Monday, September 26, 2016

Ban the Silence

I don't always come with something to write about but this weekend, I visited the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I'm telling you, it's worth the trip. The building itself is an architectural wonder, with meandering ramps, soft lighting, bare polished cement and open resonant spaces from top to bottom. It's incredibly beautiful and restful and yet sufficiently reverent and open to allow you to move from exhibit to exhibit with time for reflection in between.

I was in Winnipeg for one of our Carlie's wedding. Carleigh Wegner and her counterpart, Carly Honeybunn, were part of our intake team in Africa in 2012. They and our fellow Saskatonian, Mel, were subjected to not only the culture shock and work of spending three months in Africa, they had to share it with our family, who were trying to figure it all out with two boys in tow. These girls were big sisters to our boys, little sisters to us and wise teachers all at the same time. I can't express how much respect I have for these young women who were brave and went to Africa, seeking to learn and contribute, to love and to encourage. They are some of the most compassionate women I have ever spent time with.  I stayed at Carly H's home (which she shares with her stellar husband, Kyle). Our dear Kristal Hoff and her little Francie joined us and it was basically an amazing extended slumber party, with a wedding and fireworks and good food thrown in for good measure. 

After the beautiful wedding of Carleigh to her Will, Kristal and I left with Francie and headed back to the apartment for a good nights sleep. I tell you, waking up to a baby just cooing in the room is something I don't think I ever experienced with our boys. They just weren't the wake up smiling and cooing kinda kids. Probably because they only ever slept for an hour at a time and were perpetually sleep deprived, as were we, their parents. 

On Saturday morning, I had made arrangements with (ahem, bribed) my eldest nephew, Mitch. I figured I could get a good half hour or forty five minute visit in even if it meant taking him to Costco and buying him meat. He's such a good kid (well, man...but kid to me....) and he showed up with a list that included eggs, bread and salsa. I did NOT fight Saturday morning parking at Costco for that measly list so I got him rolling and left satisfied that he'll not waste away till his mom gets back from overseas.  As we were finishing up, Kristal and Carly texted where we were going to meet up, so I sent Mitch on his way with a hug in public and said all the mushy aunt things I needed to say, and then I drove away, with maybe a small speck in my eye causing a few tears.

Kristal, Kyle, Carly and I met up and had lunch with Francie as entertainment and then we decided to head over to the Museum for Human Rights. I was hmm'ing and haw'ing about going because I didn't want to rush but I also knew I had a long drive home ahead of me. In the end, I couldn't pass up the chance to see it with people that feel things as deeply as I do or even more so, in regards to social justice.  I was not disappointed. It was interesting as we wandered through the exhibits of which were the issues that spoke more pointedly to each of us as individuals, and also those that struck as collectively. I can't begin to tell you the impact the exhibit of the residential schools and the red dress exhibit of missing and murdered indigenous women had on me. The stories are haunting me still and I can't seem to get my head or heart around the fact that this is happening in the country I feel so privileged to live in.  My desire to learn more and speak up more for the cultural genocide and abuses that our First Nations have been subjected to and erased from is overwhelming right now. I'm moved to tears thinking that I've been naive enough to believe the media and the downplaying of the atrocities inflicted on our indigenous populations in Canada.   Seeing the exhibit of the Holocaust and the artifacts again brought home the idea that we are not so evolved that we can say, "Never again" because we are allowing these things to happen worldwide and turning away. Standing facing the school uniform of Malala and seeing how little she was when she was shot for speaking up for her right to get an education humbled me as well. An 11 year old girl shot for being a threat to some of the most ruthless terrorists in our recent history. Until you see the blood stained fabric of a child's school uniform, it doesn't hit home that she speaks for all children and particularly girls' rights to education. Incredible. 

Despite the horrors of what man does to man....I left the museum feeling somewhat encouraged. That if we continue to tell the stories and show the evidence of our histories, hopefully we can learn from those. I was also amazed at the resilience of survivors...of genocides, of residential school abuses, of unimaginable losses and witnessed horrors. If they can stand against it, how can I not? 

I continue to reflect on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that I read on my way out of the museum. 

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."


We can't be silent. It is siding with the oppressors to remain so. I challenge you again as I do myself. Pick an issue. Refugees. Migrants. Displaced persons. Wars. Genocides. Terrorist plots. Government corruption. Pick a country. Zimbabwe. Congo. Venezuela. Syria. Ukraine. Sudan. Nigeria. Cambodia. Myanmar. America. Canada. Learn the history. Speak up against injustice. Fight the terror with courage.  Use your voice. Use your influence. Use this one brief and beautiful life to make someone else's easier.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

That's My Boy. Fall 2016 version.



So, aside from having a high school senior this year in the house, I have had to contend with the fact that this man child has a whole side to him I don't even know about. I can hear your eyes rolling in your heads, friends, but it's been a reality check to this Mom this week.  He's towering over me and he's eating like a man. He's been training hard for football and making sure his work schedule doesn't conflict with his games and practices. I thought until this week that all his practices were actual football practices but I found out that at the pep rally on Thursday, Aidan had to dance in front of the school to Beyonce's "All The Single Ladies." (Apparently there had been some dance practices thrown in the schedule.) Had to? Chose to? Either way, he did it and I can't even imagine.

Aidan is a captain on his football team this year (yes, I'm just throwing that casually in to enhance the story) and he's really stepped into the role of motivating and leading his team. One of the responsibilities of each of the players on the team is to sell some discount cards in the community to fundraise for the program. It's never too hard, there are always football fans willing to pour back into their schools, coworkers and neighbours who will fork out a $20 bill in return for a $20 bill when their kid comes around selling chocolates.  This year, the captains on the football team are a lively bunch of guys, pretty goofy and more than a little mischievous. They banded together on the first afternoon and knowing that rookies and second years will always leave the guaranteed sales to the last, (ahem...moms and grandmas....), these four decided to hit up the homes of their fellow players first. So, yes, while the young guns were out cold calling the neighbourhood selling their share of the cards, the captains were spinning tales of "Oh no, m'am...only the captains have to sell them for the team this year" to their mothers. They spent a good hour and a half hitting up the homes of their fellow players and sold cards to all of them, often pulling out of the driveway just in time to see their teammate come home after hitting the pavement themselves.

I'm not sure about the other captains but Aidan and his buddy, Adam, came home to our house pretty smug and senselessly giggling about their escapades while scarfing down some pulled pork sandwiches and heading back out. I decided to take a walk with Charlie and was still sort of shaking my head at the whole thing when I hear our neighbour's door close. Around the corner of the house comes one of the guys on the football team who is dating their beautiful daughter, Gabby.  I keep walking with Charlie, thinking he doesn't know me...when I hear him ask, "Are you Aidan's mom?" I stop in the middle of the street and just apologize. "Yes, yes I am. And I'm so sorry. I heard he sold your parents cards before you could get home." Then this kid, who I only know as "Butters" laughs and says, "Yea, he even sold one to Tim (Gaby's dad) before I got here!"

It's a new low people. I'm going to blame genetics. And make it clear that that did not come from my side of the family.

Tim, I'm sorry that you had to buy TWO cards...one from my kid and one from the kid you SHOULD have only had to buy from.

Wendy, I'm sorry that Aidan snowed you with the line that only the captains were selling tickets this year. I raised him better than that.

To all the other victims out there....you have my deepest apology. And the shared hope that your kid will get his turn to be a senior on the team and take down his teammates in the similar fashion next year. And if any of you have a video of Aidan dancing to Beyonce, I will happily post it here as retribution for your loss.





Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Moment of Silence

I sat with this for a few minutes this morning. And it felt small. Like it wasn't enough to fully remember the day. Those hours. That pain. The few minutes felt like it was petty. But those minutes were sacred. And I don't think any sacred moment spent is ever small.

Never Forget  **

I hope you can find a few minutes today. Or this week. And spend it on something sacred. The past. The future. The present. Whatever needs to be tended to.




**I'm not sure how long the link will take you directly to this video but you can search it on this website. I don't know anything about the site that posted this video so please know, that I am only suggesting this as one way to remember this event. It's beautifully done. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Who He Was.

Years ago, too many to mention, I lived this strange life of a weekend ski patroller in the lower mainland of BC. I would work my regular week at the sporting goods store (can you say "amazing staff discounts"?) and then on Friday afternoon, would pack up my '69 VW Van and head up to Manning Park or Hemlock Valley for the weekend of training or patrolling. One weekend, I didn't get out of work on time so I had my van packed up and headed out at about 4:30 am to try and get first tracks at Manning by 7. I had just passed Chilliwack, and was making good time when in the dark of my van, I could smell something akin to burning tires or oil or some other toxic black carcinogen.
I flicked on the interior light and was shocked that the whole back of the van was filled with black smoke. I pulled over quickly and was at the back hatch before the van had stopped moving. I was grabbing for my skis and equipment bag and throwing them in the grass beside the van. Priorities, people. Plus, at this time, my equipment may have been worth substantially more than the van itself.

I went to open the engine compartment and it was extremely hot to the touch. I grabbed the fire extinguisher from under the front seat (thank you again, Dad...) and used my gloves to open the engine compartment. There was a LOT of smoke, not a lot of fire. I wasn't sure if I should "waste" the fire extinguisher so I didn't use it. I just sat on the side of the road, in the dark, and waited for something to happen. You know, like you do when you're a twenty year old girl. These were pre-cell phone days so I looked around and saw the lights on in a nearby dairy farm. Dairy farmers. Up before dawn. Seemed like a decent option. I felt that whatever had happened, was finished so I threw my gear back in the van, locked it up, and then climbed through a ditch and jumped to the other side and walked towards the brightly lit interior of the dairy farm.

I'm not sure what the farmer thought when I walked into his milking parlour that morning. I walked in, unannounced, and had to shout at him over the sounds of the cows and the machinery. He was hosing down the floor at the far end so I was nearly behind him when he heard me and I nearly got doused with his hose. He looked surprisingly calm for having been infiltrated by some hippie chick this early in the morning. He graciously let me use his phone at the office to call my dad (who else?) and then he and his wife and I had coffee and buns while we waited for my dad to show up. The first light of day was a ways off so he drove me back to my van and his wife, sent me on my way with fresh baked buns and a bottle of juice. Seriously.

Turns out, some rod thingy had jammed into the oil holder thingy and so when Dad arrived, there was nothing to do but turn back to home and write off a weekend of fresh powder for a weekend at the local mechanics, forking over my hard earned cash for a rebuilt engine and the satisfaction of knowing I didn't waste a fire extinguisher on what was clearly not an emergent situation.

You know what didn't happen those early morning hours when I trespassed onto a farmyard and walked into a business uninvited? No one took a bat to my windshield. Or screamed in fear at my arrival. And thank God, no one had their gun in hand and took my life. Why? I don't know. But I have some thoughts. Perhaps it was a different time? Or maybe mornings are when farmers are at their most sociable? Or perhaps it was there was no perceived or media perpetuated threat that I was out to steal from them or harm them. Perhaps because I was alone. Or a female. Or white. Or because the dialogue against white women isn't as racially and hatefully charged as that against young, male, First Nations men who could not possibly have any purpose other than violence or theft to come onto private property.

I hope I'm not oversimplifying something I believe is incredibly simple. We live in a racist society. I don't believe that we could honestly imagine thousands of white, young women going missing and not be outraged or active in the search for answers. And yet, we can allow missing and murdered indigenous women to remain in the graves afforded them by murderers and roll our eyes at yet another news story profiling a cry for justice.  We perpetuate the idea that somehow our First Nations people have been given so much and squandered it but we don't look at what we've taken from them and how we've abused it. We wouldn't stand for someone to write in the media that our sons were thieves and vandals if they had returned from a day of fun at the beach with their friends and looked for help for a flat tire. Yet, we believe the story from the first print that this car load of youth were up to no good...because well, they were First Nations and well, you know....

The thing that breaks my heart beyond the loss of a young man who had dreams and goals...is the fact that his family and friends seemingly have to speak on behalf of his character. To hold up photos of Colten Boushie and surround it with the attributes they knew of him. He was a good guy.  A son.  A boyfriend. A grandson. Loved by many. As if they must prove that his murder is worthy of punishment. As if they need to rewrite the assertations that he somehow deserved to die in the back of a car.

I read this MacLeans article this morning but I couldn't get past the tears looking at the hands holding up Colten Boushie's image and the words they wrote of him. The hands that are holding up the character of the boy they loved. So that the world will see him as he was...not as we are led to fear him to have been. When we see images of Colten in the coming days, I challenge you to look at him with their eyes. With love. And admiration. And the voices of those who REALLY knew him, ate with him, played with him, laughed with him and loved him telling you who he was...not the media or the fearful or the defensive.

I walked into a farmer's barn and walked away with lunch. Colten left a farmyard 20+ years later with no life left in him and a family with empty arms.


Choosing Who We Listen To

Years ago, too many to mention, I lived this strange life of a weekend ski patroller in the lower mainland of BC. I would work my regular week at the sporting goods store (can you say "amazing staff discounts"?) and then on Friday afternoon, would pack up my '69 VW Van and head up to Manning Park or Hemlock Valley for the weekend of training or patrolling. One weekend, I didn't get out of work on time so I had my van packed up and headed out at about 4:30 am to try and get first tracks at Manning by 7. I had just passed Chilliwack, and was making good time when in the dark of my van, I could smell something akin to burning tires or oil or some other toxic black carcinogen.
I flicked on the interior light and was shocked that the whole back of the van was filled with black smoke. I pulled over quickly and was at the back hatch before the van had stopped moving. I was grabbing for my skis and equipment bag and throwing them in the grass beside the van. Priorities, people. Plus, at this time, my equipment may have been worth substantially more than the van itself.

I went to open the engine compartment and it was extremely hot to the touch. I grabbed the fire extinguisher from under the front seat (thank you again, Dad...) and used my gloves to open the engine compartment. There was a LOT of smoke, not a lot of fire. I wasn't sure if I should "waste" the fire extinguisher so I didn't use it. I just sat on the side of the road, in the dark, and waited for something to happen. You know, like you do when you're a twenty year old girl. These were pre-cell phone days so I looked around and saw the lights on in a nearby dairy farm. Dairy farmers. Up before dawn. Seemed like a decent option. I felt that whatever had happened, was finished so I threw my gear back in the van, locked it up, and then climbed through a ditch and jumped to the other side and walked towards the brightly lit interior of the dairy farm.

I'm not sure what the farmer thought when I walked into his milking parlour that morning. I walked in, unannounced, and had to shout at him over the sounds of the cows and the machinery. He was hosing down the floor at the far end so I was nearly behind him when he heard me and I nearly got doused with his hose. He looked surprisingly calm for having been infiltrated by some hippie chick this early in the morning. He graciously let me use his phone at the office to call my dad (who else?) and then he and his wife and I had coffee and buns while we waited for my dad to show up. The first light of day was a ways off so he drove me back to my van and his wife, sent me on my way with fresh baked buns and a bottle of juice. Seriously.

Turns out, some rod thingy had jammed into the oil holder thingy and so when Dad arrived, there was nothing to do but turn back to home and write off a weekend of fresh powder for a weekend at the local mechanics, forking over my hard earned cash for a rebuilt engine and the satisfaction of knowing I didn't waste a fire extinguisher on what was clearly not an emergent situation.

You know what didn't happen those early morning hours when I trespassed onto a farmyard and walked into a business uninvited? No one took a bat to my windshield. Or screamed in fear at my arrival. And thank God, no one had their gun in hand and took my life. Why? I don't know. But I have some thoughts. Perhaps it was a different time? Or maybe mornings are when farmers are at their most sociable? Or perhaps it was there was no perceived or media perpetuated threat that I was out to steal from them or harm them. Perhaps because I was alone. Or a female. Or white. Or because the dialogue against white women isn't as racially and hatefully charged as that against young, male, First Nations men who could not possibly have any purpose other than violence or theft to come onto private property.

I hope I'm not oversimplifying something I believe is incredibly simple. We live in a racist society. I don't believe that we could honestly imagine thousands of white, young women going missing and not be outraged or active in the search for answers. And yet, we can allow missing and murdered indigenous women to remain in the graves afforded them by murderers and roll our eyes at yet another news story profiling a cry for justice.  We perpetuate the idea that somehow our First Nations people have been given so much and squandered it but we don't look at what we've taken from them and how we've abused it. We wouldn't stand for someone to write in the media that our sons were thieves and vandals if they had returned from a day of fun at the beach with their friends and looked for help for a flat tire. Yet, we believe the story from the first print that this car load of youth were up to no good...because well, they were First Nations and well, you know....

The thing that breaks my heart beyond the loss of a young man who had dreams and goals...is the fact that his family and friends seemingly have to speak on behalf of his character. To hold up photos of Colten Boushie and surround it with the attributes they knew of him. He was a good guy.  A son.  A boyfriend. A grandson. Loved by many. As if they must prove that his murder is worthy of punishment. As if they need to rewrite the assertations that he somehow deserved to die in the back of a car.

I read this MacLeans article this morning but I couldn't get past the tears looking at the hands holding up Colten Boushie's image and the words they wrote of him. The hands that are holding up the character of the boy they loved. So that the world will see him as he was...not as we are led to fear him to have been. When we see images of Colten in the coming days, I challenge you to look at him with their eyes. With love. And admiration. And the voices of those who REALLY knew him, ate with him, played with him, laughed with him and loved him telling you who he was...not the media or the fearful or the defensive.

I walked into a farmer's barn and walked away with lunch. Colten left a farmyard 20+ years later with no life left in him and a family with empty arms.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Lamest Vacation We'll Ever Love


The iconic red adirondack chairs dotted throughout Canadian Nat'l Parks

I know that Tolkien has been quoted as saying that "not all who wander are lost..." and I believe that to be true, yet he lived before the days of internet booking. Our family has been hearing for years how lovely and interesting the Cypress Hills area of Saskatchewan is. We've wanted to go and yet, for the past ten years, we've never made it just a few hours south to go and see it for ourselves. So, this week, Easton and I were rambling around the house while Jason and Aidan lived the life of the gainfully employed. One evening, Jason gave Easton and I a push to go camping.

So, I gave Easton a couple of choices. Choice #1 was booked for the days we had in mind. Choice #2 was experiencing a fire ban and an infestation of black flies...that's not restful for anyone. Choice #3, well, it was Cypress Hills. So, I went online, looked at several of the park's camping options and decided we would splurge a little and stay for a couple nights in one of the park's Otentiks. These are sort of glamping options (and I use the term loosely...) but it is nice to have the tent up when you get there, a cot and mattress off of the ground, and a grade of canvas that will keep you dry through any summer storm. So, after looking at a couple of spots, I found a place that had availability for the nights we wanted and a few clicks and a credit card number and we were booked! 

So, I went around the garage and basement to dust off our camping equipment and then realized that we had left our huge rubbermaid bin of camping supplies in the rv that we had sold a few years back. So much for a cheap mid-week camping trip. I razed our cupboards hard and scrounged what I could and then hit the dollar store (which, ironically, didn't sell a single item for a dollar....) for the rest. I packed up our little Ford Escape (pronounced Es-cah-pay)  and then came in to pack my backpack when it dawned on me...Grasslands. National. Park. Grasslands. National. Park.  

I couldn't possibly be that ... mistaken? Inattentive? Stupid? Oh, friends. Yes. Yes I could. And I was. I was that stupid. I had somehow in my confident, internet savant way booked Easton and I into the wrong park. I wasn't panicking yet. Yet. Only because I thought, well, they must be fairly close together...how many parks can there be in southern Saskatchewan?

Oh, lesson #1 in Canadian geography. Canada is big. It's just so big. And that means, even our little province...of just a measly million people...is gigantic. And so, the neighbouring parks...while yes, on the map, seem very close in proximity...are in reality hundreds of kilometres apart.  And hours...of....driving. 

Cue the tears and the self berating...but I above all, am a make-the-best-of-a-bad-situation kinda girl (also fondly known as admit-no-mistake-this-is-what-I-was-planning-all-along kinda girl.)

So, I met my husband on the front step and blurted my "change of plans" to him with some remorse and though he did his best to assure me that it would be fine or perhaps I could change the reservation (I couldn't...I tried)...I had a sinking feeling that this mother/son camping trip would be memorable in a way I hadn't been planning on.   I sat on the news of my mistaken reservation while Easton packed up his stuff. And went to bed. And pretty much until we got into the vehicle the next day. By then, I had him somewhat convinced that after all that we had been through on trips together, he could survive two days of camping with his mom wherever it ended up being.

Then we pulled into the middle of nowhere. Easton quietly said, "Well, this is underwhelming." I couldn't really disagree. It was beautiful for sure. The Canadian prairies have a really amazing beauty about them. It's just that there's so...dang...much...of...it. I mean, it's like being in southern California and seeing a pretty, tanned, blonde. It just gets so tiresome. ; ) But really, the truth is...the prairies are beautiful. The flowers, the grasslands, the hills and the skies...oh, the skies....but without some diversity to the landscape, it's just kind of numbs you into indifference. When you can drive for hours and see very little change in topography? Well....it's just bikinied blondes after a while.

Thankfully, Easton and I had a great time. We laughed a lot. We hiked a fair amount. We read. We ate. We played games. We ate. I chased photos of wildflowers, he chased reception for face timing his friends. He's good company, this kid. Two nights under the stars and two days of non-stop Mom time and he was still in good humour and cracking jokes...but ready to come home.

I'm going to tuck this little trip away as a winner that came out of a mistake. There've been many of those in my lifetime. This one's going on the top of that pile and will be remembered with affection as the "lamest vacation ever." Maybe next year, Cypress Hills.



Boots capped every fence post for about 5 km

It's amazing how far a teenaged boy will trek for 4 bars of reception

You can watch your kid walk away for miles....

Black eyed Susan and a bumblebee

Wild roses....a favourite

A lonely male bison wandered by us on our last evening sunset walk

The view from the hike at 70 Mile Butte


A black tailed prairie dog. One of 60,000 we saw. And named.

Relics.

Junipers and rosehips

Wildflowers

Textures

The amazing light on the prairies

The beauty of the grasslands

The sun dipping below the horizon

This moment reminded me of our time in Nevada

A mom, a kid and a self timer....all you need.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Seemingly Small Miracles

Tonight the boys are all out seeing a new superhero movie and it's just us girls at home. So, Charlie has had a bath and is stretched out smelling lovely at the foot of my bed. Maisy is racing circles around the room in her last energy spurt (hopefully a short one...) before she curls up in my sock drawer for the night. It's quiet. The rain has passed. The air is cooler than it's been in a month and the wind is coming in through the screen.

I've been thinking a lot about our friends in Zimbabwe and Zambia this week. On Monday, our dear Zambian friends, James and Sukai, came to visit us at our house! This was such an unexpected dream come true. I've been hosted by this couple for the past 9 years when I visit Zambia. They walk through Mulenga with me and they invite me into their home and their lives. They feed me and make sure I'm well hydrated. Sukai makes sure I'm not rubbing my hands all over the railing in the community hospital and picking up who knows what!  They are Zambia to me. Friendly. Kind. Generous. Caring. Infinitely selfless.

So, again, to have them in our home - even for a short visit, was an honour I didn't know I'd ever get to enjoy. James and Sukai were in Edmonton last week and we attended the marriage of their handsome first born son, Arthur, to his beautiful Canadian bride, Alisha. It was great to be in the same room with so many of our Hands at Work family although it was a short stay as we had to get back home for Aidan and Jason to get back to work.  Still, it was lovely to be able to have just incredibly normal conversations around being the mother of the groom, missing your kids, and travelling so long to get across the ocean. We chatted about all the details that go into a wedding, particularly one where there are international guests and cultural differences! No small undertaking.

Something about having James and Sukai in our home, sitting on my couch, laughing with my boys and measuring height...just seemed so inevitable and yet so miraculous. I think I am learning to expect miracles, in some small way. I mean, I don't think I'm going to win the lottery (particularly because I don't buy tickets...) but the miraculous coming-to-reality of things I secretly have hoped for and longed for. Like having James and Sukai over for coffee. For our families to share each others' homes easily and comfortably.  For our kids to know them well enough to know that they are trusted friends. For their kids to invite us to their wedding. So good.

I have other silent and secret dreams that maybe seem a little run of the mill to many, but I'm telling you, when the miraculous occurs and those smallest of hopes come to fruition? It's a hope filling moment that can carry you through another week of uncertainty. And it reminds me that the Jesus I feel like I'm getting to know is mindful of the things that really matter to me. Hopefully, that will carry me through these next uncertain times.