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I hate this day. Every year I dread it, and it comes and goes like any other day…except for the lingering sense of guilt and left-out-ness it leaves in its wake. It’s Ash Wednesday. And the world sure doesn’t wallow in ashes (or whatever else that name is supposed to imply), but it seems like everyone is getting back into the habit of doing or omitting stuff for Lent. Everywhere you go you hear about what someone is giving up or taking on. The most popular choices seem to be chocolate and facebook (for giving up, that is)…or people treat it like new years all over again and try to tackle a resolution or a new daily habit.

Now, by my tone, the implication is that I am bitter and that I think Lent is a waste of time. This could not be farther from the truth. I am not bitter. I am really impressed with those who are brave enough to stop eating chocolate or sugar or stop drinking, etc. (Although, as a brief bitter interlude, I WILL say that anyone who has ever been pregnant has had to give up alcohol, caffeine and many other fun things for NINE MONTHS…) And I also have a deep appreciation for Lent as an opportunity for meaningful spiritual exercise that can be life-changing if you participate with the right motivation and approach. My problem is that I don’t know how to make myself do that.

Chocolate has always been the obvious choice for me. I pretty much treat chocolate like my sixth food group…and I rarely go a day without consuming something that contains it. One time I tried to think of the longest time I had gone without eating anything chocolate or chocolate flavoured and I couldn’t come up with more than a few hours in the past 2-3 days. So yeah, it would be hard for me…so why don’t I just stop complaining and do that? Here is why.

I have a problem with stress. As if anyone doesn’t…but still. Hear me out. While eating healthier can be a good way to decrease stress, there are certain limits. For example, I have some chocolate cheerios in the cupboard right now. They are the only cheerios I don’t hate. They aren’t bad for you, at least not any more than any other boxed cereal. And I have a hard enough time making myself get out of bed on time and eat breakfast to get a good start to the day. I guess what I’m trying to say is that any unnecessary stress that I can eliminate, I do. And any sort of eating restriction has always seemed like a huge amount of added stress to me, because eating is such a huge part of life, and trying to control it anymore than I already have to (what with watching out for strange chemicals and oh yeah, did I mention pregnancy/breastfeeding?)  just seems like a lot of work for nothing. Then you also have to think about what you say when someone offers you something when you’re out, etc., etc. If the idea of Lent is to clear time and space for yourself to share in the experience of Christ’s waiting/suffering or to have a renewed focus on your faith, then adding extra stress to my life is not the way for me to do it. And like I said, I’m not saying it doesn’t work for others…this is just me.

So if giving up a type of food is out of the question, then that leaves entertainment or other activities to omit. This is probably more doable for me, since I watch a lot of online streaming of sitcoms and whatnot, but the reason I have been doing this more lately is because I haven’t been feeling particularly well and I have a young baby to care for, who insists I stay near by but won’t let me read or do much else productive when she is in that particular mood. I’m sure there are mothers out there who can confirm what I am saying when I say that a TV or computer that makes noise, no matter how stupid or pointless the noise may be, is still a very welcome companion when the only other alternative is silence with occasional baby talk and your own cursing at various cute but potentially deadly or very messy baby activities.

So anyways, there is an eventual point to this rambling post. I have realized by examining my life and even the opinions presented above, that one of my biggest problems is letting perfectionism and stress run my life. This is not a new revelation to me by any means. I know that I am a pathological perfectionist who often can’t commit to getting  something done because I’m afraid the end result won’t be perfect enough, so I end up with no result instead. And I’ve always thought about ways to try and give THAT up for Lent…or forever? But the temptation to change everything all at once is part of the very problem I have. So I’ve always cringed away from ideas to take on something impressive every day…I’m afraid I’ll get discouraged and give up if I once mess up or get a bit lazy.

I was sitting here trying to think of something to write, poetry wise, for the blog today. And of course, the very reason that I don’t post more often is the very same as the conclusion above. I want to write something impressive and perfect every time…and often my brain is only capable of mediocre. Hence this post. I just decided I am going to write something, and the hell with perfect posts that nobody will actually like as much as I think they will anyways. But I did have a little bit more of an idea than just that.

Like I said, I REALLY can’t handle adding any more stress to my life right now. But I am going to try and participate in Lent this year anyways, and show Ash Wednesday that it can’t get me down. If it doesn’t work out, then I am just going to drop it and assume that there is grace to cover that. But my hope is to post something here everyday. I don’t even know what, but something. It will probably be emotional drivel that no one wants to read. It will definitely have a spiritual Christ-centeredness to it, because that’s what Lent is for…Lent is not just a practice that Christian hipsters have revived because it’s cool to be liturgical again…

…and what I write will NOT be perfect…or even edited (more than the very bare minimum). And it probably won’t be poetry, at least not much of it. The reason I want to post it here is to keep me accountable, so if you want to follow along, feel free, but don’t feel bad if you could care less. This is my attempt at GIVING UP perfectionism (in writing at least) and in taking on something that I don’t expect to be an ongoing habit, but I hope will teach me something. Something about Jesus and why he came to live with such a crazy bunch of imperfect, broken people…and why he still perseveres and cares for his own church today.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Jesus, from Mark 8:34.

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This post has a little bit of a different flavour today. CBC Radio is hosting a contest for the best six word modern love story. Maybe you’ve heard of the six word story challenge? The most famous being the one written by Ernest Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Sad, I know, but definitely gets to you, just like a good story should.

I wrote a few of my own and submitted them…hopefully they get in in time, since I submitted them about 40 minutes before the deadline…So here they are. Let me know what you think and/or respond with your own! Either way, you should really try the challenge out sometime (doesn’t have to be a love story, could be anything)…it’s actually a lot of fun and a neat way to explore telling stories…

 

1. Love stinks! Then again…maybe not.”

 

2. Be mine. He won’t. She would…

 

3. – “We’re pregnant…”

– “Not ‘we’ – just you.”

 

If nothing else, this exercise has confirmed something I already knew about myself: I am totally in love with the ellipsis as a literary tool. 🙂

Have a great week everyone!

 

 

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Resolutions and What-not

The new year is once again upon us. And once again, we enter it cold, tired and addicted to Christmas junk food…. Nevertheless, we press on to new beginnings – new adventures. There is something so enticing about newness, as my baby daughter proves effortlessly every day. She is always turning over a new leaf and indulging in innumerable “firsts”. And she is downright ecstatic about it!

 

So…enter the resolutions.

Number One – I want to continue to share my poetry and other ramblings with you on this blog, but in a more regular fashion, with the goal that this could become a venue for celebration and discussion of poetry in all its wonderful forms. Of course, I am not the only one out there who writes, and I would love to hear from other fellow bloggers and writers, so that we can form some connections. For starters, check out my friend Mike’s poetry blog at underthehebrewsea.wordpress.com. Also, take a look at my sister-in-law’s website at genuinemudpie.ca for wonderful crafting/crochet ideas and other intriguing concepts!

Number Two – Introducing ToshPoems.com! This is my very own personalized poetry website – accomodating all of your poetry needs. My goal is to get the word out as much as possible over the next little while. Check it out, and if you like what you see, spread the news. 🙂

Number Three – I am going to be trying to do some more themed stuff. For example, I’ve been thinking about starting a sort of series of “Poems for the Everyday”. I’d also like to continue to work on the freeverse stuff I’ve been doing on the themes of hurting, healing, recovering from burnout and learning to trust again.

 

Now, we all know that resolutions are not as set in stone as we’d like them to be. But let’s see how it goes, shall we? To finish off for today, I will leave you with something I wrote earlier around Christmas time. A bit out of season, but full of hope for new beginnings all the same.

 

Away in a Manger

Away in a manger,
A baby is crying.
It’s no time for silence,
The darkness is dying!

His mother is laughing
For joy at the yielding
Which hours of labour
Within her were wielding.

The curse of her mothers
So mingled with gladness,
The mirth bubbles over…
To fight it is madness.

No, all is not finished,
The lame still need healing,
The blind are still lonely,
The light needs revealing.

But, oh! Don’t you know it?
The joy of that moment!
When life first takes breath and
The pain meets atonement!

He’s crying, he’s screaming!
His lips start their searching.
He’s human, among us,
He joins in our thirsting.

He wails in his hunger:
Love’s great incarnation.
The hungry will hear it
And find satiation.

The thirsty will drink of
This life everlasting.
The poor and the broken
Will break all their fasting.

Oh deaf, can’t you hear him?
He cries out our story.
Oh blind, can’t you see it?
His coming is glory!

His breath the beginning
That will be death’s ending.
His life such a dawning
To set darkness trembling.

The cattle are lowing,
The baby is waking
The calves and the kids and
The hope he’s remaking.

It’s no time for silence,
The angels proclaim him!
And mother and shepherds
And sinners will name him…

Yeshua. Emanuel.
Lord of creation.
Who’s born unto us
For our light and salvation.

He’s come! Bless the manger
That now proudly claims him!
He cries in the night but
The dark won’t contain him!

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When you first fall in love…

You don’t care about the laundry, unless it means your perfect pair of jeans isn’t available when you need to look good.

You don’t worry over what’s for dinner, unless he’s coming over to eat it with you.

You scoff at financial troubles, telling yourself it will all work out in the end.

You don’t cry over spilt milk. You cry about the big stuff. The frustrating telephone conversations. The roller coaster of good and bad dates. The injustice of having to wait…

And you think to yourself, when we are finally together, as we are meant to be, the rest will fall into place...If you could have this one thing…just this one, all would be fantastic, and happily ever after would swoop in and sweep you off your feet.

This is what being in love does to you. It focuses your life in such a way that nothing else matters. Your purpose is clear and defined. You don’t sweat the small stuff. You don’t get bogged down by the little things.

And it’s not just being in love, is it? It’s the next big vacation or promotion. It’s Christmas time again. It’s moving to a different city and making a new start. It’s the greener grass calling to you from the other side of the hill.

No doubt, there is a hint of bitterness in my voice as I type this. There is. But it isn’t there because I think the above reality should be altered in any way. Let the young in love dream big dreams and let those depressed by winter’s darkness look ahead to sunny vacations. Hopes aren’t bad, even if they may be disappointed to some extent later on.

But what about when there isn’t a focus? What about the in-between times when the little things are all you have? What about loving for richer or poorer and in sickness or health? Or maybe you go to Florida for March Break and the weather is cold and rainy…maybe after three months on the job, the new promotion just looks like more work.

When what you have for dinner is the most exciting thing coming up that day…it becomes a lot more important, and stress-inducing. What do I feel like today? Will I be satisfied with the same old thing again? Can I afford to make something fancier? I really need to lose weight…etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

So maybe smaller times call for smaller measures. Yes, maybe true. Partially at least. Counting the smallest blessings…doing little special things for those you love…making yourself a fancy meal for no reason at all. It becomes all about putting in the time and staving off depression while you wait for the next big event. No, it doesn’t quite satisfy, does it?

I’d like to argue that smaller times call for larger hopes…more distant ones that aren’t so tangible. Hopes that go beyond the basics needs of health and happiness…hopes that are rooted somewhere where the grass really is greener, and where hope does not disappoint us.

The season of advent is long past now. But I find myself seeking its solace more and more this time of year. Perhaps it’s something akin to seasonal affective disorder, or perhaps it’s just that the winter months can be long and filled with lots of boring but necessary little things. We do a lot of waiting before Christmas, to be sure. We wait for the sweet reward of relaxation and reflection on Christmas morning, after a busy month of preparation. We wait for the warm fuzzies to take over. And they do…for a while.

But the inevitable boxing day comes, and those of us who are sane enough to skip out on shopping feel the acute pangs of some great loss…what we’ve lost is the hope and expectation for greater things. We’ve eaten the last chocolate in the calendar and the shell that’s left gets put in the recycling bin. And we get ready to be hopeless again…to go back to the small scrooge-like existence we had before.

But what if there was another advent? What if there was an event to beat all other events coming up? What if we had access to a hope so great and true it could sustain us through our smallest moments and our biggest let-downs? What if we finally got something that was promised to us?

Then…

Then I suppose we wouldn’t care about the laundry, because we’d hope for clothes that don’t get dirty.

We wouldn’t worry about what’s for dinner, because we’d be looking forward to a feast of heavenly proportions.

We’d scoff at financial troubles, knowing that our needs will be met in completion.

We wouldn’t cry over spilt milk, because we’re hoping for a day when every tear is dried.

No wonder John ends his writings with such a simple phrase. It’s the same phrase that echoes in our collective hope-starved consciousness time and time again…

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

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Reflecting on my dissatisfaction with the decisions made by certain big companies, I have decided to pursue a creative way to send in my complaints. This decision was mostly influenced by my loving husband, who tells me this is a sure-fire way to get free t-shirts and other swag. However, writing simple letters/e-mails may not do the trick, as I’m sure larger companies get several communications of this sort every day. So I thought I might try sending in my complaints in rediculous poem form.

I thought of this approach yesterday while sipping on a juice box and reading the ingredient list, as I am wont to do every time I consume something with a label. I understand that putting artifical flavours and colours in juice is often done. What I don’t understand is why the colouring process is necessary for a drink which lives in an opaque box until it is put inside the consumer’s mouth, also opaque. Seriously. How will I know if the juice isn’t pretty? I might notice if I spill it, but nobody cares for spilt juice, even if it is an unusually nice shade. My husband argued you can see the colour in the straw, but really? We’re willing to consume a potentially harmful chemical so that we can have a nicely coloured straw while sipping? No thanks.

Anyways…I have started a poem about this specific issue, and hoped to get it finished tonight, but I’m not satisfied with it yet, so hopefully I will be posting that soon. Stay tuned. I’ll also keep the blog updated with any replies I get from various companies, if said replies are suitably hilarious.

Until then, go drink some naturally flavoured/coloured juice in a spirit of rebellion! That’s all for now.

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“Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world….”

– taken from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

 

Good old Puddleglum.

You can fight for beauty and truth, or you can resign yourself to “real life” in a pit, underground and sun-less. It’s easy enough to hide from the sun, if you’re intent on it. And life often gives us plenty of reasons to hide. But, oh, those glorious moments of rapture and revelation, when you stumble out of the cave and sunlight smacks you in the face again! And you think to yourself, how did I ever forget this? How could anyone forget this?

I write for several reasons. I do it to communicate opinions which I am not able or willing to say out loud. I write to make myself, and hopefully others, laugh or cry…or wonder. I use rhythm and rhyme as a way of bringing order into a world of chaos. But mostly, the goal is to “lick the real world hollow”: to show the dark side of life who is boss and remind the prisoners that there is a way out…to cling to truth and beauty even when life isn’t beautiful.

So in the spirit of any decent modern-day writer, I have decided to bring it all online, so I can air my personal achievements or lack thereof for all the world to read, just like everybody else. But, more importantly, I am seeking any and every sort of input or feedback. So please comment honestly and frequently. Most of my posts will be poetic or otherwise structured in nature, but I may do general blogging as well. I dress each day according to mood. And I write the same way.

Thanks for joining me. Happy readings…

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