Thursday, October 31, 2013

Yes, Everyone CAN be Mother Teresa

In the spring I was sitting in a meeting with about a dozen other people from my community. We were having a discussion about adult involvement in children's extracurricular activities. During the course of the conversation I made the point that it takes very little effort to positively impact a child. I used the example of our decision to make our home as open and welcoming as possible to our kids' friends and how this practice has lead to many great conversations with our kids' friends about social issues and personal responsibility. Most people at the meeting just nodded but one person, who I know well and work with often on community issues, said, "Well, we can't all be Mother Teresa."

In the moment I just shrugged off this snarky reply as it was very out of character for him but, clearly, his words have stuck with me. I've thought about them often over the last couple of months. I've questioned whether I expect too much from people. I've wondered if I am too Pollyanna-ish in my views of what is possible. I've pondered whether my enthusiasm for the things I care about actually turns people off from being part of the solution. I've questioned, wondered and pondered but I've come up with no clear answers.

The last several weeks have been full of moments that lead to opportunities of personal growth ... that's a nice way of saying I've been stretched to my breaking point more than once but I've made it through alive and a little smarter than I was before. Anyway, in the midst of all this stretching and growing I've thought a lot about who I am and who I want to be. I've taken a good hard look at the things I give my energy to and whether my actions back up my words. I've also started working again, which has only fuelled my passion and sharpened my focus.

So, it was with some new life lessons under my belt and a better sense of the direction of my life that I thought about that Mother Teresa comment again and I finally have formulated a comeback.

"Yes, in fact, we can all be Mother Teresa."

Mother Teresa didn't set out to make a name for herself, to start a movement or to even help thousands of people. She set out to bring comfort to one person, dignity to one life and peace to one soul. That's it. She only ever sought to be useful where she was with whatever tools were at her disposal. She wanted the people in front of her to know they were seen and valued. She wanted her one life to make a difference in the life of just one other person. And when she had done all she could for that one person she moved on to help the next person and the next. She changed her world one life at a time.

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting an author and speaker whom I greatly respect. She was lovely and encouraging in the few moments I had with her and just before I walked away she wrote a message on my notebook. I quickly glanced at it, thanked her and walked away. It wasn't until a few days later that I really read it and the difference between what I thought it said and what it really said set me free to just be who I am, where I am.

I thought she had written Change the world! but she had actually written Change your world!

I may not be able to change the world but I know I can change my world. I may not be able to solve global poverty, to feed millions of starving children or provide clean water for the nations but I can give generously to the causes that speak to my heart, I can donate food to my local food bank and I can collect change to donate to the well project my kids' school in participating in. I may not be able to cure diseases and comfort the dying but I can be the best friend, mother, community member and pastor that I can be. I communicate love and peace and hope and joy through a thousand small decisions everyday. I can see the people right in front of me and let them know they are valued.

I can be Mother Teresa. Here. Right where I am.

And so can you.

If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
~Mother Teresa

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Back at 'Er

I sat down yesterday to blog and realized that I've forgotten how. After a four and a half month blogging sabbatical I've lost my groove. There are things I want to say, funny little stories I want to share and deep stirrings of my heart that I want to express but I can't seem to get going.

I had actually planned on returning to the blogoshpere  weeks ago but life and my own neurosis got in the way. I used the excuse of end of summer, back to school, back to work busyness to cover for my fear of the keyboard. I was afraid that once I sat down to write here again I'd discover that whatever magic, whatever connection we had - blogger and reader - would be gone, faded away from lack of attention and care. I didn't want to discover that my moment had passed so I hid behind the excuse of everyday mom life stuff. I hid from the very thing I wanted most, I hid from what I love because I was afraid it wouldn't love me back.

Then I asked myself, "Does it matter? Does it matter if no one reads your blog ever again? Does that change who you are? Does it diminish your worth as a human being?"

"Um, I guess not."

No. It doesn't. Part of being a grown up person is understanding that your self worth isn't tied to what you can do and who and how many people notice what you can do. Your self worth comes from inside of you. It comes from understanding that you, alone, as you are, are a magnificent being. That your loving heart is beautiful. Your quirks and goofiness are charming. Your generosity is breathtaking and your presence in the world is irreplaceable.

As I step back into this blogging thing that I love, may I encourage you to rediscover the thing that brings you joy. Embrace that gift, talent or hobby that makes your heart sing even if nobody notices. Especially if nobody notices. Live your passion for your own soul's sake, not for praise, adulation and recognition because applause fades but contentment in your own worth never does.

“We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.” 
― Malcolm X

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

We Stand to Honour

This morning I was in Dude and Crafty's school when the national anthem was played. I was standing in a hallway with half a dozen grade five boys who decided chatting and dancing through the anthem was appropriate. In the split second it took for me to decide how I, the adult on the scene, was going to address this I had a flashback of the day my own Enlightening occurred and what an impact it made on me.

I was in the ninth grade and it was early in the year. I was still trying to decide what I thought of my very tall, kind of hairy, basketball obsessed homeroom teacher, Mr. Kennedy. He wore ties with ducks on them and had a poster of Larry Bird above his desk. He also had this weird thing with Canada; he called it patriotism.  It all seemed a little sketchy to me.

Like I said, I was in the ninth grade, 14 years old and stubborn as all get out. I had recently injured my knee and truth be told, I was totally milking it. And he knew it but it wasn't until the morning I refused to stand at attention for 'O Canada' that he called me on my attitude and schooled me on showing proper respect.

I stood for the anthem but leaned on my chair. Apparently I wasn't the only slacker that morning. After the anthem was finished, Mr. Kennedy informed our class that we would stand for an additional five minutes and we would stand at attention. No leaning. No slouching. At the end of the five minutes he informed us that we had earned our disrespectful selves another five minutes at attention because of the chatter, sighing and leaning that filled the previous five minutes.

I said, 'no.'

I claimed that my knee was too sore to stand for another five minutes and I was certainly incapable of standing without leaning on my chair. Although my knee was achy, the truth was that I was bored and decided that this was the moment I was going to make my power play. This was my moment to put this unconventional teacher in his place. He quietly walked toward me, removed my chair and said, 'you will stand.' I looked him in the eye said 'no' again. He stared right back at me. I cracked and tears began to roll down my cheeks. He walked back to his desk and started the clock.

For the full five minutes I silently cried. Not because my knee hurt but because my pride hurt. He called my bluff and I was embarrassed. At the end of the five minutes, in which not a soul moved or breathed, he returned my chair and told us all to have a seat. He then spent the next several minutes explaining the words in the national anthem, the legacy of Canadian soldiers and how our small act of daily remembrance is important so that none of us ever forget the great price that was paid for the life we live.

He finished his talk with these words, "Boys not much older than you gave up their lives so that you can live freely in this great country, the least you can do is stand for three minutes a day and remember them."

Mr. Kennedy was the first person and only person I can ever remember explaining the significance of our anthem and the importance of standing with respect and remembering, honouring, those who fought for our freedom. From that moment to this, if ever I have wasted an opportunity to remember and honour during our national anthem I have felt guilty, like I have cheapened the gift of freedom.

So this morning, as I told the boys to stand at attention and stop talking, I thought of Mr. Kennedy, of the brave men and women who fought, on the battlefield and in the legislature, throughout our nation's history to bring freedom and protect her citizens. I thought, I honoured and I wondered. I wondered if these kids understand. If they understand the price of freedom, the gift of freedom. I wondered if they have ever been told that the simple act of standing at attention for three minutes is our small gift back.

 I wonder.

We only need to look at what we are really doing in the world and at home and we'll know what it is to be Canadian.
~Adrienne Clarkson

Thursday, May 9, 2013

100 Aker Wood Wisdom

I'm having an Eeyore day. Nothing is really wrong but nothing is really right. I'm feeling a little uncertain of my place in the world, a little disconnected and a little bit like I'm spinning my wheels. I am questioning whether the places I am putting my time and energy are the places I am supposed to be putting my time and energy. No worries, though, its not like I'm having a major life crisis ... I'm just doing a little self reflection. And self reflection sometimes turns me into Eeyore.

My whole life I have adored Winnie the Pooh. I have collected books, figurines and stuffed animals from these wonderful tales for years. There's something about that roll polly little bear and his rag tag group of friends that touches my heart and captures my imagination. There's also a lot of wisdom floating around the 100 Aker Wood.

Every now and then, when 'The Eeyore' mood strikes me, I pick up a volume of Pooh Bear classics and I flip through the pages, reading sentences at random. Every time I do this, without fail, my heart swells and my courage is boosted. I am reminded that thinking too much isn't all that its cracked up to be, that love is not particularly dignified or tidy and that's okay and friends come in all shapes and sizes.

Here are a few of my favourite A.A. Milne bits of wisdom ...

"Rivers know this; there is no hurry. We shall get there someday."

"Love is taking a few steps backward, maybe even more ... to give way to the happiness of the person you love."

"You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes."

"Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."

"Some people care too much. I think its called love."

And my favourite ... today ...

"How do you spell love? You don't spell it, you feel it."

So today, as I am wondering why my life feels stalled out, I will remember the river. When I feel lonely, I'll step outside my corner of the forest. When I feel as though I am going backwards, I'll acknowledge that maybe I need to back up a bit for the sake of the happiness of those I love. When people drive me nuts, I will take the time to know them better so that I may behold their beauty. When my heart feels so full that I'm afraid it might break, I will relax, know that its not madness but love that is filling me. And lastly, love isn't an exact science, it is meant to be felt, to be lived and to be expressed and I will rest in that.

The things that make me different are the things that make me.
A. A. Milne

Monday, April 29, 2013

Apocalypse Now

"Dad, what's a zombie?" Crafty asked from the back seat. We were driving to my parents house and the kids were talking about legends and myths. We had discussed Big Foot, who we decided might actually be Dude (he has huge feet and smells bad, apparently) and The Loch Ness Monster and vampires. Now it was the zombie question.

"Well, zombies aren't real. But people say they are people who aren't dead but they aren't really alive either. They just eat and grunt and don't really know how to interact with others." Mr. Awesome answered.

"Remind you of anyone?" I snickered. Mr. Awesome nodded and laughed.

Dude had had his face in his iPod for an hour and a half. We had tried to engage him in conversation but all we got out of him were a few random grunts. The only time he'd spoken real words to us on the drive was to ask when we were having lunch. He was surly, distant and rude. I was annoyed.

Zombies and kids. Zombies and kids. There's something there ...

Here's what I know about zombies. They breath and move and take care of their basic survival needs, like eating, but they aren't really living. They don't acknowledge others around them, unless they are being bothered by them. In that case their 'acknowledgement' is harsh, rude and self serving. They are temperamental and spend a lot of time hunting and killing the weak and vulnerable.

Hmmm ... sounds vaguely familiar.

Here's what I know about teens. They are alive but aren't living in our world, for the most part. They spend their days disconnected with real, living people in favour of virtual realities. Their minds are engaged with building virtual worlds, hunting and killing virtual animals, people and even zombies. The bulk of their interactions with the other Unalive is in the form of text shorthand and, more often than not, they are sitting in the same room as them. When you do finally get one of these teen creatures to lift their heads from their devices what you often get is a temperamental, self-serving and rude interaction.

We are living in a zombie apocalypse right now. Only its not some random virus that has claimed our brains ... its technology.

Seriously, think about the last time you were waiting for a table at a restaurant, waiting in a doctor's office or, well, just plain waiting anywhere. What were the other waiting people doing? You can't recall? You probably missed it because you were doing what they were doing. Playing on your phone. Checking emails and text messages. Trying to get to the next level in Candy Crush. You were in your own world. And so was everyone else around you.

What happened to people watching? To having random conversations with strangers? To being okay with having a quiet mind?

I totally get the need to shut your mind off for a while. I enjoy a good round of Candy Crush as much as the next person but what concerns me is that our kids aren't learning the art of conversation. For instance, I was recently having a conversation with a man who teaches Sunday School to a group of junior high boys. He was exasperated because no matter how hard he tries, he can't engage them in conversation. His statement to me was, "I don't even think they know how to talk to each other."

Sad but true.

Technology is great, it is convenient and connects us in ways that we were never able to connect before. But if we're not careful, it can disconnect us in ways that can be so detrimental to our sense of community. We need people. We were created for relationship. And just to be clear, relationship is not a status on your Facebook page.

Relationship is a living breathing thing. It thrives under care, communication and time. It requires face to face human contact. It requires a measure of selflessness. It requires an interest in others. It also requires intention. We need to be intentional about building relationships and teaching our kids how to build relationships. They need to see us interacting with one another, caring about the people in our world and spending time cultivating friendship. They need to see it so that means we have to do it and we need to call their attention to it. We need to pry their Unalive hands off their lifeless devices and engage them in the world around them. We need to wake them up to the wonderful thing that is this life!

We are living in a zombie apocalypse right now but its not too late. We can reclaim the Unalive, whether adult or child. We can teach them how to live again. We can build relationships and waken them to the magnificent thing that is community!

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.
~Albert Einstein

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Broken Pieces

We've been in the process of packing up the kids' rooms to do a little bedroom swap. We've been in this process for a year. Just when we get one kid's room sorted and packed another kid will have started unpacking their room in search of some precious 'lost' item. And in the midst of all the packing and unpacking we've been distracted by vacations and the start of school and the end of school and Christmas and Groundhog Day and lazy Saturdays and busy Wednesdays and all the random chaos life brings. So, its been a year since we've started this process and we still haven't moved one kid or painted one wall.

But still, we're in the process.

Crafty and I have recently started packing up her room ... again. This has required me to step into the Hoarder's Paradise that is her wee den and begin the monumental task of sorting trash from treasure. As we have been tossing scraps of paper and saving assorted glittery bits of girly goodness we have come across tiny bits of broken seashells. The first few I found I threw away but Crafty soon busted me.

"Don't! I need those!"

"Need what?"

"My seashells! They're special to me. They're my collection."

"But these are just the broken pieces, not the whole shells. I won't throw out the whole shells."

"You won't throw out the broken pieces either. They are just as special!"

"But they're broken. You can't even tell what kind of shell they are from and all those sharp edges could hurt someone."

"But they are mine and I can make something new and beautiful out of them."

Well, I couldn't argue with that so as we sorted through her room we began putting the broken pieces in a jar. As we cleaned and sorted her collection of broken pieces grew. The more pieces we added to the jar, the more beautiful her collection became. I didn't notice the sharp edges as much, instead I began to see how the light reflecting off one piece and on to another created the most beautiful shades of pearly pink and watery blue.

We still have a lot of sorting and packing to do in Crafty's room and I'm sure we'll be adding to the collection along the way but it occurred to me, as I looked at the jar of broken pieces, how we are so like those pieces.

Things happen in life, things that chip away at our original shape and beauty. We get hurt and damaged and we end up with a lot of raw, sharp edges and on our own, unprotected we can be dangerous and ugly and seemingly, without value. But all that changes when we are picked up, placed in the protection of a jar and surrounded with other imperfect yet beautiful pieces. We become a collection that reflects and enhances the beauty around us.

Life is messy and people can be unkind but when we choose to live in community with one another anyway, when we choose the risk of relationship over the security of isolation amazing things happen. We gently rub the sharp edges off of each other, we sand down the roughness. We draw out a deeper, richer beauty from each other than we ever possessed alone.

Don't write people off because they're broken. Don't discard them because they are rough around the edges. Don't wait for perfection before you offer friendship ... or accept it. Don't discount your own value because all you see is brokenness.

There is divine beauty in the broken. And there is wholeness to be found in community.

We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That's what connects us--that we're all broken, all beautifully imperfect. 
~Emilio Esteves 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Price of Acceptance

"Why can't adults see what kids do to each other?"

That was Crafty's question after watch the documentary Bully. I had no answer for her. My heart was breaking. We had spent an hour and a half watching a documentary of kids being abused, marginalized and let down by the adults in their world. This was the third time I had watched the documentary but it wasn't getting any easier.

The first time I watched this film I was crying 14 minutes into it. I was devastated by the blatant acts of violence and cruelty kids were committing against each other. I was horrified that the adults in the situations seemed so ill-equipped to deal with what was happening and I was heart broken because I knew that this wasn't a work of fiction, that this was real life for far too many kids, for far too many kids in our own community.

I then watched the film again with Dude and Crafty separately. I wanted to hear their unbiased take on the film and I wanted to give them opportunity to process and talk about the similarities and differences from the film to their own school experiences. 

Dude and I had a lengthy discussion about fear and intimidation. We talked about how being targeted changes who you are and how you see yourself. We also talked about suicide and impulsive, destructive acts that leave a wake of devastation. We talked about what has happened to him this year and reviewed some of the plans we had made to help him get help when he needs it.

When I watched the documentary with Crafty I was surprised at how many of the same scenes that caught Dude's attention also affected her but her perspective was often very different. In one scene a boy is walking through a school yard and another boy comes up to him and punches him. The boy who was punched then follows the one who punched him. When Dude watched that he yelled at the TV, "Don't go, you're not safe!" When Crafty watched she quietly said, "That's the first kid to even notice him, no wonder he followed him."

So when the film finished and Crafty asked why adults don't see what kids do to each other I asked for clarification. I asked her if she felt that the adults in her world don't see when kids are being aggressive and harmful to each other. 

"They see when we hurt each other, like the hitting and kicking and stuff but I don't think they see how kids torture each other with popularity."

Wow. Out of the mouth of babes.

I knew exactly what she meant. We had had many conversations and brainstorming sessions in recent weeks surrounding this very topic. Crafty and her pal Ace are often roadkill on the highway to middle school popularity. They have been run over by peers eager to climb the social ladder, they have jumped on the bus in a desperate attempt to survive only to discover that the bus they were on was taking them further from who they really are and far too many insults and put downs have been flung at them from those racing along in pursuit of their own position of belonging. 

Crafty and I sat for a long time and talked about the price of being accepted, the true cost of inclusion. She said that she wasn't looking to be popular, just accepted for who she is and who her friends are. She doesn't want to be front and centre, she wants to be part of the crowd, just one of the group. But even the price for baseline acceptance can be steep.

She cried as she told me how she has been caught up in gossip, how she has been pressured to abandon her friendship with Ace, how she has behaved in ways that she's not entirely comfortable with just so she can earn a seat at the lunchroom table, literally. His experience has been no different but despite mocking, gossip and cruelty these two pals have stuck it out.

Yesterday, as I watched Ace and Crafty walk off toward his house I marvelled at the resiliency of friendship. These two, like many other independent souls, have walked a hard road this year and yet when they are walking side by side they find an ease in their stride. Their burden is lighter when shared under the banner of acceptance and their hope is strengthened in the safety of unspoken promise to remain loyal pals.

I don't think its enough to teach our kids to be kind to one another. I think we also have to teach them to respect friendship wherever they see it, even if they don't 'get it.' I think they need to understand that being a good friend isn't just about being friendly to the people you like but its about  accepting that everyone desires friendship and the friendship they find should never be a target for ridicule.

But that's just what I think.

If I was king of the United States, I'd make it so there was no popularity. I'd make it where everyone was equal.
~Trey, The Bully Project


for more information about The Bully Project watch this trailer and check out the website mentioned.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

One of the Girls?

I'm an avid podcast watcher/listener. And I'm a little bit crazy.

This combination has lead me to believe, with my whole heart, that given the chance I could be best friends with my favourite chick preachers. I know Charlotte Gambill, Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, Lisa Bevere, Holly Wagner and I would get along great. I'd watch National Geographic lion documentaries with Lisa, my kids could hang out with Priscilla's kids, Holly and I would bond over our inability to sing, Charlotte and I would wander through Nordstroms together and Chris (yes, Chris not Christine, that's how tight we are) and I would spend hours chatting over some Starbucks. Yep, I love these gals and I know that they would love me.

Okay, so I'm slightly mental. But in all seriousness my admiration for these ladies and a whole host of other female powerhouse preachers comes from not only their ability to teach and inspire with their words but by their desire to lead by example. I follow all of these gals on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (okay, now I'm sounding like a stalker, but for serious, I'm harmless) and what has absolutely rocked my world and changed my very heart is seeing how this group of ladies esteems, supports and encourages each other.

On any given day I can click on to any social media site and see this one tweeting about that one's latest book or another one sending words of encouragement to one who is speaking at a conference or a picture of a group of them hanging out together, building friendships. And it inspires me. It makes me jealous for the same kind of friendships in my own life. It challenges me to be that kind of friend.

For years I struggled through my own insecurities. I constantly compared myself to my cousins, acquaintances at church and the 'cool' kids at school. I never, ever measured up. I was tall, dorky, overweight, not musical and any time I spoke in front of people I stuttered. I was inadequate in most every way that mattered by my estimation and this caused me to be very jealous and nasty when it came to recognizing talents in other people.

If someone was beautiful, I knew they were shallow. If someone was musical, I knew they were stuck up. If someone was athletic, I knew they were felt superior. If someone was artistic, I knew they were elitist. And Lord help the person who had similar talents to me! If someone proved crafty with words or could spin a good tale I was downright mean spirited and borderline vicious. I was afraid that their ability, when compared with mine, would further diminish me. So I always went on the attack. My own insecurities stopped me from learning, from growing and most importantly, from having relationship with some very fantastic people.

Its only been in the last couple of years that I have come to understand a truth that is so simple, so clear and yet so easy to miss. I am who I am and no one can add to me or take away from me without my permission. I'm responsible for me. I can either celebrate the strengths in others, and learn from them or I can hoard my own talent away like a miser and wither away in my loneliness. Its just that simple.

Thankfully, I had the God given sense to loosen the grip on my insecurities and start to learn from those around me. I still struggle with feeling less than I should be but I own that. Its all on me. When I feel that way its because I have allowed myself to go down that road. No one pushed me. Sure people say and do jerky things, mostly out of their own insecurities, but I get to choose if and how its going to affect me. I get to choose.

Since opening myself to others I have become a better mother, a better wife, a better writer and a better person. And most definitely, a better friend.  I have come to realized that the gift in someone else does not diminish the gift in me. Just as one candle does not lessen the light from another, it adds to it, making the power of the light multiply.

So, these days I love bragging about my friends. The writers, the singers, the artists, the crafters, the mothers, the volunteers, the teachers, the business people, the actors, the scientists and my fantasy friends (you know, Chris and the gals). I try to seize every opportunity I can to celebrate the magnificent women in my world. I love hearing about their success, I love seeing their great big generous hearts in action, I love basking in the glow of their achievements for what one mighty women accomplishes lights the path for all others to follow.

We are women. We are sisters. We are in this together. Let us learn from each other, let us grow side by side. Let us celebrate all that we are!

Sisterhood: (noun) The relationship between sisters. The feeling of kinship and closeness to a group of women or all women

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Falling in Love with Me

There's a video floating around Facebook that has haunted me since I watched it a couple of days ago. Have a watch and we'll chat on the other side.

The first time I watched this I cried. I cried because I know how painful it would be for me to sit down and describe my appearance to a stranger. My appearance is something I don't like to think about. I look in the mirror each morning to tame my bed head and to do my best to combat the dark circles under my eyes and that's it. I try not to think about how I look and yet I do. Often.

I cringe whenever a camera is pointed at me. I am self conscious any time I have to stand alongside other women. I hide behind my kids, behind my husband, behind anything I can get my hands on every chance I get. The only part of my body that I can honestly say that I love is my scars. My ugly scars are my medals of honour for surviving the battle for my life and that makes them beautiful. Everything else? Blah.

So I watched the video for the first time and cried. I watched it for the second time and cried again.

This time my tears ran for my daughter, for her friends, for my mother, my sister, my friends. I cried for every woman I know because there is not one that who could confidently and honestly say that they love their appearance in its entirety, that they accept themselves and love themselves just as they are. I cried for all of us who have believed the lie that we are less than we should be.

So I watched the video for a third time and I cried again.

This time I cried for the confusion of our husbands, for the sadness of our fathers and for the bewilderment of our friends. And I cried for the broken heart of our Creator. To these, we are perfect and lovely and acceptable. To these we are all that we should be, lacking in nothing. To these we are precious. So why can't we be these wonderful things for ourselves?

Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why to we shrug off compliments? Why do we steel ourselves with a false sense of confidence instead of allowing real confidence to grow? Why are we so unkind to the person who needs our kindness the most? Why have we bought into the lie of inadequacy?

My beautiful, magnificent friends ... when I look at you I don't see age spots, freckles, moles, stretch marks or double chins. I see everything good and nothing lacking. I see your courageous heart, your glorious smile, your fearless love and your indescribable strength. When I look at you I see creativity, wisdom and power. When I look at you, I see beauty, grace and joy. When I look at you I see every perfect thing in your heart shining through your eyes, pouring out of your smile, spilling out of every pore. I see the history of your love and courage written in perfect script across your very being and it is beautiful.

So I watched the video for a fourth time. This time there were no tears. This time I made a promise to myself. This time I whispered an impromptu pledge to my own heart.

I will be kinder than necessary. I will allow the truth of who I am to reflect from those who love me most into my very heart. I will extend grace to this magnificent body that has comforted  friends in need, brought life to my children, felt the love of my husband and returned that same depth of love to him, carried me through illness, heartache, joy and triumph. I will celebrate who I am, all that I am and I will love me, every bit of me, better each day.


Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them.
~David Hume

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Changing the Culture

"What do you think is the main difference between our culture and American culture?"

Mr. Awesome unknowingly asked the question at almost the exact hour that the bombings occurred in Boston yesterday. We were out running errands and discussing a familiar topic; kids. We are working on a community project that will affect all the kids in our community in a positive way ... hopefully. After a lag in the conversation Mr. Awesome posed that question and my answer was immediate.


We have often discussed the different vibe each culture puts off, the reputations each country has internationally and the top priorities of each citizenship as topics play out in the media.  When you turn on Canadian news the lead stories are often about policy, political agendas and environmental concerns. In The States lead stories are almost always crime reports, violent crime reports with high death tolls and gruesome details. And the slant on the reporting, in my opinion, fuel fear. And out of fear comes isolation, people pull away from each other and begin to fear the unknown, fear what is different. They begin to fear each other.

Violent crimes happen in Canada. Natural disasters, horrible highway collisions and freak accidents all happen in Canada and they are often reported in the news but somehow the same measure of fear is not infused into the reporting and therefore is not part of our cultural tone. Or because fear isn't part of our cultural tone, its not accepted in our reporting? Either way, Canadians, by and large, do not operate from a basis of fear. Its just not how we roll.

For instance, take a look at this picture

Both images are from The Huffington Post. Both are from today. Can you guess which one is from the Canadian coverage and which is from the American? The Canadian coverage, on the top, makes a declaration of the future. The American coverage, below, seems stuck in the moment of devastation. The Canadian cover quotes the Mayor of Boston's declaration of community. The American cover doesn't. Which would you choose to focus on?

I have many American friends, some of whom are authors. I know them to be kind hearted, hopeful and loving people and most of them have used their fame and success to advocate kindness and humanity. Most of them are involved in their communities and they spend their time and influence on social media to spread messages of hope, peace and acceptance. One author friend is very involved with animal rescue, another is planning an anti-bullying conference (Less Than Three) and still another has taken her voice into prisons to help women rehabilitate and reconnect with their children. They could have chosen to let fear keep them in the prison of their own experiences but they chose to be beacons of hope where they are with what they have. They have stepped beyond their fear and into community.

Bad things are going to happen. Fear is going to creep around the edges of our mind, looking for a weakness but we have a choice. We can indulge our fears and build barriers that will keep us prisoners to our fear or we can declare that in the face of fear there is hope. We can isolate ourselves or we can embrace our neighbour and face our fears together, as a community. We can hide alone or we can borrow strength from each other.

Here's another picture to ponder ...

No matter where you live, what culture you are from or what your natural tendencies are, you can always choose hope. You can always choose light over darkness. You can always choose to be a Helper instead of a victim. You can always choose community over lonliness. You can always choose.

No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster.
~Dalai Lama XIV

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Evolution of a Superhero

Last night we had dinner with friends. Over the course of the evening the story of us, Mr. Awesome and I, came tumbling out. I love sharing our story because its unique and quirky and beautiful. Mr. Awesome feels a little awkward sharing our story because of the weird looks and general confusion that follows our opening line, "We never dated."

Its true. The condensed version of This Random Love Story is that Mr. Awesome and I met, became friends, became best friends then I moved three provinces away for school. When I had been gone for about three weeks he called me and said, "I think you should come home and we should get married."

I hung up the phone.

He called back. A month later I was on a plane heading home, we got engaged at the airport and eight months later we were married. Now, 16 years later we are married with three Wee Wonders. We are truly, madly, deeply in love with each other. We are partners in every sense of the word. He is first and still my best friend.

And he is a superhero.

I started calling him 'Mr. Awesome' one day when he was being anything but awesome. It was during my dark period. Sarcasm and snark were my crutches. I had been battered by Life for a couple of years. We had lost two babies, our house was falling down around us, I had some weird medical things going on and Mr. Awesome was recovering from brain damage after a fall off our roof. We were a mess. I was depressed and angry and nothing, NOTHING he did was right. So in a fit of sarcasm I called him 'Mr. Awesome.'

And then I called him that again and again. And then I called him 'Mr. Awesome' without any sarcasm in my tone. And then the weirdest thing started to happen, he started becoming awesome. For serious! Or he was awesome the whole time and I just didn't recognize it for what it was. Kind of like the chicken and the egg. Either way, he was awesome and I was calling it like I was seeing it.

Its been about 5 years since I first called him Mr. Awesome and this has been the best 5 years of our marriage. Coincidence? I don't think so. When I started focusing on the best parts of my partner, on the best parts of our life together my depression and anger began to lift. I no longer needed sarcasm and snark as my crutches. Instead I enveloped myself with joy and thankfulness for This One Life I get to live and This One Life became amazing.

Clearly, life still has challenges. I still had cancer and went through treatment. Mr. Awesome still does things that annoy me. My kids still disobey. I still make mistakes and disappoint people. Life still happens but I choose to celebrate the good and walk through the bad with as much grace and dignity as I can.

Seeing my life and the transformation that has occurred in each one of us when we chose to focus on the good and call what isn't as though it were has inspired me to carry this idea beyond This Random House. I have tried to look past the irritating behaviours of people in my world and focus on their strengths. I have tried to see beyond who they are to who they could be, who they want to be and you know what? My world is full of superheroes!

These capeless wonders are walking the halls of my schools, driving the streets of my town, sitting in the pews of my church. Magnificent people with joy and hope and kindness are everywhere!  People capable of super human feats of grace, generosity and forgiveness are everywhere I look. They are resilient, they are strong, they are beautiful ... but they are hidden in their everyday humanness.

You have to look through grace to see them, but they're there.

And so am I.

“Don't go on discussing what a good person should be. Just be one.”
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

Friday, April 12, 2013

Stop Being Nice

I often joke that Mr. Awesome is nicer than I am. What I really mean is that he is more patient, more compassionate and more accepting than I am. But he's not nice. No joke.

The idea of 'niceness' is one that has pestered me for a long time. It seemed just off of what we should be but I couldn't ever put my finger on exactly why nice was wrong. So I started studying 'nice'. I read a few books on being nice, I studied people who others said were nice. I questioned myself whenever I was being nice. Then I went to my two favourite books; Webster's Dictionary and The Bible.

Here's what Webster's had to say; Nice means agreeable, polite and appropriate. It also means coy and trivial.

Here's what the Bible had to say; "Sorry, we didn't find any results for your search." The word 'nice' doesn't appear in The Bible. At all.

Instead, my Bible search engines kept redirecting me to another word. Kind. There were dozens of Bible verses that spoke of being kind. I looked that word up in Webster's. Here's what it had to say; Kind means having a sympathetic and helpful nature or acting from a thoughtful, gentle or attentive character. It also means loving.

So why wouldn't the Bible have any references to being nice? Nice is nice, isn't it? Not really. Nice is about appearance. Kind is about the heart. Nice is surface. Kind goes deep. Nice can cover your true feelings. Kind changes your perspective.

See the difference?

What if we stopped appearing 'okay' and we really started being okay? What if we stopped behaving right and tuned our hearts into living right, loving right? What if we went deeper than surface Christianese and good citizenship and really became all the good stuff we are capable of becoming?

What if?

What kind of world would we live in then?

I wonder ...

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another ...
Ephesians 4:32

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hug Me!

There is a change occurring. Something I never would have predicted and something I certainly didn't seek out. This change isn't sudden, its been creeping up on me for a while but I didn't take notice. I didn't acknowledge it for what it was. I explained it away based on circumstance and who was involved but there's no denying it now. I've outed myself in front of my friends too often for trite explanations to cover for me. And last Sunday, as I stood in front of my friend who I had just surprised by this change, I knew the transformation was complete.

I am. I have become. A Hugger.

I've never enjoyed outward displays of affection. My parents didn't hug me a lot as a kid. Not because they didn't love me or didn't want to but because I would stiffen like a board and squirm awkwardly until they released me. I've always know this is hard for my mom in particular because she is a hugger so as I matured I tried to initiate hugs more often. I don't think even that effort was much of a success.

When Mr. Awesome and I got together I realized that if this marriage thing was going to work I probably shouldn't cringe every time he tried to hug me. Gradually I got used to his huggy nature and eventually I came to enjoy his hugs ... on a limited basis.

Then came Dude. And Crafty. And Mischief. Then I understood what it was like to want to hug and be hugged. I couldn't get enough of those pudgy baby arms, those sticky toddler embraces, those awkward teen squeezes. With my kids I am a hard core hugger and I grab them every chance I get ... whether they're into it or not.

I have had friends who have spent a lot of time breaking the hug barrier. These pals have been patient and understanding and have put up with my crazy very well. They have hugged me through many of my darkest days and I have always felt safe and accepted in their embrace but I always thought that that  sense of safety had everything to do with who they were and nothing to do with the hug itself.

During the past year I have come to understand something that I previously had thought was only true for maternal affection and those chosen few hugger pals; hugs have power where words fail. Hugs transfer strength and hope. Hugs surround and protect. Hugs break down barriers. Hugs build connection. Hugs bring hearts together, physically and emotionally.

Many times during my cancer battle, it was a hug that spoke to my soul much louder than words. It was feeling the strength and warmth of those who cared about me so close that community became a tangible thing that carried me through. It was literally being embraced by my friends and neighbours that finally made me feel connected to them.

National Hug day is traditionally in January but I'm declaring today National New Huggers Day.  Hug someone today. Communicate community, friendship and acceptance through a quick squeeze. Pull down your barriers and let someone feel the power of your heartbeat. Overcome your awkwardness to give someone else your strength.

Millions and millions of years would still not give me half enough time to describe that tiny instant of all eternity when you put your arms around me and I put my arms around you.  ~Jacques PrĂ©vert

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

50 Shades of Blue

Today is World Autism Awareness Day!

Truth be told, everyday seems like world autism awareness day in our house because everyday our world revolves around the awareness of the needs our kids with Autism have. But today we celebrate. Today we love all that Autism has brought to our world. Today we are loud and proud that, in our world, Autism is not a disability but a different ability. That's our world.

When I talk with people about Autism I usually hear one of two stereotypes. Either the image of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, a socially awkward genius, comes to mind or I hear stories about how someone had an unpleasant experience in a restaurant or movie theatre because of a non-verbal yet extremely disruptive social misfit. While both can be true of people with Autism there are a million shades of blue in between and that's where most people living with Autism reside.

Autism, in all its forms, is a spectrum disorder, meaning that there is a large umbrella that covers a variety of symptoms and characteristics. No two people with Autism are the same ... just as no two people are the same. What is true for Dude rarely applies to Crafty but they both are 'on The Spectrum.' And while Dude and his best buddy Kent both have Asperger's Syndrome, both have excellent memories and both love Lego they couldn't be more different in other ways.

I think that today, of all days, as we celebrate people with Autism and all that they are, we need to understand that before the disorder, before the symptoms and challenges, before the stereotypes that they are above all else, individuals. Each person with Autism is a person. They are more than surface behaviour, quirks and ticks. Each person with Autism has gifts, talent and abilities. They have the capacity to love and be loved. They have emotions and feelings, even if they can't always express them appropriately. They have beauty and light and life. They have endless potential.

This video shows some of the challenges, hope and diversity of people with Autism ...

Blue is the traditional colour for Autism Awareness and today, World Autism Awareness Day, people across the globe are donning the blue in support of people with Autism and so are we.

Dude has been having a rough year at school. He has been the target of bullies because of his 'disability' and there are days that he feels worthless and hopeless. We, as a family, are working to help him see the positives, to work towards success and to surround him with people who respect and value him. In an effort to lift his spirits today I'm asking people to take a picture of themselves, in blue, and post it to Twitter or Instagram with the tag #BlueforGavin. Its my plan to show him the pictures when he get home from school today so that he can see that he, and kids like him, have value and are loved and respected, too.


What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.
~Temple Grandin

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Art of Communication

What image comes to mind when you think of 'art'? Do you see a Monet or Di Vinci? A painting or a sculpture? Whatever the piece is, I'm sure its the beautiful, breath taking finished product that's in your mind's eye and not the chaotic artist's studio that the work of art came out of. Communication, especially communication in marriage, is very similar.

Mr. Awesome and I receive comments and compliments on our teamwork all the time. People see us respecting each other, valuing each other's opinions and supporting each other. What they don't see is the chaos that has lead up to the harmony, the hours of hashing things out so that we can be a team, the endless conversations that frame our respect. Last night, we stepped into the artist's studio, we made a mess but this morning we were able to enjoy our latest masterpiece.

That sounds so poetic and constructive and lovely, how I said that just now, but the truth is we had a heated discussion. An intense fellowship. A forceful conversation.


We argued.

Yes, its true ... This Random Mother and Mr. Awesome still argue. We often disagree and we don't always keep our cool during those times and last night was one where we broke all the rules, or very nearly broke all the rules.

During our first year of marriage we went to marriage counselling and a large part of the time we spent there was dedicated to learning how to communicate with each other and how to disagree with each other. We were given a few simple rules about how to argue and live to love another day. Over the last 15 years we've added to these rules from our own life experience and now we have some set boundaries on how to work out disagreements. This works for us. Usually. When we follow the rules.

It took us a while but we did get back on track last night and we were able to go to bed without anger and with a better understanding of what we each need from each other. The turning point in our argument was when we both started remembering the rules and returned to 'fighting fair'. So, if this helps someone, awesome, if not ... just chalk this up to more ramblings of a random woman. But here it goes ...

Rules of The Artist's Studio (aka How to Fight Fair)

1. Don't dive in after dark. We try very hard to stick to this one. We have realized over the years that nothing good comes out of bringing up an emotionally charged issue after a long day of working, parenting and spousing. Rarely is an emotional issue urgent, its usually something that pops up in your marriage time and again so its safest to table these issues to when both partners are not exhausted and more apt to say something less than constructive.

I get this is a tough one when you have kids because you're never alone until they're in bed but here's a few tips we've done through the years to stick to this rule. We call an 'Out of Bounds,' which is basically a grown up time out. We let the kids watch TV or a movie and we go to our room to talk. We also schedule lunches together while the kids are at school or for several years we had a standing 90 minute date once a week at the neighbourhood Starbucks. However you do it, carve out purposeful time when both people are alert and ready. Bedtime is not the time for heavy conversation.

2. Stay on topic. Admittedly, I have a hard time with this one because in my mind one thing leads into another and another but before you go off chasing rabbits to make your point remember what the issue is in this moment and stick to it. I've discovered that once I go off topic and start grasping at straws to build my case I make it nearly impossible to find common ground again. We have a saying in our house, "We all can't go to Crazytown, someone has to stay behind to show us the way back!" and I assure you, straying off topic during an argument is the first step toward Crazytown!

3. Know Your Purpose. Why are you arguing?

Do you genuinely disagree on a certain topic or incident or are you just being cranky and argumentative? Be honest.

Are you having this discussion to put your partner in their place, to prove how wrong they are or are you trying to communicate your perspective and your needs? Be honest.

Are you fighting to win or are you striving to make your relationship better, stronger, healthier? Be honest.

If you are just being cranky, are trying to put your partner in their place or are just plain going for the win stop talking. Exhale. Apologize. Move on.

If you genuinely disagree, are attempting to communicate your needs or are trying to improve communication in your relationship  stop talking and ask yourself if what you are saying is honest, respectful, necessary and affirming. If the answer is yes, then make sure your tone is communicating as loudly as your words. If the answer is no then revisit the purpose question.

4. Fight the flight. Maybe its just me, but whenever Mr. Awesome and I really get into it I would rather sleep on the floor of the garage than next to him and the very last thing I want to do is make gentle physical contact with him but this rule is an absolute for us. We do not sleep apart out of anger and if things are really getting emotional then one of us has to be the bigger person and reach out to the other. Hold a hand, rub a shoulder, something to bridge the gap.

We have found that if we reach out to each other physically during an argument that the whole situation deescalates. There is healing power in physical touch, there is an instant reminder of safety, friendship and family when your partner reaches out to hold your hand even though you're angry. Try it. Seriously.

5. Choose your weapons carefully. Words have power so we have a strict no name calling, no personal jabs, no tear down rule when we are in conflict. Absolutely none. Not ever. We're grown ups and like it or not we have to act like it. Even when we're mad.

So last night, things went off the rails for a while but in the end we remembered the rules, we remembered that we really do love each other, respect each other and want to create art with our lives. And like I said, art is created in the middle of mess and chaos but the artist always has the finished product in mind

So do I. And So does Mr. Awesome.

A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers. -Ruth Bell Graham

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Living a 'Whatever' Life

What's the standard you live by? Not the right words you say when asked random questions like this one but the real honest to goodness, walk it out every day in every way, standard you live your life by? What factors in when you make decisions? What words come flying out of your mouth in an emotionally charged moment? What influences your behaviour?

We've been talking to Dude about this topic a lot lately. We've been working on having him understand the importance of taking responsibility for his actions and decisions. It hasn't been easy; not to communicate and certainly not to enact, but we're finding our way.

This week our 52 Weeks of Giving Challenge (yes we're still doing them, even though I've not been writing about them) focuses on respect. The challenge is to learn about respect, what it is, what it looks like and how it feels to be respected and disrespected. Interesting one, considering what's been going on the last couple of weeks.

I've been struggling with how to set the parameters of respect for our kids. I don't want a list of rules for them to follow, I want them to understand  respect. This morning I found a thread that will, hopefully, begin to weave together the big picture of respect.

Every Tuesday morning I lead devotionals at Dude and Crafty's school. Several parents in the community take turns each week leading the kids in a five minute Bible focus before they start their day. Its voluntary and we do it before class starts.

So this morning, as I was walking into the school to get ready for devotions, I stumbled into the middle of a student exchange that exemplified disrespect. Honestly, I wanted to keep walking, as if I didn't hear what was said, but I couldn't. I was the adult on the scene. I had to respond. So I did.

With this incident fresh on my mind, I walked into the library and looked into the thirty eager faces waiting for my words of wisdom. The only thought I had was, "I got nothing for you." That's when the thread appeared.

I asked the kids to think of the words that are their 'go to' insults, the first thing that comes to mind when they are mad, put down, humiliated. Now, is that insult true? Is it noble? Is it just? Is it pure? Is it lovely? Is it good? Is it virtuous? Is it praiseworthy? Probably not. Yet, its what comes out of us first when we're under pressure. I'm guilty of this too. I have my favourite quasi swears and ripping zingers. I have a list of things that run through my mind when I'm under pressure and I can tell you, none of them are just, pure or noble.

But what if we retrained our brain? What if we decided to set our standard high? What if we only spoke words that were true and noble, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous and praiseworthy? What if we operated our lives in relation to a standard of respect. Because that's all this is, really. Its the idea of respecting yourself and others enough to only build up and never tear down. To only encourage and never humiliate. To only extend grace and never judgement. To only bring peace and never harm.

Crazy idea, eh?

But what if? What if we lived a Whatever Life? What if?

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and f there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do and the God of peace will be with you.
~Philippians 4:8 & 9

Friday, March 8, 2013

Crime; Boy, I Don't Know.

I could home school. Or maybe we could look at private school? No, homeschooling would be better. Maybe we should move? To the neighbouring town? Back to the city? Out of province? Out of country???

This has been the spinning top in the back of my mind for the last week. I'm not sure what the right answer is but right now, the way things are, the current set up isn't working. As things are, I'm sending my kid into a hostile atmosphere with a gaping wound. He is in so much pain that even when people accidentally touch his 'wound' or intentionally touch it to treat it he lashes out. And don't even get me started on the ones who inflicted the wound in the first place.

Dude has had one heck of a year so far and he just can't seem to catch a break anywhere. The year started off a little rocky. Mr. Awesome and I had concerns about his program and classroom right from the start of the year. Then, two months into the year The Incident happened (can't get into it for a number of reasons but suffice it to say, those who know the details can't believe the year we've had!) and we had Dude transferred out of his homeroom.

In the midst of the upset that comes from taking a kid with Asperger's, who thrives on routine, hates change and can't understand social subtleties, and switching classrooms, peers, routines and teachers on him, he was/is dealing with being a target of some very malicious behaviour. So, what we have now is a boy who is confused, angry, hurt and full of distrust walking through the halls of a middle school (which is not the most nurturing atmosphere at the best of times. Seriously, how warm and fuzzy was your grade seven experience?) totally on edge and freaking out on people in a huge way for what seems a minor offence.

I've had a total of nine hours of conversation, since Monday, with different administrators in our school and school division about Dude, the school culture, school division policy on bullying and how it actually plays out day to day. We've talked big picture and we've talked minute detail.

The West Wing is one of my all time favourite shows (no, this isn't a rabbit I'm chasing, this ties in, I promise). In one episode President Bartlett is talking to his political opponent. Bartlett is informing his opponent of the murder of a secret service agent in a violent gun attack. His opponent's reply? "Crime. Boy, I don't know." Bartlett looks at the guy like he's on crack and then sets out to annihilate him in the election.

During my conversations this week and for the past two and a half years I've been working with the schools in my area, I've had a lot of "Crime. Boy, I don't know" moments. As adults, we sit around and lament about the state of our kids, of our schools and of our communities but we don't actually do anything about it. Or if we do try to do something, its not enough and falls short of real change.

I'm tired of lamenting. I'm tired of talking and frankly, I'm afraid of what will happen in our schools, in our community, if things continue this way. Suicide? School shooting? Who knows, but it shouldn't have to get to that before we, the adults, set a new course for our kids.

Now, before you think I live in a war zone and my kids' schools are hotbeds of violent activity, you should know that I live in a beautiful small city with schools that are filled with caring and committed staff and compassionate and connected students. There is a lot of good, a lot to be celebrated. But there is also  a lot of room for improvement. We need to do better for our kids, we need to require more.

We can't wail and bemoan the lack of moral fibre in our kids and then go on our way. Illuminating the problem isn't enough. We have to do more.

So I am. I am going to do more. To be more. To expect more.

I promise because, "Crime. Boy, I don't know," is not an answer.

Knowing what's right doesn't mean much unless you do what's right.
~Theodore Roosevelt 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Easy Target

This past Wednesday was National Anti-bullying Day or Pink T-shirt Day. A few years back, in Nova Scotia, a boy was bullied at school for wearing a pink t-shirt. The next day 50 kids showed up wearing pink in support of anti-bullying. Since then, schools all across Canada have participated in this anti-bullying movement.

But on Wednesday we weren't celebrating a day of unity against bullying, we were grieving the injustice of being made a victim.

All year Dude has been a target of harassment. I wrote a while back about how he worked to resolve issues with one boy and I wish I could say that that was the end of that kind of treatment for my boy, but it wasn't. Another group of boys have been targeting him since the start of the school year and on Wednesday everything came to a head.

The ring leader sent Dude on a wild goose chase through the school and then sat back and laughed as Dude became completely undone. By the time an adult was made aware of what was going on Dude was humiliated, angry, exhausted and heart broken. He had a meltdown that was anything but funny.

When the ring leader of this stunt was asked by the principal why he was targeting Dude, he said, "His disability makes it so easy."

Those words have been echoing in my mind since I spoke to the vice-principal yesterday. My heart is broken for my boy and I am filled with anger and frustration at the whole situation. While I was muddling through my day I cam across this blog post in The Huffington Post. As I read Marc and Craig Kielburger's words all the pieces came together.

I had heard kids at Dude's school talking about how funny Seth Macfarlance was during The Oscars, well overheard actually. On Tuesday I was in the school because Crafty was too afraid of being bullied to walk down to her class by herself so I walked with her. As we walked down the hall I heard grade five and six students relaying jokes of a racial and sexual nature, all from the Macfarlane's Sunday night performance. I was bothered by what passed as entertainment these days but I was also too caught up in my own moment to put much more thought into it but today, today I had time to think.

Celebrities make a very profitable living from saying exactly the kinds of things we're trying to get kids to stop saying to each other.

From all accounts, Macfarlane went for the easy laugh. He targeted people based on their weight, ethnicity and sexual preferences. He made light of domestic violence. He went for the shock factor and received a lot of uncomfortable laughter for his efforts. He went for the easy laugh and was rewarded with high ratings.

So if this is the standard of entertainment why wouldn't a 13 year old kid target the kid with autism. Its just an easy laugh, isn't it? If a comedian can get a gig based on his ability to mock an incident of domestic violence why shouldn't a girl get mocked at school because her mother came into her room in the middle of the night and cut her hair off and then beat her? If its funny to comment on a singer's weight at an awards show then why wouldn't it be funny for one 10 year old boy to tell another ten year old boy that he's so fat he has boobs? Its all just an easy laugh right?

Folks, we're the adults. Its up to us to set the example and lead the way. We need to expect more from each other, from ourselves so that we can teach our children to be better. We need to stop going for the easy laugh, to stop laughing in our discomfort. We need need to start speaking up. Everyday should be a Pink Shirt Day for us. Everyday we should speak up for what is right and stand against what is wrong.

And by the way, the girl whose hair was cut and the boy who's told he has boobs are two spectacular kids that we know. Two brilliant, loving, hilarious, full-of-potential kids and they are anything but easy targets.

The change starts within each one of us. And ends only when all children are free to be children.
~Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Day for All

"Its a kissing day."

That was Mischief's response when I asked him about Valentine's Day.

"What if you don't have anyone to kiss?" I asked.

"Then you're lucky. Kissing is gross. And weird. And germy," replied Crafty. (keep thinking that for at least 50 years, Girl!)

Valentine's Day has long been a point of irritation for me and I have ranted on several occasions about it (here in 2012 and here in 2011) and this year is no different. It irks me that once a year people are left hoping, expecting, wishing and lamenting about their love life because some marketing genius decided that love is a hot commodity. Once a year, women fret about whether their lover (if they even have one) is going to love them to their set expectations and men sweat it out in jewellery stores and flower shops, spending scads of cash in hopes of reinforcing their affection. Ridiculous!

A friend recently said it perfectly, "If you need Valentine's Day to remind you to love your loved one, you've got problems no chocolate heart will ever fix!"

So its with that thought in mind, as I bask in the security of Mr. Awesome's love all 365 days this year, that we are preparing to celebrate our 12th annual Family Love Day. The streamers are hung, the love notes are written and the red food colouring has been bought. In the morning, the kids will wake to a red and white kitchen, strewn with hearts and ample opportunity to express, to each other, just how awesome it is to be part of This Random Family.

Aside from all the Family Love this year, we've been talking to our kids about finding a way to love those who are tough to love. As part of our 52 Weeks of Giving Challenge the kids have been praying for their own personal Unlovelies but today, Dude of all people, put that love into action.

Since the beginning of the school year Dude has been having a tough time with this kid, David. Dude and David have clashed on nearly a daily basis with things coming to a head last week when David took a swing at Dude and Dude gave David a swift boot. After that incident we talked several times about being a peacemaker and finding a better way to express anger. Even after talking with me, the vice-principal and the guidance councillor I didn't think we were making much headway ... until today.

Today, Dude came running out of the school at the end of the day. As he jumped into the jeep he flashed me a huge grin and declared, "I did it!"

"Did what?" I asked.

"I talked with David and we've decided to be friends."


"Yeah. We talked and I agreed to not threaten him and he agreed to not say everything that comes into his brain. And absolutely no more punching and kicking. We went around and told all the important teachers."

I didn't want to badger him, so I just congratulated him on making a good choice and being a peacemaker. I'm dying to ask him how and why and when and who helped and a million other things but I won't. My prayer for my kids is always that they will take the lessons we try to teach and the conversations we have and make them their own, find a way to live them out in their world. Because of that, I'll just have to settle for not knowing the details and just celebrate the moment with my beautiful, compassionate, growing boy!

Tomorrow, however you choose to celebrate, be sure to love an Unlovely or a Lonely or a Random Stranger. Give your smile freely. Offer words of encouragement. Notice people, really, really see them. And love lavishly!

"Life is messy. Love is messier." – Catch and Release