Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Smelly Me

Great quote...

"Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship."      Anne Lamott (italics mine)

I wholeheartedly agree.  And as I've been impacted by the honest and earthy writings of folks like Anne Lamott and Donald Miller it has provoked me to not just write but also to live more honestly and authentically than I have in the past.  I certainly haven't arrived and lots of times I'm a chicken shit and like to hide "the me that stinks".  But I feel enough gratitude to these other honest/authentic truth tellers who have made me say, "Whew, I'm not the only one!" that most of the time I want to join them on the limb they've climbed out on.  I want to maybe, in a small way, help other people know they are not alone and restore some buoyancy to the lives they live.

Here's the catch.  That takes a whole lot of courage!  With a capital C!  Because you run the risk of being judged.  Who are we kidding? You will be judged.  We live in a time and place where "success" is often defined by the shiny magazines that show off perfect bodies, perfect houses that are perfectly decorated, perfect vacation spots, even perfect blogs... you get the idea.  Living with authenticity would be easy if my life looked like that but it doesn't!  My life is more like a ratty old magazine that you find in a thrift store.  It's a little out of date, pages are missing and it smells a bit off. 

Most days I'm okay with that. (Great line from the Veggie Tale movie, Jonah, "I am a caterpillar. Well, that's not entirely true. My mother was a caterpillar, my father was a worm, but I'm okay with that now.")  Then there are the "green eyed monster days" where I'm not.  My heart is fearful and petty and small and jealous and downright stinky.  And so I do stupid things like hide.  Hide from others, hide from myself, and from Jesus.

I commit myself to living a quasi-life.  Not really living, just existing.  Ken often says the quote, "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space." And it's funny, here we are on this glorious adventure that many might say, "Wow, look at them, those wild and crazy Symanskis!", but when you get into the guts of the adventure it's more normal than you ever realized it would be.  The setting is different but the actors haven't changed.  I'm still me, my family is still my family, and our challenge with figuring out our way through family life without losing the plot is still our challenge.

So hooray for adventures of all kinds but today I'm faced with whether I'm willing to live the adventure of living outside of the fears and insecurities of the realities of my less than perfect, somewhat "thrift store", life.  Am I willing to come out of hiding and let myself be known wherever and whoever I am?  Am I willing to let Jesus open up places inside me that need His help? Am I willing to stop hiding from myself and beating myself up with forced isolation?  Hmmm.... deep thoughts....

I love and am inspired by this true little anecdote. 

Never having embraced thrift store shopping as a child, it took me a while to warm up to the idea as I moved into adulthood.  Generally my generation snubbed second hand clothes as "beneath" us.  And personally I hated the smell.  You know, that musty smell of used clothes and furniture that hangs in the air like the stores all had the same brand of aerosol, "Second Hand Smells".  However, in the last ten to fifteen years I've noticed that not only has it become acceptable to shop at "Value Village" and the "Sally Ann", but the items found there are often worn like badges of honour!  And I have been converted.  I have my favourite thrift shops in Winnipeg and rarely does a trip into Whitehorse go by without a stop at the Sally Ann there. 

And Brenna LOVES it.  If I come home with a second hand piece of clothing she is thrilled and the lower the price the better!  Last week while we were in Whitehorse we stopped at the Sally Ann and as we walked in the door she looked up at me with grin on her face and said, "I just love the smell of this place."  I inwardly clicked my heels.

And here's the lesson and inspiration in that for me.  Just as I've been making the effort to living authentically, honestly and out of hiding, can I get to the place that I love the smell of it?  Can I get to the place where I value the scent of my own life with its own "Second Hand Smells" like Brenna does the smell of the thrift store? Can I get to the place where I wear my own life not necessarily as a badge of honour but as an example of a life that like a perfectly fine old pair of jeans rescued from the landfill, is redeemed and worthy of celebrating?  Oh, that sounds just yummy and true and right.  I want that.


Thanks for rescuing me, redeeming me.  I celebrate you and the life you've given me.  You smell good.

'til next time,


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lotsa Fun!

Yikes!  I can't believe it's already been twelve days since I last posted! I could come up with all kinds of excuses and some of them might even be true but really who wants to hear a bunch of excuses!

Spring Break ROCKED!  Okay, yes, there were pockets of time that I longed for their teachers and wanted to run screaming into sunset where I am sure they keep all the patience I run out of, but all in all I really enjoyed being with Ken and the kids. 


... skiing a second time at Mt. Sima with family and friends
... tobogganning, tobogganning and more tobogganning
... going out 2x on a date with Ken, once to a house concert here in the Junction featuring Bill Bourne (great musician!), and another time out for supper with a gift certificate I won in a raffle
... enjoying the amazing weather with lots of bright blue skies, mild temperatures and beautiful sights

Super Highlight...

... day at Kathleen Lake planned and run by Parks Canada, Junction Arts and Music and Haines Junction Minor Hockey.  What a fantastic day!  We were outside from 10:30 to 4:30 and it was absolutely glorious.
The pictures tell the story better than I can...

The kids played Pond Hockey with an unbelievable backdrop.

No Zamboni but who cares in a setting like this! 

And then front row seats...

Ken and the boys (as well as others) jammed with some Whitehorse musicians that had been brought out to do a concert.  Will is playing the ukulele and I mean playing!  He's learned a number of chords already and plays Izzy's version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" really well.  In fact during the jam session he was yelling out the chords to the others so they could follow along.  Jay's playing uke too (also really well!) but was playing djembe that day and the musicians had a blast backing him up with his groovy beat!

Jay and his fiddle with his banjo playing bud, Remy...

But for me the best part of the day was when everyone got to go DOG SLEDDING!  A wonderful couple here in the Junction that has sledding dogs was out there to give people rides.  Sean and Heather are "oh-so-nice" and tirelessly took person after person out.

What a blast!  Each of the kids got to go as well as Ken.  I was happy as a clam to watch and to be very honest wasn't going to inflict myself on those dogs!  But Heather (an angel with a hearty laugh and a winsome manner) looked over at me and let me know that I WOULD be going and assured me the dogs would be FINE.  And so I went...

Can you see the stupid grin on my face?!?  And then my favorite photo...

Simply can't tell you how thrilling it was.  So serene, so quiet, so beautiful.  Magical.

And I'm so grateful.  So grateful for Heather who saw my insecurity without me saying a thing and reassured me and gave me the gift of a new and wonderful experience.  A precious gift she has and gave.


I continue to be astounded by the beauty of your creation around me.  In nature and in people.  You are brilliant!

'til next time, 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Newsy Bits and Pics

We're home in the Junction after being in Whitehorse with the fam for four nights.  So grateful for my family.  They are generous, warm and wonderful people.  On the way home we made a bit of a detour so that the kids and Ken could swim at Takhini Hot Springs (my psoriasis is going crazy so chlorine is not my friend).  I have great memories of swimming there in the winter and so it was fun to see the kids and Ken enjoying it so much.  It's always a blast to run into the snow and then jump into the hot water! 

The Hot Springs...

Just For Karla... Ken in all his glory! (Ken thinks he looks like the Red Baron swimming... or a hairy woman from 1923!)

And a good time was had by all...

We spent yesterday hanging around home, the kids learning to finger weave and then making bread with me.  As it is Lent we used some of the dough to make three braided crowns and added toothpicks for the thorns.  Jay (6 years old) asked, "What does this represent again, Mom?"  I reminded him that it was to help us remember the crown of thorns that they made Jesus wear before he was crucified.  Later Jay stuck his on his head and gained a new appreciation for how much that would've hurt!  As each kid does acts of kindness for the rest of Lent they pull out one of the "thorns" for each kind act (an idea I got from the 'net).  They were really excited about it and I so hope that it's another building block in connecting them with the story and person of Jesus...

Later on in the day the kids made some stuff out of salt dough and Will made the cross shown in the next pic.


All in all a day to enjoy my kids.  Maybe they're not so bad after all :)

Some more tidbits...  Brenna has made a great bag out of a mini skirt she found at the thrift store.  She's got all kinds of plans to start a business...

In her left hand is some of her finger weaving that she'll use as the handle for her next bag. 

And then I have to add a pic of her and her bud Travis.  Travie lives across the street and they are thick as thieves. I call them Thing 1 and Thing 2.

They are also Drama King and Queen and keep us quite entertained!

I'll post more pics later of some of the other things that kids have been making.  They've all had quite a burst of creativity since coming here.

Must close.  The sun is shining, the kids are all at friends' places so Ken and I are going to go for a bit of a ski. How cool is that!


Your creativity inspires us and flows through us.  If we let it.  Thanks for helping me dial down enough to let it.

'til next time,


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Break Begins...

Not only did I survive cleaning up my kitchen and laundry room but we have entered that glorious time of year..SPRING BREAK.  And if I hadn't mentioned it before (and I think I have), we get TWO WEEKS!

Two weeks of no pressing schedule...
Two weeks of building memories as a family...
Two weeks of exploring a little bit more of Yukon and Alaska...
Two weeks of uuummm...I don't know but it's TWO WEEKS!

Now before anyone out there sends me hate mail because of my blatant bragging remember this...

Two weeks of squabbling siblings...
Two weeks of potentially hearing, "I'm bored" x3...
Two weeks of very little alone time...

Need I say more?

However, I am looking forward to it.  And we started off by taking the kids downhill skiing!  What a hoot!  They had 90 minutes of lessons and then the entire day to ski.  They were amazing! Due to the ol' girl (my foot) I didn't go (Ken did) but I happily cheered everyone on. There's just something really wonderful about doing something with your kids that you remember enjoying as a kid yourself. 
My sis' Laura and nephew Tyler joined us as well as my niece Abby and her dad Steve (my ex brother in law - a great guy!).  Lolo (my favorite name for my sis) and I chatted through the day and ohhhed and ahhhed over all the kids.  And Ken.  Of course I ohhhed and ahhhed over Ken!

They were happy and exhausted at the end of the day and I felt determined that we definitely need to do that again!  Mt. Sima won't be open that much longer (closes in April sometime) but I'd love to try getting in another day there.

And today we're sitting around the dining room table at my mom's, the kids sewing all kinds of wonderful creations.  Yesterday we were telling the kids about our plans next week to drive up to Haines, Alaska from the Junction, take the Alaska State Ferry to Skagway, Alaska and then back to Whitehorse for a couple days and then home to the Junction.  Everyone was excited except... you guessed it - Will.  But today as we've sat around the table sewing, Will declares, "Now this is what I call fun!  A family sewing together!"  Who knew?!? I have such interesting kids!

Must go, we're going to go skating and maybe head out to the Takhini Hot Springs for a couple hours (20 minutes outside of Whitehorse).  


Thank you all the different personalities in our family!  I love you.

'til next time,


Friday, March 5, 2010

Report Cards...

So I'm out of the blogging dog house for now.  I want to try and keep it that way...

I chatted with the kids' teachers this week at parent/teacher conferences.  All is well.  Jay, who refused to learn the alphabet last summer, is now reading like a mad man and is asked to read one on one with some of the other students that are lagging a bit.  What?!?  Brenna is socially responsible and empathetic and gave up the chance to be the Prime Minister of her group last week because the voters had told her opponent that they would be voting for Brenna because they didn't like the opponent.  That's a big move for a girl who generally likes to lead!  ... And Will.  Well his writing continues to entertain and amaze his teacher (and us!).  He definitely has already found his "voice" and often addresses his readers in his writing.  "So, I bet you can't guess what I'm going to write about today!  Well if you said wolves you are wrong. But if you guessed coyotes you are right!".  Apparently some his fellow students are inspired to write just like him and it sounds like his teacher is having a hoot with this grade 2/3 class full of motivated writers. So educationally they're holding it together... whew. 

Ken got a report card too! He received his copy of his evaluation and I must say I'm proud of the ol' boy!  In the face of a very challenging first semester in a school that has lost a much beloved teacher, he has handled himself with aplomb! (aplomb - great coolness and composure under strain.  That's one of the words used to describe him.  I had to look it up!)  He is LOVING this job as each day he gets to go to work and teach kids music through the medium of rock.  How cool is that!

Thank God I didn't get a report card!  I know we're all our own worst critics but really I would fear the results might look a little like this...

aplomb in parenting (gotta use my new word!)     D
raising of the voice                                                   B+
patience                                                                    D-
avoiding the mundane tasks of running a home   B
correspondance with friends and family                D
laughing at family members when they get hurt    A+

You get the gist...  How would you grade yourself?  It's a good thing that if I was receiving a report card from my Maker I think it would be lot kinder.  He's like that.

I'm gonna keep this post short.  But I did want to post some pics to give you an idea of some of our fun out here in the Junction! 

Cross Crountry Skiing with the fam. What a beautiful day, what amazing scenery.

Our hockey players.

Our boys and their crazy matching teeth!
The new ones keep growing in before the baby teeth want to leave!

Brenna with two of her best buds at this fall's Barn Dance. Great kids and tons of fun!

Must go.  A bomb has gone off in my kitchen and laundry room and they require some attention if there is ever going to be any semblance of order.  Call for reinforcements if you don't hear from me in a couple days...


Thank you for your report card for me.  Redeemed - A+, Work in Progress - A+, Lovable - A+.  You get A+ for kindness, mercy giving and awe inspiring.  I love you.

'til next time,


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

For Brock and Lucretia... with love

So let's get this first part over with... I haven't blogged in like... forever. I know. Blogging fell off my plate and just like the meatball in "On Top Of Spaghetti" it rolled off the table, out the door and under a bush where it was on the verge of becoming mush until...

Brock and Lucretia. They, in effect, have gone out, picked up the damn meatball and have put it back on my plate and Lucretia has basically threatened to force feed me if I don't start working on it! Brock nags me through his mom, my sister Dawn. Whenever I see her she reminds me that Brock is waiting for me to write. And not complying with a request from my eldest nephew is like kicking a really, really sweet and endearing puppy. I may be a hard hearted bag from time to time, but come on, a puppy!?!

And Lucretia? Well she's a dear friend of my sister Janette who I totally love. She's beautiful, inside and out, pee your pants funny and well, frankly, I'm scared of her. So when she likes reading my blog and lets me know in no uncertain terms to get my ass in gear I feel a little like a mob boss is leaning forward and in a low menacing voice is saying, "I like your blog, if you know what I mean..." My life hangs in the balance folks!

So here I am. And kidding aside, glad to be here. I do enjoy the process of writing and it is a great way to keep ya'll updated.

After I last wrote in ummm... December... we packed up house and moved into a place just a few streets over from where we were. The teacher's housing came open and we just couldn't pass it up. Fenced yard for Wags (our dog), big basement the kids can play soccer in and potentially cheaper to heat (don't get me started on how much it costs to stay warm up here if you're not using wood!). And yes this move happened over Christmas! Overall it worked out and we're happily settled in. One of Brenna's good buddies lives across the street and so that's been a nice bonus.

Hockey has kept the kids busy. It's hard to believe that the boys only started skating when we came here. They are doing sooo well. We were in Whitehorse this weekend and spent some time at the Canada Games Centre with my sister Laura, my nephew Tyler and my niece Abby. Laura and I sipped good coffee and watched the kids on the leisure ice, what fun to watch them! Will's been inspired by the Olympics and so as he went speeding around the corners trying for his best time he would put his hand down on the inside curve just like the speed skaters do. Jay of course spent most of his time entertaining us with his crazy antics and Brenna was doing some pretty amazing spins and dance choreography. So we decided that Will may end up in the Olympics speed skating, Brenna doing ice dancing and Jay, well, he may be Elmo in the Ice Capades!

Other highlights of the last few months...

Christmas in the Junction
- The Christmas Concert went well which was a big deal for Ken as he had a big role in it. His bands played throughout the evening and was really the first time people heard them. It was a great evening!
- Santa visited! At one point as the holidays approached Will looked at me and asked where we were going to see Santa because, "Mom, they don't have malls here!" The kids were not disappointed. Santa flew in and landed right on the highway in front of Madley's General Store! We had sooo much fun! Apparently last year he arrived on dogsled. How cool is that.

Watson Lake
- Will had a tournament there so we went with his buddy Joah, and his mom (my buddy) for the weekend. It was a HOOT! I finally learned what "off side" and "icing" is and I lost my voice from cheering so much. The kids did really well and brought home bronze which was the first medal they'd had in the Junction for quite awhile. AND WILL SCORED TWO GOALS! Needless to say I'm a little proud...
- And I had some much needed girlfriend time with Linda on the drive to and fro (Haines Junction to Watson Lake is 7 hrs). Of all the things I miss most about Winnipeg it's my girlfriends...

Wednesday in Whitehorse
- every second Wed. I head into "town" to get groceries. I used to say to folks out here that I was running into the "city" but they laughed their asses off at me and taught me the lingo. Whitehorse is going into "town". Going to the "city" means you're heading out to Vancouver or Edmonton. Anyway, I hop in the car, enjoy 1 1/2 hours of driving through beautiful scenery listening to CBC Radio, go to the good ol' Super Zoo, do my banking and then I have lunch with MY MOM AND MY SISTERS! I love that! It's such a treat for me to have that on a consistent basis.

Cross Country Skiing
- is pretty big here. As am I. So when Ken suggested we borrow some skis and go out as a family on some of the great trails around here I didn't say much but thought, "how the hell..." But we did it! All of us. Even me. The kids were off and away like they were born with skis on, Ken pretended to struggle for my sake but is doing really well and me... well I look hilarious I think. I didn't know how "the ol' girl" (my ankle) would do and I HATE falling (try carrying an extra hundred pounds around and then fall down!) so I was a little nervous. I felt like a fat, little hobbit shuffling along (I probably walk faster) and I'm going to make little hairy covers to put over my ski boots to finish the look but I did it and really enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to going more!

Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous
- the annual celebration in Whitehorse of the 1898 Gold Rush. And my sister Janette and her partner Clint from Victoria made it up here to celebrate with us! A fun time was had by all. It's a little different from when I was here as a teen but fun none the less. Dogsled races, flour packing contests, the Sugar Shack (where they pour hot maple syrup in the snow and roll it up on a stick for a sugary maple lolly), Rendezvous Queen competition, ice sculptures, musical entertainment, fireworks, the list goes on. We didn't see it all but we loved what we did.
- We saw Lana Rae! She's a musician that as well as singing Country also does children's music. She's from here and the kids have grown up with her music courtesy of Yukon Grandma. Clever lyrics, catchy tunes! She performed and we got to hear all our favorite tunes! "I've Been Looking at Bums" (written from the perspective of a little one who wanders around at bum level), "Cows Want to be Pretty Too", and "The Trikers Song" (the tricycles version of the Hell's Angels).
- the time spent with Janette and Clint was great. We always laugh lots and drink good wine. Although Janette was hellbent on spilling most of it... Carolans in Mom's car, red wine in Dad's truck. Janette and Clint went dog sledding just out of town while they were here and after seeing some of the video they took we just have to do it! Maybe this spring break... (spring break starts next week and we have TWO weeks).

Enough newsy bits...

On the spiritual, gutsy, deep in the recesses of my contorted soul side of things... I'm doing o.k. I have my days and even weeks that I've come face to face with the big ol' bogey man of winter blues. By the way, he plays dirty. Just when you think you've got a good perspective on yourself and life in general he throws a curve ball that can knock you on your ass if you're not careful. Most of those curve balls for me have to do with parenting and my health. I can let myself get pretty knocked down. I'll spare you the gory details. Let's just say I've been sucking air at the bottom of the HOPE'O'METER.

Three weeks ago I sat down and did some journalling and basically gave myself a good kick in the ass. Basically I reminded myself that if the same power that ROSE Jesus FROM THE DEAD is living in me (and it does) THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE. Even for me. No one is a lost cause. Nothing is too difficult... It's a kick in the ass that I needed and so I've had the strength/motivation to take some positive steps out of the funk that I've been in. One has been getting back into O.A. (Overeaters Anonymous). There is no group here but there are meetings online all the time. Dealing with my addiction to food with God's help has always been better than a diet for me. I feel hopeful and I have more clarity than I've had in a while. Thanks be to God.

As for the parenting... I get glimpses that my kids will survive my parenting. I'm not perfect but I apologize when I need to and genuinely love them and think they're pretty neat. The sibling crap sends me to the funny farm some days but then once in a while they have these sweet moments of togetherness that pulls me (and them) back from the brink of solitary confinement.

All in all life is good and I am an incredibly blessed woman. But enough of my blabbing.

Lucretia, can I stop looking over my shoulder now?


You are at every turn. Thank you that when I feel lost you remind me that you have me tattooed on the palm of your hand. You don't forget about me and I can't forget about you. I love you.

'til next time,