Monthly Archives: November 2011

serendipity is santa’s friend

For my birthday in 2007, Jon gave me a camera. Until then I’d just been using my cellphone (which, for 2006/2007 wasn’t too bad, but now would be pretty horrible) and I had an upcoming dancing trip to Russia. It was a good little point-and-shoot, served me well in Russia*, took pictures of Wembley, took pictures of my knitting, pictures of the bump that would turn out to be Peanut, pictures of Peanut, pictures of bump 2.0 which turned out to be Bubby, pictures of Bubby

The little door that holds the batteries in broke. It wouldn’t latch shut. I taped it together with electrical tape. After a while that didn’t work well enough, so I had to hold it oddly in order to press the heal of my hand against the door to keep the camera from losing power. The end was near.

Ten days ago I realized I hadn’t taken pictures of the girls in a few days and my immediate reaction was: ugh. “That’s not right,” I thought: “I should want to take pictures of my kids. Maybe I should check Kijiji, just in case there’s an affordable camera body listed…”

And there was.

camera
With Christmas nearly here, I was also lucky enough that my father wanted to get me a lens to go with the body. Monday the lens was in my hands.

I’m still figuring it out, since graduating from a point-and-shoot to a DSLR is pretty significant, but it’s getting lots of love. You’ve already seen two shots taken with it on Monday and Tuesday’s Advent posts.

almost 7mo
almost 7mo
flying away
Peanut’s decided that she doesn’t want her picture taken. Ever. I’ll have to get some on the sly…

So now everyone is very happy: I’m happy to have such a fabulous new toy, Jon and my father are happy because I took the guesswork out of gift-buying this year, and we’re all happy that pictures of the girls, or at least one of them, are being taken again.

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advent 2011: Wednesday of Hope

Today we’re reading from the prophet Isaiah, continuing the look back at why the people were waiting and who they were hoping would come. Having read about Zechariah and Elizabeth and the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist, we’ll look at the role he would play. From Isaiah 40:

 3 A voice cries out,

         Prepare in the wilderness a road for the Lord!
      Clear the way in the desert for our God!
 4 Fill every valley;
      level every mountain.
   The hills will become a plain,
      and the rough country will be made smooth.
 
5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
      and all people will see it.
   The Lord himself has promised this.


paper tree
Waiting in hope…for a Path Maker.

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rainy errands

I had a strange evening.

We were out of toilet paper, of all things, so a walk to the drug store to restock was in order. Weather in Ottawa in November is often one of extremes: either beautiful and picturesque with fluffy, crystalline snow in mounds, or dismal, grey and perpetually rainy. The past week it’s been the latter and today was the worst yet. It has been pouring rain all day today, cold and wet and leaving enormous puddles all over the city. A good day to be inside with friends as we were midday. A good evening to stay inside, warm and safe, not ideal for blocks of walking.

I don’t mind the rain. I quite like it, provided I’m prepared for and expecting it and I don’t have to sit in wet clothes for too long afterward. I can’t imagine, however, sitting outside on the sidewalk in this weather. Dreadful and utterly depressing seems an apt description. So I felt a great deal of sympathy for the man sitting at a corner, hat on the ground in front of him, asking for change.

“I’m sorry,” I answered.

I rarely have change. I rarely have cash. I am entirely too reliant on debit, a trait which Jon finds particularly bothersome. So I apologized to the man in the wet, in the cold, in the dark, in the street, in the night, while everyone was rushing around, running errands, running to a bus, running home to a hot meal.

“Fuck off,” he responded.

And I walked on, waiting for the light to change as the man on the sidewalk behind me muttered curses at the people passing him by, continuing down the street in the wet, in the cold, in the dark, just as before. But it seemed wetter, colder, darker. Angrier.

My encounter has been weighing on me since then. I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I walked to the store, bought my few items (with debit, of course) and then started home again. I was thinking about it right until I was crossing a street and one of the on-coming cars suddenly turned and accelerated directly toward me. The woman driving the car had a cell phone pressed against her ear and she seemed distracted by the rain, by the dense traffic, by the darkness of the evening. I yelled to get her attention, to get her to stop. She narrowly avoided me as I ran across the street. I turned and waved my arms at her, hollering, “Get off your phone!” Other pedestrians turned and looked at me, curious. Now I can’t stop thinking about that encounter, either.

I felt justified in yelling at the driver of that car. Driving with a cell phone in rush hour traffic, in the core of the city, in the dark, in the pouring rain is a recipe for disaster, a disaster she and I narrowly avoided together. Next time she might not be so lucky. Some other pedestrian might not be so lucky. Put the phone down, I thought: drive safely. I felt justified. I don’t want anyone to be hurt.

I can count on one hand the number of times someone has told me, sincerely, to ‘fuck off’. Even fewer are the times that I have said it to someone. Those incredibly rare times that I did, though? I meant it. I felt justified. The man on the street corner felt justified. Justified by poverty, by discomfort, by rain, by cold, by anger, by sadness. Perhaps by loneliness. By desperation. And I find myself hurting, knowing that there is a man out there who feels that much anger, that much sadness or desperation or loneliness or coldness, a coldness that goes deeper than flesh, a coldness that aches into his spirit so that he mutters curses at strangers – at me – while huddled on the sidewalk.

In the rain. In the dark.

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advent 2011: Tuesday of Hope

Today we went back, back to the prophet Micah, to read about why the people of Israel had been waiting for Jesus. Who were they expecting? What were they hoping for? A peacemaker. From Micah 4: 3-4:

 He will settle disputes among the nations,       among the great powers near and far.    They will hammer their swords into plows       and their spears into pruning knives.    Nations will never again go to war,       never prepare for battle again.  <sup class="xref" style="background-color: white; font-weight: bold; line-height: 0.5em; vertical-align: text-top;" value="(C)”>Everyone will live in peace       among their own vineyards and fig trees,       and no one will make them afraid.    The Lord Almighty has promised this. 

paper heart
We wait in hope.

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Advent 2011: Monday of Hope

This evening we’ll be talking about when waiting can be difficult, when waiting is even unpleasant for us and how, by holding on to HOPE the waiting is easier. We’ll be reading from Luke 1:

Zechariah said to the angel,  “How can this be so? I am an old man and my wife is old also.” I am Gabriel,” the angel answered. :I stand in the presence of God who sent me to speak to you and tell you this good news. But you have not believed my message which will come true at the right time. Because you have not believed, you will be unable to speak; you will remain silent until the day my promise to you comes true.” Zechariah went home. Some time later his wife Elizabeth became pregnant.

paper angel

Have a blessed evening! 

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Advent 2011: Sunday of Hope

Today was the first day of Advent. After dinner, we began our Advent family activity. We read verses from Luke 1:

There was a priest named Zechariah. His wife’s name was Elizabeth. They both lived good lives in God’s sight and obeyed fully all the Lord’s laws and commands. They had no children because Elizabeth could not have any, and she and Zechariah were both very old. One day Zechariah was doing his work as a priest in the Temple. An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar where the incense was burned. When Zechariah saw him, he was alarmed and felt afraid. But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. You are to name him John. How glad and happy you will be, and how happy many others will be when he is born!”

We talked about waiting, about how challenging it can be to wait for something we really want, like a baby, but that the good things that come after waiting are worth it. Peanut said it was just like having to wait for a chocolate cookie.

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advent 2011

Last year I planned to do a daily Advent reading with Peanut. But then our apartment filled with mold, we temporarily evicted ourselves to a hotel and then my mother’s house, and I had some pretty horrendous nausea and fatigue on top off all that stress. We tried to stay focused on joy, but..well, it was hard. This year, though, I’m feeling extremely determined.

It took me a while to figure out precisely what I wanted to do to mark the progress of the Advent season every day, but after reading this and having a conversation over Facebook with Katie Munnik, I found my direction.

We start with the theme of Waiting. Advent is a season of waiting, of expectation and anticipation as well as preparation. We prepare ourselves for The Gift but we also acknowledge The Wait. The long wait for the sun. The long wait for a son. The long wait for a Saviour. Reading through Luke, there are scores of players in the story who are waiting. Zechariah and Elizabeth wait for a child. Zechariah waits to speak. Mary and Joseph wait to be married. Mary waits for her child to be born. Israel waits for the Messiah. The shepherds wait for the nightwatch to end. The Magi wait for the star to show them where to find Him. And of course there’s Herod, futilely, malevolently waiting for the Magi to return.

And we: we wait to celebrate again. We wait for the days to lengthen once again, for our Northern world to begin its turn back toward the sun. We wait to sing out joy to the world, the LORD is come! I can understand waiting. Moreover, a 3 year old can understand waiting. She can understand anticipation: she is, in fact, a master.

Here’s what we’ll be doing: we start with a branch and some yarn. I happened to have a branch painted gold from a long-ago dance recital, so I used that. I have suspended the branch over our dining table from a shelf on the wall using  some twill tape. Onto the branch I’ve draped several random loops of yarn to create a sort of web hanging over the table. Before dinner tomorrow I’ll clip 29 very small clothespins or paper clips onto the yarn. I’ll also have 29 squares of coloured paper, as well as a few slips of plain white paper, sitting on the shelf above the table. On the table we’ll have a candle.

So that’s the display we’ll have set up for the season. Every evening we’ll light the candle and we’ll read a short passage, talk about what it means, what part of the story it represents, and about the waiting within that passage. Then we’ll take a square of paper, decide as a family what shape might represent that passage (or just what we feel like seeing that day) and we’ll cut it out. Stars, hearts, people, doves, snowflakes…We’ll cut out the shape and then clip it to the yarn. Every day more and more of the clothespins will be filled up. Some days we’ll add some written words as well. By the end we should have a colourful, joyful little array above our table.

I’ll be posting the reading for that evening here every day, so feel free to follow along with your family.  And I’d love to hear how you are marking this season of anticipation.

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