January 2011

My mom is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Ask anyone who knows her. She’s awesome. But when I was a little girl she made me do horrible things like eat vegetables and wash my hair. How mean is that?

Like my mom, I’m the parent who stays home with the kids. That makes me the mean parent. I make sure that my kids do their chores, stay reasonably clean, and eat somewhat healthy meals. I require them to use their polite words and I’m the one who gets after them when they don’t treat each other nicely.

We had a bad day recently. One of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days that make you want to move to Australia. My youngest son, who has always been a very active little guy, was out doing himself. All day he had been a spinning top crashing into everything in his path. At the end of the day, after repeated attempts to encourage better behaviour, I sent him to bed early.

In Carter World, going to bed early is almost the worst thing that can happen to you. It is perhaps even more horribler than being too young to go to Youth Group with his brothers. So when I sent my little man to bed, he was not happy. At all.

Later that night I found a note taped to Carter’s bedroom door. In big letters his note read: I miss dad. I love dad. Dad is my best friend. And in small letters at the bottom of the page: I hope mom still loves me.

Oh my goodness. It is just so hard sometimes.

This post is for all the mean parents who stay at home with their kids while the nice parents are away doing what they need to do to keep us all fed and clothed. Lord, give us all heaping measures of your grace and mercy, and the ability to laugh and move on. Great is your faithfulness!

I have been asked a couple of times lately why we choose not to have television in our home. There are actually a few reasons, some of which are not as righteous as you might expect. Here they are:

1. The main reason I don’t have television in the home is the same reason, frankly, that I don’t keep Snickers bars around. Because I am pathetic. I am a weak, sad person with little self-control about some things. Hence the “remove the temptation” approach.

2. I absolutely detest commercials. Can’t stand them. I despise the marketing of products and immorality and all the other garbage that commercials represent. So even a good show is marred by the non-option of having to sit through the “buy this/think  that” onslaught.

3. I want my kids to be as unaffected by popular culture, peer pressure, marketing pressure, as possible. I know, I know. Trust me, I know. I can’t shield them and protect them from all the bad things in the world. I just think that there is plenty of crap out there for them to experience without being bombarded by the media version of it every day.

4. This is sort of the same as the previous point but, basically, I hope my kids will grow into the people they are meant to be. I hope they like the music they like, and choose the activities that interest them, and work at the things that they are designed to work at without the influence of what is cool, or trendy, or popular. Again, I can’t completely remove them from the world’s inluences, nor would I want to. It is important to be challenged. But there are already enough cultural challenges available out there, I think.

So there you have it in a nutshell. No television. We are, however, a movie family. We will often sit down in the evening to watch a movie or, most recently, a few episodes of  The Partridge Family. I found Season 1 of this classic(?) at our local second hand store. Come on get happy! The kids find these old shows hilarious. I actually consider them almost educational.  Look at that huge telephone. Did you actually go out in public wearing clothes like that? Did you guys really say groovy? and outasight? and far out?

A final disclaimer. I’ve found that when I say something about not having television it can make someone who has television feel judged or defensive. Believe me, no judgement is implied or intended. I have tons of friends who have television and they are completely fine. In fact, most of my friends are much better people in general than I am! They’re awesome! Groovy, even! So, no judgement. It’s just the way we do it.

I don’t listen to the radio a lot but if I am in the car between 10:00 and noon I’ll be tuned in to Q with host Jian Ghomeshi on CBC. I love this show. I have heard Jian interview a range of people, from Blondie to Peter Hitchens to Gloria Stienem and I’ve never heard him be anything but great. Even my kids like to listen to his show.

I think what I really like about Q is that Jian seems to do the research. He knows about the people he is interviewing. He asks thoughtful questions and he listens. He really seems to create a relationship with each guest.  And he’s been in some tough situations. Once he inadvertedly insulted Billy Bob Thornton who then refused to answer any questions, or answered them with nonsense replies. Jian was smooth and professional in what must have been an incredibly difficult situation.

Jian is like a cool Peter Gzowski. I used to listen to Peter’s show, Morningside, when I was about 25 years old, sitting in a cubicle in Yellowknife creating spreadsheets and writing boring computer programs. I remember hearing him interview an author once. I went to the bookstore that same day and ordered the book, Fishing with John, by Edith Iglauer. It was my introduction to the creative non-fiction genre which I have loved ever since.

I think I have a little crush on Jian Ghomeshi. A professional crush. I dream of one day writing an amazing novel that is published by a small press that produces hand bound books, winning the Giller, and being interviewed by Jian. Oh wait… That just happened, and it wasn’t me!

I say all this as an incredibly loooong and convoluted introduction to something I am very excited about. Randy Harris is coming to Regina in March to facilitate a seminar called Sacred Listening. I convinced my non-conference-attending husband that this would be something we should both take advantage of. (He said he will do ONE conference a year. I, on the other hand, am a conference junkie.) But anyway, don’t you love the title. Sacred Listening. I can’t wait. To listen.

Carter is coming up on ten. Double digits. He is convinced that his departure from single digit childishness will usher him into double digit glory. He’s already gearing up for the transformation.

The other night I went into his room to say prayers with him, something we have done for, well, almost ten years. He looked at me and said, “Mom, don’t you think that, since I’m almost double digits, it’s time for me to start saying my prayers by myself?”

“No!” I thought. “Of course not! You are my baby! You are not allowed to grow up and say your prayers all by yourself!”

What I actually said was more along the lines of, “Baby, you are growing up and I’m proud of you. Of course you can say your prayers all by yourself. I hope you always will. And remember that I am always saying prayers for you too.”

“You’re not going to cry are you,” he asked. “Because you always cry about stuff like this.”

“No, I’m not going to cry,” I said. “Love you. Good night.”

And then I went to my room and, well …  you know.

I wish sometimes that we still, as people of God, observed Sabbath. I’ve been reading and thinking and wondering a lot about it lately.

Usually when I hear Sabbath talked about, say in a sermon, it’s about how as Christians we live by grace and are no longer bound by such things as Jewish tradition, or about how Sabbath had become a legalistic representation of all that was wrong with the ancient law of Moses. But the real Sabbath, the Sabbath God intended, was beauty and poetry and peace and rest. I could use more of that in my life.

God created for six days. On the seventh day he rested.  The first time the word holy is used in scripture is in Genesis, when God blessed the seventh day, the day of rest,  and made it holy.  Holiness, originally in scripture, was applied to time.

In his book The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel writes beautifully about Sabbath as holiness in time.

When history began, there was only one holiness in the world, holiness in time. When at Sinai the word of God was about to be voiced, a call for holiness in man was proclaimed: “Thou shalt be unto me a holy people.” It was only after the people had succumbed to the temptation of worshipping a thing, a golden calf, that the erection of a Tabernacle, of holiness in space, was commanded. The sanctity of time came first, the sanctity of man came second, and the sanctity of space last.

I know that I spend much more time considering my self and my space than I do my time. I love the concept of sanctified time. It is beautiful to me.

The other day I said no to some things. I said no to my kids’ friends (who I really like a lot and love to have come to my house), to an event that I was looking forward to attending, to my To Do list, to distraction, to expectation.

Instead I said yes to my jammies and tea, to God’s Word, to good books, to rest, to time with the boys, to bannana bread, to peace, to love. It was time well sabbathed.

I went to court a few days ago. A sad, unsettling  experience. I sat in the waiting room at the court house with numerous social workers, foster parents, and education specialists, all waiting our turn to assist in the termination of a mother’s parental rights. All of these people had been involved in some way in this little family’s life. The mother didn’t show up.

The judge went ahead with the trial. Enough is enough, I guess he thought.

It went quickly. There was no defense, so there was no cross examination. I was last on the stand. I answered the questions I was asked, and I was done. Wait, I wanted to say. There’s so much more. I haven’t told you about the way she cried in her sleep almost every night. Or how she squealed the first time she went down a water slide and then wouldn’t come out of the water for hours. Or how she pushed people away with her attention-seeking behaviour. Or how she cried after visits with her mom, because maybe I would die and then what would she do? Or about the time she took all the other children’s Christmas candy and ate it and then threw up in the night. Or the stories that she told of the things that happened to her while in her mother’s care.  Or how I loved her in spite of everything.

It was a little bit like trying to give a eulogy, perhaps. How do you sum up a life in a few sentences? In fact, the experience was not unlike a funeral. When I was finished, I walked out of the court house into the fresh, cold air and I thought, it is a terrible thing to contribute to the death of a mother.

The decision-making process in this type of case usually takes several weeks or even months. A social worker called me yesterday. The judge signed everthing immediately. It’s done. My girl is safe.

We spent a couple of days in the city this week, dentist appointments and such, and so, of course, we went to the bookstore. I love the bookstore for many reasons, none of which have anything to do with to do with yoga mats or coordinated desk accessories. This is why I love the bookstore.

1. Books. There are books absolutely everywhere. And someone has gone to the trouble of organizing them. I can find a book about almost anything, and I can pick it up, and leaf through it, and read the table of contents, and even the first chapter if I want.

2. People. There are very interesting people at the bookstore. I like to watch them, and I try to decide what kinds of books they are looking for. I’m usually wrong. I was quite shocked when the sweet lady in the religion section picked up God is not Great and tucked it under her arm. I had guessed she was in that section looking for a Joyce Meyer book or something. And that cowboyish guy headed straight for the cooking section.

3. Atmosphere. There is just something very wonderful about the bookstore. My kids disappear into their favourite aisles and I wander through my favourite sections. People are more respectful. Kinder, more polite. We are all just better behaved than we are in, say, Walmart. I feel like a better person just by walking in the door.

By the way, I came home with Donald Miller’s Searching for God Knows What the other day. I would like to have coffee with Donald Miller. At a bookstore.

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