Wow. Where did the summer go? I’m sitting back on campus against a wall because it’s got a plug in, waiting for my 8 am lab to start. My boys are at daycare again. We’ve all got a cold… again.
I know the new year begins in January, but for me, September 1 has always felt like the beginning. School year, fall, the steady march towards the shortest day of the year… They all begin in September. The motivation I lost during the summer months slowly awakens from its hibernation so here I am writing again.
If September is the beginning, what is new here in the Topping household? Well, I’ve started my final year of my bachelor degree. It’s taken a long time to get here. I started my degree 10 years ago this September. Yup. It’s taken me that long to finish a degree. It’s a fact about which I’m both embarrassed and proud. You see, I’ve dropped out twice and returned twice. When I left the first time, my mom told me that people who dropped out never went back. It was exactly the motivation I needed to return one day. When I left because I was pregnant, I thought my education was over, but two years later, I was back. And now, I’m working on my final year.
The classes are less than ideal. I mean, I’m doing all the courses that I put off til the end because they looked boring. I’m sitting on the floor at 7:30 am waiting for my 3-hour 8:00 am class to start, for goodness sake. Not ideal. But it’s short term. And even if I don’t love the classes I’m taking, I do enjoy school. I find that the stress of exams, deadlines, and readings to be manageable…unless there’s group work involved. Ohhh, I hate group work.
The boys may be in daycare again, but it’s with a different provider. My last was wonderful and I enjoyed every minute, but we knew going in that it wouldn’t be long term. I’m sad that it ended, but I’m immensely glad that our families still spend time together. This new place is government regulated, which means good and bad things. Good for reliability and getting government subsidy, not so good because the workers have such big groups so they don’t form as personal a bond with your kids. The boys are separated into different age groups, which has been good for Eggs since he’s starting to come out of his shell, but sad because they don’t get to spend as much time together. I’d hoped that they’d be more excited to see each other at the end of the day since they were apart so long, but they fight the same amount as before. Turns out absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder when you’re a toddler.
Life has been quiet lately. It’s nice. A friend of mine and I went for dinner last month and he said that you know you’re an adult when you look forward to the boring, stable times. And there is an element of truth to that. Our lives have marched along a straight and stable road, kicking up as little dust as it could along the way. My penchant for change has been burrowing into my brain, but I’m enjoying that we don’t have to worry about anything unnecessary at the moment.
What has September brought you this year? Does motivation seem to knock on your door come September 1? Or is September simply the ninth month of the year?
I hope that you haven’t been missing my writing too much because I’ve been so inspiration drained that my drafts are filled with things like “What do you do when every single day of your life is the same?” or “Do your toddlers hate you? No? Well can you answer a few questions please?” or “Sorry, I’ve still got nothing.”
But today I’ve got something new and wonderful and exciting! A new online magazine was launched at the University of Victoria, co-helmed by the the intrepid Sarah A. C. Hamill, with whom I attended university with (the second time). And today they’ve published a creative non-fiction piece of mine. Now, this is pretty exciting for me since I’ve never had something like this put out into the world.
Now, if you’re not up on the literary terms, creative non-fiction is sort of like memoir. People get a little nervous with the “creative” part because they think that means that you make stuff up. My understanding is that the creative part comes from putting it together. You take some unaltered memories, and put them together so that they make meaning. We all do this in our heads, but I’ve just put it down on paper.
At the risk of over-explaining, my piece is a collection of recipes and memories that together are about one theme: we all do the very best with what we have. So when you read the story (if you read the story), keep that in mind. It’s evident in each of the characters, not just in me. Maybe you’ll see it in yourself too. I mean, that’s why we write stories to begin with.
Finally, a warning. This story is personal, obviously. But it also shares some details of my life that I have kept pretty private until now. So it’s a bit nerve-wracking for me. It also has many people in it from my life who never consented to have a creative non-fiction writer in the family. Each of these individuals are wonderfully complex just like the rest of us. Keep it in mind.
Death and I do not meet often, and when we do, we pass each other with a quiet nod. An acknowledgement that the person gone wasn’t too close to me this time, but someday death would brush by near enough that it would scar my heart. Change me. And one day, take me away.
On Tuesday, death passed by once more and this time, took my grandfather with her. He’d been sick and in pain for a while. His passing was met both with sadness and a little bit of relief. Watching him shrink and go silent was hard. The constant warnings that “this might be the last” were exhausting. No one can sustain that level of worry for long.
Grandpa said goodbye to me four times, though I said it five. The first time was on Family Day. My mom hosted lunch and my grandparents drove up to eat with us. He wasn’t doing well, I was told. Today would be the last goodbye. We ate, we chatted, and we played a game that I believe Grandma won. My boys ran around the house, swatting all of my mother’s pretty things with playful abandon.
There was a moment, then, when Grandma, Grandpa, and I were alone. Somehow the other seven people disappeared for just a second and Grandpa asked me to sing for his funeral. I knew they’d been planning it, but being confronted by the thought was uncomfortable. Not yet, I thought. Grandpa had his hand on my arm. It was warm; it still had strength in it. I said yes, but it was to something still far away.
“You know which song?” he asked. Yes, I knew.
And that was the first goodbye.
“Grandma wants everyone to come over.” This was the beginning of March. My sister and her boyfriend were on vacation, worried that they’d be gone when Grandpa died. But my sister didn’t know how important the vacation was. A ring was secretly accompanying her out of country.
I brought my kids to my grandparents’ condo. Again, they were drawn to the cases of figurines and the grandfather clock whose chimes had punctuated my childhood, especially the years that my children were now living. The chatter had celebration lilting through it. “I hear Stephanie has some news!” “When is the wedding?” “How did he propose?” The somber reason for the family visit was disguised by the excitement.
We ordered pizza with pineapple and sat around and chatted with one another, conspicuously avoiding the topic of death. I was chatting with Grandma and I remember looking over at Grandpa. He was sitting on the couch, starring off into space. He was tired. He looked, to me, like he could go at any moment. I hugged him goodbye and thought it’d be the last time.
But it was only the second goodbye.
The third goodbye was only mine. In the weeks leading up to Grandpa’s death, I had a dream. In it, our family was gathered together at my parent’s house and we were watching a video of memories made by Grandpa. He was there, the way that I remember him. He was laughing with the prickly salt and pepper hair he had in my teen years. He’d shown us some joke or another about someone I didn’t recognize. Something to make us forget what was coming.
At the end of our gathering, Grandma and Grandpa were leaving. I remember looking out the front door towards the end of the pavement and promising myself that I’d remember his walk out to the car. He was going where I could not follow. Then Grandpa pulled me in for a hug. I thought, we’ve said everything we need to say and there was a peace with that. But when he held me close, his kissed my cheek and said, “Come back to me, girl.”
I returned the hug and said, “I’ll see you soon, Grandpa.”
I didn’t get a chance to watch him walk out that door. Instead my dream ended in the hug. Then I awoke at 2:18 am on March 17 and I swore I could smell the hospital. But it was not the last goodbye.
By the time the fourth goodbye came, Grandpa wasn’t living at home anymore. He was bound to a hospital bed by an IV and pain medication. He’d said his final goodbye to food and showed me that man really didn’t have to live on bread at all. He spoke in only whispers. I went with my father and brought the kids with me, even though I was worried that it would mean a short visit.
I saw tears in Grandpa’s eyes when he saw me. No one had ever been so happy to see me that it brought tears to their eyes. I’ll never forget that.
The boys were on their best behaviour. I’ve never seen them stay up so late with so few tantrums. Eggs made sure to visit other residents of palliative care, but thankfully no one seemed to mind. He was also a huge fan of the walker that was in the room and enjoyed being pushed on it. Monkey tried to buy my aunt a trip to Costa Rica on her iPad.
I prayed with Grandma and Grandpa and kissed them each goodbye. This was the last time, I was sure. I was wrong again.
The final goodbye was hard. My parents had cancelled a long-anticipated trip so they could stay with Grandpa. Most of my aunts and uncles were there too. I’d never seen my extended family so often in such a short period of time. Everyone had paused their lives to be there for the ending of Grandpa’s.
Grandpa chewed on ice and the crunching made me smile. The way it was given to him by a spoon reminded me of the birth of Monkey. Brian had spooned ice into my mouth between pushes because I’d never been so thirsty in my entire life. Strange how the beginning of life is so similar to the end. I guess we pause our lives to witness both.
I proved that I wasn’t adult enough to be taken to a restaurant and I’m pretty sure the waitresses would be glad to never see me again. When we told Grandpa the story, he laughed. It was the last time I’d see him laugh. We played him a song that I’d sung at church the Sunday before and then we had to leave.
“That was beautiful,” he said. “I love you.”
Those were the last words I’d hear him say. The final goodbye.
Death changes us. It’s hard for those experiencing it and for us who are left behind. I watched my parents expend every ounce of energy they had in these past weeks. I saw Grandpa quietly diminish and Grandma holding her breath for the heartbreak that was coming, that had already come. I listened to aunts and uncles reminisce. Same with my parents.
There’s something about the end that reminds us of the middle. I wonder what stories left with Grandpa. What stories will only come to light because he’s gone. I look at the train set from his childhood that he gave to his oldest great grandchild and wonder what I’ll tell him about his great grandfather.
Grandpa’s gone, but I still see him sometimes. He’s there in the way my aunt, his only daughter turns her head. I hear him when my dad says “hmm.” He’s in my uncle’s laugh, in the way my other uncle holds his shoulders. I wonder where he is in my generation, my children’s. And I’m sure I’ll spot him when I’m least expecting it.
Today was quite the scary day for me. Today I spoke in front of my church. As someone who shakes and stutters through school presentations, this was quite the feat for me. But why would I do this?
Some background: I became friends with a couple, one of whom happens to be a pastor. Our pastor. On the one hand, it’s absolutely amazing because they are incredibly sweet and their kids are just the cutest and I think the whole family is so wonderful. There actually isn’t another hand. I just really like these people.
So when the pastor asked me to write a letter to the church, I had to say yes. I was flattered, I mean, I’m a writer. So when you ask me to write something, obviously I’m gonna do it. But reading it was a little more nerve wracking. So we came to today where I read my letter in front of like 200 people.
The sermon was on the prodigal son. You know the story, I’m sure. Our pastor talked about the behaviour of the younger son and then turned the parable around and talked about the self-righteous gate-keeping of the older son. It was one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard and, let me tell you, I’ve heard a lot. So at the end of this sermon, here I came, trundling up to the stage to shakily read a letter about Christian gate-keeping and how it can change your heart when someone opens the door instead.
Apparently, my letter touched some hearts and so I thought, maybe this would be a good place to share it. So here we go, Rebecca’s letter to her church (note: I’ve removed the names of the church and those involved for privacy reasons):
To my church in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
Yes, that’s how Paul began his first letter to the Thessalonians and how I begin my letter to you today. I’m no Paul. In fact, when our pastor asked me to do this, I compared myself closer to Moses. Not the chosen, obedient, plague-wielding Moses, but the one who stuttered and stumbled when he was asked to speak to Pharaoh.
I’m not Paul, but in a way, I mirror his story. I grew up a Christian. Here, actually. I went through Sunday School, youth group, Awana—I still have my Sparkies plaque—before being released into our unforgiving world as an adult. My faith was untested and proud because, like many young adults, I knew everything. I learned very quickly that wasn’t true.
The past ten years have been a boat ride on a stormy sea. Life tipped me over and nearly drowned me. I’d had this idea that if you live the right way, God would protect you from everything except persecution. That bad things only happened to good people that screwed up. So when some of the darkest things happened to me, I was angry and afraid.
Angry that God didn’t intervene when someone was hurting me. Angry that I’d believed a lie for so long. Angry that Jesus promised in John 16:33 that “he has overcome the world.” What a load of garbage, I thought. If you can be raped and murdered and abused and abandoned in this world, how has he overcome anything?
I wasn’t just angry. I was afraid. Afraid that I had become everything my youth pastor warned me about. In my heart of hearts, I still believed there was a God, but He was cold, distant, disinterested. That He’d saved the world from Hell and then washed His hands of Earth with an “I regret everything.” I was afraid to negotiate with this world without the surety that I could be safe. But more than anything, I was afraid that there was no place for me in any church, especially this one.
Dear church, I was afraid of you because I didn’t think I was like you anymore. I thought you naive and judgmental. You know that dreaded phrase: holier-than-thou.
Still, I attended this church for the past two years without really being here. I wanted my children to have the same foundation I had, though I couldn’t tell anyone why. I was asked to do music and I like music, so I figured why not. On the outside, I did the good Christian thing. I pretended. That’s what you do on Sundays, right?
In January, a few careless words nearly sunk my boat. It was at that point that I quit. It felt like an official “Keep Out!” sign had been placed on these glass doors. No Rebeccas allowed. No sinners allowed. No one who disagrees allowed. Maybe I wasn’t through with God, I thought, but I was definitely through with the church. Maybe all churches. The problem, though, was that I was committed to doing music. I couldn’t just not show up anymore. So I sent a message to the worship ministry coordinator politely asking her to remove me from the worship team and from the schedules.
The response, basically, was that coffee was required to quit music. I dreaded the coffee date for the whole week. She was obliged to meet with me, I thought. She can’t willingly just let a church attendee stop coming. But we met anyways. I was ready to spill out the entirety of my heart from the last ten years because I figured I wouldn’t see her again anyways and she’d be more willing to not pressure me to stay in church with the sheer amount of baggage I was carrying.
Acts 9 recounts Paul’s conversion to Christianity. The English Standard Version says in verse 1 that Saul was “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” And while I wasn’t breathing literal murder, my heart was so full of hurt and anger that I might as well have been. My coffee date listened to my story and everything that came with it. I half expected her to just get up and walk away. I didn’t know I was asking the same question as Saul: “Who are you, Lord?”
And He answered me.
I remember in one of my Sunday School classes as a little girl, we would often recite: “God is love.” It didn’t mean much, especially compared to the stickers I’d get after saying it. And as I grew up, I’d learned a different phrase: “God is rules.” But sitting in Starbucks late that night, I learned again that God is love. He showed me that through this new friend. It was as if she looked over all the trash I’d laid out from my past and she said, “Cool, but it doesn’t matter. Your value to God, your value to the church isn’t here. You are loved regardless.”
Like Saul, I was blinded. While preparing for all the worst circumstances, I hadn’t taken account of the best. I was invited to a small group and promised I’d be welcome there, no matter what. She wasn’t lying. Not only was I welcome there, I was wanted.
When I went to small group, it was like the scales that covered my eyes were removed. Like Paul in Acts 9:19, I was strengthened.
Dear church, it was this act of love that brought me back. A love that has made we want to jump into this place with both feet, the way my son jumps into puddles. And like Paul says in Ephesians, “For this reason,… I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”
It was not an argument, a confrontation, or a challenge that has me writing this to you. It was not condemnation or a call for me to change my ways. It was love. It was grace. It was a reminder that brokenness is Jesus’ specialty.
So I end this letter to you with encouragement using the words Paul used in closing to the Galations: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Welp, I’m trying to plan the last six classes I need to graduate. Woo hoo! I’m almost done! I’ve been plugging away at an undergraduate degree for the past ten years and it feels really nice to be finished soon.
Oh wait. My school is the worst scheduler in the world.
Yes, today might be a bit of a rant because I’ve struggled with this every. single. year. I’m serious. It’s part of the reason I left school to have a family.
You see, I should have been able to graduate in December of this year. That’s how Brian and I planned it from the beginning. When I got into classes for this winter term, there were only four scheduled that I could take. Annoying, but it meant that I would need to take an extra spring class. Oh well. So I planned my spring classes. I needed to take four, but they only offered three. Annoying again, but it just meant that I would have to jump through a few extra hoops in the fall.
Here’s the thing: you have to be approved to take six courses in one term because a regular full-time course load is five courses. My grades are good enough that I could handle it just fine. I’m sure that approval isn’t a big deal.
Then enrollment happened. There are two courses open for me in the fall of this year. There are the full five offered in the winter. One course is not offered at all. It’s just not scheduled. Where the “View Course Selections” button is, it just says ”
*** This course has not been scheduled. ***”
I’ve sent an email to my adviser about this problem, which hasn’t been answered. She’s a busy lady. So I’m going in on Tuesday to meet with her. I’ve got no hope of graduating in December. If I can figure out something to do with this *insert curse word* of a class, hopefully I can graduate in April 2018. Sigh.
So, as it stands, I won’t be in school at all in the fall and I’ll be taking five classes in January next year. So that’s just super.
Update (21 March): I met with an advisor to figure things out. While I’ll still be graduating next April (sigh), they’re letting me take a substitute class for the one not offered. While I’m still frustrated that our program struggles with planning, I am grateful that they’re working with me. I’ve been placed into 3 classes in the fall and 4 in the winter. Since I wasn’t graduating this fall, I figured I could bump an elective from this spring to next winter. All in all, progress is being made!
If you’re like me, you’re always on the hunt for new ideas to keep your marriage/partnership strong. A great way to do that is to take some time out of your day just for the two of you. And if you don’t have the money for a babysitter, that’s okay! There’s plenty to do at home. For some ideas, here are my top 10 dates for parents of toddlers:
1. Cook Together
Nothing is more romantic than mixing up some aphrodisiacs while your children scream “up!” at your feet. Gaze lovingly at one another while setting the table. They bring the cutlery and you bring the ketchup because your kid literally will eat nothing unless its coated in that tomato-vinegar-sugar concoction that you end up smelling in their hair for days.
When the meal is ready, sit down together and taste the love that you put into it as well as the salt because “did you put salt in this?” “yeah” “I put salt in it. I didn’t think you did.” “Well, how am I supposed to know that you did?” “Well, maybe just listen to me for once in your life.”
Mac and cheese has never been so sexy.
2. Watch a Movie Together
Curl up on the couch and escape your lives for a while in another episode of “Paw Patrol” because that high-pitched fake barking is the only thing that will stop your kids from saying “What’s that?” “What’s that?” “What’s that?” “What does $!&# mean?”
Make sure to bring some chocolate you can feed each other and then lose because for someone so loud, your toddler is surprisingly sneaky and he seems to have run off with the rest of the bar and you’re now playing a murder mystery with chocolate finger prints as the clues and the murder that is sure to take place when you find that stinking kid.
Paw Patrol, Paw Patrol, whenever you’re in trouble…
3. Take a Romantic Stroll
Enjoy a beautiful afternoon together while soaking up some sunshine. Not only will you get some much-needed fresh air, you’ll also get a huge amount of exercise pushing those ridiculous strollers or chasing after a kid who has a knack for finding every. Single. Mud puddle.
You’ll love the looks from passersby as you try to wrangle a child who’s screaming bloody murder because you put their hat on the right way or that dog that walked passed wasn’t blue. The mounting adrenaline from the fear someone will call child services will kick start that sex drive.
And nothing is more relaxing than collapsing on the couch when you get home while the bundles of unending energy destroy the living room around you.
4. Get Some Ice Cream
Sweet, cold, and delicious, ice cream is a fun way to remain children at heart. That creamy soft-serve is sure fun to eat and clean up as it drips down your toddler’s fingers, chin, and shoes. Race to keep your own hands clean while your child runs her fingers through her hair and your hair or wipes her hands on the person sitting in the booth behind you.
And don’t forget that hard chocolate shell! That satisfying snap as it cracks beneath your teeth will send shivers down your spine–or is that the cone that has suddenly been placed on the nape of your neck because the kid is “all done!”
The underpaid teenagers will surely welcome you back to their place of work, especially when they find that someone at your table had an accident that didn’t involve the food.
5. Take a Shower Together
As every romantic movie has ever taught us, showers are a great substitute for that romantic kiss in the rain scene. The water will fall on only one of you and the other person will be covered in goosebumps because the apple of your eyes is busy swinging the door open and closed to play peekaboo with the dog.
Don’t forget to hold each other close as the shower curtain is violently pulled open and that small person climbs inside and immediately pees.
On the clearest of nights, curl up together in your yard and gaze at the sky. Watch for a shooting star so you can wish that your freaking kid will just go to sleep because it’s like midnight, Buddy, and you were supposed to be asleep five hours ago and I swear to God that if you ask for another glass of milk, I will lose my mind.
Make sure to make the most of that wonderful quiet time by starting to make out before packing it in because you’re going to have such an early morning and it’s already pretty cold.
Laugh together when you realize that your kid might have locked you outside and now you’re going to have to call your parents from across town to come and let you in your stupid front door.
7. Breakfast in Bed
Remind your spouse about how important they are by surprising them with waffles and coffee in bed. They will love being pounced on by a bunch of wild people and spilling syrup on what was once white sheets. Watch as the food that you made is ravenously consumed by the kids who refused waffles in their high chairs, even with ketchup, but somehow learned to love waffles on the way up the stairs.
You’ll even get to leave the house to treat your spouse’s burns from the coffee that was basically thrown at them when the toddler tried to drink it and burned their tongue.
All in all, a great way to start the day.
8. Cuddle in Front of the Fireplace
Gaze into the warm comfort of a fire while you snuggle. The entrancing beauty of the flames will distract you from the iPad playing at full blast as the toddlers watch another episode of “Paw Patrol” or play the loading screen of an app on a never-ending loop.
Watch your spouse heroically stop the kids from touching the hot glass on a gas fireplace or grabbing the red coals from a wood fireplace. You’ll never be hotter for them.
9. Go for a Romantic Drive
Take an excursion out into the countryside to see the local fauna and flora. The beauty of nature will excite and surprise you. You’ll be able to encourage your spouse not to drive into oncoming traffic while your toddlers scream in the back seat because they’re hungry or bored or thirsty or tired or fighting.
Discuss the world at large and hold each others’ hands until a prairie dog runs across the road and bump, bump, bump under your tires. Think about the deeper things while you try to explain death to your children when they see a bleeding mound of roadkill on the side of the road.
And just as you’re about to turn into your driveway, tell your spouse how much you love them and turn to see that your kids just fell asleep even though its only like two hours before bed and this is going to keep them up until midnight again.
10. Sneak in a Quickie
Enjoy the ultimate in marital bliss after you quietly close the doors of your napping children. Be in the moment with your spouse as you take off only what clothing is necessary to get the job done. Nothing connects the two of you more than being caught by the actually not sleeping kid because both of you assumed the other person would lock the door.
Okay, you know what? Just… screw it. Wait until the kids are teenagers.
Welp, Moana has been out since 23 November and I’m just seeing it (life of a parent, amirite?). Not only have I seen it, I’ve seen it twice. Cause it’s that good.
Now, I’ve always been a fan of Disney. I grew up on Aladdin, Mulan, Beauty & the Beast (EEE! March 17 can’t come fast enough), and The Little Mermaid. I spent my childhood singing the songs and dreaming of a life of adventure and love, just like the Disney Princesses.
But as I got older, I saw some of the disappointing flaws that plague the Disney line. You know what I’m talking about. The white-washing, the reinforced gender roles, and some questionable choices about teenage weddings. So I was 100% on board with a new Disney movie with a non-white main character, one who didn’t have a love interest. Now as someone who adores a good love story, I thought I’d be a little disappointed.
I was not. Not even a little.
Moana is the story of a Pacific island chieftain’s daughter–not a princess, the main character explicitly states–who isn’t content with the life that has been planned for her. Even though her expected role is island life governing a village, she is suddenly thrust into an adventure that takes her out into the open ocean. While sometimes she reacts to the story, Moana drives her own life. She is a heroine, not a prize. Despite the males that constantly underestimate her, Moana excels.
And I love it for that. She isn’t competing with another woman for love, she isn’t pitted against some evil witch, and she’s not a side character for some male protagonist’s story. She is her own. It’s wonderful.
And that isn’t the only great thing about this movie. Have you heard the music? Pairing traditional music for the Pacific islands with Disney’s full orchestra, there is a little something for everyone. “How Far I’ll Go” rivals Frozen‘s “Let It Go” as an inspirational ballad. Jemaine Clement cameos for a creepy song about exterior beauty in “Shiny.” And Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson injects the perfect amount of smugness into “You’re Welcome,” which constantly reminded me of this:
And as much as I am ignorant in other cultures, I did notice some hat tips towards Pacific island culture. Like the Haka War Dance and the islanders’ tattoos. While many consider this minor, these small gestures 1) teach those of us who don’t know about these things and 2) gives representation to those who belong to those cultures. We white, middle-class, Christian folk take for granted that we see ourselves everywhere. For our Canadian friends who don’t belong in that same grouping, I imagine that it’s refreshing to see themselves for once.
I can’t pretend that this movie doesn’t have its problematic moments, though I will need to see it at least three more times to really go through all its messages. Oh dang.
Overall, though, I’d definitely see it if I were you. It’s funny, it’s beautiful, and it’s got Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Three 5 star reasons if there ever were any.
As you’ve noticed in in my bullet journal, I’ve been trying to read more books this year. Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton was the second book I chose to read.
The story of how I found this book is interesting. A couple of months ago, one of the trends on my Facebook page was this author’s name. The tag line said, “Prolific Christian author comes out as gay!” I’m ashamed to admit that the attitude with which I clicked on the link wasn’t a positive one. As I moved my mouse to the link, I felt a sense of smug satisfaction. Ah yes, turns out that another holier-than-thou is just like the rest of us. I wondered if she had ever preached about the evils of homosexuality and if she regretted it now.
I know, not the best attitude.
But I don’t regret clicking on the article because I started researching who this woman was and she wasn’t the person I had expected. She still spoke about the unending grace and mercy of God, how important her children were, and how this new identity fit within faith. She wasn’t defensive at all. So I followed her on Twitter because I wanted to know about this person. And her tweets were often encouragements to other mothers or speaking out for the weak or reminders that God loves us. There was something… different about this woman.
So I asked for any of her books for Christmas and Brian bought me this one. And let me tell you, it was like she had transcribed my own heart and read it back to me. Her past is filled with struggles with drugs, alcohol, sex, and loneliness. She’s unapologetically honest about each thing and then reminds us that she is still a child of God, she is still unequivocally loved. No matter her past, her present, her future, she is loved. And that love is powerful.
There were three passages that I read aloud to Brian because they felt like my own words. She had words for the things I couldn’t describe on my own. It was freeing. She tackles big topics, all through the lens of love. She doesn’t have an ounce of holier-than-thou. It’s refreshing to hear something so real, so authentic.
The wonderful thing about books is that they can give you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. This book does that. It taught me about celebrating my children, about finding the reflection of God in each person I meet, about building the foundation of my marriage, and about loving others no matter their history. I imagine there are many things that more traditional or conservative Christians would find contrary to some of their beliefs, but I still think they should read it. Not because I want them to change their minds, but because, as Rachel Held Evans said, “Glennon Melton… [gives] her readers a precious gift: permission–permission to doubt, permission to believe, permission to struggle, permission to laugh, permission to tell the truth, and permission to do it all imperfectly.”
So if you’re looking for a book that reminds you how much God loves you and helps you learn how to pass that love onto others, read this book. Borrow it from me, get it online. Whatever you need to do. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.
I found a crepe recipe a few days ago. For those of you who don’t know, crepes are my favorite treat, but the only place that I know where to find them fast is West Edmonton Mall, which is a whole 1.5 hour drive from my house. I can’t justify three hours of driving with two toddlers just to eat a crepe, which I can’t share because my kids somehow channel the feeding of the five thousand and spread a mess of food much farther than science says it should go.
So I wondered if I could make it at home. I took the boys grocery shopping and gathered all the ingredients before heading home to make a delicious crepe lunch.
Life, then, felt sane. I mean, I was struggling to be a mediocre mom on a day off with the boys and trying to get a handle on all my school work, but life felt more in control than it did a year ago. Brian and I have been okay, I think. Life with two toddlers, one of us working full time, and one of us at school full time means we don’t get a lot of time to connect, but we both knew this was a season.
The first crepe was small and a little crispy, but Brian ate it without complaint. The second was a little better. The more I made, the better they turned out. And they tasted perfect. Smeared with a little whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and raspberries. Not a healthy lunch, but delicious.
Today I wanted to make crepes for breakfast. Same recipe, same pans, same everything. Not same me.
Life’s been turned upside down in a matter of days. It’s inappropriate to share any details, but my face today is a little tear-stained. My shoulders are slumped a little lower. I forget to breathe for a while until my chest aches and then it comes in big gasps, almost like I’m drowning.
I followed the directions, mixed the ingredients, poured the batter into the pan. It smelled magical. Exactly what I needed on a day like today. Three minutes later, I went to flip the crepe, but it stuck to the bottom of the pan. I scraped it out and tried again. Four more times. The fourth time used the last of the batter. There was nothing left.
A pile of broken pastry sat next to me on the plate with nothing to do but scrape it into the garbage. Time, money, food all wasted. The only thing I’d made was a mound of dirty dishes.
Life is like that sometimes. One day, everything works out. The next, all the effort and energy you expend turn into nothing but more work. You’re further behind than when you started. All you can do is clean up the dirty dishes and hope for tomorrow to work out a little differently.
A bullet journal? I thought. What in the world is a bullet journal?
And then I was sucked deep down the rabbit hole of bullet journaling. I read the Buzzfeed article, which basically says that it’s a planner/to-do list that’s in a regular lined, dotted, or plain journal. You make all the pages yourself rather than having them done for you, which gives you both a lot of work to do and lots of freedom to do what you want. I learned that the term for bullet journaling for those in the know was “bujo” (an obnoxious word, btw) and there was a whole Instagram subculture dedicated to it.
I was intrigued. A daytimer that worked however I needed it to? A to-do list that I could add and remove things from as I did them? STATIONARY?! Well, I’d better see what other people were doing.
I disappeared for two days as I scrolled through my Instagram feed looking at all of the beautiful, creative, fun ideas that people had come up with and I decided that I’d better try it. So I picked up a notebook, a ruler, and some pens and…. then turned back to my phone to look at more Instagram ideas.
I picked a Leuchtturm 1917 journal because it had a dot grid, which felt like a happy medium between ruled (which doesn’t leave much room for different shapes or doodles) and plain (I’LL NEVER DRAW A STRAIGHT LINE). I grabbed some magnetic page markers so that I could easily flip back and forth from frequent pages. The pens were recommended by many on Instagram, but they also happened to be my favorite brand. The 0.3 mm tip is perfect for bullet journaling, though I adore the 0.1 mm tip for other writing. I grabbed both the bright colours and the pastels and let me tell you, the pastel blue-grey is my all time favorite pen.
Then I started the pages.
First step was to make an index so that as I filled my book, I’d easily find things. It’s not called a Table of Contents because instead of outlining chapters and sections, you put a word like “January” and list every page that has that word next to it. It’s easily filled in as you fill in the book.
Second page was the key:
In my daytimer, I’d use these symbols to denote specific things so that I could easily scan to see what needed to be done (the to-do portion of my journal), appointments I needed to attend, and just cool things that happened in my day, such as Monkey saying “Grandpa” for the first time.
But after the first two pages, I retreated back to Instagram. There were so many things that people did. To read pages, Walk to Mordor challenges,weight-loss trackers, gratitude journals, and calligraphy practice pages. It was a little overwhelming. I reminded myself that this book is just for me and it’s not meant to be perfect so I settled on a page to list all the books I read this year, which I set up as a bookshelf. I’ll fill in each book as I read them (and colour code them based on the author’s gender so that I can see if I’m reading as many women as I think I am).
Instead of adding a bunch of pages of tracking systems, I decided to wait. If I wanted to add a tracking page, I could just do it where ever my next blank page was. Because of the index, it doesn’t have to be in any order. So my yearly, monthly, and weekly calendars started up:
The best part is that I can track whatever I feel like. I’m interested especially in the habit tracker where you fill in a box every day you eat out, read, write, spend money, exercise, play video games, etc. It can track whatever you want. And then at the end of the year you can look back and decide if that’s how you want to spend your time next year. Did you eat out more often than you expected? How about exercise? It’s a really cool way to show yourself where you put your time and effort. I am also tracking weather because it’s so funny how often we say “I can’t remember the last winter that was this cold.” Well, I have it written down.
Mine are simplistic because I’m not artistic at all, but they don’t have to be. You can make it as simple or intricate as you like. You can add weekly inspirational quotes. You can have a doodle box in the corner so each week you do some kind of art. You can make each month/week different or keep them the same. If my January spread was above, here’s my February. Not the same at all. I love variation.
Make it whatever suits your life and what will inspire you. Get whatever supplies that make you excited to fill in the next month. All I ask is that if you do it, post pictures to Instagram. Let the world see your pretty Bujo!
Have you ever given this a try? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to see what you’ve been working on!