15 March 2010

Further thoughts on Community

Crystle and I talk about community a lot. We talk about a lot of other things, too (friends do that, after all). But when we talk about community, what I like best is that she "gets it" when I talk about how community can be so much of a blessing and yet also so much of a challenge. The community she is a part of (the Kirkendell Cluster) is very different from mine (Oudezijds 100); yet the nitty-gritty hard work of community is present in both. The challenges of communication, healthy growth, good accountability, and making space for each other all appear in some form or other in each of our communities. Alongside of that, of course, are the problems each of us bring to communities - our impatience with processes that take too long or appear never to get better, confusion and frustration with people who are so different, and our own insecurities that exclude both ourselves and others (to name only a few of the problems!).

When I bemoan all these challenges of community with Crystle, I not only feel understood (which is nice), but I also feel like I'm given new strength to continue the struggle to do community well. It's like by expressing myself to someone who understands, it clears away some of the grime that prevents me from seeing how God is working in and through community to bless others and myself.

Crystle, in a recent blog entry, put it quite similarly. The following is a short excerpt from her thoughts. (the full entry can be seen here: http://cdn.gv.ca/2010/03/12/learning-how-to-interact-with-others/

"Living in community isn’t a walk in the park. Whether you’ve been at it 2 years or 50 years, it is still critical to
* communicate to build relationships, and
* know your own expectations, and know the expectations of others.
Conflict will inevitably result if we fail to continue to work on these....

The reward [of working on these things]? Conflict won’t fester into feuds. Unconditional commitment means others will support me when life gets tough. Being known and accepted by others for who we are. Ability to work with others towards a better future.

I think that’s worth the hard work."

last note from brenda: me, too (even if I sometimes forget).

11 March 2010

a few "onhandig" moments in my going to America

A few rather onhandig things happened right before and right after my flying to America a couple of months ago. Not only do the things that happened illustrate the range of what onhandig means, they also remind me to laugh at myself on account of some of the dumb things I do.

After I got to America, I managed to forget my contacts, my purse, and my passport in three different places (and on different days). The contacts are still at my friends' house (waiting for my next visit), my mom picked up my purse (left at my sister's), and finally, after quite a bit of stress and hassle, I got my passport back - thankfully! This nasty habit of leaving things behind me was definitely inconvenient - and I subsequently resolved to do my best to get rid of this rather onhandig problem of mine by paying more attention to things around me. It's worked - at least to a degree (in the next day or two, I have to search through my apartment to find a couple of cards I seem to have misplaced....)

The other definition of onhandig is awkward or clumsy. And well, before I left I managed to have a couple of rather clumsy moments. About a week before I left, I slid out on my bike - and landed on my hip in the snow slush. It didn't hurt too much. Within a day or two, I managed to fall down the last 4 steps of my stairs (while carrying all my recycling out). I made quite a bit of a crash - and my downstairs neighbour came out to see my rather dazed expression. My body was starting to feel sore after that.

But the last moment of being onhandig was the worst. On the day after Christmas (when I wanted to leave early because I had plans), my ladder fell down from my loft - while I was on the top of it. I managed to scramble back into the loft so I didn't come crashing down with the lader (definitely was much more awake at the point). But then I was stuck with the problem of how to get down without a ladder. I had my phone, but I didn't have the phone numbers from most of the people in my own house - and it was too early to call people from the main house to come rescue me. So I figured that my loft's not really that high, so I can jump. I threw my mattress down on the ground, and after talking myself into having enough courage, I hung my feet over first and then jumped towards the mattress. It was relatively successful - except that I definitely jarred my back - and so by that time, my whole body hurt every time I moved. When I saw Matthijs later that day, I received limited sympathy from him. And I figured I'd better not tell anybody else since I'd get even less sympathy. I'm now being much more careful about the ladder and how securely it's attached. And if it ever happens again, I'm going through my whole address list to call for help first (even if it means being laughed at - at least then I'll be laughed at beforehand and not afterwards)!

I was reminded of this last incident the other day when Matthijs was looking carefully around my house. He admitted that he was picturing how I'd managed to get down. I wasn't sure if I should find that annoying or funny. I found it funny - I can only imagine how I must have looked! And so, if you'd like some visuals to help picture it yourself, Follow this link for pictures of my apartment :)

08 March 2010

a glimpse of my family

A number of months ago, my aunt published on her blog several letters to her husband, who had recently passed away. In putting these online, she shared with us the joys and challenges of having been married to my uncle. It was pretty special to get a glimpse of her and my uncle in this way, and I was grateful to have been able to read those letters.

One of my favourite letters is her description of meeting my uncle's family - my dad's family, that is. My aunt came into the family shortly after my mom did (and according to my mom, their experiences were fairly similar). I think what I like best about the story is how my aunt writes it in a way that makes some fun of herself. She recognizes that at 20, she was naive and could easily look down on those who are different - and my dad's family was very different from hers! At the same time in her description she captures well some of the things I love about my family - hard-working, learning to make do with little, boisterous teasing, tenacity, earthy, practical, being willing to be different, and fun loving - all things they've tried to teach me to be, too :)

The following is her description of her first meeting with the family:

"The following weekend we arranged that I would take the early train to London and we would first of all attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies in L-ndon. Then we would travel to the farm and meet your family. That was a weird weekend for me. On the one hand I was thrilled to be arm in arm with you during the ceremonies, when romantically, it began to snow.

But when we arrived at your parents farm, I was shocked. I never seen a farm like that before (I had rarely been to a farm before), and it certainly did not fit my vision of a farm. You did not warn me about anything. It was not a really prosperous farm, and it showed. Your family, on the other hand, were real farm people, and that showed too. They laughed and teased their way through a huge sloppy meal, and there were so many little kids. Rough little kids. I had no idea they were having so much fun at my expense. This visit also changed my view of you a little. I was disappointed, because you seemed to be like them when we were there. Not at all like you were when away from them. You didn’t defend me or tell the kids to knock it off. You even spoke a type of pidgin English to your Dad, of which I only understood the work "tractor".But much, much later I realized that you behaved like that on purpose. You wanted to see if I would fit in or if I was truly snobbish (unknowingly) like my family.

That is also the first time I ever drank coffee. I had never been encouraged to drink coffee at home, it was always tea. When someone asked me if I would like a coffee, I timidly said, I’d rather have tea thanks, they laughed uproariously, and slapped a huge mug of coffee down in front of me. I learned to first tolerate coffee, then enjoy it, and now drink very little tea at all, only coffee! So I guess you can say I did learn to fit in!

I stayed overnight that Saturday night, and slept in a huge bed with two other girls. I laugh now when I remember that night. I woke up in a tangle of arms and legs, with your father shouting up the stairs for the boys to roll out and get to the barn. At breakfast they horrified me with farm and animal stories. When I got ready for church and put on my stylish little pillbox hat, they split their guts laughing. In embarrassment I put it away. I never wore it again. What an education in country ways that was.

Now I don’t mean to be unkind about your family. I learned over the years to understand and love them. Your parents worked hard and did the best they could, and I actually have a very good relationship with all your siblings and spouses. I’m glad now that they were the way they were. It shook me out of my narrow little world and made me see life on the other side of the fence. And that’s exactly what you hoped would happen. But you did not ease my way."

taken from: http://theasramblings.blogspot.com/2009_11_22_archive.html#5581625693333864708

05 March 2010

further news about my cat

Although i assume every cat has its quirks, the quirks probably are more obvious when one lives alone. And honestly, jerry's my best entertainment - next to my computer, my books, and my own thoughts (and the tourists and the community and friends :)). So for those of you interested in the cat, here are some pictures and some quirks:

He talks a lot. Some of the time i know what he's saying. Like there's the traumatic meow when i've been gone too long (usually interspersed with purring because he's happy to see me). There's the "is it really you?" meow when he hears me coming up the stairs. And the "where are you?" meow, when he's coming up the stairs. And the "i'm bored, play with me" meow. And the just talking or "i don't know" or "something's wrong" meow. This last meow is periodically followed by a visit to the litterbox.

He came 'potty-trained'. And he's never, as far as i know, gone outside of the box, for which I'm very grateful.

He plays fetch, mostly cat food and paper. Sometimes i throw a piece of rolled up paper onto the hammock. He jumps up after it and knocks it off. I've become quite a good shot from the couch.

He climbs up ladders - and climbs back down (how else is he supposed to get to the bed to sleep on it?). He learned how to do the ladder pretty early on - it took him much longer to go down the stairs in the house (they're pretty steep, and i think he fell down them once). He refused to let me carry him down the stairs. However, if i put him in a bag - and even if he was looking out - he didn't mind at all being carried down.

He likes bags, especially being inside them. He's also attracted to boxes.

Last week i bought a mop and the first day i tried it out, i realized that jerry and i had found a new source of entertainment. With the mop, the whole floor remained wet longer. It was like one large slip'n'slide for the cat. And for whatever reason, jerry decided that it was a good time to run like an idiot around the apartment - he didn't seem too phased by the fact that his legs kept slipping out from under him.

So that's life with jerry. He's not so good with other people yet - he's pretty scared of them. And i don't think he likes having to share my attention. But hopefully that will improve sooner rather than later.

02 March 2010

just another 'normal' evening

Last week, a Russian tourist fell into the canal. Drunken, stoned, and/or clueless tourists end up more often in the canal, so this wasn't all that unusual. It just so happened that it was rather cold last week, and remaining wet and cold could have been dangerous to his health. Thus the police asked if anyone had a shower this man could use. Sjoerd graciously volunteered our place.

And so at 10.30 at night, Sjoerd and the policeman made bad jokes at the expense of the tourist who was having a much different kind of evening in the Red Light District than he might have imagined. At breakfast, a day or two later, we joked about it further. And we wondered what the newest housemate had made of the whole experience. She didn't seem too phased. She figured that police in the hall and drunken Russians in the shower were not a normal part of life here. She's essentially right - normally that doesn't happen. But after living here for a few years, she's also a bit wrong - strange things here happen here all the time. So even if showering drunken Russian tourists isn't normal, that there could be a drunken Russian tourist in the shower or a duck in the kitchen or police checking on a crying child in the middle of the night or overly stoned tourists coming in asking for help - well, those possibilities are all pretty normal around here. And hey, at least life's never dull.