Friday, 2 April 2021

Superstar

It's Easter weekend, in the blurry sometime between today and tomorrow.

I went to church this morning with my family and listened as the story of Jesus' last hours was told. I have done this, as far as I know, every Good Friday of my thirty-two years. The tradition of my current home church (for I am one of those folks who steps over the threshold of a sanctuary on the regular) is to dim the lights of the auditorium as the narrative unfolds, descending into darkness the closer we get to the cross. In years past we have left the service in an almost complete black-out, and while it sounds (and is) a bit dramatic, there is something powerful when your senses, as well as your imagination, can react to the telling of a tale.

Tonight, while cutting out pieces of fabric to sew up some more face masks, I watched the 2012 revival version of Jesus Christ Superstar on YouTube. The musical is a secular (non-Christian) retelling of the biblical account of the long weekend that happened two millennia ago, now causing even Walmart to take a few days off. In an interview about the show, Tim Minchin (who played Judas) insightfully summarizes that "the whole musical asks the question -- and does not answer the question -- of whether there is a God, and whether Jesus was the son of this God." It concludes with the burial of Christ. He is crucified and laid to rest, and then the house lights come up and everyone takes a bow. They leave him dead.

And for most of the world, that's the end of the story. Many are happy to accept that he was a historical figure who really lived, really taught, really flipped a table in the Temple, and maybe even performed miracles before being executed. And that's where the majority leave him, like the musical, dead and buried.

I'll be going back to church on Sunday morning. I decided a long time ago to accept the Bible's epilogue to the story of the cross. And I also decide to believe the truth of Scripture every time its story or my worldview is challenged -- which is frequently.

Maybe Easter is a good time to let your worldview be challenged. If Sunday comes and goes and he's still dead, by all means, applaud with the rest of the satisfied Superstar crowd. Let me just tell you, though, from the seat I'm in? The encore is a good one.

Friday, 25 September 2020

Whole Cloth

 A little bit of skill employed regularly over the course of many years can give off the impression of talent, even when exceptionality is never really achieved. So much of what I do falls into this category of "mediocre expertise," especially my sewing. 

In grade eight I was gifted sewing lessons under the tutelage of a local seamstress, and with an immense amount of her help and patient instruction, I made my own grad dress: a floor-length, spaghetti-strap, glitter-covered masterpiece that I wore many, many times after that glorious first event. From there, I have employed very basic sewing machine skills to make and mend all kinds of things, from simple hemming of pants to furry werewolf costumes. 

Recently though, I'm been cloning my clothes.

This project started about a month ago when I realized that I enjoyed wearing exactly one of my tops. With a little help from YouTube, I built myself a wrapping paper pattern and have made three or four identical garments so far, all giant sweaters that go so well with a pair of oversized glasses and my fave leggings (that I have five pairs of, in different colours). It's like a uniform . . . for . . . parenting. Yep. Going with that. 

I really enjoy the process of turning thrifted blankets and two-yard stretches of fabric into clothing. It feels properly creative, like a minor echo of the moment in Genesis when God took the "earth without form, and void" and made the universe from whole cloth. Monumental potential exists in the time before an action is taken. How long did the LORD wait before He "let there be light," I wonder? An eternity, I suppose, thinking through all of the histories that could have been, if ours was not begun. Fiction can take us to some of the "if" places, but the imagination of God is definitionally infinitely greater than ours, and I find that wild notion so inspiring. Even with all the variables that exist in a day in the life of any person here on earth -- there are a million million things that could have been otherwise -- and yet He chose this. Why? Why was this world and this timeline His favourite option? There are endless mental corridors to meader through down this line of thinking. 

Unlike the fabric of all time and space, two yards of material has a limited potential, but even such a finite resource can still yeild to many plans. A pair of scissors, a spool of thread, a few hours, an idea, and generally an audiobook: my favourite way to spend an evening alone. I have three more blankets waiting in the wings for their chance to stretch out on my drafting / dining table. What will they become? More sweaters? Another sack for toys? Sitting in the potential, for now. Hopefully not for an eternity.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

March

The pandemic has done something strange to the experience of passing time. It feels a bit like we've been launched into orbit, and memories float weightlessly, somehow untethered to a chronological timeline. It's been such an Alice in Wonderland season of history -- curiouser and curiouser. 

According to my calendar, it's been a month since I rode my bike to Dundurn Castle and walked the street to City Hall with roughly two hundred fellow protesters. The March for Black Lives and similar demonstrations held elsewhere have given me much to reflect upon in recent weeks.

"Elsewhere" feels so close at hand these days, doesn't it? 

Two thoughts from that afternoon have been loudest in the echoes that still reverberate regularly through my conscious mind. Both concern the police.

The gathering place for protesters was on the grounds of the Castle that face York Boulevard -- a patch of grass on the city-side of their parking lot. Across the road from the banner-carrying, mask-wearing throng of people were a few hovering police cruisers. They were quietly surveying the crowd. They were watchful. They were standing in a graveyard. 

Four lanes of no-man's-land separated the marchers and the police: Black Lives Matter on one side, cops and graves on the other.

I cannot get this picture out of my head. It's too profound. Too summative. 

At 2:30pm the drums started and a small team of Indigenous dancers in traditional regalia stepped out into the street. The police cruisers turned on their lights and the constables came out of the cars. The call-and-response began quickly and chanting never let up.

"No justice, no peace! No racist police!"
"Say their names! The list is too long."
"Defund the police!" 
"I can't breathe."


The police stepped into the street, too. The cruisers moved into place, forming a formidable blockade. The police officers stood in the road with arms raised in a clear signal to stop. As protestors moved past them with shouts to strip them of significant public support, the cops stopped traffic. They were there to protect us, not to arrest us. The police shut down the road so that we could march against them safely. 

The internal tension those officers must have been carrying did not show on their faces. every pair of eyes I looked into was attentive without anger. There is so much to learn about, to discuss, and to feel in this (perhaps too recently) race-conscious cultural movement. This post is only a skim of what I've been wrestling though on the topic, but I wanted to write something down if only to pinpoint where I am right now.

The rallying cries are still loud in the air. 
I'm listening,

Monday, 27 April 2020

Window Pain

It has become a season for watching.

My toddler and I have spent hours staring out the front window of our house, counting the squirrels and starlings and stray cats. He waves frantically at dog-walking neighbours, and has made fast friends with the garbage men and our mail carrier — but their appearances, though diverting, are tragically brief. He stays at the window long after they have waved good-bye and gone, hoping another friendly face will soon wander our way.

Our home has other portals through which we interact with the world beyond our walls. Video chats with faraway friends and family have become the core of our social diet, and these calls are sustaining and even reviving many important relationships. We spend hours staring through the thin panes of glass that collapse hundreds of kilometres into millimetres of distance and we feel closer to our loved ones than we are in reality... but it’s still a window.

We miss hugs. We miss the helpers who love our child and desperately want to scoop him up and offer us a little parenting relief. We miss grandparents and babysitters and beloved neighbours and aunties and church folk and our village! They are all so willing and so helpless to help us from the other side of these painful sheets of glass.

Our home is a good place. In so many ways we are blessed and safe, and life now resembles in many ways our life as it was pre-pandemic. Our baby boy has both Mum and Dad in the house, and there is love, and food, and play, yet we stand at the windows and yearn for away. Other places, other faces, other things to have and do. We escape our home at the windows of our imaginations, longing for lost access to both sides of the glass that has suddenly walled us in like an aquarium.

But I'm trying to redirect my gaze. It takes an effort of will to focus my heart on the precious inside things my attention has slipped from. Have you noticed, for example, how many different fabric textures exist in one load of laundry? Have you recently revelled in the beauty of a halved red onion? Small things, I know, but I want to swap out the metaphorical binoculars I've been using for a microscope and marvel at my close-up world.

For a while, anyway.

I still need my windows. Birds and squirrels, distant relations and dear friends, cooking shows and Mr Rogers and marble races and comedy specials... it is a season for watching. I'm just trying a little harder to watch the world on my side of the pane.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Neighbo[u]r

When asked if I watched much television as a kid, I sometimes joke that Ms Frizzle was my babysitter.

I don't think we watched more than the average TVO Kids kid, and even looking back at it through the lens of "screen time awareness," I don't think our consumption was excessive in those early years -- but we made good use of our bush cable, and I can still catch most of the 90's programming references when they come up in conversation. The shows we knew, we knew by heart; there was no shame in reruns back then, and classics were syndicated to death.

(My sisters and I also had a lot of freedom to play. We spent a much larger portion of our time thrown outside with instructions to "stay in sight of the house," and return when Mum whistled. I dare say that woman could still summon us with her mighty, piercing blow.)

I haven't introduced Liam to the Magic School Bus gang just yet, but I am extremely grateful for the time that we spend every day under Mr Roger's gentle care. Mr Roger's Neighborhood is a peaceful, musical, curious realm that I am more than happy for Liam to wander through when my attention is needed elsewhere. Our boy asks for "Rogers" pretty regularly, and I don't feel guilty indulging him for fifteen or twenty minutes, a couple times a day. Through my sister's Prime Video subscription we have access to two dozen episodes, spanning from June 17 - July 22, 1968 (that final airing exactly twenty years before I was born). Perhaps when Libraries reopen after this COVID crisis eventually passes we will be able to get more, but, for now, we are looping them happily, re-learning lessons every few weeks.

The songs sprinkled throughout are catchy and positive little jingles, and I find they have replaced most of the pop music that used to run through my mind. Fred's kindness and joy has been patiently influencing the growth of Liam's little heart and reshaping my own internal landscape one heartfelt moment at a time.

I feel we are both in good hands with our dear Mr Rogers. This morning he taught Liam how to say "it's raining" in several languages, and also the importance of waiting (aka delayed gratification) while I folded a load of laundry in peace.

We're into more active play now, and I keep getting beanbags stacked on my keyboard as I type, so I know it's time to redirect my attention. When the day gets long or the making of meals calls my name, I'm thankful that I can beg a favour from for our beloved American "neighbor."

Sunday, 15 March 2020

"Muwk?"

I went to bed last night at seven-thirty with an audiobook and two tablets of Excedrin Migraine.

Until I went on birth control shortly before we got married, I had never experienced a migraine. I had the opportunity to witness many in my youth and young adult life, as my mother and one of my sisters regularly suffered from this debilitating species of headache, but I knew that the minor muscle grievances I had were a nuisance at best in comparison. (Perhaps because of this, I developed a strange aversion to taking Tylenol and Advil, believing I would take it if things got "really bad" and knowing that they never really got "really bad" for me. My tune has since changed, and when a medication can relieve me, I readily take the advisable dose.)

Beginning with birth control, frequently throughout pregnancy and now on a roughly-monthly timetable, I get wicked migraines. It starts with a mounting pressure behind one eye, as though someone was pressing harder and harder against the back of my socket with their thumb. The pain travels through my cheekbones to deep in the ear canal and then down my neck, synching each muscle tighter in its descent. In time a throbbing pain develops along this track, beginning in my forehead and spreading all the way down to a spot between my collarbone and shoulder, generally on one side of my body. It takes about an hour to progress from the first sign of pressure to the full-blown event. It's not a very fun sixty minutes.

Sometimes I catch it sooner than that, but last night I was in bed with my heating pad on and a cold cloth over my face before I finally made the leap to diagnosis. Ben came to bring me meds and tuck me in right after he'd settled Liam, rocking the Family Caretaker role. He retreated back downstairs to play Minecraft, and I prepared for sleep.

The silver lining to having a migraine-prone family is that I came to the problem with their solution in hand. We source our Excedrin Migraine from the States because the formula is a little different down there, and that's the one that worked for Mum. And it works a treat for me too! Everything faded in twenty minutes -- but whatever magic comes in that American pill has one little side-effect that I always seem to forget at the critical moment.

Insomnia.

It's currently 4:14am. I have been migraine-free and wide awake since roughly 8pm last night. I finished the book I'd been reading by 11pm, spent a couple hours staring into the darkness, had a chat via text with my baby-delivering night-shift sister, repositioned my pillows fourteen times and then resumed my gazing at the night. At three in the morning, I heard him cough. He roused, murmuring quietly. Then, two clear words:

"Muwk? ...Muwk?" 

My heart melted. This baby-talk thing is still a novelty in our house, and he's learning new expressions every day. It's felt like an explosion of language over here, and it's a total marvel to me. "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" And who can refuse a begging baby his milk when he asks for it, even in the middle of the night.

I got up and filled a bottle. We've mostly switched him over to a sippy cup for milk now, but for this moment I wanted muscle memory more involved than active brainpower. I lifted him from the crib, changed him, put him back, closed the door. A swift and hushed encounter with one of my favourite humans. He cried when I left him, but not for long. All was calm even before I settled myself down to write.

I am so grateful for the solid sleep my little one gets. Wake-ups like this one are rare with him, but when they do happen, they remind me of his very early days when it felt like we were the only two people awake in the world. I was my best in the wee hours, back then. I felt the closest to him during those feedings. It took a long time to love him while the sun was up, but my Liam was precious in the dark. Though I know I'm likely to long for uninterrupted sleep when our second child finds Home with us, part of me looks forward to being Night-Shift Mom again.

I have no baby to coddle right now. My brain is awake all by itself, and come the real morning, I will probably regret indulging it with the writing of this piece, but right now I'm glad to have spent the time here, with my digital paper, catching the feels of a moment before I lay my head back down and resume, once more, gazing into the night.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Blessings

Time to count my blessings.

Even when I'm faithfully taking my meds, there are tough days. When Liam skips a nap, when I'm up to my knees in dirty laundry, when the sky has just been grey for too many days in a row, when the news is frantic and awful, my melancholic spirit is tempted to wallow. It takes practice and discipline to refocus my heart.

I have an energetic, growing, objectively cooperative little boy who loves me and needs my care. That is a blessing.

I have laundry machines in my house, in my nice warm kitchen even, and money to run them whenever we need them to run. That is a blessing.

Spring is coming. There is almost always visible grass in this city, and our mild winter has meant clear (and therefore safe) sidewalks and road for nearly the whole season. That is a blessing.

The world is moving forward with protective and cautionary measures that will save lives. We are trying to care for each other. That is a blessing.

We have a car that carries Ben to work and back safely every day.

We can take hot showers when we need them.

I have food in the fridge, and freezer, and cupboards.

It only took a dollar's worth of crazy glue to fix my glasses.

Our extra-garbage tags didn't get stolen this year.

I found shoes for Liam at Value Village today, and they're in great condition.

I am blessed.

And sometimes it helps to make a list.