Teens and parents: Comings and goings and straining bridles

One of the places I work at is adjacent to a high school. On Monday morning, as I entered the building, I passed two teenage boys (16 or 17?) having a discussion about life:

TEEN ONE: Life sucks. Right now we can’t do anything we want because our parents are always on us. Then we’ll finish school and have no money, so we’ll have to work and won’t be able to do anything we want. Then we’ll get married and have kids and not be able to do what we want. And then when we have money and retire, we’ll be too old to do what we want.

TEEN TWO: Welcome to life.

Despite the grim prophecy about their life prospects, I smiled to myself. I couldn’t say that he had it entirely wrong; he skips across some truth there. But is it really all that bad, and is life even supposed to be an unrestrained gallop through grassy fields of wildflowers? 


Photo courtesy of Alex Loach, B&W Artistic Country Landscape https://www.flickr.com/photos/53825985@N02/

Then, yesterday as I exited the building at the end of the day, I passed two mothers:

MOTHER ONE: When they’re young, they’re so cute, and fun, and they love to be with you. They lull you into a false sense of security. And then BAM, they’re teenagers, and it gets ugly.

MOTHER TWO: Yep. I’m just gritting my teeth and counting the days until my son is human again.


Oh, but sometimes parents do weep.

I smiled again, because the juxtaposition struck me. One morning I walk in past two teenagers straining against their bridles, and one evening I walk out past two parents trying to hold the reins.

‘Twas ever thus. The push-me/pull-you of teens and parents. All we can do is choose to enjoy the ride.




The Gift of Tonglen

Arlene Somerton Smith:

I couldn’t have said it any better.

Originally posted on Tuesdays with Laurie:

At times we may feel small, insignificant, and unable to help when people are suffering, or there’s a catastrophe in another part of the world. But there is something we can do.

Tonglen—Tibetan for giving and receiving—is an active practice of loving-kindness; a simple act of compassion that anyone can do. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Sit or lie quietly in your own “inner sanctuary” and imagine someone that you want to help.
  • Inhale the heaviness of their energy. Breathe in the condition, emotion, or suffering of another to make space for healing and comfort within.
  • Exhale whatever you feel will fill them relief. Breathe out hope, strength, joy, peace of mind, love, or ease.

IMG_5139 I took this photograph at the Boise Botanical Garden. In my mind’s eye, this is how I imagine my inner sanctuary.

Tonglen is a soothing and calming meditation that can be done by people…

View original 99 more words

Nature and humanity beautiful together: Croatian Sea Organ

I’m not a “bucket list” person, but I would say that it would make me happy to see this someday:

Organ pipes carved into stone steps on the shore of the Adriatic Sea that respond to the air pushed in by waves that lap against the steps. Shades of South American wood pipes and flute.

Croatian Sea Organ

A little good news about nature and humanity on this Friday the 13th.




A bullet and a Bible: Remembrance Day guest post

By my friend, Janie Wannamaker-Bilson. A true story, and a heartfelt tribute to family.


Photo by and courtesy of Janie Wannamaker-Bilson

A Blessed Family Treasure
© 2015 Janie Wannamaker-Bilson

Years ago when I was a young child, I remember a precious treasure.
Not a fancy shiny gem, but something far beyond measure.

One day my Mother told us of a soldier tall and brave,
Who, during the World War, had nearly met his grave.

He was on the battlefield with many-a-men, some who’d never return.
The enemy lines were closing in…oh how those bullets burned.

But the soldier, he continued to fight, though weaker he did feel.
‘Til the lack of strength overtook his might and the soldier was forced to kneel.

For a bullet struck him in the chest, his heart went numb with pain.
He sunk into the muddy trench in horror as his life drained.

He thought of his little boy back home, Harry was only nine.
He couldn’t bear the thought of leaving his child behind.

He prayed to God to let him live to see his son once more.
And as that soldier drifted off, he could hear the battle roar.

He awoke to find himself in a military hospital bed.
The doctor calmly looked at him and this is what he said…

“Well soldier, welcome back. You certainly had a close call.”
And in his hand the soldier could see something tattered and small.

“We removed the shrapnel from your chest. You’re a very lucky man…
In your chest pocket we found this…”, as he held out his hand.

And in it lay the miracle that saved that soldier’s life.
The treasure that allowed that warrior to return to his son and wife.

Today a shrapnel tattered bible, has been passed down through our family.
My father Harry inherited it from a soldier he called ‘Daddy’.

“In loving memory of my father, Harry Eric Wannamaker 1931-2008,
and Grandfather Clayton Walter Wannamaker 1895 – 1962.”

Let’s get physical, and then not: On Justin Trudeau and his cabinet

It’s quite a dance, dealing with our physical attributes. Do we acknowledge them, or not? Or when?

Since Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party won the Canadian federal election, the news, entertainment talk shows and social media have been filled with accounts of how “hot” the new prime minister is. My goodness, people have been suggesting doing some, um, intimate things with him.

It’s completely inappropriate. And can you imagine the uproar if we elected a female prime minister and social media came alive with tweets about how people would like to do unmentionable things to her?

Justin’s physical appearance is irrelevant and has nothing to do with his ability to lead our country. It should not even enter the conversation.

And then, he chose a cabinet, and he chose to make it 50% female. He also chose openly gay representatives, members of our Canadian First Nations, a Sikh and a person with a physical disability.

I trust that every one of them is capable of doing the job and is worthy of the position, but their physical attributes are still part of the conversation and, in some cases, likely swayed the decision toward inclusion in the cabinet in their favour.

There has been a lot of response to this. Most of it concerning “merit.” Something along the lines of, “Why, if we go about loading up the cabinet with women, then people of merit (white males) will be excluded”.

On the extreme flip-side, one letter to the editor in the Ottawa Citizen suggested that the 50% target might have set an artificial glass ceiling for women, as if there was a possibility that there might have been more than 50% women appointed.

Excuse me for a moment.

(HAhahahaHAhaha. HOOO. Hahahahahah. Hoo. Ha. That was a good one.)

Am I comfortable with decisions about cabinet inclusion being based on physical characteristics? No.

But decisions about cabinet inclusion have always been based on physical characteristics: white and male (preferably Christian, or at least not vocally doubtful of deity), and the decisions have always excluded people of merit (women, homosexuals, people of races other than Caucasian).

I prefer this expanded version. I like the sound of “She was appointed because she was a woman” better than “She can’t be a cabinet minister (or an MP, or even vote) because she’s a woman”. I like “He was appointed because he’s openly gay” better than “If he’s appointed it can never become public that he’s gay”. I like “He’s in cabinet because he’s First Nations” better than “No First Nations representatives will ever be elected”.

I hope that some day gender, sexual orientation, race, or physical challenges won’t be noteworthy. I hope that some day we won’t waste our valuable brain power worrying about whether a physical characteristic makes a person automatically worthy or unworthy of a position.

When asked why he appointed a cabinet composed of 50% women, Trudeau replied, “Because it’s 2015.” I would say the same answer applies to why we need to—for now—announce the target and keep it part of the conversation. “Because it’s 2015,” and 2015 still doesn’t look like gender equality. Obviously not, or we wouldn’t even be talking about this.

Keep it part of the conversation, because we still have balancing work to do. For a while longer we have to get physical to conscientiously balance out the equation. And then, I hope that someday we can let all of that go. 


Check out the diverse Canadian cabinet in Maclean’s 

Justin Trudeau’s New Cabinet


Online book club: A God that Could Be Real

I read a lot.

I read for fun and entertainment, of course. Right now I’m reading the Young Adult novel The Gates by John Connelly, for instance. I ready anything by Bill Bryson, and I enjoy a good action-adventure story from time to time.

I read “Build My Brain” books too, like Creativity, Incby Ed Catmull or Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. I even read books that I know will challenge me not to throw them across the room, like . . .  anything by Richard Dawkins.

My favourite fiction book is Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and my favourite children’s book is Harold and the Purple Crayon. 

978-080707339-1Right now, a group at my (progressive, inclusive, justice-seeking, mind-stretching, spirit-expanding) church is working through A God that Could be Real: Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet by Nancy Ellen Abrams. I can’t attend the book study group because I’m not available Monday evenings, so I thought I’d give myself the Bell Canada long-distance feeling and work through it online. If some of you choose to read along, that would be wonderful.

I’ll read the first three chapters and report back in. 


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