In Memory of Todd

A few years ago I hired Todd to work in a childcare program I supervised.
He was a great, energetic guy, but shortly after hiring him I began to work part time in the childcare and part time in another program, so I didn’t get a chance to really know him.
At the good bye dinner we had for the staff members who were leaving, Todd and I sat together and had a blast making each other laugh, talking about obscure tv shows we both liked, and I said “How come I never knew you were funny?” He said “Back at you!” and that was that. We went our separate ways until the advent (in my life, anyways) of Facebook and Twitter where we reconnected. 
I had so much fun going back and forth with him on Twitter, with sarcastic replies to his less…enlightened…tweets and a few times we had great conversations online. 
One thing that always stood out for me was the energy he gave to enjoying his life. Facebook posts were frequently – Heading to Portland, Heading to Vic, Off on the motorcycle, Doing my first stand up gig, – and all accompanied by so many great pics of him having a blast with so many different people (and, of course, beer).
I’m 15 years older than Todd, and his posts frequently exhausted me just in the reading.
But this past long weekend, Todd died.
As his dad, Damon, so eloquently (and tear inducingly) posted: Todd wanted to die quickly, doing something he loved, with someone he loved. And he did just that. He was coming back from a motorcycle trip with his dad to Whistler and was hit by a car on the Lion’s Gate Bridge and died almost immediately, in his dad’s arms.
Now, I deal with death frequently in my job at a seniors home, but Todd’s death hit me pretty hard and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I didn’t see him all time (hadn’t seen him in years), didn’t even really “know” him aside from his on-line presence and a brief acquaintance, but hit me hard it has.
I read all the posts on the FB page in his memory and think of how proud his dad must be that his son touched so many lives, how lucky his friends were to have spent such great and quality time with him, and what a loss his death is for both. 
But more than that, I think – that’s how I want to live my life.
I want to enjoy every minute, I want to laugh a lot, I want to have spontaneous fun and be up for anything, I want my friends to know they can count on me and that I will always listen, and possibly I want to drink more beer. When I die I want there to be a million pictures for my friends to post of me being crazy, or having fun, or laughing, or just making memories. 
And really, that’s the most important thing. To make memories.
And at that, Todd was a rock star.

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There was an unfortunate incident with the squash.

Confession: I do not particularly enjoy the cooked vegetable. With the notable exceptions of corn on the cob, and sauted mushrooms on a steak, I prefer my veggies raw. So imagine the confusion with which I looked over my enthusiastically planted garden last year, only to discover that I had planted parsnips! and Fava beans! What the heck was I THINKING! And even the To-Be-Eaten-Raw stuff was so badly timed – can ANYONE eat 15 heads of lettuce ripe at the same time? Anyone at all??

So when it came time to plan and plant this years garden, I vowed to do it better. Well, “vowed” is a bit strong. Let me rephrase. It crossed my mind that I should plan it better.

There.

And one cooked vegetable that I do quite enjoy is squash. Went through my seeds, found some spaghetti squash ones (have you tried them with spaghetti sauce?? Very yummy!) and started 4 wee little seedlings in my window.

After they got their baby leaves and were ready to go outside into a raised bed I had saved for them, I consulted a gardening book about spacing. Uh – What?? 3 square meters PER PLANT??? Well, THAT’s just dumb. Obviously these little, teenie, baby plants are the exception to whatever dumb climate that book was written in (note – a few miles from *my* climate)! I went outside and consulted the raised bed – at 8′ by 4′ that would be the whole 3 square metres, no?

Again – SCOFF!!!

This bed will EASILY fit my 4 little, teenie, baby plants.

Surely I, being, after all, a Second Year Gardener, know more than the author of that (probably old and outdated) book.

I put one plant in each corner of the bed. As so:

 

 

See how much space there is?? Do you SEE how that book was wrong? Or, if not “wrong”, at least, misguided??

Aaaaand here we have today’s pic – 11 weeks later:

Oh My Gosh!!! You can’t even see the raised bed!

I am going to be the Freaking Crazy Squash Lady!! There are at LEAST 80 baby squash growing in there. The vines have taken over the box and everything near it, and grow more every day.

Sigh.

Lesson learned today:

LISTEN TO THE DAMNED BOOKS

And now I am off to look up squash recipes…

And if you find a squash on your doorstep in the next month or so, you’re welcome!

 

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Weights of worlds

I’m tired.

Really, really tired.

My friend says that’s a boring word, and she’s probably right, but all words can’t be scintillating. Some are just accurate and blunt in their truthfulness. And the truth is, I am exhausted.

My mom is sick – she was really sick and in hospital and now she’s home (well, working, cause that’s what she does, but she’s SUPPOSED to be home) doing various tests and awaiting surgery. First one scary surgery, then more tests, and another scary surgery. Most of the time she’s ok, spirit-wise. She has complete faith in God and trusts Him to heal her. My faith has been shaken recently and while I still wholeheartedly believe in God, I have a tough time trusting Him to take care of anything. I can do it myself, thanks. Only this, I can’t.

On top of that, Mom doesn’t live in the same city as I do and travelling to see her costs a lot of money that I don’t have. So that sucks. I try to hear her positive attitude on the phone and let it seep into me, but it only coats the surface. Underneath, the fear and doubts remain.

At the same time that mom went into the hospital, I moved into a new position at work. One with much more responsibility, and that I love, but that I also feel the weight of.

The weight of both these things makes me tired.

There are some things that I know would make me feel better – going to the gym being at the top of that list – but even changing into the requisite clothing seems like too much.

So instead I read. Sit in the sun. Garden. And try to sleep.

And wait for this to pass.

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Just the Way You Are

Yesterday I was at the kitchen sink washing dishes, and listening to the local easy listening station (the only station my stereo gets clearly and I have to leave it on for the dog – don’t ask – so I’m stuck with it) and Bruno Mars came on. Again. Where did this guy COME from?? Anyways, it was You’re Amazing, which is a beautiful, if overplayed, song. And it got me thinking. What if we really were loved “just the way you are”? All of us. How would things be different?

To be clear, I am not talking about someone in an abusive or unhealthy relationship saying they should love their partner just the way they are, or convince themselves that they are amazing. Nor am I saying that every new guy/girl you meet should instantly be given this status. I’m talking about your normal relationship with someone whom you have decided to make a go of it with. The kind where your issues are more along the lines of:

If she’d only drop that baby weight

If he’d only get his ass off the couch

We never go out anymore

Why does he insist on wearing that stupid Hawaiian shirt?

She’s just so loud

I wish he’d try for that big promotion at work

I wish she liked to golf

Those things. The normal things. The stuff you either didn’t notice when you were first together, or that have come on since. The stuff you nag him/her about, under the guise of “encouragement”, and that every time you do, it makes him/her feel like less.

We all do it, and I was just thinking about how much better relationships would be if we just stopped. How liberating to have someone who always, no matter what, thought you were amazing “just the way you are”. I know for me it would inspire me to be the very best I could be. How empowering to have someone who was always on my side, who I never once, ever, had to worry about thinking “if only she…” What an impact both of you could have on the world’s you influence if you had the 100% backing of someone in your corner.

And I’m not talking about just trying to convince yourself that you feel this way about your partner, I’m talking about actually believing it. About looking at the guy on the couch in the Hawaiian shirt, watching hockey, and thinking that he is amazing. Maybe because he can just look at you a certain way and make you laugh. Maybe when you sit down beside him on the couch he moves so you fit just the right way into his shoulder, or makes the morning coffee a little stronger than he likes because you can’t stand it weak, or ungrudgingly (disgrudgingly?) switches channels to your show during commercials. Maybe she makes your favorite dinner when you’ve had a crappy day, or listens to you without interrupting when you need to bitch – again – about your boss, or always buys your deoderant cause you hate going to the pharmacy, or loves your overbearing mom, or always lets you drive. What if we could look at our love and only see those things? The great things. The amazing things. We all have them.

And no, we aren’t all amazing, just the way we are. As a matter of fact, I’d be willing to put money on the fact that all of us have some things we could be working on. But WE know them. We all do. And your guy/girl does too. They don’t need you to point out the flaws. They need you to think they are amazing. Always. Without fail. Just the way they are.

How powerful that would be.

(and sisters out there, you would need to step up to tell your bro to lose the Hawaiian shirt, cause c’mon, really??)

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To Mom, on her birthday

Because you believed

You believed in anything, the impossible

You believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, when I didn’t know how, and then when I knew how but couldn’t

When all I could see was the now, or the then, or the tomorrow, you saw the whole

You dreamed for me, with me, and possibly through me

You hoped for the best, loved through the worst, and prayed during both

You loved me when I cried the first time, and when I cry still

And thru the rivers of tears in between

And you shed your own; for me, because of me, with me

You taught me to aim for the stars, the moon, the sky.

Sometimes I did, and those successes were because of you

My failures remain my own – they exist to teach me, to grow me, to strengthen me

To become the woman you believed I could be.

I love you,

S.

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Was Jesus in the Bathwater?

A number of years ago I was a member of a church.

It was a family and community, in ways that I now know was a rare and beautiful thing. People loved each other, took care of each other, noticed if you were gone, noticed (more importantly) how you were (really) doing. We prayed together, sure, but we also laughed together, went to movies, had bbqs, went on trips, shopped, picked up each others kids, advised, encouraged, cajoled, cheered, and, well, loved each other. The pastor and his wife were my family and the unconditional love they showed me during that time has never been matched. I don’t know why, or how, or what the magic fairy dust was that created it, but as I look back on my life, it was one of a very few places and groups of people among who I could truly be myself.

That lasted for a year or so and then, like all great things, it ended. But it didn’t end with a whimper – the bang reverberates still. Many of us will never be the same. It started so simply – a challenge from our pastor to actually define what it is that our church stood for. In this world of liberality, our pastor wanted us to take a stand: what were the scriptures that we were going to stand on. The leadership – Board and Elders (of which I was a part) spent months challenging each other on what we believed God really wanted us to be taking a stand on. While we were meeting, praying, talking, debating through those issues, Dan, the pastor, was using his sermons to bring the rest of the church along for the discussion. Everyone was on board, excited it seemed, to have a simple, clear, definition of who we were as a body of Christ. The end result of those months of study and deliberation was a one page document. A covenant. It summarized what we honestly felt was who we were as a church, using only the bible to do so. No words were our own – they were all God’s (and no, I don’t mean God spoke to us and told us what to write – it was made up entirely of actual bible verses).

So the document was presented to the church and everyone agreed – yes, this is what we believe. (hard not to, if you are a Christian and are presented with a list of ten or so bible verses). Dan asked everyone to reaffirm their church membership by standing at the front and publicly agreeing with the covenant. And all new members would be asked to do the same.

And that’s where the trouble started. Some folks felt that what was written there should go without saying, some felt that “my membership here has been good for 20 years and how dare you call that into question”, some were excited, and many were ready to move forward. Dan likened it to when a teacher tells his class there will be a test for the weeks leading up to it and then on the day of the test, some students are surprised. What? You are really going to make us DO this thing you have been talking about for the last year?

And everyone became divided. The two camps became more and more hostile, and church became a place of conflict. Many people left – some because they just didn’t want to deal with it all, some because they were angry – and some of those angry people stayed, trying to return things to the way they felt they should be. Some were prepared to move forward, whatever the cost, feeling that this journey we had been on for the past year had led us to this crucial place of decision. I was squarely in one camp and my family was squarely in the other. I tried so hard to change people’s thinking “guys! You believe the bible, right? And follow it as it’s the word of God? So why on EARTH is agreeing with these verses such an issue??” I honestly did not understand, and still don’t. But issue it was.

Men and women who were elders in the congregation were behaving in ways that horrified me. They were speaking to our pastor as though he was a recalcitrant child. Some were respectful in their opposing communication, certainly, but many were not. It was horrible to watch, and horrible to live through. And the fact that much of it was playing out in my own home was a source of such incredible grief to me. I can still go back and feel that pain, and can only imagine what it was like for Dan and Suzanne. To us, it felt like a spiritual battle. There did not seem to be a rationality behind it, or even anything tangible to hold on to as a meeting place. Church was a war.

Over the next year, everything changed. Many people left, from both sides of the fence. Some because the community we had been was now broken beyond repair and they needed to reestablish that somewhere else. Some because they were angry. Some because they were just tired. Dan and Suzanne left, heartbroken. And I left.

Since then, I have not had the energy to start over somewhere new. Why? No matter how much God was in a place, there were people there too. Fallible, human people. People who had the power to create and destroy whatever was being built up. And no matter where I go, Dan remains my pastor. Never mind that he is now in Edmonton.

So for almost 6 years now I have been without a church. Without community, worship, group prayer, sermons. And I miss it. But I miss that magic. Those people. That group. That pastor. That worship. And it will never be again. I have to let it go, and move beyond it, but so far just haven’t.

And in the process of throwing out my previously innocent idea of church, naivete that Christians should surely agree on important things, the hope and belief in the Acts 3 description of Christians living together – in the process of chucking all that, sometimes I wonder, was Jesus in the bathwater?

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What’s in a name?

You know how there are names that resonate so strongly with you that you can’t hear them without going back in time, for good or ill, to some previous era? For example: I went to elementary school with a girl we shall call Harriet, who went to the doctors because of some discomfort, to have the doctor find that she had put quarters up her vagina. Now, it is imPOSSIBLE for me to hear the name Harriet without thinking of loose change in compromising locations. So I don’t care for the name.

I felt like that about naming this blog. What could I choose that would be quirky, portray a bit of what I hope to communicate about (which remains a mystery, but still…), be a bit of a reflection of me, and also not be nerdy (belying the “reflection of me” previously mentioned).

Luckily, I have a friend who is a writer, so I asked for his suggestions. They are as follows:

Cheerleader Faceplant
The Girl with Framed Frogs in her House
Tart Sauce
Keyboard Graffiti
Manta Ray Rockband
QWERTY Laundry
Bouquet of Asteroids
A Ruiner of Things
Dead Inside; Party in the Yard
Rhymes With Explosion
The Killer Inside My Nose
Nipple-clamps and Chocolate
Sarah’s Sense of Snow
As tempting as it was to go with The Killer Inside My Nose, or Nipple Clamps and Chocolate, and ignoring any implied message attached to A Ruiner of Things, I went with Keyboard Graffiti. I love it! It implies a sense of randomness, creativity, colours and surprise.
A name I can live with.
J – your cheque is in the mail.

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