Thursday, November 21, 2013

So Much Depends on a Red Wheel Barrow

So much depends on a red wheel barrow. Sometimes, it's memories of your loved ones, and sometimes it is true love.

I grew up next door to my grandparents, our house perched above theirs on the hill at the quiet dead end of a busy street. I doubt there was a day in my life, other than vacations, when I didn't catch at least a glance of my grandparents' house outside our living room windows. A staple part of that view, for most of our lives, was the wheelbarrow.


My parents with the wheelbarrow in the early 1970s.
So much a part of the landscape was it that I didn't think about it as being a moveable, separate object until it was gone. When I was about fourteen or fifteen years old, my grandparents and my family had a joint garage sale, which mostly consisted of us trading our junk for each others treasures. The unfortunate thing is that sometimes you don't realize which pieces of your junk are somebody else's treasures until it is too late. I managed to scoop up some sentimental knick knacks before some stranger scored a bargain on a piece of our family history. The wheelbarrow, however, was sold before anyone in my family even realized that my grandparents were going to sell it. Perhaps they hadn't even planned on selling it until somebody saw it and made an offer on it. In any case, the wheelbarrow was loaded and gone before we could salvage it. The person most disappointed was my older sister, who had always been fond of it and was at the age at which the reality of dreaming of having her own family, home, and yard was not so distant in the future anymore. The wheelbarrow, rich with memories and family history, would have been a meaningful fixture in her own yard, perhaps, one day.

Within a couple of years, our beloved Granddad passed away suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of seventy-three. It's funny how as a sixteen year old, seventy-three seemed pretty old to me, and not that different than eighty-three or ninety-three. The older I get, the younger seventy-three seems. Parents and grandparents grow up too quickly, just like kids, I suppose. After his passing, every tangible item that stirred memories of Granddad became precious, and the loss of the wheelbarrow stung a little bit more for my sister.

Around the same time, one of us made an incredible discovery while riding the bus to university. The elevation of the bus made it possible to see over the hedges of yards just enough more than our car that we spotted the red and white wheelbarrow in a yard just a few minutes away from our house, where it had been all this time. Even though the wheelbarrow was not in the family anymore, at least we could take a peek at it now and then.

By this time, my sister had started dating a young man who loved poetry and good quality woodworking tools. He soon became a regular fixture around our house, and when he wasn't at our house, our phone line was inevitably tied up with their phone calls. This was during the infancy stage of the internet at our home, when the internet connection ran through the phone lines and was disconnected by anybody picking up the phone. There were some pretty epic battles between us three sisters for use of the phone line in those days. One successfully uninterrupted phone conversation led my older sister to tell her new suitor about the Disappointment of the Wheelbarrow, and the ensuing discovery of the proximity of the wheelbarrow to our house.

One night, they met as usual at the church's young adult's group, and he surprised my sister with a gift: a framed photograph of the wheelbarrow, and this William Carlos Williams poem:


so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow


glazed with rain
water


beside the white
chickens.

The photo of the wheelbarrow at the buyer's house.

It was, she says, the moment she knew without a doubt that she loved him.

Fast forward about fourteen years to this Fall. On a drive in my parents' neighbourhood, I was a little crestfallen when I saw a "For Sale" sign with a "Sold" sticker on the house where the wheelbarrow lived. I wondered what would become of the wheelbarrow.

My uncle, who lives in a third house next door to my parents and grandparents, received a call late at night around that time from a woman whom he had never met. She explained that about fourteen years earlier, a young man had come to her door and asked if he could take pictures of her wheelbarrow, which must have seemed bizarre until he explained that it used to belong to his girlfriend's late grandfather, and had always been special to her. He asked the woman to please let him know if they ever decided to sell the wheelbarrow, and he would gladly buy it back for the family. She remembered after all these years how earnest he was, and wanted to return the wheelbarrow, free of charge, now that she was selling her house and moving. She described the young man to my uncle, and my uncle figured out whom she was talking about. My uncle was still puzzled, however, how this woman had found his phone number. Somehow, she remembered where she had bought the wheelbarrow, and drove back to my grandparents' house. Upon arriving there, however, she realized that at her age, she was not able to walk down the steep driveway to knock on the door. With incredible kindness and impressive disregard for the human gag reflex, she took the admirable and socially risky step of poking through the garbage bag at the end of the driveway, which was actually from my Uncle and Aunt's house, long enough to find a name and phone number. My brother-in-law was thrilled to be able to call and thank this woman, and tell her that he's now been married to that sweet girl for twelve years and they have two little girls of their own. A day later, the wheelbarrow was loaded up and brought back to their home and my sister has her wheelbarrow full of memories and love.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

To Halloween or not to Halloween

I grew up trick-or-treating, relishing in that one day a year that it was okay to take candy from strangers. We used pillowcases to collect candy, because they held much more weight than flimsy plastic bags, and the now-ubiquitous reusable shopping bags were not yet commonplace. I remember limping on a twisted ankle one year because it was my sister's last year to trick-or-treat before it would get really awkward, and we wanted to rake it in. I still remember the houses that gave unusual treats, like our neighbour who worked for a souvenir pin company, and gave out a collection of surplus souvenir pins every year; the house that gave out juice boxes, which were a coveted status symbol in school lunch boxes; and a house that made fantastic candy apples with their name and address on the popsicle sticks to prove that they weren't going to anonymously poison us. We ran from house to house until our parents reigned us in, and then gathered at my neighbour's fantastic annual Halloween party. It was the one time during the year that all of the neighbours gathered together and visited. The hostess's attention to Halloween-themed details in the food and decorations was amazing, and this was in the pre-Pinterest era. I wonder if I've had an original creative thought since Pinterest.

This year's creations.
It never occurred to me that some Christians wouldn't celebrate Halloween until I started attending a private Christian school in grade seven. Among my classmates, a sizeable minority of them experienced Halloween in a much different way, peeking out the windows of their house at trick-or-treaters with absolutely no lights on in the house. Some others attended the Halloween alternative "harvest festivals" or "pumpkin parties" at their church. I hoped, for their sake, that they didn't know what they were missing. It seemed, to my twelve year old brain, a grave injustice. It turns out that those church parties were actually pretty fun too.

O trick-or-treating
Now that I am a parent myself, I have more understanding for those parents, although I choose to let my kids take part in Halloween. Parenting is rife will hard choices. Should I let my kids watch this show, go to that birthday party, play with at that kid's house? Should I throw out that brand new Scaredy Squirrel book I scored at Value Village because Scaredy consults a horoscope? We make judgements according to what we think is best for our children, and for some people that means choosing not to partake in any of Halloween's offerings. Parenting is hard enough without feeling like we are judging each other. I don't wish to persuade those who don't celebrate Halloween to start doing so, but rather to encourage those who do celebrate Halloween, including myself, to see some of the opportunities.

Super-O at the Strong Start Halloween party last year
At first I wondered if I was just letting my kids celebrate Halloween because it's so much fun. There are things that make me uncomfortable, like the gore and the ghouls, the vampires and the mummies. But I love the fun of imagining (or searching Pinterest) a costume idea and creating it, and the excitement of trick-or-treating. I love the candy. And, I hate the candy. Thankfully, I think there are more redeeming features of Halloween than simply having fun (which is not a bad thing either).

Halloween fixates on and celebrates fear. Is there anything positive about such a negative emotion? In my experience, there is a difference between true fear, and amusing fear. For most people, there is an element of amusement in the jolt of fear induced by spotting a fake spider in your Halloween punch, or by somebody you know jumping out from a hiding spot and startling you. After all, even the fun of the earliest game we play with our kids, Peekaboo, is the thrill of momentary fear followed by relief.

O and T as Bert & Ernie, the costumes that my Mom sewed for my sisters and I when we were little
Real fear is different. Real fear in my life was thinking my husband was not going to beat the Lymphoma monster. Most of the fearful elements of Halloween are intended to be amusing. There are reflections of real fear in Halloween decorations, like tombstones and zombies, though they should actually make public speaking decorations for Halloween since most people are more afraid of public speaking than death. A zombie doing public speaking would be the penultimate Halloween decoration or costume. Perhaps in using these decorations and costumes, even unknowingly, people are only able to give voice to what we fear most (other than speaking in public, shudder): death. I wonder how many fake front-yard graveyards actually give people pause to think about life after death.  Do the witches, gargoyles, and devils give people pause to actually think about the spiritual realm of life? There's an opportunity to engage with people who need hope, I'm sure of it. With the focus on fear and evil, isn't it a perfect opportunity for the One who defeated death and evil to shine?

O's first year trick-or-treating. He was too little to know that we ate all his candy.
For those who don't ponder the spiritual aspects of Halloween, it's really just a fun, imaginative, sugar-filled night. It's one of the few non-awkward chances to knock on every door of my townhouse complex and introduce ourselves to neighbours, and maybe stop to chat for a while. It's a chance to be a good neighbour, and be hospitable and generous to neighbourhood kids. I was accidentally the stingiest person on the block last year. The first trick-or-treaters were three young adult men who didn't even have costumes on. One tried to placate my obvious hesitation by passing off his cat shirt as a costume. I wondered if that was the kind of trick-or-treater we were going to get in our new neighbourhood, so I left a bucket of candy on the porch when we left to trick or treat with the lame backup candy I bought in case we ran out of the good stuff, and put a sign on it saying "Take one, not two...we are watching youuuu!" So, all the cute and appropriately aged trick or treaters that came after that saw our sign and the individually wrapped single gummy bears or whatever they were. Awesome.

Last year's pumpkins
The dark side of Halloween is undeniable, but it's easy to forget that aspects of our Christmas and Easter celebrations evolved from early pagan festivals and rituals as well. If holidays that Christians consider to be religious holidays, like Christmas and Easter, can be celebrated by the secular world with Santa and the Easter Bunny, why can't Christians appropriate the non-religious aspects of Halloween for some simple fun? Even better, why can't we use the holiday to engage with our friends and neighbours, especially when they might ask what we think about the spiritual aspect of the day? Why should the devil have all the good music?  We've taken back drums, electric guitars, dancing, movies, card games not limited to Rook; how about Halloween next?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Reflections on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, Vancouver

My husband asked me yesterday why I don't blog anymore. He said that he misses it, and he also brought me a giant bouquet of red roses, so I'm giving him about five thousand points.



I somehow thought that the pace of life would slow down with O in school all day and only T at home to care for. How come nobody told me that the pace is actually 3.4 times faster? In addition to the busyness, I feel like I'm just finding my bearings again emotionally. The truth is that even though I knew it was going to be difficult sending O off to school each day, that foreknowledge didn't pad my fall. A nurse friend (side-note: don't nurses make such wonderful friends? I have several friends who are nurses and they seem to all have the common traits of empathy, flexibility, calmness, and are not easily grossed-out by my grossest stories) recently told me that the times in life when a woman is most susceptible to depression are post-partum, and when the children leave the nest. I'm pretty sure she was referring to when they are young adults, but I can imagine that the third peak must be when all the kids are in school, especially for stay-at-home moms. I'm bracing myself for 2.5 years from now, unless I pop out a third child. The changes in my life have prompted me to retreat a bit away from writing and into compulsive crafting (to be exposed in a later post) and watching the entire series of Doc Martin on Netflix in a short length of time in the evenings while said crafting was happening.

Other than O's commencement of kindergarten, the most significant event for me recently was attending the Truth and Reconciliation Commission National Event in Vancouver, which I previously wrote about here. Last month, I saw courage and it looked like this:

Imagine speaking about the darkest, most desperate moments of your life to a hall of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people. Beyond those seated in the room, your words and your face are being viewed by tens of thousands of people across the world via the internet. 


There is a moment when survivors share their stories when they close their eyes and pause. In that moment, you can see that under the bandages of any healing, there is always going to be a fresh wound. In that pause, however unremarkable in length, you can see the survivor's struggle to stay present in the moment, resisting the mind's pull to experience anew events from the past.

As only a witness and observer to the sharing of their stories, I cannot assume to understand all of their reasons for having the courage to speak. Whether it was their intention of not, I hope that sharing brought the survivors some measure of healing, a sense of vindication, and a release from the feelings of shame that victims of abuse often have. Some of them spoke to honour the memory of siblings or dear friends who lost their lives at residential school, or due to the emotional effects of abuse later in life. Their willingness to embrace vulnerability helped me to learn more about Indian Residential Schools, and their devastating intergenerational effects.



In addition to the Indian Residential Schools, I learned for the first time about Indian Hospitals, including the Nanaimo Indian Hospital, from a woman who was kept there from age two to four, enduring unbearable treatment. I learned about the "day schools," which were much like the residential schools except that students returned home every night. The abuse they suffered was horrific too, but their experiences have not been addressed by any financial settlements from the government or churches. I learned about forced sterilizations, medical experiments, and children freezing to death after trying to run away from abuse at residential schools.

In hearing their recollections of their childhood traumas, I couldn't stop myself from imagining the horror of my own children experiencing what these once-children did. I imagined their pain through the eyes of my five year old, and the pain that their parents must have experienced, having their children wrenched out of their arms and taken to residential schools.

The timing of this experience for me was especially poignant given that I had been fretting in the past few preceding weeks about O beginning kindergarten. The juxtaposition of his experiences and the experiences of these former children was not lost of me that day. I worried about whether his home-haircut was dorky and nobody was telling me. The survivors all had identical bowl cuts on arrival at the school, with some careless ear snippage for good measure. I worried about if his lunch containers might have BPA, and whether kids would tease him about the food I packed. I was the kid with the "boring" lunches, but now I'm thankful for all the healthy food, Mom! Survivors were doused in DDT for twenty four hours on arrival to kill any imagined creepy crawlies, and they were fed grossly inadequate food for growing bodies. I wondered if O would be overwhelmed by French immersion; survivors were beaten for using the only language that they knew. I wondered if my heart would break a little every day when I said good-bye to my oldest baby for six hours; those kids and parents probably wondered if they would ever see each other again.

"Aboriginal children waving farewell, Fort Providence Indian Residential School."
Library and Archives Canada
On the last day of the commission, we skipped church and took the skytrain into Vancouver to participate in the Walk for Reconciliation. We were a little concerned that the characteristically ill-timed Vancouver rain would put a damper on attendance, but approximately seventy thousand people showed up. Dr. Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered a powerful address, which I encourage you to listen to here. The weekend of courage ended on a note of hope, listening to her powerful words and seeing so many people in our city coming to learn, listen, and support.






We need to update our cultural narrative to include awareness of these atrocities in our past, and their intergenerational effects. We would think it strange, would we not, if German schoolchildren didn't learn about the horrid history of Nazism, or if Americans didn't know about its history of slavery? We too must be culturally literate in our own failings if we are to experience healing as a nation, and to prevent injustices from continuing to happen. I don't recall learning much of this in school, or even at university. I am hopeful that my children will learn more in school about it than I did, but, if not, they will certainly learn about it from us. Not yet though, five years old and two years old are too young to bear the weight of this knowledge that we all must begin to share with those who have been bearing it alone these many years. For now, I want my kids to be as carefree and joyful as those children should have been with their families.

Two M├ętis Children with an Inuit Child at All Saints Residential School, Shingle Point, Yukon
Library and Archives Canada


Monday, September 2, 2013

Gradual Entry, Gradual Letting Go

Tomorrow is O's first day of kindergarten. I'm hoping that since I had some tears already today, that I will be dry-eyed tomorrow and not embarrass him too severely on his first foray into public education. I thought I was crying about feeling overwhelmed about finding a balance between remedying my relentlessly messy house and spending quality time with the boys, which sounds silly except that I know most of you have been there too. I thought that my momentary complete exasperation with fending off endless requests, mediating arguments, and supervising time-outs while trying to clean the upstairs bathroom for the first time in an unmentionably long time had pushed me to the brink. That was, until my husband saw me brushing away some tears and said "You're thinking about tomorrow, aren't you."

And he was right, even if I wasn't consciously aware of it at the time that the errant tears departed my tear ducts against my will. I remember when O was about three years old, and some of my friends were getting ready to send their first born children to kindergarten. Away from the ears of said children, these friends admitted that they couldn't wait to have some freedom. At the time, I couldn't imagine being glad to have O be away from me for half of his waking hours almost every day, but these friends insisted that I would be ready when it was his turn. Well, I've got about twelve hours left for that prediction to prove true! I know that little brother T will benefit from some more one-on-one attention, so that is my chosen beacon of hope in my sea of melodramatic despondency. Maybe we can comfort each other in our bereft state of O-lonliness.

Thankfully, he will start kindergarten with a "gradual entry" over the next couple of weeks, and I can't help but think that it is the beginning of my gradual "letting go." All precious things in life are a gift; some of them are so fleeting. Being able to spend my days with O for the last five years has been one of the great privileges of my life; I want to be greedy and hit the pause button. As much as I want him to stay five forever and never loose his boundless imagination, tender heart, and sweet little boy giggle, at every stage he has surprised and delighted us with new things. Sure, some stages have made me want to pull my hair out, starting with the grays, but I'm sure the next stages will bring new things to be thankful for.

On the plus side, O is super excited for school, so at least there won't be two of us trying not to weep tomorrow!


"Look how big I am, Mom!"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Truth and Reconciliation


This is Agnes, my maternal great-great-grandmother, feeding the geese on her farm. Her mother-in-law, Eliza, was the midwife in Fort Langley for many years, and the go-to medical person before a doctor moved to the town. Agnes' daughter, Ada (my great-grandmother), married the boy next door, Harry (my great-grandfather). Ada's brother, Adam, married Harry's sister, Ruberta, so their families were doubly bound together.

Left to right: Hazel Smith, Adam Towle, Harry Smith, Ada Towle, Ruberta Smith, George Towle


Aren't they cute, gazing at each other? Harry reminds me of Felix from the television series, Road to Avonlea. O says he looks like Bert (Dick Van Dyck) from Mary Poppins, which he insists on pronouncing Mary PopSins,  because it sounds better.


Here is a closer view of the barn that you can see in the rear of the previous photo.


Harry's family's farm is now the site of Trinity Western University. When my husband and I first got married, his job required us to live on campus at TWU for three years. Living in dorms as newlyweds had its peculiar challenges, like students knocking on my door at midnight to ask me survey questions about relationships, weekly fire alarms from students burning toast, and maintenance workers thinking it was okay to enter our apartment without warning, but it was neat to think that I was living on the same land where my great-great grandparents lived, where they birthed their babies and grew their food. I printed a copy of this barn photograph and hung it on my wall in that campus apartment. 

As a child and teen, I loved poring over my grandma's photo albums and hearing her recollections of her grandparents, real "pioneers", as she called them, of our local area. On trips to the Fort Langley museum, you can see my great-grandmother's name in the school attendance list, and there are stories of their lives in local history books. In The Langley Story Illustrated by Donald E. Waite, there are two  particularly interesting and amusing accounts of my family members. The first is about  my great great grandmother, Agnes, who is referred to as "Mrs. Stanley Towle" in the account. As a side note, as much as I adore my husband, I hope to never be referred to as "Mrs. David Heinrichs." It seems to me the strangest and most sexist styling of name possible. I give the author the benefit of the doubt that he was being consistent with the naming practices of the time in which his subjects lived. In any case, Waite writes of the great flood of 1894:

The flood waters also gave Fred McLellan's pregnant wife troubles.  The living level of their home was completely engulfed forcing Mrs. McLellan to flee upstairs with her one year old son Neil.  All the excitement brought on the termination of the woman's pregnancy and she went into labour.  Fortunately Mrs. Stanley Towle was on hand and able to act as midwife. She (155) tied Mrs. McLellan's youngster to his bed to make sure he would not fall into the swirling waters and then proceeded to deliver his brother.  The baby came into the world amid all the confusion on May 20, 1894.

Of my great-great-great grandmother, the actual midwife and hotel proprietor, Eliza Towle:

    Swanson's daughter Clara went to work in the Towle's Commercial Hotel at Fort Langley. The hotel was sectioned off into two compartments. In one of the rooms only men gathered to drink. No women were allowed. Story has it that one pioneer got a little liquored up and stripped naked in order to do a little jig on a table top. For a joke one of the other patrons ordered a meal for the performer. Miss Swanson got a shock when she kicked the swinging door from the kitchen open and made an entrance with a tray of food. She let out a scream which attracted the attention of Mrs. Towle [Eilza]. Grabbing a buggy whip the hotel proprietor went out after the drunken dancer who ran bare foot from the premises with Mrs. Towle in hot pursuit. She gave him a good flailing with the whip before returning to the hotel. Miss Swanson later married Mrs. Towle's one-armed son George.

Left: Eliza and two of her sons. Note the dresses on the boys, common to that time period.
Centre: Eliza's house in Fort Langley
Right: Eliza in later years. She doesn't strike me as the whipping type.
Evidently, my pacifist leanings are not attributable to my heritage! Amongst the branches of my family tree, this line has the longest and most easily accessible history in the local area, although pretty much all of my family tree has been growing in Canada since the 1700s or 1800s, some even in the 1600s. On surveys that ask what my ethnic heritage is, I only feel legitimate in answering "Canadian." While being able to trace my family's history in my own country is interesting and stirs up some kind of nationalistic pride in me, much like watching the heritage moments commercials did in the pre-Harper era, my feelings about my family history are now tangled with uncomfortable questions.  

It wasn't until recent years that I started considering my family history in light of what I have learned about the treatment of the First Nations people of our country. The land farmed by my great-great-grandfather's family, that now boasts a university and downplays a set of train tracks and really foul-tasting drinking water, was lush and fertile, nestled alongside the Salmon River. If memory serves me correctly, my great-great-grandfather bought the land from the Hudson's Bay Company, or, at least, not very far removed from that point. Does the fact that he bought the land from a legitimate company make my family any less complicit in taking land away from the First Nations tribe who lived there before HBC arrived? I can only conclude that my ancestors were benefactors of a racist and unjust government, even though they did not do anything illegal or unusual for that time. 

When I look at my great-grandmother's Fort Langley school photo from 1912, I scan the faces for any break in the vastly racially homogenous crowd. 

Fort Langley School, 1912

Close-up of my great grandmother, Ada, in the centre of the middle row.

We now know that most First Nations children were forcibly removed from their families and homes, and sent to "Indian Residential Schools."

Did my ancestors who lived on this land knew about the schools? Did they see the brokenness that must have spread when entire communities were robbed of their children, denied the right to parent their own children? Did they recognize the abuse all children in residential schools suffered in the loss of their language, culture, and relationships with family and friends, their very identity? Did they hear whisperings of rampant physical, sexual, and psychological abuse? These were children.

How do I retain pride in my heritage and my family when we were the collective benefactors of a system that has so mistreated and damaged a now-marginalized people group? I have more questions than answers, and more misgivings about those questions than hope. The biggest question is: what can I do? It strikes me that perhaps this isn't even the right question, and that this question puts me in the centre of the equation, as did the paternalistic attitudes and policies of our predecessors. Perhaps the starting point is not to do anything other than listen and learn. Instead of learning about First Nations people and culture, perhaps I should learn from them. Instead of listening to information about First Nations issues, perhaps I should listen to them. Sometimes I wonder how we did not learn about the atrocity of the Indian Residential Schools when I was in grade school or high school, but the last residential school only closed in 1996, just two years before I would graduate high school.

From September 18th to 21st, 2013, just under one month from now, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is holding its national event in Vancouver. My husband had the opportunity to attend the national TRC event in Montreal this past April, and it was truly a profound experience for him. You can watch a short video of him and others speaking about their experiences here.

To quote from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's webiste, 

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has a mandate to learn the truth about what happened in the residential schools and to inform all Canadians about what happened in the schools. The Commission will document the truth of what happened by relying on records held by those who operated and funded the schools, testimony from officials of the institutions that operated the schools, and experiences reported by survivors, their families, communities and anyone personally affected by the residential school experience and its subsequent impacts.

To learn more about Residential Schools, here are some places online to start:
If you can track down a copy of the documentary We Were Children, I implore you to watch it. 

If you want to do some more in-depth reading, there are many books written by residential school survivors, and others who are knowledgable on this issue. I am currently reading Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada by Paulette Regan. 

I plan to attend at least some of the conference in Vancouver in September, and I encourage you to consider doing the same. We can listen.




Monday, August 12, 2013

Vegan Mac & Cheese

All good things must come to an end, and today marks the end of my husband's three-week long vacation time. I've taken a break from blogging during our vacation, and now I remember that writing is a skill like any other; it requires practice. I attempted to write about something serious, which, in the end, was the literary equivalent of a poorly played game of Tetris. In the meantime, I've decided to share one of my favourite dinner recipes: Vegan Mac & Cheese. It's easy, vegan, and pretty inexpensive. I'm not a nutritionist, but it seems decently healthy enough too.

I seem to come across more and more people who need to eliminate dairy from their diet, even if it is only for a period of time, such as while nursing a baby. The rest of my family all loves dairy, especially cheese, and they enjoy this non-dairy version of their favourite comfort food. My husband says that it is "cheese-esque" and never complains when I serve this dish for dinner. That might be insufficient proof of its success, however, since he rarely complains about food. I'm so thankful that I married somebody with an adventurous culinary spirit. Let me tell you, there have been some epic misadventures that would have left any other man clinging to his meat and potatoes for life. 

The real key to this recipe is not to pre-judge it when you look at the ingredients! One ingredient that is unfamiliar to many people is nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast; it is a complete protein, and is a source of several vitamins. It's low in fat and sodium, and free of dairy, gluten, and
sugar. It has a cheesy or nutty type flavour, which makes it popular in vegan dishes as a cheese substitute. You can find it in most health food stores, and some mainstream grocery stores (i.e. Superstore) carry it in their natural foods section. Without further ado, the recipe awaits you:

Ingredients:
3/4 cup milk alternative (soy or almond)
1/6 cup soy sauce or tamari (I usually eyeball this amount by looking at halfway to 1/3 cup, but it's 2 Tbsp and 2 tsp if you want to be exact)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp paprika
1 crushed clove garlic
1/2 block firm tofu
1/4 cup vegetable / canola / other mild-flavoured cooking oil
1 tsp prepared mustard
1/2 cup pureed cauliflower (optional, adds extra nutrition and creaminess, and your family will never know!)
macaroni noodles to fill your favourite casserole dish (ten handfuls of dry noodles for us!)

Method:
Pre-heat to the oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta noodles according to directions while you prepare the sauce. All of the ingredients (except pasta) need to be pureed together - either in a blender, food processor, or immersion blender. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, combine noodles and sauce in your casserole dish and stir until well-combined. Bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. 



Fret not, it will taste better than it looks!
Sauce, post-puree

All mixed up and ready to go...

Browned to perfection 

Bon apetit!


Monday, July 15, 2013

Confessions of a Pastor's Wife, Part Two


3. It can be lonely. I'm not necessarily saying that I am lonely, but that it can be. Loneliness is a strange monster at this stage of life, because most days I don't even get to go to the restroom without a two-year-old audience.  But, as we've probably all experienced, it's quite possible to feel alone in the middle of a crowd.

I remember when my family became friends with another family when I was a teenager; the father of that family happened to be a pastor at a very large church. My parents sometimes felt a little sheepish inviting them over because surely we must be competing with invitations over to other people's houses for meals and parties all the time. They were a fun family, and appeared to be very well connected and social at church. They probably just wanted some time to themselves. My parents mentioned this to the family one time, and they said "Are you kidding? We never get invitations!" Perhaps everyone thought the same thing, but in reality nobody was including them in social gatherings. Being in a very visible position at church means that most people know who you are, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you are known.

It also doesn't mean that you know everyone. I miss the days of pictorial directories, when you could study people's faces and names and look like a pro when you remembered their names in person. Also, the directory makes for a good piece of communal hilarity about a decade after it is printed. I have to remind myself that nobody knows everyone else, but sometimes it gives me stress dreams. Not quite as bad as the frequently recurring dream that I'm in high school and I've forgotten my locker combination, but close. You'd think that after fifteen years, I would stop having dreams about high school locker combos, but no. The crazy thing is that I actually still remember most of my locker combinations from grade seven onward, so you would think that my unconscious brain would cut me some slack. 7-21-7. 0-2-28. 5-16-31. 14-21-8.

According to my slight adrenaline rush upon seeing this photo, I do believe that these were the exact locks my school used.
image source


4. Another reason that it can be lonely is because of some unfortunate advice floating around out there. When  I ventured into life as a pastor's spouse, I received congratulations, condolences, some good ribbing, and advice. The most unsettling piece of advice that I received was to be guarded. Several people who were either ministry spouses themselves, or had close friends who were, advised me not to forge close friendships with people inside the church. Be friendly, form casual friendships, but don't count your closest friends in life from within the church. When your spouse is the pastor, you will inevitably hear criticism of him, his ministries, and the church, and it will certainly be less wounding to hear those things from acquaintances than your closest friends. If and when the time comes to move on to another church, at least you aren't leaving your closest friends behind. If you are vulnerable with people in the church, they could use it against you someday. While I certainly see the value of having close friends outside the church to give you perspective and sanctuary, I have to believe that the risk and vulnerability of having close friends within the church is worth it. The church community is not a country club full of acquaintances, or, at least, that's not what it is intended to be. We are family, walking together in this messy and beautiful journey of life. When we left our previous church after five years, it was terribly difficult to leave our friends, and for that I am glad. It's never as easy to stay in touch with friends after you move to another city, and I still grieve the loss of regular contact with dear friends. How sad would be to leave a church family after five years and not feel as though you are amputating a limb? I'll take that pain over the ache of loneliness any day.

5. Sundays are wonderful. They are also a gong show. Since we are a one-car family, and we arrive super-early because of my husband's duties, we've usually been there for four or more hours by the time the service is done. Since T is still super clingy, I'm in the toddler nursery with him for about 97% percent of the time. He actually pushed the baby gate right out the door frame the last time I tried to leave him in the nursery. When other kids might be getting a bit antsy by the end of the church service and Sunday School, my kids are done. Done. It feels like a lost cause by then to retain any semblance of control over my offspring, so I let them eat cookies from the welcome centre, and whatever other snacks I've haphazardly stuffed into my purse, and release them like wild animals into the gymnasium while we make our lengthy exit. It's a proven fact that every time you think you are ready to head to the car, you are actually going to be there for another twenty minutes. The conundrum is that I love connecting with people and that is the prime time for doing so, but...the children. The cookie-and-granola-bar-lunch, missed-nap, over-stimulated children.

6. Overall I feel lucky have a front row seat (figuratively, remember I live in the toddler nursery at church) to what church is: sharing life with people, building community, and sharing about the freedom and love of God. In the end, I love that guy I married ten years ago so much that I'm happy to be his wife no matter what his profession is.

Our young hands. We were probably mocking the cheesiness of this photo as we were taking it.
Well, pretty much any profession. I'm glad he's not a career criminal, or the Prime Minister.

Fellow ministry spouses, did I miss anything?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Confessions of a Pastor's Wife, Part One


I never set out to become a pastor's wife. I didn't even go to Bible school or the local christian university, which is where most pastor's wives meet their future spouses. I am just a girl who fell in love with a boy after a chance meeting on a soccer field. He became a pastor and I became his wife, which makes me...a pastor's wife. While I don't feel like I'm defined by my husband's profession, it has shaped my life in the past decade in various ways, and sparked the creation of the following unsolicited collection of confessions.


1. My husband doesn't tell me everything. Pastors come into a boatload of confidential, sensitive information. We aren't Catholic, but all pastors hear confessions, along with worries, stories of grief and abuse, and counsel people who are in conflict. I fear that people assume that all of their vulnerable moments are discussed at the pastor's home with his wife and kids in the evening over dinner. Pork-chops and divorces, spaghetti and wayward teenagers - it doesn't happen. If he wants to share something with me, he always asks the permission of the person who shared the information. My husband takes the responsibility of confidentiality seriously, and for this I am thankful. When I get to know people at church, it is without knowledge of things I really shouldn't know about when I haven't even connected a face to a name. "Your name is Petunia? Oh, you are the one whose husband cheated on you with the nanny" [Just for the record, this is a totally fictitious example]. I'm glad to be a listening ear for those who want a friend, but you have the freedom of getting to know me on your own terms. Frankly, I'm also just glad not to have to carry the full burden of all the knowledge of difficult circumstances and events in our church. Some people are better equipped to process and deal with a high volume of difficult information than others; I am not one of those people.

2. At one of the sessions on our recent Pastor & Spouse retreat at Harrison Hot Springs (hello, perks!), I sat behind a woman with her hair in super-long dread locks. I'm so fascinated with dread locks that I had trouble focusing on the session at some points. It looks like yarn. I wonder if you could crochet with it. But what would you make with it? Maybe if you decided to cut it off someday, you would crochet a basket to keep your remote controls or coasters in. How do you wash dread locks? You get the idea. I also thought about how the fact that she had dread locks lead me to a set of fleeting conclusions about her: she eats vegan and organic, recycles everything, attachment parents her children, and dances like nobody is watching. Silly, right? Hair style tells you everything about...hair style. Someone being married to a pastor tells you...someone is married to a pastor.

I don't fit the mold of the "typical" pastor's wife, nor do most spouses of pastors. I think that the caricature of the pastor's wife's role came about because of weighty expectations placed on these women, and not because these women desired to be one half of a couple that does absolutely everything in the church. I don't enjoy public speaking, which is definitely understating the issue, I've never taught children's Sunday school, and I don't really play the piano, unless you count "The Entertainer" and the first twelve bars of "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera. I've been working on those two scores for almost a couple of decades now.  I'm involved and volunteer with church happenings inasmuch as any other attendee might be. I'm thankful that my church gives me, and all who attend, the freedom to be involved according to his or her own interests. The days of being hired as a duo with one paycheque are largely a bygone, but I have still seen on a couple of occasions job descriptions for pastors that include an description for the (unpaid) responsibilities of the pastor's wife. I also have my husband to thank for helping to ensure that I don't face unrealistic expectations; he never volunteers me for things without my knowledge and consent.

3. I am afraid of heights. Church leaders and their spouses don't belong on pedestals. Those of you who know me well, with all my foibles and failings are saying "Well of course you don't belong on a pedestal!" You might even be chuckling at that suggestion. Or guffawing. Or laughing so hard that you have tears running down your face.

I sometimes purposely delay mentioning the fact that my husband is a minister until I've gotten to know somebody, because it is often brings about an awkward end to the conversation. With some people, when I talk about my husband's job for the first time, I can almost see the inner clench, the wheels struggling to rewind in his or her mind: "Did I say anything offensive? Irreverent? Admit to any flaws of character?" The conversation grinds to a polite halt, until I think of some way to assure the person that I am, in fact, a real girl, with a real life, and real struggles.

Church leaders are regular people, and so are their spouses and children. I have disagreements with my husband, sometimes about difficult things, and sometimes about silly things. He will be reminding me to squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube until I have dentures, and I will be convincing him of the aesthetic appeal of cuckoo clocks until we live in a nursing home some day, surrounded by pastel floral and fruit still-life paintings bolted to the wall. I lose my patience with my kids, choose the wrong battles with them, and love them so much that I never want them to grow up and leave me. Is that normal? I have dirty laundry, figuratively and literally. I love Jesus, but I'm not any closer to being a saint than anyone else. I'm not "super-spiritual" and, here's a secret -  neither is anyone else. I think we are all just making sense of new things that we learn in light of what we already know. The thing that scares me the most about the potential for people to view me differently than anyone else in the church is that I'm just as capable as offending or hurting people's feelings as anyone else in the church, but I fear that people will feel "hurt by the church" instead of just being hurt by a girl who happens to be married to the pastor. To extend that thought a little further, we are real people in our capacity to be hurt as well. Sometimes I think that ministers should unionize, but that is a discussion for another day. I sometimes worry about the scrutiny my children will become aware of as the pastors' kids when they are older.
We compromised on two small cuckoo clocks in O's room. Seriously, what's not to like about them?
Stay tuned for Part Two!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Secret Dreams

It's hard to fathom if you know me, but I once dreamed of being a world-class basketball player, perhaps even the first woman to break into the NBA. I believe it was in the fifth grade, shortly after receiving a purple and yellow LA Lakers basketball as a birthday gift. It's a good thing that this dream faded painlessly given my athletic ability pretty much peaked that year, and my growing personal dislike for participating in competitive sports. I wanted to be a veterinarian until I realized that real animals are much stinkier and hairier and bite-ier than their stuffed counterparts. I briefly entertained thoughts of becoming a doctor in high school until I discovered my sensitive gag reflex in biology class. I still have nausea-inducing flashbacks of vitreous humour bursting out of a cow eyeball during dissection. Some dreams fade, and some shatter, but...



What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun? 
Or fester like a sore—
And then run? 
Does it stink like rotten meat? 
Or crust and sugar over— 
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags 
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Dream Deferred - Langston Hughes (1902-1967)


What of the dream that is plucked before it has sprouted, before you dare to whisper it, even to yourself? Do we have to thin out our dreams, like thinning out seedlings in the garden to give the strongest ones a real chance to thrive? I don't know. There are days when being thirty-two feels like its half, full of sixteen year old optimism and possibility. But there are days when thirty-two feels like it's too late for dreams.



A few months ago, my husband completed his "credentialing" process. Basically, it's a confirmation of his position as a minister in the Mennonite Brethren church denomination. As an aside, while I love many things about this denomination - our focus on peace-making, disaster relief, and social justice, I think it would be refreshing to update the name of our conference to be gender neutral. Sidenote to my aside, it would be even more fantastic if there was a word in the English language that was the equivalent of "Brethren" pertaining to the female persuasion. We couldn't even change it to a feminine form if we tried, given the current state of language. Mennonite Sistern? Mennonite Sisterhood? Alas, a gender neutral form would be the way to go.

Before the interview component of the credentialing process, my husband had to write a substantial paper, answering numerous theological and practical questions. I also had to submit a comparatively brief written response to several questions. After seven years of being a "pastor's wife," I'm accustomed to the drill of being "vetted," so to speak, in relation to my husband's ministry positions. I've been interviewed by his prospective employers, albeit informally. I'm sure that there are other positions in the world that require some kind of assurance from prospective employees that their family members are decent people, but my involvement in these processes is surprising to some who learn of it. Sometimes, it's still kind of surprising to me.

For this particular credentialing process, the list of questions was fairly standard, along the lines of determining whether I have any concerns about our life in ministry. One directive, however, caught me a little off-guard. "Discuss some of your personal goals and plans for the future. (Dream a little)." The first sentence magically transported me back in time to my grade twelve self, constantly bombarded with the question du jour: "So, what are you going to do after you graduate?" at which point I would cue the chirping crickets and try to devise an acceptable way of saying that I have no clue what I want to "be" when I grow up. Actually, I'm still trying to answer that question. However, paired with the permission to "dream a little" in parentheses, I abandoned my self-conscious lack of career direction and typed the first thing that came to mind with a jolt of giddiness. "I want to be a writer."

I made a mental note to return to that question after finishing the whole questionnaire to think of something more plausible for my future. A month later, sitting beside my husband in the interview process, I chastised my month-ago-self for not doing so. I didn't realize that the interview process would be quite so...formal, important, board-room-and-leather chairs as it was. Of course, when you spend your days with a two year old and four year old, and wearing jeans is "dressing up," it doesn't take much to feel formal. There were about nine people there to interview my husband, mostly pastors and professors, men and women, plus myself and the lead pastor from our church.

Although I don't always relish being interviewed as a spouse, it is definitely a unique opportunity to watch my husband in action. Instead of asking "How did the interview go?", I get to be there. We complement each others' strengths and weaknesses in many areas, including thinking on the spot. I'm always amazed by his ability to respond thoughtfully, intelligently, and quickly in situations. He's kind of a rock star in interviews. I am admittedly a slow thinker. When my turn to answer a few questions inevitably came, the representative from the seminary opened with:

"Andrea, I'm interested to see that you want to be a writer."

Me: Silence. Mona Lisa smile. Inner cringe. Why didn't you erase that part? WHY? Of all the times to reveal your implausible, secret dream, you chose this?

Him: What kind of things do you like to write?

Me: Combination of sigh/nervous laugh. Pull it together here. Well, I have a blog. I silently will him not to ask for the name of the blog as I recall writing all the glorious/gory details of my kids' birth stories. And some short stories. What?! Where did that even come from? Please, brain, tell me I have written at least one short story since high school so that I'm not a complete liar.

Thankfully, nobody asked me to elaborate on the spot, and my blood pressure returned to its normally low state soon thereafter. The conversation mercifully turned to other matters, as I recovered from the shock of revealing my secret dream to a roomful of pastors and theologians, most of whom I had never met before.

After the interview was over, Dave and I waited in the hallway while they discussed amongst themselves. We returned to the room and learned that he passed, of course, probably with extra points because he's so witty and refreshing. It was neat to watch him be affirmed and encouraged, because pastors don't always get much of that on the job. To my surprise, my feelings of being a writer-imposter all but disappeared when they turned their attention to me once again, and encouraged and prayed for me in my interest in writing, wherever that may lead. The truth is, I have no idea where it will lead. Perhaps it will simply remain a creative outlet here in this blog, or perhaps, one day, it will be more.

It is, in any eventuality, sheepishly exciting to admit to myself that I still have dreams, and to realize that I'm not too old to dream. Perhaps we are never too old to dream. Then again, every time I tuck my boys into bed, or walk hand-in-hand with my husband, I realize that I'm kind of living a dream already. Now to remind myself of that during my two-year-old's next tantrum about changing his clothes...



Thursday, June 27, 2013

Going for a Read-Along

Remember these records?


A few years ago, I gave my parents the "okay" to pass on our old collection of these records to charity. The booklets were missing, and the record player needed a new (expensive) needle, but I still kind of regret getting rid of them. I loved listening to these records as a kid, and reading along in the books. The Rescuers was one of our favourites, even though it sent my cousin, my senior by four years, running back home to her house next door crying, furious with us for playing a story sad enough to make her cry. 
O found a read-along book and CD at Value Village the other day and has listened to it a few times every day. It's a nice change from hearing "Mommy, can we watch a show?" five times before
breakfast. I suppose it's still a passive activity, but I think that listening to a story, with or without a book, engages the mind much more than watching a show.

If you are looking for some good podcasts for your kids to listen to, the BBC has some fantastic podcasts for kids; all of them are listed here. My kids' favourites are:



Listen and Play (BBC Learning): Stories, songs, rhymes for kids aged three to five, usually updated once a week

Let's Move (BBC Learning): This podcast is great for getting your kids up and moving around, with dances and acting. 




Another good podcast is Storynory, which has a large collection of audio stories for kids. For older kids, Books Should Be Free has some classic stories recorded for your listening pleasure. If your library card gives you access to Tumblebooks, you can listen to a large selection of kids audio stories. This site also has animated stories, read-along stories in several languages, videos, and puzzles related to stories.

Happy listening!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Escape Artist Extrordinaire

My O is becoming very skilled at sneaking out of bed after bedtime without inciting a total meltdown on my part. Once the kids are finally tucked in bed, my list of chores and good intentions for accomplishing tasks without "little helpers" fades as I sink into the nearest chair, couch, or maybe even the floor for at least fifteen minutes as I fool myself with celebratory thoughts that "my shift is over". I usually indulge in a little culinary treat because I can eat it without having to hide in the closet, or pretend I'm sticking my head into the farthest reaches of the kitchen cupboard to find something, for fear of having to share. So, when I hear little feet padding down the stairs, I stifle my inner groan and remind myself how lucky I am, even though I am never actually off-duty. Sometimes, my nocturnal visitor reminds me himself with his impishly sweet grin and carefully crafted excuses for being out of bed.

Escape number one:

"Mommy, I remember that you said you miss me when I'm not with you...so, here I am!"

Escape number two:

"Mommy, you are so beautiful, I just had to come and see you again.

Escape number three:

"Mommy, I just can't wait to see you tomorrow morning."

On the other end of the sleeping hours, T has been waking up at 5:30 for the past week and calling me from his crib.

"Mommy, where are you?"
"Mommy, come heeeeere!"
"Mommy, T have vitamins?" (I regret ever giving my kids sweet gummy vitamins. I hear this request from T an average of fifty billion times a day.)
"Mommy, T watch a show?"

He's going to have to take some lessons from his big brother and up his game to get me out of bed at that hour!




Saturday, June 15, 2013

Linking Up

During the day, I often make mental notes to myself to check out various things on the internet once the kids are in bed and I have a few moments to myself. Important things like the date of Fathers' Day this year (this Sunday, eep!), the status of upcoming bill payments, and not-so-important things, like whether the story I read to the kids about the first ever hot air balloon ride is actually true (barnyard animals were the first passengers?). More often than not, I sit down with the laptop and I'm lucky if I can remember one of the ten things that I wanted to search. I'm batting a mental ten percent, people. In fairness, I was warned about "mommy-brain", but I was under the impression that one's normal mental acuity would be restored once the children made it past the baby stage. The only time that I remember what it was that I wanted to search for is the next day, when the toddler has peanut butter stuck in his eyelashes, and the preschooler is asking me what a "wedgie" is, while I'm trying to think of something other than spaghetti to make for dinner, and wondering if I accidentally paid the hydro bill twice.

On the plus side, during my free surfing time, I occasionally come across some interesting pieces of reading. Here are some links that piqued my interest in the past few months, and that are worth a read:

Rage Against the Minivan: Shame-based Sex Education: We Can Do Better
I attended a private Christian high school, which, unsurprisingly, advocated for abstinence outside of marriage. While I do believe that this is best for a number of reasons, I agree with this writer that we too often equate virginity with one's identity and worth. I remember one of my teachers actually giving a similar lesson to the one that is spoken of in the video at the end of this post, in which two of my classmates were given a beautiful red rose each, which were to represent their virginity or sexuality. One girl was instructed to keep the rose to herself, and not allow anyone else to touch it, no matter how persuasive they were. The other girl freely passed her rose to anyone who asked for it. By the end of class, her rose had been crushed, stepped on, and ripped apart. Who would want that rose, compared to the pristine rose of the other girl, right? We all thought it was hilarious, but it made an impact because we talked about that lesson for several years afterward. But...is this really how we ought to teaching our girls (and boys) about their sexuality? That if they don't hold to their ideals, or if there is a situation outside of their control, or if they decide on a different path for their lives, that they are worthless? That nobody will ever want them?

Latina Fatale: How to Talk to Little Girls
I'm guilty of "our culture's standard talking-to-little-girls ice breaker" - complimenting their looks, or their pretty attire. Even as I'm saying those things, I realize that it's just reinforcing our culture's obsession with women's physical appearances but I seem to channel my inner robot and end up saying it anyways. Perhaps it is an echo of what I heard when I was a tot. I like this writer's idea for an alternative opening in a conversation with a little girl, and it inspires me to create some new "scripts" of my own for meeting new little people. It also makes me wonder what the equivalent ice-breaker script is for talking to little boys that I'm not even aware of.

Five Kids is a Lot of Kids: On Being a Mother and a Time Traveler
I love this blog, and this post is especially full of feel-good tears...

Five Kids is a Lot of Kids: On Being a Mombie and Cutting Ourselves Some Slack
....and this one is full of hilarious tears. If you are a mother and you've experienced mental fog as a result of lack of sleep (so, pretty much every mother in history), then you will find this post and especially the comments pretty funny. Here is my anecdote of mental fog that I posted in the comments section:

A couple of months ago, after buying groceries at the local produce store, the cashier asked “Do you want a copy?”, obviously referring to the receipt. Obvious except to my sleep-deprived brain. I asked him to repeat what he said because I thought he asked “Do you want a coffee?”. Even the second time he said it, that’s what I heard. I was so confused…Why is he offering me coffee right now? I don’t drink coffee, but I don’t want to insult him. Is he asking me out for coffee, and if so, WHY, because my husband and kids and I go to that store all the time and have had several conversations with this man, who seems to be married to one of the other people who works there! I stammered and blushed and made some unintelligible sounds until he took mercy on me and pointed to the receipt machine and carefully enunciated every word “Do you want a copy of your receipt?” Ah, right.
I laughed until I cried reading the other comments here last night. About twenty minutes later, I lifted my hand and felt some leftover tears around my eyes and wondered what I had been sad and crying about.
Oh dear, I fear for you, my little sleep deprived brain.

Slate.com: Drowning Doesn't Look like Drowning
This is important information if you ever go to a pool. Or the ocean. Or the lake. So, it's pretty much important for everyone, right?

Relevant Magazine: Stop Instagramming Your Perfect Life
Sometimes I look at my newsfeed on facebook and see so many photos of people's fancy restaurant dinner plates, and I long for the good old days when you had to take film photos of your dinner and get them developed and then show your friends next week what you ate for dinner at the restaurant last week. I also suffer from "bookshelf styling" envy. Just google it. What do these people do with their actual books?

MessyNessyChic.com: The Fake Townhouses Hiding Mystery Underground Portals
This one makes me wonder about living in a townhouse...

moms.popsugar.com: Should You Teach Kids to Share?
I disagree with most of what this writer proposes in this article. When I take my kids to Strong Start or someplace of a similar context, the need to share toys always arises. My general feeling is that kids should be encouraged to share communal items in a reasonable length of time. There's definitely a tenuous, difficult balancing act to teach your children to be generous and not to over-value material items, while also teaching them to be assertive and not to allow others to bully them. The author of this article argues that "I think it does a child a great disservice to teach him that he can have something that someone else has, simply because he wants it. And, I can understand the desire to give your children everything they want, we all have it. But it's a good lesson for you both to learn that this isn't always possible, and you shouldn't step all over other people to get these things." Somehow she misses the point that you are also teaching your child that exact selfishness by not encouraging them to share.

Huffington Post: Why Brent Rathgeber Quit the Tories
Once upon a time, I was a card-carrying member of the federal Reform Party. My political leanings have long since swung to the left, and my cynicism of the current governing party has grown immensely in the past few months. It's refreshing to see MPs like Brent Rathgeber who are willing to potentially commit political suicide to hold to their personal values.

Vancouverstreetstories.com: Lost streams of Vancouver
Interesting tidbit of local history

Answers at Yahoo: Rubick's Cube
I somehow stumbled upon this page, and it gave me the giggles. I don't think I've ever solved a Rubick's cube in my life without peeling off the stickers, and this guy says "I don't mean to be mean, but 1 minute isn't fairly fast. I am averaging 15 seconds with full Fridrich, and I don't consider myself fast." Apparently, there are actual named methods and algorithms.

National Post: Truck Carrying Fireworks Hits Moose
Poor moose, but at least he went out with a bang. Sorry.

And on the health front, we have:

Washington Post: Roundup is tied to infertility and cancer; herbicide's maker calls it safe

Huffington Post: Yaz, Yasmin Birth Control Pills Suspected in 23 Deaths

And to end on a high note, here are some pieces of inspiration:

CNN.com: Woman Challenges Tradition, Brings Change to her Kenyan Village

DLMayfield.wordpress.com: Kids on the Block

How about you? Have you found anything interesting in the vast waste-time-land of the internet lately?
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