Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Brad and I have decided to embark on a new adventure...we're packing up and heading south! Now, before you get to excited and start planning a trip to visit us in our new exotic locale I have to tell you some souths are souther than others. Our south is only about an hour so...we're heading to Morden.
Brad got a great new position with Hydro there so off we go! This latte loving city girl is going small town! Yay?!
Seriously, we are all pretty excited about this new phase in our life. We are looking forward to simplifying (for starters our new house is not 100 years old!) and refocusing (I have a writing schedule planned for the fall!). The last several years have seemed like a crazy roller coaster ride and we feel like its time to settle, focus and move forward.
I will continue to blog here but I also have started a funny little blog about the day to day chaos that is my life. Check me out at http://somerandommother.blogspot.com or follow the link on that blog to find me on twitter.
Friday, June 4, 2010
...just as He chose us in Him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will...
God had a plan. Well God has many plans but one master plan from the beginning of time. He planned to adopt us, make us His own. And He was willing to do whatever it took to make that plan a reality.
When He decided to create Adam and Eve, God made one very crucial decision that has impacted all mankind from then until now. He chose to give them freewill, the ability to make decisions for themselves. It was a weighty gift that He had given to no other creature He had ever created. It was that gift that set us apart and made us special.
Before He created people God had filled Heaven with angels and the earth with animals. He wasn’t alone but He was lonely. Imagine that the only friends you had were obligated to be with you. Sure you’re nice to them and they enjoy your company but they, in truth, have no other choice but to be with you. How close would those friendships be?
Now imagine you’re there with all of your ‘friends’ when someone new comes along and they tell you that they want to be your friend, that they desire to spend time with you. This person has no obligation to you yet they like you and want to get to know you of their own freewill. Its like the difference between your mom telling you that you’re good looking and the person you like telling you the same thing. Your mom says it because she’s your mom and the person you like says it because they believe it to be true.
That’s God and us. He wants us to know Him, not because we have to but because we want to. He created us with the ability to make this decision for ourselves. He created us this way knowing that many of His most beloved creations would choose to turn their back on Him. He loved us that much.
And His love for us goes even deeper than that. Not only did He create us and give us freewill, He also designed a way for mankind to make their way back to Him.
Before Adam took his first step in the Garden of Eden, God knew that Adam would make a bad decision that would separate all mankind from Him. So in that same moment that God decided to create man and give him freewill, He decided to sacrifice a piece of Himself, His Son, so that we could once again have a relationship with Him.
Now the part of this that really astonishes me is that God didn’t do this grudgingly. He didn’t grumble and complain that we cost Him His Son. Ephesians 1:5 says that He did all of this ‘according to the good pleasure of His will.’ God gladly, willingly, freely, lovingly made Himself available to us.
He made a way for us to be adopted back to Him and in this adoption He has made us blameless. He does not hold us at arm’s length, waiting for us to beg forgiveness before He opens His heart to us. He is standing there, with arms open wide waiting for us to accept Him.
It's all part of His plan.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
Image is everything...so they say. Whoever ‘they’ are, they’re idiots.
‘They’ spend millions of dollars and countless hours trying to sell you on the idea that if you just bought this brand of yoga pants, this style of boots, this kind of hair product you will finally be satisfied, popular and happy. You would be a person of substance, a person to be valued. Not true. Its a scam, folks.
Growing up my parents always made sure we looked nice and had the things we needed. We weren’t deprived by any means but designer items rarely saw their way into our wardrobes. When I complained about the lack of labels in my closet my parents would remind me that what I wore didn’t matter as much as who I was. Then mom would rearrange some numbers in the budget and take me shopping.
She wasn’t sending mixed messages. She understood what it was like to be a teenage girl. The clothes don’t make the person but sometimes once we feel like we fit in its easier to take a stand for the things that are truly important. Sometimes when you blend in you are able to stand out.
What is important is that your inside life matches your outside life. Meaning you can dress yourself up all you want on the outside as long as you are spending the same amount of energy, time and effort dressing up your heart. Your heart is the substance of who you are.
Just as God spent time creating your body He spent time creating your heart, mind and soul. He thought about you, the person you would become. He dreamed of who you would be and planned for all the possibilities of who you could be. He planned for your talent, your humour and even your dorkiness. He planned for you to touch people’s lives, to make an impact in your world, to be an ambassador of His love.
He thought about you before the creation of the world, He thought about you as you were forming inside your mother and He thinks about you still. He knows the truth of who you are, the substance of your being and He sees you. And He loves you still. He loves you more.
God sees your substance. He knows that there is so much more to you than the house you live in, the brands you wear and how you style your hair. He knows the true value is not measured by what you have but who you are on the inside. What a relief!
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skilfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
I love words and the images they can conjure. When I read these words I can almost see God’s hands moulding me as if I were clay. I can see Him taking his time to smooth out the rough parts, using His creative vision to add personality and life to me, His masterpiece. I can see that He thought of everything, every cell, every organ, every system, and every personality quirk. He designed and made me and I am marvellous.
When I was a child I thought it was pretty cool that God made Adam and Eve. He MADE them. He used His hands, His words to form these two perfect people. I also thought it was a bit of a rip off that these two people were perfectly made by God and I got stuck with the shoddy genetics of my family. My hair was too thin and mousy brown, my skin was too pale and covered with freckles but Adam and Eve were perfect. They had to be, God made them.
It wasn’t only the physical aspect of perfection I thought about. I figured that Adam and Eve would have been perfect in other ways, too. They must have had extreme intelligence, talent and goodness in them. And when I measured myself against this standard there was no comparison, I was leagues behind.
I thought this way for a long time and harboured a little resentment toward God for this injustice. I didn’t see how it was fair that God used all His creativity for these two people and the rest of us were just science experiments, destined to be whatever genetics could piece together. But everything changed as I began to understand my God and His way of doing things.
I was taught that God loves us, all of us, the same. I read Acts 10:34 where it says that God is no respecter of persons. But it wasn’t until I really understood in my heart that God doesn’t play favourites, that what He has, who He is, and how He loves is the same for everyone that I began to see that Adam and Eve were not the only people who received God’s personal attention during creation.
Its like Glenda the Good Witch said in The Wizard of Oz, “It was there inside of you all along.” God’s perfection of me has been here, inside me, all along. I just needed to open my eyes and take note of it.
At the beginning, my beginning, God thought of me, the person He wanted me to be and what things I would need to fulfill my destiny. He took all of those thoughts and breathed them into me. He created me.
Even though I am human and I make mistakes, say things I shouldn’t, think things I shouldn’t God sees me as He created me. Perfect. He knows what I am made of, what I am capable of. He formed me piece by piece and that is marvellous.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
My parents hardly ever argued (or discussed, as mom called it) so when they did it was a major event in my life. My dad was upset. He wanted my mom to talk to me about something, to tell me something before someone else did. My mom didn’t think I was ready. My dad said I was thirteen and needed to know. They went back and forth for a while in hushed urgent tones until it dawned on me. I knew what they were talking about.
I slumped down on the couch and giggled. They were freaked out about when they were going to give me ‘The Talk’. I was a normal teenage girl who was friends with other normal teenage girls and we had already pooled our limited knowledge and come up with a basic idea of all things The Talk would cover.
Later that evening my dad took my sister out for a while and my mom called me upstairs to chat with her. I was grinning when I entered the living room because I could see that she was uncomfortable. I almost started to laugh when I scanned the room and saw that she had her Bible and a notepad on the coffee table. Oh Lord, please tell me she is not going to draw pictures!
I sat down and mom picked up the Bible and read from Psalm 139. “You formed my inward parts...they were written, the days fashioned for me...how precious are Your thoughts of me.” Then she told me something that I’d never heard but somehow already knew. She was my birth mother but my dad was not my birth father.
She explained that when she was 17 years old she made a bad decision that lead to her getting pregnant with me. She made a mistake but I was not a mistake. Even though she didn’t plan for me, God had a plan for me. She went on to tell me that the man I knew as my dad chose me; he wanted to be my dad and that this information didn’t change a thing about who I was or what our family was. She did well to reassure me but the news still shook me up and made me question if God really meant for me to be here. So I did some research.
Even at 13 years old I loved to do research so I took my Bible and started to search for exceptions to Psalm 139. Not only did I not find one single place where God disqualified someone because of the circumstances of their birth, I found dozens of examples of God using people just like me...and worse. He chose people to be His own not because of their past but in spite of it.
In the years to come I had a youth pastor who was passionate about teaching youth the truth about who they are in Christ. Every Friday night for four years I heard that God knew me, chose me and destined me for greatness in Him. That I was worthy not because of who I was but because of who Christ is in me. I heard it and week after week it became a part of who I was.
At a time in my life when I could have easily become disconnected and separated from God I was turned toward Him and became confident in His love for me and the plan He had for me before the beginning of time. The truth I read in the Bible became the truth I knew about myself. To this day there is a lot I don’t know but this one thing I do know...Jesus loves me and God has a plan for me.
It is my hope that you will find that same confidence as I share with you this thing that I know over the next few weeks...that you will experience the truth and depth of God’s love for you and open your heart to all the possibilities His plan has for you.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Ever have one of those years when life gets very full and suddenly you realize that months have flown by and you haven't taken a breath in like 72 days and you're turning blue and that you are at the bottom of a hole but its not a hole really. Its piles of laundry, and to do lists, and emails and phone messages you haven't returned and doctor's appointments and swimming lessons and play dates and volunteer schedules and friends you haven't seen and conversations you haven't had and you're at the bottom of it and trying to find your way out. Ever have one of those years?
My name is Nichole and I'm a schedule-a-holic and procrastinator extraordinaire and I haven't blogged in 72 days.
I try to learn from life as much as I can and the most evident thing I have learned in the past couple of months is that things do not get easier the longer you put them off. Things do not fix themselves, clean themselves, tidy themselves or build themselves. Conversations don't happen on their own. Relationships don't grow untended. And time heals nothing on its own.
In order to improve things...anything...everything...you need to put some commitment and effort into it. When you push difficult situations or tough conversations off bad feelings and resentment can begin to grow just like a fungus and left to fester long enough all you will be able to see is the fungus. The original issue will be so covered and distorted that you won't even be able recognize it anymore. All you see is gross, smelly, negative fungus.
And then the real work begins.
It takes way more effort to peal back the layers of bad feelings than it would have to just deal with the original situation in the first place. Its not just the scraping away at the fungus of resentment that is hard work but its the planting and tending to the new growth of trust and respect that takes time, effort and commitment.
I had a teacher that used to say it is way more difficult to build a bridge than repair one. I get what he meant now.
So after a couple of months I have opened my eyes and found myself at the bottom of a fungus hole. And I need to get out. There are conversations to have, apologies to make and relationships to mend.
Moral of the story...don't let fungus grow...and certainly don't fall in!
Saturday, February 27, 2010
I think the issue is that I expected more from myself. As a teen I was told over and over that I had unlimited potential, that I could do anything I put my mind and effort into...and I believed it. I also believed that I had unlimited time to accomplish my feats of greatness. I was going to be a journalist, travel the world covering stories of global significance. After I was done with all the travel I was going to write books - scads of books on a multitude of topics. I was going to win awards and go on lecture tours. I was going to be intelligent, confident and fabulous.
That was my plan. My reality was that I never found my footing in university and did not complete my Arts degree. Instead of travelling around the world I met and married Mr. Awesome when I was 21 and by the time I was 24 I was a mom. For the past ten years I have been a mom. That`s it. A mom. And not always a very good one.
The last month has been a tough one in our house. Cabin fever combined with a few changes in our home has created a lot of stress and has triggered chaos with our oldest son. I have mentioned before that he has Asperger`s Syndrome (on the Autism Spectrum of Disorders) and for him it means that he has trouble in social situations and with risk assessment. Recently he has been very combative and anxious about everything...which has resulted in more than a few less than stellar parenting moments on my part.
So this morning when he was having his twentieth melt down of the day I had a melt down of my own. I think disappointment in my lack of accomplishments mixed with my feelings of inadequacy as a parent and the result was a torrent of tears over the kitchen sink. I had just finished yelling at everyone and sending all of the kids to their rooms and was feeling pretty crumby about it. So as I stood their sobbing I suddenly felt two little arms wrap around my waist.
It was Gavin, my son with Asperger`s Syndrome. The boy who was never supposed to be able to have or express empathy, who would never be able to understand nor express emotions appropriately. It was this boy who saw his mom crying and came over to offer comfort.
`I can see that you are sad, Mom. Don`t be sad because I love you.`
That`s what he said. He saw an emotion, interpreted it correctly and offered an appropriate response. He empathized.
So I may not be an award winning author or world traveller but I am a mom. And maybe my greatness is not meant to be something that the world can measure by university degrees and credentials, maybe my greatness is meant to be raising this boy (and his two incredible siblings) to be a compassionate, generous and brilliant adult.
Maybe my greatness is being just a mom. That`s it.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Folks who really know me know that I am very easily inspired. I read Anne of Green Gables and wanted to be a red headed orphan, I watched 'Rudy' and I wanted to play football for Notre Dame, I have a thought and I immediately write a story synopsis. Some days I can have a new 'inspiration' every two minutes...just ask my husband.
But being 'inspired' to start something isn't enough.
I am a fan of having lofty dreams, of allowing the world around me to stir my emotions and compel me into action but I have come to understand the value of reason, planning and follow through when added to these emotional surges. The Bible says that 'faith without works is dead' and I must say that I think the same could be said for inspiration without dedication.
I am an enthusiastic starter. I can hype myself into all kinds of excitement at the beginning of a project but once that emotional high wears off I often become bored and restless. When things stop being fun I have a hard time motivating myself to completion. I'm not sure why I have this tendency but its there, its annoying and I must change it.
People set a lot of value on being/getting inspired to start something but true inspiration is the inspiration to finish something, to see something to completion because that is the inspiration of growth and maturity...that is the inspiration that is a gift.
In an effort to be a grown up about things I am making a pledge to myself and the three other people who read this blog...I will finish what I have started. So next time you see me don't ask me "what's new lately?" ask me what I've finished lately.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
You are born and spend the next five years being taught how to be a person. You are taught to walk, talk and eat with utensils. You learn how to share, to look both ways before crossing the street and that recycling is a good thing for the earth. Then you go to school.
You spend the next twelve years learning how to think. You learn to read and write so you can update your Facebook status and read your friends' Facebook statuses. You learn the basics of math so you can buy a slurpee and not get short changed. You learn about science, history and social studies so you can blow stuff up, learn about other people who blew stuff up and how the world felt after their stuff was blown up. Then off you go to higher learning.
You go to university, college, become an apprentice and spend the next four to twelve years of your life learning a skill or trade that will allow you the privilege of being called 'grown-up' and the responsibility of paying the bills. And then you think, "Let's start a family," and suddenly you ARE a mother.
There is no school for mothers. There is no apprenticeship. You don't get to sit back for four years and learn the ins and outs of motherhood and then under supervision try it out for a few weeks to see if your cut out for it. There is no competency test (though we all know there should be!). You don't get to practice being a mother, you just are.
That is why it drives me crazy to see strong, beautiful, loving women walk around in a cloud of worry and guilt over how they are raising their children. We all want the best for our kids. We want to give them the tools they need to be successful, productive adults. We want them to be happy, kind and compassionate. So we do our best. We try and succeed. And sometimes we try and fail.
So why is it when we succeed we say, "Whew! What a lucky break!" and when we fail we beat ourselves up and carry the failure around our necks like a monument to our short comings? We need to give ourselves a break and re frame how we look at motherhood.
Let's stop BEING mothers and start PRACTICING motherhood.
Motherhood is a skill like any other in a lot of ways. We need to give ourselves permission to do our best and keep striving for better. To forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. To understand that you don't need to be a great mother to raise a great kid...you just need to be a good mother.
A woman (and mother) whom I greatly respect told me that recently. "You don't need to be a great mother to raise a great kid...you just need to be a good mother." It was an IGIM ('I got it' moment) for me. I exhaled. I stopped trying to be a great mother and began practicing motherhood.
And the more I practice the better I'll be.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Or you take a healthier approach to this day and you broaden your scope of love.
I have never been a fan of Valentine's Day. It felt like a day when a lot of people were left feeling out of the loop. It seemed that for this one day if you were not part of a couple you were no one and to me that has never been an okay message to send. Not even for one day.
So the first year I was with my husband I told him in no uncertain terms that I do not expect nor want any type of love fest on Valentine's Day. I do not need a grand gesture of love on February 14 because he loves me in a million small ways every day of the year. He went along with that, partly because he agreed with me and partly because it got him off the hook. Our ban on Valentine's Day lasted about three years and then I caved. I fell in love with a new man and everything changed.
The first Valentine's Day after our first son was born we celebrated Family Love Day. It wasn't anything we did intentionally, we were just so taken with this kid and this family love that Valentine's Day became something totally different for us. That first year when Gavin was 11 months old we celebrated the day with an extra long group cuddle in our bed, pancakes for breakfast and all the hugs and kisses G-man could handle. This tradition has carried on now for nine years. Every year we treat Valentine's Day like an anniversary for our family, a day when we love each other on purpose.
This year as we prepared for today I began to think about what this day means for our kids now and what it could mean to them in the future. Right now they are all pretty young and they see Family Love Day as a day to get some chocolate and a little gift. A day when we make a point of saying 'I love you' to each other and spend time just being together. Its not about being a couple, its about being a family.
It is our hope that as our kids get older they will continue to see February 14 as a day to love the people who are important to them instead of focusing on and seeking out romantic love. We hope that we are teaching them to be content with themselves just the way God made them. That they are enough and whole and complete on their own and that when the time is right God will help them to find another whole and complete person to make a life with...if that's what they desire.
And I'll say the same to you.
Today and every day, you are perfect and complete. You have gifts and talents and abilities that make you the treasure that you are. You are love and goodness and kindness. You are everything you need to be and everyday you are become more. Celebrate that. Celebrate you.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Sigh. Sip the Coffee.
The thing of it is that we all have struggles, no matter what day of the week it is. We all have moments where our attitude is kind of sucky, where someone is a jerk to us, where we make a bad decision and the consequences are tough to deal with. No one's life is harder or more stressful than anyone else's life. It just is what it is.
The difference is how we choose to deal with the tough times.
It is so easy to be all "Life is good" and "Bless God" when things are going your way. When your bank account is full, your house is clean and all your appliances work. When your kids are healthy, you've had a good night's rest and your spouse is being considerate. That is when staying positive is a cake walk. But have a health scare, a financial crisis or a conflict in a relationship and then let's see your reaction.
I believe it comes down one choice. To be a victim or not to be a victim. That is the question.
The victim throws a tantrum, screams at God, wallows and pitches a tent in the middle of the crisis and stays there waiting for someone else to rescue them. The victim has no sense of their own power. No inkling that they are strong enough to come through and survive. They need a revelation of who they are and what they are capable of. Everyone could use a hand of support in a rough time but no one should rely solely on the strength of another person to survive.
When you decide not to be a victim of circumstance you give yourself permission to be smart and strong and capable. You take power from the situation and put it back in your own hands. You say to God, "I can do it if You show me how." You become responsible for your own future. And very best of all, you decide to move past the crisis and keep living.
Today, on this foggy minded distracted Monday I want to let you know that you can. You Can. You can rise above. You are strong enough to walk through the storm. You are more than what is happening around you, to you. You are a Survivor. A Thriver.
I just thought you should know.
Friday, February 5, 2010
He spoke of empathy, 'charismatic' adults and self evaluation. He challenged us. He questioned us. He gave us a lot to think about. But the thing that has stuck with me is the question, "if asked, what words would your kids use to describe you?"
That one kind of hurts to think about. I know what words I would hope they would use but I am also truthful enough with myself to know that hope and reality sometimes do not meet. But this question combined with this theme of people of influence got me thinking.
Am I a person of influence?
I want to be. I would like to think that there are some people whose lives I have impacted in a positive way. Someone who would say that they are a better person for knowing me. And most of all I hope that I am a charismatic adult to my own children. Now, I'm not fishing for compliments here, I am truly wondering how I would be described. What kind of lasting impressions have I made? And are those the impressions I meant to make?
I know what I want to communicate through my words and actions. I have a pretty clear idea of the person I hope to be. Am I succeeding in making those hopes my reality? Sometimes yes but often times no. But I continue to try, to do better, to be more. And I think that is the key.
All of the people whom I have written about this week are just people. Real flawed human beings. They all taught me some extraordinary lessons about self worth, faith, determination and purpose. But they all also made it clear that no one is perfect, that they were still learning and growing too. That lesson of perpetual growth is one I really appreciate in this stage of my life. I revel in the fact that this Nichole, who I am today is not as good as it gets. Tomorrow I will be a better person as long as I am not afraid to face my short comings and work on improving them.
So at the end of this ramble I'm going to ask you, are you a person of influence? Are you the person you want to be?
If not, its not too late. Keep learning, keep growing.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I know beyond reason, beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me, He knows me and He has an incredible destiny for me. I know this so well because every Friday night for four years I was told this in one way or another. I was shown verses in the Bible that prove God's intention for me. And I have seen and felt His grace everyday.
And the person who spent every Friday night drilling this into my head, into my heart? Todd Petkau.
Pastor Todd Petkau was a cliche and an anomaly all wrapped up in one youth pastor package.
He was friendly, tried to be hip and had a strange affinity for the colours teal and purple. He ran the youth department with energy and intensity and wasn't afraid to try the big thing, the thing that would blow the socks off the students and make the church administration cringe. He was passionate about helping youth make a connection with God and an impact on their world. He 'got' us.
He instinctively knew that the only and best way to keep youth from following their peers into negative life choices is to show them the truth of who they are. So week after week Todd always brought the message back around to the one truth that God created each one of us. He knows our hearts and our dreams. He has given us each gifts and ability so that we may change the world and reach the lost.
He realized the importance of empowering young people to take part in their own present and future. It wasn't his youth group it was our youth group. Now, he didn't just throw us into the middle of ministry and say 'have at it.' He was constantly teaching us, training us and showing us the way. We went on countless ministry retreats where he taught us how to be peer leaders, the ins and outs of pulling off a successful event and most importantly, that there is a purpose to all we do.He gave us leadership and direction but we planned the events, we organized the praise and worship, we ran the drama team. We, the youth, did it all.
I would love to say we were always successful but we weren't. I wasn't. I was at the helm of at least one major flop on a Friday night. I didn't give the team I was leading enough time to prepare for the night. I knew things were not going to go well before the evening started and I told Todd as much. He just said, "Go with it. Do what you can."
It was horribly embarrassing for me. My name was literally all over this event and we bombed in a massive way. And not only in front of our regular attenders but in front of the 50 or so youth Todd had invited from other churches. At the end of the night I was exhausted, humiliated and crushed. I thought for sure Todd was never going to trust me to lead anything again. So I wasn't surprised when Todd asked me to have a chat with him before I went home.
He calmly asked me what went wrong, gave me time to take responsibility for my short comings and then he pulled out a pen and paper and said, "Here's what you do next time." Instead of reaming me out for messing up a youth event he taught me how to prepare a timeline and how to delegate more things. And he gave me another chance.
Todd taught me a lot about who I am and the kind of person I want to be. It was more than just his words, it was how he lived his life. He was an open book with us. There was no question he would not answer - and I mean NO question. It didn't matter if we asked him about the fruit of the spirit or masturbation, he'd answer. Honestly, Biblically and Openly.
Thank you Todd for being real, for believing that a bunch of teenagers can be world changers and for showing us our true identity in Christ.
The purpose of our Youth Ministry is "To minister to young people, meeting them where they are at, winning, building and equipping them through a number of Bible based programs, with the goal of developing them to be all they can be in Christ."
-Todd Petkau, 1992
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
I very clearly remember my first day of ninth grade. I was nervous. It was only the third time in my private school career that I was going to have a male teacher...and let's face it the first two male teachers didn't work out so well (one left due to his inability to control a classroom full of 12 year-olds, I have apologized to him since, the other...well...let's just say culture and language were just two of the many struggles he had).
Anyway, I was nervous. I remember entering the classroom, stuffing my over packed canvas backpack into my locker and finding my seat. I barely had a chance to say hello to my friends when a booming voice broke through the chatter.
"Ladies and Gentlemen."
We looked around to see who this guy was talking to. Ladies and Gentlemen? There were no adults in the classroom with us. Then we realized, he was talking to us.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, let's stand for opening exercises."
We stood. We sang O Canada and said The Lord's Prayer, all the while each of us were making our assessments of the new guy. He was tall, he had very long arms and very long hands. He stood like an athlete, on the balls of his feet, ready for action. He wore a tie with ducks on it. Ducks?
Yes, ducks. We would soon learn that Mr. Kennedy had three absolutes in his life - Basketball, Ducks Unlimited and Respect...not necessarily in that order.
He was a basketball coach at heart and everything we needed to know about life could be taught on the basketball court, or so he said. Nearly every lesson had a basketball analogy attached to it and if you didn't love basketball before you met him you did after or you shut up about it. And his favourite team was the Bulls. Nope that's not it, it was the Knicks. Just kidding, Mr. Kennedy...it was the Boston Celtics.
I'm not sure about the whole Ducks Unlimited thing other than I knew more about the conservation of wetlands than I ever wanted to thanks to Mr. Kennedy. And that navy blue duck tie he wore on day one wasn't the only duck prop he had.
And finally, Respect. That grade nine year I learned the definition of respect. Respect for others, respect for authority and most importantly respect for myself. I cannot remember even one time when Mr. Kennedy didn't call me 'Miss Bilcowski.' It set the bar for respect in his classroom. He expected us to respect him enough to be punctual and prepared and he expected us to respect ourselves enough to strive for excellence in every area of our lives.
He was our teacher when necessary but he preferred to be our coach. Showing us the way and then watching us succeed on our own. Playing along side us until we caught the ball and ran with it. He showed us the power of focus and meditating, the necessity of organization and that mistakes are forgivable as long as they are not chronically repeated (if they were you were quickly awarded membership to the 'Book in the Head' club).
He knew that we were capable of more than we thought. He knew that there was a bit of greatness on the inside of each of us and he did whatever it took to prod, shake up and inspire us to grab hold of that greatness and make something of it.
I think about Mr. Kennedy and his lessons all the time. I hope to pass on a tradition of respect and strength to my own children. And I strive to be a coach. And I hope that my own children will experience the tough love of a Mr. Kennedy at least once in their lives.
Thanks Mr. Kennedy, Coach Kennedy...I wouldn't have wanted to learn those lessons any other way.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I had many great teachers through the years. But none compare to Russ Schroeder.
I was seven years old when I first walked into Russ' classroom. Back then he was Mr. Schroeder and I was the new kid in class. I felt nervous and awkward because for the first time in my life I wasn't in a class taught by my aunt and filled with my cousins. I was alone. With strangers. And the teacher was a guy with a purple puppet.
It didn't take long for Russ, uh, I mean, Mr. Schroeder to win me over. Week after week he would lead us in games and singing. He used puppets and props and anything else he could get his hands on to illustrate his point. He never spoke down to us just at our level.He never raised his voice at the rowdy group of kids in his class. In fact, the louder we got the quieter he would talk. It would take him seconds to have us calmed and intensely interested in what he was saying.He was like magic!
And what he was saying, what he was teaching was life changing. It was from him that I first learned about being a good steward of the gifts God has given you, about faith and hope and the substance of God's never failing love. I can remember clearly teachings he did, the props he used and the words he said. I can remember countless times in my life when I was despairing and Mr. Schroeder's voice would come out of no where reminding me that God is always with me and that He loves me like I am the only person in the world.
As I grew Russ and his wife Carol remained people of influence in my life. I babysat their children and then when I became an adult we volunteered on the same team together at church. Carol has been to my baby shower's and I have attended both of their kids' high school graduation ceremonies. And now their kids teach my kids Sunday School.
I see Russ & Carol nearly every Sunday in church and there isn't one Sunday when I don't say a silent prayer of thanks that I know them, was taught by them and inspired by them. I know that my faith journey would not have been the same if I hadn't spent those years in Mr. Schroeder's class.
Thank you Russ for knowing God and for showing a whole generation of Sunday School kids the way to Him!
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Get it out of your system because I'm serious. This post is about Mr. Rogers. Mr. Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers neighborhood. I have endured 14 years of mockery from my husband because of my enduring affection for Mr. Rogers.
I remember sitting on the floor in front of my grandparents' television and watching the three best shows ever. Sesame Street. The Friendly Giant. Mr. Rogers. That winning line-up filled my mornings throughout my preschool years. Sesame Street taught me my ABC's, 123s and not to litter (pick it up, pick it up, don't litter). The Friendly Giant taught me you can stick a rooster in a bag and hang it on a hook and he'll still be your friend if you play the recorder for him.
And Mr. Rogers taught me that imagination is a precious gift and that I am one of a kind, special and that is a wonderful thing.
I would imagine that I was on the trolley speeding toward the Land of Make Believe. I would play with Daniel in his clock/house, avoid Lady Elaine and sing with Lady Aberlin. It was a place where anything you thought of was possible. It was a place where imagination was king. It was my favourite place in the world.
But it wasn't just the Land of Make Believe that drew me in. It was those moments when Mr. Rogers looked into the camera and spoke directly to me. When he talked about feelings, being special and liking people just the way they were. Those words were like a magic spell that made me feel invincible. I was special and unique and that was powerful.
Everyday he would sing simple little songs to affirm his wee watchers. He wasn't a great singer but he was genuine and he connected with us. I remember many of those songs and now sing them to my own children. I want them to feel the strength in the words and know the truth that even though we are all different we are all special. I want them to know this so well that when they become teenagers and feel pressured to be 'part of the crowd' they will say "no" because mom & Mr. Rogers say I'm okay just the way I am.
Sound naive? Not really, I had those moments as a teen and I know part of my strength to stand up for myself came from being taught from toddlerhood that I am important, special and great "as is."
If you question the power of these simple words take a minute and try this out. Below I am going to include the lyrics to two of Mr. Rogers' songs, print them off and head for a mirror. Look yourself in the eye and say the lyrics to yourself. I challenge you not to feel the strength of this message."I'm proud of you, I'm proud of you.
I hope that you're as proud as
I am proud of you...
And that you're learning
How important you are
How important each person you see can be"
"You are my friend
You are special
You are my friend
You're special to me
You are the only one like you
Like you, my friend, I like you"
Now take another minute and say these words to a kid in your life. Say them everyday and watch their self esteem sore.
I grew up in Christian home and my parents were very involved in our church. All my life I have had a church 'family' that played as big a role in my life as my biological family did. I have always appreciated these extra adults in my life. Their wisdom, love and patience saw me through my childhood, those awkward teen years and into adulthood. I still rely on many of those people to help me navigate my way as a wife and mother. And in turn I now find myself influencing the lives of the next generation.
I'd like to think that I am a positive influence all the time but let's be realistic. I am a flawed person with a short temper and a sharp wit...not always a great combination. But I will say this I have always been keenly aware of how much power words hold. I have had people in my past who have encouraged and empowered me just with their words and I have known people who have in an instant of carelessness have bruised my heart and crushed my dreams. Its just that easy to build up or tear down when you are speaking to a child.
"Excellent!" And self esteem rises.
"Stupid!" And the heart cracks.
And once spoken words cannot be taken back. You can apologize and work to repair the damage but that word is always there...floating around the periphery of your relationship. Even as you mature into adulthood sometimes those harshly spoken words of your childhood can creep up on you and open a wound you thought long healed.
On the flip side of this are the good, kind and uplifting words that were spoken to you as you grew. Those are like little gems that gleam and shimmer in the corner of your mind as you enbark on a new project, tkae a leap of faith in business or put your talent to a new test. Those are the words we pull front and center when we are feeling weak or discouraged. It is those words spoken by that person who cared that can carry you through or push you forward.
It is those words and those people who I want to celebrate this week. Stop in every day this week as I honour five of the most influential people of my childhood.
And think about the people you have shaped and encouraged you...
Friday, January 29, 2010
I'm not talking about throwing your hands up in frustration and giving up but the time when you know that you have done everything you can and now you must let go. Do you know? Do I?
I am a great starter. I start to reorganize, start reading a book, start writing a book, start crafting, start a project, start a relationship but I do not know when to stop. Someone once said for every mile of road there is two miles of ditch and that's me. Some things I quit too easily like cleaning out the closets, new craft projects and bad books. Other things I just can't let go of.
For me, right now, its a book. I completed this manuscript three years ago. I submitted it to an agent and was rejected. I polished it up, sent it to another agent and was rejected (I must say it was a lovely rejection letter, I kept it). Submit, reject, repeat for the better part of two years. Now, I knew about 8 months into this process that this book was essentially unsellable (is that even a word?) but I didn't want to let it go because it represented four years of work. Four years of late nights, solitude and self doubt. Four years of working out the plot, developing characters and shaping the story. Four years. Four years.
I know I need to let this book go and in truth I don't even like it anymore. I don't like the plot and biggest writer sin of all I don't like my main character. Its time to let go. But I can't. I should but I can't.
Just when I talk myself into putting the stupid thing in a drawer and moving on my mind starts to spin and I come up with a thousand ideas of how I can brush it up and make something readable out of it. I know in my heart that its crazy talk but when you spend the better part of 7 years with something its just not that easy to walk away.
Or is it?
Seems like a big jump I took just there but its not.
We all know people who are separated, divorced or in our opinion should be. We have friends who jumped ship as soon as the waters got rough and others who have tied themselves to the mainmast and are sinking fast. Neither is the right thing to do. Giving up on your marriage because your bored or don't feel appreciated is selfish and impulsive but putting yourself in physical or emotional peril and becoming a martyr for your marriage is just plain crazy.
I don't have the answer here. I'm just asking the question. Asking you to ask the question. Is this a good place to stop?
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
I say that I am a writer, a volunteer, a mother but mostly I slack. And if you take the updating of this blog as an indication of this truth then you'll see that I am telling...well...the truth.
I like the idea of being busy, of writing, creating. But the reality is that by the time I finish up all the 'must do' tasks in my life all I want to do is nothing. My brain is tired and my patience is used up. I think about sitting down and pounding out a few thousand words but I don't. I see my writer friends achieve success and rejection (even rejection is an indication of effort) and I think "How nice that must be," but that's where my productivity usually ends.
I make excuses for not producing...I have to volunteer, I have meetings with Gavin's team, I have to clean the house (ha!), do laundry (ha, ha!), I need a proper office, I need a nanny for the kids, I need world peace! There's always an excuse but the reality is there is no excuse.
I don't work outside the home, most of the kids are in school now and those who are not in school can usually occupy themselves for an hour or so at a time. My husband expects very little from me where housekeeping is concerned...and if we're telling the truth here he is uber supportive of me writing.
So what's the problem?
No problem...no more excuses...no more slacking.
So if you're out there reading this I give you permission to ask, hound and harass me about my writing. I'll post projects and word counts here from time to time...maybe even a few excerpts.
Here's to no more slacking!