It’s the Little Things

Little thingsThe Mitton crew has just returned home from a lovely vacation in our summer dwelling.  It truly was lovely.  Except, that about two days in, I got sunburnt.  It was my own fault, really, I did not re-apply the sunblock and could feel the crispy-ness attacking my legs… but was simply too lazy to head back in to shore from the rubber dingy I was lounging in.  Consequence received, I spent the next few days slightly pinked and diligently re-applying the “after sun” aloe vera gel and searching for home remedies for sunburn.  Then the youngest got a sliver in her foot after dancing around barefoot on the dock.  Why is a sliver always the biggest disaster to a small child?  Breathe.  Dig out the blessed thing, slap a Band-Aide there, and move on.  Sheesh.  I soon discovered that it’s the little things in life that make up your days.  Much to the delight of that same little girl, we also fed pistachios to a cheeky little black squirrel who was just brave enough to come near.  We watched the sun go down over the lake and marvelled at the orange and pink glows that silhouetted the trees beyond us.  We giggled under the covers as we read our book late into the night.  None of these things were super adventurous.  We didn’t save the world or climb a mountain.  There were no great heros.  None of these things were utter disasters, either.  There were no trips to the hospital or bank loans needed.  And yet, as I seek to be more grateful, I am again reminded that often it’s the little things that matter.  You can consider this post my gratitude journal of sorts.  A documentation of things that simply remind me of why I should be happy.Little things3

As time goes on and my hair gets a few more streaks of grey in it, I can’t help but stop and remember the days when the kids were babes and we rejoiced at their first steps, and encouraged them as they splashed and played in the sand at the beach.  The greatest joys were when the sandcastle moat collapsed and you had to quickly breach the leaks before the whole kingdom was washed away in the floods.  Slivers were a big deal then too.  But so was jumping off the dock, and pushing the limits was getting just a bit closer to putting their whole face under the water!  Now they strut about with their friends like proud peacocks, hoping mom and dad don’t totally embarrass them by acknowledging their presence.  Oh — the horror — you have parents!

I am delighted to see you grow and come into your own as you begin to lead.  To begin to take more chances and go off on your own.  To not only put your face underwater, but jump wholeheartedly forward… willing to sink or swim. I remember hearing a preacher say once that when you are a new mom, you should be thankful for every Cheerio you pick up off the floor — revel in the moment that you are in right now.  Little ThingsTo be honest, if you are that new mom… you have no desire to be thankful for those blasted bits of cereal… I know, I been there, sister…  but now that some time has passed, I can tell you…yup…it’s true… you are thankful for the Cheerios.  Psychology tells us that there are benefits to gratitude, to counting our blessings and to recognizing that seeking joy makes us healthier.  (Just so you know: it’s not psychology… it’s a God thing…)

Our lives are so full of little things.  The everyday blessings and hurts of this journey we call life.  The slivers and the sunsets.  I am trying to enjoy the learning process — are you?  Are you taking time to revel in the moment that you are in right now?  To not complain about your aches and pains, your lack of wifi, your bank balance or what the weather is doing?  It’s hard.  I get it.  I have those days too… when I am tired and sad and everything seems to go kaput.  But we are here for a only a brief moment, a mere blip in the eternity of time.  So pull out that splinter, slap a Band-Aide on there, eat the Cheerio off the floor, and go jump in the lake!Little things2

 

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The Green Debate

The green debateThere has been a tonne of articles showing up on my social media feeds about the environment lately.  Have you seen this thing about banning plastic straws?  Many environmentalists are looking to curb the use of plastics, with particular focus on the energy consuming, and very damaging, tiny plastic straw.  The topic was supposedly listed for discussion among the G7 leaders this spring.   Vancouver is set to ban all plastic straws, containers and foam cups by June of 2019 — the first Canadian city to do so.  Apparently, even the Queen has “gone green” and banned plastic straws and bottles on all royal estates.   It’s a hot topic and got me a thinkin’… what is our responsibility to the environment?

Now let me state for the record… I really try and do my part for the earth.  I am forever turning out lights in my house… which gets me critiqued all the time for “living in darkness”.  I recycle often and buy used.  I turn off the tap when I brush my teeth.  I tried banning juice boxes in school lunches after a debate broke out at a school council meeting over — you guessed it — non-recyclable plastic straws.  It didn’t go over so well… my kids instantly rebelled at the lovely reusable drinking containers I purchased and demanded the return of the convenient juice box.  It’s just simpler when you have a large family to go with what is easiest.  I see these adorable Instagram posts of zero waste, environmentally friendly products and wonder… do these people have children?!  Do these people have millions of dollars?!  It’s a huge crisis in my brain when I go to the store and have the option of buying two products… one “green” and one … well… cheap.  I am sorry to say… I opt for cheap.  Sustainability.  Is it really cost effective? Why is it cheaper for me to feed my family of six at McDonalds than to buy organically grown, local vegetables?! Something is wrong.

Perhaps it is moving in the right direction, however… McDonald’s has apparently began looking at the straw thing.  With good reason.  Americans use over 500 million plastic straws per day!! Most of those are used for less than 20 minutes and end up floating around in the ocean.  These and other plastics take forever to degrade… which means that 90% of our marine animals have consumed plastics in their lifetimes… simply mistaking it for food.  This doesn’t include the other environmental hazards like entanglement, toxic leakage and who knows what else.  So far though… I still get a straw when I order my lemonade.  What do I do, then?  I have seen arguments on both sides.  I read a good one about how a complete banning of straws would impact the special needs world significantly.  Many people need the convenience of a plastic straw because of medical or mobility issues, and the alternatives are not suitable.  Hmmmn.  The debate digs deeper…

So let’s take it even further… when is the last time you heard a sermon on caring for the environment in your local church?  Oh. Oh.  We debate sex, drugs, rock and roll — we even dabble in politics and the love of money — but not much gets said about banning straws in church.  Should we be concerned about the environment?In fact, social science studies show that the far right christian worldview is much less concerned with the environment than the general public.  Either because we want to stay away from “tree hugging new age philosophies” that worship all nature as “god”, or because we simply think that this world is all going to be gone anyway when Christ comes back so why worry about it?  And so I muse… WHY?

Is there a need for Jesus followers to be concerned about the environment?  Should we be going green?  Or is it not something we need to be concerned about?  I did a quick google search… and was quite surprised to see very little information about the green debate, the environment and christianity.  A few articles about those radicals, a few scientific studies about how we don’t care… but very few about sermons or discussions on the topic.  One that I did find was a transcript of a podcast by Chip Ingram of livingontheedge.org.  He has a two part series on this very subject.  I encourage you to check it out!  Since I am not an expert, I was pleased to find that the Bible does indeed have lots to say about the environment, and how we should care for it!  It really is a spiritual discipline that we should be considering more.  God created this earth.  He gave it to us to take care of.  Yes, we have “dominion” over it and we were called to “subdue” it… but Ingram does a good job of explaining what that means… it’s not simply to rule and overtake… but a delicate balance of working within the confines of what God has set in motion for our Earth.  We are to preserve the beauty and the natural cycle of the land… without worshipping it.  Did the Israelites know about organic soils and nitrogen replenishing?  No… but God instructed them to let the land rest.  God gives us so many rich resources… and the means to preserve them… if only we would consider it.  I encourage you to dig a little deeper with me, and truly discover what God does say about this issue.  It’s an interesting muse.  Perhaps there will have to be a “Part 2” to this post as I continue to learn…

Until then, I will still be turning out the lights in my house.  I will try and lug-a-mug to church for the coffee fellowship.  I am going to try and explore a bit more about how to be “greener” (and continue to be jealous of those instagram posts).  Will I convince my kids to not use juice boxes?  Time will tell.  Maybe Kermit the Frog had it right:  It isn’t easy being green.not easy being green

 

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Uniquely Canadian

#canadaHappy Birthday, Canada!  (For those of you reading in various other parts of the world… Canada turned 151 on July 1st!)  At the Mitton household,  Canada Day usually represents the beginning of our summer holidays and sun, sand and fun!  There is usually a sea of red and white and everyone seems to be relatively happy.  Personally, if I was 151, I’d be worrying about wrinkles and how blotchy my skin looked decked out in red and white… but I’m not Canada, so I guess it’s okay.  I’ve been to quite a few parts of this wonderful nation and I am happy to report, she looks pretty good for her grand ol’ age!  We should be proud.  This week I was reflecting a little bit about the end of school and moving on, and how Canada is portrayed within the schools I visit.  When I was in elementary school,  we learned to memorize all the provinces with this funny little song… it was so cheesy and the video isn’t much better… but it is still the only way I can name them all.  Great.  Now the diddy is stuck in my head and my kids are going to tease me about it.  And my lack of geography skills.  I am positive they sing much better songs at the library now… Let’s hope so!  Besides, they added more territories to the list, which I am sure is part of the curriculum in 2018.  Do they still have to colour maps in school?  It was the only thing about geography that I really liked.  Ahhh…. Canada!#geography

I’m going to date myself even more, and tell you that we used to say that Canada is a “mosaic” and not a “melting pot” of people.  This means that we are not simply assimilated into one, but a complex blend of many.  A wonderful tapestry of unique threads woven together to create a single, big, beautiful picture.  The wonderful thing about it is that so many cultures are represented here, so many futures shaped from generations of traditions brought over from other places, a unique mix of old, new and slightly murky mixes of both.  We are certainly not perfect… and leaving all politics aside, there is no way that I can claim we haven’t had our fair share of ups and downs in the last 151 years; but we have much to be grateful for.  Picture HeavenI am blessed that I can learn from my neighbour, to sample rich and diverse foods, and to hear the melodious sounds of many voices — each in their own languages.  To continue to learn and be educated.  We are not judged by the clothes we wear, or the music we listen to, or the person we voted for.  We are the true North, strong and free.

Won’t heaven be a bit like that?  Can you imagine the sounds of thousands of generations praising God with one voice, and yet each one definitive and distinctly heard by our Lord?  Each person a representation of a unique life, molded and shaped by the Master.  Every soul carrying the memories of tears… both in joy and sorrow.  (okay… I know… no sorrow in Heaven… but you know what I mean! 🙂 ) I love that!  I love how God created us uniquely different!  We share differently, we love differently, we fight differently, we learn differently!  It should be a reminder to us, though… that we cannot share our faith with others in exactly the same way.  We are all on journeys.  What makes perfect sense to one, may not have any significance to others.   Yet, Christ is perfectly the same.  Unwavered by the push and pulls of a fallen world.  Paul reminds us of this in Philippians 3: that our goal is not to be perfect (humanly speaking) but to follow the One who is!  My friends, are you not encouraged by this?!  He takes our mosaic — our shattered pieces of “us”  —  and makes one big, beautiful picture to present before our Maker in Heaven.  AMAZING!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So… as you are putting away all the red and white decorations and fretting over all the BBQ goodies you ate this long weekend… be reminded that one day we get to celebrate again as perfect 151 year-olds!  Our goal is not here on this land… but Heaven.  Until then… here are some “uniquely Canadian” things just for fun:

  • Crispy Crunch chocolate bars
  • Tim Hortons  (not only a hockey legend… but the best coffee ever… double double… also a phrase unique to us only!)
  • Canadians built the first UFO landing pad in St. Paul, Alberta (1967) (hehe…St. Paul… get it?…eyes always on the heavens…)
  • 15 500 out of the world’s 25 000 Polar Bears live in Canada
  • we say “pencil crayons” not “coloured pencils” (and spell coloured with a “u” — oh geography map students!!)
  • it’s pronounced “zed” not “zee” and “pop” not “soda”

And why not some Canadian inventions to round us out:  the electron microscope (yeah science!), basketball, hockey, IMAX, insulin, the wonderbra (good thing…), heart pacemakers (also great!), and the blackberry phone (oh, I miss mine… but we are not perfect, right?)  Happy Birthday, Canada.2

 

P.S. Exciting news coming soon!!  Wanna make sure you don’t miss out?!  Click the follow button on the side bar to get email updates!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Teacher’s Gifts: A Lesson in Gratitude

DIYTeacherGift

Okay, confession time.  I am not good at being grateful.  Oh,  I have manners and know when to say please and thank you and I’m sorry (I’m Canadian afterall!) but I am not so good at being full of gratitude.  Recently, I was having a discussion with some friends about this topic of gratitude and it triggered a thought… are my children truly thankful for all they have?  Am I truly thankful for all I have?!  I live in a wonderful country where I am free to post my feelings and thoughts on a blog such as this.  I have food on the table, clothes on my back, and a roof over my head.  We have two cars and a place we can enjoy in the summer.  Our family is truly blessed.  In fact, I think we have way too much!  I have to start sorting and sharing as soon as the hamster wheel slows down.  Gratitude is tricky.  Are words enough?  Do we need to repay the kindness of a gift with another, reciprocal gift?  How do we be good examples to our children and show kindness and exude gratitude without being caught in the cycle of looking like we want something in return?  I don’t have the answer to this one.  Leave me a comment if you have some insight!

What I do know, is that we gotta start somewhere!  So, I decided that after my friendly discussion and sudden enlightenment about my lack of proper parenting, I knew that I had to tackle some thank you gifts!  The end of the school year is a great time to make some gratitude filled, easy to make, teacher thank you gifts!  These ones were pretty frugal too… an added bonus!  #gratitudeWe started out with some simple, dollar-store clay pots and leftover plastic buckets from spring planting… and then decorated away with paints and stickers and ribbons — stuff I had hanging around from other projects.  The paint didn’t stick to the green plastic, so we used some fun stickers and ABC’s for those.  The youngest and I had a nice bonding time doing some crafting… and it was a great opportunity for me to encourage her.  She didn’t think her bee looked quite right… so we added whimsical googly eyes … with such a cute result!

Next, we spooned in some dirt and simply added cuttings from some of my overgrown house plants!  This not only served our purpose, but gave us another opportunity to discuss sharing and being thankful for what we already have!  Succulents are perfect for this, as you don’t need much preparation ahead of time… simply snip and stick in some soil… this kalanchoe we had was spreading and already had tiny root shoots… so was easy to transplant.  We also separated some herbs and a lovely purple shamrock plant.  In the end, we had six quick and easy (and almost free!) gifts… enough for three elementary teachers and a few great sunday school helpers!  Some hand made cards topped off the lesson in gratitude (hand written by the kids, of course!) and volila!

TeachersRSpecial

Teachers are very special people… and I am forever telling our four beloveds that teachers play a huge part in their lives!  Trust me… it is really hard to impart information to a large group of young people from diverse backgrounds who often don’t want to be sitting in that desk in front of you.  Especially when they come with a set of parents watching your every move.  Be kind to teachers.  They are human too.  They need some love and thanks after a full year in the classroom!

I’m not sure that my gratitude level has jumped too many degrees up the scale from this project… but at least it gave me a chance to chat a bit with the youngest two — and share some love around.  Perhaps it’s a start.  Perhaps it will “grow” on us as we practice more…. Sorry… couldn’t resist… some teacher taught me about puns once… aren’t you grateful? 🙂

 

P.S.  Once you have said “thank you” to your beloved teachers and said good-bye for another school year… keep following mittonmusings.com!  Click the follow button on the side bar … I have some exciting changes coming this summer!  You won’t want to miss it!!

 

 

 

How to be a Superhero!

If you have been following my blog for any amount of time, you will know that I love a great photo.  A great photographer captures something in that photo that allows it’s viewer to experience something through the photo.  Grief.  Joy.  Peace.  Haunting.  Something gets triggered when we view images.  (This is why it is important to guard our hearts and minds… images are so powerful!)  So… when I came across an article about photographer Josh Rossi, I was impressed with his work… not just because he is a super photographer, but because of the feelings he leaves behind his work.  If you clicked through and read his story, Josh Rossi is a full time photographer who has developed a few projects for some super kids.  The article I first discovered was about his justice league project — using sick kids.  Many of these kids faced lifelong or terminal illnesses and he wanted to create a project that gave them power… the power of a superhero!  His recent images features kids passionate about stopping the bullying issue.  His images portray the children as the true super heroes they are.  Strong, courageous and willing to fight.

So I began to muse again… what constitutes a “superhero”?  Why the fascination? Why do we long for superheros and stories of power and strength?  They have been around for decades… and the fad continues as Marvel, DC and even Disney want to cash in on our cravings for the ultimate “saviour”.

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Photo via Twitter

According to quora.com, Superman’s appearance in 1938, is considered by many as the first “superhero”.  The man of steel.   Faster than a speeding bullet!  More powerful than a locomotive!  Able to leap tall buildings… Well… you get the picture…  The debate among comic book enthusiasts is whether characters like John Carter (1911) or Tarzan (1912) were the true start of our superhero quest or was Superman the first?  Which is better?  DC or Marvel?  No matter when the first comic hero was hailed, the result carries through to our recent creations… Black Panther, Wonder Woman, Justice League and the like.   Heck, even the Lego Movie’s, Emmet, LEGO Emmetcan be awarded superhero status if we consider the definition as follows:  a superhero is a character that has special powers that are used for fighting evil or helping people.  The definition has been expanded to include persons who’s character, through their actions/achievements are far greater than what people expect.  Mamoudou Gassama, the immigrant who scaled the four story building to save a four year old child is being hailed as a superhero.  Father’s day has just passed.  Perhaps your dad is your superhero — the one who saves you when the rent is due, or was able to fix everything when the car was dying, or seemed like the strong, stable one in your life.  Maybe it was your wonder woman mom who yielded the truth out of you every time with her lasso of truth (or her penetrating laser-eyed stare)!  I think we simply have a need somewhere deep in our souls that crave a hero.  I also think we were meant to be one for others.

I am convinced that we were created to fight against the evil in this world… to stand for truth and justice and to defeat the villainous notions that creep in to our society.  The hard part is deciding what side to stand on.  Moralities are easily swayed by time and the voice of a few vocal radicals.  Many areas are “grey”.  The next generation is growing up in a world where absolute truths are nonexistent.  There are very few black and whites left.  Society oscillates on the pendulum of good and evil almost daily.  Each of us have our own personal kryptonites.  And yet, we are told that we are “…more than conquerors…” (Romans 8) and when we pray and ask and seek … we have the power to move mountains!

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Photo via DiviantArt Arunion

That is strength, people!  Supernatural, superhuman strength!  So why do so many of us feel defeated?  Do we not have enough faith?  Do we let our own insecurities get in the way?  Why have the Incredibles all gone back to leading mild mannered lives?  Hung up our super suits for life as boring insurance brokers?  Perhaps we simply have to take the first step.  To be willing to stop the pendulum swing.  To declare that atrocities must stop.

 

Henceforth, my fellow warriors… I hereby challenge you to take up your swords and shields of faith to follow me as I join you in the battle against injustices!  We must truly study as well-informed sages, to follow the leads of good, wise and patient masters, to test our skills and practice and improve upon our weaknesses.  So that when the enemy approaches, we can stand against the wicked schemes and fight as super heros.  To be hailed as one who’s actions and achievements are far greater than what others expect. It will not be easy.  It may involve blood, sweat and tears.  It might mean facing fears.  It will certainly be difficult.  Yet, when our photograph is taken at the end of the battle and stuck up on the refrigerator for others to see, will you and I be hailed as a heros?   I trust we will be able to wear our badges of honour with pride, and know that within our small circles of influences, we were able to stand tall, to be strong and courageous, and to make a difference in our world.  Now go do it.armour of God

 

 

A Restful Moment

Ever Feel Like You are on the Perpetual Hamster Wheel_Have you ever felt like you were on a perpetual hamster wheel?  Spinning ’round and ’round and never really getting anywhere?  Busy, but not much is getting accomplished.  That’s what I feel like I’ve been doing these last couple of weeks.  It’s a busy time of year at work and I have been up at the crack of dawn, travelling around, saving the world (a class at a time) through the wonders of hands-on science.   When I get home later, the dishes and laundry have piled up, and even though I try and get the house back in some semblance of order, it’s not really “clean” and all I really want to do is nap.  The kids are heading into exams, year end projects and track finals.  The oldest is already off preparing colour coded lists and organizing for her summer job.  My beloved has been holding down the fort and filling in by playing “domestic goddess” after work.  He is such a great help — tidying and getting the kids where they need to be.  I guess I will keep him. 🙂  We are all looking forward to the end of June and the beginning of summer holidays.

As a couple, we thought we might have gotten a little break last weekend when the two of us attended the AGC National Conference in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.  He was going for work and I got to go as a delegate this year … which really means an excuse to follow him.  He has attended such conferences numerous times, so for my hubby, the extrovert he is, this weekend was connecting again with people he knows and shares memories with.  For the wallflower, introverted me, it was more smiling and nodding and 3 days of making small talk with people I don’t really know over scheduled, albeit wonderfully catered, coffee breaks. abide The days were full of business meetings, numbers and a lot of reports.  Now don’t get me wrong,  I have a weakness for meetings.  I actually like taking notes and hearing stories and love to see lists and goal setting trends and charts.  It’s the people I need to learn to love.  A few of the conference attendees (hubby included) found it difficult to sit for 8 hours straight and look at statistics.  Their answer to day long meetings?  Spend your free time climbing up and down seven flights of stairs and trekking through the Niagara escarpment along the raging Niagara river to take in the view.  Sorry… there are only so many wonders of the world you can see until it all just begins to look like moss covered rocks.

ApplewoodWhat I did enjoy was one quiet moment of reflection on the porch of our quaint little Bed & Breakfast in the beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake area not far from the conference.  A quiet retreat nestled in surrounding shade gardens complete with bird feeders and…. free range chickens!  (Did I mention I want chickens? You can read about my zoo here.) The inn is even within walking distance to a couple wineries — so we indulged in the luxury of a glass one night after a full day of meetings.  Applewood Hollow might be a bit on the higher end of the scale for an average conference attendee, but work was paying,  so we booked our two night stay complete with breakfasts in the little breakfast nook just outside our room.  Jane, our host,  makes a “to die for” rhubarb crisp and she swears her chickens make the freshest egg/asparagus quiche.  (It was yummy!)  The guest rooms are private and down the hall from the main house,  which is kind of nice for a small B&B. The bedrooms are in the loft overlooking the gardens.   Tastefully decorated and clean, the guest house is a very nice stay.  It would be a charming venue for an artist/writer/speaker looking to get away and work, or even a romantic anniversary getaway.  I recommend it.  One morning, I took advantage of the views, visited the chickens, snapped some photos, and watched a beautiful, big blue jay eat his breakfast at the feeder.  My heart was calmed and peace once again ensued as the hamster wheel slowed for that one brief moment.QuietMoment

Everybody has those times when they are busy.  Bogged down by all the “duties” of life and pie charts.  Even Jesus.  He travelled across the country attending “conferences” on hill tops… and thousands gathered to take in His words or experience His miraculous deeds.  He, too, got away from the people once and awhile and reflected on His purposes and re-focused.  I wonder if He liked asparagus quiche?  He tells us to refresh and renew, to reconnect with God, to find rest when we are weary (Matt. 11).  It is so good for our souls.

Are you feeling weary, my friend?  Drained by your to-do list and on the never ending treadmill of “catching up?”  Take heart.  Then take a break.  Breathe in the fresh air of reconnecting with God and the beauty of His nature.  If you get a chance, go visit Jane and her chickens at Applewood Hollow in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Say hello to my blue jay friend for me — and try the rhubarb crisp!

Dinosaur Fossils: My First Guest Post!

 

Thanks so much for following along with me at mittonmusings.com!  I am encouraged by my steady increase in “followers” and am thoroughly enjoying the adventure.  Thank you for participating in the journey!  If you care to share, please pass on your favourite post via google+, facebook, bloglovin’, instagram or pinterest!  Drumroll… I am now tweeting on Twitter too!  You can also email your friends the link or follow along via wordpress reader!  Ha!  You can even TALK to others about it… how crazy would that be?! I am quickly learning that in the blog “underworld” (yes, it truly is another world lying in the shadows of a undiscovered realm of bloggers and writers in this thing we call the internet!) sharing is the biggest way that you can grow! As I learn to put myself  “out there”,  I am happy to announce that I have shared in my first guest post!  So… instead of posting another blog this week… please head on over to visit Anna at abrazoandcoze.com and read all about my easy dinosaur fossil craft!

 

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I’ll be back next Tuesday with another muse about something close to my heart!  Until then, encourage one another, love deeply and smile a little.  🙂

 

Dragons Among Us

DragonsAmongUsWe live in a zoo.  And it is not just the wildebeest kids, either.  Currently, in our tiny, two story bungalow, we have:  two cats, a turtle, about 30 fish that keep multiplying, my pond specimens for work,  three rats (we’re down from eight rescues), corner web-dwelling spiders, and a variety of dust bunnies — all living happily with the six of us.  We also dog sit from time to time.  So, I was a little hesitant when the oldest son wanted a bearded dragon for his birthday.  That is a rather stout lizard, in case you were unaware.  Now, don’t get me wrong… I love my creatures!  I worked for a veterinarian clinic for three decades and have always loved animals.  I was that little girl who rescued the newly hatched classroom ducklings and brought them to live in our bathtub for the weekend.  I had an ant farm in my bedroom drawer.  I studied zoology for four years.  I do pets.  Alas, one more creature in the household meant more work and more time.  Not to mention that this particular child often quickly becomes enamored with an idea and promptly changes it to move on to a different life goal.  Magic tricks, guitar lessons, Lego masterpieces, the giant Ninja Warrior obstacle course… perhaps he’s a little like his mom and dives into projects.  Continuous learning is an amicable trait, right?  So I waited for a bit, hoping he may “grow out of” the idea of another pet.  He did not.

Thus, “Indy” has arrived.  “Indy”, short for “Indiana Jones” , the legendary archaeologist played by Harrison Ford of the great 80’s films… Temple of Doom and all that.  My house was becoming the Temple of Doom according to grandma, auntie and a few cautious friends who are now reluctant to visit.  Normally, I am the one who is all “whohoo” for new pets… and I don’t have a problem with reptiles… I have had lizards and snakes before… but for some reason, this little guy freaks me out a bit.  Maybe I am getting old.  Maybe it is the way it cocks it’s head slightly left and stares at me with it’s beady little eye as though it is trying to figure out what I am.  It seems to be listening to my very thoughts.  No wonder they call them dragons.  Maybe it is because it is still a “juvenile” and small enough to quickly skitter across the floor versus saunter casually like the laid back lizard I envisioned.  My limited knowledge of bearded dragons (“Beardies” as they are affectionately called by enthusiasts), tells me that they are easy to care for, bond well with their owners and “hang out” with you.  They also eat crickets.  Live crickets.  More creatures to keep viable.  *Sigh*  WelcomingIndyIt is pretty though… kinda spiky with a hint of orange throughout it’s grey-flecked, scaly, skin.  It’s belly is surprisingly soft and cuddly.  “Indy” is learning to “hang out” with it’s owner… until it randomly jumps away… adding to my anguish that it will be devoured by a cat.

Assuming it does not get eaten, “Indy” will be with us for the next 10-14 years or so, so I guess I better get used to the sound of crickets and it’s beady little eye-stare.  It’s a slow process, but I am “adjusting”.  The Australian native is kinda cool to watch — snapping up it’s prey in toothless gulps and munching down greens.  Bearded dragons are omnivores… which means they eat both meat and plants.  So at least my leftover salad is getting used.  It’s also pretty neat the way it buries itself to keep cool in the sand under a log after basking in the heat lamp in that weird yoga pose it mastered.  As time passes, Lovingdragons“Indy” and I are establishing an acceptable living relationship.  Have you ever had a relationship with one of those people who you are not quite sure of?  Maybe someone who creeps you out a bit?  Or stares at you with a beady-eye and cocks their head slightly left and you just know they are thinking evil thoughts about you?  Or maybe they really have turned your home into the Temple of Doom, and have hurt you deeply or someone you love.  Life is hard, my friends, and loving our “dragons” is even harder.

I was recently teaching a Sunday school class about the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  The familiar passage is all about relationships.  Hard relationships.  It’s not easy to mend trust and forgive our enemies.  It’s not easy to mourn a lost loved one.  It’s not easy to make peace when you live among those who randomly jump at you when all you want to do is “hang out” and bond.  Verse 45 tells us that “… He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  We all live under the same heat lamp, my friends.  We have to learn to get along.  Do we have to be best friends and share leafy greens?  No.  Dragons are very happy to be left alone sometimes.  We are called to live peaceably and to forgive.  To share our space and make some room on our log so that each of us can bask in the light a little.  To cool off in the sand and “hang out” again when the time comes.  Perhaps I could learn a little from our new pet.  Now if only I didn’t have to feed the accursed crickets!


Want to learn more about keeping Bearded Dragons as pets?  Check out our Pinterest page for lots more references.  We are not experts yet, so encourage you to seek out the professionals on this adventure!  

 

The Search for the Perfect Photo Among the Cherry Blossoms

mittonmusingsIt was a most gorgeous weekend when the hubby and I went to visit a new (at least to us) tourist attraction in our city.  We journeyed with hundreds (maybe even thousands!) of other park goers to participate in the century-old Japanese tradition of Sakura Hanami, or cherry blossom flower viewing.  He was out to walk.  I was out for the perfect close up photo.  Both of us marveled at the shear number of people out enjoying the spring weather… and a little frustrated when we discovered that most of them drove.  Traffic was brutal.  Some quick prayers for patience and the perfect parking spot had us on our way.  We weren’t quite sure what we were looking for as we descended the steep steps and made our way to the interior of the park.  So far, the hubby was getting his workout wish. I was getting dirty feet and tired knees.

According to the “Sakura Project” websites, this tourist’s marvel came about when the Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara, presented 2000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakurathe (cherry trees) to Toronto citizens on April 1, 1959 on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo, Japan as a gift for Toronto’s support of Japanese-Canadian refugees after the Second World War.  The city has added to those numbers, and now a grand display of God’s handiwork awaits the visitor who descends the hill.  It really is breath-taking.  Visions of royal weddings and Pride and Prejudice scenes are complimentary backdrops to the cherry blossom.  Romantic photos of girls in flowing dresses, bicycle rides and picnics with finger sandwiches and chilled champagne …well… you get it.  In Japanese culture, the cherry blossom tree represents the fragility and the beauty of life. The brief bloom period of the blossoms act as a reminder that life can be incredibly beautiful — but that it is also tragically short.  Wind and weather affect the blooming period as much as our trials and joys affect our lives. This is why the cherry blossom is used in so many Japanese items… stationary, dishes and special gifts.  It also accompanies many poems and paintings.  Perhaps a gentle reminder from our Maker as well?  I think so.

I wanted photographic bliss from this event.  I have been learning and playing with my camera and was hoping to get some good shots.  Alas, there are too many buttons on a camera.  Too many dials and never the right light.  Practice makes perfect, they say.  Tell that to my photo editing software.  *sigh* I will keep trying…  Here are a few of my favourites:CBCollectionsepia Cherry Blossom

So what can we learn from the cherry blossom? Besides the fact that we were happy to spend some time with just each other (flower gazing is not a family event– at least not without picnic lunches and lotsa snacks… and maybe a soccer ball and way less photo shoots).  We were also reminded that we need to make the most of our moments… because time is fleeting. This tiny, elegant flower only blooms for a short time.  Here… and then disappears.  It’s blooming season is easily affected by outside influences… rain, cold, wind.  The heartier varieties of cherry trees are the ones who don’t necessarily have pretty, ornamental blooms… but they produce the best fruit.  Maybe all that we do to get the most “pretty” The Perfect Photolook will only work for a short while.  I am astonished at how many beauty blogs are out there… the quest for the prettiest face is so real, my friends!  Perhaps the true fruit comes when we are well planted and are aware of the fact that we are fragile. The perfect photo doesn’t exist. Not even on Instagram. We have to practice and learn from others.  We have to descend the steps and walk a bit of life’s journey to see real beauty. We have to be patient with others.  We have to be kind to those who are fragile.  We have to recognize that outward appearances, although exceedingly beautiful at times, are not the final destination.  Our “blooming” is tragically short… and we need to make the most of it while we get a chance.

Mother’s Day Hoarding

forgetmenot2By the time you read this post, Mother’s Day (in Canada at least) will be over and the flower shops and restaurants will be filling their coffers with yet another year’s profits.  Teachers will be breathing a sigh of relief that their entire class of 27 six-year-olds managed not to kill off their forget-me-nots, which were sent home on Friday, delicately blooming in hand-painted pots destined for moms and grandmothers.  The “mommy-I made-it-all-by-myself breakfasts in bed” kitchens will once again be tidy and neat and the dose of antacid tablets will be taken to settle the fact that you actually ate that “mommy-I-made-it-all-by-myself” breakfast.  *gag*  The moms will smile and wink at the dads who managed a card and who dressed the kids for church and dinner so you could get two more full seconds of sleep on this “special day” (Trust me… little girl tights are not something dads should handle).  Oh… but friends, I promise you this:  We loved every minute of it!

Even now, as mom of two teens, a semi-adult, and an almost grown-up pre-teen, I still appreciate the grunt and nod of acknowledgement that is directed my way every once and awhile.  Come to think of it, I also still have to clean up the kitchen from the “mom-I-made-it-myself” messes.  Hmmn.  So, I muse:  Why?  Why do we, as moms, savour every glimmer of appreciation from our kids?  Why do we never forget a Mother’s Day, even as adults? I think because we were given this God given gift of connection the moment we weloveditheld those beloveds in our arms for the very first time.  According to some early-stage scientific research, we have things called “u-opioids” that are released in our brains when we are socially connected to someone… specifically our mothers.  It’s that whole bonding/proper imprinting thing that is exemplified by those little ducklings illustrated in classic children’s books.  Moms make us feel warm and fuzzy — so we connect — and are now willing to follow them into the water even though we have never swam with our newly hatched tail feathers before.  It’s already pre-wired in our brains.  (Reminds me of that post about chocolate.  In case you missed it, you can read about that here.)

I remember studying about Rhesus monkeys in animal behaviour — when removed from their mothers and isolated, the tiny monkeys clung to warm pieces of cloth in their cages… anything to help them feel safe.   Even the basic need for food was only used temporarily… the monkeys went back to the warm, safe feeling momma.

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It’s in our very nature to connect… especially to our moms. (Photo: via UoT research archives)

Not withstanding the controversies of animal research in the 1960’s, these studies certainly showed us something about our need for connection.  I’m sure it’s biological.  And spiritual. Or both.  How much more do complex humans struggle to connect and bond than our animal counterparts?  Our relationships are the key to our existence.  A God woven ticket into our complexities.  We are too fragile to exist without one another.  Every good Hollywood film or compelling book sets it’s protagonist in an entanglement of relationship woes — and we, as an audience, rejoice when they “live happily ever after”.

I don’t have any research to back it up, but I suspect that even moms who are not particularly close to their kids still hoard things that connect them to their children.  A picture, a note, a card.  Even estranged or adoption birth mothers reflect on the day of their child’s birth.  Just a little bit.  It’s really hard to ignore something that grew inside you for nine months.  I’m a die hard scrapbooker and have been since I was a child.  I collect every ticket stub, brochure and report card.  I have file folders for each one of my beloved offspring and a couple of random ones for the leftover stuff.  I am compelled to save these random trinkets — just in case.  Just in case I need to know that in grade 2 your sister got an 82 in English and was a “pleasure to have in our class”.  Seriously.  I have no idea why I keep these things.  I’m sure it has something to do with u-opioids.  Some inexplicable bond that keeps me connected to my kids and my kids to me — through random photos and sticky, wrinkled papers rescued from the bottoms of backpacks.  These things remind me of the experiences we have shared together — and so I hoard and pile them up as the kids grow into adulthood.

This was the first mother’s day without my sweet mother-in-law.  She was taken from us all too soon from the end stages of Alzheimer’s.  Even though her memories were clouded and her fragile body was fearful at times, the family rejoiced in glimmers of recognition at an old hymn, or at some pattern in the table that struck a chord with her somewhere back in the depths of her memories.  She loved to look at my family scrapbooks.  She’d point and smile, and you could tell something clicked.  This is why we keep these little bits of memorabilia.  Our humanness wants to connect.  We need to feel loved and nurtured.

So, if you are a young mom still struggling with sleepless nights and piles of laundry, I hate to tell you… not much changes.  We still have sleepless nights and laundry.  Only now we are awake because they are out past curfew.  And the laundry just stinks more.  But you learn to treasure the coloured mother’s day cards complete with sparkles that’s hoarded away in a folder.  Why?  Because they remind you of the times your little ones believed that you were all that mattered in the world, and they were willing to follow you into the pond water — no questions asked.  As they get older, your treasures become the Facebook likes on your posts,  or the “mom, how do you make that meatloaf I love?” texts. You even relish in the “Can you please wash these pants in time for tomorrow’s presentation?” just before midnight.  And when your mom needs to be the one who gets cared for, you rejoice that you have made the connection complete.  And you’ll smile when the time comes to clean out her closet after she is gone, and discover that she hoarded a few photos and mother’s day cards from you, too.

treasures