Tuesday, 9 December 2014

In Search of My Identical Twin ;-)

Awww... so sweet.  (Images from Google Images)

When I was a kid, I planned when I grew up and married to have three sets of identical twin girls. Ridiculous? (I was going to be a Mountie at one point, too.) Who's to say where these fantasies come from, but I suspect many of us are fascinated with identical twins. There were twin girls living across the street from my cousins when we were growing up. One had a birthmark on her cheek, but I could never remember which was which anyhow. Twins were usually dressed alike. Understood each other perfectly. A romantic, unrealistic notion, of course, but fascinating. Imagine having someone just like you to grow up with and to grow old with? This IS going somewhere beyond fantasy.

One of these identical twins was failing until they put her sister (right) in the same incubator. When she put her arm around her twin, the frailer one's heartbeat regulated, and she gradually began to improve.

No longer my dream...

The Jackson Twins ran as a comic strip through my childhood, and I loved it. They could trick people. They were beautiful. Cute actually. Got up to mischief.  Their family was perfect except for a pesky younger brother, and Jan and Jill understood each other perfectly. They had good friends - boys and girls. Never seemed te be awkward teen-agers unsure of where they belonged, and growing up seemed to hold no fears. Of course, they never did grow up; they were teenagers (about 15) from 1950 until the strip ended in 1979. That should tell me something. ;-)

Jan and Jill Jackson obsessed over make-up, clothes, music and the opposite gender, tho not necessarily in that order. Their younger brother, Junior, whom they usually referred to as "Termite", functioned largely as a thorn in their sides. Mom and Dad were nice enough in their own quaint way, but scarcely a part of the "real" world.
Comment and image from Don Markstein's Toonopedia: The Jackson Twins

When I returned to Montreal in 1983 and completed my BA at Concordia, I wrote a paper on multiple births with a comparison to single child births. There were quads in the preschool where I volunteered, four years old, two girls and two boys. They may or may not have been identical pairs, but they certainly looked a great deal alike. In readings, I discovered that in multiple births, family may take simple characteristics in each child and, to distinguish each from the other, label the children. For instance, the first to smile is labelled the happy child. The one who cries more is troublesome. Or the quiet one is labelled shy or the thinker. No problem I guess until the labels stick past initial months and become life long lens for seeing the child. And for the child to see him or her self. Of the quads, the children were growing into their labels - and the most disturbing - one of the girls was sickly as an infant for many months, and was perceived as the trouble-making child, rejected, already in a box not of her making.

Of course, all children in a family tend to get labelled to some extent based on sometimes minute early characteristics. In a family with at least one alcoholic parent, there tends (I read, believe, and saw in a family I'm close to) to be an extremely responsible child, a clown, a peace-keeper ... etc. I don't remember the other one or two ...

Anyhow, back to twins. I recently saw a CBC documentary on identical twins by a woman in Toronto. To a large extent, it seemed to focus on the great things about being an identical twin. Closeness. Understanding. Intuition. Support. Sharing. ahh... to have such a person in my life.... at least that's what I realized I was looking for as a child - aren't we all looking for this fantasy in the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds? Someone to perfectly understand and love us? Ahh... fantasy indeed...

The only time I listen to the radio is in the car. CBC. Lo and behold, there was a program on recently (after the TV documentary had aired) on identical twins with a very different perspective. Oh - some twins supported and loved each other. However, there is another entire side - in which there is conflict, resentment, competition, even hatred... lifelong distancing that some are unable to bridge.

Dr. Barbara Klein wrote Alone in the Mirror: Twins in Therapy. She is an identical twin, is a therapist with twins helping them with struggles in individuation, competitiveness, attachment, living in a world of non-twins...  Another woman spoke of her similar experience growing up and as an adult identical twin. Both Barbara Klein and this other woman presented a very different experience than the idealized version.

from Google Images
Newsflash! Driving peacefully along in the car I suddenly understood what I was looking for ... what we all may be searching for... 

There's no identical twin - fully understanding and accepting outside of ourselves. She's been inside me all along. And at 68, it's taken (and the journey isn't over, thank God) all these years to gradually allow my other side to awaken and live. Being nice and a good girl/woman at any cost is not living. Even as a tiny child, there was what some might have labelled the 'bad' twin. I'd go so far as to say I thought of her unconsciously as the evil twin. The angry (enraged?) twin. The twin that walked a tightrope of terror, afraid someone else (parent) was going to die, that God would zap me, that I would be abandoned and die, that no one would love me if they knew the horrible thoughts I had (or didn't even allow myself to have). Breakdown. Pit. Breakthrough. Long, long journey ... And now - intimations of freedom. An embrace (much of the time) of both aspects of myself. Evil twin isn't really evil - she is simply human. Good twin was, as long as the evil twin was denied, a lie. 

So - In search of my identical twin, I've discovered her. Not where I expected to.

I wonder if Jung would call her my shadow?

Integration. Frail humanity. A normal (probably) longing for the impossible; embracing and rejoicing in my frail humanity (mostly). Loving myself and welcoming the love that is offered here, there, and everywhere. Allowing myself to be less than perfect; reaching out in love imperfectly. Setting limits/boundaries and accepting that the world has already been saved and it's not my job. Growing up and growing old(ish) with as much grace as possible. 

My 'evil' twin isn't gone, btw. Not subsumed somehow. It's not magic. The parts are held in tension. Some of the terrors continue, but they don't run my life. And - some of the passion for justice grows out of those aspects of me. :-)

Thank you to all the people in my life who have helped me along this journey - you know who you are. Sisters (SSM and SSJD), family (Jim, Sandi, et al), friends, Janice Goldstein, JTM and BWP... Mile End Mission, St. CHL, and La Nativité ... and more ...

Friday, 5 December 2014

Jean Béliveau - Grace, Guts, Glory

I'm wondering why Jean Béliveau's death is touching me so deeply. I'm not alone in grieving. There's sadness in the air. 

Monsieur Béliveau and I go back a long way. :-) He was my hero - favourite player from the beginning. A child, sitting on our living floor by Gram, watching Les Canadiens on our first TV in the early to mid- 50's. Saturday nights. One of the happiest memories as a family - all together, all rooting for the Habs. No tension except that created by the hockey game in front of us. Well, I'm not sure Mum was as keen as the rest of us, but Gram was intense,  followed every move, and spoke her mind telling the players what to do and scolding when they messed up. :-)

I can see him still - long legs - long stride - grace and passion on ice. Different from the Rocket - whose bursts of energy and fiery nature contrasted with, or perhaps complemented, the elegant grace of Monsieur Béliveau. He was captain for a record ten years and on ten Stanley Cup winning teams. Awe!

When I was about 13, one evening my friend Gail and I were visiting one of Longueuil's matriarchs, Mrs. Battersby. I'm not even sure what her first name was (maybe Leonora?). She was Mrs. Battersby to one and all, widowed in WW1, mother of Lawrence who became a doctor and worked as a GP in Pointe-St-Charles. I had a crush on Monsieur Béliveau as any self-respecting teenaged girl who loved hockey did in 1960. Mrs. Battersby knew everyone, including Habs #4 who lived on Victoria, a block from her home on Gardenville. "Go on over," she said. "Ring his doorbell. He'll be happy to give you his autograph." Trembling, I did just that. My handsome hero came to the door in a white terry-cloth robe, smiled quietly, graciously gave me his autograph, and stole my heart once and for all. Poor man. No peace. 

Not too long ago someone created a course at, I think, Université de Montréal on Canadiens hockey as Quebec's religion. There's a book by Olivier Bauer: Hockey as a Religion: The Montreal Canadiens. A Protestant from France, he's agin it.  Ah well - look what he's missing... what a dull life. ;-)


Michael McKinley:  The Université de Montréal announced in January 2009 it would offer a 16-week graduate course to future clerics called "The Religion of the Montreal Canadiens," and instead of poking fun at the ivory tower of academia, the media took the question quite seriously. Two months later, when word came out that the cash-strapped American owner of the Canadiens had put the team up for sale, the news was met with even more serious soul searching, if not a widespread spiritual crisis. The speculation was that Quebec-based saviours such as Cirque du Soleil's Guy Laliberté and René Angelil would come to the rescue of the faith. In a short time, these two events suggested that the Canadiens were much more than a hockey team, but rather, an essential component of Quebec identity in the way the Catholic Church used to be. The Canadiens' very existence provides a meaning of life for millions - for the game, its heroes and their fans do indeed make up a sort of "secular religion".

""For a century now, the Montreal Canadiens have developed and sustained an identity, which has elevated them from simple hockey team to powerful cultural icon that invites comparison to, if not recognition as, a sort of popular religion. Their 24 Stanley Cup championship banners, commemorating the team's 24 acquisitions of hockey's Holy Grail, hang from the rafters of their temple, the Montreal Forum, along with the jerseys of their messiahs, a jersey known as La Sainte-Flanelle.

The beginnings of a wonderful article on the meaning of the Canadiens in Quebec society...

But I digress. Jean Béliveau. He brought us together. A proud French-Quebecer. A proud, I believe, Canadian. At least there was an image on TV last night of him singing O Canada at the Forum (oops Bell Centre) in these latter years. Hockey unites us. or rather our love of hockey unites us. Last spring when the world seemed to be falling part in all sorts of ways, the Habs' run well into the playoffs gave us great joy. We all loved each other! Well, almost ... We smiled to ourselves and at each other. We can go through 4 mayors in a matter of months, the corruption on provincial and municipal levels is atrocious, the federal Conservatives leave (being polite) much to be desired - but the Habs were playing great hockey!

In his death, Jean Béliveau brings us together still. I don't mean politically. He was beyond politics in one sense. No one cares what language we speak or what religion we follow, if any. We care that a man with a huge heart whose grace awed us has died. We loved him. 

He was, by all accounts, a good, generous, and kind man. One who respected everyone and was, in turn, respected. He kept his feet on the ground. He gave back (especially to children's charities) because he felt he had received so much. He thanked God every night that he had been given the talent to play professional hockey. He turned down the job of Governor General of Canada to be near his family after the death of his son-in-law. 

Ahh - somehow, I thought he'd keep on keeping on. Even though he's been failing in health for years. A friend quoted him as saying he had a Volkwagen heart in a Cadillac body. 

Sad days. Au revoir, Monsieur Béliveau. Or should I say, A Dieu? We will miss you - and we'll remember your grace on and off the ice.

 cartoon by André-Philippe Côté in Le Soleil, le quotidien de la capitale


I Am a Feminist - December 6th, 2014

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Important link:


My heart hurts. 25 years since the massacre of 14 women at the Université de Montréal. There has been some change - and there has been little change. A young woman student at the Ecole Polytechnique said on the radio this week that the number of women in engineering is 25%. Improvement. That sexism continues both in the school and in the workplace for many of the women who graduate. That the days before beginning a new school year are not only geared towards male students, but the songs and some activities are reprehensible.

On CTV this week, Mutsumi Takahasi interviewed three women including one who survived four bullet wounds that night. Consensus: there is a long way to go for equality. One woman said that while the deaths of two soldiers recently - one in Quebec and one in Ottawa were immediately politicized (terrorism), the massacre at the Université de Montréal is still de-politicized by many. I just heard the brother of Hélène Colgan say on the radio, "There is only one reason Hélène died. That reason was M... L..." Shock. Disbelief. I refuse to name the gunman, btw. Others say, well, he was crazy. A one-man act in other words. It was not a one-man act in a vacuum. It was one man singling out feminists and executing them in a society where violence against women continues on and on. Oh - we can see it out there in other countries and cultures, but when will we fully own it in Canada? 

I'm angry. Yes. I'm also terribly saddened. Still. 

I remember that evening. Which of us who was old enough to remember doesn't know precisely where he or she was when the news hit. I had been at l'UdeM for classes in Etudes pastorales. It was dark and wet when I reached home unaware of the tragedy. The telephone was ringing. My brother, Jim, who had already heard wanted to know if I was safe. I was safe - but never as safe again in my core being. The world shook. We woke up that this kind of violence can happen right here - in our supposedly civilized society. That evil rage is just below the surface in our world and can erupt at any moment. The massacre was a horrific tragedy in and of itself. Add to the tragedy: it was aimed at strong, creative, competent, intelligent young women who had dared to cross one of the barriers in education and enter the men's world of engineering. With the killer's suicide note was a list of 15 women whom he wanted to kill because they were/are feminists.

I remember the funeral - the seemingly endless line of coffins at Notre Dame Basilica in Vieux Montréal. Young women whose lives were just beginning.

It's been troubling to see some young women these last few decades distancing themselves from the word feminist. It's sad that when a science building at John Abbott CEGEP (college for you outside-Quebecers) was dedicated this week to Anne Marie Edward, many students had no idea who she was. 

May we remember. May our young women and men learn. May we gain equality in all ways. It's not about hating men. It's about changing the paradigm. We are of equal value, every single one of us.

There was a beautiful, powerful event yesterday at our Quebec national Assembly. All 33 women MNAs participated in reading a poem and the names of each of the 14 women. There were 14 white roses, and many wore a white ribbon.

I am a feminist. I stand for equality. I am sometimes afraid. I am committed to speaking up and speaking out. I am lifted up by women who went before me, who gained us the vote, who have fought for equality in the classrooms, in the streets, in the office buildings, in politics, in the church and other religious institutions, who have created cracks in glass ceilings... I'm proud to stand with many strong women today. 

Meantime, I cry and remember.

Photos and information from the CBC website:
Fourteen women were murdered and 13 people were injured when a gunman stormed Montreal's École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989.
The victims included the following:
Geneviève Bergeron was a second-year scholarship student in mechanical engineering. She played the clarinet and sang in a professional choir. In her spare time she played basketball and swam.
Helene Colgan  was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to do her master's degree. She had three job offers and was leaning toward accepting one from a company based near Toronto.
Nathalie Croteau was another graduating mechanical engineer. She planned to take a two-week vacation in Cancun, Mexico, with Colgan at the end of the month.
Barbara Daigneault was expecting to graduate at the end of the year. She was a teaching assistant for her father Pierre Daigneault, a mechanical engineering professor with the city's other French-language engineering school at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
Anne-Marie Edward, a chemical engineering student, loved outdoor sports like skiing and diving, and was always surrounded by friends.
Maud Haviernick was a second-year student in metallurgical engineering, and a graduate in environmental design from the Université du Québec à Montréal.
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz was a first-year nursing student. She arrived in Montreal from Poland with her husband in 1987.
Maryse Laganière was the only non-student killed. She worked in the engineering school's budget department. She had recently married.
Maryse Leclair was in fourth-year metallurgy, had a year to go before graduation and was one of the top students in the school. She acted in plays in junior college. She was the first victim whose name was known, and she was found by her father, Montreal police Lt. Pierre Leclair.
Anne-Marie Lemay was in fourth-year mechanical engineering.
Sonia Pelletier was the head of her class and the pride of St-Ulric, Que., her remote birthplace in the Gaspé Peninsula. She had five sisters and two brothers. She was killed the day before she was to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. She had a job interview lined up for the following week.
Michèle Richard was in second-year metallurgical engineering. She was presenting a paper with Haviernick when she was killed.
Annie St-Arneault was a mechanical engineering student from La Tuque, Que., a Laurentian pulp and paper town in the upper St-Maurice river valley. She lived in a small apartment in Montreal. She was killed as she sat listening to a presentation in her last class before graduation. She had a job interview with Alcan Aluminium scheduled for the following day. She had talked about eventually getting married to the man who had been her boyfriend since she was a teenager.
Annie Turcotte was in her first year and lived with her brother in a small apartment near the university. She was described as gentle and athletic, enjoying diving and swimming. She went into metallurgical engineering so she could one day help improve the environment.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Strong Women, Courage, Assertiveness, Truth-telling, Violence.

from Google images - For Sharissa who, at 7 when told recently that one day she is going to be somebody, replied instantly, "I AM somebody!"

I've been thinking. Always a dangerous activity. About women. Strong women. Truth-Telling. Abuse. Violence. Assertiveness. Courage. Speaking up.
  Image from Google
Overall, I like this quote of Gandhi's. I feel using the word ignorant can be seen as judgmental, though. I would take out the ignorant and add "Even if you are incorrect - or perhaps know only part of the truth - speak the truth as you know it and it can lead to dialogue." 

And following along with the Gospel on Sunday about sheep and goats...  I've felt kind of sorry for the goats. I love goats. I've held baby goats. I used to feel joy seeing the little critters leaping about on and amongst white tombstones in Haitian cemeteries.  Those represented by goats in Matthew 25. 31 - 46 seemed not to even realize they had missed seeing Jesus in "the least of these."  We wondered at St CHL if those who are unable to reach out can't because they have, for various reasons, not faced and owned their own woundedness. When I had a breakdown many years ago, some of those who were most able to accompany me and believe in me were those who knew their own depression, helplessness, hopelessness... ahhh... nothing simple ... 

One of my favourite quotes is: "Speak your mind even if your voice shakes." People have often not believed that I am shy and an introvert, and have even tried to argue with me about it. Because my ministry is in situations that call me to work 'out there' with people - to speak up - because I sound confident - they assume I am an extrovert - and it doesn't cost to speak up. It costs. And I often shake.

At our recent synod our diocesan treasurer, Norman Spencer, told me in the hall before his financial report that he was wearing a grey suit for me. After the report, I stepped up to the mike and Norman said, "Now I'm worried." :-)  While I was trying to turn the microphone on to speak to the 2015 budget, Norman then went on to tell everyone that he was wearing the grey suit because of me plus his version of a story at Synod 7 years ago, the year he was elected treasurer. 

I can add a bit to it. I didn't know who he was and he didn't know me. I was waiting to speak against a motion concerning finances and a particular grants fund being subsumed into our general funds. I may not have the details (financially) accurate - it's not my strongest area. The theme, however, is correct. 

Synod 2007: While I stood near the wall awaiting my turn at the mike. the then executive archdeacon came over and whispered in Norman's ear. I didn't hear what was said, but the archdeacon supported the motion. :-) Norman stood to speak, but that put him unknowingly in front of me. So, I approached him, shaking internally, and tapped his arm gently. He motioned me forward to go first. 

So... according to Norman, I said I was sick and tired of men in grey suits making decisions about finances, and that subsuming grant money into general funds that had helped Mile End Mission survive was wrong. I know I was passionate. Angry. Frustrated. And my body shook when I sat down. And, Norman, I don't remember the grey part; I only remember saying 'suits'.   ;-)

At this year's Synod, after Norman had told the story, and while still trying to open the mike, looking down, I said softly, "It wasn't that bad." I'm pretty sure I heard someone on the floor say, "It was worse." Ummmm... perceptions are different ... I shouldn't have, in effect, apologized. Maybe it WAS bad from some people's perspectives. It wasn't pretty, but it was real and honest - and grew out of 12 years of frustration and wasted energy fighting for what should not have needed a fight.  Over and over. Most people knew nothing of the struggle.

This particular fund had helped Mile End Mission stay afloat at least twice when promised funds from the diocese had not been forthcoming.  And there were other pleas and struggles. I had, by then, been 12 years at the Mission, and had (being polite), fought for stable funding nearly every step of the way. Hard. A waste of energy on getting support for a ministry that was not mine alone - but was (and is) an essential diocesan ministry - and more to the point - God's ministry.

So - pretty or not, after Synod 2007, the speech was instrumental in the funding for Mile End Mission finally being stabilized, and I, and we, were able to concentrate our efforts on wonderful and creative ministry, mission, outside fund-raising.... 

And I want to say something about Norman and his grey suit - he is a man who stands with and for strong women.  He may not like me writing this.  :-) Bishop Barry also supported the changes. Both continue to support and encourage the ministry. 

In looking up the quote about speaking our minds I found the following about the author of it - and it's even better than I knew it was!! YES!

Maggie Kuhn

from the National Women's Hall of Fame: 
"At age 65, when many people prepare for quiet years, Maggie Kuhn embarked on the greatest adventure and most important work of her life. ... Kuhn's advice to activists interested in creating social change shows the strength of her convictions: 

And here it is folks!!! WOW!

'Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind - even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants. And do your homework.'"

There are other whole aspects of these issues. Women's issues are men's issues, of course. Change comes about together. I'm especially aware of these dynamics as Sue Montgomery of the Gazette in Montreal and others create change through a tweet that's gone around the world #beenrapedneverreported. More and more women are telling their stories who have kept silence, some for many, many years. The Jian Ghomeshi story at CBC and allegations of violence against women; America's Dad, Bill Cosby facing increasing numbers of allegations of having raped women; MP allegations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa; the violence we see around the world and the stories coming to light... all as we approach the 25th anniversary of the massacre at the Université de Montréal on December 6th, 1989. A man whom I am not going to name, singled out women in the faculty of engineering, murdering 14 and injuring 13 others before turning the gun on himself. Because he had not been admitted to Ecole Polytechnique - because he hated women - and many intelligent, creative, wonderful young women had been accepted into a faculty that had traditionally been the field for men.

I was a student at the Université de Montreal on December 6,  25 years ago doing a masters in Etudes pastorales. We remember precisely where we were when we heard. We remember the shock, disbelief, horror. To remember means to act. 

These are times when women are beginning to speak more and more about the violence they/we have endured, and that we see around us. Join us, if you can, to remember in solidarity on December 6th and, strengthened again, to go out into the world and act for justice with compassion. The Revd Canon Joyce Sanchez is preaching at this service., The Revd Shirley Smith is presiding assisted by the Revd Merlyne Howard and others. There will be a powerful liturgical dance 

We've watched the survivors of December 6th and their families organize with others to create a nationwide gun registry, and we've watched our present Conservative government destroy the registry data even though the police spoke clearly that it was necessary. We all know women living in abusive situations. Some know women who have been killed by their spouses or boyfriends. Many have experienced abuse as children or adults. We still have glass ceilings. It is still dangerous and often a re-abuse to report abuse to authorities. It seems that change is in the wind thanks to people like Sue Montgomery having the courage to speak out and to begin the tweet that has gone viral around the world. The pot is boiling over. Silences are being broken. We are supporting each other - acknowledging suffering and celebrating courage.

...  Light a candle on December 6th. 14 if you have them. Give a red rose to a woman. Wear a white ribbon. Remember. Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God - by whatever name you may know God - or - if you don't believe in God, is there a difference if we leave the God part out? Nah. Seek justice, love mercy. Walk humbly - that is - in truth (your own and others') - not as a doormat as it was presented to us long ago.

Sue Montgomery and others have organized an event on December 4th. See poster. Sign up soon. Spaces are limited.

And to any men or boys who happen to read this blog, if you haven't taken the White Ribbon Pledge, you can find it online.Fred Hiltz, our Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, is sending it out this week to all of our churches and ministries. I'll add the link when it comes. Read Fred's message and the pledge at church on a Sunday during the 16 Days.

Maybe this quote should say 'work with a strong woman' or 'handle working with one.'  I don't like the idea of being 'handled.' or even needing to be 'handled.'  There's truth in it though, and I know from experience about being labelled. Which is not to say I don't have an attitude. Is attitude bad? Any ideas for a better, or at least different, translation?   :-)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Be Still and Listen to the Sound of Falling Snow

I felt (and feel) as if I was throwing my Dad out. More sorting, organizing and de-cluttering my life. I had two huge boxes filled with carousels of Dad's coloured slides taken over the years. And a slide projector that doesn't (as far as I know) work. It's an antique. Slides are mostly from the 50's to the early 70's. How did I end up with all of them, I ask my favourite brother?

So, I sorted them yesterday afternoon into piles.. Tossed hundreds into a paper bag - for now - feeling, as I said, as if I'm throwing Dad out. He loved photography in the days when you had to know how to use a camera - not set it on automatic as I usually do. Flora and fauna. My birthday parties and Christmas when we were children. Three wonderful and adorable wee grandchildren as they were 1969 and onwards - Lisa, Kevin and Mark. EXPO '67. The cottage at Trousers Lake. Margaret, Percy, Grammy, dogs and the Farm.... Granny and Grandpa Weston, Fred and Barry...

It was sad, freeing, and delightful to discover the really old ones. I had no idea they went back to the '50's. Now looking to find how they can be transferred to DVD's. Found! René, who used to develop Dad's pictures and slides (and misspell his name) is still in business.

Image from Google - Last night I just went with the experience. Photos to follow.

After the great sort out - it was dusk when I went for a walk around the 'hood in the snow. Warm socks. Check. Billy boots. Check. Mittens, Check. Eyes and ears open. Check.  Memory in gear. Check.

Snowflakes gently falling, cold on my stuck-out tongue. Breath-taking soft beauty.

I wrote this poem many years ago in Boston - still at the convent on Louisburg Square. 

Be still and listen
     to the sound
         of falling

Image from Google

Snow! Joy. Delight. Heart open. New life. Hope....

When I reached our old home - what's left of it (paved parking for the apartment block) - I stood by one of the two elm trees that have stood sentry at the driveway entrance since probably before 1923 when Mum's family moved here from the city. I placed my hand gently against the rough bark, and then my cheek and ear. And I heard the tree's heart beating, and some of the memories it holds.

Joyful noises when Lorne was a baby - the first grandchild and the first baby amongst the friends.

The gasp and wail of tragedy, when Mum discovered foster baby Johnny had died of SIDS in the pram on the front walk - sheltered under the trees' branches.

Mum's silent scream NOOOOO that rent our existence as we'd known it, reaching to the edges of the universe from Gram's living room when the telephone call came that Lorne had drowned at Camp Kanawana in Saint-Sauveur.


Mum's rushing up the walk after work the winter after Lorne had died, terrified something might have happened to Jim or me.

Dad's steady returning from work at C-I-L, McMasterville, more hesitant if he'd been to Mrs. P's.

Jim's weary after delivering the Montreal Star, down Lafayette to Verchères and beyond...

Mine running, being chased home from William White School by one of the local bullies.

Peter's soft, finding a peaceful refuge with Gram upstairs when things were hard at home.

Other sights and sounds:

Dad's piercing whistle, fingers in his mouth, that reached all the way to Cheryl's, calling me home for supper. 

After supper until it began to get dark, all the neighbourhood kids played softball in our other lot. The elm remembers laughter, the crack of a bat or the swish of a miss, encouragement or yells to run to base (a huge rock by Salettes' fence) if the ball had been hit. 

Cheryl and I riding our horses à la Dale Evans and Roy Rogers, mounted on two large, empty metal gas tank steeds in the other lot.

Jim heading out with his little red wagon, wheels squeaking, to collect articles for sale at our summer Junior Red Cross bazaars held on the front lawn in front of the trees. One person's junk - another person's treasure was set out on tables. :-)  Or p'raps the adults were simply helping us raise funds.

Hallowe'en fun. Children ringing the doorbell during my birthday supper, trick-or-treating at 427 and beyond. Us leaving home in the dark in costumes to do the same at our friends and relatives. 

Children laughing, climbing mountains of snow deposited by the plows. No carting it away in those days.

All the youngsters, ready for hot chocolate, returning after singing Christmas carols in the 'hood to raise funds for Tiny Tim. 

50's - 60's music from our teenage dances blaring out the living room windows. Kingston Trio. Elvis.  Bobby Darin ...

Jim playing the piano by ear with enthusiasm and beauty.

Me sitting on the living room floor at Gram's feet while she knit Christmas mitts and socks (without looking) while we cheered on our Canadiens' - the Rocket, Big Jean, Donny Marshall, Doug Harvey, the Pocket, Boom Boom ...  Black and white TV. Gram was fiercely involved and had lots to say if she didn't like the action or inaction.  

Blacky, the hyper dog Granny thought she'd surprise us with, barking frantically - to the dismay and frustration of our neighbours, the Carlsons who then yelled.

Silent as snow falling as we left for St. Mark's Church on Christmas Eve after opening one present each and our new pyjamas.

In the silence. Trees. Memories. Snow falling. Joy.

AND - it's snowing again! Wind fierce. Winter has arrived. Learning again to be still

From last year until I get photos of this year's snow..

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Letting Go 2

Head spinning. It feels as if this has been a lifelong journey and suddenly everything begins to fit together, fall apart, make sense, or a combination of all of the above.

from Google images - Remember blowing on these as children? How many breaths to send all seeds flying away?

I am not (please note, Ros) responsible for other people's decisions, choices, actions, inaction, silences. There are a couple of situations where I've tried really hard to be heard. Not just for the sake of it. Because the issues were, and are, important. 

There are distinctions. Our bishop said to us at synod this year, "Blame is unproductive." It's true. What is the fine line between blaming and holding someone accountable? Expecting a response, even if the response is no, not now, or never... I believe that applies to God as well. Who knows, the answer might be yes. 

It's an old story. If I only do this, don't do that, say it this way, don't get angry, don't cry, cry, am good - really, really good, I will be taken care of. I will get what I need. I will be part of the family. I understand that a child's perceptions are neither the whole reality nor necessarily accurate. The perceptions govern our lives when we're little though if we don't feel safe and that we belong. Ot that belonging depends on the above. You know - being good, and all that stuff.

Things are falling away. A new level of understanding that goes deeper than my mind - that I'm not responsible. Except for my own behaviour. OK, so lots of you already knew all this about yourselves. You're more grown up? Ah well, as Sister Marjorie Raphael said once, many years ago, "We all have pockets of immaturity." I'm not the only one. ;-)

I can't change someone else. I can't even necessarily change a situation except for my own part in it. Lynda, my friend who lives in Wales showed me a project two years ago that led me to realize I needed to retire from Mile End Mission - that I was trying to do too much. (Understatement). The programme is called "circles of influence." What can I actually influence? Where do I have power and over what do I not have power or control? When am I butting my head against a wall? What and who are most important? 

from Google images

I realized today, as I processed this with someone, that I can go ahead and do ministry where I am. At St. CHL. With Love in Motion and our new project we are beginning: Edible Community Churchyard - sharing our church green space with people in the community, working with the group Eco-quartier and two new neighbours who have a gardening business (what are the odds?) , with our Mission and CHL children and neighbourhood children... working with Trinity United Church in Rosemont. And yet, it feels like being on the fringes. Meantime, we move forward - we don't know our future. We minister in the present. 

We had the most awesome, alive jazz mass and children's All Saints' service on Sunday. We've found people to help with it. Our congregation welcomes the children, and also appreciated that the children respected their need for quiet at times in the service. 

Blame? I'm learning not to. Hope. Speak. Request. Institutions are what they are. Change is possible, but it ain't all my responsibility. I am my responsibility. How I respond and behave is my responsibility. 

In a family sculpture exercise 20+ years ago, I discovered I was a child rushing in panic around the outside of my distracted,  depressed, and grieving family trying to find a place to belong. It isn't my whole story. It is part of it. Knowing helps.

I need to let go of the desire to belong in ways that are not likely to happen, and recognize the ways and places in which I DO belong. Lee Udell, my CPE supervisor told me 25 years ago that when we can let go of what we most wanted in our families, we can find it in bits and pieces in other people and places.

from Google images

I like the quote I found in google images: "Life is a balance between holding on and letting go. Mmmm. A life journey.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Rick Mercer's Rant on Remembrance Day 2014


Well - let's take care of our veterans that we honour on Remembrance Day. How about it, Government of Canada?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Wars and Remembering

Tower of London -  Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red by ceramic artist Paul Cummins

Lots spinning in my head and heart. Sunday we celebrated or should I say commemorated Remembrance Day at St. CHL Every year, I wonder how to do so with integrity. Without glorifying war. Speaking other truths. We remember, for instance, not just those who died in wars, but also those who lived in japanese-Canadian internment camps during WWII. We look around us at the world today where there are wars and rumours of wars. And where our countries make money in the war industry. When I went, with my aunt Margaret (Dad's sister) to visit their brother Ernie's grave in Bayeux at the end of July - 70 years after he was blown to bits in a tank during the invasion of Normandy, I feel differently ... other emotions swarmed to the surface - and other thoughts.

Below is from my journal after visiting Ernie's grave at Bayeux, France. Row upon row of Brits, Canadians, Australians, NZ's, and - yes - Germans. All young men who surely didn't wish to die. Who may have called out to the same God. So, was God only on one side of the front line? Was God only present in the British tanks and on the fields where Canadians and other Allies fought? Help!

Margaret and I at Bayeux Cemetery, at Ernie's grave
I placed a Union jack and red rose, and lit a tiny poppy-shaped candle (between the flag and rose)

Ernest Malcolm Macgregor. His second name was my grandfather's first name.

Ernie with his young red-headed Irish wife, 'Nipper'

"It’s a thought-provoking experience – an underground river through the fun and excitement. Questions and no simple answers. Joy to have found this uncle we knew not of.  A sense of peace. Margaret just asked me why I care if his body was moved from one place to another, or why it was important for me to place a red rose, a small Union Jack, and a poppy candle at his grave. Delicate, it stayed lit for a minute in the breeze and then went out. (I found information) at the museum to show the progress of the 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry beginning July 30th, under the command of Montgomery until early August when not only was Ernie killed, but 1000’s of others – so few of their group were left, they were sent to join other units. Wondering how many had PTSD as their buddies fell and were blown up all around them?

As soon as we entered France I had a sense of fields of blood. WWI or course, when Granda Hamer was at the battle of the Somme. Names of towns ring bells …. And then WWII. Was it necessary? It looks like a sordid, sick and sickening game of sorts, but instead of tin soldiers, they were flesh and blood. Youngsters, many of them. There’s a photo of a German boy gun in hand and a string of bullets around his neck, and he couldn’t have been more than 15, maybe younger. Ernie was just 21 with a new baby. Someone questioned why they buried German soldiers in the British cemetery. I’m thinking those young men didn’t want to die either. They were following orders. Images in the film of the leaders gathered around tables in the UK and Germany – plotting what to do next, trying to deceive the others about their plans, arrows and pens marking out strategies for attacks and counter attacks… while young men (and some women who were nurses or …) are blown to bits in tanks and walking through woods and fields, in trenches …  each calling the other “the enemy.”

From the museum about Operation Bluecoat:
“As it was crucial to keep the Panzer Division away from Saint-Lo, where Bradley had just achieved a brilliant break out, the British Commander in chief (Montgomery) ordered General Dempsey commanding the 2nd Army to regroup his forces and mount a powerful offensive in a completely different sector. Baptized Bluecoat, the British operation started in the Caumont-l’Eventé sector on 30 July, heading for the high ground at Mont Pinçon and Flers. By means of this vigorous burst across this very uneven hilly zone of the Normandy hedgerow country, Montgomery succeeded in protecting the left flank of the 1st US army as it advanced on Avranches, and driving a wedge between the 7th Army and the 5th Panzer Army (formerly the Panzergruppe West).

Why?? Not expecting answers. Either in myself or from you. What have we learned, as we look around at wards in Syria, Ukraine, Israel/Palestine, Africa  – more fields of blood – blood of innocents? Where’s God in this? Where are we? How much of this have our western countries set in motion through colonization and through setting of artificial borders in places like Africa and the Middle East?

I can’t get rid of the image of fields of blood. Maybe I shouldn’t get rid of it. At the museum there was a quote of Albert Schweitzer: “War cemeteries are the greatest communication of peace.” Hmmm…. "

Tower of London - a veteran in the ceramic Poppy display - 888,000+ -
one for each Commonwealth soldier killed in WWI

I've long wondered, and hesitated to ask, someone of German descent about the wars from a German perspective. We have the privilege of having an honorary assistant, Henriette, who is German-Canadian, a Lutheran pastor and prof, who is articulate and open. She sent me a link for a documentary in German with English sub-titles called "Cato.." Incredible, powerful, horrific, beautiful, challenging, heart-breaking.

Here's the link:   http://tvo.org/video/167862/cato

I looked into the faces, as the camera caught them, of old veterans - some in their 90's - and wondered what they were remembering. The horrors few spoke of. their buddies dying beside them. What is evil? Well, there was certainly Evil abroad. The Holocaust. The Silences of so many. The inaction even when Allies knew of the concentration camps, the massacres, the ill treatment of prisoners of war. 

No, no. Please don't attack me. How can I speak thus on Remembrance Day? The ceremonies were moving, beautiful today. Blood has literally been spilled at the Ottawa Tomb of the Unknown Soldier killed at Vimy. Corporal Cirillo's blood. His friend who stood beside him that day was present today. Heart-breaking. Talk of peace, justice, freedom - Absolutely we honour our veterans and remember those who marched off to war and gave their lives. Absolutely. Granda was in WWI and WWII. Dad was in WWII. Uncle Mel flew bombers. Jim Goat was shot down, and his brother Lorne (Dad's best friend for whom our brother Lorne was named) was a POW. Poppies row on row. Tombstones row on row. 

Now can we translate that warmth and honour into proper treatment for our recent vets for help with PTSD? Can our veterans receive reasonable benefits and pensions? Can we do something to stop the tide of military suicides? 


I'm simply asking questions that burn within. I don't have answers. Other than that our vets must be treated with the respect they deserve by our government.

I wrote something like this to Henriette on Sunday morning, and decided to use it for my homily along with a treasure I'd found on the internet.

Why so many wars - ever and always? Understand that history is not my strong point. Only one history prof ever taught us to understand history as movement, inter-relatedness, relationships, questions rather than memorizing dates and facts ... Robin Burns at Concordia Uniuversity in 1966-1967.

"Each war seems to come about partly because of past history - for instance, I gather that Germany was set up, in a sense, for failure after WWI in part leading to the rise of Hitler. (over-simplification). We now see the wars in the Middle East resulting partially from the decisions taken by US, Britain, France, etc after WWII - including setting Israel up in Palestine - and then allowing Israel to spread and spread over Palestinian lands. (More over-simplification and not anti-Semitic propaganda). 

Wars and genocides in Africa are related to western colonizing and continuing control (or attempts to) the riches of Africa. The Rwandans were set up by the Belgians as 'higher' partly because of their 'finer' features over Hutus - - Country borders set up by European colonizers in Africa and elsewhere that had/have nothing to do with natural people boundaries. My great-grandfather, James Smeaton, fought an Afghan War in the 1880's and still we are fighting. I see Gorbachev criticizing the West (especially the US) for being triumphalist after the fall of the Berlin wall - and he says it is leading to a new Cold War, setting up Putin in his stance towards the West... I don't know the answers, and this makes me feel hopeless and like going back to bed - but maybe I have a partial homily - remembering also those who died - gave their lives - and the many, many on all sides who had no desire to fight and also gave their lives. We also remember those interned in the Japanese Canadian camps... "

What do we learn? What can we do?

And then the other part of the homily - I lost my cool on Saturday at our bazaar. I'm frustrated and unsure how to handle a situation, and wish I had Lori's quick response action in me. Community-building. A place for everyone. No power struggles. That's church, right? Anyhow, here it is: (Get past the blog title - which is wonderful but not what it sounds like)


It's about enemies. I felt a little self-righteous when beginning to read ... A priest keeps a list of enemies? Good grief! What kind of priest would keep a list of enemies? She sucked me right in - and then whap! In fact, I (and we) have lists of enemies. Maybe not on paper. People by whom we're annoyed. People who don't have the same theology or political stance that I do. People who abuse children... Mostly, though, it's the annoying, frustrating ones ... the ones I can't change. The ones I can't make do what I want. Ummm - I doubt very much I am the only one... Ohhh. For Pete's sake! It's human! - 

And Laurie, who wrote this blog has a wonderful approach to what to do once we acknowledge our list of 'enemies.' I'm not going to write it here. If you want to know, follow the above link and read it. Very good theology. 

She's not on my enemy list - yet ...