Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fall Family Photos

One of our favourite Manitoba locations, besides home, is Clear Lake. Every October, the full extended Kehler family will retreat to the rented cabins for a long weekend. The lookout deck over the marshwalk has always been a place to stop and take family pictures. This year was no exception.

Arianna, our oldest, is confident and full of energy for her friends and soccer with boys at recess. She loves consumerism and would love it if mom and dad's bank accout were limitless. "Because you know what I really need? I really need a..."

Jane, next in the line, is a the truest friend any nine year old girl could ask for. Loyal and giving to the core. She is one of my six classical guitar students and has a good ear. She has an artists eye and a love for flavour. "I'm full but it just tastes so good..."

Big brother Micah and little Sammy are the best of buddies. Micah, not wanting Sam to feel left out of Nintendo even though Sam doesn't know what to do, will hook up a controller for Sam so that he can play too. I actually think that Micah secretly just wants to have an opponent to play against that won't fight back...and then pummel the crap out of Sam's guy. They would sit there and play and laugh all day if we let them. Off to read some books...we don't want our worlds to consist of merely the make believe...do we? ( note to self )

Sammy loves his mommy and can't stand it when she hints at leaving the house. "Don't worry Sam. Mommy's just going to get some milk. Mommy will be right back." Going for milk is the only excuse Sam will accept. "Joyce...whats with all this milk in the fridge?"

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The "du" factor

du [doo]
Making friends is a very slow process for me...one which requires patience, but not from me, because I am not in any particular rush.
When I spent a couple of months in Austria, I became familiar with the Germanic attitude towards friendship. When the need arises to refer to someone with whom you are only familiar with, you refer to them as bekanntnes (acquaintance). Even if you have been getting to know this person for some time, the person is still referred to as such. There comes a point in the relationship where, when one refers to the other using the unfamiliar "sie" (you), there will be an acknowledgement or an invitation from the other to no longer to use the unfamiliar "sie" but rather use the familiar "du". This is a significant hurdle in the relationship, and the two now refer to each other as Freund (friend). We, in the English world, have similar rites, but they seem to be more pronounced in the German society. I call this the German "du" factor.
Rod, a man in my community, has been slowly fulfilling the rites of the "du" factor. When I refer to him, it no longer feels right to say acquaintance, but I wouldn't yet say we are "du" friends...that is yet to come.
The other day, my daughter and I were at his house to pick up his daughter to come over to my house to play. He showed me a set of new nylon guitar strings which he wanted to put on his guitar. I asked him a few questions about the process to see if he was confident to attempt the task. I offered to take the guitar home with me and do the job for him, as it would take me only a handfull of minutes. He declined and looked determined to have a go. Later that evening I received this email from him:
Ode to Brian
(What stringing a guitar has to do with giving birth)

I could still hear his words ringing in my mind
Much like a guitar string rings after the plucking
“Would you like me to take it home and string it for you?”
No, I said, I’ll give it a try. (It’s only six o’clock)

I work with both my hands and my head at work.
I’ve assembled computers from scratch,
Hardwood floors grace the kids’ rooms:
How hard can it be, to string a guitar?

Six strings, six pegs, six turny-things
“How long before you’re done Dad?”
This shouldn’t take long I smile,
Then we’ll have the rest of the night

It’s the things you don’t pay attention to,
The things that suddenly matter.
The old strings are off now but,
Which way did those turny-things turn?

The East Coast comes back as I tie a knot
A simple Figure Eight will do the job.
The pegs are in place and my Tuner is on.
Two more minutes and away we go

Nylon strings have more give, I’ve read
Those turny-things go ‘round and ‘round.
Now string One should sound a little higher
A few more turns should do the job.

“Ouch” is not a sound you expect when tuning a guitar
Nor is the sound of a peg ricocheting off a piano.
But “Ouch” is a perfectly good word to use
When a nylon garrote whips across your fingers

Round One to the guitar, but I’ve leaned my lesson
Set the pegs firmly in place and try again.
“How much longer Dad?” comes from my son.
Five minutes. Round Two will be mine

With six pegs in hand, I find a small bit
To the drill press we go to make this right.
Five minutes later I’m back in the room
Ready to finish this and get on with the show

It was a lesson in physics, and patience and strain
The peg bounced around the room in a similar way
Clearly a different approach was needed
Another trip to the garage should fix everything

String One I tighten until it sounds right
But the Tuner doesn’t register my efforts.
More turns of the turny-things, still no effect.
The auto shut-off – the Tuner’s not on.

Gently I back off string One and reset the Tuner
Bring the tension back up and hold my breath
Success, I tune string One to “E”
Now the Finish Line is in sight

As I tend to String Two my mind wanders,
“How hard can it be, to string a guitar?”
Clearly this is what Women think
“How’s that?” You ask. I’ll tell you.

After Women give birth, they’ve reached a new high
What could compare with the troubles they’ve known
Anything and everything pales in comparison
If you ain’t givin’birth, how hard can it be?

Back to the guitar now, one more string to go.
Luke comes in to the room, looking a little bit older
I finish the job, feeling a little bit wiser
Good heavens! Eight-thirty, where did the night go?

I could have kept this all to myself
Tuck the lesson learned up on a shelf
But I hadn’t the heart, I had to share
I owed it to Brian
The poem having been written, and the unspoken invitation given...I accept your offer of "du", my friend, and extend the same to you.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Suggestion Box

My Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings start with my alarm going off at 5:41am. I set it a little earlier than necessary as I know for certain that I will hit the larger button at least twice before I get up. I dress, walk over to the door, open the garage door via the remote button, start the vehicle via another remote button, and have my morning think as I sit and wait for the van to warm up.

I drive the 24 minutes to the pool in a nearby town as my town has yet to develop its aquatic centre. I think it is in the five year plan...along with the seniors housing, hockey arena, curling club, fitness centre with raquetball courts and a lap pool fitted with a waterslide and hot tub...all in the same mega complex. I can't wait for that to open it's doors.

I arrive at the pool at approximately 6:30 when the doors open. As I change, Christian praise music is blaring in the shower room...I think they are trying to convert me. "Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above..." I obey the clearly marked signs to shower before entering the pool and make my way down the cold hallway, past the hot tub, to the lap pool. I jump in my favourite lane and spit in my goggles to defog the lenses before I begin.

The first five lengths are fast and I breathe only two or three times per length. After I start to tire ever so slightly, I lock into my well practiced form...smooth, steady, 25 seconds per length, breathing every third stroke. I begin to process the day. I've got 45 minutes to plan, without paper and pen, without students clamouring at my feet, without phones ringing and begging me to respond. My pace quickens after about 20 minutes as I begin to feel the rush of, what I decide is, my second wind. I pass the people in the lanes next to me more quickly and more frequently. I feel good that my endurance is up. The chill I had when I entered that cold hallway past the hot tub has been gone now for some time. A quick glance at my Ironman at lap's end tells me I am done.

I enter the hot tub for a five minute cool down, and retire to the shower. Another man enters from the lanes, starts the water, and says, in a smooth voice, "It certainly is a pleasure watching you swim." "Thanks" I say, not exactly sure what to think, we both being like Adam in the group shower, and me all thoroughly lathered up. I think to myself, "I wonder if this facility has a suggestion box?"

Monday, January 23, 2006

Barbara Reid and the Hildebrands

Well known Canadian author and illustrator, Barbara Reid, has inspired many an elementary student to dabble in the illustrative arts and relate, if even for a moment, to a beautiful world of lovingly created plasticine works of art.

Combining writing and illustrating is like swimming in the dark - its a little frightening and a lot of fun. I can't imagine a better job. - Barbara Reid

For the Hildebrands: my house; there is a generous helping of relating going on as well. The following pictures are several of Barbara Reid's creations that I can clearly relate to.

When Joyce and I moved to Brandon for me to get my education degree, we lived in this great old appartment with hardwood floors, marble staircases, and those cast iron radiators that bang in the winter. Our studio appartment was on the third floor, 43 stairs up and no elevator...but we loved it. It was cozy and we felt very trendy living within its well-aged walls. It was the kind of place where you would like to be a writer or an artist.

We lived in the core area, right in the middle of the city, well within walking distance of everything our world consisted of. I would walk to University every morning, and it was even close enough for me to return home for lunch. In fact, as I recall, I think that was how Arianna was conceived one Thursday afternoon. Joyce would walk everywhere with our firstborn in the stroller who was never separated from her monkey.

When we outgrew the studio, Joyce's parents bought us (poor students) a house not that far from where we started. Our neighbourhood was old and rough and was in much need of prayer. The neighbours were scarey, all except our neighbours to the South. Lori and Kendell were a gift from heaven. They were a happy family with a solid grasp on good parenting. They lived in a century old castle with many years worth of potential exploring. Daily we would pass our children back and forth over the fence to play in each other's yards. We had a garden, a clothsline, and a playhouse, and they had a treehouse and a swingset. Our children were happy there, and Micah's red hair tossed back and forth on the swing.

When our fourth was six months old, we moved to Niverville to persue a good job and a chance to live closer to family...family with cousins and farms and country living.

We have settled into our own little castle now of a little more than two years.

Our kids have made fantastic friends and the wonderful school is only two blocks away. The people in our church are genuine folk who offer grace, questions, clarity, and monthly potlucks.

I love my job, but I will have to find another one soon, as I am in a term position ending at the end of February. Meanwhile, we continue to enjoy our family of growing children. It puts a smile on my face to watch our blonde-haired Jane be a big sister to Sammy as she reads him stories.

So thanks Barbara Reid for your art and your ability to inspire. The gathered motivation is not limited to children. This teacher has gleaned from your abilities and chooses to spread the wealth of your excitement. I think my art lesson this week will have something to do with you.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The perfect combo

Some days when you are feeling a little peckish, one of the best things to do is spend money.
Yesterday, Joyce and I, with nothing in the van but empty seats and a debit card, drove in to Winnipeg to spend, spend, spend. All of it was bloody practical though, like $260.00 worth of groceries and shaving gel. It felt simply wonderful to wander around the store unencumbered. I say that thinking about not having the kids...the Superstore, however, was insane. It was like it was Chritmas time once again. Shopping carts blocking every possible passage, and piles of unwanted clothing on the floor in the permanent discount section.

Lately, there are so many things that I would love to spend money on. But there is one thing...the perfect combination of guitar and processor, that I have been eyeing for some time.

The guitar is the Canadian made Godin Multiac Grand Concert SA, Two Voice, and the processor is Roland's VG-88. (Darren, you can probably relate) The owning of this pair would make me truly happy. Not just in the regular happy sense, but orgasmic. I might just come to a place in my guitar playing where I could truly realize my dream...and maybe, just maybe, get my own tour bus.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

If I only had my own bus

I've always wanted to be a rock star. O.K. not the kind of rock star from the 80's like Iron Maiden or Twisted Sister, wearing the tight leather pants and face paint, but the kind of star who gets to have someone open for them... and has a bus and roadies.

When I started taking guitar lessons, I was in grade three and eight years old. I thought I was on my way. After a couple of years of lessons, my brother Randy said to me that he thought I would one day be on stage. That made me feel great. My buddies Warren and Brad would often come over and we would jam with our classical guitars, but we wouldn't play the songs we were supposed to be practicing. Instead we would play AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Winnepeg's own Harlequin (remember "Innocence"?). We wanted to one day be on stage and have a bus...and roadies...and naked chicks.

One day, while Warren, Brad and I were jamming in my bedroom with the door closed, my dad walked in and said, obviously annoyed, in Low German, "Daut heeat zich frecht" which I took to mean, "That sounds stupid." We quit playing and his words have been burned into my memory ever since. I have always wished for an apology.

To this very day, when I listen to beautiful guitar playing, I imagine myself on a stage and it is me being the one presenting the well thought out progression of chords, notes, and lyric to the receptive audience. I have written several songs and have yet to formalize them and send them off to someone who would care to listen. I imagine the person on the other end listening and thinking to themselves that they need to get me on the phone...I need to meet this guy, he sounds great.

I have worked on my playing style for thirty years and have recently become more proficient in a finger picking style I've been trying to grasp for a very long time. Bruce Cockburn has always been an inspiration to me, both as a guitar player and as an international thinker. I've been to several of his concerts and very closely watched his fingers, made some notes in the dark, and stayed up late afterwards testing my memory. If I was on stage, I would want an audience member like me...taking notes and shaking my head in wonder.

As it is, I do have my own audience. I have had my campers when I was a counsellor at summer camp and the night was hot and no one could sleep. I pretended I was on stage without a spotlight, playing my classical songs that Ben Kehler taught me during those five years of lessons, lulling those hot campers to sleep. I had my fellow tree planters in Northern B.C. where, with borrowed guitar I played a few familiar tunes to make the bugs seem less buggy. I convinced my wife to sing a song with me as I played during our wedding ceremony. We were each other's audience besides the 250 guests. My students can't get enough of my playing and daily yell, "Sing about me...sing about me" as I pick up my guitar yet again and sing "Dog Bones" or a comforting tune I know from my youth, "Land of the Silver Birch".

At home, where I am needed the most, is my best audience. I'm not on a grand stage with a bus and the clapping people taking notes. I can't imagine a better audience where my only applause is the deep slow breathing of a sleeping child. This hasn't happen often, but once is better than a lifetime of unrealized dreaming.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

HTML for dummies

Not only has Andrea inspired me to add a banner to my blog, (She just added an outstanding one to her's) but, together with her husband, has given me much needed assistance in actually showing me what to do to make mine. A couple of sheepish emails from me, and a couple of helpful ones from them, and voilà, there it is.

That reminds me of a story my brother-in-law likes to tell. He has a friend who likes to go on what he calls ride-alongs with the Winnipeg City Police. One time there was this call that came in from a man who had his car stolen. The police arrived and started to take the man's statement. The man was French and spoke in English with a very thick French accent. The man explained that he thought he heard a noise from the garage and so when he went down the hall and out to the garage to check on his car, (and imagine the thickest French accent you can muster) he said, "sure enough...there it was...gone!"

Thanks for your help Greg and Andrea.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Trying my hand

Click to enlarge.

I've been following a number of really good art blogs for a few months and have become enthralled...and jealous. The creative energy undulating through the atmosphere has inspired me to give it a go. I have listened, watched, and made my mental notes. I went through a bit of a draft period to come to my final product (above), which is probably normal.

I started with a simple felt tipped pen drawing (shown below) to set down the concept,

and then decided what medium to use from there. The final product utilizes tempra paints that I found at school, felt tipped pens, and chalk. It is now hanging (30" x 84") in my classroom and I have already had offers to purchase. Nothing puts a smile on my face like words of affirmation...it's my LOVE language.

I think I'll look into taking some local art classes so I can learn some real concepts and not just fake it. I've always had a penchant ( I love that word ) for watercolour. Perhaps I'll try my hand there to begin with.

I'm also hashing through the whole digital camera purchase thing. I'm considering the Nikon D70s. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My left hand

There are many things you can learn about a person from looking at their hands. For instance, if you look at mine closely, you would notice that I am married because of the ring on my finger. You would be able to tell the time because I wear my watch on my left wrist. I keep my nails fairly short and clean on my left hand as I am a guitar player and long nails just wouldn't do. Today I have a blue ink stain on the end of two fingers as I had a fight with a leaking overhead projector pen.

With my hands I point to a raised hand in my class to offer permission to speak in answer to my questions. I give a thumbs-up to encourage a correct response and a high-five for a greeting in the hall. Today I used my hand to offer condolence to a sniffing child because she was sad that someone said she was peeking when she really wasn't.

In the summertime, you would be able to see more of my calloused look as I become quite involved in maintenance and construction projects around the home and with friends. They are dirty during the day; covered with sawdust, drywall compound, and paint; and cleaned at night to rest and anticipate tomorrow. The skin on the back of my hands becomes dark because I like being outside in the sun. My wedding ring becomes loose as I find little time to eat...can't stop...working. They are quick to help because changing directions is easily done while moving.

Left to observation alone, much would remain unsaid about a person. Looking at my hands would not tell you that I look forward to my morning coffee like Romeo longs for his Juliette. They would not sing of my love for jazz and good lyric. They would not whisper of my cravings for solitude and quiet. My penchant for liver pate and Merlot would go unnoticed. The need for the elation of achievement would be my feeling alone.

When it comes to giving to the needy, it has been said, "...do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing..." When you are the one in need, we are also reminded, "don't bite the hand that feeds you." Whether giving or in need, telling or unknown, our hands are tremendous instruments of grace. They can dispense it or receive it; reflect it or withhold it.

If women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.
(sorry...this post was getting far too bloody serious)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Clever quotes revisited

Occasionally I will come across a crumpled piece of paper that is unusually appealing, and I will find that my curiosity is stronger than my embarrassment of picking garbage. I have on several occasions stopped in the middle of a sidewalk to pick up a tempting wad and curiously unfold its mangled hull. I don't recall ever having found anything worthwhile, but it is always a satisfied curiosity that I am after. Finding bits lying around the house or in pockets of folded clothing always brings hope of a forgotten treasure.

My wife's curiosity was getting the best of her the other day as she was cleaning up my side of the bed. Besides the lamp, alarm clock, loose change, and a couple of half-read books, there are the remnants of pockets which have been lazily discarded at random. Some of these remnants I was saving to be found, treasures if you will, at a later date...to be savoured. Well Joyce was the gold digger this time and came across a clever quote which brought a smile to her face. At first she thought it was something that I had heard somewhere, and had written it down to save for an appropriate retelling...until she read further and found that she was the source of the quote.
The note read:
"Time is really more about priority than time itself. - Joyce Nov. 5, '05 7:45 after 2 drinks"

She found this to be so appealing she wrote about it in her blog. She's so clever.

There are more gems written on the note but I don't think that she was able to read them. When I'm in a rush to write things down, my scratch is only decipherable by the author.

The rest of the note contains a reference to a book that I want to read, which was suggested by a friend:
Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Matter

and another quote by Joyce:

"I guess there were no available disasters."

I remember laughing long and hard after she said this and I simply had to write it down. A few years before we met, Joyce volunteered with Mennonite Disaster Service to help out with the needy of the world. She was assigned to Wichita, Kansas as a member of a group of five or six to fix up peoples homes and aid in the repair of some churches. Being handy with a hammer and a few power tools would have been an asset. She had grown up on a farm where these sorts of things were being done almost every day, but her dad and brothers were the ones doing it. So when she was asked to hang a door and build a staircase, she felt completely useless and altogether in the way. Someone asked her that night, "Well why in the world did they let you go if you were not needed?" Without any hesitation, and with the sort of laugh that makes one weep, she simply said, "I guess there were no available disasters."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Transitive property

Teachers tell their students all the time that they will one day make use of all the knowledge that they are learning in the classroom, especially when it comes to mathematics. "It is more practical than you realize", including the transitive property.

In its simplest form, the transitive property states that: if a = b, and b = c, then a = c. I can't remember which grade I learned about it, but until this very day, it plays its chorus in my mind as if I learned it yesterday. I have been waiting for its obvious practicality to rise out of its slumber since high school, some 20 years now.This brings me to think about what we wait for.

Immediately I think of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot where the act of waiting is never over, and yet it mysteriously starts up again each day. Each day is the return to the beginning. Nothing is completed because nothing can be completed. I wonder if it is the same in waiting for the practicality of some of our learning to show. Perhaps sometimes it doesn't show because the learning simply isn't practical. It may be an observation of the world, but of little daily use.

The tragedy of Beckett's play is the inability of those who are waiting to achieve any action aside from waiting. This makes me wonder how often I do the same. There is a difference between inactive waiting and active waiting. One assumes that the answers will come and the other sees the necessity to go looking.

A friend of mine in high school became quite verbal about her frustration about the way algebra uses letters. "How can you add and multiply letters...it's so stupid." I could see her point. But letters are used to hypothesize about variables and possibilities. Hypothesis is active waiting. Becoming frustrated and not looking beyond the letters, is inactive waiting.

The transitive property is one of three equivalence properties of equality. They weigh the truth about relationships. When all things are equal, the truth is told and the properties are satisfied.

I think there is a lesson in there somewhere having to do with finding equality, telling the truth, and being satisfied. I guess I'll just keep teaching the content.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I saw the little runt sitting there on a log...

Andy was the inspiration for me to take the test:

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

And apparently I'm Yoda:

A venerated sage with vast power and knowledge, you gently guide forces around you while serving as a champion of the light.
Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not - for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life greets it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, and binds us. Luminescent beings are we, not this crude matter! You must feel the Force around you, everywhere.

My kids use my size as a judge. "Quit taking our puck...I'm going to tell my dad to come out here....and he's much bigger than you." At 6"2" I guess I'm a little more physically intimidating that Yoda's elf stature.

Whenever I think of Yoda I think of my time studying at Briercrest where I learned of a song by Weird Al Yankovic with the title Yoda which was sung to the tune of Lola by The Kinks.

Part of the song goes like this, and if you can imagine the tune, its actually kind of amusing:

I saw the little runt sitting there on a log.

I asked him his name

and in a raspy voice he said Yoda,

Y-O-D-A, Yoda,

Yo-Yo-Yo-Yo Yoda.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You? Have a go.

Back to school

One more day off until I get back to the classroom. I'm feeling guilty that I didn't get to school for even an hour during the break to get a little bit of organizing done. I think I'll skip the pool tomorrow and just go straight to school for 7:00.

I'm looking forward to seeing all the familiar smiling faces. There's something irreplacable about 27 seven-year-olds smiling at you and thinking that you are their hero. 27 kids will be crowding around my feet tomorrow, I'll hardly have a chance to speak or to walk from the door to my desk. "Mr. Hildebrand....Mr. Hildebrand... guess what I got for Christmas...you wanna guess where I went for my holiday?...are we doing Monkey Math today?...which chapter book are you starting this week?...can I go to the bathroom?...I walked to school today in my new boots...Fred said that I was stupid...I need to call my mom because she forgot to put my lunch in my backpack...my zipper is stuck...I lost a tooth...

I'll have about an hour and a half to myself tomorrow morning before all the adoration and commotion begins. Just enough time to remember that holidays, although for teachers are incredibly generous, never seem to be quite long enough.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Menu planning

My five day fast ends tonight. I've had some time to think about hunger, flavour, nourishment, and things that compliment.

During this past week of not eating it seems as though the food set on the table before the family has been unusually good.
Baked ham and mashed potatoes on Tuesday, "This is the best pot of soup I've ever made" on Wednesday, coffee out with friends and a dish of cream cheese with a spicey cranberry and pepper jelly on Thursday, grilled chicken and stuffed potatoes together with very good company on Friday, and today I watched as four sleepover young women gratefully dove into a pile of Mennonite pancakes and crisp bacon after playing an hours worth of hockey in the backyard.

I've made my mental notes and set samples aside for tonight when I too will enjoy, as everyone else did, the nourishment of the week. I've watched and listened as everyone else has rushed to the tables and made smacking and agreeing noises about the flavours. I've stopped to listen to hearts and extend grace.

What the family shared during the week, will be shared with me tonight. The nourishment I received during the week through prayer, reading and simply listening and responding, will be shared with everyone around me...a little at a time...in savoury bite sized bits. Sometimes two bites together because they compliment each other so well. Two bites like listening and responding...like the way I listened last night after I angrily yelled from the back deck to the boys on the skating rink who are obviously "going to end up in jail", to quit shooting pucks in my yard and tromping through the garden. The way I responded last night when I walked over to those "jail bound" boys and extended my hand and appologized for yelling and treating them without grace. Will this keep them away from prison? I don't know, that's not my place...it's their story. My place is to humbly and gratefully live in grace, and to extend it blindly.

Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. Being found means to accept grace, which is done by stepping into grace and being transformed by it, and then extending it to everyone around you. It is not done by adhering to a list of rules and regulations and saying one prayer over all prayers. The evidence of the transformation is in the observable change, forever undulating as it manifests itself.

I'm looking forward to the menu tonight. "Like a deer pants for the water" so I long for what is to come during my transformation as a grace giver. Dining together is always better than eating alone.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I'm feeling insecure and I need some strokes.

This past spring and summer I participated in four runs. Two half marathons and two 10K runs. My goal was to also do two triathlons, but I didn't feel ready for the cycling portion of the races. This year, I hope to do all the same runs plus add another half marathon which is coming up in February. I hope that I will also be ready to complete the two triathlons as well. Training for a run I find to be quite managable, but getting ready for a triathlon takes up a lot more time, which I do not always have. Perhaps one of these years I'll also be brave enough to attempt the whole 26.2 miles.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"But I still haven't found what I'm looking for..."

This well-known phrase from a U2 song has had different meanings for me. I'm the kind of person that, theoretically, likes to listen to the words of a song, and listen closely. In the case of this song, I haven't done that. I used to think, as a know-it-all Christian, that Bono and the boys should simply get on with it and "quit your whining." If you still haven't found what you're looking for, then you're "Looking for love in all the wrong places." I now have a much better understanding of his chorus.

I recently read a Rolling Stone interview of Bono.

"Bono gives us a vision of how tomorrow can be better than today. He appeals to something greater than ourselves. He tells the story of his life and struggles in terms everyone can understand. He speaks about faith in a way that even a nonbeliever can embrace."
Reading further, Bono indicates that the song, 'I still haven't found What I'm Looking For', is an anthem of doubt more than faith.
I'm nearly halfway through the book I started yesterday. Rumours of Another World is not a book about answers. In fact it's all about the questions...thought-provoking, life questions. Like a hearty Burgundy compliments lamb, so too Bono's song of doubt and his faith story would be complimented by this book. It nicely meets my current need to be challenged intellectually and spiritually. It is not a typical Christian read: filled with overstated agendas and calling out to join the saved; but rather it is an invitation to join in a journey of discovery that could point the way to a new life of beauty, purpose and freedom. It's about getting a fresh perspective...other-world perspective: that "even a non-believer can embrace."
"We are all of us more mystics than we believe or choose to believe...We have seen more than we let on, even to ourselves. Through some moment of beauty or pain, some subtle turning of our lives, we catch glimmers at least of what the saints are blinded by; only then, unlike the saints, we go on as though nothing has happened. To go on as though nothing has happened, even though we are not sure what it was or just where we are supposed to go with it, is to enter the dimention of life that religion is a word for.
Frederick Buechner
I think I've had enough of just the religious dimention...but spirituality without religion, sometimes leaves people disconnected from community. I'm looking for the right definitions and the right balance.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Manitoba Pork

Manitoba is replete with multimillion dollar hog barns. Joyce's brother is the owner/operator of one a few miles from here.
One of the benefits to our family is that we always have plenty of pork in the freezer for very little cost. When you have four rapidly growing children to feed, it is nice to have the cheap resource.
As my family was enjoying dinner today,(pork of course) I recalled a poem I studied in university.
Pig Song
Margaret Atwood (1978)

This is what you changed me to:
a graypink vegetable with slug
eyes, buttock
incarnate, spreading like a slow turnip,

a skin you stuff so you may feed
in your turn, a stinking wart
of flesh, a large tuber
of blood which munches
and bloats. Very well then. Meanwhile

I have the sky, which is only half
caged, I have my weed corners,
I keep myself busy, singing
my song of roots and noses,

my song of dung. Madame,
this song offends you, these grunts
which you find oppressively sexual,
mistaking simple greed for lust.

I am yours. If you feed me garbage
I will sing a song of garbage.
This is a hymn.
It's funny what comes to mind when you make the effort to ponder rather than to eat.
Poor pig.
I'm hungry.

What size are your perforations?

"All Size Perforations" read the sign as we drove to town. The sign was always there but I never knew what it was for. "Perforations...percolator" Maybe it has something to do with coffee.

As I grew older I discovered what it all was about.
I began to use the word as part of my vocabulary. "Use it ten times and it will be permanent." Trying to tear something along the recommended dotted line I would yell, "Why can't they make better perforations than this?...I'm going to start my own perforation business and do it right. Stupid cheap-ass perforations." I haven't always been the most gracious person.

This is the book I read yesterday. It made me mad, scared, want to cry, smile and hope. The underlying premise of this book goes completely against the Mennonite tradition, and most of Protestant thinking. I felt like putting it down many times and picking up one of my other well-worn books to find a comfortable phrase.

It's 197 pages passed before my eyes quickly. "I can just imagine the reviews," I thought. "And what would my mother think."

I want to have an open mind. But what a lot of people seem to forget about that theory is that, by definition, the open mind should eventually come to close on something that is true. Otherwise the mind is simply like a city sewer, accepting all and rejecting nothing.

Mostly, I loved the book, and yes, I will continue to read further along these lines. It's just that it's not completely confortable to do so. When will I close the grate covering the intake valve?...and are there perforations in the grate or is it completely closed? I guess that's why we have the spirit of God. The spirit will reveal the formula.

Every ant knows the formula of its ant-hill,
every bee knows the formula of its beehive.
They know it in their own way, not in our way.
Only humankind does not know its formula.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I'm hungry.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A little more focussed

We were out for dinner yesterday evening with some truly wonderful people. He is contemplative and wise, and she is quick-witted and firey...but limiting them to these descriptions would be a great crime.

We talked until it was late and the youngest child fell asleep somewhere on a couch. We were seeking clarity, as we often do. Sharing questions and experiences is commonplace with these friends.

Our church family, which is still relatively new to me, has decided that the first week of this year will be a week of fasting and prayer. I had thought earlier that it was a good idea, but did not seriously consider it personally. After talking with our friends last night, I discover that he is beginning his fast and prayer today and will continue until Saturday. Five days of concenrated communication, reading, contemplation, and no food.

I was hooked. Not only have I been looking for something to focus on during this holiday time, but I have been seeking clarity in my dealings with God. Currently, I am on a quest to leave behind those things that are not at all true, and bring greater attention to those things that will sustain me. Life-giving nourishment is what I seek. I have written about this in a recent post.

I will be starting this morning. My goals are not well established, but having too many goals may not be the point. I would rather that I be surprised. "Surprised by Joy", as C.S. Lewis puts it.

I have a number of books at the ready. I think I'll start with this one:

Pray for me.

Monday, January 02, 2006

something distracting

Stare at the dot and see if the grey disappears...
I have been looking forward to these two weeks off for a long time now ...but all I seem to be doing is fiddling...and I don't even play the violin.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Andrea's Egg...unauthorized

Andrea recently posted a painting from her archives which she submitted for her illustration Friday topic of Flavour. I thought, as many others did, that it was quite a stunning painting, although I did not leave a comment (I feel somewhat inadequate when it comes to entering into the world of art).

So, in lieu of an inadequate comment, I honour her with this, my version of her still life. I created this with the red and green leaves of the poinsettia plant. I made it look Christmassy because I thought her egg was quite in keeping with the season (red...green...you get the picture). I hope to one day move away from craft and go on to creating something truly artistic.

One of my goals for this new year is to become more deeply drawn into seeing the world through the eyes of an artist. There is an immense resourse for inspiration and learning available at the end of my fingertips as I tap away at my keypad.

I love the way people are not like me, and life is truly exciting when you live life beyond yourself and take the time to see the world through other's eyes.

Something for everyone

How to Say
Happy New Year
In Many Languages

Chinese (Cantonese)
Gung hay fat choy (a New Year greeting meaning, "May you become prosperous.")
Sun nien fai lok (meaning, "Happy new year")
Chinese (Mandarin)
Xin nian yu kuai
Godt Nytår
Gelukkig nieuwjaar
Aide shoma mobarak
Bonne année
Aith-bhliain Fe Nhaise Dhuit
Gutes Neues Jahr
Kali chronia
Hauoli Makahiki Hou
Shanah tovah
Nyob zoo xyoo tshiab
elamat Tahun Baru
Buon Capo d'Anno
Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu
Godt Nyttår
Pilipino (Tagalog)
Maligayang Bagong Taon
Szczesliwego Nowego roku
Feliz ano novo
La Multi Ani
S Novym Godom
Feliz Año Nuevo
Wilujeng Tahun Baru
Gott Nytt År
Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda
I wish you all a wonderfully expectant new year.