Thursday, October 31, 2013

You're invited to Heritage Day

L'Arche is a worldwide community for people with and without disabilities, and every year at this time, our Edmonton community holds a fundraiser for L'Arche communities in South America and the Caribbean. Homes there are not supported with government funds and have a more difficult time making ends meet, so we have solidarity events, including a Bowl-a-thon that I've written about before, and Heritage Day, a fun evening in which we celebrate the cultural diversity of our community with food, music, skits, and a lot of laughter and fun.

The food is provided by our core members and assistants, who prepare individual servings of international dishes -- delicious little samplers of foods from the different countries of people in our community. People are also invited to dress in clothing from their countries of origin. Last year I walked into Heritage Day looking rather ordinary, lamenting that I was just a Canadian without any Russian-German gear from my ethnic background. My African sister, Alice, overheard me and hustled me out to her car, where she had several gorgeous outfits from which to choose! Alice and I are the same size, right down to our shoes, so I wore a beautifully embroidered dress and felt like the belle of the ball. Alice has since given me my very own African dress that I will be sure to wear this year.

The food and the clothing are amazing, and so is the entertainment. We always begin with a Solidarity Slide Show, giving us an idea of the lives of those in our L'Arche sister communities in South America and the Caribbean. Then the community is called upon to offer songs, skits or guessing games. Last year, some of our Korean assistants and some core members presented Gangnam Style, doing an amazing job of getting Psy's moves down, to the absolute delight of the audience. Believe it or not, the RCMP musical ride also made an appearance, and we were treated to a Ukrainian Wedding Dance. What I really love about Heritage Day (well, any L'Arche gathering, really) is having the opportunity to see almost everyone in the community all at once, and meeting their friends and family who join in the fun.

If you're able, please join us at Heritage Day. It will be held this Friday, November 1st at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church (8410 89 Street) at 7 p.m, and I have it on good authority that Bollywood may make for some fun this year. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for children under ten, with those under 5 free, and any extra donations to our Solidarity communities gratefully received at the door. We hope you can join us!

* * * * * * *

On another note, Happy All Hallow's Eve! 

Last night, some special guests joined us in carving the seven pumpkins
Suzanna grew this summer. Appearing clockwise from the top right are
Bat Signal by Suzanna, Spooky Tree and Evil Eye by Julia,
Polka Dots (I'm still scraping bits of drilled pumpkin
off my back step, thank you my sisters!), 
Chicken Little by Jamie,
Jimmy Gourd the Veggie Tales Star by Christina, and Winky.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Simple Suggestion #184... Celebrate your saints

Here's a suggestion that springs partly from the fact that we're coming upon All Hallow's Eve, or as every store has advertised for the past two months, HALLOWEEN (they don't even add the apostrophe between the E's any more, have you noticed?). My suggestion also arises because my friend Cathy is saying farewell to her cousin, Joan, this week, and because October 18th and 19th were the anniversaries of death of two of my grandparents...

Celebrating the silly and superficial supernatural at Hallowe'en with parties, costumes, and haunted houses can be fun, but actually misses the point of All Hallow's Eve. We're reaching toward the "death of nature" as leaves fall and darkness comes early, and we're given a chance to reflect on the waning of life as we know it... and on a new life to come. If we're at all aware of the real meaning of All Hallow's Eve, which is the vigil before the days of remembrance for all saints and souls, we can use it as an opportunity to begin to befriend the death that will eventually come to us, and to recall the communion of saints and souls who have gone ahead of us.

Personally, I figure that anyone I know who has died is already in the loving embrace of God. My deceased family and friends might not be saints in the official, church-sanctioned sense, but they're MY saints in the presence of God, good people I have known, touched, learned from, and loved. It might seem a bit strange, but for a number of years now, I have been keeping a list of people I know who have died, just so that they aren't forgotten. I take my list out every year at this time, and think about these people and the impact they have had on my life. Some I knew all my life, some I only knew through my friends. Remembering is my little way of celebrating these saints, ensuring that they aren't forgotten, and keeping connected so that I'll hopefully know them when I meet them on the other side.

Those of you who know me might be interested in my list of saints because you may know some of them too. I'll post it below. As for the rest of my readers, the challenge for this week is to think of the people in your life who have died, to remember their good qualities, and to celebrate your own communion of saints in a way that feels right for you. I'm thinking of and lighting a candle or two for my friends below:

Adam P. 2007 (great uncle)
Al H. 2006 (Cursillo friend)
Alan C. 2011 (neighbour)
Alex M. 2002 (Cursillo friend)
Alva K. 1999 (Karin's mom)
Anna K. 2008 (Anna's mom)
Armand V. 2010 (Aimee's dad)
Barney M. 2013 (parish friend)
Barry B. 2005 (distant cousin)
Ben D. 1997 (John's dad)
Brent P. 2007 (Joan's husband)
Brian H. 2010 (Lynn's husband)
Bob B. 2011 (neighbour)
Bob H. 2013 (Peter's brother)
Clem T. 1999 (Cursillo friend)
Deanna L. 2013 (cousin)
Del P. 2004 (parish friend)
Don M. 1992 (friend of my in-laws)
Dot K. 2003 (parish friend)
Dorothea P. 2000 (Grandma)
Ed Z. 1986 (uncle)
Edna D. 2007 (Dave's mom)
Edna E. 2004 (Joan's mom)
Eduardo B. 2008 (Cursillo founder)
Elizabeth W. 1992 (Newman friend)
Elsie Anna M. 2012 (Eleanor's mom)
Eugene B. 2001 (Robert's dad)
Eugenia S. 1996 (Grandma)
Fr Clem G. 2008 (parish priest)
Fr Clem R. 2002 (Cursillo roadrunner)
Fr Emmett C. 2006 (parish priest)
Fr Frank F. 1999 (professor and friend who married us)
Fr Gordon R. 2006 (parish priest)
Fr John M. 2006 (parish priest)
Fr Karl R. 2004 (priest friend)
Fr Khiet N. 2000 (priest friend)
Fr Rich B. 2006 (priest friend)
Fran L. 2000 (neighbour)
Frank W. 2000 (Annette's husband)
Gene Z. 2009 (parish friend)
Gianna P. 1992 (Sue's mom)
Gerry B. 2006 (Christ Our Light friend)
Gord S. 1995 (Barb's husband)
Gordon C. 2000 (neighbour)
Greg T. 2009 (Yvette's husband)
Harold G. 2000 (Mary Lou's husband)
Harry P. 1993 (uncle)
Harry E. 2012 (Newman friend)
Hugh C. 2010 (Gwen's brother)
Isabel S. 1993 (aunt)
Ivan D. 1992 (Gaby and Yvonne's son)
James G. 1996 (Brenda's uncle)
Janet F. 1997 (Alan and Josie's daughter)
Jeanne B. 2006 (Muriel's mom)
Joan L. 2013 (Cathy's cousin)
Joe J. 2010 (Cursillo friend)
Joe M. 2007 (Barb's husband)
Joe R. 1999 (Ron's uncle)
John H. 2012 (J. H. Picard band member)
John K. 1998 (Lee's grampy)
John M. 1999 (Sean's dad)
John P. 1989 (Grandpa)
John R. 1983 (Patricia's brother)
Josie P. 2009 (great aunt)
Julie M. 2005 (parish friend)
Judy P. 2011 (Lee's aunt)
June L. 2012 (James' mom, Bill's wife)
Karin K. 2013 (Up With People friend)
Kathleen A. 2010 (Debbie's mom)
Katherine C. 2013 (Gwen's mom)
Kath B.1997 (Alan, Hugh, Ross, Dan, Michael and James' mom)
Len F. 2001 (Karen's dad)
Leo B. 2006 (Leo's dad)
Leon Victor S. 2012 (Honey's dad)
Lori M. 1985 (Christ Our Light friend)
Louis P. 2013 (uncle)
Mabelle B. 2006 (neighbour)
Marcel P. 1996 (Sue's dad)
Margie O. 2003 (distant cousin)
Marie B. 2004 (Elaine's sister)
Marilyn B. 2006 (Cursillo friend)
Mary A. 2009 (Cursillo friend)
Mary K. 1986 (university friend) 
Mary K. 2009 (back-alley Mary)
Mary K. 2009 (sweet Adeline) 
Mary K. 1995 (Lee's grannie)
Michael P. 1998 (great uncle)
Monsignor Don M. 2005 (priest friend)
Monsignor Fee O. 2012 (friend and teacher)
Monika S. 2008 (Angie's sister)
Myrna P. 2013 (Sig's wife)
Noelle S. 2006 (Steve and Dianne's daughter)
Nick O. 1981 (Margie's husband)
Orest M. 2007 (Annette and Paulette's dad)
Pat C. 1993 (Cathy's mom)
Patsy L. 2012 (L'Arche friend)
Pauline B. 2006 (Cursillo friend)
Pauline P. 1985 (first friend I lost)
Pete P. 1974 (great uncle)
Rick L. 1999 (James' brother)
Red G. 2007 (Cursillo friend)
Robert H. 2010 (L'Arche friend)
Ron S. 2002 (Phyllis' husband)
Rosie P. 1993 (great aunt)
Rosemarie S. 2008 (cousin)
Ruby S. 2013 (neighbour)
Scotty M. 1996 (uncle)
Sheila S. 1993 (Newman friend)
Sherman C. 2013 (Kim's husband)
Shorty L. 2007 (neighbour)
Sr Ambrosia P. 1987 (great aunt)
Sr Domenica S. 1998 (Cursillo friend)
Sr Geraldine K. 2008 (friend)
Sr Helen R. 1991 (Ron's sister)
Steve K. 2009 (uncle)
Therese P. 2011 (Pauline's mom)
Vi T. 2001 (parish friend)
Walter E. Sr. 1996 (Joan's dad)
Walter K. 2006 (Shelley's husband)
Warren S. 2000 (Vickie's dad)
Wayne P. 1986 (Pauline's dad)
Wendelin S. 1984 (Grandpa)
Yolande B. 2009 (St. Vincent de Paul friend)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Spirit Movers on a Sunday

I love this video... taken at a Gala at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, where the L'Arche Daybreak Spirit Movers celebrated their 20th anniversary. It's a beautiful song, with a beautiful dance by people with and without disabilities from Daybreak, Canada's first L'Arche community near Toronto. I love to watch each and every one of them dance, and if anyone can tell me who the musicians are, I'd be delighted to put their tune on my iPod. Happy Sunday!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What to do when dreams don't come true...

Way back at the beginning of January, I moodled about a dream turning into reality. Well, here's an update...

Back in July, I received a response from the publisher to whom I offered the manuscript of my first, and so far, only, novel. My hands shook as I opened the letter, because I honestly felt that if this publisher wouldn't accept it, no one would.

I guess I kind of figured that if my project really had a chance, the publisher would phone, so I wasn't exactly surprised to read a nice letter, but still a rejection. Even though, at that moment, I felt as though I might never get my book on the shelves, I wasn't exactly devastated because I'd been down that road before -- and my garden needed my attention!

Later in the summer, I chatted with a friend who challenged me about my lack of passion for getting my dream story published. She figured I should send my manuscript out another ten times (not realizing it costs over $50 per attempt), and she clearly had bigger expectations of me than I did! From our conversation, I concluded that I'm not your typical author -- I have no dreams of best-selling grandeur left, and the objective of getting published is not the most important thing in my life. There's too much other living to do!

But still, I didn't put ten years of work into this story so that it could languish in my computer. I wrote it with the idea that it might help people. I passed it around among family and friends, and one of my aunts actually sent some money to the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) in support of their work with women caught in the sex trade. Woo hoo! That's what the story was meant to do -- make people aware of a need! My cousin also said she would be willing to carry the book in her bookstore, and sent me a link to a novel contest  (June deadline) held by a vanity publisher. Feedback from others has also been very positive -- people are rooting for my project.

I guess what I'm saying is -- there's still hope. The trick is to find a way to get the story out there so that more people will be motivated to get involved in a good cause. As I'm not a business person who knows a lot about fundraising and covering the costs of sharing a story through publication, I'd like to meet a few people whose gifts are in the marketing/promotions sector who could mentor me, perhaps.

So I'm putting it out there -- if you know anyone who might be willing to help me with the business side of my project, or anyone who is tech-savvy enough to help me to get my novel into e-book format at the least so we can publish it on the CEASE website, I would love to connect with those kinds of people. Maybe there can be hard copies later. One thing's certain, the dream's format is changing, but hopefully, it can still be a reality.

What to do when dreams don't come true? Change the dream a little, but keep dreaming!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Simple Suggestion #183... Bell your cat

I really wish Max (and her owners) lived next door...
Meet my friend, Max. I spent some time with her, her calico counterpart, Chester, and their human beings, Cathy and Jim, on the Thanksgiving weekend. Max is a sweetheart, with very soft fur that begs to be stroked, starting a big purr-motor that can be heard in the next room.

I love birds as much as cats, so I was distressed when a Canadian report was released in early October announcing that cats kill an estimated 196 million birds in Canada every year. The number is in the billions in the U.S. As most cats are only hunting out of instinct rather than hunger, and as our bird populations have already taken hits because of environmental damage -- oil spills and deforestation have destroyed many wintering grounds -- it's time to look at helping our bird populations to flourish in any way that we can.

And here's a fairly simple solution to saving our songbirds -- a little bell on the collar of a domestic cat prevents it from sneaking up on unsuspecting birds and killing them. Keeping cats indoors at dawn and dusk also helps, as the light at those times works to cats' advantage.

I love having birds in my bushes and at my feeders, and I love when a tinkling bell announces the visit of a neighbourhood cat... We can love our cats, and be kind to our feathered friends, too -- the best of both worlds!

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

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Come Holy Spirit

This afternoon, our Taizé group will be singing at 2 p.m. at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Main Atrium, offering our prayers for all the people in the hospital complex. We will begin with the chant in the video below, asking for God’s healing spirit to fill caregivers, patients and visitors alike. We hope many people will join us in prayer as life in the hospital goes on all around us. I'm also offering the prayer for Joan's family, and for Eric, and for my mom-in-law, who is recuperating from a bad fall... for whom are you praying today? Let me know and I'll pray for them, too.

This is such a lovely chant, I think I'll listen to it during my morning prayer for rest of the week ahead. Enjoy!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Art from the Unknown, 2013 edition

It's that time of year once again -- MLA Rachel Notley is hosting Art from the Unknown this weekend, and my friends from the L'Arche Edmonton Day Program have been busily preparing paintings and other art, jewelry and cards to show and share with the public. There are many other artists who will be present, too, so if you're looking for a gift for a friend, you might just find one. The event starts this evening with a reception including refreshments and live music, and runs until Sunday afternoon. Art lovers who like to support emerging artists will find it an event worth attending -- there's some pretty amazing work displayed every year. Maybe I'll see you there!
Art from the Unknown will be hosted at the Old Strathcona Centre for the Performing Arts / Cosmopolitan Music Society, located at 8426 Gateway Boulevard. The event will run during the following times:

October 18, 2013 – 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM - Opening Night Reception with Live Music
October 19, 2013 – 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM - General Gallery
October 20, 2013 – 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM - General Gallery

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Images from the Islands

I spent this past Thanksgiving weekend on Vancouver Island, counting my blessings with my best friend. What a weekend! I have too many pictures, but here are a few that encapsulate what I saw in five days. They can't begin to tell you how wonderful it was to have so much time walking and talking with Cathy and her hubby Jim, but they'll give you a taste of autumn glory on the West Coast...

Even the parking lot at Butchart Gardens is gorgeous!

The dahlias were unbelievable (my dahlia tubers are in my root cellar already)!

A little God-light near Clover Point...
Entertainers on guitar and washtub at Ganges Farmer's Market on Saltspring Island...

Leaf-strewn paths at Ruckle Provincial Park... huge maple leaves!
As Jim was always reminding me, "things are bigger on the Island"...
There are otters out there, playing in the water...
Boats above and below the water in the marina at Cowichan Bay...
The view from Maple Mountain...
A very non-traditional (but extremely local) Thanksgiving feast --
B.C. coast halibut with Portuguese tomato sauce, leek cakes
and butternut squash with rosemary, all vegetables from Cathy's back yard...
Maple Bay...
A purple "Ochre Sea Star"...
I never imagined the ocean full of autumn leaves...
A pretty evening in the Garry Oaks Protected Area near Somenos Lake...

I really hope developers never get their hands on this land...
The Empress of Victoria puts on her red dress...
A lovely day in the harbour...
All's quiet at the Legislature...

It was a really gorgeous extra-long weekend, and I have almost 300 pictures to prove it! Many thanks to Cathy and Jim for their hospitality and cozy guest room -- I was so happy to have five perfect autumn days in paradise with friends!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Simple Suggestion #182... Keep a list of your wallet/purse contents

So that "grateful moment" that I mentioned on Sunday? Well...

On Wednesday evening, I was heading for the library to pick up some books on hold when I realized that my wallet was missing. I'm not much for carrying a purse, so I was pretty certain I had it in my hoodie pocket as I left home that morning... but what had happened since? I took off my hoodie at work -- did it fall under the table? I ran for the bus twice -- did it jump out of my pocket?

There was no way of knowing until Thursday morning, when I went to work and looked for it there. I retraced my steps to the bus stops. I called Edmonton Transit's lost and found department. And I prayed.

Turns out, a fellow and his dog were out for a walk, and the dog found it. That's what my daughter was told when the man brought it to the door while I was out. There are more good people than bad in this world, and don't forget it! The money was gone, but the rest of the contents were there. I know this, because on March 15 2010, I made a list of items I keep in my wallet... a list that hasn't changed much since.

Living in Voluntary Simplicity, I try not to accumulate much (and avoid all promotional stuff), but unfortunately, there are a few things that it's hard to live without in our society, and my wallet is one of them. It's not a fancy wallet by any means, and I keep the bare minimum in it to ensure that if it is lost or stolen, I'm not missing too much. Keeping a list of its contents is one way of knowing where to start if it should disappear -- I have record of the important items (health care numbers, driver's licence details, etc.) and can do what's necessary to cancel or reapply for different items.

It only takes a few minutes to make a list that might help a person's peace of mind in the long run. Why not do it now?

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

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Sunday Simple Suggestion (#181)... Develop your own gratitude practice

This weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada. Unlike our American friends down south, we have it in October, perhaps because our growing season is shorter up here, and harvest is usually finished (or nearly so) by the second weekend of the month. We gather to enjoy our produce, our families and friends, and to give thanks for the abundance with which we have been blessed by a gracious God.

"Thanksgiving begins where my sense of entitlement ends," says the signboard on the Mennonite Church on the corner... and it's so true. When we stop and really think about it, we are not entitled to anything. When we arrive on the planet, we have done nothing to deserve anything. As we grow, we learn and progress as human beings, but would that be the case if we didn't have the abundance of resources the earth provides? Air, warmth, light, water, shelter, food, clothing -- we cannot create these out of our imaginations. We depend on each other, on our planet's resources, and, whether we believe or not, on the Creator of everything.

I've had a rule not to make any Simple Suggestions on Sundays, except for today. This weekend I'm inviting my readers to celebrate Thanksgiving by starting a gratitude practice.

My parents started one for my kids on a camping trip. When it was time for night prayers, they said the girls' usual prayers with them, and then invited them to name one thing from their day for which they were grateful... and it stuck. We don't say night prayers together very often anymore, but when we do, we all name at least one thing for which we thank God.

I learned not long ago that my eldest daughter also had a gratitude box under her bed, into which she put slips of paper to remind her of "grateful moments" in her life. I have a journal in which I often write about my own "grateful moments." (I had a special one this past week, which you'll read about on Tuesday, I promise.) It really doesn't take much to get into the habit of being thankful.

As much as we've been brainwashed into turkey and all the trimmings, Thanksgiving isn't about those incidentals. So why not counter consumer culture with a smaller Thanksgiving feast -- and more gratitude? Today's challenge is to start your own practice (choose your own frequency) of thanksgiving.

I know I've posted this song (several times) before, but I can't help myself this time of year. To all my Canadian Moodlings followers, a Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Good bye, Ruby's house: thoughts on impermanence

As I typed the title above, the Stones' Ruby Tuesday started playing in my head... but the Ruby I'm thinking about wasn't of that era at all. She was another wonderful back-alley-neighbour who lived next door to Back-Alley Mary, whom I've gone on about at length. Mary and Ruby were the best of friends besides being good neighbours. I have fond memories of their laughter from one or the other's back yard on a summer's evening. I got to know Ruby a little during the summer that she let me use part of her garden to grow tomatoes. She lived very simply, and was a delightful friend.

Unfortunately, the following summer, Ruby, who was 97 at the time, fell down her back stairs. The bathroom in her house was in the basement, and she misjudged a step on the way down one night. She and Mary had a system -- when Mary, who was 25 years younger, got up in the morning, she would look over at Ruby's bedroom window to be sure the blind was up. If not, Mary would take her key and go over to check on Ruby. That morning, Mary had to call 911.

Luckily, Ruby hadn't broken anything, but returning home wasn't something the medical professionals could see in her case, and she reluctantly admitted that those stairs had gotten to be too much for her. Fortunately, after a relatively brief stay at the Leduc hospital, Ruby and her cat were able to move into a senior's residence that allowed Sunny the Siamese to stay with his owner until Ruby passed away in June. She was 102. Mary and I helped Ruby's niece, June, clear out the basement when Ruby left the house five years ago, and I inherited a barrel of preserve jars for which I thank Ruby every autumn. She also left me her "Little Rube" -- a variety of small red tomato that I grow every year in her honour.

Ruby's 600 sq. ft. (56 sq. m) house was purchased by a couple who rented it out for the last five years, and who spent their time making plans for a new two-storey home to house themselves and their son's young family on the lot. They consulted with the neighbours so that we would know of their plans, jumped through all the hoops set out by the City, and had all the trees on the lot cut down, sigh. Last Friday, Ruby's little old house, which was built perhaps 70 years ago by my old gentleman neighbour, Bob, was knocked flat in less than a half hour. I went out to watch and say my own little goodbye, only to find a whole group of neighbours standing in the alley, doing the same.

I found it a bit shocking to watch the house go down. For the ten years I've lived here, Ruby's place was a given. My neighbours have known it much longer than that. In less than a half hour, it was gone.

I don't know about you, but I find that kind of change to be a wake-up call. It's so easy to think that our homes, our possessions, our little corners of the world are permanent, but it only took a few moments for a backhoe to flatten the house that I will always associate with Ruby. 

Nothing is permanent. Even the mountains are eroding. I'm sure Ruby would agree that a life of 102 years passes in the blink of an eye. When you think about it, it's kind of silly to collect a ton of stuff when we are anything but permanent.

So, while we have a place on this planet, let's not clutter it up. And let's give some thanks.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Simple Suggestion #180... Press some autumn leaves

When's the last time you collected autumn leaves and pressed them in the pages of a thick book?

My youngest daughter has been away in la belle province for the past two weeks for a busy and wonderful French immersion experience in the lovely city of Jonquiere. While there, she and her roommate raked leaves for their host mom every day, and during her last phone call to me, she said, "Mom, I'm bringing you 113 -- no, wait -- 135 pressed leaves as your present!"

There's nothing like the colours of autumn in my books. I'm not sure what I'll do with 135 of them, but aren't my leaves pretty? Maybe I'll make a collage and hang it on the art wall in our dining area. No one designs leaves better than God...

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

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Kindness Song for a Sunday

Here's a lovely little 5 minute music video by rapper-activist Nimo Patel. It came to me from KarmaTube (on the sidebar) and is his response to a kindness challenge that circled the world through What I love about it is that it underlines the fact that we don't have to be overwhelmed by how much there is to do; we can all manage one small act at a time. This production has some wonderful faces, and some great lines... I won't say more than that as I'm sure you'll see for yourself. Enjoy!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Happy St. Francis' Day!

I'd like to have this guy in my garden.
It's the feast day of my favourite saint, Francis of Assisi, who seems to have garnered more than the usual interest since the newest pope took his name. I've moodled about him numerous times already, but if you've missed those moodlings, the best three of the ten that mention him are listed below. Happy St. Francis' Day!

St. Francis, the patron saint of Simplicity

An ecological conversation between God and St. Francis

Book Review: The Passionate Troubadour

Thursday, October 3, 2013

There is no perfect

I love working for L'Arche for many reasons, but the main one, of course, is the people with and without disabilities with whom I have developed friendships. Today I am thinking of a very fine young man without disabilities, an assistant in the community whom I have the pleasure of accompanying on his journey in L'Arche. He visits me once a month for an hour of "accompaniment" and a good cup of masala chai (at least he tells me it's a good cup). I listen to stories of his life in L'Arche, and ask questions for reflection, and encourage him (he does a good job, after all). Sometimes I feel like I am the one being accompanied, because he often leaves me with thoughts that stick in my mind.

The most recent is the heading of this moodling. I can't remember the exact context in which he said it, but the emphasis in his soft-spoken delivery hit me with force. He's absolutely right -- there is always a shadow over perfection, whether we realize it or not. The perfection of a rose only lasts a day; the perfect moment soon becomes a memory. More often than not, things and events and people are far from perfect in our interactions with them. Yet there are many places in our lives where we still expect perfection. Of ourselves, of others, of our governments. Of God, who, granted, is perfect, but who chooses to let us live in imperfection because that's how we human beings find our way to God. I suspect those who write God off have never understood that if God went around thunderbolting people and situations because of imperfection, we'd live on an extremely scorched planet! And if things were perfect here, it wouldn't be earth, but heaven!

Along with the idea of "no perfect" comes another idea that I received from Susan, the amazing woman I have recently been interviewing about the history of our L'Arche community in Edmonton. She has a dozen or so serious medical conditions at the moment, and she says, "Isn't it something how we are conditioned to believe that everything should always go right?" And yet, so much doesn't. In spite of their best efforts at pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, people I'm connected to these days have terminal cancer, heart attacks, money troubles, relationship problems, and frustrations that positive thinking can't melt away no matter how hard they think positively.

So, what to do?

See, even my attempts at imperfection aren't perfect!
We can be angry about all this imperfection, or we can embrace it as part of life and human nature. We can write imperfect people off, or we can recognize in them some of our own imperfections and be loving and accepting, as in L'Arche. We can choose denial, or we can work on grieving and healing our hearts. We can rail at God for the injustices in the system, or we can see our own participation in those injustices and "be the change."

It's when things don't work out that a person's true personality comes out, true growth occurs, and true grace appears, but even so, we tend to see life's trials as the worst things that can happen.

But that's not always the case. I can tell a dozen stories from my own life about when things got screwed up so badly, I couldn't possibly imagine them coming out okay. Here's just one pretty basic (but long-lasting) example: when I was seventeen, I was diagnosed with juvenile (Type I) diabetes. For the first month or so, it seemed like an adventure -- learning to take insulin injections, changing my diet, testing my blood sugars, and balancing food and exercise. Then it hit me  -- this diabetes thing was a permanent imperfection in my life. Unless there was a cure, I would never NOT have diabetes again. For the next eight years I went through a lot of denial, cheated on my diet, and risked my health. I gained 30 lbs and felt pretty lousy a lot of the time, blaming God and the disease rather than my own handling of the situation.

Fortunately, I woke up to reality before the terrible complications associated with diabetes set in. Three decades and three healthy children later, my kidneys are fine, my circulation is good, and my vision isn't any worse than other people my age. My only problem is this dizziness that seems to be permanent, and to which I have become mostly accustomed.

It's no picnic taking 6 needles a day and having fingers constantly full of holes because of blood tests... but I've also had plenty of time to see the blessings of the disease. Blessings? Yes, blessings. I eat healthy, and by association, so does my family. I get a lot of exercise (especially with my husband, Lee, and Shadow puppy, our new walking partner). My weight is where it should be, and my health is good. I have a certain kind of discipline in my life, for which I can thank a chronic illness. I may end up with more serious complications somewhere down the road (heart attacks and strokes claim a lot of people with diabetes) but that just means that I am aware of and appreciate my life and health while I have it.

There is no perfect, but if we look hard enough for it, there's often "pretty good."