Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Salad Surprise

I love fresh lettuce, especially the soft, buttery leaves.  And summer time is the most wonderful time of the year to find fresh buttery lettuce.  I have found several grocery stores and farmers markets that have provided a wealth of rewarding heads of greens recently.

Simply, it has been lovely eating the last few months. 

With one exception.

This exception occurred last week as I went to wash and cut a head of red lettuce for dinner.  Much to my surprise I saw a green shiny spider crawling along the leaves.  "No big deal," I thought to myself.  "It's just a sign of how fresh and amazing this lettuce is."  Trying to be brave I took a moment to try to determine what to do about the situation...as those of you who know me know, I am anything but fearless when it comes to spiders.

Then I saw spider #2.  "Be fearless.  Be fearless."  I coached myself.  "This is a moment to shine, to show that I am not as squeamish about 8-legged bugs as I used to be."

So I acted: I yelled for Luke (who is fearless with spiders--my hero!).

He bravely swooped in and struck down our teeny salad inhabitants, thoroughly washed the lettuce in case any more family members were hiding out and finished dressing it.

He also ate most of the salad that night.

Though he assured me he triple checked for any more spiders,  I couldn't mentally get over images of mistakenly eating one or seeing another one crawl on my fork.  From the entire experience I resolved to practice bravery the next time I encountered the species.

And it did happen.  The encounter came when I was with Tyler which helped a lot (I don't want my son growing up thinking that I won't protect him from these creepy crawlers...even if he does have a fascination with them and is constantly wanting to touch or "play" with anything that wriggles and is not quick enough to crawl away from his little fingers).

Anyways, I was with Tyler and I felt it: a slight tickle on my hand.  I looked down and there it was.  A monstrous (about the size of a small freckle) looking spider was taking a journey across the landscape of my skin.  I jumped, yelped, and before thinking at all squashed it right there on my hand.

Tyler looked at me, a bit startled, but laughing at my random outburst.

"What was that one Mommy?" he asked with his cute, inquisitive look.

"That, was a fierce, icky spider.  It was thumping along like a lion in the jungle and I needed to go 'Hiya' like Karate Kid does,"  I tried not to be over-dramatic but also needed to make sure I didn't minimize this moment.  I had squished an enormous (itty bitty) spider without even thinking.  My bravery could not be lost for I was not sure if it would ever come again.

Tyler laughed and said, "Do that one again!"  And the game of squishing the icky spider on my hand that sounds like a lion in the jungle and provokes a Karate Kid "Hiya!" from me lasted for the next 25 minutes.

I realized at the end of the game that I, amazingly, did feel braver about spiders.  It was as if I had transformed into some sort of Spider-hunting Cowgirl.  Watch out 8-legged creatures--the karate chopping cowgirl is loose!

It was a bright moment for me as a mother. No teeny-tiny spiders are going to get near my children!

The next night, after feeling a new surge of confidence in this area, I was putting on my boots getting ready to go out to meet some girlfriends.  From inside one of them a spider fell out (they are everywhere! ...especially in a house that does not have screens, which is more common than I realized here in York).  Initially I felt a surge of panic, but then I remembered my proud moment with Tyler.

So, transforming into the Spider-hunting Cowgirl, I made one very loud thump with my boot and...squished him.  Thrilling!  I am an extreme pacifist so it feels strange to say killing anything was indeed thrilling, but in this case, it was.

And while I do not expect to turn into a serial spider-killer I am encouraged that if I encountered another spider in a head of lettuce leaves, I might actually be able to handle it myself with bravery.

Unless, of course, the spider is furry, larger than a half dollar or has jumping capabilities...yuck, yuck, yuck...if that is the case, I am SO calling for Cowboy Luke to step in while Cowgirl Jennifer takes a coffee break.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Tea Time with Mr. and Mrs. Alderma

I worked in the city on Thursday.  Our neighbors were selling tea and baked goodies at a little church-like building in York, and wanting to support them we ventured in.  Luke and Tyler continued on to the Museum Gardens to fully enjoy the sunshine and I did a bit of study hopping…starting at Pret a Manger (where I enjoyed a free cappuccino, yay for freebies!) and then went back to the little church for a very economical cup of tea for a good cause (they were raising money for their Scouts group).  However, I couldn’t help but notice the decorative structure in the corner of this cozy building with two people lying down, hands folded in prayer.  The plaque above them states:
“Here Lyey True portraitures of Robert Watter Knighte Alderma. Twise Lord Maior of this cittie. A father to y poore a friend to y comminaltie of this cittie. A good benefactor of this church. Who died May 20 1612 and of his wife Margarete. Who died March 30 1608.”
There appeared to be a grave beneath the horizontal statues, which to be honest, weirded me out a little bit.  There we were, a bunch of people eager for an afternoon tea or coffee, sitting at tables and chairs, chatting, working or taking a moment to be calm, in the presence of a grave with two people’s remains deep inside.  I don’t know.  For me, it is a bit odd, which is why I sat on the opposite side of the room as far away as possible.  I mean, I know they are secured in lots of cement and other such materials, and I’ve had peaceful moments in cemeteries and really enjoyed Westminster Abbey when we toured it years ago, but drinking my tea near a grave in a church converted into a cafĂ©-like atmosphere is a new experience.
I was trying to imagine how this situation might look in a Starbucks, and the image that comes to mind is something out of a Saturday Night Live spoof or Candid Camera. A big coffin centered in the middle of a collection of tables and comfy chairs.  Maybe it would even hold a display for the latest book or products…hmmm…
But, who’s complaining?  The tea was quite satisfying and the price a true bargain.  The experience definitely stretched me beyond my comfort levels.  And as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” So while I may not have been in a situation constituting “hot water” I like to think sharing my study space with a couple of people that have been dead several hundred years one that is making me stronger…even if that only means a stronger, more dedicated tea drinker.

Supposed to be

I was playing with Tyler this morning as he went to town with his lego-like blocks.  One particular interesting structure caught my eye, and I immediately asked "Tyler what is that one supposed to be?"  He looked at me for a moment and hesitated.  Then asked, "What is that one supposed to be?" in a quizzical tone that made me aware he wasn't quite sure what I was getting at.

I continued.  "What is it supposed to be?  Is it a crane truck?"

He still looked a bit confused but repeated back to me, "Yeah, it's a crane truck."

And then I started thinking.  I knew Tyler wasn't thinking the structure was necessarily a crane truck because he hesitated, and with crane trucks (when his structures are crane trucks) he does not hesitate.  He is very certain of what they are and makes sure everyone else has clarity as well.

But I realized in this moment my desire to make sure it (whatever it might be) had a label.  What Tyler created was supposed to be something, it was an assumption that when he was creating it he knew for sure what he pictured it to be.  And I thought about how this was, perhaps, how I viewed myself and the direction I take in life.  There is a bit of occasional anxiety when I don't have it all figured out--mapped--for the next 5, 10 or more years of what I want to do, to become, as if the label (i.e. career direction, family direction, spiritual and emotional direction) needed to be clear at every step.

I wondered if this desire to label is actually more inhibiting than freeing.  Tyler's block structure was just that: a block structure, and perhaps the greater freedom comes from allowing it to be that without boxing it into a category.  Rather, over time it might even morph into a crane truck or a building or a tree or an animal when the game calls for it.

So to move out of the block analogy (and if it was overly confusing with how my mind worked that out hopefully I can redeem that here): I thought of what our true callings and purpose are while we are on this world and came to the idea that maybe it centers on a much more general notion than I previously thought...that is, to learn to love and receive love first from God and then others.  Our purpose is to love, praise and serve.  It seems that everything else we do would fall into these categories.  And the freedom of accepting these callings/purpose is that we, too, may express this differently over the course of our lives.  It may be one thing, but probably it will be several from treating neighbors with kindness, to loving your kids, to following a deep passion, to serving others, to helping others find their voice and standing up for those who are not being heard and so on.

When people asked me what I wanted to do with my life in high school or college, my immediate response would be to think of a vocation or something tangible (i.e. have a family, travel and so on).  Now, I'm beginning to see how my response is changing.

How would I answer that question now?

I want to give and receive love.  I want to praise God through my actions and thoughts.  I want to speak up for others, and let the many blessings I've already been given in this life be used to the greatest possible effect. I want to learn and to never stop learning.  And I do not want to box myself in to what I or others may think this structure that God created called "me" is supposed to be.  I want to just let it be and see what happens.

Maybe, just maybe, it will take a variety of creative forms over time, each form being called forth when it is needed.  That, I think, would be pretty cool.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


I heard an incredible song today by MercyMe called "Beautiful" and I wanted to share the link to it on YouTube as well as the lyrics below.  I hope it ministers to you as much as it has to me--wherever you are and whatever path you are on at the moment.

Beautiful on YouTube

Here are the lyrics:

The days will come when you don't have the strength
When all you hear is you're not worth anything
Wondering if you ever could be loved
And if they truly saw your heart they'd see too much

You're beautiful
You're beautiful
You are made so much more than all of this
You're beautiful
You're beautiful
You are treasured, You are sacred, You are His
You're beautiful

I'm praying that you have the heart to find
Cause you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you've held inside so long
And they are nothing in the shadow of the cross


Before you ever took a breath
Long before the world began
Of all the wonders He possessed
There was one more precious
Of all the earth and skies above
You're the one He madly loves
Enough to die

You're beautiful
You're beautiful
In His eyes
From: http://www.metrolyrics.com/beautiful-lyrics-mercy-me.html

Monday, 11 July 2011

Wandering Aimlessly

My mind has been in the clouds today--and there are many clouds up in the sky right now so it's no wonder I feel like I have truly lost my head.  I decided a bit of fresh air could help to gather the senses and so I went for a walk.  My goal was to drop off an application form for a 2 day residential teaching preparation program on the other end of campus.  I also hoped to get a new planner (since my old one goes according to the academic calendar it ends in July) at a store in the middle of campus.

So I found myself wandering a zigzag path.  It was remnant of The Family Circus's (the old comic) depiction of an elementary aged child's walk home or to the park...completely all over the place without any sort of logical "straightest path from point A to B is a line" mentality.  The completely random path I set out on did take me all over campus in crooked and swerving footpaths, but it did end up accomplishing my two tasks, and helped me to relax a bit.

I found it to be very metaphorical of how I often feel whether it be life in general, cleaning the house, working on my research or walking with Tyler along the many sidewalks to the swings: at many points during the task or the journey it can feel aimless as though nothing is getting done and there is no actual point, and yet, in just a matter of time the point becomes clear.  A life choice is decided, the dishes are done and the laundry put away, the book is read and the paper is drafted, or we arrive at the swings.  An end is found.  The task is accomplished.  Victory!

And what I am starting to learn (slowly) is that the aimless wandering is often times the most important part, where things are clarified, unexpected paths taken that lead to the real point or destination, wonderful beauty is experienced or noticed that otherwise would have been missed.  Nothing in this life is pointless.

Yes, it is important to finish the task and get to our destination, but the journey taking us there is the part of life that is the essence: it is where the learning takes place, the reflection and thought.  And it is bound to be full of mistakes, full of unfortunate circumstances and full of moments when you realize that going the other way would have been easier.  But that's the journey.  It is also filled with the most miraculous realizations, the most beautiful encounters and the most meaningful redemptive moments that wash over the mistakes and turn them into wisdom.

The journey is the part of life that makes life worth living.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Dumpling Disaster

It started with a discounted box of dumpling mix, brought over to us by some neighbors of ours last winter.  We didn't make them, the mix sat in the box.  To be honest, we're not much of a dumpling family and the thought of putting in effort into making something that we didn't really like and isn't healthy for you robbed all motivation. So it became a pretend kitchen item for Tyler to play with and functioned quite well in its role.

Until two weeks ago.

I was playing with Tyler as he cooked me some gourmet cuisine on his stove including a helicopter that transformed into an apple tree:

"What are you cooking Tyler?"
He replied with what I thought sounded like "an apple".
"An apple?"
"No an apple tree."
"Oh, right.  You're cooking an apple tree?"
"Yeah, a yummy apple tree."

All was wonderful creative imaginative play, and then he spotted the dumpling box.

Tyler: "I want to cook that one."
Me: "Great, that's a wonderful idea.  Let's cook that one on your stove."
Tyler begins to open the box.
Me: "Oh, wait a minute.  Let's just pretend to cook the dumplings, like how you cooked the apple tree."
Tyler: "I want to take it out and cook it on my stove in my pan."

And so, without thinking it through, and in a moment of careless inhibition I thought, 'Why not?  It will be a fun opportunity to work more of the senses, a chance for me to relax about messes, and a cool memory.  Plus, how bad could it really be to clean up a little batter?'

I can hear any seasoned mothers as well as anyone who benefits from wisdom or merely has the ability to foreshadow mumbling their comments...you are right.  Bad idea.

Turns out, it does make a big mess.  I'm not familiar with what is in dumpling batter but whatever it is seemed to make it particularly difficult to clean after the fact.  There were remnants of the white goo for several days, although thankfully in smaller and smaller quantities.

However, the fun that Tyler had in what he created with this new hands-on experience  made it worthwhile.  It was a stretch for me to enjoy the process of making a huge (HUGE!) mess knowing I would most definitely be the one cleaning all of it up afterwards, but it taught me to relax in the moment (when the goop is already dripping over everything, mine as well enjoy the moment--you are already going to spend loads of time cleaning it up with q-tips and scrub brushes, why not be reminiscing a joyful moment rather than a stressful one?).

To see him concentrating so hard on pouring the batter, mixing it together, pouring it into various places and rubbing it all over his hands and face (and clothes and me and tiny crevices and cracks that I had never noticed before) was absolutely precious.  He was in his element.  Toddlers need to make a mess and need to be free to create...to let their minds and hands experience new textures and ways of fun.  He loved it and was so proud of his final product: a stack of plastic food items covered in dumpling batter served lovingly to me on a plate ("Here you go Mommy.  I made this one for you." I think my heart melted into some dumpling goop in that moment). A wonderful experience for us both.

So for next time: To goop or not to goop?

Most definitely: goop!

...as long as it is outside in an easily cleanable bucket with smocks or bathing suits and we have easy access to a paddling pool or hose...(feeling relaxed about creating messes does take its time to develop...)