Thursday, August 28, 2008

Moving On

Last Sunday was a day that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Ken and I arrived at my mom's house with 25 cardboard boxes, to pack up my step-dad's stuff.

He's been out of town a lot lately, to put it mildly.  Travelling here, there, everywhere.  Florida, California, and next week he's off to Italy for a month.  Effectively, he's homeless.  While in Toronto for business, he stays at a hotel with only what he can carry in his suitcase.

8 months after he told my mom that he was leaving her for another woman, all his stuff was still in the house.  His jackets were hanging in the front hall closet.  His shoes were still by the front door.  My mom asked him again and again to clear out because every item of his was a reminder of her pain.  He just never got around to it.

In the end, Ken and I got permission to take care of things.  He gave us basic instructions.  He wants to keep all his books in storage.  Clothing was to be divided by size into two catagories: donations to charity (a.k.a small sizes) and keepers (what fits now).  That's just about all he has, really.

Things we found while packing up his bedroom:
  • All the ties I ever gave him for Father's Days
  • A stack of credit cards with expiry dates ranging from 1998 to 2003
  • The prayer book he was given at his Bar Mitzvah in 1951
  • His collection of watches, most of them inexpensive but visually interesting
  • Dense clouds of dust
Ken actually did most of the packing, while I did my best to distract my mom with a computer lesson.  Every time she heard Ken go up and down the stairs carrying boxes, she compared it to an undertaker removing a body. 

Of course we also spent some time talking about what was going on, and how she felt about it.   But there was only so much to be said.  My mom isn't one to fall apart in front of any audience, even me, for more than a few moments at a time.

We finished packing up his bedroom, and now have several other areas of the house to deal with.  It'll take around 3 or 4 more sessions to get it all done.

Now my mom walks by his room, glances in, and sees boxes and empty shelves where his stuff used to be.  Every empty space is a reminder of her pain.

It's a good thing that time heals all wounds.  Time has its work cut out for it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Calling Intermission

Dear Folks,

I've been reaching more and more lately to compose posts. I have entered a phase of rapid change in my perspective. The "I" I'm writing from has become fuzzy around the edges as I prepare for growth. There are a lot of things I'm questioning right now. It doesn't make for a firm jumping-off place for writing.  

I'm immersed in a passion for studying theological books, theories, websites, podcasts, etc. I take every opportunity to discuss my questions with people in my community. I'm in a phase of consuming and digesting new stuff. None of it is fully clear to me yet.

I'm not tempted to write about anything other than my spiritual journey, because nothing else is as interesting to me right now. On the other hand, it's clear that I'm not ready to write about my spiritual journey, because I'm walking in a strange new land of questions that keeps shifting before my eyes.

The best thing for me to do right now is to call an intermission on this blog, and to come back if and when I'm ready to share from a place that I feel clear and sure about. The impulse will come from within, if and when it's time.

Until then, you'll still find me in your comments, if you're one of my Blogland Buddies. And on Twitter. 

Thanks to all who have been so supportive of my journey so far.  It's been a privilege to share with you and to receive your encouragement.  

Have yourselves a super summer!  

Take care all!


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sleazy TV Causes Identity Crisis

So, I was watching Wife Swap a couple of weeks ago. Wife Swap. Could they have come up with a skankier name? How about "A Revealing Exploration of the Psychology of Families with Contrasting Lifestyles"? Don't they know I have a reputation to uphold?

Wait... I think I already admitted on this blog to watching Sponge Bob and Fraggle Rock when I have time. I guess my cultural snobbery is already shot.

As I was saying, I turned on Wife Swap, and was immediately sucked in by what I saw. It was about two practicing Christian families, with completely different styles of devotion.

The liberal family said prayers every day, several times per day, however in all other ways they were non-traditional. The wife was an executive and the breadwinner. The husband had three Masters degrees and a PhD. in Christian theology. He was the stay-at-home parent and housekeeper. They each had a daughter from previous marriages, ages 11 and 12.

The conservative family was very traditional. The stay-at-home mom cared for her husband and six children. The kids were all home-schooled. Every step they took was dictated by reference to the Bible. They even did their chores with instructions to maintain an attitude of cheerful obedience to Jesus. All but one of the kids seemed happy to maintain their lifestyle. The cute, blond, 18-year-old twin girls were adamant that they had no interest in dating until they were ready to be married. The 13-year-old daughter was a bit of a rebel, but in the end she always respected her parents wishes.

The liberal family gave their children lots of leeway. The girls were permitted to spend their time as they pleased, and to come up with their own dreams for the future.

The Dad of the conservative family bluntly admitted that he was brainwashing his kids. I think he meant it in the sense that he wanted their minds to be clean, which is why he didn't mind fessing up. He was extremely controlling of his family, especially his rebellious, 13-year-old daughter. When the liberal mom took her aside to offer her some new ideas, the Dad literally removed that child from the house for the remainder of the week. He didn't want her being exposed to bad influences, like the idea that she might have her own career someday instead of being a stay-at-home Mom.

Everything I've always believed told me that the liberal parents were right and the conservative parents were wrong. But when I looked at their kids, I had to start questionning my own beliefs.

The two girls from the liberal family always seemed bored and miserable. They didn't do their assigned chores. They didn't respect their father. They were what you might expect from a couple of hormonal, pre-teen girls: moody, selfish, and whiney.

The six kids from the conservative family were absolutely the opposite. They were energetic, cheerful, motivated, well-spoken, and helpful. They were respectful to each other and to their parents. There was none of the sullenness one normally associates with teenagers.

Given a choice, I would much rather have spent a day with the conservative kids. This despite the fact that the father's strict parenting techniques are completely against what I've thought were beneficial. So how do I explain that?

I started out watching the show to observe how the Bible can be interpreted with wildy differing results by different people. Part of the miraculous nature of that book is that it creates itself anew each time it falls into a new pair of hands. Even the so-called fundamentalists can't agree with each other on what it finally means. These two family represent two of the extremes.

So, what do you think of all this? Because I am seriously questioning my liberal presumptions.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Big Split - Update

My parents' divorce, initiated in January of this year, is moving along, but slowly, ever so slowly. My step-dad is in no hurry to make it final, although I don't see him deliberately dragging his heels either. He's a busy man, and he left the matter in his lawyer's hands.

The lawyer, seeing that my parents aren't planning to fight each other to the grave over the settlement, put their proceedings down to the bottom of his priority pile. I guess it's not a juicy enough case for him to bother with, financially speaking.

My step-dad is supposedly trying his best to get the lawyer to do some lawyering and move this thing along.

That's the status on the paperwork. I know my mom is anxious to get it all sorted out because there are questions about her financial security that remain to be answered. I have faith that my step-dad will be honourable and fair, but my mom won't have a good night's sleep until she sees it all in writing, in triplicate, signed and witnessed. I can't blame her for that.

Then there's all my step-dad's stuff. His clothes. His books. His exercise equipment. His files. Etc. There is 27 years of accumultated life debris in my mom's house, and in the 6 months since he moved out my step-dad has removed only enough clothes to fill one suitcase, his golf clubs, and a few essential papers. His shoes are still in the front hall. His coat is still in the closet.

The challenge is that he's effectively homeless at the moment. His new lady-friend lives in the Southern U.S. and apparently isn't eager to leave her home to move permanently to Canada. However, all his business is in Toronto, so he can't very well relocate permanently down south. He (he speaks in the singular, but I'm sure it's actually they) have been flying back and forth, living in hotels and short-term rentals, since January. So where is all that stuff going to go?

Ken and I have offered to help my mom pack it all up and ship it into storage, if she wants. She's not ready to take us up on the offer, especially not until the financial agreements are settled. Wisely, she doesn't want to tick him off and possibly compromise his willingness to cooperate in the divorce proceedings.

We'll see what happens when the papers are all finalized. We might be having a bonfire in her backyard.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Queen and University

Toronto sure does make an effort to pretty up the downtown for the benefit of tourists. This little park, complete with benches and flowerbeds, is on a concrete island between the northbound and southbound lanes of traffic on University Ave., just south of Queen St.

This location is only a few blocks west of Bay Street (Canda's Wall Street/financial and business centre), a few blocks south of the University of Toronto Campus, and a few blocks north of the giant, retractable-domed stadium previously known as Skydome (now officially "The Rogers Centre"). The brand new Opera House is on the southeast corner. The club district is to the southwest. It's really right in the middle of everything.

The dignified gentleman honoured in this memorial statue is Sir Adam Beck. He played a major role in the development of Ontario's power infrastructure. He was knighted in 1914 and died in 1925.

This is the view facing south...

...and here's the view facing north.

A close-up of the angel statue. I believe this is a memorial to the fallen of one or both of the World Wars. Didn't quite get around to checking... thought I could
Google some keywords and find out online... no such luck. Still, it's a pretty statue (with a fountain at the base).

*UPDATE* A commenter has just kindly provided me with a link to information regarding this monument. Thank you K.!

The historic Canada Life Building, constructed between 1929 and 1931, stands at the northwest corner. This photo shows only the tower at the very top of what is a large office building. (You can see the bottom corner in the 2nd photo above.) At the top of the tower is a weather beacon. It's difficult to see the lights in the daytime, but at night it stands out for miles. Red lights warn of rain, white lights forecast snow, and lights running up or down the beacon indicate a corresponding change of temperature.

A few blocks west on Queen St., on my way to a dark chocolate crepe, I stopped to catch these agile robots clambering up onto the roof of the Active Surplus building. Their signs says "We Buy and Sell Anything." Next time I'm there, I'm going to buy me a robot.