Thursday, May 30, 2013

Entertaining angels unaware...

My daughter Suzanna and I got into an interesting conversation this week about how we live in a culture of fear, and how, because 'stranger danger' is pounded into us from the time we're in playschool, we miss a lot of opportunities for building community or even just meeting our neighbours. But what would the world be like if we treated everyone like friends? A little idealistic, perhaps, but still...

Yesterday afternoon, under threatening thunderclouds and a few large raindrops, I was almost finished turning my compost pile in the back yard when a man came strolling up the back alley. As I threw the last few pitchforks of compost into my bin, I smiled at him, and it was enough. He approached and said, "Ma'am, I've walked an awfully long way. Would you mind if I sat down a while?"

A thousand things flashed through my mind, but the main ones were that it was starting to rain, and he didn't look like any sort of threat I could imagine. So I invited him in, gave him a glass of water, and learned that he was 83 years old and still five blocks from the garage where he was heading to pick up his car.

Don was a very pleasant man, a lifelong Edmontonian, who had bit off a little more than he could chew, stroll-wise. So I offered to drive him the last five blocks, and he took me up on my offer. As I left him at the garage, he told me I was his angel for the day, but as I drove away, I said to myself, maybe he was Christ in different skin, an opportunity for me to do a small kindness for someone else.

Returning home, I tidied up the yard and made a sandwich, and before I even managed to take a bite, the doorbell rang. It was Don, carrying a little floral arrangement for his 'angel.' I'm still smiling. I'm sure he had it wrong... he was the angel. I was just lucky to entertain him for a short time.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Simple Suggestion #166... Stand with the vulnerable

After having coffee and a special morning prayer with my friends in the L'Arche Day Program this morning, I've decided to post some rally information. Our brothers and sisters with disabilities are in danger of losing the supports they need in order to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. So I know what I'm doing on Friday at noon -- standing with my L'Arche friends at a rally. Come join us! And contact your MLA to ask his/her help for those with disabilities. I just sent an email to mine, asking him to find better ways to deal with Alberta's deficit than cutting funding to the most vulnerable...

$42,000,000 WILL BE CUT 
FRIDAY, MAY 31st 2013
"A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." 
-- Mahatma Ghandi

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Trinity Sunday: God's embrace... and ours

It's Trinity Sunday again, one of my favourite Sundays of the year, because I like to think about the persons of God in relationship with each other, and with us.

When I was a teenager, I saw a whimsical short film called Jesus B.C., in which God was "Dad," Jesus was "Chris," and the Holy Spirit was a beautiful black woman referred to as "Grace." I wish I could find it and watch it again (I have tried, but can't track it down even in this digital age). "Dad" seemed to be the CEO of creation, and he had a hilarious archangel butler named Norman, who was having an interesting time reporting back to the boss as different Old Testament biblical stories were occurring (I can still see poor Norman standing under a little umbrella in the pouring rain as Noah's Ark floats past and lightning flashes). I can't even remember the point of the movie, but for me it made the very abstract idea of the Trinity more accessible through the conversations between Dad, Chris and Grace, their love for each other, and their fondness for the crazy humans who kept Norman busy reporting on their latest escapades.

Since then, the idea of God as a relational being has become a stronger and stronger theme in my life: God as tender parent, brother and sister, creator, lover, and inspiration for life. And the stronger this theme becomes, the harder it is to sit still in church -- because God is so much bigger than any one church or faith understands, and God's love is so much more inclusive than our tiny little hearts and  minds can fathom, or our words and faith denomination can express. What I'm seeing is that each faith seems to have a number of rules and regulations, some of them designed by the "people in charge" to keep adherents in line. Unfortunately, those rules and regulations often end up excluding certain people, and when the excluded ones are treated unjustly by the elite (or elect), community breaks down. It's not hard to imagine Chris, Grace, and Dad shaking their heads.

Even though I'm a cradle Catholic (baptized when I was seven days old), I struggle with so many of my church's rules and regulations, and I know I'm not the only one. As a "good Catholic," I am supposed to be unquestioningly obedient to the Magisterium (a patriarchy-flavoured word designating the teaching authority of the Church) which has always scared the heebie-jeebies out of me because it sounds so... I dunno... so inhumane. But the older I get, the more I think that the Magisterium's insistence on unquestioning obedience is one of those things that prevents the true relationship and true community of the Trinity's embrace from taking hold of our hearts -- and our world. People expected to be unflinchingly loyal often aren't allowed to be honest about how they feel under that obedience, or to ask questions.

If the Catholic Magisterium wasn't quite such a misogynistic, power-hungry, male-dominated human institution stuck on enforcing some pretty archaic man-made rules, but rather, was a broad-minded community made up of men AND women of every race, creed, social strata, sexual orientation and state of life, it would be easier to follow. And if it would take Jesus' radical teachings to heart and live his Gospel of care for the poor and marginalized, I would jump on the bandwagon wholeheartedly. But at the moment, I'm standing firmly on the curb as the parade goes by because I have tons of questions that the Magisterium is choosing to ignore.

The most recent: on my birthday (Thursday) and his 15th anniversary as a priest, Father Gary Meier came out of the closet as a gay celibate servant of the people of God in the American Roman Catholic Church. He had previously published an anonymous book about being a gay priest, because he was afraid of the consequences of being honest. But now he has spoken out in compassion for other gay Catholics, priests and laity alike, and the Magisterium is suddenly paying attention in a very Magisterium-like way, focused on its rules about sexual ethics rather than on the honesty and bravery of one man.

And so, there are thousands of other priests, gay and straight, afraid to speak up, that aren't under the Magisterium's watchful eye. I know some of them, and love them, and honestly, their sexual orientation doesn't matter. They are good and faithful servants of the servants of God. So my question is, why is the Church, which insists it descends directly from Jesus, so hung up on sexual orientation and other such things? Jesus certainly wasn't. He was about setting people free!

The Trinity's watchful eyes focus on love, and on community. So what would the Trinity say about what Father Gary has done? I suspect they would rejoice that he has finally been able to speak the truth of who he is, and perhaps even celebrate the fact that he is taking a stand for Catholics who feel judged by the Magisterium because of their God-given sexuality. In fact, I can't imagine that the Trinity gives a hoot about whether any of us are gay or straight, Christian or Muslim, green or purple, as long as we are good and faithful.

In my younger years, I'll admit that I felt uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality, simply because the gay people I knew couldn't be open about it so that I could learn that it was different, but okay. When I was growing up, gays were mistreated and made fun of, so how could anyone be open or honest? However, as society began to acknowledge that heterosexuals weren't the only authentic lovers on the block, things changed. When some of my friends came out of the closet, they challenged my archaic Catholic understanding of homosexuality as Sodom and Gomorrah's evil (I now wonder if those legendary places weren't examples of other sorts of iniquity like slavery, genocide, racism, and unbridled capitalism). My gay friends are good people who have converted me, making me see that sexual orientation is like all those other things that make people different from one another -- differences God created to enrich humanity.

God created the world and each of us, and if we believe what the book of Genesis tells us, God calls everything good, embracing everything and everyone in a love that's beyond our understanding. Grace, Dad, and Chris just want us to love, to be happy, to know the goodness of the Trinity, and not to judge or exclude each other because of our differences.

So if we want to grow in the image of the Trinity, in love and community, we need to embrace each other's differences, too.

Thank you, Holy Trinity, 
for molding creation in your image and likeness. 
What an incredible being You are, 
full of diversity -- and unity.
Open our minds and hearts to the many ways You are manifest in all those around us.
Help us to see You in everyone we meet, 
and to welcome them as You will one day welcome us all.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Simple Suggestion #165... Have a simple birthday

That's what I'm doing today. More than half of my own little family is missing in action (two in Moscow, one off on a school band trip), and I have a wicked spring cold. So a simple birthday is in order.

Actually, it would still be in order even if everything else was as usual. Simple celebrations that cost the planet nothing are the best. Can you remember your birthday gifts from the last 10 years running? Neither can I. But I do remember being with my family and friends for most of them.

Presence is better than presents. In my books, no gifts are necessary (though my Auntie Bernie gave me a mango, my neighbour Mary Anne gave me a sea holly plant for my garden and a lovely bouquet of lilacs, and my travelers threw me a little party with a cake -- and gave me an iPod of all things -- before they flew the coop).

But today is simpler -- I'm opting to celebrate my date of arrival on this planet by naming one gift for which I am grateful for each year that I've been alive, in no particular order:

My parents
My sisters
My multitude of relatives -- inlaws and outlaws!
Lee, my marvelous man
Lee's family (inlaws, outlaws, nieces and nephews)
Our delightful daughters
My dream home (in which I am living)
The garden which delights me to no end
My neighbourhood (even prettier today than yesterday)
My neighbours and friends, near and far
Pebbles the crazy budgie
Shadow the crazy puppy
Our bed and blankets
My guitar
All my musician friends
Rain and other precipitation
Four very different seasons
Our girls' school
Doctors and nurses
Its river valley
Public transportation
Hiking trails
Fresh air
Hugs and all that
Rock 'n' roll
Art galleries
Books and book clubs
Peanut butter
Roman Catholic Women Priests
Dancing and singing

Okay, so that's not a complete list by any means, and there are a few more there than years I've actually been around, but once I get started, it's hard to stop. What a wonderful life I have!

Thanks, Mom, Dad, and God, for giving it to me!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beautiful bloomin' Edmonton

This morning, the puppy and I went for a walk... and did the same walk in reverse this afternoon so I could take pictures (and so we could play together under the blooming crab apple trees). I'm not sure which City of Edmonton employees can take credit for the beauty I find in Strathearn Park, but kudos to the people who planted the gorgeous trees!

Lilac, honeysuckle and ornamental crab...

and this little oasis of three perfectly spaced crab apple trees, surrounded by pines...

looking back from our spot under the furthest tree...

a happy pooch...

someone played a trick... 
this is a single tree, with a few grafted branches of ornamental crab...

back in our neighbourhood -- a neighbour's chokecherry and plum trees...

Brian's ornamental crab...

Bob's ornamental crab (so many different colours!)...

and our street in bloom, one year after the rainy day picture below...

It's good to come home to our own little river of tulips, 
and a big drink of water, right Shadow?

After a long walk, shade feels good on the belly.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Letting go...

My eldest daughter is off on an adventure. At the time I am typing this, she and her dad are probably wandering around the capital city of the Russian Federation, looking for Red Square. That, or they've collapsed onto their hotel beds for a quick snooze before checking out Moscow's night life.

Ever since she learned about Russia in high school Social Studies, our girl has been making plans to go. As she wasn't sure what she wanted to do right after school, she opted to work in a dental office for a year so she could save money for her trip to Russia and other points in Europe proper. And now she's finally there! I'm excited for her -- and, I'll admit, a little envious.

Because of the hassles of getting visas and needing to be "invited" into the Russian Federation, she learned that she couldn't just waltz in there and do as she pleased for as long as she wanted. She also decided that it might be good to let her dad come along for safety's sake, thank goodness. So the two will see Moscow and St. Petersburg before flying back to Munich where our girl will stay with a friend of mine for a few days before striking out on her own to see Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Norway (where another friend of mine has promised her a bike trip through the fjords!)

I'll admit I've had my share of misgivings about this trip. She is my baby, after all... but she's also always been the most independent of our girls. Having been the stay-home mom, I've been finding it a bit difficult to let go of my role as chief supporter, cheerleader, and minder -- especially when she left her wallet in the movie theatre on Saturday, and had to return home for her dental retainer when she was supposed to be on her way to the airport. I hope her head stays attached through Europe!

For the past few weeks, I've struggled a lot with the emotion that comes with "launching our bundle," as my husband puts it. She's proven herself to have adult sensibilities in most matters, but letting go is not something that comes easy to very many mothers, I suspect. I was not looking forward to saying goodbye at the airport. Every time I thought about it, my eyes would overflow.

So when my husband suggested that we go to church yesterday morning, it was the last thing I wanted to do -- have time with my thoughts and all those overwhelming emotions in the middle of a crowd of people. I forgot that it was Pentecost, the Feast of the Holy Spirit... and I didn't expect that the Holy Spirit would rest on me and make it so much easier to let go than I had expected. Sure, there were a few tears at the airport and on the drive home with my younger daughters (who will miss their big sister, but are probably also breathing a sigh of relief that she won't be dominating supper conversations for the next few months), but it all went much better than expected.

Our "bundle" has been "launched" into the big wide world, and we trust that, under our care, she's developed the tools and talents necessary to make her way.

God go with you, Christina, and keep you safe. Have a wonderful trip!

Love you,

Sunday, May 19, 2013

One of my very favourite songs for a Sunday

Here's one I had completely forgotten. I once had a Working Girl soundtrack cassette, but alas, in the many years since the tape wore through, I lost track of this incredible tune... until my hubby took me out for lunch yesterday, and it played over the restaurant's sound system, evoking the same feelings as when I heard it for the first time in a darkened movie theatre, with tears running down my cheeks for reasons I couldn't name (the movie was just starting, and was certainly not a tear jerker!)

Carly Simon, who composed and performed it, calls it a hymn with a jungle beat, and for me, somehow, there's something primordial in the music, deeper than time, that fills me with a joy so immense that sometimes (often) I weep when I hear it. I'm glad Carly got the hat trick of Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy for it in 1989-90. Let the River Run is a perfect tune for a Sunday, if you ask me, and I think I'm going to have to buy myself a new copy. Let all the dreamers wake the nation... Come run with me now; the sky is the color of blue you've never even seen in the eyes of your lover... Click play, and then the Watch on YouTube link... and enjoy! Kudos to the young lady who made the video!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Thanks, Laeli!

My friend Laeli over at another blog (now defunct) nominated me for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award, which was really kind of her. I love Laeli because she's just so... Laeli. She's very honest, and her posts at her old blog, Soular Sister, often made me laugh... or think about things in a new way. I'd like to nominate her right back, but I'm kinda clueless as to how to do that.

This whole experience has made me realize that I'm probably not your average blogger. For example, I don't follow many blogs. I have a few that I read out of curiosity or sheer appreciation, but I'm not a big commenter, and don't subscribe to the idea that I need to get me a ton of readers by following and commenting on tons of blogs. I'm writing for the love of writing, and the fact that I've made friends with Laeli (whom I have yet to meet) is an unexpected bonus.

Just for the record, I also enjoy reading/viewing these peoples' thoughts and images:

Iglesia Descalza -- which translates to Barefoot Church, and is often translated commentary from those on the margins of the Catholic Church.
A Gena-a-day Artist's Blog -- an amazing water colour artist I've moodled about before.
Things We Forget -- "Sticky notes left to their fate in public places."
The Queen of Green -- all about ways to live more sustainably, which is right up my alley...

and the blog my eldest daughter keeps. Unfortunately, it -- like some of the others I have enjoyed reading -- seems to be abandoned at the moment. But maybe she'll start it up again when she leaves for Russia, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway (and maybe some other countries, who knows?) next week. She'll be gone for two months+, and a blog would be a great way for her to keep us all informed of her adventures. 

The blogosphere is a funny place -- I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Over the past month or so, I've seen a huge uptick in views (200+ a day, a lot for me!) because of a Mother's Day story I posted few years back, just because it's the first thing to come up on a particular Google search... but now that Mother's Day has passed, everything is back to normal. If blogging is a normal pastime. Which, I guess it is for some of us who may or may not be a bit behind the times with Twitter and all those other social media websites, but are still friends via our blogs. Like Laeli and me.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Simple Suggestion #164... Save your eggshells (and other things)

My hubby found a wasp in our mailbox yesterday, so I was tempted to just remoodle last May 15th's Simple Suggestion #121, Put up a wasp-scarer -- after all, 'tis the season when they start nesting. But you can click on the link above if you missed it the first time around.

I have a different suggestion for today -- one that comes out of all my planting yesterday. I put in 33 tomato plants, with a little bed of crushed eggshells around their stems, to discourage cutworms and slugs. Eggshells are calcium, a mineral that tomato plants appreciate, and they make life miserable for slugs, so I use them pretty liberally wherever I plant lettuce and other veggies that slugs consider tender vittles. That's why there's always a pail under my sink in which we save our eggshells -- why give them to waste management when they're actually a valuable garden resource?

And while I'm at it, it's a good time to consider other valuable waste-like garden resources that too many of us leave for our garbage collectors to drag away... After last year's successful "Tired of Dragging Your Grass" campaign, the City of Edmonton has just started a "Go Bagless" or "Leave it on the Lawn" campaign to remind homeowners that

-- Leaving clippings on your lawn is good for it. (Some people think clippings are unsightly and bag them, but they disappear quickly through nature's simple recycling process, which is much better than the wasteful human process of bagging and shipping them to the dump!)
-- Grass clippings help the soil to retain moisture. 
-- Grass clippings quickly decompose, naturally fertilizing your lawn after each mow (the nitrogen in cut grass goes back into the soil better than chemical fertilizer that has to be watered...)
-- It's less work for you - by Going Bagless for one summer, you can save up to a full day of your time.
-- No more bagging and dragging up to 60 bags of grass to the curb each year.
-- It's safer for your garbage collector, too! In the growing season about half of all the waste collected is grass. Each collector picks up waste from about 700 homes each day. Heavy bags of grass increase the risk of injuries to garbage collectors; if you need to bag your grass, keep bags under 20 kg. 
-- Grasscycling is better for the environment, and is one of the easiest, most effective ways of reducing waste.

And if all this doesn't float your boat, here's something worth a thought:

-- The CO2 emissions saved if everyone in Edmonton grasscycled would be equal to the annual CO2 emissions of 24,686 cars! 
-- The water saved would be equal to 1814 Olympic sized swimming pools!

On other waste-reducing fronts, these days our autumn leaves are providing an excellent mulch for my perennials. They're another natural resource that's not nearly so costly to our wallets or our forest resources as fancy chip mulches... plus they're essential for composting.

So I guess today's suggestion(s) is (are) more for people who like to garden... but even people who don't might consider their own ways to reduce our waste load... maybe you can share your waste resources with others who do have gardens -- or perhaps, spread the gospel of grasscycling.

My thanks to Mark S-A from the City of Edmonton's Waste Services for sharing this info.

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Life with a dog

It's been both better and worse than I expected. Better, in that I'm loving my morning walks with Shadow, the little Havanese puppy who is Julia's birthday friend. Worse, in that I've spent a lot of time worrying about the little critter.

First, I discovered that there are a lot of garden plants that are poisonous to puppies when ingested (so we got a little kennel/corral where he stays unless closely supervised). Second, black dogs don't do well in hot sun (which, amazingly, after an endless winter we've suddenly got in spades), but now we know enough to move the kennel/corral to a place where there's sun and shade, and he can choose his snoozing spot. And third, there are too many dog owners out there who don't clean up after their pets, leaving possibly dangerous feces all over the place (especially dangerous to puppies who aren't fully innoculated). Unfortunately, nothing we can do about that, except be hypervigilant. But our little critter managed to find some one day that I didn't see...

So I'm rather anxious about Shadow these days... because he's had an eye infection for the past three weeks, and the word distemper came out of the vet's mouth at one point. Here I've been worrying about the parvo virus since Shadow arrived (it can cause a form of doggie leukemia) and Dr. Z. mentions something even worse because it's untreatable. Yikes.

Shadow has been treated with a course of antibiotics and steroidal eyedrops that, heaven help me, I couldn't get anywhere near his eyes. So we had to go back for prednisone pills. Our pooch is on steroids! And he's really bulked up, no longer the skinny little pup he was before all this started. His eyes are much better... but still runny. Which makes that d-word the doc mentioned play in my dreams. We've only had him for 6 weeks, but I've kinda gotten used to having him around.

We had a lovely walk this morning, and met so many people. Puppies have a charm all their own, and even the kids with earphone implants that usually pass me without a greeting stopped to say hello. I wasn't sure I really wanted a dog to complicate my life, but now I'm hoping that once these steroids are done, all shall be well. Julia and the rest of us are counting on it...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A song for Mother's Day

This Mother's Day weekend, I heard this song on the radio. I'm not usually a country music fan, but its lyrics are perfect for today... they make me think of my mom, who is strong and wise and amazing. I know a lot of other moms (like my mom-in-law) who are also beyond fantastic, always going above and beyond the call of duty. To have a mom, or someone who is like a mom to you, is a huge blessing! Big hugs and a ton of love to my moms! Most especially, to the one who gave me life and who lives four blocks from me, near enough for a hug or a coffee chat on a regular basis.

But back to the song... Jamie Stever is a pretty talented guy (from Ontario) who is using his gift of music to support the cause of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, because all moms deserve to see their children grow up. Here he is, singing his newest single, No One's Stronger Than a Mother, just in time for Mother's Day. And if you like the song and decide to download a copy, you're supporting a good cause. For that, Jamie deserves a fandom! Enjoy!

Friday, May 10, 2013

A very special concert

I just received an email about a live broadcast from our L'Arche Homefires Community in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, that will take place tomorrow afternoon/evening. I'm hoping to catch it if I can, because I love L'Arche, and I love Nova Scotia talent. If you have nothing else to do, check it out. The information below even includes a handy time zone converter...

L'Arche Homefires Benefit Concert to Be Broadcast Live Online

On Saturday, May 11, 2013, we invite the world to join us for a very special concert for L’Arche Homefires.

Suzanne Balcom and Friends, a tremendously talented group of local and Maritime musicians, will perform the Music of James Bond. Along with some great music, the concert will feature video and stories from L'Arche Homefires, and some news about our latest project to provide enhanced support to our core members. The “Building Our Dream” project will provide a new central home for L'Arche Homefires in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, one where all of our day programs can exist under one roof, accessible to all.

The concert will take place at 8:00 pm ADT, and will be broadcast live over the internet at All you have to do to join us is go to that website at concert time.

(Click here to convert Nova Scotian Time (ADT) to your time zone, or go to

If you can sign in, please send us a quick email reply ( and let us know from where you will be watching.

We look forward to welcoming our worldwide audience during the show.

We sure hope you can join us!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A wonderful day

It's a wonderful day today... we've finally got Spring here, and my tulips are going gangbusters! But the wonderful day of this moodling had very little to do with the weather or the flowers, and everything to do with friendship.

Those who have been reading here for a while know that 25 years ago, I spent a year travelling with Up With People, an international, educational and cultural program for young adults. We staged a lively musical show (about peace, love and friendship), participated in many different service projects and organizations (I remember volunteering with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, helping with Meals on Wheels for Seniors, reading stories at a Daycare, visiting several inner city schools, etc.) and we learned a lot about the world. 150 of us from 12 (or was it 14?) different countries traveled the U.S., Canada, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands (with a few side trips into other countries), staying with host families and experiencing life in their homes. It was a fantastic year. I had a marvelous time and made lots of friends, only a few with whom I've managed to stay in touch...

Until Facebook brought a lot of us together again... and out of the blue on Saturday, I received a Facebook message from one of the castmates that I honestly never imagined I'd ever see again, saying that he'd be landing in Edmonton on Sunday night, and was I free on Monday? Todd is a flight attendant with United Airlines, which just recently added Edmonton to its itineraries, and he had never been to Edmonton before. All I had planned for Monday was my usual work from home and walk the dog routine, so I told Todd I was excited about the opportunity to see him, and we planned to be in touch once he arrived. I'm lucky to work part-time, so postponing Monday's work wasn't a big issue.

Todd was one of the castmates that I liked but didn't know very well during our UWP year, and spending Monday with him made me feel a bit like I had missed out all those years ago. He caught a bus from his hotel to my place, and we spent six wonderful hours going for walks along the river valley, having a simple lunch, talking, singing, reminiscing and catching up on each others' lives over the last 25 years. It was almost like no time had passed since we said goodbye on July 5, 1988... except that we're both older and wiser, and we both have wonderful daughters -- and a lot more life experience! It was soooo goood to see him!

The bonus is that he'll be here for another two Mondays, so I get to be 'host friend' again... and to revel in a past friendship that has moved into the present. I can't help but smile when I think of it. Edmonton's push to have a direct flight to New York has paid me big dividends in a friendship that I barely knew the first time around! An unexpected but much appreciated gift, to be sure!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Simple Suggestion #163... Spread a little compost

It's Compost Awareness Week! Which, of course, is a happy time of year for Master Composter/Recyclers like me. What's better than taking our vegetable scraps and other plant-based items and turning them back into food for the soil? Wayyy better than throwing those nutrients in the garbage. Composting allows human beings to reduce our waste AND feed the earth that feeds us!

And it's actually pretty easy. All you need are your vegetable waste, some carbon materials like autumn leaves, sawdust, and last season's garden leftovers (I have lots of them, being a gardener who believes in leaving things as natural as possible), water, and air. Mix all those ingredients together in a pile (you don't actually need a bin, though it keeps things tidier), and an amazing thing happens -- everything heats up (because of microorganisms in the pile) and starts to rot. If you keep the pile as wet as a damp sponge and stir it frequently to give it some air, it won't smell like rotting vegetables, and it will soon look and smell like delicious, nutrient rich dirt that's better than any fertilizer money can buy.

Because we used up most of last fall's compost in various other places in the yard, yesterday, we had 2 yards of the stuff delivered, and my hard-working farm-boy hubby spread it all over our vegetable plot. I have a bit more spreading to do today.

So, in keeping with the week's theme of Compost Awareness, today's suggestion is to spread a little compost around. This time of year, there's lots of compost for sale -- here in Edmonton, groups sell compost for fundraisers, and I know that the Edmonton Horticultural Society will be selling 40 lb bags of the stuff this Saturday, May 11th, from 9 a.m. til 2 p.m. in the parking lot of the old Prince Rupert Community League, 11303 113 St. Get it while the getting's good! And make your soil happy!

My "compost-y" garden -- soon to be dug and planted!

P.S. For more Simple Suggestions, click here.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Sunday daydream...

As I sat in church on a Sunday morning two years ago, listening to religious language that gave God only one gender and excluded the full participation of 50% of the human race (and would only get worse with the new translation of the Roman Missal), an oft-recurring daydream came to me for the first time...

People come to the church on a Sunday morning, but rather than going into the building, all of the women stay together on the steps and sidewalk outside. One of them brings a guitar, another sets up a small table, two more bring earthenware chalices, and several young girls pass out song books. As mass begins inside the church, the women outside, young and old, raise their voices in joyous song to begin a liturgy that includes femininity along with the masculine.

Inside the church, the men conclude their opening hymn, as the final verse of the women's song wafts into the church, sweet and clear. The men look at one another, confused. Some of them frown, but a dozen or so (who have daughters and wives who have made them well aware of the sin of sexism) smile and slip out the door to join the women.

The Roman Catholic woman priest invites her congregation to begin with the same sign of the cross as the men inside, only with inclusive words that speak of the All-Holy Mystery: "In the name of God, Source of All Being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit," and the women (and the few men who have joined them) respond with reverence and enthusiasm. They sing Glory to God, scripture is loudly and joyfully proclaimed from the top of the church steps, and as three women sing the verses of the psalm in gorgeous harmony, a few more men and their sons trickle out of the church to pray with their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters.

After the Gospel reading, the woman priest invites several of the crowd -- who have discussed the scripture with her in advance -- to give the homily together, and comments are invited from the listeners, responsive women  and men who give thoughtful reflections on the lessons they have learned from the Word, and how they plan to live more like Christ in the week ahead.

Then the entire crowd begins the creed, "I believe in God, the Tender Almighty..." followed by the prayers of the faithful, which are voiced by the gathered community as even more men come out of the church to join the women, whose eucharist prayer emphasizes the priesthood of all. The outside congregation prays for the pope and their local bishops, naming both women and men among them.

Inside the building, the male congregation is rapidly dwindling. With every sung eucharistic response that wafts in through the windows, a few more venture outside. By the time the crowd begins to pray "Our Father and Mother in heaven..." the priest and two acolytes are alone in the church. They look at one another, the priest shrugs, picks up the chalice and paten, and the three process through the empty church to the small altar outside -- just in time to share a joyous sign of peace with everyone.

As the communion song begins, the female and male priest stand side by side to offer the chalices to the people, who share them with each other until everyone has partaken of the eucharistic feast. Then two small children bring the chalices back to the priests, announcing, "The Body of Christ." The man and the woman, both of whom have been ordained as Catholic priests (though the woman is not yet fully recognized by Rome) say "Amen," and receive communion last of all, signifying their equality in the community, and their servanthood. Then they wash the vessels with the help of the children while another song of thanksgiving is sung by the congregation.

As the liturgy comes to its conclusion, the two priests pray the closing prayers together, and then briefly confer before announcing that next Sunday, if the weather is fine, mass for all will be held under the trees in the park next door because all of creation is a holy place. If rain is in the forecast, they say, everyone is welcome into the church for an inclusive eucharist, and in either case, both priests will preside together.

And all the people say, "Amen." 

As the final song is sung, young children moved by the Spirit (and others not so young),dance.

I can see it all. Can't you?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Gardening like God does, part III

(For Gardening like God does, part I, click here. Part II, click here.)

Here come the day lilies! I've been wandering around my yard this morning, looking for little signs of life, and resisting the urge to lift my leaf mulch. Last year, I peeked to be sure that little plants were surviving under the leaf cover I had carefully spread in the fall, and the next day a Spring wind whooshed away all the mulch that I had disturbed.

So this year, I'm trying to do better in the category of gardening like God does. God lets the leaves blow where they may to provide soil protection and hold moisture. Having been raised to rake out the beds every spring, it's almost impossible to leave things as is, and I'm half afraid that stuff underneath will suffocate. I'm also not crazy about how messy everything looks. But I really can't see the point of buying fancy chip mulches when God gives me free leaves. Sure, leaves are messier, but I'm doing my best to trust that the messiness will be overtaken by more than enough beauty when all is said and done. After all, that's what God does.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A writer's update

One of the arguments we often use for not writing is this:   "I have nothing original to say.  Whatever I might say, someone else has already said it, and better than I will ever be able to."  This, however, is not a good argument for not writing.  Each human person is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived.  Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well.  Writing can be a very creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others. 
We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told.  We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them.
-- Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, April 29

What with dealing with Shadow-the-puppy (who has an eye infection this week, oh joy), planning the planting of this year's vegetables, and working on the history of L'Arche Edmonton, I haven't had much time for books of late. So on Monday evening when my husband and I made a grocery run to one of those big bulk item stores, I made the mistake of wandering around the book tables, just to see what's new.

I call it a mistake... because I find that when I'm faced with big piles of bright, brand new, shiny books, that's when I seem to feel the most discouraged about my own writing. With so many books already on the market, why bother to write? Though people tell me I am a good writer, and I'm presently working as one, my chances of being published are pretty slim, and experiencing any kind of commercial success is like winning a lottery, really.

I came home from the book section feeling quite deflated... and found Henri Nouwen's April 29th commentary (above) in my inbox, one of those little God-incidents to keep me on track. It reminded me that I'm not writing for fame and fortune, but simply to share with others who have similar interests and dreams... that our world can emerge from its present plague of harried consumer complexity that creates injustice and inequality to become a place of simplicity and joy. In fact, I have another novel about that whole movement percolating in my head... and seemingly endless moodlings!

But first, I have this huge task of completing the L'Arche History. Back in September, our community leader and I sat down and looked at the project and set May as a potential deadline for the first draft to be completed. As it turns out, that deadline was rather unrealistic, because we've reached the deadline, and though I've been working fairly steadily, I'm only almost finished writing about the first ten of the past forty years! Other versions of our history have been somewhat slap-dash because our community has been too busy living L'Arche to write about it for the most part, but on digging deeper, I'm finding too many fascinating tidbits that I don't think should be lost (like the story I posted on Moodlings for Easter Sunday). The way I see it, I have one chance to do our story justice and get it down properly, and it might take another year at the least. Of course, if the community wants a more hurried version, I'll have to try to do that, but it goes against the kind of writer I am (and, I suspect, against the kind of story the community really deserves to hear about itself). 

Besides my L'Arche writing, I'm also awaiting a response from a local publisher about my first novel. The last time I checked the website, it told me that my manuscript is "under review," which likely meant that there are a few people associated with the press who are reading it and deciding whether it's a story on which the manager may want to take a chance. I have all sorts of reasons that he should dream my dream along with me, but this morning I went to look again, and discovered that my manuscript tracking page has disappeared with the redesign of the website, so I'm not sure what's going on. I'll send an email shortly to see what I can learn... In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed that my dream will come true!

You Haven't Changed A Bit--Stories by Astrid Blodgett | Canadian literature | Scoop.itWhile I'm on the topic of getting published, I'm going to put in a plug for a writer friend of mine whose dream has come true... Astrid Blodgett's book, You Haven't Changed a Bit, is a collection of short stories that has been published by the University of Alberta Press. She'll be launching her book on Thursday, May 16th at 7:00 p.m. at Audrey's Books, and I'm sure she'll be happy to sign copies for any and all comers. Three cheers for Astrid!!!

Thinking about Astrid's success has put a bit of the wind back into my sales, and thanks to Henri Nouwen and others around me who know the joy of writing, even if some dreams may fade away, I refuse to lose heart. I've been writing since I was young, simply because I love it, and because it helps me to sort out my soul. I have "redeemed" a lot of my personal struggles, including with writing, by, you guessed it, writing. I'll leave the last word to Henri, again, who sums it up well: 
Writing can be a true spiritual discipline. Writing can help us to concentrate, to get in touch with the deeper stirrings of our hearts, to clarify our minds, to process confusing emotions, to reflect on our experiences, to give artistic expression to what we are living, and to store significant events in our memories. Writing can also be good for others who might read what we write. 
Quite often a difficult, painful, or frustrating day can be "redeemed" by writing about it. By writing we can claim what we have lived and thus integrate it more fully into our journeys. Then writing can become lifesaving for us and sometimes for others too.
-- Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, April 27 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A sure sign of Spring

May 1st. When I got up this morning, little white flakes were blowing around, but they gave way to a sunny day... and my first scille (plural of scilla, this gorgeous little blue flower). Tulips won't be far behind. Let's hear it for the month of May!