The Handmaid’s Tale

Can you believe how fast the summer is flying by?!  It’s hard to fathom that it is already the last week of August!  Since we just returned from a little road trip to the USA, I thought I would share this late summer musing by blending a bit of American and Canadian content.

Since 1971, August 26th is celebrated in the United States as “Women’s Equality Day” — it commemorates the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the women’s right to vote.  I’ve taken it as an occasion to celebrate the ladies North of the Border as well.  (FYI, “International Women’s Day” is March 8th… perhaps we will celebrate then, too).  We walked along Rosa Parks Street on our recent trip to Cincinnati, and had a wonderful discussion with the kids about her role in Canadian history as well.  Racism. Women’s rights.  Environmental activism.  So many blog topics… so little time!  Let’s just look at one, shall we? Now, I’m not a big women’s libber… but have been musing about this topic since one of the books on my summer reading list was “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.

handmaid

The book peaked my interest after seeing advertisements for the American Web TV’s series based on the novel.  I haven’t seen the television series (who’s first airing was in 2017) since my own imagination is probably less graphic than Hollywood’s visionaries… but it triggered my allure to the book, which I discovered was originally published in 1985.  It’s my first book by renowned Canadian author, Margaret Atwood.  The almost eighty-year-old famous Canadian is certainly well known to me, but I’ve never read her books until now!  I was not disappointed.  She is certainly a fine author, and definitely has a way with words.  I was immediately drawn in and devoured the book in less than a week.

The novel is written in the first person according to its main character, Offred.  It is her tale as a captive, fertile woman in the dystopian based realm of Gilead, which was once New England.  (She was captured trying to escape to Canada).  The “handmaids” are forcibly assigned to produce children for the ruling class known as “commanders”.  The handmaid name was borrowed from the biblical story of Rachel and Bilhah, from which Atwood quotes (Genesis 30).  It is not a tale for the faint of heart.  Atwood’s graphic (although brilliant) writing is what obviously sparked the movies and television series.  It is a twisted tale of power, steeped in the fundamentalist perversion of biblical old testament stories.  And so I muse… how many more women think of the Bible in this way?

From what I can gather, Atwood (a self confessed “strict agnostic”) does not see this particular book as a feminist work, but it nonetheless makes mention to the overall thought that women, as portrayed in (especially) the Old Testament Bible, are nothing more than vessels for bearing children.  I have often heard and seen many critiques of the Christian worldview, based on the fact that the Bible often makes references to this, and other “inferior” roles of women.  Does the God of the Bible condone such patriarchal views as Genesis 30? How do we explain the stories of Hosea or Sarah in a #metoo world?

This summer, I had the privilege of sitting under the words of Dr. Marion Taylor, the graduate director for University of Toronto’s Wycliffe college.  This tiny little lady, who got her PhD from Yale, came out on stage in this frocked and flowered dress, and yet spoke with such authority on women, that many of us sat in awe.  Her resounding message stuck with me:  does the righteous and sympathetic way we read the Bible reflect our understanding of how non-believers read the same stories?  Do we see Hosea as an intimate metaphor of Christ and the church, or as an abused wife who is told to love again after abuse?  Do we recognize the poetic language of Esther or Ruth in an ancient world or do we make current cultural flashpoint references in a confused society?

How do you read

As a scientist, wife, and mother of both sons and daughters, and as a believer … I am a complex mix in this world of feminist views.  I am compelled to see the old testament stories with a sympathetic view, and yet not compromise my beliefs that God has created a uniqueness in me, as an intelligent, gifted and competent woman.  I strive to raise my girls (and my boys) to be strong and capable.  I also choose to submit to my husband as the biblical authority in our home as a compatible wife.  Human beings are not perfect.  The old testament stories are prime examples of this.  Once we start to abuse Christ’s ultimate authority, and pervert His plan, it is no wonder we see the characters in the Bible as abused and enslaved.

And so, I must remember to see my bible studies not only as love stories to me, as woman, wife and mother, but to share them with others.  Others who may not yet understand their full identity in Christ as one who is honoured, loved and respected as one made in the image of God.

 

 

 

Childhood Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made cookies today.  My kids are thrilled.  There are no green flakes, no oatmeal, no flax or anything healthy.  My kids know them as the cookies grandma makes… but they have a much deeper beginning than grandma.  If you’ve come looking for the recipe, you have to scroll down to the end… if you want to hear the story behind them… welcome aboard!  These are my childhood chocolate chip cookies, made from friendship, and love, and from a time long ago when I was young, free and a whole lot skinnier.oil&perfume

I grew up spending my childhood summers in the Kawarthas (Ontario) with my best friend.  Her trailer was next to mine and we were inseparable.  Literally, they called us the Bobbsey Twins… we were together every waking moment… and some sleepovers too!  We swam in the pool, crafted, pretended the park tires were grand stallions to ride and tame, and braided each other’s hair.  We spent countless hours out on the lake in a crazy little rubber dingy that had a slight leak.  Oh, how we laughed when that thing got all squishy and started to deflate under our weight.  I have such fond memories of painting plaster butterflies with sparkly glitter paint and taking our quarter (plus two cents for tax) over to the little ice cream place for a bag full of penny candy.  Hot lips and black ball jawbreakers.

We’d bring the candy back and load it up with our blankets and sleeping bags and set out under the trees for hours and hours of Barbies.  (Okay… don’t judge, Barbies were the thing back then…).  I think I was the only one with a Ken doll … but she had all the dresses.  The Barbies were our dream lives… oh, the Christmas when I got the huge Barbie camper thing… all yellow and with those stick on headlights and such… dreams, I tell ya…. kids these days have no idea with their X-Boxes and Netflix…. blah!

The cookies belonged to my best friend’s mom.  Mrs. G always had containers full of these chocolate chip cookies.  Always.  They were dished out with glasses of milk in those colourful tupperware tumblers of the early eighties.  Sometimes after hot dog lunches, sometimes after hours of Barbies, sometimes after coming in from the lake when the dingy had totally deflated.  There was always a cookie.  Kinda like a true friend — and her kind mom.There was always a cookie.

Time carried on and we gave up Barbies for boys and long chats on the phone.  She taught me how to shave my legs.  She taught me to whistle with my fingers.  She stood by me at my wedding.  We drifted apart some as our lives got busier — but I can still trust her with all my secrets.  I still eat her moms cookies.  Only now they are passed on to my own kids from grandma who got the recipe from Mrs. G so long ago (of course, I begged her for it).  My mom can probably make them by heart, but I still pull out the well worn orange recipe card to make mine.

I offer them to you, my new friends, sharing a different adventure in a different time.  I hope they make you think of your special friends, and make you smile at the joys God gives us through memories.

childhoodcookies

My Childhood Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup shortening (I told you they are not “healthy”)         2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar — packed    (sugar… a kid’s dream…)

1/2 cup white sugar (yup, MORE)

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt (I eliminate this because I am not supposed to have it — but grandma doesn’t)

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups all purpose flour (but you can use any kind; use whole wheat if you must)

2 cups chocolate chips (don’t even measure… just dump)

Okay… now I am supposed to tell you how to make them… except my card is so worn I can barely read the instructions!  So.  I am sure you can find more detailed instructions on some foodie blog… but if you are up for the adventure and are willing to enjoy the experience (trust me baking is not that hard!) Here goes:  Heat up your oven to about 350-375 degrees fahrenheit.  Cream the shortening and sugars, add the rest of the dry stuff (except the chocolate chips!) and mix.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  At this point we end up eating some of the dough (yes… raw eggs and all!  I, so far, have survived all my childhood) and licking the spoons and beaters.  We also test a few of the chocolate chips.  If you are not using a non-stick surface, you should spray the cookie sheet with non-stick spray.  They spread a bit so give them some space.  If you want them to look “pretty” you can spoon and then roll the dough.  We just scoop and dump.  I can’t really tell you how much the batch makes, because it depends on how much dough you sample, and how big you spoon them!  It should give you a couple dozen.  I am sure Mrs. G made double or triple batches for all us teenagers.

Bake them about 8-10 minutes and let them sit for a bit, either on a cooling rack or alone (If they survive the wait… broken ones get eaten right away at my house).  Enjoy with a glass of milk.  And a best friend. 🙂


For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.  Peace be with you.  Your friends here send you their greetings.  Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there.

3 John 1:14 (New Living Translation)

 

 

The Call of the Crows

CalloftheCrows1I’m writing this post under the tranquil setting of the tall oaks… okay it’s not true.  Unfortunately, the internet is not reliable here, and although I thought of playing it old school and using pen and paper and transferring it later… I am just too lazy for that.  (Funny how attached to our technology we are now, eh?)   So.  I am writing contemplating this post under the tranquil setting of the tall oaks near our summer home.  The olive leaves sway gently in the breeze, a mix of mature and mighty oaks and a few spindly little ash trees.  The ash borer beetle destroyed a lot of them a few years back.  It’s so pleasant here.  In the spring, the leaves are sparser and you can almost say we have a lakefront view.  The lake is there, the forest just blocks it most of the time.  Occasionally, if you are really patient, a chipmunk or squirrel will dart through, inquisitively eyeing you, hoping you have a treat or dropped one nearby.  The other night the foxes crept near,  sheltered by the dark brush, but close enough to let us know they are becoming less afraid of us humans.

It’s cooler here than over in the field where the sun beats down all summer.  It has its disadvantages though — nothing ever dries, and the dark, damp ground attracts mosquitoes.  We don’t picnic outside too often, here in the bush.  But it’s a great place to read — or contemplate blog posts.  We rarely have to cut the grass.  Nothing grows much, except the weeds that seem to tolerate the acidic soil.  It’s tranquil, but it is definitely not quiet.CalloftheCrows2

I live in the city, so you think I would be used to the noise.  However, up here it is nonstop.  We love how a good thunderstorm sounds on the roof of the trailer.  During the day you can hear the people playing and enjoying their vacations, or a boat out on the lake beyond the trees.  On Mondays, the garbage truck comes by and you can hear the bins clanging.  Cars make a distinct grinding noise as they go slowly down towards the private cottages along the gravel roads.  The squirrels and chipmunks climb high into the oaks and get at the acorns.  Every so often they drop one, and if it happens to drop on our porch roof it bangs with such a thud, you’d think there has been a shot fired!  Seriously — it’s loud.  When you get used to it, you wait for the ping ping ping as the nut rolls down the incline and off the roof.   Single handedly, the most annoying noise in the woods, however, is the crows.CalloftheCrows3

I say they are crows, but they might be ravens.  They’re big, but ravens are bigger, though, I think.  So let’s say they are crows.  You don’t see them often, their black, sleek bodies with just a hint of iridescent green, blend in to the dense foliage in the treetops.  Sometimes you can hear them fly in — the flapping of their huge wings like some horror movie from the sixties.  It’s their calling that is so obnoxious, though.  Kinda like a cross between a duck quack and dog bark.  Loud and harsh.  It doesn’t seem to hold any meaning either… perhaps they answer one another.  Perhaps they just like to be heard.  Like a two year old and a new, flashy, electronic toy that is stuck on repeat… caw, caw, caw… Either way, the sound is creepy.  During the day, they are there, but the other noises drown them out, and it is easier to ignore them.  It’s in the wee hours of the morning when they become most hideous.  The sun is barely up and the calling begins… like some sick rooster announcing the dawn.   No pretty songbird chirp, just caw, caw.  How come the falling squirrel acorns don’t hit them on the way down and knock ’em out?  Sheesh!

And yet, as I sit here in contemplation, I can’t help but compare the crows to the doubts, fears and insecurities in our lives.  Big, black, and often overshadowing the pretty songs of our other qualities, our doubts creep in and disrupt all our other solitudes.  “Am I good enough?” “Why does this always happen to me?” “Will we make it to the next paycheck?” “What about the kids?”  I don’t know what your doubt is, my friend, but I know that we all have those nagging worries somewhere down in our souls.  We can ignore them most of the time — when the other noisy distractions can push them aside.  They hide in the treetops until, sometimes, in the wee hours, when no one else is around to displace them, they come calling again.  Loud and harsh.  Caw, caw, caw.Callof theCrows4

I want to end this post on a positive note, but the crows will always be there in the treetops… and the doubts and fears will always be there, too.  Sometimes they fly away and the calling stops, but then a new set of crows show up and the noise begins again, in a different tune and tone.  Take comfort, then, that God is the orchestrator of the forest, the one who created the “call of the crows”.  I don’t understand why all the noise, to me it is just harsh and annoying — but He has some purpose in the call.  It’s up to us to give it over to Him, and let Him use those needling noises, the ones all unrelenting and severe in our ears, to blend them in to the swaying melody of the mighty oak forest, in a concert worthy of the master conductor.