Tag Archive | 5 X Mama

Unexpected Favour

 

When our children were young, my  husband and I, along with helpers from the congregation, often ran Vacation Bible Schools for the first four days of the March Break. These were fun and lively affairs. I got out my guitar and led the children in plenty of action songs. My husband did most of the teaching and taught the children how to make papier mache puppets. He also wrote skits and recorded the children’s voices as they read their parts. Parents and other guests formed an audience for the children’s plays during the final day.

On the Fridays, we took our children for a family outing. Often we drove into Ottawa and visited the National Museum of Science and Technology. The children loved the Crazy Kitchen and other entertaining sights and activities.

Then we would go out for supper, which was always a  treat. One year, we went to Swiss Chalet. At the time we had four children, the youngest  still a baby in a high chair. When we were shown to our seats, a man with his wife and small daughter were sitting across from us. There was something very special about this family. The man immediately made sure we had sufficient room to put our coats. Later, when baby Hannah began to fuss, he showed concern and asked if there was any way he could help. The family finished their meal and we continued with ours. A little later the waitress came over to us, since we were ready to pay our bill.  However, she said:  “There is no charge. The man sitting across from you paid your bill. He said that he and his wife were very busy with just one child and you looked extremely busy with four. He wanted to do this for you.”

We were astonished by this man’s generosity. A complete stranger, whom we had never met before, blessed us with totally unexpected favour. We didn’t know his name and were never able to thank him but I believe that simply passing on  this gift of kindness was all the thanks he wanted.

At Easter, we celebrate another man who extended completely unmerited grace. Jesus, the Son of God, died for the sins of mankind. He paid the price of our sins on the cross, so that by merely acknowledging his name and accepting his grace, we could become his children and be guaranteed a heavenly home when we die. This was not a gift that we earned in any way. As Romans 10:13 explains it: “…Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (NIV). Our only responsibility is to respond to God’s gift of love.

The generosity of the man in the Swiss Chalet  years ago was a reminder to our family of how gracious God is. He gives us his gifts in many ways,  through people, circumstances, nature,  the blessings of each day and eventually of eternity. It is all ours for the taking, if we choose to put our faith in Christ.

God bless you this Easter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Friendship on Valentine’s Day

A few months ago, I was idling away some time on Facebook and almost on a whim typed in the search section the name of a friend who had attended university with me. We had shared many happy hours talking about our studies, hopes, boyfriends, faith, life goals and the many topics that two young women,in their early twenties, might discuss. For a while, we kept in touch, but as the years went by, lost contact. Now, thanks to Facebook, there she was again, just a click away. I sent her a friend request and she accepted immediately. I found out that she had 17-year-old twins, in their final year of high school. She was surprised that I had five children, and that one of them was married. Since then we have been exchanging notes and pictures, and I feel blessed that even though I just recently found out about her twins, I will now have the pleasure of seeing their prom and graduation pictures, finding out what universities they choose to attend, and feeling a small part of their lives.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate not only romantic love but friendship. In the Bible, this type of relationship is referred to as philia love, the feeling of connectedness two friends have for each other. Friendship offers support, nurture, caring, shared interests, laughter and fun. We aren’t meant to walk alone. We are meant to be in relationships with other people. Joy is heightened by friendship and sorrow is lessened. Even if our contact is restricted to an occasional letter or a note at Christmas, we know our friends are there and savour our past history.

Since I tend to find change difficult, during my childhood I envisioned living my life near my family in Southern Ontario. However, I fell in love with a young man who chose the ministry as his calling. Our first child was born in Saskatchewan. The next four were born in Ottawa, during a lengthy period in Eastern Ontario. Then in 2000, we moved to Nova Scotia, where we plan to remain. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to live in the same house or the same location, for most of a lifetime. There are certainly positive aspects to this, including a sense of security, stability and continuity. However, in spite of the drawbacks of our frequent moves, I would not change the past. Everywhere we have lived, we have met people who have deeply enriched our lives. I would not exchange such a precious gift.

In September 2014, we suffered the terrible loss of my sister and brother-in-law’s 31-year-old daughter. There were many people at the visitation, in Ontario, that I had not seen for some time. One of these was my best friend from elementary school. To me, she looked unchanged since we had parted, when her family moved in the middle of our Grade 8 year. We talked about old memories. She said, “Do you remember Mr. White making you stand on the top of your desk? You stood there and tapped your foot!” I had blocked out this memory, but her retelling the story brought some levity into a very sad evening. Later, a woman came up to me and said how glad she was when she heard I was coming. My friend recognized the panic in my expression, which clearly conveyed that I was desperately trying to recall who the woman was. Like the good friend she has always been, she came to my rescue.

On Valentine’s Day, and all through the year, remember your friends with appreciation and love. To all my friends: I am deeply grateful for you. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Note: Mr. White: name changed.

Catherine Cookson

“We are in Catherine Cookson country,” our tour guide, Andrew, informed us, as we travelled through north east England. Even though I had heard of this well known British author, I had yet to read her books. However, since then, a good friend, who is an avid Cookson fan, has loaned me her favourites, and I have grown to understand why this writer is so loved and widely read.

Catherine (Davies)  Cookson was born in June 1906 in Tyne Dock. She had an alcoholic mother and was raised by her grandparents. Her first novel, Kate Hanniganis autobiographical in nature and gives a strong sense of the misery and poverty she observed in her youth. Catherine married a teacher, Tom Cookson, who taught in Hastings. A serious depression set in, after she suffered four miscarriages. Catherine turned to writing and published close to 100 books. She died in June 1998 and her husband shortly after. Her books have enjoyed a great deal of popularity, not only in England, but in many other places around the world.

One of Catherine’s trademarks is that she was not afraid to address difficult and sensitive issues of morality and hardship. Her books deal with poverty, homelessness, illegitimacy, abuse, class distinctions and  incest. She incorporates these themes into her stories in such a way that the reader becomes intimately involved with the characters and understands their struggles to survive and overcome. 

silent ladyMy favourite Cookson novel is The Silent Lady. What is especially intriguing is the manner in which the story was conceived. Cookson explains in the dedication that she is old and ill, her husband is looking after her many needs, and “[d]octors are forever  coming and going.” The last thing she feels equipped to do is write another novel. However, the story of The Silent Lady springs to life of its own accord. She writes: “My mind gave me every character, every incident from the beginning to the end….” Finally, she decides to record the story onto tape and send it to a typist. Within a very short time, her final novel is complete. 

In The Silent Lady, the lovely, young heroine, Irene, pursues a career in singing and acting. She is noticed by a widower, Edward Baindoor, who is desperate for a male heir. They marry and have a son. Edward becomes possessive of the child and abusive towards his wife. A crisis occurs and Edward becomes so enraged that Irene is hospitalized and later, through a series of events, becomes homeless. Irene is taken in by a kind hearted and unforgettable character named Bella. Cookson says, “…when I came to Bella Morgan, I was in her body more than I was in my own.”

One  of the consequences of the abuse Irene suffered from her husband, is that she is almost incapable of speech. Thus, she is the “silent lady.” Catherine Cookson used her words prolifically to describe and explain not only her own suffering, but the suffering of her many fictional characters. Now she was at a point in her life where she could not write and her voice was failing her. Taping her novel was an arduous task. Catherine knew that she would very soon be a “silent lady.” The love, pain, self-sacrifice and eventual joy in this novel may well represent Cookson’s own final victory, her last brilliant effort to use her words to inspire and entertain, before she herself fell silent. 

Cookson’s novels are readily available in libraries and bookstores, or, if you are fortunate, you may  have a friend willing to loan them to you! Now that I have experienced these books for myself, I hope to have another chance to travel through Catherine Cookson country!

If you have read any of Cookson’s novels, which is your favourite?

Happy Reading! 

Please Note: Books reviewed on my site are either from my own collection or borrowed and are not reviewed for any kind of  monetary gain.

Snow Day

When I was a child, growing up in Owen Sound, Ontario, it was inevitable that winter would bring a bountiful offering of snow. Since Owen Sound is situated in a snow belt, eventually the piles of snow would be stacked high along the roads. Even though I was warned not to climb these  snow mountains, the temptation was irresistible.

My relationship with snow was in those days uncomplicated. Snow was fun! Somehow, I could stay outside for hours, making snow tunnels and forts, tasting the snow on my tongue, and lying down on the ground to wave my arms and feet back and forth to make snow angels. My friends and I slid down the hill at Ryerson School  on sleds and landed in heaps at the bottom. We didn’t seem to worry about how cold or wet we were, just the good time we were having.

Once I was an adult and had children of my own, snow became more challenging. We tussled with snow pants, jackets, hats, mitts and scarves. Since I was concerned about cold, little hands, I had strings put on the mittens, so the children were less likely to lose them. Still, my youngest daughter managed to misplace her winter jacket on the way home from school one day, and I have never figured out how! To provide winter entertainment, my husband built skating rinks in the backyard. We gathered up skates and helmets and later hockey sticks.The kids and I made paper snowflakes and other wintertime crafts and wiled away the hours with good books.

SnowyDayKeats

One of these was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, a picture book  chosen in 1963 for the Caldecott Medal, because of its lively illustrations. The story begins: “One winter morning Peter woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as he could see.” Peter spends a magical day outside, engaging in all the activities that  children enjoy.  A complication arises when Peter tries to continue the fun by stuffing his pockets with snowballs before he comes inside. However, all is well the next morning, and he is ready for another day of adventure.

Today, as a Nor’easter blows through Nova Scotia, bringing blizzard conditions, closing schools and making roads treacherous, my relationship with snow is again uncomplicated. It is the perfect opportunity to stay inside, sit at my computer, and write about snow. I am content to watch the flakes spinning past my window, and reflect on snowy days gone by.

5 X Mama, Happy Mother’s Day!

Head Shot   I looked at my young daughter, her stomach artistically decorated with bright markers. There was no doubt in my mind as to what had inspired her. The night before, we had read Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch, a children’s story  in which the heroine, Brigid, “…colored her belly-button blue. And that was so pretty, she colored herself all sorts of colors almost entirely all over.” The artwork faded from my daughter’s skin, but  her passion for books continued.  Now, as an adult in her twenties, Andrea  devours books, even if she refrains from plastering her belly-button with markers!

As a 5 X Mama, with four daughters and one son, I am convinced that one of the most important things you can do for your children is to read to them. Books have always played a huge role in my own life. My mother said, that as a child, I carried a book with me on outings, instead of a doll. Libraries were like treasures mines, complete with enticing covers, intriguing titles and dramatic tales. By the time I was eleven, I managed to talk the children’s librarian of our local library into hiring me as a page, to put books away and do other small duties. Finally, I entered the classroom as an   English teacher, sharing novels, poems and drama with teenagers, before embarking on another exciting career, as a 5 X Mama. Naturally, books were right, left and centre in our home.

My husband shared  my passion. When our babies were born, he read and re-read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, while he rocked fussy infants to sleep, and generously gave me some rest. Then when they were older – but not much older – he read the trilogy to them. When our youngest daughter turned 18 last November, her older sister, who once coloured her tummy-button, did much of the work planning a surprise Lord of the Rings theme party for her, complete with costumes, decorations and special food such as “orc pudding.”  My husband, dressed up as Gandalph, read to his now adult children, from one of Tolkien’s books.

All of our lives we tell ourselves stories, and we share those stories with others. Words have the unique ability to create, to empower, and ultimately to determine the course of our days. When children hear a wide variety of stories, the possibilities for creative and imaginative excursions are endless. Through stories, children learn how to respond intelligently and sensitively to the many influences and circumstances of their lives. They learn to look beyond themselves to the needs of others and to relate compassionately to people different from themselves.

In  5 X Mama, one of my goals is to share some of the wonderful stories I enjoyed with my own children, as well as to explore newer books. The possibilities are endless and in this age of digital distractions, it is perhaps more important than ever, that books make an immediate and emphatic presence in children’s lives. Besides all of this, reading books with children is just plain fun and gives parents, grandparents and educators opportunities to connect and converse, that would perhaps otherwise be lost.

the mothers day mice

An enchanting Mother’s Day book to share with your little ones is The Mother’s Day Mice by Eve Bunting. Three mice, Biggest, Middle and Little, go on a private adventure to find just the right gift for their mother. In spite of courting near disaster with a cat, each finds something special. Little discovers the best gift within himself  and in a spirit of generosity says that his present is from them all! Jan Brett’s detailed and colourful illustrations perfectly complement the text.

Do you have books you treasured as a child or enjoy reading to your children? I would love to hear about them! Have a memorable and blessed Mother’s Day!

Disclaimer: Copies of books discussed are my own or from the library, unlessotherwise stated.