Thursday, April 17, 2014

Round 1 Picks

For the last several years, I've been posting my picks for each round and my thoughts on the match ups. This season I'm a little bit behind. My days since the round was finalized have been full - I think work is taking it's toll and getting more than just the best of me. Regardless, here's a quick look at the teams I choose. If I can, later this week, I'll expand. But, for now, I choose:

Eastern Conference
Pittsburgh over Columbus
New York over Philadelphia
Boston over Detroit
Montreal over Tampa Bay 

And, with slightly less confidence, and I hate to admit that, I choose:

Western Conference (the West, in my opinion, is way harder than the East!)
Dallas over Anaheim
St. Louise over Chicago
Colorado over Minnesota
LA over San Jose


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

#wearewinter

I read an article this morning about how Gary Bettman is "not thinking about" NHL players playing in the Olympics in 2018. It was a silly article but then again, it simply matches my opinion of the public nature of the commissioner.

What burned my bottom was the barrage of comments that followed the article. Hundreds of people weighing in on whether NHL players should, indeed, be allowed to play hockey at the Olympics. People are allowed their opinion on the issue. Fine. What got me, was the amount of people that, in the mindset of keeping the NHLers out of the Olympics, spoke of the games as being a competition intended for the amateur athlete.

Burns my bottom!

Here's the thing. I love the Olympic games. I love the surge of patriotism that unites the country for those few short weeks. From the opening to closing ceremonies, I have goosebumps. I admit to tearing up in the midst of the stories of great victories, golden or otherwise. I surge with pride when it comes to stories like the one that circulated about our Canadian ski coach who jumped on the track to help a Russian competitor. I'm on the edge of my seat for ice dancers and bob sledders and speed skaters and curlers. I'm amazed by the speed (or airtime!) of our skiers, the finesse of our slopestyle athletes, the bravery of our skeleton sliders. They amaze me. #wearewinter

All that said, there's no one in our house denying that hockey is the sport that has our attention. If hockey is on, we'll catch replays of the others. We cheer on our men and women's teams with a fervor that the other events just don't receive. We won't be happy with less than double gold for our men's and women's teams. I admit it.

So back to where I started: NHL players in the Olympics and the games being for the amateur athlete.

Simply put, let's have the best of the best in EVERY sport representing their countries. That, to me, is the intention of the games. If that's NHL players, so be it. A two week break is not that big a deal for the league and a certain level of patriotism and "playing nice" with the rest of the world might just go a long way in actually aiding the cause of the business men behind it.

Here's where I get angry and defensive though. The games are NOT for amateurs. To say so takes away from the incredible athleticism and character of individuals competing. Of all of them. These people are class act. A gold medalist cross country skier waits 28 minutes for the last place athlete to finish and congratulates him ? That seems pretty professional to me. Or what about ALL the athletes who make this their life's work and goal, sacrificing so much in pursuit of their dream? They live and breathe this stuff. They train. They compete throughout the year. They compete through injuries that would absolutely take out the rest of us. They work to make themselves better. They may not be on national television with kids across the country wearing their name on their back or have agents working on multi-million dollar contracts but they are professionals in their own right.. more "professional" in character and in the way they represent their sport than what I've seen from a few NHL players out there.  Professional speed skaters. Professional skiers and snowboarders. Professional bobsledders. Professional figure skaters. Professional curlers. Professional hockey players.

Perhaps we need to reconsider how we define "professional" but, for now, its enough for me to recognize that these athletes are good. They are the best we have. And they should all have the honor of using that skill and dedication to represent their countries at the games.

Perhaps if we acknowledge the professionalism of sport for what it is in the other endeavors and supported our athletes accordingly, we'd see an even greater level of success and achievement by our athletes on the world stage. The other countries wouldn't stand a chance!

I'm proud of our athletes. I'm proud of what they've achieved so far. Yes, Team Canada, indeed #wearewinter

(C) Team Canada #wearewinter campaign



Sunday, January 05, 2014

Quoted :: Philip Yancey, Tim Keller, Max Lucado, G.K Chesterton and St. Augustine (a belated Christmas post)

“Yet as I read the birth stories about Jesus I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog.” Philip Yancey

"Christmas shows us that God is not just concerned about spiritual problems but physical problems too...because Jesus Himself is not just a spirit but also has a body, the gift of Christmas is a passion for justice."  Tim Keller

"He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. God tapped humanity on its collective shoulder. 'Pardon me, ' he said, and eternity interrupted time, divinity interrupted carnality, and heaven interrupted the earth in the form of a baby. Christianity was born in one big heavenly interruption." Max Lucado

"Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home."
G.K. Chesterton

"He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in a manger in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute."  St. Augustine

One Word

Last year was the first year that I joined some of my favourite bloggers in choosing a word (check out the movement - yes, it's actually a movement - at oneword365. It's pretty cool), instead of resolutions, to define the new year. The idea struck me as brilliant, really. A compromise between the a-type, goal setting personality part of me and the part of me that recognizes the wisdom of bigger picture themes and mindsets. The part of me that needs more grace than {failed} resolutions seem to allow for.



When I chose the word thrive, I had no idea how much that would change and shape my thoughts and perspectives...and how much I would need that.  2012 had been a difficult year. A year I felt that I simply trudged through and survived. I entered 2013 wanting something more than mere survival. I wanted to thrive. It’s amazing how one word can conjure up such deep, rich images. I saw rich, green plants coming out of parched earth, sipping up the water and reaching for the sunlight, growing, stretching and thriving, even in some of the harshest of conditions. In my mind’s eye, the pictures are optimistic, hopeful and alive. Little did I know how much I would need that kind of optimism. Little did I know what life would throw at us.


The truth is, in hindsight, our year was marked by loss.

Loss of my grandfather.
Loss of relationship with my husband’s children...who by choice, in my heart, are our children.
Loss of my sweet husband’s job.
Loss of health and subsequential loss of dietary freedom and some food favourites.
Loss of financial security...through some things truly out of our control.
Loss of stability.
Loss of the illusion of control...it truly is only an illusion, isn’t it?
Loss of hope...almost...but not quite.

I know that's the not the complete list either. We all know what's under the tip of the iceberg, right?

It was the kind of year that could almost make you want to curl up on the floor in a ball...to turtle.

And still, it seems, at least, that we have done more than survive. We have grown, we have changed, we have been formed by the curve balls of life and our reactions to them, we have made (or at least tried to make) wise decisions, and we have kept the big picture in mind. We tried to keep our eyes looking up and ahead. We have made the intentional choice to look for the things that are good, the gifts we have been given, and we have held on to each other. We have attempted to thrive in an environment that was certainly not conducive to it. From the outside, it may have looked a lot like survival but, somehow, from the inside, it felt different.

That said, I have never felt so ready for the turning of a new year. I am glad to be rid of 2013. Something in me breathed a sigh of relief when the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Eve. Out with the old and in with the new. There was something tangible to a new year this year that I have never felt before.  This year can, and will, be different.

Now it’s January 5 and I find myself still prayerfully musing over what word to choose for 2014. Something to capture what I hope for, to capture the message that New Year’s sigh conveyed.

I’m ready for a new thing. I’m ready for peace and quiet and rest. I’m ready to renew and be renewed.

Do you feel that? Renew?

The sigh echoes in my soul with that one word and I know it speaks deep and true.

There’s an image of green again for me with that one word. Or perhaps of a turning from brown to green. I remember as kid on the farm, we looked forward to the harvest. That was the goal of each season of planting and tending...the harvest...and so it seemed to defy reason to put a field into summer fallow. Into rest. Out of production. And yet there is the wisdom of the ages, of biblical truth, even, in that practice. To continue to plant in the same land over and over would deplete the land of the moisture and nutrients it needs to be productive. The energy and resources diminish with each crop that is grown. Giving it a season off allows it to be refreshed. It also allows for additional time for residue from previous crops to break down and replenish the soil, bringing back nutrients so desperately needed for subsequent crops. In short, it allows the ground to heal...to renew.



Part of me feels some fear in front loading a year with expectation after what seems like so many difficult ones. Like maybe, even though it's not a list of resolutions, I'm setting myself up for disappointment. Then I think of last year and how much the perspective change of one word changed me and I know it's good. I think of how much I long for a chance for a full stop, a moment to take a deep breath, to pull us back together and start again, one baby step in front of another. To start fresh. I think of how much I need...NEED... to be refilled. I feel like there is not an ounce of energy or emotional reserve left to deal with any more crisis, change or loss. I feel dried out, burned out and exhausted. There are so few tears left to be cried. Old habits, positive habits, long forgotten need to be restored. Like the fields, I need to be renewed before any sort of fruitfulness can occur. Perhaps, then, it is need producing hope. It's the words of scripture, like God's promises about sabbath for everything from the land to slaves to entire communities (you know, it's probably been 6 years of "hard" for both of us in this house...hmm...time for Sabbath, you suppose?) that come to mind and bring confidence.

It's another image, of prophecy, that allows my soul to sigh deep and long again and allows the hope of my one word to settle. Of dry bones restored.  

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’"   

Ezekiel 37:1-14

And so it is that these dry bones can be filled by the Spirit, hope can be restored and a life scarred by change and loss can be renewed. I know it to be true.

It's not just blind hope, waiting for something to be done to me or for me. Already the beginnings of some tangible things are taking shape. Small things, but a start, none the less.

Welcome to 2014.





*Leviticus 25:1-5  The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai,  “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord.  For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.  But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.  Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

O Come, O Come...Emmanuel, God with Us.



So here we are. It’s Christmas Eve. How on earth did that happen?! Somehow, in my mind, it still October. With extra snow. And yet it’s Christmas Eve.

 
As the season has seemingly snuck up on me, the typical season’s greeting, “Are you ready for Christmas?”, (synonymous with “how are you?” during the holidays, it seems), has actually caused me pause. This year, more than any other, I don’t feel ready for Christmas.
I’m not ready with gifts.
I’m not ready with baking.
I’m not ready with decorations, with tinsel, with trees, with wrapping and bows.
I’m not ready with Christmas parties and egg nog or celebration.
I’m not ready with Christmas music.
I’m not ready with “Joy to the world...”
But as I reflect, I realize that I am ready for “…the Lord has come.” I am ready for his presence to descend into the mess of busyness and heartbreak and loss. I’m ready for Emmanuel, God with us. And maybe, just maybe, there’s room for that in this holiday, the way that Israel was waiting for a king, a savior, a redeemer, to enter into their mess and bring light and life and joy. Because I am ready for “peace on earth, “all is calm, all is bright,” and a bit of “silent night.” For that I am ready.
Praying that this Christmas brings peace and joy and new life into this new year. 
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. 

God with us.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Photograpy :: Alana's Cake Smash

Now that's the way to spend the afternoon!! Not only did I get to spend some time with great friends, but we got to play...in cake! Alana was a great sport, motivated and encouraged on by her big brother. Hope her mommy likes the shots. Here's a sneak peak! 








Thursday, October 03, 2013

Quoted :: Tolkien, Lewis, Chambers, and Idleman

"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens." J.R.R. Tolkien

"If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world." C.S.Lewis

"It never cost a disciple anything to follow Jesus; to talk about cost when you are in love with anyone is an insult." Oswald Chambers

"Following Jesus isn't something you can do at night where no one notices. It's a 24-hour a day commitment that will interfere with your life. That's not the small print - that's a guarantee." Kyle Idleman





Holiness, not Happiness

As I wrestle with the psychology of happiness as embodied in an entitlement culture as well as my own frustration, discouragement and exhaustion, an image like this draws me back to what's important and I like it.

Happiness is easier to pursue, it is initially more satisfying when (and if) you can nail it down and it is certainly rewarded and encouraged by the world we live in but holiness...holiness, or even the pursuit of it, now that, so it would seem, is where true joy (and, ironically, true happiness) is found.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Extraordinary in the Ordinary

As I work to sharpen my photography skills, one of the things I've been reminded of often and have attempted to take to heart is to find the art in the every day moments. Having the camera ready to capture the extraordinary in the ordinary.




Like ladybugs.

And dill.

And early evening sun.

Another bit of inspiration advice I've been given is to not be afraid to take my camera (and use it) to the places I go. Thanks to that bit of advice, I was able to capture these moments at Spruce Meadows a couple of weeks ago.








Current Read :: September 24, 2013

People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

I just started this one. It's been highly recommended and awarded so I figured it was time to give it a go. It's about history and books. Two things I thoroughly enjoy. So here goes...

 It's been a long time, months (egad!), since I shared the pages that I'm perusing. Never fear, the reading has not stopped here. The pages have kept me entertained and sane, they traveled on vacation with me, they have given me escape, joining me in the heat of summer and they lulled me to sleep when my mind wouldn't slow.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak - Perhaps it was the timing of this one (and I know I'm going to sound dramatic as I say this) but it went straight to my heart. Written in Nazi Germany, it follows the life of a 13 year old German girl, sharing her fears, sorrows, and small joys - including books - in the midst of the war. She connects to books in some of the same ways I do (although, I don't steal them, FYI) and carries many of the same feelings about that time in German history that I imagine, from the stories of my Grandparents, many Germans did.

I've recommended it to a few people already: it is intended and marketed as a young adult fiction (not that that's ever stopped me before) and is written as such but it's so unique. The narration and structure are unlike anything that I've ever read it before. At first, it almost took away from the story for me - sort of like the beginning of a movie with subtitles - but once I got deeper into the story, it became an addition as opposed to a distraction.

The Mortal Instruments (Books 1-4), Cassandra Clare - I fully intended to avoid these but then my husband and my best friend and her husband all started reading them and talking about going to see the movie together so I jumped in. I honestly thought it would be another Twilight debacle but was pleasantly surprised. They are light, there's no question about it, but still have a descent story of things a little bit fantastic. Just waiting for my handsome husband to finish number five so I can finish up the story.

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen - This is another one that came highly recommended. From the cover (and the actors in the movie which I have not seen due to certain actors who shall remain nameless but I avoid whenever possible), I was concerned it would be some sappy romance but couldn't make that assumption coincide with the recommendations I was given. Always best to give it a chance, right? Another pleasant surprise and another pick that reminds me that there truly are books for seasons and situations. I read this one while I was with my family for my Grandpa's funeral so the whole concept of a man at the end of his life looking back at the stories of his youth, events and places long passed, felt especially poignant. Glad I picked it up.

Gardens of the Moon (The malazan Book of the Fallen #1), Steven Erikson - Tough slogging. Fantasy. War. Magic and mages. Things that normally keep my attention but there was something in the writing style that I found very difficult to engage with. Of course there's eight books in the series so the question is whether this is as good as it gets or if this is only the beginning and I should stick with it. Do I keep going? We shall see.

Cinder (Lunar chronicles #1), Marissa Meyer - The story of Cinderella...sort of. If Cinderella had cyborgs and evil queens from other planets and terrible diseases in Bejing. It was just fun brain candy and, in typical marketing genius, is definitely not a stand alone. A cliffhanger ending has left me waiting impatiently for the paperback of the next one.

Bossypants, Tina Fey - Written just like I've seen Tina Fey talk, Bossypants is a laughable collection of Tina's experiences on Saturday Night Live (loved the part about the Sarah Palin sketches) and 30 Rock and her thoughts on being a woman, wife, mother and career woman. I was surprised by how relatable some of her positions and opinions actually are, particularly those on being a woman in a man's world. Those I related to far too well.

The Third Secret, Steve Berry - I think I've now caught upon all the Steve Berry books that are out. Since I have a bit of a problem with leaving things undone or unfinished, that actually does matter to the experience. Like the other Berry books I've read, this one is rife with conspiracy and drama. I've gotten a bit attached to Cotton Malone - he's not in this one - so it felt a little "off" having a different main character but all in all was a good book to read by the beach.

The Hobbit, J.R.R.Tolkien - LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Hobbit. What more can be said, really?

The Zahir, Paulo Coelho - I have truly enjoyed a number of Coelho's books but have to admit that this one felt a bit contrived and overdone.

Peony in Love, Lisa See - I never would have expected a ghost story but that is exactly what I got. I expected the love story and the dramatic components for sure.  I even expected the education in Chinese culture, superstition and belief.  That's one of the aspects of See's writing I appreciated and was hoping for. But the ghost story. Surprise! Yes, I read the jacket. Yes, I still somehow missed the fact that it was a ghost story. But somehow it was okay. It worked. In the midst of the story and the culture and the emotion, it worked.

The Foundation Series (1-3), Isaac Asimov - I still think these should just be one book. You really can't read just one to make any sense of the story...and perhaps that's why it got better as I went through it.

Inferno, Dan Brown - If a book is exactly what you expected and exactly what you needed, that makes it a good book, right? Assuming that Brown held to form, I wasn't expecting this to be as intense a story as I enjoyed in "Angels and Demons" but I was expecting a story that touched on an issue, had a fair amount of drama, and had a life or death story. I got that, and with a small unexpected twist. Good for some light entertainment.

Blood of Dragons (Rain Wild Chronicles #4), Robin Hobb - I'm so sad this series is done. Or maybe it's not? Could there be more? Please?

I'm convinced that I have a problem. Life is too full of responsibility to give me the time for all the books I want to read. Or maybe there's just not enough hours and energy in the day. I have a wish list a mile long and a pile of books by my bed. One by one by one, I will devour them.

One of the ones on my wish list is "the Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. Has anyone read it? Or her other one, "Happiness at Home"? I would love to hear what you think about them. Sometimes life could use a little more dedicated focus to finding joy and practicing the art of happiness.

There's a couple more in the series I mentioned above that are waiting for me. A few best sellers and a new author or two. Another duo by a recent new author find. Then there's the series my handsome husband has been reading and recommending...yes, series plural. Have a I mentioned that I love that he's a reader too? Have I also mentioned that I enjoy that we can share books back and forth? At least he can be somewhat sympathetic of my affliction and he at least humors me when I remind him that I want my 'Beauty and the Beast' library one day (or maybe he thinks I'm joking).

So as the summer fades into fall and sunny days in the back yard with my books are almost gone,  I'm at least looking forward to evenings with a cup of tea, a blanket and a good story to keep me warm.