The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On This Eve Of A New Year

I'm not much into making "New Year's Resolutions". Honestly, I feel that by making them I almost tempt myself into breaking them. Goals, sure. Hopes and dreams, definitely. Resolutions...not so much for me.

I do have to admit, I think I am getting a little hung up on words.

And though obviously it doesn't, I often think that my New Year begins in September. It's the end of the summer which is insanely busy for us. Always. And though the fall has not marked the start of a school term for me in the last seven years (eek), it still has this fresh, crisp, tabula rasa feeling about it.

So maybe I'm one of the lucky ones who can claim to celebrate two New Years each year?

Regardless, I do make goals. I do set new standards. I do try to achieve better. That's it.

Simply better.

Each year I strive to be a better Mum. More patient, creative, funny, goofy, educational, loving. Maybe I am achieving that goal with baby steps.

Each year I strive to be a better Wife. More supportive, empathetic, caring, encouraging, laid back.

Each year I strive to be a better Self. Run further, eat healthier, relax more, face the screen of technology less and the smiles of my family more, enjoy those still small moments, laugh harder, smile often, seek the silver lining.

There's that saying most of us know:

If I Just...

  • If I just had a better car
  • If I just had more time
  • If I just did this or that (exercising, encouraging, laughing, caring, praying) more often
  • If I just had more money
  • If I just worked harder
  • If I just got more involved
But the clencher is that once we achieve whatever it is we "just want" (or think we "just want"), there's always more. It's usually bigger or better. We think we'll be happy if we "just". But we won't.

So, instead of falling into that, I am simply trying to learn to be content, confident, and crazy in love with me...just as I am...the way I was created...guards down more often...enjoying simplicity of the real life.

Praying hard.

Playing hard.

Loving hard.

Working hard.

Seeking the genuine hard truths of this life.

We only get one shot...did you know?!

And, while I think it's important to strive to be better - to work toward our goals - I will take it in stride. Knowing that it won't make me a better person simply by being these things. There will be more baby steps forward, than backward. If by nothing other than sheer stubbornness, I will be more true to myself and my God. I will give back more than I receive. I will honour those who deserve honour. I will seek to look inside before outside, when meeting new people and befriending old ones.

When I think of the true heroes, the unsung soles who deserve more credit than they receive (but who likely don't want it anyway)...when I think of the people who have made a difference in our world - whether through orphan care, african aid, environmental actions, animal rights, etc - ...when I think of those who I strive to more closely resemble...I am sure that I don't even know who those real heros, martyrs, or selfless souls are. Because, they are leading by example quietly. They don't want praise. They don't want to be noticed. They are growing selflessly through what they do for others.

I want to be more like that. I don't want to be a hero but someone who serves like a hero. I want to work to be an "others-first" kinda' girl. And, I don't want to be seen.

My goal is to go quietly, silently in this world of chaos and grow.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Soul Searching

Over the course of the last month, I have heard (of) more people needing to do some "soul searching" than ever. Such a rich coupling of words. I don't take this quest lightly.

Maybe it's something this particular season brings out in us. Given such a powerful reason to celebrate, in return we want to ensure we are doing our best to meet any expectations or decisions in our lives.

Maybe we want to ensure we are living out the plan as we should be. We are scared of that awesome phenomenon known to be Freewill.

Or maybe, as with many words nowadays the term Soul Searching has just become trite.



Less meaningful than it's original intent.

If the Soul is defined as...
  • the emotional part of human nature
  • high-mindedness
  • noble warmth of feeling, spirit, or courage, etc
And Searching is defined as...
  • examining carefully or thoroughly
  • acutely observant or penetrating
Then Soul Searching is, at it's core very rich in meaning.

Not to be taken lightly, jokingly, or carelessly.

Not to be done in a day.

Soul Searching...
  • the act or process of deep and penetrating analysis of oneself, to determine one's true motives and sentiments.
In our world of "easy come easy go" employment, virtual friendships (facebook, twitter, hotmail, blogger!). And in an era where we can basically subsist without leaving the confines of our four walls, we need to tread lightly when so loosely using terms such as Soul Searching.

We have become lazy.

Lethargically claiming to be living our liturgy, while not actually doing so.

Soul Searching is perhaps an excuse we use to buy ourselves time, while trying to make sense of our lives. Maybe this idiom is a crutch of married words; used when we have lost sight of what we stand for, why we are doing what we are doing, why we buy this, use that, hang out with them, and immerse ourselves in the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What if it isn't maybe...just excuse?!

What do I think?

I think we need to be careful. Handling these two words like Grandmother's China Vase. Like a diamond or a newborn child, we need to take heed and watch how loosely we throw words around. They've become musty through overuse. It's sad but I've heard them used often enough that they are nearly void and I don't pay them much attention. Unfortunate isn't it.

Earlier this year we made the decision to complete our family through Adoption. I wouldn't say we did a lot of Soul Searching. We did a lot of Thinking. We did a lot of Talking. We did a lot of Praying. But what we really did a lot of was Waiting. Being Silent and Listening for Direction.

And, I think we sometimes confuse ourselves. We should be silent and listening for that still, small voice. It's not soul searching. Well maybe in a way it is, but there's a much bigger picture than just ourselves. And while there are definitely times to be selfish - we need to guard our hearts, we need to keep our own time for ourselves, we need to stand firm in our beliefs - we also must take ownership and responsibility for who we are and what we are doing with our lives.

Who we are is up to us.

What we do is our decision.

Why we live the way we live is because of choices we have made along the way.

Soul Searching, in my incredibly unprofessional opinion is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It is pivotal in our lives. It's a marked time upon which we reflect years down the road and know that in those moments we changed.

It doesn't have to do with the temporary, the transient, or the momentary.

Soul Searching
should be
Life Changing

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"This Is Going To Be A Christmas To Remember" Said Bob

One of Noah & Tait's favourite books is called A Christmas To Remember. It's a Bob The Builder book and was given to them last year. We read it year round and they love it. Noah always reads the last sentence of the book, "This is going to be a Christmas to remember" said Bob.

Bob's Christmas prep started well. He was excited about family coming and about the concert in the town square. But of course things go awry:
  • His brother can't make it from the North Pole, as he missed the last boat on Christmas Eve
  • The singer of the band who will play in the town square falls ill
  • Bob forgets to pick up his Santa costume
  • Things break and plans just do not go accordingly
Well, this year we had another special time together as a family - minus sister who was in Pensacola, Florida. It was definitely a different Christmas though. It was memorable. Good memorable (mostly).

Ben and I decided months ago that we did not want to spend tons of money on "things". We wanted to give each other something practical, useful, and something we could all enjoy, often. We decided on this...and it was installed many weeks ago.

Christmas morning was not what we had expected. The flu hit the "last member standing" in our family and my Dad was sick sick sick. We also woke up to a major power outage...along with thousands of others...and we continued through our morning with tons of snow, no electric heat, lights, coffee (!), or other amenities we too frequently take for granted.

And you know what...

It was great.

We lit the fire and stayed toasty warm. We put a pot on top, boiled some water and enjoyed our tea. After a round of stockings, Ben got out the Coleman stove and cooked our bacon while I scrambled our eggs in a pan on the wood stove. Croissants pre-made, fruit salad concocted the night before...we were set.

We were happy.
We were together.
And, though I was nervous that the power wouldn't come back on, at the anticipated BC Hydro time of 11am we had fun. (And it came back on.)

We enjoyed, relished, and participated in what Christmas should be about.

The Birth Of Christ.

Family Together.

Children Laughing.


Shrieking In Delight.

I wouldn't change a thing...(well, except my Dad's bonding with the porcelain thrown). It was fun. We got creative and we simplified. We savoured the moments with no phone, no internet. Heck even not having coffee was okay.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Twenty-Nine And Three

I've celebrated my birthdays in several different places, doing several different things, and actually during several different months of the year.

When I was young, my Mum never wanted people to forget my birthday or to "blend" it in with the Christmas festivities. I had birthday parties when I was young during almost every single month of the year. I was looking at pictures the other day of a birthday party that must have taken place in the summer, as we were all out in the yard in our pretty little sundresses playing Red Rover. Very sweet.

I've celebrated my birthday in Hong Kong, only a day before we flew to Thailand and felt the shake of the headline making, life changing, South Asian, Tsunami.

I've spent one birthday engaged, six married, two pregnant, four as a mother, and every single one of them, I been surrounded by my family. There's nothing I would change about "my" day. I wouldn't even change the fact that it falls two days before Christmas. Selfishly, I have never had to share it with anything or anyone else.

This year, however, is special. This year I am sharing it. I'm sharing with another landmark of a day...this 23rd of December marks the 3rd month our dossier has been in Ethiopia.

And, to celebrate this "occasion" only a couple days ago we received this.

This document will stay with us until we send it to Nairobi, Kenya to apply for our daughter's Canadian citizenship and new birth certificate.
We will send it only once we know her name. We will send it when we have a picture of her face. We will send it when we know as much as is humanly possible to know about her. We will send it with the knowledge that this will be the last step we will legally have to take before picking her up and bringing her home with us.


What a perfect day to share.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

T'Is The Season?

I'm not sure about that.

T'is the season for laughing, sharing, loving, being merry, spending time with loved ones, embracing the once-a-year moments that bring people of all walks together.

T'is also the season to be sick. And, sick we have been. Sparing all details, (you're are truly welcome,)I will say that we have all been sicker than I can ever remember...and some have come full circle and then been sick again. For a person who doesn't succumb to the flu, it took me down. Like a thief in the night. Like our dog to a banana. Like a chocoholic to a good bar of Lindt. It pounced and won. The worst of it is that 5 full days later, our boys are still suffering. (We of course enjoy the spin-off from that.)

(Yes, that is the infamous "barf bowl" nuzzled up to Noah.)
I have to say that though we are housebound by puke and by snow, it is nice that we can be together as a family.

Before this awful infestation temporarily took us hostage, Noah and Ben enjoyed a time of play in the snow. A toboggan was abandoned in our basement by the previous owners and they were finally able to take advantage of our sloping yard and the heavy snowfall.

Frosty, the Bonhomme still stands guard on our deck...

...though 4 days after his creation, he stands blinded by our recent snowfall. We know he can hear all that happens around us, as his ears are sturdy and at attention.

The view from here - though cabin feverish - is peaceful. Reminding me of the blessings we have and those to come. Encouraging me to give thanks for the good and know the bad will grow us stronger.
The tranquility of the white blanket enveloping us is momentary.
My favourite new decoration reminds me of our joy to come and that those who are truly are rich have none. The joyful don't know the material riches this world can hold - and they are better for it.

I hope our tree is decorated plentifully by years to come.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Of Road Trips & Puke

After a few days of scene change, on our way home yesterday from the mainland, I shared with Ben this very deep thought. I knew he was already thinking it. Maybe he'd said it the night before but I was just beginning to digest and come to terms with it...

"Honey, [I said, while sitting in the line at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal] I don't travel well."

I made myself out to be some sort of fragile cake, or pottery bowl, or even a delicate tree ornament. But, there you have it...I just don't travel well.

Change is good.

Adventures are fun.

Broken routine is important.

But I simply do not travel well.

We had a fun and activity (driving!) packed few days on the mainland.

Visiting Great-Grampa (almost 90yrs old and still living independently!).

He has a really cool coffee table...
Hanging out with original Camp Qwanoes '99 Friends. (Ok, maybe their offspring.)

Chillin' (literally!) with Granville Island Pigeons.

Playing with new toys at Nana and Pops' Vancouver condo.
It was all good. But, then there was the puke. Oh the puke. What is it with Keizers leaving the Island and getting ill?

It all began as I had just finished my shower after our second of two nights. Still in my "original uniform" (you know the one that dates back almost 29 yrs), I hear a cough- cough-cough outside the bathroom door. Desperately wanting to put a towel on I briefly ignored the knob trying to be turned...until the cough turns into a sputter turns into a mess on the floor. Grabbing our poor, tough littlest guy I whip him over to the porcelain throne, only to have him puke on the lid (splatter splatter) before I can get it up. Once he's done all he does is exclaims, "All Done Mama" and (he) shuts the lid. Looking a little pale, he goes back to doing whatever it was he was doing pre-puke.

"Wadda. Wadda." he requests a few minutes later. We hesitantly hand him his water cup...chug chug chug. Then we have to leave for a play date with cousins. (We're thinkin' at this point that it's something he ate...?...And find out later we are wrong.)

Get to our cousins and he's running around, a little pale but still energetic.

Puke. I hold him over the garbage can..."All Done Mama".

The cousins play for another 45 minutes or so until Ben comes to pick us up for the usual mad dash to the ferry. We try to get some Gravol down before departing but just as we're trying to get that in, up comes more water...everywhere. Our poor little guy. He truly takes it like a man.

Fast forward five hours and we're home. HOME SWEET HOME. (Remember, I do not travel well.)

Tait is hungry. He's kept the water down that he drank, ah hem, chugged on the ferry. He wants pasta. That's it. No crackers, no toast, no tea, no banana (a usual no fail suggestion). Pasta. So, there's some cold pasta in the fridge. No need to heat it as he shovels it in as though he hasn't eaten in a day - oh wait, it's actually been nearly a day. Fistfuls go in....and one comes back up.

He's still hungry at supper (5 minutes later) so he downs a small amount of Salmon Casserole for which he requests some mustard. No kidding.

Kiddies in bed early, we relax doing our different things. Just happy that at least some supper stayed down. Until 2:30am.

It came up and I'll leave it at that. Needless to say there are no clean crib sheets and we are down a couple of Gravol. And there's been a lot of sleeping going on in our household this morning.

Sleep is a beautiful thing.
And, home is where my family is.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Every Good Thing Must Come To And End

Though I am a strong advocate of healthy. Though I feed my children nothing sugar-filled. Though I know there is an obesity epidemic that is spreading into Canada and I believe it is our, the parents' fault.

And, though I am mindful about what my boys eat...

...I also love tradition.
...I know Christmas is a once-a-year, special season.
...I think that treats are fun for everyone once in awhile.
...I want my kids to carry on the tradition passed along to me.

...And since we are going away tomorrow.
...And since it is over a week old.
...And since I just can't handle picking at the little bits of candy anymore.

This was their after lunch treat of the week...month...perhaps year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Many Faces Of Only 3 Boys

While unpacking some lovely furniture last night...which I'm not sure we were supposed to yet be unpacking...
...we came across these...
Oh the fun this Christmas holds.

The eldest wanting to be flexible and try on as many different hats as possible...
The youngest picking his favourite and not letting it leave his head...
Their Daddy teaching them about this fun...
And while we received word yesterday that our wait time could be more like another 6 months (instead of only another 4) which totals 8 months from when our Dossier reached Ethiopia...just to wait for a referral...times like these remind us that the wait will be worth it. They help pass the hours and days. They remind us not to ignore, or wish the journey away, or look for the "finishing" line. Rather, we need to seek these moments. The dots along our journey of a line. They are the losses we will encounter when we look ahead instead of turning to enjoy the scenery around us. They are what build us into the unique family we are.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Trading Fairly

For some time now, we have been seeking a way to contribute to Developing Countries' poverty on a daily basis. Since everything costs money and contributing to something daily (even if only a little) really does add up, we wanted to do something that we knew would make a difference. We wanted to find something that we love, too. Something we could enjoy each day, while encountering this daily reminder of our blessings...and of the necessity to give back.

When you think of the majority of the population waking up each day, take away the bed head, the morning breath, and the real need to shower. What's the one other thing most of us enjoy doing first thing?

A Great Cup Of Coffee

We have been known to buy Starbucks beans, Tim Hortons tins, and at times Maxwell or Folgers has also been thrown in the shopping cart. We enjoy our coffees. Ben's been a Tim Hortons connoisseur for years and of course I worked at Starbucks and other coffee shops. We know a good coffee when we taste one. Yet, we don't want to pay an arm and a leg for just another "thing" we will be consuming.

We decided that if we could enjoy our coffee, pay maybe a bit more, but also be supporting a worker or ethical business at the same time then this could be our medium.

Certified Fair Trade is how we will drink.

But, what if we could take it one step further? What if, while enjoying our Certified Fair Trade we could also be supporting an organization that cares for Orphans? Everyday, with each sip and each bean in each bag, from one week to the next, we could help support African Orphans? Seems almost too good to be true.


What I'm learning through our adoption process is that there is this entity. A whole other world of parents and simply just ordinary people, who will do anything for the plight of the orphans in our world. All 143,000,000 of them.

I don't want to buy any old brand of coffee that claims to be Fair Trade. While I don't doubt that it is, I want to know more than that. I want to know if it is, of course, Certified. There's a huge difference between being Certified or Not.

The other thing I don't want to do is buy from some huge company who sells their Certified Fair Trade. I don't want a few cents from the several dollars I have spent on my Certified Fair Trade coffee, to go towards these workers. I want to know that they are benefiting from my purchase. I don't think it's too much to ask. I want to know that the guy I'm buying my coffee from, has direct contact with his workers...or at least with his workers' boss. It's a small world. Again, I don't think that's too much to ask - I actually think it's more of a responsibility.

It's like when that whole MADD thing exploded several years ago. We found out that Mothers Against Drinking Drivers was actually using only a minute amount of it's donations towards the actual cause. Fraud much?!

And if someone is going to tell me that Starbucks or one of these other multi-million dollar companies is doing what I'm asking for, then I'm sorry (and I can say this because it's my blog) but you are wrong. While I don't doubt that Starbucks' Certified Fair Trade or Certified Organic or Certified Shade Grown is as they claim, I also know it is a huge company and that stuff inevitably falls through the cracks. There are breakdowns in the system and I know (I truly do) that there is no way that dollar-for-dollar, the workers picking those pods are getting what they should be.

I also don't want to hear that my coffee is Certified Fair Trade and that it was purchased at fair market value in Africa. Africa is a big freaking continent. With a lot of freaking poverty. Again, I don't think it's too much to ask that I know specifically in which country the coffee was grown and picked. If I am going to pay double what I would pay for an "off the shelf" coffee...

I Simply Want To Know.

With no extra time yesterday, but determined not to buy a "generic" brand, I grabbed this. Only somewhat satisfied by what it claims on the basically is what I have just claimed I do not want to buy. However, I figured that it was better than nothing given the fact that I was in Superstore and in an aisle filled with beans of different origins, this was my best bet.

So, here are the 2 options we are contemplating...

Historically, Level Ground Trading has paid 53% more than conventional importers of coffee and 26% more than the FLO/Transfair price.

These guys are located in Victoria, BC. Yep, pretty much just down the road from us (if you're thinking globally). Plus, not only do they, (and by "they" I mean the founder and owner) visit Ethiopia on a relatively frequent basis they also go to a local Christian Church, affiliated with Qwanoes. They also support local ethnic festivals and celebrations. All of this is vital.

Gobena Coffee

In addition to experiencing the finest and freshest coffee, with each order placed, you are helping children throughout the world. 100% of the profits are being reinvested in the lives of orphan children through charity programs.

While this organization is located in Illinois, they are huge adoption advocates...having 2 of their 3 children adopted from Developing Countries. This couple is also Christian and they are hugely concerned about the care of our orphans.

The very cool thing about Gobena Coffee (other than the obvious) is that you can have it delivered to your door...all in one go or on a weekly basis. Ground or Whole Bean, it's up to you. I would encourage you to check out their site and revel in their current project. If you want a more personal spin, go grab a box of kleenex and check out the adoption video of their youngest Ethiopian daughter, Eva on YouTube. Type in Lehmanfive in the search engine and go to Eva's Adoption video. Prepare to be moved.

You can also check out the organization they support with 100% of their profits...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Let The Festivities Continue

In talking with some people last night and after a bit of thought this past week, I have decided that it's not Christmas that will push our caloric intake over the's the leading up to this celebration. I recall watching an interview several years back on Oprah. Yes, I have spent many an hour watching Oprah. This was back in my "spare time" days and during her pre-political outspoken-ness, and pre-post modern religious time. It was back when I felt she maybe held back a bit on some of her opinions. It was when her shows weren't riddled with interviewing only actors and actresses. It was back when I felt that her views lined up a bit more with at least some of mine. I still do admire her. I think she has defeated the odds and risen to be more than a statistic. I just don't agree with much of what she says anymore. Ok, enough ranting.

The interview I was watching was the one with Kirstie Alley who had just become the newest Jenny Craig spokesperson. This was pre-Queen Latifa and Valerie Bertinelli. Oprah, in her usual honest line of questioning simply asked Kirstie why and how she got so fat. I don't recall all of Kirstie's response, but some of it was along the lines of her marital break-up and being a single parent, along with a host of other Hollywood (token?) answers. The one thing that does stick in my mind is that she said that for her the main reason she "lost control" was that the holiday season for her would last from...
Halloween until Easter

Come again? Yes, 6 months of cooking, baking, partying, and eating frenzies. It's not a wonder there's an obesity epidemic. This one month of December I believe, is overwhelming enough for most of the people I know.

But, the flip side of the coin is the incredible - once a year, unique - fun, in which we can relish. I had some last night.

An annual Gingerbread House building contest at a friend's family's place was awesome. In honour of our impending adoption we built an Ethiopian Orphanage...sort of. Well?! What else would we do, right?!

Taking the top off so we could access the inside of our orphanage...(yes, that is a power tool)
The babies in their beds, the ones playing in the inside play area, the ones on the soccer field, the water well donated by World Vision, the sand box, jungle gym, basketball hoop, blanket on which the kids could enjoy their injera. We got down and dirty. Creative with sugar, if you will. The nannies watch as the children play. The coffee beans are representative of coffee's country of origin (didja know that?). Pretty much the only rule is that everything in, around, and on the house must be edible. So, at only the last minute did we place the Ethiopian paper flag.

Other incredible ideas and creations last night included...

The Oilers
(Yes, even Edmontonians flew in for this event!)
Alice In Wonderland
Halloween strikes at Christmas
There were about 6 or 7 others but these ones were really great! This was an incredible night - I can't think of a better way to get in the Christmas spirit than with Gingerbread Houses.