Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ella's First Dance Class

Ella recently started her first dance class. If you know Ella, you know she loves to sing, dance and listen to music or act out scences from her princess movies. So, I was excited for her to start this class.

She had been excited for so long to start but upon arriving she became very shy. She didn't want to leave me and informed me that she wanted to go home. So, I stayed with her and within 10 minutes she had warmed up enough that she decided to "put her shyness away" to join the other girls and dance with them!

It was so much fun to watch my little girl be so free and filled with such joy as she danced and played her way around the room. She would often look for me and wave or call out to me to say hi and being the proud mamma, I couldn't take my eyes or camera of of her.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Irish Have Landed....

Well...I finally have a minute to sit and write...well actually, I'm tired but dread going to sleep because my dog will wake me, so this is a great time filler...but more about the dog later!

It has been a hectic time lately but one filled with lots of laughter and fun! Shane & Alli have arrived in Canada and are settled into our home and hopefully feeling at home! I still can't believe they are here and we are all so happy that they are!

We have spent the last 10 days searching for a new home and getting settled and working out all the details on their long to do list! Thankfully, it is getting shorter and they can focus on the really important stuff which is setting up their charity and working on their immigration papers.

They found a beautiful new home overlooking the Kennebecasis River which they will have to renovate, though only on a cosmetic level, but that can grow too! The house appears in very good condition (Harry approved!) and it comes with 1.7 acres for Shane to stomp around on and feel like a king! They will have lots of fun decorating their new home and then hosting me for numerous meals and babysitting my kids as Andy and I take off on road trips of our own! Hah hah...like I could leave my kids!

The kids are really enjoying having them here! It has been pretty easy having them around and the kids enjoy hanging out with them! Jack seemed to get off to a good start on learning guitar. Hopefully, this will continue since Shane is a great guitar player and it seems to have inspired Jack...somewhat! Homeschooling has slacked off a bit, but every so often I crack the whip and Jack and Sam enter into my radar zone and the math books are whipped out and we go a big crazy doing a bunch of pages at a time!

Andy has missed out almost completely as he has been on a shutdown. He is gone 14 hours per day and sleeps the rest and basically lives like a zombie! Though, we did squeeze in a dinner with Heidi and Jon last Friday night which was lots of fun. Normally for me, it turns me into a bit of a zombie but having Shane & Alli here to keep me busy and the constant banter...I have been enjoying myself and the change in my routine is making time fly by until Andy is finished...though he may not agree!

I can't say the same for my dog! Maggie is an extremely nervous dog and upon meeting Shane, she emptied her bowels all over my kitchen floor! Then for the next week we had to listen to her growl or bark or poop and run! Now to add insult to injury, she has developed some sort of gastro infection which has meant that she has been throwing up and having diahrea.

This has left me a basket case because I am up with her every two hours and when I'm not doing that, I'm cleaning up poop of the floors, her bum or washing her towels from having to bath her 2-3 times a day because she gets poop all over her! She is now wearing diapers! Yep, I cut a hole in a diaper and she wears one when I am to exhausted to bathe her right away...such as 3am! Poor Shane & Alli took pity on me during the worst of it when we would discover another accident in the house! How's that for making a house guest feel at home! Put them to work cleaning up poop!

Well, I should try to get some sleep...but the thought of getting up to face a wet, cold night outside with a dog who needs her bum wiped....well....

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Another School Shooting

It was with horror that I watched the news unfold yesterday about Virginia Tech. 33 people dead, including the gunman. The incomprehensible horror of such a violent act leaves you without words.

I ache for the dead, the violence they experienced in their last moments...I'm sure we will hear of many acts of bravery during this horrible situation. I pray for the families and friends affected and for the healing of the wounded.

I don't know why a person would be so determined to carry out such a violent act...he must have been in great despair or suffering from some sort of mental illness to do such a horrendous thing and to do it so methodically. His family will need lots of support and prayer living with the aftermath of their son's actions. I pray that we can find out what set off this young man and perhaps learn from it to somehow prevent any further repeats of this now more common event.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Fine Balance

I am almost to the end of this 768 page heavy weight novel by Rohinton Mistry. I find myself deliberately slowing my pace reading it to make it last a bit longer! I picked this book up at a yard sale last summer along with a bunch of other great books that I chose to read before this one...probably because of the size and subject....I struggle to make time for reading because I prefer to sit and read a book quickly. But with four kids who tend to interrupt me, I end up feeling cranky so I have used it as an excuse to only read books for information versus pleasure...bad I know!

The novel is slow to unwind but you won't mind because the author weaves such a vivid picture of India's disturbed political and social climate in the mid-1970s and describes in detail the huge divide between rich and poor, the treatment of woman and children and the total disregard for the poor & handicapped. The characters are warm and loving even though they to have many of the same bias towards one another depending on their caste.

What has kept me absorbed is the characters sheer determination to live...the will to keep moving, to outsmart the evil found in a system that was corrupt and cruel...because to give up is to die. Yet, if any of us found ourselves in the situations of the main characters I wonder if we wouldn't give up?

The conditions were horrible and cruel, yet they found happiness in the simplest of things...reminding you that joy is found in the smaller details of life....not the grandiose, but the brief moments that makes your soul lurch and your heart lighten. When they had little they still gave to those less fortunate. It wasn't done out of guilt, but rather, out of compassion and humility knowing that there was others worse off than they were!

The sheer cruelty towards humanity told in this book will shock you...yet, it reminds you why our world is often the way it is. We have an incredible capacity towards cruelty, indifference, and apathy. These people were beaten down by a system that was corrupt at every level, which is then reflected in their own value system and actions. Society considered the poor dispensible, replacable, clutter, a blight on the city and country.

Yet, you will be humbled as you are reminded that within all of us is the capacity to reach out and touch people with kindness, compassion and respect. Even though values can be skewed, choices made dependent on the situation, it is more important to judge the character or intent behind the action rather than your perception or understanding of it based on your own situation or where you are in life.

Monday, April 09, 2007

11 Rules of Life You Don't Learn in School

This is an excerpt from the book "Dumbing Down our Kids" by educator Charles Sykes. It is a list of eleven things you did not learn in school and directed at high school and college grads.

RULE 1
Life is not fair - get used to it.

RULE 2
The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world
will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel
good about yourself.

RULE 3
You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out
of high school. You won't be a vice president with
car phone, until you earn both.

RULE 4
If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a
boss. He doesn't have tenure.

RULE 5
Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your
grandparents had a different word for burger flipping
they
called it Opportunity.

RULE 6
If you mess up,it's not your parents' fault, so don't
whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

RULE 7
Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as
they are now. They got that way from paying your bills,
cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about
how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest
from the parasites of your parent's generation, try
delousing the closet in your own room.

RULE 8
Your school may have done away with winners and losers,
but life has not. In some schools they have abolished
failing grades and they'll give you as many times as
you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the
slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

RULE 9
Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get
summers off and very few employers are interested in
helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

RULE 10
Television is NOT real life. In real life people
actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

RULE 11
Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for
one.

More on Afghanistan

If you go to CBC you can read another good article about Afghanistan. The question....Is the country collapsing?

These are valid questions that demand serious consideration by our governement and military. At the same time...we have a responsibility to ask questions and demand answers...I for one do not want to see Afghanistan returned to the Taliban or any other militant group that represses men, woman and children the way they did.

But, I also don't want to see our troops killed or maimed because our leaders can't get their ass in gear and actually come up with a plan of action. We can't continue to watch money intended for the rebuilding of Afghanistan to be squandered to the rich and powerful. There has to be a way to provide security while rebuilding the country....

But, as the world falls deeper into war mentality we have to take this seriously and not stick our heads in the sand. What that looks like I'm not sure...but I do know that I want to do more....

CBC News Indepth....Afghanistan

Afghanistan's economy is growing like gangbusters. Problem is, more than a quarter century of war and an attempt by the Taliban to isolate the country from modern influences has left the economy in ruins.

A United Nations report in February 2005, concluded that Afghanistan remains one of the world's least developed countries. It ranked 173rd out of 178 countries surveyed – beating five states in sub-Saharan Africa.

Out of every 1,000 babies born in Afghanistan, 142 die before reaching one year of age. A woman dies in pregnancy every 30 minutes. Overall life expectancy is estimated at just under 42.5 years.

Afghanistan is a landlocked country of about 28 million people, bordered by Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. It is a land of mountains, plains, cold winters and hot summers – and is often threatened by earthquakes and floods.

Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic country and 99 per cent of its population is Muslim. Shariah law, an Islamic legal code based on the Qu'ran, is strictly enforced. In 2003, a court sentenced two Afghan journalists to death for blasphemy but they escaped and sought asylum abroad. In March 2006, an Afghan man was brought before a Shariah court and faced a possible death penalty because he converted from Islam to Christianity.

The Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 1979, to prop up a Communist government and to suppress a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement it feared would spread to southern Soviet republics.

But the war went badly for the Soviets. By 1989, they were driven out of the country by anti-communist mujahedeen forces (trained and supplied by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan). A third of the population fled the country while the various factions fought. Most went to Pakistan and Iran.

The war also provided fertile training ground for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban movement.

Once the Soviets were gone, Afghanistan's numerous factions lost their one common goal – liberating the country from foreign occupiers. The factions clashed – and by the late 1990s the Taliban emerged as the dominant force. It seized control of most of the country, including the capital, Kabul.

The Taliban imposed its ultra-conservative version of Islamic law on the country: television was banned, women were barred from attending school, driving and working outside the home.

The United States accused the Taliban government of harbouring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, which Washington blamed for a number of deadly attacks.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington made bin Laden and the Taliban the prime targets of the American military.

Barely a month after the attacks, an American-led coalition drove out the Taliban government. Most of its senior leaders – as well as Osama bin Laden – remain at large.

Since then, Afghanistan's economy has been growing at 25 per cent a year. It is projected to keep growing by about 10 per cent a year through the first decade of the 21st century.

Much of that has been fuelled by the billions of dollars in aid countries have pledged to help rebuild the country.

But there are concerns that much of the country's income is being siphoned off by warlords with strong political and military connections, further widening the gap between rich and poor.

Canada participated in the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force, which was created in late 2001 to help bring stability to the country.

Canada ended its role in late 2005 and committed a battle group of about 2,000 personnel to Kandahar in early 2006. Canadian Brigadier General David Fraser was to take the command of the multinational brigade consisting of Canadian, British and Dutch troops in March 2006.

There remain huge challenges: Afghanistan has the worst education system in the world, according to UN calculations. Nearly three-quarters of adults are illiterate and few girls go to school in many parts of the country.

The UN report points to positive developments as well. It notes that the October 2004 election won by President Hamid Karzai showed Afghanistan's political progress. It was an election that forces loyal to the former Taliban government had vowed to disrupt.

The election went off relatively smoothly. Still, Karzai has been referred to as the President of Kabul, as the government continues to have difficulty exercising its influence in the rugged and fiercely independent countryside.

With American help, Afghanistan is rebuilding its army, aiming for a projected 2006 full combat strength of 40,000 soldiers. That's more than twice as many as were in place at the end of 2004.

The American general overseeing the effort expects that the training of an overall force of 70,000, including a headquarters and other non-combat personnel, would be complete by 2008.

At the beginning 2005, there were promising signs that Afghanistan's political climate was warming up. Moderate members of the former Taliban government were negotiating with Karzai's government – among them, a former UN envoy and two former deputy ministers. They're members of a group called Khudam-ul Furqan (Servants of the Koran), which attracted several moderate Taliban members.

At the time, more militant Taliban guerrilla officials dismissed talk of reconciliation. They vowed to continue their war against the Karzai government and foreign forces.

In the fall of 2005, attacks by the Taliban insurgency increased in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban began using improvised explosive devices, basing their tactics on the insurgency in Iraq, as well as suicide attacks and raids on remote villages in a growing attempt to destabilize the Karzai government.

Six Soldiers Dead

Yesterday in Afghanistan six Canadian soldiers died from a roadside bomb. Five were from the Base CFB Gagetown. When I heard the news last night I felt that same helplessness. Pray for the families, pray for our soldiers, pray for the innocent...just pray.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

Well, I stayed up late, tidying up after the kids, filling more little plastic eggs with candy and then filling their baskets...we even bought a bone for our dog Maggie and treats for Finnigan our cat...while sending up prayers that the cat treat was safe!

We all woke up to a cold, snowy, blustery March...woops April morning! After church we will come home and have pancakes, apple sausages and bacon with homemade baked beans! Then I will hide all those shiny coloured eggs outside in the snow. The kids are excited and it should be lots of fun!

I always remember back in Ireland how each year my parents, my Aunty Jean and Uncle Jimmy and five kids would walk up into Woodburn for a picnic or we would drive to Troopers Lane and have a picnic there and roll eggs down the hill...there was no easter bunny, or hoopla of lining up in stores to buy tons of candy...you received a lovely chocolate egg which I would normally receive a week early and it would sit on my dresser calling out to me to break into the back of it and pinch pieces of chocolate before Easter morning.

We never attended church...though I wanted too. My parents avoided all things religious both in Ireland and in Canada. I remember when a Minister came to our home here in Canada. He was a lovely man, his name was Mr. Evans and he used to be a milk man before giving that up to become a Minister. He was big, jolly, gentle spirited man. He asked mum and dad if we ever went to church, of course mum and dad said yes though this was a blatant mis-representation of the facts...and naturally, you can guess who blurted out the truth...moi! I pipe up, that no we don't go to church, never do....then I was cut off with two piercing glares from embarrassed parents! I knew I was in for it later! We never did get to attend his small country church, but I went to school with his son Darren and would bump into Mr. Evans at different times over the years and kept in touch until he moved away.

Ultimately, Mr. Evans married me and Andy. I had already booked my church at the fanciest, oldest church in the city when I bumped into him and learned he was back in the city and had a church on the East side. I cancelled my fancy church (hey, it was the 80's and Princess Diana had just been married and I wanted that long walk!) for a very small (as in short walk), humble church and was married by a minister whom I loved and felt truly cared for me and Andy.

I remember telling him that in no uncertain terms was I changing my name. He said he had never married anyone yet who hadn't changed their name. I challenged him to show me where in the Bible it states that a woman has to change her name...he promised to check with his Bishops and sure enough, I was right, it wasn't in the Bible and was happy to honour what he thought was an odd request. He never made me feel badly and enjoyed the challenge...though, my concession was playing a really bad irish ballad which was his request! I still remember the pained looks on people's faces...but he enjoyed it!

Well, I've digressed, its late and I have to head to church as we will late as usual. I wanted to share this verse that Shane & Alli sent me yesterday via text message...it arrived when I really needed it!

The Dark Night is Over.
The day start rises again in our hearts
The misdeeds of yesterday are
gloriously transfigured
in the blinding light
of this resurrection morning.

Today is Easter, resurrection morning, the snow has laid a crisp, white layer on this frozen ground. But, underneath, life is breaking thru to rise again into a new season.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Kahlil Gibran

An excerpt from "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children,
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but are not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your chilren
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and
He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far
Let your bending in th earcher's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So he loves also the bow that is stable.

I read this poem many years ago now...when I was a new mother...still walking in awe of actually being a mother! I felt so protective of my baby...wanting his life to be perfect...or as near perfect as I could make it.

But, that poem has reminded me throughout the years that these children that I birthed from my body...that I dreamed about before they were even conceived, were not mine nor mine to mold into statues of what I think they should be. They are here to blaze their own trail in life and I hope I will always honour that.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Theology

"Theology moves back and forth between two poles, the eternal truth of its foundations and the temporal situation in which the eternal truth must be received." [Paul Tillich, "Systematic Theology," 1951]