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.

08harlow

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

 

 

RAIN

It’s raining today.  That drizzly rain that just makes the whole day overcast and grey.  It’s clean-the-house-and-do-laundry-day and I am indoors scrubbing counters and finding Lost Socks  — so the rain hasn’t affected my plans much.  However, I’ve been thinking about the weather lately.  Maybe because we still have to take the snow tires off my van before they melt off in the current heatwave.  So much for spring; we jumped directly into summer here.   A few weeks ago we got iced over and had to dig out of more snow.  Yesterday, it was 25 degrees Celsius and we cursed the heat.  I guess this is why us Canadians talk about the weather so much… we can experience it all in a span of a week!  The rain is cool, though.  One minute drizzly and just “damp” like today… and then it can turn evil and dark and pound a beating into everything that lies beneath it’s path. The wind usually is a close partner with the rainstorm.  Many of our neighbours lost power this week, and some big, beautiful, old trees succumbed to the downpours.  My hubby licked his chops at all the free firewood that quickly became available.  It’s pretty amazing that with all our technology we still can’t totally harness the weather.  We need it to nourish our lands and produce our food.  Yet, it can wipe out crops and buildings in a flash flood.  Makes me muse:  God is truly in control.JessieRain

I learned a new word in preparing for this post.  A “pluviophile” is, according to the dictionary,  “a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.”  I might be one.  Thunderstorms don’t bother me either.  We are one of those crazy families who run out in the downpour, gets all soaking wet, and scares all the neighbours with our crazy hoots of laughter.  I have video proof of my boys doing just that.  No, I am not going to post it out of respect for my neighbours.  You can imagine it.  Three wildebeests splashing each other in the puddles like Max and his Wild Things, with no regard for the quiet character of our cul-de-sac.  Much more refined, (and thanks to a recent birthday) the girls and I now all have really cute and happy rubber boots — we will be fun “fashionistas” next storm.  Might show you that one on Instagram.  (I’m working on how to make those Instagram worthy pics like all the super-bloggers…. although I wish we had little ones still so they could have sharks or crocodiles or yellow duckies or something on their adorable little wellies… so cute they make these things now!  But I digress…)Rainboots

Besides the obvious story of Noah and the Ark… there are lots of references to rain and weird weather in the Bible.  It’s worth a search.  One that recently made me think a little, was Deuteronomy 28:12:  “The Lord will open up his heavenly storehouse so that the skies send rain on your land at the right time, and He will bless everything you do.”  Now, he’s talking to the Israelites and I’m not great at Old testament history and all their “blessings of everything they did” … so I am not going there.  The part that struck me was the “at the right time” blip.  Our lives are a journey of dry spells and some good soakings.  Deut28Rain comes at the right time… to nourish the land and cleanse it.  Spring is that rainy season that washes away the winter muck and brings us out again to meet our neighbours and taste and smell the “green”.  A little flowering wonderland happens after the rains.  We just have to wait for it.  Sometimes we are parched and dry and have to learn patience as we wait for the rain.  We worry and fret and wonder if all will ever work out like we plan.  Often, this is when we cry out to God and demand that He sends the rain again to quench our needs.  And He does… but in His time.

So, if you are a “pluviophile” like me and enjoy the peace of a rainy day, curled up with a great coffee and a book or some peaceful colouring, then remember that it is “at the right time” that you are there.  Enjoy your blessings and be thankful for them.  If you are patiently waiting for a good soaking and fretting a bit at the parched land you see around you right now, don’t fear my friends.  There is a great big God up there who is in control of the weather.  He’ll send some cooling rain soon.  And if you are in the middle of a scary, dark storm full of pounding rain that refuses to let go and you feel like you just might drown in it… grab some crazy friends and go hoot at the neighbours.  Wear your pretty polka-dot rubber boots.  God’s got it under control.AdiC.Rain


There are soo many great photos of rain!  And trust me, it’s hard to get some good shots of weather!  Today’s post contains only one of my own photos (the boots). The others were graciously loaned to me by two friends: Jessie Robins, a university student and new follower, and Adi C. a friend, blog supporter and great amateur photographer.  Blessings to you both!

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Charity on the Refrigerator

Does anyone else have a refrigerator covered in photos?  Those ones your ex-cousin’s- sister-in-law-once-removed gives you of their perfect family photo poised angelically by the Christmas tree? (Seriously! How many re-takes did that require?!) Or those magnets you get in the mail from all the realtors who are trying to buy your home and the pediatric dentist/walk in clinic that just opened up named “Mr. Smiles”?  Yup.  We have one of those fridges.  I still have those colourful magnet letters on the side… should one of my blessed offspring choose to practice their name.  (Note: my youngest kid is almost finished grade school and has been spelling her name for 8 years now with no troubles).  I love my fridge.  When friends come over they poke at the photos and comment on it.  “Hey!  How do you know these people?” or “Wow…who is that cutie?”  It’s my connection to the people I love.  I heard a speaker say once that God has a big fridge, too, with all our photos and crayon scribbled drawings on it — just because He loves us.  That thought makes me smile.fridge magnets

There are a couple of photos on my fridge that are kinda special, though.  They remind me to expand my love to not just my beloved friends and family… but also to the world at large.  One is a beautiful, dark-skinned newborn still all squeaky and fresh.   She (or he… I don’t even know!) is wearing one of my handmade, crocheted hats.  The hats were delivered via a visiting friend to an African hospital.  The photo makes me just wanna squeeze something.  The other photograph has now been replaced by a digital version delivered to my inbox.  It is of Shurjio, our sponsored child from Bangladesh.  He’s grown a bit since our first photo, but it makes me a proud “foster” momma.  I have never met either of these children, but something I did reached them… so they get a place on my fridge.  A connection to my heartstrings.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I am a super woman who pours my heart into charity and raises thousands of dollars to “save the world”.  Angelina Jolie I am not.  In fact, my heartstringphotosbetter half is much more aware of such issues and his empathy is usually the leading factor in our family donations to charity causes.  He was raised in a missionary family who served in a variety of places out there in the world — many members of which also have “prayer cards” stuck on our fridge to this day.  And so, by association, we share our resources diligently.

The purpose of this post is not to promote one charity mission or the other — it is simply a muse about some stuff that is on my to-do list, and close to my heart.  Some time ago, I read a book by Dr. Wess Stafford, one of the CEO’s of Compassion International, called “Too Small to Ignore”. He too, was a missionary kid growing up in a different culture and shares how his life was impacted by the world around him — so much so that in his adult years, he chose to  passionately make a change.  It’s an inspiring book that changed some of my thinking about sponsor children.  Our sponsor child happens to be with Compassion too… and they have some great resources for how to write letters and such to your sponsor child.  toosmallbookCheck out our Pinterest page if you want some great ideas for your family, school’s class or church group.   It’s on my to-do list to write to Shurjio… his birthday is coming up!! (We “picked” him because he shares the same birthday as my middle son).  I want him to know that some Canadian folks remember him, care about him, and want him to have a life deserving of all children.  Complete with school, hugs and some birthday wishes!

That being said, I truly recognize that not all charity should be directed overseas.  Our own neighbourhoods are filled with the poverty-stricken, the homeless, the helpless.  I applaud the many who do great work right here.  The blogging community is full of them, and my new adventure has connected me with a few new ones that I hope to stick on my fridge sometime soon.  So where do we start?  I read recently, that a according to a recent Angus Reid survey,  one-third of Canadians feel they should be “doing more”.  Tragedies like the Humboldt crash and their overwhelming GoFundMe page response, show that we are definitely trying.  More and more of us give “goats” and “soccer balls” at Christmas via charities. We recognize that we don’t need more stuff… we have plenty to share. Our next generations are so much more aware of their world’s needs and are full of justice seeking ideas.  My daughter’s fourth grade class recently raised enough money for a whole herd of goats.  A bunch of seven and eight years olds made an impact in their ever shrinking world!  Heaven smiles and sticks another photo up….

The skeptic in me wants to be sure, though.  I am not as quick with my cheque book as others.  I want to be sure that my funds are not being fueled into the pockets of those who don’t really need it.  There are lots of articles out there about those charities.  Do your research.  Learn about the work and the people who do it.  And then, if you are like me, and have a few photo cards up on your fridge, make sure you connect.  Take the time to build relationships with some kids you don’t know.  Whether they are down the street or across the ocean.  Kids and moms and dads are the same all over… we worry about the same things, and like to play the same games.  Me? I gotta find some stickers to send to a birthday boy in Bangladesh.  Maybe he will put his birthday card from Canada up on his fridge. 🙂

Refrigerator Charity Photo Samer Daboul

#1.  Do your research.  Pick a charity that uses their funds wisely and makes a difference to the people or things that really need it.

#2.  Be consistant.  Set up monthly payments or keep track.  Don’t commit and then give up on them.

#3.  Connect.  Write letters, fundraise, put some effort in.  Share your talents or gifts to create some unique masterpiece they can use to help.  It will make the cause more special to you. (Don’t forget to put that photo up on the fridge!)

#4.  Share.  If you love a charity, tell others about it.  In this day and age of social media, we have no excuses.

#5.  Pray.  I know so many people supported by this simple act of kindness.  Perhaps you don’t have the funds or are physically unable to walk or fundraise.  You have no idea how God will use your prayers to update the photos on His fridge!