December 2011

I don’t know much about them. Truthfully, I haven’t thought much about them. Not, at least, until my teacher friend Sheena started blogging about them at Treaty Walks. Her posts are beautiful reflections that come out of her walks to school each day. But still, I guess, the whole treaty thing is a new and fuzzy area for me.

My thoughts about treaties, until now, have been that treaties were the agreements made between the indigenous people and the conquering people (I don’t know what else to call them? Us?) about who got what. And the conquerors, as I’ve understood it, typically got the lion’s share and in fact cheated the indigenous people, all of which has resulted in inequality, racism, poverty, and general bad blood between the different people groups.

But Sheena has made me rethink my think.

Sheena lives and works in a place where treaties are still a big deal. She knows the treaty numbers and she attends conferences about them and they teach about them in her school and there are flags, even. Treaties are a conversation that I didn’t even know was going on.

But as I drift around the edges of this thing I don’t really understand, reading Sheena’s words and wondering about it all, I am struck by the sense that this issue, like many issues, when boiled down to the dregs, is about respect.

Respect. Treating each other with it. Giving it. Accepting it.

It is the thing I’m after when I tell my kids to be nice to each other. It’s what my husband wants from me. It’s what he wants from his boss. It is a necessary ingredient for a productive meeting, whether in a business setting or a church setting. It is essential, don’t you think, for equality. It is the thing that moves acts of charity from a place of superiority to a place of spirituality.

Respect, always, should be the first guest at the table.

I know treaties are a big issue. I know there is government stuff and historical stuff and other stuff that makes it complicated and messy. I can’t change it all or fix it all. I can barely understand it.

But I can be respectful.

My friend Anne and two of her boys came for a visit. This is my long time, honest, smart, thoughtful, eloquent friend. The friend I’ve had since our early days of homeschooling. The friend who has challenged me when I needed to be challenged. We only lived in the same place for a short time, barely a year, and we haven’t seen each other a lot since then. And she’s not on facebook so, you know, our visits are few and rather far between.

I was really looking forward to seeing her and catching up.

And we had a great visit. Although my boys are a little older than her’s, we have lots in common. We are both “older” moms, we both have three boys, we both are spiritual seekers, and we both homeschool. It was wonderful to spend a few hours with her, talking about our journeys, our struggles, our joys, our frustrations.

Then she left and it was like the sugar from every cookie the boys ate that afternoon went straight to their brains and it was chaos for a few minutes. The older was torturing the youngest who was screaming and the other was cheering them both on and I was trying to use the computer to assess the current road conditions to determine whether we were going to attempt the trip to Regina that Lyndon had called about and suggested at the last minute that afternoon.

So I’m in the living room, checking the forecast, and I’m going crazy from the noise and destruction that is happening around me and after a few be quiet boys so I can figure this out statements that are ignored, I finally say loudly (okay, I yelled) BOYS, STOP IT. BE QUIET.

And that is when I heard Anne, calling from the front entry. Hello, I’m back. I forgot my purse. And my heart sank.

Because after an afternoon of talking about education and parenting and children and ideas and philosophies, after an afternoon where the kids spent time together in a generally happy and productive way, after an afternoon that left me feeling encouraged and energized … I yelled at my kids. And worse, my friend heard me yelling at my kids.

I hardly ever yell, I wanted to say to her. This isn’t normal. And I really wasn’t yelling, you know, I was just trying to be heard above the bedlam. I wanted to call her later and explain that that isn’t typically how we are as a family.

It was like the one time you run to the store dressed in those ugly sweats and with your hair a mess because you just need that one thing and you are certain you won’t see anyone you know and then you do and you have to stand there and talk to them with your hair sticking up and no makeup on and with both of you pretending you don’t look a horror.

So anyway, that’s how it went for me yesterday. Humbled, yet again.

They play it in the evening, intent on the battle, cheering every sunken ship. Dad shows no mercy, not like Mom who sometimes secretly moves a ship to ensure a hit and move the game along more quickly. With Dad, it’s about winning. It’s a battle, fought to the bitter end.

Of all the men in my home, these two, I think, are the most alike. The most competitive. The ones who tend, more than the other two, to view the world in terms of winners and losers. But they are all four, definitely, more battle-friendly than I.

Colton requested and received a dvd for Christmas, season one of the TV series Deadliest Warriors. The show is based on battle and competition. Winning and losing. Two warriors from history are assessed and the hosts determine which of them would win if they were to actually fight each other.

I watched for about five minutes, but the boys loved it. There have been endless discussions about weaponry and strategy and history and culture. There have been internet searches to further research historical people. History books are scattered around the living room. It reminds me of the little boy arguments they used to have about who would win if they were in a fight, Superman or Spiderman?

I don’t get the battle thing. I understand competition, but I’m not driven by it. I don’t want to hunt, or arm-wrestle, and I don’t care who can burp the loudest. War makes me sad. Mostly, I don’t care too much about who wins and who doesn’t. Which makes me … a girl.

All stereotypes, I know. And there are tons of exceptions and interesting divergences from those stereotypes within my own family. There are in your’s, too, I’m sure. But I’m struck, as I watch the youngest and the oldest of the men in my family play a friendly game of Battleship, by the way it brings out the warrior in each of them.

For quite some time now, the days have had names. There were the days of Advent, busy and full with planning and waiting and expecting. And then Christmas Eve, the beginning of the celebration. Friends and food and excitement. Followed by The Day. Christmas. With Grandpa and Grandma and turkey and puzzles and lots of sweet afternoon treats. And finally, Boxing Day. Busy for some, but quiet for us. Games played and movies watched and afternoon naps.




But today, waking up and thinking of the day ahead, I realize it has no name. It is the first of the few days before the New Year days. There is no plan for this day. Lyndon just wants to enjoy some quiet before he has to go back to work. We’ll eat leftovers and do a little laundry and play Battleship with the little guy. And we’ll have coffee in the afternoon and eat some more of the Christmas baking and maybe we’ll nap a little.

I think I’ll call these days between Christmas and New Year’s the Days of Peace and Quiet. Welcome days in the midst of this busy and beautiful time of the year.

It’s the day before. The house is quiet, children still in bed, and I’m thinking of the list of last-minute things and final preparations and friends arriving today and Grandpa and Grandma coming tomorrow. But mostly I’m thinking of a young mother and a soon-to-be birth.

There is a trend, it seems, to rescue Jesus’ birth from the sanitation of the beautiful, gold-trimmed nativity scene. From the clean barn with the quiet animals standing near and Mary, smiling while Jesus sleeps peacefully in a clean, sweet-hay-filled manger.

There is a trend, in the blogosphere, to encourage us to remember that the birth was a real birth. That there was pain and wrenching and blood. That when the time came for him to be born, he was born. The way all babies are born. And not in a clean hospital with a doctor or in a plastic swimming pool in a clean living room with a midwife. But in a stable. There would have been a little dirt, I think.

And I’ve appreciated that focus, that insistence that we look at the reality.

But I’ve had babies. And it was hard and painful and there was blood and lots of yuck. But when the one I’d worked so hard for through nine months of puke and constipation and heartburn and stretch marks and hours of straining labour … when he showed up, it was pure beauty.

And it didn’t matter where I was or how he came, he was here and that was all that mattered.

He is here. And that is all that matters.

This is not what I expected to write about. I expected to write about mothers and babies and waiting and birth. But “last days” and mountains and farm tools and war were not what I was expecting. And at first read, I’m hard pressed to understand this passage (Isaiah 2:1-5)  in light of advent …

… Join the community at the Glen Elm Church of Christ Advent Blog to read the rest of this post. And while you are there, explore some of the other writings from the past month. There have been some beautiful reflections on advent posted there.

Many years ago my sister-in-law, Sandra, gave me this sweet little nativity set. I’ve been setting it up every Christmas for probably fifteen years or so. And this is the first year that Carter, who is now ten, has left it alone.


In the beginning, it was just baby mischief. This is a really tiny nativity set, and it was pretty tempting for little fingers. For several years I had to set it up on a high surface, where he couldn’t reach it.

Then, it was little boy mischief. I’d walk by the nativity scene and see Mary hiding behind a candle, or baby Jesus riding on a camel, or the shepherds standing on their heads. I never said anything to the boy; I’d just rearrange the scene and wait to see what happened next.

But this year, there has been no mischief at all. And I have to say, it’s made me a little sad.

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