Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Good Atheist - Part II

In the previous blog I tried to explain why I could have made a solid atheist, and a few thoughts on why that didn't happen.

And so here we are to explore further. What avenue to walk down?
Morality? Conscience?
I'm thinking it may be useful to consider the journey of many like me, around the same age and of a similar background, and a path that has often led to a staunchly atheistic view.

A- (Greek "without") + Theos ("God").

    Without God. God-less. No God, nor even god. For many it has been the inevitable conclusion, having looked for God, waited for Him, pursued him quite possibly, and found nothing, heard nothing. So, Nothing it must be.

For others the conclusion is born of hating the very idea of God. There cannot, there MUST not be a God, and if there is he is a hideous creature. Looking at the world, the pain and deformity of it, bespeaks a madman of a creator, a being so high and thoughtless of the sensitivities of human and animal kind as to be monstrous and unworthy of knowing. This idea has a large following.

For some, the conclusion of Without God has spawned from both of these angles, and also one Other Thing. If I am a creature of desires, with the guts and glory to satisfy said desires, then by all means - I should! Simply put, God made me this way. If he did, why then should he expect me to behave exactly opposite of how I am wired? And if he did not make me, then it doesn't matter in the slightest as long as I do no harm (doing no harm being much, much easier said than done, which is a topic for another time).

And so God is taken out of all equations (except where blame for wars and various religious horrors must be laid). This is the state wherein it becomes easy to mock and laugh at God and/or those who believe in him. It is a type of mental exercise, a killing of all divine ideas in a sort of constant, pseudo-intellectual way, and it makes life a good deal easier and a great deal more fun, it seems, to boot.

        (I say pseudo-intellectual because a true intellectual analysis of life and humanity, the world and the Bible, memory, anthropology, biology, chemistry, space and time, soul and body, spirit and emotion, etcetera, points relentlessly to God as a compass to North.
Don't believe me? Try it.
Try it as objectively as possible, just study everything, and see where it leads!)

Many friends, classmates, colleagues and strangers of my generation, Gen X, have laughingly thrown off the shackles of god and church once and for all. For these  people I have a great deal of hope and an equal measure of empathy.

Growing up in the local evangelical church can unfortunately be a perfect inoculation against the "God-virus", as you will. Just enough Christianity to know what it's about, but not enough for true salvation.  A child-like faith and a tender heart will inevitably be crushed, somewhere along the line, by the boots of legalism, hypocrisy, or emotional pain.
Kids and teens were taught to accept God's word, but never to wrestle with it.
For example, I was taught that God is good. Daniel prayed, and God shut the lions mouths. Amazing! Truly a teachable moment. 'Let us pray that God delivers us too, from all of our fears.' Few Sunday school teachers, however, will ask what it would mean if Daniel prayed and then was horribly and immediately devoured by the lions.
Do we not think the Christian martyrs thrown into the Roman colliseum were praying God would shut the lions' mouths? And then he didn't, and still they praised. They were burned at stakes, and still sang and worshipped. Not to tarnish the testimony of the saints, but they must all have been insane.
Either every one insane... or they knew something the soldiers and other prisoners and the rulers did not know. Their confidence and hope, so far removed from their own flesh, cried out that death is not the worst thing to be feared. Our culture today fears and shuns death most of all, but the martyrs knew that death was only a passageway to being always with the One their soul loved. Having known HIM, there was no other. Having tasted true life, there was no other life apart.
"Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'"        John 4:13-14 

     So, what then? Could it be that God makes decisions not based on human wisdom, will or emotions, but only on what he himself deems best? Ah. There's the rub for many of my generation, and every generation. Especially those raised in church and other Christian institutions.
Our parents generation went through the wild and wooly 60's, the freedom 70's, and while raising us were shocked by the excess of the 80's. There was an element of control that was needed, many leaders thought. Control the content, the response, the environment, and the end product will behave properly and be properly saved. Now I think each generation has a hang-up, and most of these are sub-concious and unintentional.
Gen X'ers were taught that if you did such and such, followed the rules, then life would be good. For Christian kids, it was "stay away from this bad stuff, and do these good things, and God will make sure you are happy." So we avoided eyeliner, messing around with boys, and MTV.
We followed the rules.
But the formula did not work.
We remained empty. Lonely. Disillusioned. Frustrated. Little by little the masks slipped. For some, it was still in high school the disillusionment set in. For others, it was in university, when the big questions finally were asked. Or at community college or a job, when we realized the "bad" non-christians were often more caring, decent, REAL individuals than our judge-y Christian friends.

For some it may have been standing at a pile of dirty dishes, kids sleeping finally, and they realize their husband or wife is out much too late. Is this what being a good Christian has got me? Betrayal and heartache? I am done with God. He doesn't care anyway.

For some it may have been serving in church for decades, no joy in Christ, no acknowledgment, and one day they simply walk away.
Maybe a tragedy. Depression. Witnessing incredible poverty or abuse. There cannot be a God.
If there is a God, he is cruel and unjust. I want to be alone to put my life together the best way I can.

The common thread here is that GOD DID NOT MEET OUR EXPECTATIONS. And so we either looked for a more comfortable, nicer, tamer sort of god, made in our own image.....or rejected the whole concept entirely.

This is not what I signed up for.
I have rights.
God has let me down.

Nirvana rocked lyrics that deliberately lacked meaning, mocking the whole world and its tiresome systems. We let our hair down and yelled and sang along.

Bullet With Butterfly Wings
       - The Smashing Pumpkins
The world is a vampire, sent to drainSecret destroyers, hold you up to the flamesAnd what do I get, for my pain?
Betrayed desires, and a piece of the game
Even though I know--I suppose I'll show
All my cool and cold-like old Job 
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage (...)

Many Gen X'ers, Christians included, feel like trapped rats, going through the maze in a cage. Church, which is meant to be a place of connection and healing, a place to be in God's presence together and help each other, often sadly has little of either going on. People with less time and more stress these days tend to reject duty that has no apparent purpose or meaning. There has been a mass exodus away from organized "Christian systems": programs, meetings, church services. People end up meeting in other places, sharing different types of communion, where at least they feel a sense of understanding and friendship.

So it becomes easier to forget about God. And then in the rush and ease of doing what we want to do, remembering him becomes highly inconvenient.
The trouble with God is that he is GOD; he is not us, nor an extension of us.
He tends to make up his own mind.
We miss what he is doing because we are looking at something in our imagination, and think that it is God.

Why do I hold on to belief and friendship with God in the face of all this apparent hopelessness?
Well, the answer is simple. Because He is real. He holds on to me.
Time after time he shows me he is working.
Time after time he has made something beautiful out of my ashes and despair and mistakes.
The whole energy of the world, our flesh, and the Devil works to throw up walls and clouds of doubt and self-pity, and yet still the sun burns through the clouds and I feel the warmth of God's unconditional love and care for me. Then it overflows, and I feel how much he loves you, too.
Winter comes, and clouds, and cold, and yet I know the sun is there sustaining all of life. (At the moment I am writing while seated on a fallen log out in the snowy forest, sun far from sight. Yes, I am cold!)

Reach out to Him; God may not be precisely what you wished for, but He never disappoints. He will show you answers in his own time.
He is more real than the most truthful conversation you have ever had.
He is more loving than the best friend could be.
He loves to heal and restore and make things new again.
He is holy and yet he has made the most humble path of salvation for us to walk toward Him.

Don't waste time looking for a god that feels better but has nothing to give you.

I don't know why God doesn't answer my questions right when I think of them.
I don't know why he has often left me in the dark, not sure of what is ahead.
The thing is, it doesn't really matter, because I trust him.
We walk together; we are friends.
It is amazing but true; the God of the universe has become my most constant companion - and there is plenty of room for you, too.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Why I Would Be a Good Atheist

It is too bad, in a twisted way, because I would have made a good atheist. 

When I was a kid, I asked God a lot of questions, and when I wasn't sure God was listening, I directed my questions to the trees and to the open sky. A big question, and I'm not really sure why, 
was, "I didn't ask to be born, so why do I owe the universe, or other people, or God - anything??" I was genuinely puzzled, feeling a bit like a rat that has been dropped into a maze, expected to run here and there and try hard, find the meaning of life, whatever. 
What was the point?

I became fairly depressed at a young age, I think. I recall underlining verses in the Psalms at about age 9 or 10, verses like, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?" (22:1) and thinking YES! David gets it. THIS I can relate to. (I didn't realize the prophetic or Messianic meaning of the passage at the time, so can we leave that for now...thanks.)

As a younger child I trusted God completely, walking on the forest paths with my hand stretched up, literally feeling like I walked hand in hand with Him. He saw and appreciated the beautiful things I saw. He was real, and He loved me. He loved my neighbors that didn't know Him yet. He loved my grumpy bus driver. He loved my little brother. 
I'm not sure when the tough questions started, but I had many opportunities to consider them. I went to a Christian school, Sunday school, church, evening service, you name it. I heard all the Bible stories. I could tell you all the Bible stories, and their meanings too. Somewhere in there, I started asking:

If God could create all of life, why did some things die so fast, and others last longer than they wanted to?
If God knew Adam and Eve would sin, why did He bother with all the charade of warning them?
If God could do anything, how could He watch Cain kill his brother Abel in cold blood?
If God made the unshakable rules of the world, why did He have to send Jesus to die for all sin - couldn't there have been another way?? Something less painful, something less....bloody.
If following Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven, shouldn't God have made it more obvious?
What about people who never got a chance to hear?
What about my baby sister who didn't live very long? My grandma who made it pretty clear she wanted nothing to do with God at all? 

And on and on. 
If the chapel speakers and pastors had known what was going through my brain...! I wished the questions would go away. I wanted to be whole, trusting, a believer, not a doubter. It seemed shaky ground. 

Around age 11 I had an experience when I was praying where I felt an amazing sense of peace. God was right there with me, and I felt His great presence and knew that He understood my questions and that it was ok to ask them.  I wanted to be baptized and show everyone that I was serious about following God and that there was no turning back for me. I was baptized soon after, and though I still felt the shaky ground, I also knew beyond a shadow of doubt that God existed, and if He existed, then He had to be who He said He was. If was who He said He was, then He would either answer my questions - or show me why they didn't matter. 

 As an older teen the big questions came back. I was lonely and misunderstood, like many teenagers. I felt like I was trying so hard, doing all the right things, but it didn't seem to matter. Nothing was good enough. Sin was still there; loneliness was still there, pain and questions remained. I kept up the Christian life, but underneath I was wondering, "Who is this "GOD" who expects me to know Him when He doesn't show himself?"

 Then there was Bible college. It wasn't very hard, because I knew everything. Or I thought I did. The course on minor prophets was fascinating, however. I read, and thought, realizing that these more obscure books had so many layers of meaning and so many treasures of truth and light. 

And the Book of JOB! I noticed that many people in the Bible had similar questions to mine. And God had an answer for each one of them that met their real need, which was interesting. He doesn't answer any questioner in the same way. He was gracious to one, He whispered to another. He thundered. He wrestled. He laughed...He argued...He put one or two in their place. But always different, as if He actually knew the person. And God challenged people! He gave Moses, Jacob, Job and others the privilege and the dignity of an actual discussion. He showed up.

In all the hubbub of modern life, there are many who think they know whether God does or does not exist, but few who will look into it beyond the latest meme or what a friend or professor said that seemed to make perfect sense. And so we make up our minds one way or the other, without looking very far ahead. Because one thing is certain; He either exists or he doesn't. And if He does exist, then everything He says about Himself and about us, is true too. If He doesn't exist, then there really is no purpose in any religion. If God is not there, religion is merely giving people a "program" of sorts, something to cling to when they don't feel safe.

I have realized I am one of those people Paul talks about in Romans 9:19:
"One of you will say to me, “Then why does God still blame us? Who can oppose what he wants to do?” But you are a mere human being. So who are you to talk back to God? Scripture says, “Can what is made say to the one who made it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ " 

When he wrote, "One of you will say...", he was thinking about me. Maybe about you, too.
I was so happy to read this verse and feel like I wasn't alone. Is it something to be proud of?
I suppose in the way of respecting that my mind wants to know.

Do we honestly think God is hoping we will go through life smiling, unthinking, like some sort of brainwashed cult followers? 
Read the Bible for a few minutes and it becomes obvious that is not the case.
So how did I get to today, where I understand the questions but no longer have to ask them (much) for myself? It has been an uphill journey. I will have to write more about that later. 
Suffice it to say that the reward of traveling ever uphill is a wider, farther perspective. I can see things from here that I couldn't before. I have made it further than I ever dreamed I would, and the view is pretty fantastic.

There is a lot more to say on this subject, but I have grown weary of writing and am at risk of becoming a bore. Perhaps I would have made a fine atheist. I am unbelievably grateful though, that I have gone quite the other direction.


Monday, May 23, 2016

What I've Lost by Being Too Busy

Now there's nothing special about my personal brand of busy-ness. Many people I know have their days over-stuffed like a closet in a kid's room - bits and pieces sticking out, not sure what's actually in there anymore, and hard to close every night. 
What I want to share is my experience of being busy, and what it has stolen from me, this year alone.

You must first know that when I am presented with an uninterrupted stretch of time, I feel a bit deliriously happy for a few seconds, until the guilt and panic descend. I go through a frantic list in my head of the places I'm possibly supposed to be - school event? Lesson? Driving one of the kids to something? Meeting? At NASA or the UN solving an insurmountable problem? 

Once the heart rate slows, the guilt takes over. If I was a proper human being, if I had any sort of drive or ambition at all, I would be using every bit of time to improve the world. If I have a rare morning to sleep in I count the calories I would have burned if I got up earlier and did a workout. It's very hard to watch a movie without writhing in self-loathing and has become impossible to sit down and enjoy a book. I just flip pages or "work" at reading with a furrowed brow, fight or flight written all over my face.

I could go on, though obviously my point is that this is no way to live. It's simply not sustainable in the long run. I strongly believe this in theory. 
In practice however, what should I have taken out? 

To give some context, this what I do. Weekdays. 

6:25 alarm.
Coffee, hopefully exercise (cough - about half the time - cough), get ready for work, get kids out the door with me, assorted forms signed and lunches and gym strip and barely averted crises...brings us to...

8:30 Work in preschool or doing speech with elementary, alternate days. 

12:00 Eat lunch quick at home or while driving to neighbouring town (temporary elementary location during large-scale renovation of school)

12:25 Work in Grade 2 classroom. Not even going to go into it. 

3:25 Pick up kids from school or go to Arts Academy to teach voice/piano lessons.

5:30 Run into grocery store to find supper ingredients or supplement said ingredients. May buy lunch stuff. May have to run to drug store. Bank? Post Office?

6:30 Supper

Clean-up, laundry, kids here and there at lessons/sports/bible study/practices you-get-the-picture.

8:00 Couch is calling me like a long lost love ...
Honestly can't remember what usually happens about now...
Oh yeah I go for a walk quite often. 
Help kids with homework.
Family stuff. 
Hang up clothes to dry. 

11:00 pm Cajole kids to go to bed...remind them of the suffering and tragedy that was getting out of bed this morning. Limited response. 

    *      *       *
This is probably a pretty typical day for most people; I'm definitely not claiming special "busy status"!  

Throw in recitals, worship team practice, shopping, cleaning, committees and meetings. Some people might thrive on this. Not me. It feels like an extremely slow, agonizing death. Why is that? 

What does it cost to keep this up? 
In no particular order:

1) Creativity. When I do have time I don't have the heart to make things. Things like music, stories, baking, singing. This feels like a loss because time races by, year after year, and there was so much I dreamt of creating. 

2) Time with friends. I have a few wonderful friends, and family that I call friends. I'd like to spend quality time with them. Not quick texts to see if they are still alive and kicking, but actual visits, sit-down, tea and coffee, soul-to-soul time.

3) Being there for my kids. I miss track meets, being a parent helper or driver. I have to hear about it all afterward. Wondering if they have a water bottle or enough change for supper on the trips home. Of course it would be odd to be at EVERYTHING (and a helicopter parent I don't want to be) but once in a while? Yes. How many times do I get texts while I'm trying to teach lessons? "Mom, ....?" I don't even care that it's unprofessional, I leave my phone on and have a quick peek to see if it's emergency-worthy. Nope, all is well. "Okay, let's hear that piece again, from the top...1234..."

4) Being available. After awhile, people stop asking you things because they know you're too busy. Which, if we're being honest, can be good and bad...

5) Good Food. Let's face facts. I haven't cooked an interesting meal in a coon's age, whatever that is.  I want to - I can't do it. What should we have for supper? Whatever I can pull together fast. Dylan has been cooking more these days, and hey, he's been far more creative than I have. Thanks man. 

6) Health. Hi, I'm stressed and strung-out. I live on B-vitamins and Advil. True story. You'd think I'd be skinny by now. Nope. People tell me all the time that I look tired. Or that I look like I'm limping. "Yeah, I've been shot....just haven't had a chance to see the doctor yet." 
Am I tired? Did I sleep? These are what people call Rhetorical Questions.

7) Enjoying life. I've lost much of the ability to enjoy simple things in life. Books, listening to music, beauty, nature. When your mind is too busy everything is like noise. 
When I do get to go to bed I can't sleep. 
When I talk to someone I stress about what I said and if I said it right or if I'm messing everything up.
I drive too fast. 
I can't stand people doing things slowly. Almost came unglued on an elderly driver in a construction zone, and waiting in line at the drugstore is a special kind of torture. 

What's wrong with me? I'm afraid of slowing down because I might go off the rails. I crave silence but when I finally have it - it's deafening. 
Why am I telling this to you, my friends and the world at large?
Well I'm trying to come to some decisions about what I will do and what I won't do. But I think my decision maker thingy is broken. 
One of the biggest pieces that go missing, gradually, through being too busy, is identity. My identity is what I do. If I am not doing, I cease to be. Can I handle that vacuous unknown? Every label I remove leaves less of me. Please, leave on all the labels so I don't disappear. 

I want to live braver than that. 
Here's to being my actual self. 
Here's to freedom, as always. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

For My Son on his 13th Birthday

Hi Keegan, 

You are the light of my life, you know. 
From the moment I hung a blue sleeper on the front door for your dad to see as he came home, till the day you were born, I anticipated getting to know you.

Dad named you Keegan, which means Fiery One. I thought it was a mistake, as you lay quietly and gently in your bassinet or on the bed, looking calmly around, so still and small...but then week three came, and I think you had caught up on being born a bit early. All hell broke loose. By that I mean - you began to assert yourself on a regular basis, and to argue your point of view - kind of like a bear does in a trap.
You were still sweet. With your small thumb jammed in your mouth, and your curly, soft blonde hair, your wide and expressive brown eyes, and your strong, fat toddler legs carrying you all around with your blankie. 

But oh were you loud!!! 
I could tell my days as boss were numbered, unless I grew an iron will to match your own. 

Over the years we've had a lot of fun. Wagon rides to the park, dancing around the house to music, dressing up in odd costumes, snuggling on the couch. Watching episode after episode of Bob the Builder...and later, Scooby-Doo. 

Jumping off the deck into the snowdrifts. Jumping on the trampoline. Playing with batches of kittens. Saying goodbye to kittens when we had found them a home.  Watching you and Lauren swing on the swings, ride bikes, and chase each other around the yard, Cinder the dog hot at your heels.  Running through the sprinkler. The first time you climbed the big rock. The first time you jumped off. Teaching you to mow the grass. 

Our mother/son camping at Wilmore. Eating s'mores until we felt sick, and reading comics by flashlight. Watching the river dance with sunlit waves. 

Dragging you to school in the morning when I taught preschool, and later high school, and then dragging you away from your fun and your friends so we could finally go home. 

One thing you've had to deal with is being misunderstood. By me, by some teachers and family members. You never try to please people - you just are who you are. And you get very very focused on whatever it is you are doing. 
You've had harsh words thrown at you. You've been yelled at by well-meaning but exasperated teachers. Every time I saw you sitting out in the hallway, waiting to find out what rule you broke this time, my heart broke a little. Actually it broke a lot. 
You have always been very forgiving. I hope you continue to be. I think you will need to. 

(Grade 3)

I just love you so much. You are highly brilliant, smart and quick with your wit. You are hilarious and it's so tough to stay mad at you when I'm laughing. Like today, when you said, "maybe when I
become a teenager I'll finally get some respect around here." LOL

I'm incredibly proud of you. My computer whizz. Gamer extraordinaire. I don't quite understand your world a lot of the time, but I see how talented you are. I like that you always take time to help others with their technological woes. And you never act like you are better than anyone; you simply do what they need you to do. 

Today, on your 13th birthday, I'm talking about your strengths. I've already spent too much of our time on this planet telling you your weaknesses. I'm sorry for that. 

I pray for strength and courage for you this year as you face more challenges of growing up. I pray that you refuse to compromise. I pray that you practice putting others before yourself. I pray you stand strong and bold before all of the sick corruption of this world we live in. I know I can't protect you from everything. My great hope is you learn to protect yourself - by raising your shield, putting up the gloves, speaking out - whatever it takes. 

I feel sad that your childhood is drawing to a close. But I won't dwell on it. I know good things are coming. At 2 pm today, March 30, you will officially enter the teen years. You are going to be the smartest, kindest, funniest teenager I know. 

Happy Birthday, Keegan!
We all love you like crazy. Remember, we are your family and we've got your back. 
Hope this is one of your best years ever.
Love always and always, 

John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. 
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Breakfast Guy

Recently I've been inspired to write more in this blog. I have quite a few stories to share, and if I wait too long I will forget them all. 
Part of the reason I write reluctantly is that stories, if messed up in the writing, never seem to go back to their original poignant place in my mind. So in order not to do harm, I do no good. 

Basically I've been taking myself too seriously and just need to get on with it. 

A couple of Septembers ago I had the fun and joy of heading off to a two day Writer's Conference in Edmonton. It was fabulous - I had a hotel room to myself, I was surrounded by like-minded people, and there were books and poetry and learning hour upon hour. 
I didn't really know anyone but that was fine; I chatted and got to know a few interesting people here and there, and I like solitude when I can find it. 
The conference was a bit crowded, people-wise. Tables were put together and there was lots of walking sideways between chairs and saying, "Excuse me, sorry, can I get by here", which made lunch time rather entertaining. For breakfast we were on our own, and some went out but most stayed in the hotel and ate at the little restaurant downstairs.
The second morning I slept late, and found myself fairly alone, standing outside the restaurant with a few stragglers coming in or going out. A table of about six writers conversed seriously over a second or third coffee, picking through the remains of an earlier feast.
The waiter was a trifle harried and glanced at me sideways as if to say, "great, we've got another one wanting a rush order," but he sat me down at a table on the side, big enough for two, and poured me that first grateful coffee. I decided on the continental buffet. Might as well save him some stress. 

Facing the lobby area, I noticed a guy in his early 30's, dressed in dark coloured working clothes and construction boots, heading toward the restaurant. He approached confidently, but became hesitant as the waiter pointed out the lack of tables. There was absolutely nowhere to sit. He looked perplexed, blinked a few times around, said something again to the waiter, and then slowly turned toward the door. He had the reluctant stance of someone with nowhere else to go. The waiter was very apologetic. 
It happened much faster than the time it takes to relate, but I did think it over. "What would people think?" flashed through my head for 3 seconds, after which I raised my hand and called the guy over. 
"Excuse me, would you like to sit here?"
 I gestured to the empty seat in front of me. 
"I'll be gone soon", I added to convince him. Honestly I thought he would probably decline. Come in and sit down with a total stranger? Eat breakfast with said stranger? Who does this! The woman might have a screw loose. 

The key to doing crazy and interesting things is to think much more about how another person feels and much less about how you feel.

As he walked over and took the chair opposite, thanking me sincerely but not profusely, I thought, "This is going to be fine. As long as he doesn't think I'm hitting on him. Or even if he does, really." 
I took great care to be matter-of-fact. I kept the conversation light. I told him about the writers conference, and he ordered a large egg-and-bacon-filled breakfast. We kept talking.
 He had been married only a couple of years, working hard, and thinking about having kids. Or one, anyway, they would start with that and see. I agreed, one baby at a time was the way to go, if at all possible. He had a dog, a German shepherd I think, that he was very attached to, which was either with him during a stint in Afghanistan or waited for him at home - I can't quite recall. I told him about my kids and my husband, about our recent move to Three Hills, about missing the forests and working at whatever I could find, though I was a teacher by training. 
We munched our food. My fruit and raspberry muffin, his toast piled high with jam alongside dripping eggs and bacon, sausages, orange juice, the works. He was making short work of his meal.
It was funnily companionable, and I glanced around wondering if anyone had noticed this unlikely breakfasting. If they had, they probably thought nothing of it. Just two people eating. 

Later, after he had left, I thought about it. The invitation probably wouldn't have worked with just anyone. Having spent some time overseas, he would have known how to talk to strangers, how to be calm and make himself understood. He was confident but not brash. On the other side, me, who has always felt pretty comfortable meeting new people and being in new situations. It could have been awkward, or downright strange, or even slightly creepy, but it wasn't. 

He finished up, and I went back to the buffet for a few more strawberries. Or something. When I came back, he had paid and was going to savour a last cup of coffee. I learned that he was working at a construction site close by, and stopped here for breakfast almost every weekday morning. He said it kept him going all day, as he liked to work straight through. I asked a bit about the work, what they were building. We chatted pleasantly for a few more minutes.
He had to get going, though, he was expected to start work at 9 am. 

The Breakfast Guy did tell me his name, but I've since forgotten and anyway wouldn't share it, obviously. He stood up and thanked me again. Said he wouldn't have had time to find food anywhere else and would have had a miserable and hungry morning, and he was grateful. I said think nothing of it. Why should I sit here, hogging an entire table? It was lovely, I said, and I hoped he would have a good day. We said goodbye. 
When the waiter came closer I asked for the bill. The first session of the day had undoubtedly begun and I should get in there. The waiter told me that the gentleman had paid my bill, and my eyes watered suddenly. He must have done it when I was at the buffet! How very nice. I supposed we were even, now. I smiled. 
I didn't feel like leaving the table, the moment, for some reason. As soon as I stood, and plates cleared - his messy egg and hash brown dishes, my small plates of crumbs,  two empty coffee cups - the story would be over and everything tame and sane once more. 

I walked into the conference and sat quietly, listening to the speaker. I felt a bit outside of things.  No one knew about my breakfast story, that a complete stranger had become a friend. I felt warm inside, like my heart was really in there. I thought of how amazing people and life can sometimes be. If you see them, that is, and invite them to sit at your table. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

10 Reasons Halloween is the Worst Holiday Ever

Ok, if you already feel offended by the title...stop reading now. While you still like me and think I'm a good person. 

And the first reason to despise Halloween goes to.....

1) Expensive Candy!!! People who can't afford to buy their kids a lunch for school are spending $50 on a few boxes of miniscule chocolate bars. And by people, I mean me.

2) Girls Flooze-fest. 
Best excuse to look like a $2 hooker ever?? Halloween!! "Whatev. It's my costume! I'm in character!!" Yep, that you are sweet pea.  

3) Stranger Danger.
For 364 days of the year: Never take candy from strangers! 
On October 31: Tonight, in the dark, take all the candy from all the strangers!! 
Makes sense, right? 

4) Church Celebrations.
Not that they are all bad, I've participated in a few over the years. But a part of me was thinking, "Why are we trying to whitewash this? If something's wrong with it, don't do it. If not, go out in your community and participate. 
Otherwise the message to kids is really messed up.  "Hey kids! Halloween is evil and of the devil. BUT you're in luck!! Because this celebration that has the exact same components of dressing up and eating candy BUT is at the church...will blow your mind! And best of all, you never have to interact with someone who doesn't believe the same things you do!!!"

5) Calories. Excessive access to excess. 

6) Darned If You Do...
If you want to go out to dinner or a movie, or anywhere at all, and your windows are dark and candy-less, everyone will hate you. Kids might egg your house and call you a cheap spoilsport and maybe some other names. 
However, if you stay home and dutifully hand out candy, you my friend, are a prisoner. Think Will Smith in I Am Legend, blowing things up to keep zombies off his walls. You'll be desperately calling in favours from friends if you run out of candy, so stock up. It's like the night of December 31, 1999 and you're out looking for a generator, a flashlight, and a can of beans. Good luck. 

7) Headless Monsters!!
Say you live 15 miles out in the country, with small children, and no indicators of celebration whatsoever, a grown man will come to your house in a headless gore costume, lurch through your living room, scare the crap out of your wide-eyed littles, and take all the candy you were hoping to eat in peace after the kids were in bed. 
True story, bro. 

8) The "Decorations".
 So any other day of the year, a skull, headstone, and coffin on your lawn is pretty much a faux pas. But on October 31, it's simply Good Fun!!
(Didn't mean to rhyme there, actually..) "Woohoo!! DEATH and all his friends...I think I'll make a shrine to them in my front yard!!"

9) Driving is Hazardous.
 What if you have to drive somewhere?! It happens! And the streets and sidewalks are rabid with small zombies and princesses, darting in and out of alleys, wearing masks (so they can't see) and black costumes (so you can't see). Worst part is if you do run over one of the little beggars people will just assume it's part of someone's over-zealous lawn decor! 

10) 50% Off Candy ...the Next Day
The 10th and final reason why I'm a Halloween grinch is because on Oct 30 the populace is busy handing over their arms and legs for candy and costumes.... And then, "magically" on November 1st the candy is half-price. And the costumes you couldn't afford are now completely affordable.  When I get my time machine, I will set it to November 10th, buy everything cheap-like-borscht, and then scoot back to October 31 and gleefully lay out scads of candy. I'll be the hero of the block. 

Also spiders. Ugh! Big black ones crawling up people's front steps, bouncing giddily from preschool ceilings, and suspended over grocery checkout counters.
Why is this a thing?!

Alas, I'm out of numbers. And there is apparently a holy, unwritten law about going past 10 on a list, so we're done.

And rest easy, I've decided to stay home this year and fit in to polite society, dutifully lobbing Skittle-sized chocolate bars into your kids pillowcases or their $10 orange plastic jack-o-lanterns.
Now, if I hand out toothbrushes and little things of dental floss instead, does that make me a bad person?
Or how about IOU's for a handful of candy on November 2nd? .......Not polite hey. Well alright then. 

By the way, if you have any items to add to the list, either serious or facetious, please feel free to leave a comment. Or if you think I'm out to lunch. Let me know! No problem.