Saturday, June 14, 2014

Our Aidan.

In just about a month, Aidan (my eldest) and I are going back to Zambia with Hands at Work. Since returning from Zambia as a family, I had often wondered if my kids would want to go back. I knew that they loved people there and made friends but I wasn't sure in the end, if it was really their passion or if they just loved it because they are boys and always up for adventure. So, I was really happy (and not so secretly proud) that Aidan passed up a couple of opportunities that came his way in order to be part of the team that I'm taking to Zambia in July. At first, I wasn't sure if he understood the commitment but I am happy to say that over the past few months, this kid has seriously amazed me. 

I've said it before, that if our kids were just regular guys in our youth groups in the past, we would adore them and brag about them and just be their biggest fans. So, bear with me, because I'm going to do just that. Setting aside the fact that he is my child, and remarkably loved by me, he really is a very interesting and cool kid. On hearing that he needed to come up with about $4000 to take part in the trip, he took it upon himself to go and get a job refereeing at our local ball hockey league. It took a Saturday and an evening class to get certified and a small output for a helmet and cage (cause he apparently didn't feel that his goalie mask was appropriate...), and he did it. So, he's been refereeing games and being super responsible about scheduling and all those adult things he probably didn't inherit from us. Then he signed up for a paper route which he's been doing three times a week. Today, and on other Saturdays, he finds people that have bottles to return and takes them to Sarcan for recycling and gets the deposits. He's hustling. I love that he knows what the payoff is. 

It's never easy to raise a large amount of money when life has so many other ideas of how you should be spending it. Today, as I watched him come home in the pouring rain after doing all three of these jobs...I am so thankful again that we took the time to take our kids to South Africa and Zimbabwe and Zambia. I am grateful that they want to go back. And I'm more than happy to take them. I can't wait. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

On Being Human

I spent the better part of an afternoon yesterday sitting with my neighbour, Deb, on her deck in the gorgeous sunshine. Just to be clear, this is Saskatoon and so as much as I moan about the length and depth of our winters, I will try to paint an equal and accurate picture of the absolute beauty of our summers. Though all too fleeting, there are days when the weather just dictates you work as fast as you can and escape early to get out and enjoy it.

So, yesterday, Deb and I were catching up after a few weeks of her working all too much for my liking. I mean, seriously, she should consult my social schedule before booking on for so much work but I guess, she is in the business of saving lives so sometimes, I suppose that takes priority.

Regardless, in the course of just an afternoon on the deck, we discuss all manner of things and pretty much try to squeak as much life out of summer as we possibly can plan. Paddle boarding and roller blading remain at the top of our to do lists with regular deck sitting and backyard campfires thrown in for good measure. Impromptu bbq's and dinners take place with amazing regularity and there can be any number of friends and family and coworkers invited in with just a text message.

We were talking about how lucky we are, and we know it, that we live with neighbours who've become family around us.  It's something that Jason and I don't take for granted, having moved many times, and it's probably the number one reason we stay where we are. So, mid winter when it turns from credit to blame, the reasons remain the same. Good neighbours. Good friends. Knowing that these are hard to replicate...though we've been lucky over the years, we aren't going to chance it for the sake of moving.

The other night, Deb had been working out of town, our across the street neighbour, Bobby, just pulled in from his work out of town and suddenly, the driveway became an impromptu party. Deb described it as being "the exact place she needed to be, regardless of not having a formal invitation, and she knew that if we moved the party inside or to the backyard, that too, was where she needed to be."

I can't think of a better picture of community. Knowing that we have all become this little haven of family in the midst of suburbia. We live well amongst each other and we have each others' backs. A few weeks ago, Bobby went all stealth on a truck that was parked in front of our house for an unusual amount of time with two guys sort of just staring at the place. Seriously, neighbourhood watch should have this guy as their poster boy. He not only was just about to go out and confront them, he took note of the vehicle and told us right away when we got home that night.  Our yard is often filled with kids other than our own who come and jump on the trampoline, bring their dogs to play with ours, and just generally run in and out of the yards in our neighbourhood as if they were all their own. Some people would hate that, and I can probably include our back fence neighbour in that, for he has to put up with all the noise and chaos, but I love being the house on the street that kids can hang out at and feel at home.

So, this week, as I read the news of a horrific attack on Marlene Bird in Prince Albert this week, I feel sick. And guilty. And some hopelessness. For all the beauty of community, if it only stays in the suburbs or includes our closest friends and neighbours, it's not enough. We start with that and move it into the reach of all we share our city with. We take what we learn about loving one another and sharing with each other and standing up for each other and we need to spread it into our respective circles and cities.  As much as our amazing little community fills a space in each of our lives, we also go into our city and are able to give to others out of what we've been given.  I'm not saying we've perfected it or that we are always intentional, sometimes it just grows out of having a safe and secure place to land. Marlene Bird needed that place of safety and security in its simplest forms and she wasn't afforded it. Please notice I didn't say she couldn't afford it...the onus is on us to be community to those around us.

Marlene's community has let her down. Not just the homeless community or social agencies in watching out for her, as some would like to blame, but the greater community of humanity - those that recognize her on the street, those that know of her from her long presence in the city, those who give her help occasionally, and those that drive by her and try to ignore her and those she represents. Marlene is a woman, a fellow human, someone who hasn't hurt or invited this sort of pain into her life. She is now fighting an incredibly painful fight for her life. As part of her community, we need to support her and others in vulnerable positions, as though our very lives depend on it. For in reality, our lives may not, but our humanity certainly does.

Friday, June 6, 2014

That Kind of Week

It's been one of "those" weeks. You know the kind - where the little things pile up and make you want to pack up an old bus and drive off into oblivion with your loved ones in tow? Or maybe that's just me. I hate the term "first world problems" but these definitely aren't in the realm of real issues. They are just those trivial things that pile up and make you want to punch yourself in the face as an alternative to actually taking on the day.

It started with a washing machine leaking on the floor, a dog with ticks, a broken curling iron and a tax audit that has the government asking us for proof of guardianship of our two boys dating back three years. I don't hate government but I do genuinely despise government wastefulness and inefficiency. Somehow, when you leave the country with your children for four months, it entitles you to no child tax benefit, an audit and basically a demand for three years worth of your life in writing, notarized, and signed in blood to say that during that time you didn't give up guardianship of your said kids to someone so you could travel the world without a care, regardless of the fact that you continued to pay a mortgage on the same house, enrolled said kids in the same school and filed your income tax as usual.

Like I said, it's just been that week.

But, on the flip side, I'm trying to remind myself that there were little "good" things that were trying to outweigh the bad. I received a free book in the mail. A FREE BOOK. Seriously, how can that not be one of those great things in life. It's an advance copy of a book and so, it's kind of just like a small gift from God saying, "Yea, I know what you like."  We went to an art show put on by some of our favourite friends yesterday and that was really nice. And then this morning, well, it's 80's day at school so it was fun watching E. get all punked up. Then, the  parking lot I park in everyday for work gave me free parking this morning - just printed off a free receipt as if to say, "Hey, you're a regular...this one's on us." in some sort of encouraging twist of fate. And I come up to the office and someone has slid $30 USD under my office door with a sticky note "For your Africa trip"....and there it is. 

This punk. 
Thank you to whoever slid this under my door for our trip in July. <3
That kind of week. The frustrations mount. Finances are stretched. The tasks I hate become mountains in front of me. And yet...while others in the world are facing real difficulties and hardships, the news of the morning here in Saskatoon is that there is a moose on the loose in one of our neighbourhoods. How can we take ourselves so seriously? So, while yes, this may be an attempt to procrastinate my date with the tax department, there are far, far better things to rest my brain on than these petty annoyances. So, note to self: it's all just about perspective. And not getting bent out of shape. Which is more than I can say for my curling iron.