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Archive for February, 2008

feb-19-1994.jpgIt has been five thousand one hundred and thirteen days since I walked down the aisle on my father’s arm to take the hand of the man whom I vowed to love till death do us part. I used the calculator to come up with that number, figuring in the fact that we’ve been through 3 leap years, this year being the fourth. Wow. Do you want it in hours? Well then, we’re talking 122,712 hours that my husband and I have been married…..at least, given that by the time you read this blog entry, a few more hours would have passed. Let’s be a bit silly: do you know how many minutes we’ve been married? Seven million, three hundred sixty-two and seven hundred twenty minutes — at least. And I cannot stop myself from breaking into a smile whenever I think about it because what an adventure it has been!

central-park-1993.jpgWhen two people first fall in love, the thought of spending their whole lives together can make them giddy with joy. There’s all these wonderful images of spending days on end laughing, looking into each other’s eyes and living happily ever after. Everything is possible; the world is a beautiful place to be in. When we first started dating, Mike (my husband) and I used to meet up at Central Park in New York for lunch — the homemade kind. He would bring sandwiches and bottles of water for each of us, and we would sit at a bench during my hour’s break. What a thrill it was for me to be able to spend an hour with the one person who made my heart beat faster and the butterflies in my tummy go haywire! Looking back, I tease my husband now about how “economical” our dates had been. He just smiles at me, knowing that the memories of these inexpensive dates are priceless. And I know he’s right.

In these fourteen years that Mike and I have been married, it hasn’t all been laughter and starry-eyed gazes between us. Far from it, in fact. There has been a lot of laughter, yes: the jokes only we understand, the stories we tell each other, the sense of humour that has developed because of circumstance and need. There have also been tears and angry words, at times. There have been good times and bad times, none of which I would change. Each moment we have spent together has only served to make use stronger and know each other better. Each moment we’ve had to be physically apart has been a reminder of how much we need each other and want to be together. It has not been happily ever after, but rather joyfully together.

It is an adventure Mike and I embarked on fourteen years ago, and it has been nothing short of spectacular. It would be a lie to tell you that we have a perfect life because we don’t. There have been moments of worry and anxiety, but also moments of gratitude for every single thing we have been blessed with. It is unrealistic to think that there is a blueprint for marriage because every couple that gets married is different from any other. Two people who promise to spend the rest of their lives together, whatever happens to them, have to work with what they both have….and don’t have. A man and a woman get married for better and for worse, and they become one. They are one, not forsaking their individuality but living a life together of singular purpose and motivation. They become, for each other, the highest priority and more important person in the world. And this does not contradict the love and care we have for our children. In fact, the best thing a husband and wife can do is to love each other and show their children they do. Children take strength, great comfort and happiness in knowing that these two very important people in their lives love each other.

And we — Mike and I — take a great amount of strength and perseverance from our faith. It has kept us and keeps us going even when the odds are against us or, humanly speaking, it seems impossible to do anything more. It helps us to say sorry faster, forgive quicker, to take each day that comes with a great deal of hope and trust. It is what moves us to accept and recognize our marriage for what it really is: a vocation.

So today, please keep us in your prayers and help us thank God for what we have been blessed with and with what He continues to bless us. We count each of our children (the eight who are alive and the two who were with us only for a short time in my womb) as blessings that keep on giving. And from this day on, we look forward to many more adventures we will be sharing together.

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Music of Life

Do you know who Billy Talent is? If you do, you’re one step ahead of me…..in another universe parallel to mine. My musical awareness is still taking a walk around the block of Soft Rock and Seventies music. Billy Talent’s music lives about three decades away in a different time zone. Right now, he’s “visiting” our home for about a week, on loan from the library.

My 12 and a half-year old son insisted that I listen to the CD today. He finally got his chance this evening as I worked on our dinner in the kitchen. I have to say, I was a pretty captive audience, given that I happened to be doing a stir-fry and hadn’t much choice about remaining in the same spot for some time. So listen I did. (Mental note: That sounded like something Yoda might have said…..)

Billy Talent uses a lot of drums in their songs. (Apparently “Billy Talent” is the name of a band and not just a singer. At least that’s what I’ve been told.) It also sounded like the singer was always kind of……..shouting……..singing loud…….lots of electric guitar……loud……

My husband walked in as I continued to stir around the chicken in the wok.

“That’s the music your kids like,” I said under my breath, glancing furtively over my shoulder for overly-curious little people with big ears.

“Hmmm.” Sigh. He wasn’t paying attention.

“I don’t like it. Ugh,” I muttered. The chicken was looking pretty good, but the music was not to my taste.

My husband laughed. “Isn’t that what our parents said about our music before?” Ahhhh, he was listening after all!

“My music had words I could understand. I can’t understand what that guy is singing about.”

My husband shrugged his shoulders and walked out of the kitchen, laughing. And of course he would. He liked new wave music when he was a teen-ager. While I appreciated some of it, I always had a very mixed bag of musical preferences. I grew up listening to the music of the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Ventures and the Shadows, the Mamas and the Papas, Bread, Kenny Rogers, Barry Manilow, the Bee Gees and Andy Gibb, Earth, Wind & Fire…….see what I mean? My music was all over the place! And I loved it!

I have my father to thank for the variety of music that I appreciate and love to listen to. One of my most favourite songs is by the Bee Gees — “How Deep is Your Love?” I remember as a child asking my dad to play the record of that song (No CDs then, little children…..). He would always get a smile on his face and — as if I had actually asked him how deep his love was — would say to me in reply, “Very deep.” To this day, the song evokes sweet memories of my dad and I am comforted by a song to which I can sing along. Every time I hear it, the years melt away and I am once more all of nine asking my dad to play my favourite song. In my mind’s eye, I see my father’s smile lighting up his face.

But back to tonight and my Billy Talent moment. As I stood in my kitchen, cooking dinner and listening to my son’s kind of music, I briefly felt……old. The music I was hearing spoke to me in a way I couldn’t seem to appreciate. And inasmuch as I am quite comfortable with my age (37 years and four months, if you please), at that particular moment by the stove, I felt about as young as pterodactyl. For about a fraction of a second, I felt positively Jurassic. And then — it was gone. It was not a feeling I could or would entertain. After all, dinosaurs can’t very well cook stir-fried chicken in oyster sauce and garlic green beans, not to mention manage a household of eight children and a husband.

Ambivalent feelings about Billy Talent’s music aside, it’s really not an option to feel “old” when you’ve got a family that keeps you young at heart.

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No Flowers Please

It was a good day today. No heart-shaped cards or flowers or chocolate-covered cherries in candy boxes. No candlelit dinners or romantic music playing in the background. It was perfect.

I don’t know about you, but I do not care for the hype that the commercialization of occasions such as Valentine’s day invites. In previous years, going out for dinner on February 14 meant having to deal with traffic, parking in crowded lots, waiting in line and overpriced meals. Ugh. Who needs all that to be with the one they love?

This morning, being the man that he is, my husband gave me what I know to be proof of his true love: a cup of hot, steaming, fresh coffee. There is nothing I want more at 6:15 in the morning as I sleepily try to start my day with both eyes open than my caffeine fix, and my husband knows this. I am so blessed to have this man in my life.

The truth is we both forgot it was Valentine’s day. He called me up about ten minutes after having left for work to greet me belatedly — after having been reminded by a co-worker who rides with him in the morning. I was grateful for the reminder as it had slipped my mind. My six-year old daughter handed me a red lollipop with a small, heart-shaped card she had made. It was a great start to my morning.

It got even better when I had lunch with some girl friends. It was a long overdue get-together. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of listening and a lot of talking. I looked at each one of them earlier and was struck by how different we all were, and yet we shared the same spirit and outlook in life. We connect on a level of friendship where we look out for each other. It was certainly worth the drive to Toronto!

I thought it would be a restful and slow evening, but was reminded by my nine-year old son that it was their night to go to their chess club. Tonight turned out to be a fast dinner (thanks to whoever invented microwaveable rice cookers!) but not an unpleasant one. I looked around the table and was happy to be with my children, eating pot roast and hearing them tell stories. And they have so very many! So in a way, I suppose, you could say I had a quiet dinner. I was quiet, but my children weren’t — and I didn’t really mind it tonight. It was nice.

After hungrily eating dinner, my husband had to pick up the kids from their chess club. Before leaving, he said he just had to rush by Costco for something before coming home. I looked at him and knew what he was going to do.

“Please don’t get me any flowers. Really. I don’t want any.”

I knew he was feeling a bit guilty for not getting me a gift or card, but he shouldn’t have.

“I was so happy today,” I told him truthfully. “I did what I had to do, I was with people I wanted to be with, and we have a movie we can watch tonight. Please don’t get me flowers. That’s just too commercial.”

My sweet, tired but happy husband smiled. Today was indeed a great day.

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My Father’s Child

The snow continues to fall, silently blanketing the ground. We woke up this morning to about 4 1/2 inches of this white stuff. Schools cancelled classes; the morning commute was slow for all. Altogether, it has been a day for staying put indoors. But my children and I found ourselves heading off in our snow-kissed tan van at midday to my Father’s house.

What is it about being a child that inspires such trust and devotion to their parents? Perhaps it is the fact that most — if not all — children are smaller than their parents. Children are very much aware of what they know….and what they do not. And though they may not know everything, there is a confidence in children that makes them certain that their parents do. A child’s trust is pure and exquisitely sweet, and it is given in full measure to his mom and dad. A child delights in the time he is able to spend with his parents, regardless of what they may be doing. In his father’s house, a child feels at ease for he is at home.

ash-wednesday.pngToday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season in the Church. It marks the start of a period of forty days that Christians are called to reflect on the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, their mortality, the certainty of death, the need for repentance and to bring people closer to God. Does it sound heavy and sombre? Well, let me tell you about it in another way. Let me tell you what happened in my Father’s house today.

In my Father’s house, I was reminded of where I came from and where I will return; that this life I live now in this world is passing and there is something better, infinitely happier when my time on earth is done. This does not frighten me, for it is my Father that tells me all this, and I am greatly consoled. I am comforted by the fact that He loves me and I trust Him. But I realize that even as I live and breathe, I do many things that offend Him. And like any child, I do not want to hurt or offend my Father. I want to tell Him how sorry I am and that I love Him — and I do just that. I tell my Father everything I want to say; my heart overflows with this quiet sense of joy and peace I can only find in His presence. I trust in His mercy, forgiveness and love.

Today, I received the mark of a cross of ashes on my forehead in my Father’s house. I bear this visible mark today, but know that it is an ever-present mark of the faith I received in baptism. I was reminded this day of my call to bring others — many others — to my Father’s house; to tell them about Him through the things I do and the way I live my life. Moreover, this sign of the cross is a visible mark of my Father’s affection and love for me, my children and every single person who will receive the same mark of faith today. It shows us Who we belong to. We are our Father’s children.

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MercatorNet.com’s latest newsletter features an article by Mr. Oskari Juurikkala, a gentleman trained in economics and law, and currently working in mining and finance. It talks mostly about the current global financial situation, so maybe you already know a lot about it from having read the newspaper or Internet news updates on the same. What is different in this article is what the author recommends as necessary. To quote:

We need people in finance, in banking, and in business generally, who work for nobler motives and out of a desire to serve their fellowmen. The truest purpose of any kind of honest business is not profit, but service.

The author talks about a need for a “conversion of the heart”. It is such a timely message — in fact, timeless, if you think about it. It’s very easy to forget that more important than just making a profit, those involved in business are involved in service. Please make the time to read the article yourself.  We need more of this message out there in the world.

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Love is Deeds

We have a girls’ cooking club we run from our home once a month. My friend and I started it in December of 2003 with five girls.club.jpg Tomorrow, we have about 13 girls coming over, between the ages of 8 to 13, and we will be making chocolates. Before we do that, we will give the girls a talk, which is always on a Christian virtue. The club, after all, is not just a drop-off for girls who have nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon. We have the goal of teaching these girls, not only how to cook and bake, but to develop a spirit of service. What for? Well, these girls are our future professionals, teachers, business women, leaders and — hopefully for a lot of them — mothers. We need women who will care about others, not for what they can get in return, but because it is for the good.

So tomorrow, our talk will be on love and service. We will talk to the girls about how loving someone does not necessarily depend on feelings. Love is an act of the will, a choice we make for the good of others. Not a “relative good” but a true good, taking into consideration a person’s innate dignity as a human being. The really cool part is we get to work with the girls on this while making chocolates! Yes, I said work, because we do work. We will be making these yummy chocolates (and if you want the recipes, I will post them later on…..) while teaching the girls about sharing and working well, doing our best and thinking of others. They will get a taste of the chocolates, but they will be challenged to think of someone they will give their chocolates too. It is so important for our children to to be reminded that there is so much good they can do for others, and not just those they know or are fond of. This is a life lesson that will serve them well, since taking it to heart means they will learn how to serve others well without counting the cost.

We also have a club newsletter we give out to parents. What follows is the text of this month’s newsletter message:

screenshot2.pngIt is one of those words whose meaning supposedly changes, depending on the speaker and the circumstances. It is many different things to many different people, but for a lot of people it is a powerful emotion that sweeps you off your feet, makes your heart pound faster and changes your life forever. I’m talking about love.

But this feeling of “being in love” -– the passion that sets hearts afire — is so different from what most of us know to be true in real life. Love is not simply a feeling. Love is an act of the will that goes beyond simply emotion and drama. Your own life provides a beautiful panorama of examples of love -– real, honest-to-goodness love.

Do you know that the little things you do for your family are proof positive of your love for them? You might vaguely nod your head, dismissing the thought with a, “So what?”, but do pause for a moment and consider it well. Perhaps there have been days you wished you could do more. Maybe you’ve had moments you’ve felt wistful at the thought of all the exciting things other women you know are doing. Ever feel like your life is just one whole routine on replay?

I find it ironic that those of the feminist movement who fought tooth and nail to have women recognized as absolutely equal to men in every single thing managed to discount the epitome of true femininity: motherhood. While there may be exceptions, to be certain — a mother loves with everything she has and is, regardless of how she feels. There are a hundred little things she does everyday, almost without having to think about it, for her family. She does her grocery-shopping based on what the family likes to eat, what’s on sale, what’s nutritious and what she can do. Mothers aren’t superwomen; they’re even better that that!

Mothers love without truly counting the cost. Just think about the nine months that a woman bears her child in her womb, the labour and childbirth that follow, and the next years that are a myriad of scraped knees, bumps on the head and fevers at night. There is no price tag that you can possibly put on that kind of care. It is the kind that comes from loving someone.

If you are a mother reading this, know that you are immersed in the best possible work of any human life. You are caring for another; for many others. You are the heart of your home because your family’s lifeblood pulsates with the many acts of service you perform for them. Perhaps you are thinking that this is a message that should appear for Mother’s Day? Well, we are mothers for life and not just a day. After all, what better example can I give for service rendered with love than a mother?

We need to teach our children to serve others with love, regardless of feeling. True human love looks out for the good of the other, whether one feels like it or not. We must impart to our girls the reality of true femininity. It exists in the ability of each woman to care for others in a manner uniquely her own. You are blessed with this great vocation as mother and the opportunity to teach your own daughter/s about that which women do so well.

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