Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Remembering Her

I'm writing this from the blessed position of still having my Mom. I feel a bit morbid doing this while her health has improved so much, but I know when things eventually and necessarily decline, I won't have the strength to endure it. I will need to grieve and feel it all but won't have an outlet. So I will read this. And hopefully the many people who loved her will read it too and remember what a beautiful, loving, crazy woman I got to share with the world.
Mom's early life was filled with a lot of doubt and trauma. She experienced hurts no person should and came through full of faith, positivity and love. Because of her pain she became a confidante, mentor and advocate for many hopeless and helpless people. She turned her desire to protect the weak into a long and fulfilling career as a nurse. She never cared for office politics (though she craved the feeling of being recognized, appreciated and even loved by her peers and employers) and as such would work beyond what was expected to provide all her patients the love and care she would give her own mother. I saw it first hand as she set aside her grief to carrying each of my grandparents gently into Heaven with the greatest amount of dignity.
Her name means Justice, which is fitting because justice and mercy always followed closely beside her, although she always prefered mercy. As a mother, being firm wasn't exactly her strong point. She wore her heart on her sleeve and, though often racked with deepest emotions, was slow to anger, quick to cry and quicker to forgive. Her last years in this battle for life, I watched cancer try daily to steal her peace, but she fought back, rallied by the husband she chose again daily for nearly 40 years.
But I don't want to remember her as the woman who fought and finally succumbed to cancer. That is just the final short chapter. I want to remember more of the truth of her. She was crafty. And not regular crafty. She could sew, knit, felt, crochet, dye eggs, make rosaries, and... well... everything. I always had the best Halloween costume (as did many of my friends whom she gifted lovely costumes). I was guaranteed a ridiculously embarrassing and slightly dated wardrobe (blossom hats, hammer pants and coloured jeans, each at least a year behind the trend faded). We had homemade playdough, a puppet theatre and any stuffed toy we wanted, all made from scratch. She could bake better than the best of them. Her cooking was full of reliable home style favourites. She was everything a Mom should be in the old fashioned sense. She was a devoted protector of animals. She had brute strength you wouldn't believe. She could fix a toaster (and even knew not to shove a metal utensil in while it was plugged in....looking at you, Dad). She had repeated run ins with a snake on a family vacation (it loved the warmth of our crock pot) and showed us all how a country girl dealt with pests. She was a strong swimmer and once rescued me from drowning as a small child like the fierce Mama bear she is. She often got bored by the political, theological and general -ogical chatting Dad and I got into. She would sit while we chatted, plugging away at whatever her latest craft was. A Ukrainian Easter egg (put a ribbon on top and they make great Christmas presents). She collected tea pots, patterns, stories, and friends. She had a remarkably large head for a woman her size. She was a shopaholic, but rarely shopped for herself. She wasn't a girly girl, but gained a loved for mani-pedis in her final years. A late touch of vanity can be forgiven for a woman who seldom saw how beautiful she truly was.
She could sing. Sweet and soothing and powerful. She taught me how to make harmonies. She was the keeper of folk songs and skillful at lullabies. She had specific taste but always listened and liked what we were listening too. Whenever she sang a solo at Church she craved our praise, which was easy to give. Music wove through our early lives and the voice singing in my head will always be hers. I'm sad my kids won't be able to hear her sing the way I did. My voice is hers, just younger. I strive to give my children her gift to me. The gift of a life lived with a soundtrack of their own making.
Wherever Mom went, she made a friend. Her openness and kindness made everyone love her. Dad and I would joke that part of the reason most people liked us was because of her. She worked hard to make friends. Some of that came from a genuine fear of being unloved. She had felt so unwanted as a child that that seed planted in her heart would grow like a looming tree without warning. Our whole family worked diligently for years trimming it back, planting seeds of love, friendship and faithfulness that would be forever choking out that ancient fear.
I don't know how I'll go on now, Mom. These past few years have been impossibly hard as even now I can't call and lay my burdens on you like the little child I always want to be with you. I have had the weighty blessing of being able at last to take care of you in my small ways. I'm sorry for all the times I wasn't kind or was a handful. I'm sorry for all the times I didn't accept your generosity because it got in the way of my ego. I'm sorry for every wasted second I didn't take to make you feel like the precious and beloved woman you have always been. You were a gift from God. I know already you're up in Heaven, bugging Jesus to make my life more full of the shiny things. I know you're praying for each of us. I know you're feeling entirely what it means to be able to forgive every hurt. I know you finally know how loved you have always been. Our journey down here without you will be a lot less bright, but in the end I can't let go of the feeling that the impossible pain of losing you is nothing compared to the joy of having shared my life with you. I will see you again, Mom, while we share eternity. Until then, I will always love you.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Homeschool for a Day

In my city, we've been having a rough winter, weather wise. School has been cancelled a lot lately due to snow, ice, or whatnot. There's only so many days you can spend free-styling life before you want to have a plan. I had a friend ask me for some homeschool for a day tips, and it got me thinking that more people might want to hear some easy ideas to keep kids occupied, especially when it's too cold to simply shove them out the door into the snow! I decided to break the ideas I have by subject matter for easier use.


When you're home, experiment based science is going to be your best friend. There are lots of easy ones you can do with basic ingredients. The important thing is to get the kids to make observations and then write and draw what they observed. I've included some links for experiments we loved.

Clean a Penny with Chemistry Make sure you have a lot of pennies on hand. I made sure to have one that were in different states of dirty so they could see how dramatic the change was for the dirtiest.

Alka Seltzer and Oil Lava Lamp My kids loved this one like crazy. Experiment with how different amounts of alka seltzer tabs to see the changes!

Melting Ice This is beautiful and made entirely with ordinary kitchen items. If you don't have time to make a big block of ice, either use ice cubes or, y'know, get some ice from outside your front door. I bet an icicle would be phenomenal for this experiment!

Frozen Bubbles I can't think of better weather to try this one! If you have to go out, might as well do some science while you're out there!

Inflate a Balloon with Science We enjoyed this one a lot. All you need is a balloon, an empty bottle, vinegar and baking soda!


Another important thing to do is work on various elements of language arts. Here are a few ideas to help with that!

Composition This link will send you to some writing prompts, but you could just as easily invite your kids to freestyle and simply compose a story. You can also challenge them to write a rhyming poem.

Spelling A great follow up to composition is to identify any spelling problems they encountered. Make a list of all the improperly spelled words and get them to write them correctly about 10 times. This will help them remember the correct spelling for the future!

Word Searches This is just an example of the types of word searches you can find if you go and search them on the internet. Print out a few at a time and set them searching. 

Handwriting For younger kids, practicing letters and handwriting is always a good idea. Set them down with a piece of loose leaf and ask them to write each letter 10 times. When they're done, identify letters they had problems with and spend time helping them write them correctly.


Work Sheets Find some work sheets for your child's age and grade. Let them do the worksheet alone and then come and check over their work. This will help you identify and help with any problem areas.

Word Problems Just like the other work sheets, print out some with word problems as this will get them thinking in a whole new way.


Art: Google a famous painter and learn a little bit about them. Find out what was special about their style and then see if you the kids can mimic something about their work. You can also do a project where you show how mathematical shapes can be used to form the basic shape of any object.

Geography: Pick a country and ask them to do a mini research project. Population, language, cultural dance, food, music, and history are all fun points to touch on. Consider setting them a list of questions to look for.

Baking and Cooking: Let the kids cook with you. Explain why the flavours work together, what culture the food comes from and what is nutritious about the food choices.

Play: Don't forget to have fun! If you're snowed in, try making some of the many home made doughs for some sensory play. I love adding some peppermint extract to make even the most basic dough fun! This no bake recipe was incredibly popular with my kids and help up nicely next to the name brand stuff.

I hope these ideas inspire you and help you through these long snowy days!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

You Can't Take it With You

We've all heard the old expression "you can't take it with you" so many times that it has probably lost its meaning. On the most basic level, it refers to the fact that we can't carry our riches to the grave. To me, however, it means a lot more than money. When I was reflecting on this today in prayer, I couldn't help but be reminded of all the baggage I carry with me that I can't take with me beyond this life. Some of it I probably shouldn't carry with me another day, to be honest. Each one of us has some kind of baggage. When I call it baggage the first thought is never pleasant. We are all collectors in one way or another. Collectors of things, feelings, experiences and grudges. We cocoon ourselves with our possessions, both material and mental, and clutch to them for dear life. But here's the kicker, we can't take our baggage with us to Heaven. Obviously we won't be able to bring the physical stuff like our money, finery or heirlooms. That's the stuff everyone thinks about when they hear this expression. The fact is that we can't take our grudges, wrong thinking, pains or self-obsession with us. My need to have the next best thing has no place in Heaven, because God is the best thing that has ever been given to me, and in Heaven I will at last have Him to the fullest. Before I can open myself to the fullness of God's self-gift to me, I need to let go of everything that is weakly trying to fill that deep, abiding need.

This duty we have to let go of all the "it" that we can't take with us is hard work. It can take a lifetime and more.When I'm on my deathbed, I doubt I'll be able to look back and say that I have reached a level of perfect detachment from all earthly things. I'll probably still be clutching my pearls, holding a stray grudge for a perceived slight or a real injury, and wrong about more than a few things. Very few of us reach a level of complete detachment, and by and large we get the pleasure of recognising them as Saints. Now don't get me wrong, it is my goal to find myself fully prepared for Heaven (I am one to set the bar high), but I recognise my weakness and inability to accept all the graces God pours out on my broken little heart. So where does that leave me? As a Catholic, I have the supreme comfort of realising God has prepared for me a place where I can finish whatever unfinished work was due to make me ready for the joys of Heaven. Purgatory, which is by the way not just a sort of eternal waiting room, is a place where I will be able to work to the purification of my soul while basking in the hope of Heaven. My hope will always be for my long home, but I rejoice in God's gift of my one day temporary home, that is Purgatory. Purgatory and purge come from the same word. It means to make clean or pure. And for all my friends who love to purge all your extra "stuff", use the same spirit and purge any emotional baggage you have too. Since we can't take material possessions with us anyway, we should get a head start on Purgatory and start letting go of our spiritual hang-ups.

Here's the lucky thing, if your "it" is love, you get to carry every last drop of that. So if there's anything you want to pile up, fill the rooms of your heart up with beautiful memories, love of others, hours of prayer for friends and strangers, and acts of kindness to one and all. The more you fill your heart up with love, the less room there will be for the "stuff" that clutters up your life and your soul. Now that it's a new year, maybe we can take on the challenge to say goodbye to a little more brokenness and welcome in more love.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Christmas Charity

As Christmas approaches, many of us are trying to find unconventional ways to give gifts that aren't more possessions to clutter our lives. Here are a few of my favourite places to donate:

1. Food related charities. Contact your local food bank and see what they're looking for. Don't just give what you have in your pantry and don't want. Often cash donations are appreciated! Locals check out Feed NS and Hope Cottage!

2. Children's and Battered Women's Shelters. Cash is always good but I know they have specific needs that could be covered. Adsum House, Phoenix House, and Byrony House do incredible work for those in need in our area!

3. Homeless shelters and actual homeless people. This year dear friends packed up Ziploc bags with toiletries, snacks, gloves and gift cards for our local coffee shop.

4.  Chalice Canada has an amazing catalogue of one time gifts to serve those in third world countries. You can also sponsor a child for a mere $33 a month.

5. Your local crisis pregnancy center. Our local center, Open Door, is currently raising money to increase their space as they've been serving our community so well they need more space to do it even better!

6. Matercare International is providing women and child based care world wide. Check out their website for more information and consider a one time donation or becoming a monthly donor.

7. I am a member of the Signs for Life team and I know we're looking for more donations to support our Spring campaign. Our website is full of great information and can lead you to other local pro-life services in our area you may want to support year round!

Don't forget your local Church and the charities associated with it! They do lots of quiet work for people in the area as well.

God bless all of you this Advent and then during the Christmas season!

Friday, 28 November 2014

No Burden Too Great

‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matt 25:40)

Let me start out this post with a thank you. To our family, friends, good folk at our Church, and all those who are walking through these difficult days with us. Our days begin and our nights end with prayers of thanksgiving for your kindness and generosity. You have been Christ to us and seen Christ in us. You didn't wait until everything fell apart to run to our aid.  You came quietly and without show at the first sign of our struggle. You took care of us and helped us stay steady. You have been a light in dark nights of confusion and fear. May God bless all of you!

As some of you know, we've had a tumultuous few months. Without warning my husband's shop closed. I won't go into details, but this was a real blow as he had dreamed of a career and long future with this company. Within 24 hours he had secured a new position, but that only lasted for a short time as his health fell apart in the aftermath. For the last little while he has been without a job, struggling to find peace of mind.

What started as a search for the right job, became a struggle with increasing anxiety and depression. This week he was formally diagnosed with moderate to severe depression and told he has to take time away from his job search. As a man who prides himself on his ability to provide for our large family, these are trying days. I am doing my best to remind him every day that he needs to take care of himself and once he's stronger we'll move forward.

In all of this, he has held on to his faith. Every challenge is met with the mantra "Jesus, I trust in you!". He has been open about his struggles and is doing his best to shine a light on the pain of depression. He is so aware of his blessings and still thanks God for all of them, even if his brain is keeping him from enjoying them. We are working hard getting him all the help he needs.

My husband is proof that no burden is so great that it cannot be placed at the foot of the Cross. While there are still times of intense suffering, all suffering can be made more bearable when we unite ourselves with Christ. The greatest hope comes in knowing that the Cross of Christ leads to victory.  My solace is in knowing that we can be like Simon of Cyrene, helping those around us bear the burden of their cross. There is no burden too great when you have the hands of many others lifting you up.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Pro-Life Advocacy

There are days when Pro-Life advocacy is hard. The days when I'm overwhelmed by the real, human tragedy being played out constantly all across the globe. The sheer magnitude of all the lost, the injured, the unwanted... It can crush the heart. None of the days I've experienced so far come close to the days I feel like I've failed in my work to care for women in crisis. Failed to give all the support needed to enable someone to make the choice they want most, but are pressured to deny. Days like that I do the only thing I can: pray and love. Love unconditionally and endlessly. There is no room for me to judge, but there is always room for more support and more love.

Our culture is so hostile to life that it clouds the view of intelligent, educated and loving women and men. It teaches them to avoid parenthood at any cost. It teaches that our sexuality is only a tool for our pleasure. It teaches that our inability to scientifically measure personhood in the womb gives us license to strip our children of their humanity. It teaches us that our children are commodities that can be refused or sought after, again, at any cost. Our society, which accuses me of being too "faith-based" in my opinions, has been busy, quietly selling its own narrative and set of values. People have been sold the lie that they have no dignity unless they are independent and in a position of power. They have been taught to believe that their position of power over another being gives them moral impunity. They have been taught that their bodily autonomy trumps the bodily autonomy of the life they participated in creating.

The truth of the matter, the truth that science hints at but can't fully explain, is that each life is precious from conception to natural death. The innate dignity of each child, a gift we cannot demand but are blessed to welcome, exists from the start. The sad juxtaposition is that our culture is happy to see each born child as the unique and beautiful beings they are, but denies that uniqueness and beauty because of geography and dependence on an unwilling parent. Our culture is struggling to hold apart this opposite vision and it is so incongruous for those of us with eyes to see. On the one side, we see Tiger Moms, Helicopter parents, pinterest parents. Parents so convinced that their children are incredibly special and worth every excess imaginable. On the other side, we see our culture convinced that babies are only worth our effort and a future of bento box lunches, themed parties, expensive photo shoots, if we decide to ascribe dignity arbitrarily.

I have been blessed with 5 pregnancies and in turn 5 incredible children. I know so deeply how difficult pregnancy can be either through my own breadth of experience or through that of many friends. I can't begin to imagine the taunting and cruelty some young women carrying unplanned pregnancies endure on top of physical symptoms. A young pregnant woman I know was physically assaulted at her school and also endures constant insistence from grandparents to abort. She stands tall and brave, guarding her pregnancy with enough love to break a thousand hardened hearts. I can understand the temptation to run away from that pain. When I asked her how she reacts to people telling her to abort, she told me that she focuses on the fact that Mom's protect their children. Period.  Our society is broken. Many are too busy judging these women to give them what they need: support to endure the 9 months of loving sacrifice while being constantly pressured and insulted.
If you need to see the face of Christ, look in the eyes of one of these brave mothers. Look at her face and see the truth: Life is sacred. Sacrifice has purpose. Those who make brave, life-giving choices are often fighting a battle every moment of their pregnancy. And if they do give in to the immense pressure to escape it and choose an abortion, don't leave your love at the door of the clinic. Don't ever stop loving these women. Say yes to their innate dignity and keep supporting and loving them.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Leftover Soup

When we started getting farm fresh vegetables and fruit from our CSA I found myself frequently puzzled by what to do with all the stalks, leaves and general leftovers of certain veggies. Swiss chard leaves are great tossed into a quick stir fry, but I don't have the patience to wait for the stalks to get tender. Celery leaves smell beautiful but I was mystified by them. I didn't even know garlic had scapes or stalks. This dilemma repeats itself ad nauseam with every new box. After months of putting more of these extras in the compost than anywhere else, I started a freezer bag and began tossing things in. Whenever the bag gets full or the mood strikes me I take my humble cast offs and make them into a flavourful and hearty soup! Here's a recipe for today's leftover soup, but you can heavily modify with whatever you have:

1 frozen turkey leg (bought on sale)
1 frozen broccoli stalk
1 bunch Swiss chard stalks
1 garlic stalk
1 bunch celery leaves
4 medium carrots (only fresh veg. All others are frozen)
1/2 cup pot barley (that was lingering in my pantry)
The end of a container of chicken stock (because I had it)
Spice to taste (I used s&p and some curry powder for some kick)

Leave it on medium heat all day. You'll need to strain it to pull out the bones and chop up the veggies. It'll be hot so give yourself some time. It'll taste even better if you let it rest overnight and cook it all day the next day.