Monday, February 28, 2005

Off the Cuff

Related to my learning goal of not over-preparing, I have recently experimented with preparing and presenting sermons without a full script. Ordinarily, I make notes about when to pause, which words to emphasize and when to turn to speak to the choir, etc. These past weeks I've simply gone with an outline of major points that I intend to make.

Which brings me to yesterday morning at the pulpit in Ravenswood. It was with a bemused sense of irony that I realized I'd left my sermon notes in the photocopier at Arkona. With a detached sense of adventure, I ended up pulling something out of (extemporane-ass) thin air.

I wouldn't say this style of preaching leads to better sermons. Although the time I spend on writing and rehearsing is now focussed on other aspects my ministry, life and family. So can I live with weaker sermons for a stronger ministry? For now, at least until I finish my full-time course or come up with a more effective method of managing my time. Amen.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Baby 'Tuba

Maybe the 50 Tracks phenomenon is wearing off on Rei - the thinking that she can select which songs she hears on the radio. Recently, she has repeatedly proposed that we listen to "Baby 'Tuba!!", a reference to Raffi's "Baby Beluga".

While we love that-little-white-whale-on-the-go, Shelley and I have tried sneaking in other CDs to broaden her musical horizons. No such luck. I'm sure I have some sort of comment about belugas and endangered species, but nothing comes to mind right now.

Friday, February 25, 2005

An Astute Judge of Character

To Shelley's great delight, Rei called me "Goofy Daddy" as we drove home this afternoon. For now, I'll take it as a term of endearment.

At least Rei didn't add an exasperated sigh or roll her eyes. Yet. I'll wait for that to happen in 10 to 14 years.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Reiko Love Triangle

In the expression of affection, Rei has three basic modes: hugs, kisses, and the elusive "I love you". Yesterday, I collected the trifecta prior to an evening of church meetings. Who would think hearing "Aye yah yoo" could sound so sweet?

Today I was lucky to get one out of three. Maybe she saves them up for times that we really need them. She's always been a bit of empath ...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Ever helpful, Rei lends her assistance.


Monday, February 21, 2005

80s Flashback

As CBC Radio looks at the 1980s in narrowing down the 50 essential Canadian Tracks, I was pleasantly surprised to note that Kon Kan's "I Beg your Pardon" was submitted. It was an anthem of my days with the high school chess club.

I'm just becoming reacquainted with those days of my youthful exuberance and preoccupation with electronica and sampling (New Order, Erasure, and of course Alphaville). This morning Rei and I jumped and danced to the synth-fluff of this Canadian duo and I'm continuing to track it through the time zones via CBC on-line. What would we do without the compu-global-hyper-mega-net?

"Do you want to hustle? / Do you want to salsa?"

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Honourable Mentions

Having ranked the top 5 concerts of my live musical experience, I would be remiss if I neglect those worthy acts that did not crack the upper echelons of my snobbery. All of the following I have seen multiple times and would see again:

  • The Rheostatics - marvellous Canadian ambassadors; ethereal musical musings, punctuated by the Voice of Tielli
  • Great Big Sea - great big voices from da b'ys of Newfoundland
  • Violent Femmes - I remember a revolving stage in the rain as songs about rain were played
  • The Mahones - drunken lazy bastards, all of them
A closing sentiment: as much as the music and live show is entertaining and engaging, it is always the people who are with you for the journey that make it memorable and meaningful. Dearest friends and loved ones, keep on rocking in the free world and make any noise you want ("woo! woo!").

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Concert #1

At long last, we arrive at the pinnacle of my live musical experience. I know some of you were wondering who would fill this spot (one of you called me from work to ask). I should warn you: this will get quite sappy.

Spirit of the West at Grand Central, Ottawa; 17 March 1994

For many different reasons, SOTW rises to the top on this particular occasion (of all the many times I've seen them - I can think of 6 shows right away). The opening act, Feeding like Butterflies, was stellar. A mix of eclectic folk-rock that captured my musical persona at the time. One can't go wrong with flute and accordian alongside guitar, bass and drums. Their "John in His Earthsuit" is one of my prized CDs.

SOTW live is always a treat. There isn't much artistry or polish but they are energetic and earnest. They simply offered their music and in doing so, themselves; it was one of the rare moments a band relates directly to and touches the audience. (Or it might just be me having built up this experience into something more than it truly was. But that does not make it any less significant for me now).

The clincher was the special person who was my date that St. Pat's night so long ago. The budding long-distance romance that was Shelley and I added one more wonderful experience to our shared lives.

Bonus features: after the show, we met the band for the first time; they were appreciative and obliging. Ah, St. Paddy's in a pub with a motley crew of my Canadian idols!

Friday, February 18, 2005

A step you can really skip

Shelley and I hung out tonight with one of her co-workers. We called the babysitter, played a little canasta...

Previous to the game tonight, our only knowledge of canasta was a reference in a commercial to Floridian retirees in sweater vests playing "a little canasta." It was a memorable ad campaign, seeing as we recall it years later. But it was not so effective that we could remember the product it peddled. We remember a line, "Want a step you can really skip?" and seem to think it refers to dish soap somehow.

Shelley did very well closing out the night with a victorious opening lay down of 120+ points and ending the game with a wild 2 and discarded king, sending the boys team to defeat. Ca-nasty!

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Our girl loves the night life, she loves to boogie!

Concert #2

You knew this one was on the way; permit me to rave one more time:

Peter Gabriel at Air Canada Centre, Toronto;
2 December 2002.

I have utmost respect for this champion of human rights and world music. He and Robert Lepage offered a thoroughly engaging journey of music, pageantry and spectacle.

The musical highlights were many (setlist): a touching rendition of "Mercy Street", exhilarating "Solsbury Hill" (to be played at my funeral), goosebumping "Secret World" and poignant solo bookends of "Here Comes the Flood" and "Father, Son".

The spectacles were awe-inspiring as he examined birth-life-death through a vertical thematic showcase of light and colour. I was captivated with wonder as he performed while suspended upside down, rollicked in a Zorb ball, Simon Says-ed in lightbulb jacket and pranced as a camera-wielding Barry Williams.

However, juvenile humour and phallocentric dance moves were somewhat distracting to say the least. Melanie, as lovely a daughter as she is, had a weaker voice that seemed thin in comparison to the rich aural tapestry that surrounded us.

Nevertheless, a stunning concert. Rei's first concert, in utero, and my dream come true. All hail "that English guy"!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A Private Sneeze

It's always a joy when ministers, pastors, clergy, whatever-you-call-'ems, get together. Today , a number of us were briefed on the implications of the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA, pronounced "puh-HIPPa", not "FYE-pa" as I would have done) on our pastoral visits to hospitals and any information our nosey selves may have procured.

Much of it was common sense and common practice that any respectful and half-brained person already knew and did. Although someone did try to argue that his rights and freedoms were being nibbled away. I exercised my right and freedom to not snort aloud in derision.

Although I did sneeze, and someone blessed me. At first, I suggested that this was a good room for it (blessing) until the magnitude of the situation dawned upon us. In no way did I imply or express consent for the blessing to occur! This, in a hospital setting where PHIPA was in full effect ... what happened to my right to respiratory privacy? The indignation, the outrage, the horror!

My little example is taking things to an extreme. And you know me: Xtreme Xenji, reverending on the edge.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Handy Daddy strikes once more!

In the seemingly never-ending quest for office organization, I polished up my screwdriver set, dug out my rubber mallet and assembled a lateral file cabinet in the wee hours of this morning. Although, the "lateral" aspect is a bit of a misnomer. Special circumstances and configurations of brackets must align to produce the desired effect. Still, it has increased the storage capacity of the office -- which was the ultimate goal.

Shelley lovingly/mockingly refers to endeavours such as this as the adventures of Handy Daddy! Previous attempts at home renovation include: hammering protruding nail heads down, installing baby safety locks on cupboard doors, and changing a storm door handle. Tomorrow, wall files will be mounted. (Doesn't that present a lovely mental picture?) Ahem.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Concert #3

The concert countdown continues:

"Weird Al" Yankovic at Lansdowne Arena, Ottawa;
23 October 1999.

That's right. Weird Al. I'm reclaiming the awkward high school years of AV club as a powerful and honest expression of self-worth. (After all, who was it that hooked up Sister Jessica's VCR?)

For a such frenetic, goofy guy, he put on a well-organized, tightly choreographed showcase of parody and originality. The set list can be found here. The wackiness was featured in costumes, video clips and a happy 40th birthday to Al. Although I have yet to get over his clean shaven look with long, luxurious hair and lasered eyes -- he's sold out to The Man.

Nonetheless, it was a joy to share the experience with fellow Al pal, Jeffy (and our accommodating spouses). It is quite unlikely that Al ever ate the birthday block of "Old Fort-y" cheese we gave him.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Bitter is the taste in my mouth

Ack. Ugh. I just finished watching the Amazing Race 6 finale. I had an inkling from the way conversations went yesterday, that super-American couple Freddy and Kendra would win the race. And they did. "Rest assured I was on the Internet within minutes registering my disgust throughout the world." Bah.

Kris and Jon rank among my favourite teams of all-time. If I could create a montage, I would. From among this esteemed company (frat brothers Kevin and Drew; absolutely fabulous Danny and Oswald; and won-it-on-his-own Chip) Kris and Jon most deserved to win. But life isn't about fairness or who deserves what.

I'm thinking some single malt will take this bad taste out of my mouth.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

4 Small Words

I travelled back to the Toronto area having only left the metropolis a couple nights earlier. While the yearning to be back with the Sisters has subsided somewhat, this was a reunion of Shelley's college housemates -- the Party of F*ing Five.

Rei strung together her first four-word sentence in the car on the way to Brampton. "I see a boy." Pronoun subject + active verb + indefinite article + noun object = sentence. Now as to what she's doing looking at boys is another question. (Although at the Woodstock Wendy's rest stop, we saw one of her daycare classmates, Josh! Already it's a small world).

The afternoon/evening featured Cranium and Trivial Pursuit (80's and Star Wars editions); hemp beer; Les Trois Poules, a Cabernet Franc, direct from France; and hot wings.

I garnered a new waste-o site for the geek in all of us: Wil Wheaton Dot Net; more than a Trekkie homage, it offers insight into the adult life of a child star. Engage!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Rei ... I am your father.

From the holy to the profane, I'm back where I belong with my girls. It's a readjustment to life on the outside, happy to be home, amazed at how much taller Rei has become and how her vocabulary has expanded.

I spent some time getting reacquainted with my must-see TV. While watching 24, I clapped my hands and giggled with delight as Tony Almeida exploded back onto the scene with brooding intensity. I rolled my eyes as Amazing Race Kendra hypothesized that Shanghai cab drivers were prejudiced against her kind. Due to fuzzy tracking on the tape, I have yet to see the last hour of the finale, counting on Outdoor Life Network's re-broadcast to answer all questions.

It is nice to talk during meals again; although, I have to confess I think of napkins every once in a while.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


For the last time, I placed my napkin ring in its cubbyhole. I make my last entry from this cloistered haven. Farewell, sweet Sisters of St. John the Divine. I'm heading home.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Concert #4

Our musical journey through great Kenji concerts continues with:

REM at John Labatt Centre, London; 9 November, 2004.

Michael was in fine voice, sonorously compelling and sardonic. Mike Mills' special wardrobe tribute to Canada and his Rockville presentation enhanced the experience. And as distracting as Bill Berry's on-stage dances were, you have to admire someone who "dances" to his own beat...

The setlist was a marvellous mix of new and classic (set list available here), (Document was well represented "This One Goes Out to the One I Love" and "Exhuming McCarthy") with special regard for "The Aftermath" on the latest release. The lighting, the engagement of the audience and the power of Stipe ... only "It's the End of the World as We Know It" could have made it better. I feel fine.

Emerging from the Circle

Those of you who may be familiar with the ethos and rhythms of CCS life may have guessed my absence from this site is linked to my Student-Led Session. This would be an accurate assessment.

Having finally finished our day of co-learning with classmates, I'm ready to stop being so intentional and honouring. Except the sessions continue tomorrow with a Review of Learnings process that honours intentionality.

I wore my salmon-coloured dress shirt as an act of solidarity with my co-presenter, Maureen. This did not mix well with the spaghetti at lunch. Not even my napkin could remedy my predicament.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Escape from the Convent

Yesterday Shelley came and whisked me away from the convent on a day off.

For the first time in a long time, we saw a first-run movie in a theatre, "Sideways", a quirky romance featuring wine, a bit of golf, jazzy soundtrack and Asian-Canadian Sandra Oh. It dragged on a bit, but was true-to-life, engaging and witty. It would get my vote over "The Aviator" which I have not seen, nor plan to, but already I know it has a little too much Leonardo for my liking.

We ate a lovely Indian meal at Clove Restaurant; the staff was attentive, the music was sublime, the bathrooms were clean and the food was currylicious. The next morning, thanks to a complimentary breakfast buffet, I loaded up on food I couldn't get with the Sisters: bacon and grapefruit.

It was nice to get away, nice to be back, it'll be nice to go home. Nice!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Adventures in T.O.

In search for pitchers and bad food, we found ourselves at an establishment of better repute (although the bathrooms were ingeniously tucked away in some hidden location).

It has been a long time since I've whiled away a night in a pub. Gathered with some classmates, we slugged back some Creemore Springs, Guinness, and my old standby, Moosehead, as we complained about everything, laughed a lot and made fun of each other.

We were all convinced that Michelle was being hit on by Katie, our wait staff, who insisted on calling her "honey" and "sweetie". What a nightmare. Keith adventurously consumed a street vendor's mild sausage. Need I elaborate? Just look at him.

As for me, one chin-up on the subway and my Weekly World News ("Elvis located by a psychic") and I'm happy camper.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Concert #5

After much reflection and inner debate, my heralded Top 5 concert list has been finalized. Getting us started at #5 is:

Gerry O'Kane at The Wellington, Kingston; any Friday or Saturday night circa 1995-1997.

Not strictly a concert, but one of my formative live musical experiences. This silver fox of a troubadour entertained patrons of this esteemed (now closed) pub with rousing renditions of folky Maritime and Celtic standards. I look back with many fond memories of dear friends, Guinness, nail polish and a next-morning hoarse-ness of voice.

This is the Last Time

You may be concerned about my fixation with napkins. It appears that I've readily adapted to the culture that surrounds me. I had resolved not to blog about napkins anymore; until this morning happened.

The general meal process involves: entering the Refectory (dining hall), retrieving napkin and ring from its cubbyhole, placing it at a vacant place at the table and getting one's meal from the buffet tables. Upon my return to the table, we discovered that Lyn had sat down at Deb's place. Deb, knowing she was sitting next to Lyn, sat down in my place.

I was separated from my napkin. Silently, we managed to sort things out to great merriment and hilarity. One of the sisters helpfully reminded us that today was napkin-changing day. As of noon, I wipe my mouth with the colour rose.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Party down

News update: nun. Get it? Ahahahaha.

Actually, it was a day of grace today; "Casual Thursday," if you will. No worship services, silent meals were come-and-go instead of sitting waiting for the dismissal bell to tinkle. Naturally, napkins were still in full effect.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What day is this?

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are napking-changing days. Today also marked Sr. Constance's 101st birthday. Ecclesiology and the group planning process filled out the day.

I think it's Wednesday today. I used to know what that meant. Living at a convent and in intensive course work tends to remove sense of linear time. At least I have a clean napkin.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I think I ate liver today

One of the drawbacks of silent meals is that you can't ask anyone what you're eating. I figured out quarterway through my plate that what I presumed to be a funky serving of Salisbury steak was in fact liver and onions. Such are the adventures at the convent.

Also puzzling is the pomp and circumstance that surround the use of napkins. As best as I can discern, everyone is entitled to a paper napkin. Those staying for a longer duration than a meal or two are assigned a cloth napkin. Each cloth napkin comes with a napkin ring, labelled with your room number. If you have a cloth napkin (and ring) you no longer are eligible to receive a paper napkin.

Further to this etiquette are the cubbyholes where napkin and ring are to be placed when not in use. Each compartment is labelled, again by room number. This rather involved and superhygienic concern is perplexing when considering the wine of communion is received by drinking from the same chalice.

My napkin is green. It is labelled "E125"; don't touch it!