Archives for posts with tag: Cate

I started last Saturday with getting a massage. Doing this always feels like some amazing luxury that I don’t really deserve, except I know that it helps keep me healthy. Apart from my heart, I tend to carry my stress in my shoulders and neck. 2016 has been pretty heavy thus far and on this particular day we were about to have our annual February Feast, an event that is bigger and sometimes more challenging than anything else we do. Seeing a massage therapist felt in order.

Before heading to Parkdale I stopped at The Gateway to pick up the turkey Second Harvest provided for our feast. We simply don’t have the kitchen capacity to cook as much turkey as we need (150+ people), so my caterer friend Sammy has his crew do it in the kitchen of this Salvation Army shelter. This relieves much of the “feast stress”, so I felt a wave of gratitude wash over me as the meat and a bucket of drippings for gravy were loaded into the car.

When I arrived at the drop-in, Joanna acknowledged that she too was feeling some angst about the night ahead. We went to the storage room and took a few moments to pray, for: enough food to go around, volume issues with the Open Stage portion of the night to be well managed and peace to prevail. We both took a deep breath and went back to helping set things up.

What transpired next was a reminder of why I love being at The Dale. We had more hands than we even needed to set up the room and cook the rest of the meal. The room totally filled up in time for our 6 pm start. Everyone got to eat and while some were concerned that their portion would be too meagre, it wasn’t. A few situations threatened to erupt, but were solved without major incident. The Parkdale Villager (our local paper) surprised us by sending a photographer to document the night. There was music and dancing.

One of my favourite moments was when my daughter Cate got up to share a song. As soon as she started to strum her ukulele and open her mouth, a hush descended upon the room. From my vantage point I could see how everyone stopped and really listened, erupting into encouraging applause at the end. The pride that I feel for Cate was reflected back to me in the eyes of the community. It was beautiful.

Joanna and I high-fived at the end of the night in acknowledgement that we’d been witness to God’s presence and our team at work. I realized the stress I was carrying in the morning slowly dissolved as I took notice of so many good things: the provision of Second Harvest, turkeys being cooked for us, a relaxed kitchen crew, a man being able to eat for the first time in days, a sense of celebration and fun. I’m hoping the memory of this Feast will linger for a long time.

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I am writing from Rome, Italy. Had you asked me if I would be doing this even just weeks ago I would probably have laughed and explained that while a trip with Cate was certainly on the radar I couldn’t have imagined it this fall. For some time we have been commiserating as a family about how to mark Cate’s “coming of age” or in other words, becoming a teenager. Not long ago we attended a beautiful bat mitzvah that strengthened our resolve to somehow celebrate this milestone. Together we decided that a mother/daughter trip to a location chosen by Cate would be our special event.

Since September I have been fairly quiet here, in part because life got even more full than my already full norm. I sort of put my head down, wrote a handful of grant proposals, spent a lot of time with The Dale community, did a funeral, went on hospital visits, helped get Cate back into school, choir and dance routine, enjoyed Thanksgiving and tried to stay on top the administration of both my work and home. In the midst of all this we managed to find the money and a window of opportunity for Rome, a reality I’m still pinching myself about.

I think if the only thing I got to do on this trip was watch Cate’s face upon her first glimpse of the Colosseum it would be worth it. Seeing this place through two sets of eyes is a wondrous treat. We are surrounded by history. Yesterday we went to Pompeii and walked where others did until their city was covered by volcanic ash and forgotten in 79 AD. We are being reminded of the beauty and brutality of the Romans. We are also enjoying modern Rome: getting around on its transit system, eating amazing food and seeing where the old meets the new.

I am so proud of Cate and the young woman she is. Cate is mature beyond her years and yet not in a rush to be older than she is. She notices things: the detail in an ancient mosaic, the person sleeping in a doorway, the aroma of a bakery. She also seems to know this is an experience that not every thirteen year-old will have and is doing what she can to not take it for granted. She is eagerly writing about everything in her journal and excited to share it with Dion upon our return. We will only be here for a little over a week, but I know this is an experience we will never forget.

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My daughter Cate is growing up.

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I know this is what happens. Lately though I find myself standing back and watching her with a mixture of amazement and wistfulness at how quickly she seems to be morphing into a young lady. Occasionally I think about how my own mother watched me change when I was Cate’s age. Though so many years ago it doesn’t always feel that way: I can remember how it was to be almost a teenager (and admittedly sometimes still feel like one). So, how is it that my Catie-Cate is now in the same place?

I am proud of the person Cate is. I see in her an incredible capacity for compassion and understanding. She is very honest. I love that she tries her best even when something doesn’t come naturally to her. Cate feels things deeply and while sometimes struggles to articulate what is going on internally, always tries to find the words. When done with a book or a toy, Cate considers who she might give it to. I believe I would say this even if I weren’t her mother: Cate is a joy. I really love AND like her.

Dion and I have never shielded Cate from hard things. She has seen poverty, illness and even death. Until recently most of this kind of experience has occurred because of Cate’s proximity to us, now though she is discovering difficult things for herself and in the lives of her peers. Seeing this happen is turning out to be one of the most painful parts of parenting so far. Cate is like a piece of my heart walking around on two legs. I desperately want to protect and shield her from the sadness that life brings and yet know I can’t. True too is that I want to teach her the beautiful complexity of the truth that blessed are those who mourn and are poor in spirit.

Last night Cate came home from her choir rehearsal happy and thrilled that she had done well on her sight-reading test. She set her alarm this morning so that she could work on some homework first thing (we’re working at learning to not procrastinate). Today’s plan is to give a teacher the encouragement card that she and a friend made upon hearing that one might be needed. She’s devouring books these days, having fun with friends and already planning what kind of cake we’ll have for her thirteenth birthday.

Cate is both a happy kid and an old-soul. She manages an awareness of the challenges of life while still wanting to climb trees and for this I am grateful. Cate makes me a happy mama.

I’m sitting in a Tim Horton’s in the far east end of the city because I was on to drive Cate and three friends to a choir rehearsal and need to hang out until it’s over. Having conceded that my coffee quotient is in fact up for the day (I won’t tell you how large it actually is) I am drinking peppermint tea, listening to music on my computer and trying to drown out what seems to be a never-ending day.

I feel like a walking mixed bag of emotions. Dion is snow birding for February, a decision that we both came to and I continue to support. Admittedly it is not easy to have him away though. I got a terrible cold this past week that seems to be hanging on by one last thread. The drop-in today was not the smoothest one in history. It’s February which means it is almost March, which means it is getting closer to the anniversary of my Dad’s death.

I suppose I am writing because I find it therapeutic. It’s kind of like how I write lists when things are busy: it helps put things in perspective. While I feel weary, I am also aware of the flip side of all those things I just listed. Dion is skipping a Canadian February winter that always makes him feel terrible, plus Cate and I will join him later in the month for a bit. That last thread of a cold is going to let go, I can feel it. The drop-in is rarely as challenging as it was today and some of the situations that could have spiralled even more, didn’t. And while it completely stinks that my Dad is gone, I know that my grief is different now than it was on March 3rd, 2008.

Joanna texted me a little portion of a prayer today that spoke to my heart: “Lord, when we are weary of the journey, strengthen us by Your Spirit to imagine new heavens and a new earth”. As I sit waiting to pick up Cate, thoughts swirling about everything that is going on, that is my prayer.

I need a car.

There, I said it.

My husband Dion lives with Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that is robbing him of his mobility. Last fall Dion learned how to drive with hand controls and has a license that requires he use them. Our car is fitted with them now, and so Dion needs to use it as his primary means of getting around. With his new role at work, he no longer needs to simply get to The Gateway. Instead, Dion needs to be going places at exactly the same times I do. I never thought I would potentially be a part of a two car family. In some ways I struggle with even having a single vehicle: I think about the impact on the environment; I consider that I live in a city with public transportation; I know that for most people a car will never be an option. These are all good reasons to eschew driving a car, except…

The challenge for me is that I found ways to make my life work in large part because I had the use of our car. Our vehicle is used to ensure that things happen at The Dale. The Dale might not have walls of our own, but we do have my trunk. I transport groceries for our drop-ins, at various times store art supplies and outreach items like socks and hats, and move sound equipment for our Open Stages. We rely on the car to help our community friends move. We go on hospital, jail and court visits. We take people to appointments. Sometimes it is our office. And that’s all in the course of just one week.

Having a car also has a profound impact on my effort to keep life at The Dale in balance with life at home. I am able to finish my time in Parkdale and get home in time for Cate (which is a tight squeeze). I can drive a carload of kids to rehearsals for the choir that Cate has been in since the age of six. Our family participates in a “Dinner Shuffle” each Wednesday that is always followed by me heading off to do street outreach during the remainder of the evening. My list could go on and on. Though Dion will be able to get around, it will not afford him the energy to take on the grocery shopping, etc. Fatigue is a difficult symptom of MS.

Sharing this makes me feel very vulnerable. I know that life will go on if we don’t get another car. I also know life will be decidedly different for The Dale and the Oxford house without one. Quite honestly, I’m scared about all of this. A Dale community member has decided to actively pray for a solution. I know that my mother is doing the same. I would like to invite you all to help me/us see what the possibilities might be in all of this. Do you know a person wishing to sell a vehicle for a decent price? Do you wish to help us?

I am all ears.

Last week my daughter Cate managed to do two things that, for different reasons, were real challenges: fasting from food for thirty hours and singing a solo in front of a large group of people. It took courage for Cate to do these things and I’m very proud of her for conquering the fear associated with both. I don’t know that she will be racing to do either again anytime soon. I also imagine that being in a vocal recital will still cause Cate stage fright. The difference next time though is that she can draw from her previous experience and remember that she can open her mouth and sing.

I recognize the anxiety that Cate was feeling. There are things that I know I need to do that quite frankly, scare me. Sometimes when I think about those things that enliven fear in me I can feel my stomach drop out from under me. Lately this has been happening when I think about the long-term life of The Dale. To be clear, I don’t feel anxious about the community or its ability to continue to gather. What I wonder about is my capacity to fulfill the role I have in it: pastor, director, administrator, fundraiser. I feel ill-equipped.

When I confessed this feeling to my husband recently he simply said, “then you are exactly where you should be”. I know he’s right. Being in this place forces me to lean on others, ask for help and rely on God. Here I have to choose to take leaps of faith, which isn’t so different from what I was encouraging Cate to do right until the moment she had the last bite of food before her fast or when her name came up in the recital program. Some of the best things have happened because I decided to jump despite the fear and trepidation.

In truth, I also have scars because not all the jumps have resulted in the desired outcome. With time these scars do take on a different form. A song I love says, “they are less like scars and more like character”. I want to battle fear with a certain abandon and trust that my wounds will turn into scars of character. This life of mine requires stepping out in faith, over and over again. It also affords me the opportunity to be a part of a radically beautiful place like The Dale.

The next time I am overwhelmed with my role I want to recall the way Cate stepped up to the stage, composed herself and sweetly sang “The Swallow”. She was anxious the entire song AND she did it. I hope I can do the same.

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