharks, or asking me to give them freckles with an eyeliner pencil.  I recently came home after a few weeks away to find signs of life hidden in little corners.
Some creature you build out of little pieces

I think this is a gun, but it could
be a leg

An underwater explorer.
Be careful when getting into the bath

Getting ready to go for a walk, we found
a Spiderman flip flop in Mama Nut's boot.

13 June 2011

a poem of sorts

have so many ideas for things to blog about but am too tired to think straight
cant even bring myself to punctuate
im holding my lids up with one hand while i type this with whats left
i promise tomorrow ill give it my best

08 June 2011

CTKS Kindergarten style

I visit the Kindergarten classes during the course of my work day.  It's fun to see them sitting at their little tables, four or five to a group, eating their snacks and talking to each other like they're grown-ups at a dinner party.

Today, I overheard this conversation:
"My brother is crazy."
"How do you know he's crazy?" Said his friend, not in a disbelieving or challenging way, but entirely interested, as if he was going to go home and diagnose his own family for signs of crazy.

As an aside, Five sang himself to sleep tonight. His lullaby?  Boom boom pow, by the Black Eyed Peas. No idea where he's heard it from, but he did a very good job of it.

06 June 2011

More rats

... this time of the racing kind.  The rat race.

My sister and I were talking over supper (so much to catch up on after her weekend away!) about how many women we know who are suffering from various conditions that stem from stress - hormone imbalances, allergies and sensitivities, fertility issues, chronic fatigue, and so on.

I write about women and femininity for another blog so I wont go into the theology of gender differences here; however, the reading I have been doing of late, conversations I've had, observations of my friend's lives, and my own prayer and reflection, have led me to understand that women are particularly susceptible to stress in all its forms.  For example, regular exposure to a noisy environment has been proven to be a cause for heart attacks in women.

What kind of life has no time for silence, stillness, silliness? Why are we so busy trying to accomplish, produce, keep up?  I recently spent a weekend back in the Last Place, a fairly big city by Canadian standards. I was barely within city limits before I felt like an ant in a busy colony, scurrying hurriedly from stop sign to traffic light, strip mall to suburban development.  Nature was very far away, even in the midst of the beautiful display of tulips, and the little core of stillness at the heart of me was flattened by the noise and activity.

It takes a lot of work, so much effort and diligence, to maintain a peaceful disposition, to live a simple life. I can feel the struggle return since I started working outside of the home again: serenity, silence, simplicity; or more hours, more money, more opportunity?  Maybe I should go out more, meet more people, do more.  I know people who are never home two nights together, busy with family, friends, ministry, activities.

With all that to-ing and fro-ing, all that doing and getting and accomplishing, do they even know what it is they are doing it all for? And in the meantime, what are their bodies enduring with the stress they probably aren't even aware they are carrying around - worrying about bills, mortgages, children's schooling, house repairs, vacation plans, parent's care, promotion, we owe the Mickleson's a dinner and she never stops talking about how wonderful her Marsha is.  So busy trying to take care of all those worries that they don't get enough sleep or rest, or quiet time.  The daily walk takes place on the motorized belt of a treadmill (hello rat) in an air conditioned health club; and the prescribed allowance of fruits and vegetables are efficiently consumed in a smoothie or a shake... so much for contact with nature.

Women have a really difficult time jettisoning this stress.  It manifests in our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Our environment is so vital to our well being, so that pressure or discord at home or work can lead to swollen glands, chronic fatigue, listlessness, depression or any number of other symptoms, physical or emotional. 

Because women are also the more naturally spiritual and prayerfully inclined of the two sexes, I see this as a very big problem.  My solution is very simple:  stop.  Stop. No, it's not easy.  Yes, it requires sacrifice.  But it will be so, so very worth it.

A very dear friend sent me an email tonight.  It was a reply to an earlier message I sent her, which was rather flippant and written when I had a quick moment to write her.  Her letter, though just as brief as mine, clearly was the product of reflection.  She had read my note, spent time with it, gave her reply careful thought, and poured all her regard for me into her words back to me.  I could feel so strongly that all her attention was given to me while she read and replied to my careless message.

This friend quit her teaching job several years ago in order to live quietly and simply.  She spends her days in prayer, keeping her home, loving her husband, tending her garden, offering spiritual direction... .  She is abandoned to Divine Providence.  She performs the duty of each moment.  She is living a radical life compared to her neighbours, and being in her presence, I am aware of peace and beauty and holiness.  Reading that short email was like being with her, sitting in her living room with a cat on my lap, a cup of tea on the table beside me. It was a reminder that no matter how crazy today at work might have been, or how big the worry about work for next year might be becoming, all I really have to do, is be.

No more racing rats for me.

Of pods and rats

You know, sometimes you shouldn't sit on a really good idea, but move immediately when inspiration strikes.  Someone beat me to a girl's commentary of sports - they've even got a nifty website and everything.  Dear Reader, you know how enamoured I am of The Beautiful Game, but even I don't watch it like men do.  I don't keep statistics and best formations in my head... I'm watching the drama, lamenting the unfortunate colour choice of the keeper's kit (and so loving the Spanish gear of last World Cup) and in general investing heart and soul into a favourable outcome for my team of choice.  Men commentate with names and numbers:  "Nani...  Scholes....Brown... he has appeared in only three matches thus far this season... Brown to Giggs... Giggs has been with United for a remarkable 24 years..."  

I know... dull, right?  Maybe I'll figure out this podcasting business and give it a whirl, at least for my own entertainment.  I crack myself up on a regular basis.

05 June 2011

Things heard around the house today

"I'm looking for the big boys."
"There's one under the kitchen table."

"Sorry... I'm just looking... is that a person laying on the roof across the street?"

"Why do you do that?"  Overhead while passing the bathroom door, one little person to another.

"One, I like you now."  After telling his oldest brother he didn't like him anymore.  When asked why, Five said, "Because he kept punching me, and punching me!"  (a vivid imagination, has Five.  One had been very kind and played ball with him at the pool.  There was no hitting involved.)

Five was following Two around the house.  Two needed a moment to use the facilities, and Five draped himself against the door, dejected.  Told to leave Two alone, and give him some room, Five said, "But I just love him."

03 June 2011

A hundred pieces

A hundred pieces drifted away

Floating together, a whole

Until distance divided them

And diminished, they disappeared.

A hundred pieces broke away

Together, complete

But gravity called them

Compelled them, cast them apart.

A hundred pieces

Have splintered, scattered

Littering the past with shards of sorrow,

And piercing glints of happiness.

A hundred pieces broke off of me

A hundred pieces I didn’t know were mine.

Flowers with Five

The Big Boys (Peanuts One through Three with Four thrown in) went to swim lessons last night.  Five stayed home with me, and helped plant some new geraniums (let's not talk about why we needed new geraniums, but a house must have geraniums because they remind me of Germany).

Notice the gloves

"There's still water in there, Tante Eia. Let me do it."

02 June 2011

Offering to be a reed

I've been rejected.  Great, right?  It's not a nice feeling, and actually I've been in quite a funk for the past two days.  Funk is mild... a seething inner tantrum, more like.

Have you ever heard the expression, "Offer it up!"?  Usually said with encouraging good intention, but like all platitudes, it tends to fall flat in the moment.  Besides, what does it mean?  How do I offer it up? How do I give loneliness, rejection, disappointment, fear... any of it, to God?  Much as I try to be detached, I am experiencing those moments, those feelings.  It is my reality, I can't pretend I'm otherwise; I'm not suddenly happy or unconcerned for how I am, or uninvolved in the moment. Giving a thing means you no longer have it - it is elsewhere with someone else.  I try to unite myself with Christ on the Cross, but the suffering is still mine as well.

So offering it up must not mean that the feeling/experience will be gone, or suddenly made 'better'. How does it work, then?  In reading Reed of God I think I have a glimmer of what happens and it is tied in with abandonment and surrender.

Caryll Houselander describes it like this: Mary's Fiat gave God humanity. It was in Mary that Jesus took on His human form.  It was through her that He was able to experience hunger, thirst, betrayal, suffering. God asked her to give Him hands and feet to be nailed; though God is joy, He asked her to give Him tears; though God is eternal life, He asked Mary to allow Jesus to experience death.  She bore Christ in herself, and He was formed in her. When she looked at Him, she saw not only her God, but a family resemblance just as we all look for family likenesses in new babies. 

Jesus is formed in my life, and it is in what I do that He wants to act. It is Christ in me - not the best part of Tess herself, or the little corner that is able to be obedient and virtuous that day - but Christ Himself who wants to suffer, or be humble, or offer service.

This, Houselander writes, "needs to be practiced to be understood. We need to say to ourselves a thousand times a day, "Christ wants to do this"; "Christ wants to suffer this.""  That is true abandonment, for it really is not me.  I have made room for Christ in me, and surrendered entirely to His will in that moment.

Houselander goes on to say that resisting or resenting our circumstances is like Peter denying Him.  I certainly don't want to deny Jesus anything He asks of me, though I clearly need His strength to say yes.

So, dearest Lord, you want to experience this loneliness, this rejection from a friend. Glory to God.