Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Putting the 'grate' in 'integrative paper'

My penultimate assignment for CCS is an integrative paper, due tomorrow. Yesterday, there was a phone message call from my staff contact at CCS with some information (possible changes, just for me) regarding it. I called back that afternoon: no answer.

I called this morning, she's working from home, the message would be passed along, I would be called back. No call back. So I'm kind of at loose ends wondering if I finish the paper or wait and see. What's the better use of time, writing something that might require dramatic changes and rewrites or not completing a paper that might be accepted as is?

Maybe I'll sleep on it.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Suns win

I can hear BrendaMiller yelling at her TV from here: "Put your purses down and play ball! You bunch of goats!" Thankfully, the Phoenix Suns extended their playoff run tonight, so she can continue her sports commentary. "With a 3 from downtown ... shooting the lights out ... Steve Nash is so dreamy...".

Should be tired

Rei and her parents had a busy day. It began with a visit to the doctor, where the pediatric orthopedist prescribed some orthotics for our flat-footed, flexible-ankled, over-protonating child (she takes after her father). Morning snack featured treats at the hospital Tim Horton's.

A spontaneous visit to a riverside, Saturn-sponsored park featuring swings, slides and geese followed. Next up was a quick stop at Scholar's Choice for a painting smock, fast-food lunch at Wendy's, an arduous clean-up of a poop explosion, and some peaceful moments of eventual naptime.

Pushing our luck even further, we went swimming at the local pool which went surprisingly well. Then, supper and a trip to the park next door where the first trips down the tall, spiral slide were taken.

Yes, Rei should be tired. Instead she's busy looking at the cartoon raccoons on her diaper.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Weekend of Extroversion

- funeral (where I did manage to work in a Billy-Braggian exposition on cultural identity into the reflection)
- met my table group
- reconnected with my two principals (from CCS and QTC)
- interacted with 600+ of London Conference's delegates to the 81st Annual General Meeting (where I was embarrassingly applauded for my near-completion of my Educational Ministry Certificate with CCS)
- get-to-know-you games with the youth delegates
- opening worship with youth
- shook more hands
- small-talked to more people
- spoke at the microphones twice (against a motion to definitely postpone action on a resolution, and for a motion to transmit a proposal with concurrence to General Council)
- youth presentation to the court of London Conference
- giggling at the side with disdainfully, irrevent Pat and Michelle
- singing slowly
- even more hand-shaking, some hugging
- even more small-talking
- Peruvian lunch (mmm... Rocoto...)
No wonder I'm tired. Back to my introspective cave of silence.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


I'm not sure if this is a recent addition to Just Concerts but I see that there's a Billy Bragg concert available for the listening. How did I miss that before? His poetic, political melodies and rants will edu-tain me into the night as I prepare for tomorrow's funeral. What a bloke!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A trip to Mow-Town

I finally cut the grass today. Well, it was more like chopping the dandelions down than mowing the lawn. As much as I dislike yard work, I have to admit things do look much better now.

Shelley tried to tell me it's an opportunity for me to be one with God's creation. To which I replied that it is our human folly that artificially attempts to control and subvert nature to our suburban specifications and not a desire for holy communion with the divine.

Her response: it's "alone time" for me. Zing! Can't argue that. Does she know me or what?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Time management is not a strength of mine. It takes so much effort and energy to come up with a workable schedule for the week, I have a hard time letting go of it to make adjustments. Now, in the middle of London Conference weekend (with its Mission & Service Fund golf tournament, Youth at Conference program, and diaconal ministry presentation), I have a funeral.

I do not begrudge this person for dying at such an incovenient time - although there is a whole other story about my time at the hospital - but am a bit embarrassed at the obstinate obstructions I was coming up with about how I was going to fit that into my timeline. I mean really, what am I here for if not to tend to the needs of the people in the church? Is it that heavy a burden to bear?

It isn't always about me. Just most of the time.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The joy of the ordinary

Tonight was an ordinary evening and it was delightful.

I rejoice that I'm home with family engaging in the mundane and "normal": grilling steaks on the barbeque, imbibing Wolf Blass Yellow Label (OK, that part was a bit of a treat), and watching Rei stomp on dandelions. In the evening, just hanging out with Shelley in the living room.

All of it very good stuff. I love my life.

Running to Stand Still

Just easing back into things, trying to catch up on play time with Rei, couple time with Shelley and prep time for baby-on-the-way. In my absence, the lawns and trees have greened up, tulips have come and mostly gone, and the lilacs have popped out.

In spite of the sprinkling rain, I did go out for a Keith-less run late this morning. As improbable as it is, I wondered if the rain that fell on me today was the same rain that fell on me in Winnipeg yesterday. Regardless, it put a new, relevant spin on Matthew 5: 45, "... [God] sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous".

That doesn't really help me with unpacking, the stack of mail to go through, the preparation for London Conference's Annual General Meeting this weekend or the concurrent Youth at Conference program. I have, however, viewed the Quentin Tarantino double episode of CSI and reconnected to the 24-hour adventures of Jack Bauer in time for the finale tonight. Priorities, you know....

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Home again home again, jiggedy jig

The airport reunion was pretty much as I imagined and hoped with a smiling Rei running towards me for a big hug and a happy "DADDYYYYY!" ringing through the terminal. It is so good to be home and with "my girls" (not that I claim possession of them; rather, affirming that my place is with them).

Shelley likes the locally-crafted pottery vase I brought her from The Forks. Rei likes her flashlight (no unique Manitoba connection) that features transparent filters that project shadow images of planes, trains and automobiles. Seeing as she thought I was on a plane for most of my time away, I thought she'd like the flashlight better than a West Jet replica toy.

I had to make a quick readjustment to the new twists to the bedtime routine: reading Goodnight Moon, lighting the nightlight, positioning Pooh bear and pillow just right, and the literal uncovering of feet (emphatically not in the metaphorical biblical sense!) from her blanket.

Sweet dreams, my sweeties.

Leaving on a WestJet plane

Pretty much everything is packed up and fitting just so in my luggage. My educational sojourn has concluded and 19 days later, I must be getting back to dear Ark-o-ona.

On the way to sushi last night, a drive by Lions Manor revealed Brenda Miller's window decoration still in place. Too bad I won't be around tonight to do as locals do: race up and down Portage Avenue. In spite of this deficiency in my Winnipeg experience, I am quite content to bid a fond farewell.

So long to The Nook, Bella Vista, Fort Garry Dark Ale, Towne 8 Cinemas, Stella's Cafe & Bakery, Terraces of Tuxedo, and many more people and memories of Friendly Manitoba.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Tourist in Winnipeg

Unleashed into the world from the convent, and after saying good-bye to most of my co-retreatants, Leah, Amira and I embarked on an afternoon of tourism in the ubiquitous silver Honda Civic. In what is likely my last time in Winnipeg (for the foreseeable future), we found a toy store, Mountain Equipment Co-op, the Forks, and Ta-Ke Sushi for supper.

The evening featured play time with a wide-awake Amira and viewing
Hotel Rwanda. Yeah, nice light fare. It is a powerful film about a horrific story and well worth watching. Only, one has to be prepared and in the mood for bravery amid inhumanity, compassion amid genocide and residual feelings of helplessness, disgust and resolve.

A wonderful day, even if it was a Catan-less one. Pauvre Omar remained in Ontario for a phantom practice exam. Bastardo.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Silence Is Golden

So what does one do on a silent retreat? Whatever it takes for stillness in life and awareness of holiness within oneself and in one's life. To make the most of the opportunity to simply be.

Today I did numerous crossword puzzles, worked on my reverse applique finger labyrinth until I lost my sewing needle. (Sr. Marie says puzzles and crafts help focus the mind - who was I to argue?)

I listened to music, walked the grounds, sat under a tree and just was. At one point, I felt myself sinking into its roots and rising up in its branches ... a wonderful connection to creation and all that is in it. A Buddha moment for sure. Speaking of the enlightened one, I also read a few chapters/books of
Killing the Buddha.

I went to chapel, chanted and prayed with the sisters. My omission of the Hail Mary due to Protestant ignorance was replaced by fascination at the fact that she was praying for my sins and heavenly delivery. That's nice of her.

We had a campfire as night fell, we watched the flames and avoided mosquitoes and ticks. (For the record: one sheet of newspaper + one match = ignition). Evening came, and then morning: the silent day.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Un-Centering Prayer

In a meditative practice championed by Thomases Merton and Keating (and others not named Thomas), we were invited to join an evening session of Centering Prayer. I arrived at the appointed place at the appointed time, took off my sandals and entered the room.

I was halfway to an empty chair when I noticed that I was feeling decidedly awkward. The room was filled with white, middling-aged women with short hair (with the exception of classmate Elizabeth). It was even more awkward to turn around and leave so there I was.

That feeling passed as differences melted away in a time of silence followed by a contemplative walk (Great! I thought, we’d tour around the grounds a bit, or at least in the building... Not so much, we ended up walking the circle around our chairs). A group Bible study followed that was more or less helpful (maybe less) and then I got out of there.

Funny that I would be surprised by being a male minority in a convent. I better watch out for that estrogen poisoning Michelle was talking about.


The limo came early and we scrambled to retreat into silence and contemplation at St. Benedict’s.

Working with Sr. Marie, I ended up re-engaging the story of Jairus' daughter, the one that had me freaked out on the weekend. Further reflection with this text was unintentional; the mistyped suggestion was Mark 5: 4: 35-41, with intention being the story about Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4: 35-41.

I went with the story of Jairus’ daughter being healed, raised from death/sleep. At first I thought the idea of sleep leapt out at me because I hadn't had any yet. But, it became clear that sleep was associated with safety and security. We sleep best when free from worry and distress.

Funny, actually it's tragic, how one has to suffer through pain and loss before knowing comfort and assurance. And sleep. I predict many naps.

Jedi Mind Tricks

I cannot take credit for this story; that belongs to my learning partner Michelle (who almost was the centre of a taxi altercation just now). She happened to overhear the following exchange between a patron and a staff person of a toy store:

Young man: "I consider myself to be a 'with it' kind of guy ..."
(I knew this was going to be good)
Young man: "And I can understand the Star Wars display in the window..."
(Here I'm thinking he's getting ready to ask the store clerk out on a date)
Young man: "But I'm wondering about the rocks that are there on the ground."
Store clerk: "They were left over from some other display. I thought I'd leave them because they looked like asteroids or something."
Young man: "Oh good, because I thought I was missing something about the movie!"
(hysterical beer-sodden laughter)

Hmm... it doesn't read as funny as when she told it. Still, knowledge is power. Whoever has the information is in control (be it about Star Wars or anything else). This is what I learned from my time in The Circle.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Survivor: Ottawa

Locked in the bubble that is the CCS Learning Circle, the occasional news item from the outside world is able to burst through. Keith, being the active politco that he is, was giddy with elation when he learned that Belinda Stronach crossed the floor to Liberal Party (coupled with the gains that the NDP made in BC's election last night).

Poor Stephen Harper, with his dead-fish eyes and thinly-drawn lips, betrayed by a key member of his alliance. No immunity challenge is going to make this better.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Cruise Control

With the completion of our student-led session on Empowering Lay Leadership, there is not much else to do. Most of my Review of Learnings exercise has been completed; it may be safe to gear down and coast to the end.

This is it. One more day of circle life and it's off to live with nuns again before I'm able to get home.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The DaVinci Curse

It was with great delight and joy that I reconnected online with a dear friend from university, a Scottish bloke who was a transfer/exchange student from Glasgow.

He bemoaned the success of Dan Brown's
The DaVinci Code. This "provocative" suspense-filled novel has prompted more recent discussion of Jesus' marital status and descendancy. A more interesting, and seemingly overlooked, aspect is his treatment of patriachal church influence denigrating and erasing all elements of the divine feminine. In this regard, I still prefer Tom Robbin's Skinny Legs and All.

As my Scottish scholar's Ph.D. thesis is related to art history, and as his academic sphere is overrun by tourists seeking the sites of the Holy Grail, I offer to him this profound words of comfort: heeee hoooo.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

How often do I get to golf on Sunday?

It was a lovely spring day in Winnipeg and I took full advantage.

After a festive Pentecost worship service (HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHURCH!) at Young United, I played 9-holes at John Blumberg Golf Course. Coincidentally, I completed a foursome of young CanadiAsian (Japanse, maybe) men. I played in the middle of the pack, with some impressive shots. I try to average one per hole.

It was with hidden glee that I would regularly out-drove my counterparts with my rental clubs as they furnished their pre$tigiou$ big-name drivers. Ironically, it all fell apart in my short game. They were nice guys; quiet, though.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Bad Vibe

Of course, I brought this on myself.

Keith and I engaged in the tortuous imaginings of every parent's nightmare: what if something were to our kids? With that conversation as the subtext for the day, the scripture reading Mark 5: 21-36 kept popping up in our sessions. (Jairus appeals to Jesus to heal his sick daughter, who is delayed by another healing during which time the girl dies ... it has a happy ending as the girl is brought back to life, but I was really identifying with Jairus this time).

So most of the day was spent in uneasiness and anxiety about things back home. Were Shelley and Rei OK? Did they get to Neva's birthday bash safely? When the afternoon session ended, I couldn't get out of there fast enough and make some phone calls. Jeffy's sister, Jen, answered the phone and told me that Rei and Neva were watching TV together. I was so relieved; I was ready to hang up the phone when I thought to talk to my loved ones.

All in all, it sounds like I missed a great party, but I'm so glad that the ordinariness of my uneventful life is as I left it.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Random Acts of Tim Horton's

It's a small world after all.

I stopped at Tim Horton's for some lunch en route to Woodsworth House for a school-related interview. I thought I recognized someone who I knew from church back in Ontario. "No way it could be her," I decided. Turns out I was wrong. She approached me with a disbelieving, "Kenji?!" The adjective most used by us to describe this chance meeting was "random". She was on a cross-Canada trek, spending a couple days in Winnipeg before venturing home, just having lunch in Tim's on Maryland.

I was so distracted by this serendipity that I dropped my donut on the floor (Boston Creme) and spilled coffee all over my sleeve. Could also have been Friday the 13th's bad luck. Speaking of 13, MVP Steve Nash is playing ...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Puppet Psychology

This morning as I offered a puppet enactment of a non-existent conflict about a wolf that wanted to talk to a sheep about dinner. The sheep ran away, withdrawing from the situation from fear of being eaten, assuming that was the wolf's intent. Sadly, all the wolf wanted was company for dinner at Swiss Chalet.

My learning partner, Michelle, has awakened me to the degree that I internalize conflict. I was in a similar situation a couple months ago when one group of people wanted to discuss something with another group of people. This second group became rather defensive, withdrawing from positive interaction and communication. All the first group wanted to do was imagine ways they might help the second group.

Who would have known that was buried in my subconscious? Puppets did, apparently. They also unleash the extrovert in me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Wheels in Winnipeg

It seems that whenever I'm in Winnipeg, dear friends Omar and Leah have to leave. We have managed one evening of Catan and baby therapy during this stint in town. There are plans for more upon our imminent reunion.

So I dropped Leah off at the airport today at lunch. She has very graciously lent me the use of her car in her absence. I'm anonymous in the ubiquitous silver Honda Civic and the Peg is my town ... with its under-reconstruction bridges, cracked and bumpy roads, and maze of one-way streets. But who's complaining? It's "One Great City".

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


In the last 24 hours, we've been to a mosque, a synagogue and had a First Nation's Medicine Wheel teaching. The things I do for my education: in these interfaith efforts at dialogue and understanding, I missed my early-evening naps and the latest episodes of 24 and The Amazing Race (season finale!).

In this span, I've also started one fire using no paper and a couple dozen matches, sniffed innumerable plants and herbs, applied bear medicine to my aching head, helped plan a morning worship, made up and presented a children's story.

Plus, I just re-taught myself the Hebrew alphabet. You know, just for fun. Because I like words so much.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Olfactory Settings

This afternoon, an aromatic mix of freshly baking cookies, fresh paint, not-so-fresh coffee and tobacco co-mingled in the space of St. Matthew's Anglican Church, the site of our learning.

I have a headache.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Everyone's a Critic

Part of the Learning Circle routine has involved going to the movies with Learning Partner Michelle to make the most of the impending day off. After claiming respective high scores (#1 - 150, #2 - 117) on The Simpsons arcade game, Keith bailing out on our quest to rescue baby Maggie to play Rocky and Bullwinkle pinball, our disdainful and irreverent selves delighted in the enlightened chatter of the masses at the cinema.

As the preview information for The Dukes of Hazzard movie was shown, we caught snippets of conversation that featured an indignant voice protesting: "...that's YOUR show [presumably Dukes, the original]; MY show was MacGyver!"

We also overheard a compelling review about House of Wax, from a discerning critic on her cell phone that sounded something like: "that was the most awesome movie ever. It was awesome. You should go see it. It's the best. It's awesome."

Saturday, May 07, 2005

School Daze

In the eternal quest to be current and innovative, class involved video/DVD clips shown on an LCD projector. The resolution of some technical difficulties required my presence with the electronic gadgets, as well as a few sprints through the rain. I had a laptop under my arm for one of these trips which imparted an eerie sense of deja vu. Except this time, the church was the destination instead of the crime scene.

With moderate success, light and sound united to impart and enhance resurrection truth as Jesus (of Nazareth, of Montreal) and E.T. came alive on the "screen". It was like high school all over again, as a card-carrying member of MAVIS (Mobile Audio Visual Intelligence Service), I would be carting, setting up and packing up equipment all over the school. Needless to say, that kind of magic worked wonders with cool kids.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Meet James Ensor

It was a day of musical discovery, obscurity and nostalgia. After paying for my accommodations at the University of Winnipeg Residence Office, I browsed the campus bookstore and came away with another local CD: The Paperbacks' An Episode with Sparrows. (Last year it was The Weakerthans, who continue to receive steady eartime).

I was reminded of 80's hair rock during my grocery shopping excursion at The Bay ... Rick Springfield was playing in the background. Oh Jesse, you and your girl!

Back in class, our afternoon session on the liturgical season of Lent featured a merry, jaunty Lenten hymn and a station-to-station gallery display of various aspects of the Christic Passion story. One of the art pieces was
Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889 which elicited thoughts of They Might Be Giants.

(The connection to this entry's title, "Meet James Ensor", is a reference to song 15 on TMBG's release John Henry. Said Mr. Ensor is the artist of the Jesus-on-parade-in-Belguim work).

Feng Shui

As I am wont to do, I rearranged my room the other day. The primary motivation was nothing as noble as enhancing the flow of chi through the living space. It was a mere reactionary relocation of the bed to a darker corner of the room so that the bright city lights streaming through the window don't bother me.

Although, I did place the dresser at an angle within its new corner. My length of stay precludes me from making investments in plant life or water works. Although a poster or two might add some colour to the blandness. What do kids have for posters these days? Garfield? ALF? Those were the days.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Feeling Huge

I've resumed my Learning Circle practice of chasing Keith around the city every morning before class. Today I watched his long, white legs flashing in the sun, pulling into the distance. I caught up to him eventually. Unaccustomed to such disciplined exercise, I'm paying the price - feeling rather achy and slow, particularly my huge legs. Perhaps if he was weighed down with a stereo, I could keep up.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Day One

Time is so fluid. At least our perception of it. After being away from this circle for 3 months, it seems in many ways that we hadn't left. I've been in Winnipeg for a day and it seems like a week; conversations I had this morning seem days away; such is life at an intense residential program.

There will be lots of checking in, intentionality, care, as well as purpose statements, learning goals, feedback and encouragements. After rebuilding community, reintroducing ourselves to Christology and marvelling in the warm Winnipeg day, the work begins in earnest.

I promised myself I wouldn't "coast to the end" but it's awfully hard to not think about being over and done with this schoolwork and back home again. Time flies when we're having fun. Wheee!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Into the West

The circle of life that is CCS has convened once more, beckoning me to the fair city of Winnipeg. This last round of course will be the last time I embark on a plane without my girls. It's seems tougher being away for 3 weeks this time: when Rei is so much more active and aware, when Shelley is 7 weeks away from the expected baby arrival date.

The flight was uneventful; despite a First Officer with the surname "Mulder", there were no sightings of otherworldly activity. I usually travel well on planes, but felt somewhat queasy (after the smooth landing) during the taxi to the terminal. Without embarrassment, I got myself to Lions Manor with Amazing Race efficiency.

Lions Manor is a seniors' apartment complex, paired with the University of Winnipeg Residences, that offers private rooms with ensuite bathrooms, kitchen space, and a convenient downtown location. I knew I was in the right place as I walked in the door, I overheard the program on the oversized TV mention "hemorrhoids" and "constipation". This is home for the next little while.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Quality Time

I really should be reading articles, preparing learning goals or packing for the next round of classes.
sleeping beauties
Maybe later.