Saturday, May 27, 2006


Let me see if I can define for you this enigmatic word that means much to my family: Homowebmape (ho-mo-WEB-mah-pee). This word is formed from the first few letters of: Holmlunds, Moffats, Webbers, Malenas, Peters. Last weekend, these families assembled in the tiny town of Brownfield, Alberta for our eleventh annual weekend together. I believe the original purpose behind these meetings was a simple reunion of families, who all used to live in Saskatoon, but are now spread over three provinces. Our parents have been good friends for a long time. But at some unknown point in our collective history, these get-togethers morphed into something much more than a reunion, the one-of-a-kind phenomenon we now affectionately call Homowebmape.

The location is the Webber farmhouse, which is large enough to comfortably contain us all - twenty-two of us this year. The dads and older boys (and any other interested parties) usually have some sort of project for the weekend – last year it was building a chicken coop, and this year it was a gazebo. The women enjoy cooking and talking and walking and watching their men work. The kids (and I include myself in this group!) mostly play: kick-the-can, kickball, card games, four-on-the-couch, playing music together… it’s pretty laidback. The adults all sit together at one table for meals, and the kids fill up another long table. We all sing before meals, and laugh all the way through meals. At night, each couple gets a room to themselves, the girls sleep in the office upstairs, and the boys sleep downstairs. It's sad though - our boys' and girls' dorms are getting less and less crowded, because people keep getting married – we’ll be up to three married off now that Nick and Sarah are engaged (and adding a third generation next year, once Jordan and Becky’s baby is born!) But as Rachel says on her blog, there are still many of us left - if you want any information on how to "marry in" to this wonderful group, let us know.

The most memorable parts of the weekend are the evenings. We usually end up sitting in the living room all together, sharing ourselves, saying really important things that never get said. Often we’ll grill newcomers like boyfriends and fiancĂ©es with our best questions – an intimidating but fruitful experience, just ask Duane, Becky and Nick. You can also expect an interview if you were baptized in the past year. Sometimes we’ll go around the circle and share our high and low points of the year. One time I remember the parents had all prepared their best advice for all the kids, and we listened to them share it. One year we picked a theme Bible verse and theme song that best represented each family. The climax, of course, is the yearly “pass the spoon” night. Basically, everyone gets their turn with the wooden spoon, and you can do something, ask someone else to do something, ask someone a question, share something with the group – the possibilities are endless. Someone ends up singing, Daniel always gets to play his latest sax song, Bob plays a Bruce Cockburn or John Denver song on the guitar. James always gets asked to read us all a story. He usually reads stories by Patrick McManus, and the best part is when his voice gets all wavery because he’s trying so hard to keep his serious tone and not laugh at what’s coming up. There’s always a good mix of laughter and tears, and through the years, I’ve become more and more comfortable with both.

You may think this sounds like a sentimental, sappy, traditional, stereotypical, straight-off-of-7th-Heaven-or-some-50s-show, family values type of thing… I guess you’d be right. In a way it feels very foreign from real life, like a TV show, but in a far more important way it feels like the core of real life. To me, it feels like heaven - not like the Philadelphia cream cheese commercials mean it, but in the purest biblical sense. It’s a place where I feel unconditionally loved for being myself, a safe place to be vulnerable. I think it’s the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing true intergenerational Christian community, surrounded by twenty-one other imperfect but growing lovers of God. The four adult couples are the giants in whose footsteps I walk, the spouses and parents I want to become, four unique expressions of godly family-builders. This place, where talking about deep-down hopes and fears and discussing relationships with God and laying hands and praying for people seem as natural as breathing – this is where I want to live. Every year I’m reminded of who I want to become, and the mere Christianity, the everyday living and breathing God, the vulnerable, truth-telling love I want to live out loud, not just on a farm in the middle of nowhere, but in downtown Vancouver and not-so-downtown Saskatoon. I do not take the blessing of Homowebmape for granted.

This year’s Homowebmape was as wonderful as any I can remember, mostly because Christine joined us this year, which made it ten times better, at least for me. The weekend included a newborn puppy, a night under the stars sleeping on the trampoline with some of the other girls, stealing black jujubes from the huge Costco bag the Moffats always bring, and a surprise bridal shower we threw for Sarah and Nick (I finally got a picture of them!). I tried out a couple of new board games: Settlers of Catan (I discovered that I am highly lacking in ‘settling’ skills) and Whonu. I ate some of the deer and moose that Jordan shot. Other highlights included a barn swallow flying into tiny Brownfield Baptist church at the beginning of the Sunday morning service, celebrating my sister Rachel’s 18th birthday, and re-reading “Ender’s Game”, a favorite childhood book.

It was also a chance to rediscover the joys of driving across the prairies. As much as I sometimes wish there were a few mountains to punctuate the scene, being able to see 360 degrees of sky is pretty darn breathtaking. Add a few aspen bluffs, some gentle hills, the geometric patterns of harvested fields, and a red-tailed hawk soaring above them, and you’ve got the picture. The large snowfall this winter left a lot of standing water in the ditches beside the highway, and I amused myself attempting to identify the ducks in these temporary ponds as we zoomed along to Brownfield Friday night. As I gazed out the window, trying to let all of this beauty sink in, Coldplay’s “Don’t Panic” came on my MP3 player. “We live in a beautiful world…” I found myself singing along with sincerity. Yeah we do, Chris Martin, yeah we do.

On the way back, Chris drove. Instead of scouting out ducks, like me, her passions in prairie driving are twofold: stopping to examine abandoned houses that lean at an impossibly diagonal angle, and driving through the classic prairie storm. We were able to do both on our trip home. We didn’t spend much time at the abandoned house, thankfully, because it was creeping me out and there was a bunch of bird poop everywhere. But we spent a lot of time in the storm, and it was great – you can see it coming a long way off, and you can smell the rain hang humid in the air, and then the clouds just encompass you, and the thunder shakes the car, and you spend the trip watching expectantly for every new flash of lightning. And hoping you won’t hydroplane on the road, which has been my secret fear since I learned about it in grade 10 driver’s ed. Generally, though, in the competition between beauty and fear, beauty won.

Until next year, Homowebmape! I wouldn’t miss you for the world.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Starts with a ground squirrel, ends with a bang.

Do you see the ground squirrel? :)

Saskatoon is quite used to me by now, and I’m getting used to it. I’m re-learning the vehicular art of pothole avoidance. I’m remembering what prairie wind is like, how it blows up the sand covering the road, until the convoy of street cleaners sweep it away. I’m remembering the familiar itch of mosquito bites. I’m remembering what it feels like to sit up late with Rachel, or Daniel, or Dad, and watch some TV show that we probably don’t really even care about, just enjoying each other’s company (except last night – a National Geographic show about anteaters, armadillos and sloths that I really did care about). I’m remembering the warmth of actually sitting around the table with my family and eating a meal together, and how refreshing it is to laugh with them. I’m remembering the joy of singing with Chris in the car, making her laugh, and telling corny jokes just so she’ll give me that disapproving, eye-rolling, why-did-I-ever-agree-to-be-best-friends-with-you look that I love. I’m settling back into my room and loving the glow-in-the-dark stars I forgot I had put around the perimeter, near the ceiling, and around the door, arranged in true-to-life constellations. Next time it’s clear, I really need to drive out of town with my big heavy binoculars (different from the ones I look at birds with) and remind myself of what the real stars look like. After all, that’s what Saskatchewan’s good for.

I mourn the loss of my Rock. I suppose it will still be there when I get back – it’s too big to move. Still, it’s challenging, finding a new place to meet God every day. I need continuity or I struggle to do it every morning. I’ve settled on Rachel’s window seat. The only problem is that I can’t see the birds from there. But I can hear them. Maybe I’ll have to get really good at listening to them this month, while my eyes are deprived.

My job with Robin in the craft room has been a blast so far. I do a lot of letter writing, e-mail writing, phone calling, talking to people over coffee, and entering registrations into the system. Then at 4:30, I go home, and leave it all behind. No homework. No worries. It’s nice. I am starting to think about camp, and what my job will be up there when camp starts, at the end of June. I think I’m going to have to re-learn how to pray. I pretty much get to spend the whole summer encouraging the female cabin leaders and praying for them. I’m pumped.

Today I watched the dress rehearsal of a fantastic play Rachel’s in: Bridge to Terebithia. I remember reading it as a kid, in school, but I couldn’t remember what happened. She was the best bully ever. Their opening show is right now – I can’t wait until I get to usher on Thursday night and see it again. So to all you Saskatonians – don’t miss it – it’s at Castle Theatre all week, get your tickets today!

I read “Da Vinci Code”. The “facts” Brown presented made me mad, of course – especially after all the stuff I’ve been learning in CTC about the early history of Christianity – but the plot itself was awesome. I couldn’t put it down. I’m excited for the movie, except Tom Hanks’ hair in the preview looks like a small animal. Speaking of movies about Christianity, I watched a crazy old-school one last week: Godspell. Wow. I couldn’t quite get my head around it. Maybe you had to live through the 70s, or smoke a bunch of pot, just to understand it . . . Jesus with a fro, face paint, and clown shoes ? (Yes, that's the guy from Alias and Titanic). However, I did like the songs and the way the “disciples” sang them to Jesus with such visible sincerity and love, and the look on Jesus’ face when they sang them. So often we sing worship songs and forget that the One we’re singing them to actually cares, that He loves hearing our sincere love expressed. If you’re tired of the predictable Gospel story, and you’re in a goofy mood, check it out. “Day by day…”

I will finish this lazily rolling-along mundane sort of blog with an uncharacteristic bang – a momentous occasion in the life of our family. Today, my little sister Sarah (Danice – this is the Calgary India one) got engaged to be married to one Nicolas Hawkins today!! This means that before I return to Vancouver, I will have a new brother-in-law! They will be married in the last weekend of August, in or near Calgary somewhere. This is very soon. It still seems a little surreal as I type it. I get to be a bridesmaid! Rachel and I are equally close sisters to her, so I don’t think she’s singling one of us out as maid of honor. That’s cool with me. I guess this means I shouldn’t shave all my hair off this summer…

(Sorry, Sarah, this is the best picture I have of you. Aw... Daniel... remember when your hair was that color?)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A brief lesson

To my Vancouver friends...

Let me give you a little lesson on Saskatchewan.

Friday, April 28th. Maximum temperature: 24.7 degrees Celsius. My mother and grandmother are weeding in the backyard. All is summertime and sunshine.

Jump to Wednesday, May 2nd, the present day, a mere five days later. I wake up and look out the window. Here is what I see...

Maximum temperature: 2 degrees Celsius. With 31 km/h winds, it feels like -4 degrees Celsius. All is Christmastime and snowflakes.

C'mon, Saskatchewan. You think this will scare me away? Snow in May? You can do better than that.