Monday, 11 February 2019

She Who Has Ears......

I've got two of them right here on either side of my head.  They're cute, a little flappy and adorned with silver loops. 
I call them my ears and I'm quite partial to them.  Honestly, they're cute!
But vanity aside, the real reason I love them so much is that they are super great information absorbers.  They just take in all kinds of audio info like talking people, melodic tunes, podcasts, and indicative noises to alert me to stuff.  Blinks and tings and blurbs and burps and fiddle-dee-dos. 

And yet, these flappy and silver-looped things called ears don't always work so well because there are times when I'm sitting there and just not hearing a thing.
Like when my husband and oldest son start talking hockey stats or trading deadlines.  My ears are right there being all flashy but it's like they refuse to take in or process any of that hockey-trading-information.  It's like they're straight-arming all that audio info:  "Hey now, you ain't wanted here!" and shooing it back out the ear canal:  "Git!  Git along now."  (my ears apparently have a  southern accent). 
And I know I'm not alone.  I've noticed that every single person can be Engaged or Not Engaged by what is going on around them.  And it seems that Interest is at fault.

Well, duh, you are all thinking.  Obviously when I'm interested in something, I'm engaged....but humour me for a moment. 

Because in a classroom or homeschool room or any learning environment, aren't there certain particulars that we just want every single student and child to know and learn?  Aren't there?

Like, I want every one of my kids to learn how to write her 1-2-3s and A-B-Cs.  I want all my children to know how to read and write and do long division without a calculator and write an essay and identify all the parts of the digestive system and be able to understand Salvation and Redemption and the Grace-of-God and also know all about all the continents and where they're located.  Right?

But one child took to reading and writing with little to no assistance and another loves math like he was born with the multiplication tables on his newborn lips and yet another loves solving any dilemma involving computer technology and another one.....pushes his books away angrily.
Annoyed and unwilling to do anything more.
And doing that downward spiral thing that kids do when they just can't get the information to flow far enough down their ear canals to get processed by the brain.

Interest is not piqued here.  His angry face and folded arms are clearly indicating not only a lack of interest but a mounting frustration.
And frustration seems to build a wall that blocks out everything.
There ain't no learning happening here, folks!
Except for the part where the child is processing this: "I'm stupid.  I can't do this.  This is stupid.  I hate it.  I hate school.  I hate learning." 
EEK, right?

This is not the lesson any parent or educator or teacher wants her student/ child to take home.

So, how do we get a child to learn in this situation?

Bring in singing goats?  Tickle torture? 

If the material isn't piquing the interest.....we gotta raise the interest another way.
Dr. Seuss did this with his uproariously hilarious word-play.  He saw beginner readers for kids that were so blandishly boring that he thought kids might object to learning how to read simply so they could avoid finding out more on the lives of Dick and Jane.

"Look, Dick, look," said Jane blandly.
"See Spot run," commented Dick mildly.
"Run, Spot, run," countered Jane in a monotone.
Spot can run but not well. 
Spot has died of boredom.

"Snort!" thought Dr. Seuss when he read these hideously dry readers; then he word-crafted and spun tales about Cats in Hats and creatures who Hop on Pop.  Today, my reluctant reader giggled his way through both Dr. Seuss books.  Giggled and then reached for more.

Learning can be so so so much fun. 
Sometimes it's in the material but sometimes .....sometimes it's in the way the material is presented.  Let's never lose sight of that!
Not as teachers or pastors or speakers.

Back to the unmotivated learner....

My reluctant reader is also a reluctant writer.  So we turned his lesson into a game. 
I gave him a list of words.  He had a short checklist of what was needed in the writing assignment.  I then found some candies and hid them in a tupperware container that we renamed "Ye Olde Treasure Chest". 
"Okay, buddy," I sang out in an overly cheerful way, "If you can accomplish these tasks in ye olde writing assignment, you can win the treasure!  Argh!"  I presented the checklist and held my breath.
Would it work?
Would his interest be piqued?
Could we learn through game and fun and tomfoolery?

And then.....his eyes lit up.  He unfolded his arms and snatched a pencil from the table and began scrawling.  Writing.  Trying and pushing himself.  And checking off his list until he was done and done and the treasure was in his wee hands. Argh!

The best part?  Success fuels success.
He was done and feeling good about accomplishing his writing assignment.  And that good feeling carried through math and reading and 18th Century Philosophy Class.  Okay, I'm just kidding about that last one!

Perhaps having ears isn't enough.  We need Interest to be roused to usher all that information along to our brains.  Sometimes that interest is natural.  And sometimes we gotta inspire interest through games and challenges and stories and all around tomfoolery.
I'm pretty sure that would work for me. 
As in, I'd learn hockey stats in exchange for Ye Olde Treasure!
How about you?

Monday, 31 December 2018

Of Regrets, Resolutions, and Rocking Reality.

This morning began all wrong.

I was still laying in bed at 9:17am....foggy-brained, headachey, and feeling the grouchie-grumbles coming on.  I don't like it when I sleep in because I am a Carpe*-Morning type of person and savour the early hours of quiet and peace when I can do my things at my pace.  And I had had all three of my alarms ready and set to go off nice and early so that I could revel in the silent solitude and accomplish some of the things on my to-do list.  Armed with a giant mug of hot tea.


You see, yesterday, I took a van-load of kids and our dog to a local park.  There was a playground, a walking path and a small skate park fully loaded with vert ramps, half or quarter pipes, bowls and stair rails for kids to skateboard, scooter, and bike on.  We arrived there with one Razor scooter, one lime-green penny board, seven kids and one dog.  Plus me.  The kids began vigorously scootering, penny-boarding and just running up and down those ramps and bowls and pipes.  It was all very Ultimate Beast-Master.  They slid and skittered and scampered and rolled with the endless energy that kids have.  I have to confess, I got a little inspired and jogged the dog up and down a ramp or two or five.  He bounded up and catapulted down, his doggy mouth opened wide in a smile, tongue lolling.  He loves doing crazy, that dog of ours.  He didn't need wheels to master this skate park; he was all set with four furry paws and the exuberance of a yellow lab.

An hour later, we packed up and left.

When we tumbled out of the van and rumbled into our home a few minutes later, we were red-faced and happy.  But not the dog.  He limped out of the car and painfully climbed the two stairs into the house.

Uh oh, we thought.

But nothing seemed to be broken.  There was no blood or swelling or oozing bodily fluids.  So we decided to make him comfortable and wait for the morning. 
What followed was a night of Paul or I or the kids checking our hound.  He whined and whimpered and moved only when he needed to.  He was obviously sore.  We hand fed him treats - which he still vigourously gobbled up because he is a Lab, after all, and eating is their specialty - and brought him bowls of water to lap up.  We Googled 24-hour vet emergency locations and wrote down their addresses and phone numbers, just in case.  We checked on our dog at midnight and 3am and 4am and 5am and had a mini-meeting at 6am.  We decided to wait a few hours yet.  Paul curled onto the couch and pulled a fuzzy blanket over him.  The dog saw that he was staying and stopped whimpering, laid his heavy head down and slept.  I ambled upstairs and collapsed into bed until....well...9:17am.

This morning, we contacted our caring and awesome vet (#jamesschulenberg).  He took the time to assess, assure, and reassure us that the dog had probably just overdone it.  Labs are total Weekend Warriors, he told us, they overdo it all the time because they get caught up in all the fun. 

In the meantime, Yukon had perked up, walked around the block, devoured breakfast plus all the spilled popcorn on the ground from yesterday, licked everyone's face and gone back to sleep.  He's not crying or whining or whimpering any more.  His movements are tentative but not pain-restricted.  We think he's gonna be okay.  We continue to wait and see.

In the meantime, nothing about today is going according to plan.

It's the last day of the year, and I had all sorts of ideas about what we were going to do.  I'm a Carpe*-Last-Day-of-the-Year kinda person.  I wanted to get some early morning work done, do some family skating, get ready for the evening's festivities and spend time reflecting on the year gone by. 

But nothing seems to be going according to plan.

It's interesting; the older I get (and I am pretty dang young yet), the more I hear this sentiment: Nothing seems to be going according to plan. 
My life is not where I wanted it to be. 
I never thought I'd be here. 
Or, in the words of the Proverbs 31 writer and speaker, Lysa TerKeurst, "It's Not Supposed to Be This Way."

Sometimes, looking back, remembrances turn into So Many Regrets.
I have them.  I regret taking our dog to the skate park.  I regret running him up and down ramps meant for kids with wheels.  I regret ... I regret.....I regret.

How about you? 
Got regrets?

I think when we look back on a year gone by, it's easy to get weighed down in the Regrets.  They're heavy, consuming, and absorbing.  They have a way of distracting us from the good memories.  From the moment when my dog was running by my side and he slid me this deep-brown, side-long glance that said, "This is fun, isn't it?!"  I love that dog!  He gets my kinda fun....the kind that gets so caught up in all the fun that it hurts. 
And if I don't watch out, my regrets will wash away that memory.
Unless I refuse to let them.
Today, I will remember 2018.  Reflect on it.  Allow myself small regrets but then refuse to let myself stay there.  Regrets will not wash away the good memories.  Not today.

Today, I look forward to 2019.  I have lots of Resolutions. One of them includes never running my beautiful Lab over skate board ramps, like, ever again.  I WILL allow my regret to be transformed into a learning experience.  Good can come from regret as long as I don't wallow there or be overwhelmed by it all.
I have other Resolutions that include early morning alarms (all three of them), workout challenges, doing more, spending less, eating better, being kinder, loving harder, writing more.....and.....graciously allowing room for Reality.

If Regret looks back and Resolutions look forward, what happens with the here and the now? 

This morning, I woke up at 9:17am.  It wasn't what I had planned.  But my head-fog and aches cleared up and I felt rested.  I came downstairs to see my son taking the dog out for a walk.  Yukon was not limping or whimpering.   I had a leisurely coffee with my husband while the kids played happily with each other.  My awesome vet assured us and my dog lovingly licked my hand. 
"I'm so sorrry, buddy," I whispered against his velvety soft ears and his brown-eyes slid sideways at me awash with unconditional love.  We ate breakfast at 11:45am and no one complained or whined or argued.  We meditated on some beautiful Bible verses together and made plans for the night's festivities ahead.  And  then I began doing some writing...armed with a huge, hot mug of caffeinated coffee. 
And all was good with the world. 
Even if it wasn't unfolding according to my plans.
So I'm just going to sit in the here and now and Revel for a bit.  Reflect on my reality which is pretty dang okay, after all.  Even without my lists, three alarms, schedules and plans. 

Maybe you can join me? 
There's a time to Remember and even a time to Regret.  There's a time for Resolutions.
But for now, let's just Rock our Reality.

Happy 2019!  May God bless and keep you.
Love BV

*Carpe - from Carpe Diem which is Latin for "seize the day"

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  
                                                                                                           - Jeremiah 29: 11-13

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Beautiful Scars

In order to carve out the cancer, a surgeon recommended the full removal of a breast.  There were many tumours and it was necessary but being left with a 15cm slash where a breast had been wasn't easy.  It didn't feel like a fair trade-off.  Yes, the cancer was gone but so was a precious piece of femininity.  And self-confidence.  I felt like half a woman.  
I tried to find the humour in it.  I talked about being a super-hero called the Mono-Boober.  I said I no longer had to worry about showing cleavage but only cleave.....but there were times when the laughter wasn't enough to shrug away the pain.

The absolute best preparation for my mastectomy surgery was meeting with other breast cancer survivors.  Those who shared vulnerable moments of their lives and journeys with me.  Those who said, "I know how you feel and what it's like.  Me too."  
One friend even offered to show me her scars.
She showed me her scars.
And I felt that if she could do this....wear these scars...than so could I.  
And I moved forward with a strange sense of strength.

Now I am scarred and life has moved on and, in a sense, everyone is over my breast cancer thing.  What you see is a full chest....expertly filled out by the best bean-bag prosthesis money can buy.  But every day, I am startled by the scooped out chest.  It's a scar serving as a constant reminder.  A scar hiding.  A scar that bears witness to a journey.  A plot-line of pain and perseverance.      

I've spent an awful lot of time staring at this scar.  Tracing it.  Trying to see the beautiful that it is:  skin knit back together.  Evidence of a body repairing itself after injury.  A body pulling and putting itself together again.

Scarring is, after all, the most natural part of the healing process.  

A scar says "You're better now but never forget.  I have forever changed you and reshaped you.  And maybe the world will stop noticing or maybe the world never noticed at all because my scars are hidden, but I see.  I notice. I bear witness to your pain."

I've been thinking a lot about scars.  Maybe we should dismiss them less.   Hide them less.  Be less ashamed of the ways they have reformed us.   I've been thinking that maybe we need to see our scars as statements.   Statements of healing.    Of repair and mending.  Statements of a body and a life that's put and pulled back together again.   Statements of hope.

Maybe a scar is a beautiful thing after all.

- B

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Let's Bring Back Boredom....And Call it Another Name!

It's summer-time and in between the seven thousand trips to the beach, camping excursions, biking, hiking, trampoline-jumping, sprinkler-hopping, ice-cream-licking, fishing, baseball, soccer, ball hockey, horse-riding, arguing ....
in between all of that crazy activity -
my kids inevitably get Bored.

I'm really not even sure how that's humanly possible with all that we have going on;
there is so much going on over here in the summer that my family calendar is colour-coded for each child and Every. Single. Day. has something written on it!
I'm really not even sure how my kids find time to be bored.
I'm pretty sure I haven't penciled time in for that sort of business and I certainly have not colour coded it.
So I tried to officially outlaw everything to do with being Bored.  The actual word was chalked up to being a "swear-word" and was shamefully tossed in with all the other banned "bad words".  We began referring to it as the "b-word".  If a child was saying the b-word or beginning to feel the onset of b-ness, I would launch into long lectures of "use your time wisely; and when I was a kid I never got 
b-ed because I was too busy walking everywhere uphill; and if you keep feeling b-ed, I could give you a job to do..." blah blah blah

But lately, I've been doing a little thinking. 
And lately my thoughts have been that perhaps a little Boredom is a little Good.

You see, I have a tendency to fill my kids' days.  Like, right up.  You know, to the brim.
With outings and exciting things and spring cleaning and coffee dates and sports and camps and maybe a volunteer opportunity or two.  And then, popsicles. 
And my kids have grown accustomed to having someone else fill up their time so that there is hardly any time or space left to wedge in any of their own things or thoughts or activities.
But I want them to develop their own thoughts and interests and curiosities because I have seen amazing things happen when kids follow their imaginations.
Amazing things that look a lot like invention.

Like when my one son glued a magnet to the end of a hockey stick so that he could find-and-retrieve coins from underneath candy machines at the local arena.  He scored $5.25 in under-candy-machine- findings that day and a small crowd of awe-struck kids followed him around.  He was pretty much famous.
Or when my friend's son carved and whittled his very own slingshot.  That worked.  We all had to do a lot of ducking at the hike that week.
Or when my daughter sketched, drew, and coloured about a thousand pictures that began to look an awful lot like Art.  Art that was being practiced and perfected with every new drawing.
Or when another friend's daughter made colourful outfits out of socks for her stuffies.  Designer duds outta pairless socks.
Like I said, amazing things that look a lot like invention.

So, this summer: I'm bringing Boredom back and giving it another name. 

I'm calling it "Space".

As in....unwritten, unmade, undecided, empty Space that I will NOT fill up with long walks on the beach or an impromptu baseball game at the closest diamond.
I'm calling it "Space"
As untouched script
an untold story
a blank page
and it's all up to my child to do the writing, making, creating, inventing, telling.

I will NOT fill up all my kids' space this summer because I want their Boredom to push them to new limits that look a lot like their own limits and boundaries.
I want them to explore their passions,
pursue their curiosities,
expand upon their interests, and
let their imaginations amble and traipse down new roads of thought.

Sherry Turkle (professor, author, researcher and all-around smart person) writes :
"...the experience of boredom is directly linked to creativity and can signal new learning.  If we remain curious about our boredom, we can use it as a moment to step back and make a new connection..." (pg. 39 "Reclaiming Conversation")

I love the idea of remaining curious about our boredom and that will be the tool to guide my kids when they bring out the b-word this summer.
Remain curious about Boredom.  Ask why said child is feeling bored and what said child plans to do about it.
And be willing to stand back and let said child take the lead.
Fill the page.
Create the invention.
Write the script.
Make the plan.

Would you care to join me, this summer?
Wanna bring back Boredom and call it "Space" instead?

Maybe we can do it over a cup of coffee.

And the next time we hear one of our kids whining out the words, "Mooooom, I'm BORED", we can retort together:
"Baby, you ain't're on the Brink of Innovation!"

Happy Summer.

Friday, 11 May 2018


It's that most wonderful time of the year
when colour bursts forth in full bloom
and wildly paints up that winter-worn-out landscape.
Magnolia tree-branches dip low; heavily laden with pink and white petals
Tulips and daffodils fluttering and dancing in the breeze*
Boldly hued hyacinths boldly scenting the air,
Red maple leaves tenderly curled and furled,
Pointed sprouts peeking gingerly, a promise of beauty yet to come
And the grass grows into a rich, lush carpet of green.

It's that most wonderful time of year
when you can plunge your fingers deep into the soil
and feel a connectedness that reaches far beyond
and this place called Earth
A connectedness that strings together created with Creator -
an invisible cord and an umbilical tie that binds.

I stepped outside today with four children in tow and four seed packages in hand
I hadn't intended to have a seed package for each child but that's just the way life unfolds
I love to garden but, truthfully, feel like it is just one more
do -
Another task, another job, another entity to feed and water that demands my time and energy
and so I neglect.

But today the gardens beckoned and I knew we could tie in a science lesson, so we headed outdoors
Where the sun beamed brightly likes the iridescent rays of a smile
And the gardens boasted greenery that would continue to grow even without my help, thank you very much.
We cleaned up that garden, grooming, guiding, turning, mulching
unearthing writhing, wriggling worms
but gently so that no worm was hurt in the planting of this garden
or the writing of this blog.
And then we opened our seed packages -
teeny tiny carrot
plump bean
striped mammoth sunflower
rotund sweet pea -
and marveled that each seed was waiting for the perfect time
and place
and conditions
to burst forth into glorious growth.

Once each seed was placed with delicate precision, we tucked it in
blanketing each seed with warm layers of ground
and fed it watery sips.
And now we wait.

At bedtime tonight, I sat at the bedside of one of my sons,
he wrapped arms tightly around my neck and whispered,
"I can't wait to see our plants grow!  Will they be growing tomorrow?"
and I smiled at his exuberance for something that I saw as another
and answered, "No, buddy.  Not tomorrow, but soon.  Very soon!"

I kissed his cheek,
and tucked him in -
blanketing him in warm layers -
and marveled that this child of mine
had been planted in my life.


*a little nod to William Wordsworth here

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Delight and Truth

It was early this morning when I made a great discovery.
Everyone else was sound asleep and there was a shushed stillness to the air.
The weak winter light was curiously peeking through the curtains and I snuggled deep into my fuzzy blanket, Bible cradled in my lap.
During my morning devotions, I made a great discovery.
It was in the final chapter of Ecclesiastes verse 10.  Check it out:

"The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth."    (ESV)

Let me tell ya, this verse stopped me mid-yawn and mid-eye rub.  I felt a shiver run down my spine and whispered into the stillness of the morning, "Whoa..!"  Then I underlined and highlighted that verse so that it now practically YELLS at me ever time my Bible falls open to this passage.  Also, I wrote it down in my notebook because notebooks are the best and they help me collect my favourite thing which is WORDS.

Wonderful, lovely, winsome words.

And it sounds like the writer of Ecclesiastes - King Solomon - was feeling the same way.  He, too, had a thing for words.  He sought "words of delight" and wrote "words of truth". 
Isn't it great to meet people who're passionate about the same things that you are?
"Yes"....said every music-lover, art-lover, word-lover, hockey-lover in the world!

So, that was my great discovery this morning.
Finding someone who loved words and wrote words within God's Word.

I think I will join Solomon in his wise and wonderful quest:  to seek words of delight.....and write words of truth.


Thursday, 15 February 2018

Walking Home

I recently purchased a handmade sign and I love it because WORDS are my favourite. 
When I first learned that people were hanging WORDS on their walls, I was all like, "What?!  That is bloody Brilliant!!"  Because it is. 
WORDS on WALLS, people! 
A friend of mine designs these WORD art messages and when I saw this one, I needed to get my grubby grabbers on it.

Behold, the sign:

Gorgeous, isn't it?
It's now adorning a wall in my house and giving that wall all sorts of meaning and depth and such.

And I love this sign because it delivers a beautiful message about our life's journey.
Cuz we're all travelling on this road called Life. 
We are all traipsing, hiking, walking, careening, sailing, running, stumbling, marching, parading, or rambling along on our journey.
Travelling from the cradle to the grave and aren't we are all just walking each other Home? Accompanying each other to our heavenly destination?

Who are you walking with?

I hope you're not travelling alone. 
I drove alone to an unfamiliar destination last week and, let me tell you, it wasn't pretty! 
I got lost.  I had to circle back.  I was almost clipped by a grey pick-up truck whose driver voiced his irritated feelings with a staccato-ed "BEEP BEEP BEEP".  I stopped for directions at a gas station, though, and was assisted by two helpful men.  We worked together, sharing information (Where are you going?  Can I borrow a pen?  How do I get there?) and soon we were all on our way again. 

Travelling is almost always better when done together, isn't it?  I had been so lost and had felt so alone before I stopped for directions.
Travelling together allows you to help one another, to reassure, relocate, regroup, reassess.

This past weekend, I spoke at a women's retreat in Brantford.  There were about 35 women present ranging in age from the late teens to the early 60s and I witnessed some marvellous things there.

I witnessed women travelling through life. 
Mothers with daughters, daughters with mothers.
Sisters and cousins.
Best friends and daughters of best friends.
Grandmothers, aunts, wives, mothers, sisters, nieces.
Teachers, daycare operators, art therapy instructors, social workers, jewelry designers, presenters, musicians, and university students studying statistics or working on their Master's degree. 

I witnessed women howling with laughter, women holding each other in prayer, women crying over and on each other.  Hanging out.  Chatting it out.  Colouring and crafting it out.  Walking, horse-riding, snow-ball fighting, and tobogganing it out.  Laughing it out.  Praying it out. 

I witnessed these women sharing the delights of their days, the devastations of their hearts, the dreams of their futures, and the doldrums that hold them hostage. 

I heard stories of grief and loss, stories of worry and anxiety, stories of illness and divorce.  The setting for these ladies' stories is, after all, This World and This World is a place broken by sin and characterized by suffering. 
Have you noticed that yet?
These ladies have and so have I.  I have stories of grief and worry. 
I'm sure you do too.
And these stories can make us feel pretty lost and pretty alone, can't they?

But listen up; because I'm not done telling you about all that I witnessed last weekend.

Because I didn't just see a room full of women travelling through life.  (Lost and alone).
I witnessed a room full of women travelling through life TOGETHER.

Women holding on to each other to physically support one another as they shared worries about their children.  Women sharing strategies, offering advice, and solidarity.
Women who went along on Every Single Chemo appointment of a friend.  To support and help and to spend every possible moment together.
Women who fiercely stood strong for each other.
Women raising up the next generation of Godly women and coming alongside them in their life and faith journey.
Women encouraging, challenging, supporting, mentoring, reassuring, inspiring, and helping each other.

Women walking through life together.
Women walking each other Home.

It was a beautiful sight to behold.

- BvH

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact 
you are doing."  - 1 Thessalonians 5: 11