Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Special Advent

"We are told to put on Christ, and we think of his life of work, his public life, his teaching and his suffering life. But we do not think enough of his life as a little child, as a baby. His helplessness. His powerlessness. We have to be content to be in that state too--not to be able to do anything, to accomplish anything."
Dorothy Day
This Advent, which literally means "coming", we're waiting with the whole Christian church for the coming of Christ as a crying, sputtering, fleshy little baby. With the due date for our second child just around the corner, Lauren and I feel an added significance and anticipation this year. We will experience once again the holy, earthy, beautiful, messy experience of what it means to give life and to care for it, and the blessing of doing this at a special time of year. Of course, we're anxious, nervous, a bit uptight about it all. Sometimes it feels like trying to anticipate an earthquake; there's only so much preparation possible, and then it's just anxious waiting. And the added stressors surrounding our ever-challenging financial situation and distance from family at such a special/challenging time do not make the waiting very care-free. However (and there's always a "however"), we do feel blessed to be doing what we're doing out here in Montreal, and to welcome our baby into this world in our very own apartment, and to become a a family of four! for our second snowy Christmas in Montreal. Dorothy C. Bass describes Advent as"quiet but expectant, leaning, as if heavy with child, into the future." I don't think that description is too far from our own experience at this extra special time.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

There's no such thing as a

So, once again it's been too long... can I use the pregnancy excuse on this one? (this is Lauren speaking, of course...) I've hit 34 weeks and can hardly believe that a baby could be coming just around the bend. Excited, nervous, bewildered, amazed, slightly scared (mostly of sleepless nights, I admit), we're going through it all. Every book and magazine we read we're scouring for names, we officially moved in a friend's changing table and newborn diapers we're borrowing, and we have our home visit appointment with our midwife this Tuesday. I'm convinced it's real case the slight increase on the scale and in my midsection hadn't already got me. Mostly, I'm balancing an intense excitement and amazement at what this will mean to go through the power of labor and birth again, accepting a new child into our family, with a sober confrontation of the reality that a harsh winter with two kids and no extended family may be a bit of a challenge.

In the meantime, I've immersed myself in a birthing culture other than my own little reality-- that of doula-dom. I went through the amazing experience of a one-week intensive in July (my first time away from my little Dennis-man!), where I met incredible women with a passion for life and redeeming an often-lost rite of passage for women. Since then, I've had the honor of attending the births of three women, including prenatal and postpartum appointments. Two were through a volunteer doula organization, Montreal Birth Companions, that does a fabulous job at pairing low-income (often alone or in need of some extreme sort) women with experienced doulas, volunteering their time. For me as a student doula, I worked with someone else for both of these births. The third birth I attended was an apprenticeship birth with the inspiring woman that trained me, a woman who has been working for years at this profession and built up a name in such a way she's had the chance to offer courses to nurses and resident ob/gyn's on how to give a woman emotional support in labor. It's been quite a ride, with emotional ups and downs in seeing the beauties of birth as well as the difficult parts of a sometimes-aching birthing culture, as well as the reality of many women going through this event (and child-rearing) all alone. It hurt at times to not have the power to change much, to just be there, hold a hand, and affirm a woman's decisions despite what those decisions might be. It hurt to see a doctor break down a woman's energy and motivation by her words, and it hurt to see unnecessary interventions lead to other unnecessary interventions and the conclusion of a doc saying, "I told you so..". But, to see a child enter the world... to see the mom holding her precious life she's worked so hard for... to be able to empower a woman through the birth experience regardless of what it looked like... and to see a father cry.... Let's just say it's been worth the bumpy ride, and I'm in. =) I still have two more births to attend as well as a variety of projects, book reports, etc. before I'm a certified doula, so we'll see how that plays out with the upcoming birth of my own babe, but I'm in and I'm going for it, and have learned so much valuable information to use towards my own family in the meantime. I could definitely use some prayers regarding all of this!

Another large concern now is, of course, financial. We feel so blessed to be living where we are as our medical care is free. However, we've been brought down to earth in realizing that that's not the only cost of having a child! There are diapers to buy, winter baby clothes to buy, good food that I will need to eat to sustain and nourish this little one, etc, etc. Maybe I'll take the time to soon post a list of specific needs. Somehow, someway, we've continually gotten by, however simply, on so many of your beautiful and generous financial gifts. Every month comes, rent is due, and most of the time we don't know where it's coming from-- but it has come. We're still here, and we're still deeply enjoying our lives and our work here. I ask, though, from a deep place of humility and gratitude, that you consider helping us out, whether it be for the first time or once again, a small one-time gift, or maybe a monthly commitment: whatever you feel drawn to and are capable of. We couldn't be doing this without you, and won't be able to make it through this winter here without you. Look at the previous post for specific instructions on how you can give, and like I said, I'll post a list of specfic needs and instructions in the next blog (coming soon, I promise!). Thanks for listening, giving, praying.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hello, Seaside!

To coincide with our new youtube video showing at our home church, Seaside, this sunday, we decided to write a short, honest blog about some of our present financial challenges in order to create more awareness and gain more support.
Let me begin by saying that our experience out here in Montreal has been one of great freedom where we are continually learning so much about God, ourselves, our family, and society in general. This freedom to live in a new place, experience a new culture, and yet meet the same God doing amazing things, has been unforgettable.
However, with all of our freedom, there is plenty of risk, which mostly has to do with finances. Although this too has been an amazing area to see God's provision as he answers our needs, we are often discouraged by the immense financial challenges facing us month to month. Basic expenses like rent, food, utilities and transportation are really what it comes down to.
Being our third year in Montreal and the last year of our commitment as staff with YWAM, we are presently discerning whether this financial reality is reasonable for us as a growing family. We take joy in the freedom but are often quite burdened by the financial realities. Nonetheless, we do have a considerable amount of time before our commitment ends and thus need the resources to see it all the way through.
Please consider supporting us through this next school year (from October to June) as we continue learning and seeking God's will for our future.

If you prefer to receive a tax deductible receipt for your donation, send a check to Seaside Community Church (21521 Surveyor Circle Huntington Beach, CA 92646) made out to Seaside with our names in the memo. We have also set up an account online ( where, using our email address(, you can follow the simple steps on the website in order to set up a paypal account and transfer money to our paypal account immediately (takes about 5 minutes).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Week to Remember

Well, our friends Josh and Lindsay just left this morning on a bus bound for Burlington, Vermont and then on to two flights that will take them back to California. They stayed with us for an entire week (Saturday to Saturday) and I'm pretty confident when I say that it was a special experience for all involved.
Over a year ago, when we had decided to come back to Montreal for two more years, Josh and Lindsay swore to us that they would somehow make it out here to visit within that two-year time frame. They said that they knew it would happen if they promised us. They stayed true to their word and made it happen; and we sure are happy they did.
Our great week was capped last night (Friday, the 10th) by a truly Montrealesque-type evening. We started with dinner at O. Noir (French for "in the dark") where we enjoyed a one-of-a-kind dining experience. O. Noir is a restaurant that started in order to create jobs for the blind where you basically eat in the dark. When I say dark, I mean pitch-black, can't-see- absolutely-anything kind of dark. Click on the link above link to learn more about how it works. We recommended this place to Josh and Lindsay as a great date experience for them, but when they found out that we had never been, they insisted on a double date, their treat. Lauren and I couldn't resist! We thoroughly enjoyed our sight-deprived yet taste-enhanced, delicious meals. We then re-entered the visible world and proceeded to "wash down" our meals at Dieu du Ciel and Fairmont Bagel (two signature Montreal locations!). Needless to say, it was an evening to remember; a great finish to a really enjoyable week. In fact, the generosity shown by Josh and Lindsay last night was indicative of the entire week. In more ways than one, Lauren and I felt so blessed and gifted to have them as our guests. I've coined a new word to describe this experience: guestpitality. If a good host is hospitable, Lindsay and Josh are very guestpitable. They made dinner for us several times, got out and enjoyed the city on their own (we loved hearing them practice their French!), took care of Dennis, and shared great conversations with us throughout the week. Their genuine interest in our work out here (and generous support of it!) have left us with a profound gratitude for our friendship with them.
Thanks, Josh and Lindsay, for a beautiful week. We were blessed by your coming!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Summer Wrap-Up

Whoa, it's been a while! And a lot has happened in between! We've finally settled in for the school year, back in our beautiful city, Montreal. We had quite a summer. Counting layovers, I think Dennis took 10 flights and a few road trips to boot in the past 4 months. That ups his total to somewhere around 30 flights, most of them within the first two years of his life. So, we did it. We survived an extra-crazy summer and are glad to be homebodies again in our lively, colorful, vibrant city.
We got back to Montreal on August 8th and then welcomed Jimmy and my Mom a few days after that. For an entire week, we were able to share our Montreal lives with them and catch up on all those things you never get to on the phone/email/skype. One of my highlights was taking my little bro on a tour of some of the best pubs and beers Quebec has to offer. He kept asking, "Where's the Bud Light Lime?" as he grimaced down another swig of some frothy stout. I was proud to introduce him to beer as it was meant to be.
(Awkward transition forthcoming...)Lauren is coming along nicely with our next little bugger. She is now closing in on 6 months. We met with our midwife a few weeks ago, and Lauren will most likely choose to have the baby at home. The birthing center will come to us and it's all free! Oh, Canada!
So, now, as we settle in, Lauren will be busy completing her apprenticeship as a doula and I will be preparing for our next UCDTS (we're expecting 11 students! double the number of the last two years!). We're both excited and enthusiastic about what all of this will entail.
Lastly, if you would like to compete with our friends from the Orient (who are so dedicated in leaving such edifying comments on our blog posts; check the whopping 14 comments on the previous post), please say hello and tell us you love us. We can't read Chinese anyhow.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two new videos...

Hello everyone,
For some reason our video bar still isn't displaying our latest videos, so here's the link for three fresh ones. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Family Monastics

This summer we're sort of like a monastery unto ourselves. We're pretty isolated out here in Omaha and our focus is simple and clear. Our family life right now is comparable to the monastic life of the richest tradition in western monasticism, the Benedictine Order. The order has been around since the Rule of Benedict (amazing document) was written in the 6th century. The Rule prescribes three basic duties for the monks, summed up in the latin phrase ora et labora. This means pray and work. The three activities that would fill their everyday as monks were communal prayer (aka liturgical prayer), solitary prayer (through lectio divina), and manual labor.

Although, to be honest, there's not much formal prayer going on over here (except when Dennis insists that we pray several times during meals), we do have a considerable amount of solitude and time for reflection as I pursue my studies. One great, very unique characteristic of my masters program is how much it encourages reflection. Most people in academia are largely concerned with acquiring more knowledge; so, this is rare to be urged to reflect on the knowledge you are receiving or already have. Another great highlight of my program so far is that because we are so disconnected out here, so distanced from other obligations, both Lauren and I are able to reflect on my studies together. In fact, Lauren has been able to read a few of the books and articles from my classes along with me. We've been able to have some great discussions because of that. The manual labor aspect of our lives out here is evident in the fact that we do not have a car (extremely rare in Omaha) and so we ride our craigslist bikes everywhere. Unfortunately, Omaha, although it's in the middle of the "heartland", is quite hilly and hot in the summer. And when you're on a bike, those hills seem like mountains.

We're a little over half-way through our summer out here and, although it has definitely not been without its moments of loneliness, I'd say we have been able to embrace the simplicity and be thankful for such a time and opportunity. I know I myself am thankful, especially to my wife, for the gift she's given me in allowing me to do this program while she courageously cares for Dennis and the little one germinating in her belly. As the hip-hop world might say, what a soldier!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Omaha, School, and a Heartbeat...

Hello All,
So, we've been in Omaha for nearly a month now, and feel like we've adapted quite well. I'm very busy with school stuff (right now I'm taking classes in Spirituality and Social Concerns and History of Christian Spirituality), and we don't have internet at the apartment. As you can imagine, blogging has not been easy. Nonetheless, we are having some really great experiences out here and can't wait to share them with you, through blogging, in person, or however. Thanks for checking in.
The Fam!
P.S. Heard a heartbeat the other day in Lauren's belly! #2 is on his/her way! December 13th guess date. That's a good guess, being my dad's birthday!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New video!

Check it out at
Another coming soon...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Big News, Busy Days

I can't believe all that has come and gone, and that I sit and write this update in our apartment in Omaha, Nebraska. Somehow, we've pulled it off...all the traveling, details, planning, applying, searching, packing, celebrating, visiting... and we're here 9 days before Denny will be starting his Master's degree in Christian Spirituality at Creighton. Wow. We were SO fulfilled and blessed by our trip home to California (and "home" to Hawaii!) and although it wasn't nearly enough time with our loved ones, we soaked it up as much as we could.
I was able to see my new nephew Nathan (my sister's adorable 4-month old) and his oh-so-big sister Lily-- nothing beats seeing Dennis and Lily play together, hug each other, kiss each other, and of course fight a little with each other. =) My parents (Ganya and Paka to Dennis; he chose the names, don't ask...)were able to come pick us up at the airport and stay with us for a week, including going to see Kate and Steve (sister and brother-in-law). I craved more time with my sis and my parents, but it was still so much fun. We had many a good days and evenings with the Manthorne clan and, again, it's priceless to watch Dennis with his cousins. He absolutely LOVES Kaili and Kaci and is hilarious with little Kelsi, who is only one week younger. They acted a bit like an old married couple. In fact, according to Dennis all three are just named 'Kaci'. It's easier that way, right? We even fit in seeing close friends like Karen and Tim (my best friend since high school)--expecting a baby in October, hooray!!-- , Josh and Lindsay, Kimmy Curt, and many great people at Seaside Community Church. All of this goes without mentioning our incredible hostess Ganya Lolo. =) We spent the whole 3 weeks with Lois, including a flight to and week in Hawaii!

Okay, back up. Before I overwhelm you and go into all the gushy details of Hawaii: the enormous house that slept about 20 of us, awesome friends Robbie and Chantelle, Lyn and Yvette, Barry and Linda, Uncle Jim and Aunt Bonnie, Uncle Jimmy the Graduate, the ocean out our living room window...just to name a few... I seemed to have forgotten the 'Big News' I spoke of in the blog title.. somewhere mixed up in these events, on Mother's Day fittingly enough, we announced to our families that there's another little one on the way! Let me make this easy for those of you who skim through these much-too-long blogs: LAUREN IS PREGNANT!! =) I'm almost 13 weeks prego as I sit here writing this blog, and needless to say it's been an interesting ride doing all this traveling and being in the first trimester . We're so excited, knew it was going to happen yet still can't believe it, and we were so OVERJOYED to find out and be able to share the news with our families and friends while we were home. I wish I could have told my sister and parents in person, but we were able to make a great announcement at a Mother's Day brunch with Todd & Kristi and the girls, GG (Grandma Mary Bell), and Lois, and then again with our loved ones during a toast in our first night in Hawaii.
So, for the details: December 14 is looking like the due date (the day after Dennis Michael I's birthday!) and the baby will be born in Montreal. We're going to have a little Canadian! We couldn't be more thrilled, but recognize we have a lot on our plate. (All you parents are nodding your heads right now, aren't you?) Denny will be fully involved in running the YWAM school next year, while I'll be more focused on completing my doula training and volunteering with Montreal Birth Companions until mid-November, after which I think I'll have my hands full!

We're so happy to share the news with everyone and will be writing faithfully this summer about the particulars of Denny's education, our ministries in Montreal, pregnancy, and of course the adventures of life with our little (almost) 2- year- old!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Update #1

So, as evidenced by our lack of blogging, things have gotten a little crazy in our lives lately. Since our last blog, sometime in late April, we've flown to California, flown to Hawaii for Jimmy's graduation, flown back to California, and and then back to Montreal. We came back to Montreal for the last week of the school we run. We just had the graduation for that school last night. On Monday and Tuesday we'll be reviewing the entire school year as staff and then, on Wednesday, we leave for Omaha, Nebraska to get settled in before my MA classes begin. We'll be there for two months and then return to Montreal to run the school one more year. Of course, I'm missing a few important details there but Lauren will fill you in on Update #2 coming your way soon. I counted today, and, not to brag or anything, but by the time Dennis turns two he'll have been on 19 different airplanes. Is that normal? He's quite the travelin' man. So, thanks for checking in even after our long absence. We'll be bringing more updates ASAP.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Catholic Worker - NYC

Yesterday, we visited the Catholic Worker in East Village, Manhattan. This is actually the birthplace of the Catholic Worker where Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin originally started the first one. Click on their names to get some more background info on them. They were extraordinary people whose vision has resulted in the tenacious, surviving-against-all-odds organization (or lack thereof) called the Catholic Worker today. Many have said that it truly is a miracle that such an organization has lasted so long and had such a big impact on the poor throughout the U.S., considering its anarchist tactics and completely decentralized network. We visited this place last year and had a great conversation with a woman who worked alongside Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker for years. This year, we met with Ted Walker, probably in his late twenties, who had come to the NYC Catholic Worker a few years ago after working at the Des Moines, IA Catholic Worker before that.
Both times I've visited this place I've been challenged down to my roots. Its ideology, its radical stance towards the gospel, made manifest in its service to the poor or "bias towards the bottom", as Dorothy Day called it, is both confronting and inspiring. They put out a newspaper 6 or 7 times a year, called the Catholic Worker, which has been going now since the Great Depression! The newspaper has beautiful artwork mixed in with short yet very ideologically-sound articles informing local residents of different initiatives, both local and global, that the Catholic Worker is taking in order to make justice and peace more tangible qualities in society. On a local level, the NYC Catholic Worker offers meals to the poor, permanent housing for forsaken elderly, jobs, clothes, etc. On a global level, they are often involved in protests against war or torture, economic injustice, environmental injustice, which often include civil disobedience, resulting in frequent arrest. Dorothy Day herself was arrested some eighty times, rumor has it.
Now, you might be tempted to write these people off as extremists, or just reactionary; that they all just have some sort of anger they need to deal with. However, a closer look at their theology and methods reveals that their approach is well-thought-out, very strongly rooted in the teachings of the gospels and the subsequent teachings of the Catholic Church. This partly explains why Catholic Workers have so succesfully multiplied throughout the U.S., despite their lack of centralization or organization. Their "bias towards the bottom" unifies them in their extremely varied manifestations of and demonstrations for peace and justice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Hello, New York City. So, it's been just a couple days since we arrived in the Big Apple. I'm flying solo this time, without my lovely wife and amazing son. It's the first time only one of us (instead of all three of us) has gone on one of our three week-long trips to different North American cities. Of course, I'm with the rest of the group, but it still feels a little lonely because they all speak French. Still, it's a change that affords a bit more freedom (went out today with just the clothes on my back; instead of Dennis on my back or in the stroller or a backpack full of snacks and diapers, etc.) and a few more quiet, pensive moments. Even so, as we're walking all over the city, taking in all the sights sounds, the father in me is struck by how many little parks this city has. Dennis is right at that age where he'd love to take advantage of all of them. I almost want to go play on them myself for him. Last night, I looked into the sky and saw a crescent moon, and instinctively pointed up and said, "Moon. Mooney." Today, we went to Coney Island and enjoyed some sun and the beach. It was another place where I kept imagining how the D-man would have reacted to all of it. I think our NYC trip next year will see all three Flanagans attending once again.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Storm's a-coming!

Here we are on April 11th, in disbelief that we're so close to some of our most highly-anticipated events so far in 2010. First of all, our great friends Robbie and Chantelle are coming here in only 4 days (Wow!). We're super excited to have them stay with us and share our Montreal lives with them, and to see Chantelle run in the Canadian championships half-marathon here in Montreal next Sunday. And, although it's only a few short days they'll be here, it doesn't matter because we'll get to see them again in Hawaii! And that brings me to the next big events on the horizon: a couple of weeks in California and one week in Hawaii! We told YWAM last year when we committed to two years as missionaries that we just could not miss little-brother Jimmy's college graduation! The fact that it's in Hawaii is just a side note. We would've gone even if it were in Nebraska or some lousy place like that...So, in order to be back in Montreal for the last week of the eight-month school we're running, we decided to go to California for two weeks before Hawaii. That way we can see our family that we miss so much and some friends while we're home for a couple weeks. Before the itinerary gets too confusing, let me lay it out for you in a more organized manner:

May 1-12: Home (Orange County and Santa Maria!)*
May 12-19: Hawaii, watching the J-Man get graduated!
May 19-22: Traveling from Hawaii back to California back to Montreal
May 22-31: Back in Montreal wrapping up our school!
June 5th or so to August 5th or so: @ Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska!*
August/September: Back in Montreal preparing for next year's school and welcoming all visitors from near and far! Montreal is the greatest city in North America during the summer and we've got an extra room for guests...

There's the rough itinerary. That's why I titled this blog "Storm's a-coming".

Asterisk #1: Even before our adventurous May begins, I'll be traveling to New York City with the school for a week in the big apple. Lauren and Dennis have opted to stay home in Montreal in order to minimize travel before our California/Hawaii/Nebraska adventure. Good decision, I think.
Asterisk #2: Lauren will be flying back to Montreal for a week in July to complete her intensive doula training school, and then she'll rejoin us in Omaha.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Alas, I've failed to follow through on the once-a-week blog pace set at the top of the year. I guess that goes for Lauren, also (Dennis, too?). We've all failed. We apologize. We can't say we feel totally sorry, but do understand any disappointment you might have felt as you enthusiastically surfed your way to the flanclan blogspot to find nothing but a stale entry. With the summer coming quickly, the school quickly coming to a close (with a week-long trip to NYC in between), and preparations for our journey back home in May being made, time is of the essence (what a phrase! 'time is of the essence'; Actually, to go on a tangent, essence is the word for gasoline in French. Only such a beautiful language could call gas 'essence'. Eh-um). So, yes, we have been busy. One detail worth mentioning is that I'm taking a few online pre-requisite courses in order to be accepted into the Christian Spirituality program at Creighton. These are introduction to the New Testament and to the Old Testament. It's taking a lot of time, but really is quite fascinating so far. To actually sit down and really study a text, the Bible, that has been so central to my entire life, let alone all of the Western world, is an amazing privelege. I was telling a friend earlier today that it's like having heard a certain song over and over again without ever knowing who it was written by or why it was written, and then finally having access to the story behind the song: the whos, the wheres, the whats, the hows, etc. Love it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


As March Madness gets underway, I'm sad to say that my future alma mater, Creighton University, will not be participating this year. Well, if all goes well, it will be my future alma mater, meaning if I get accepted into this program and get enough loans to pay for it. After doing a little research I discovered that Creighton (one of those small universities you've never heard of until you have to decide if they could upset Kentucky or Kansas) has not been in the NCAA basketball tourney since '06-'07. I guess we're going through a little dry spell. Maybe I'll try out. Anyway, to get to the point, I've recently applied for a Master of Arts in Christian Spirituality, which is a program that runs for two-months each of the three summers it takes to complete it. That means we're planning on spending two months (June and July) in Omaha, Nebraska for the next three summers! It's hard to imagine what that will be like. Nonetheless, this program is really unique, and I really feel it will be a great experience for me. It combines rigorous academic study of different spirituality movements within Christianity along with the spiritual formation of its students, meaning that the students not only absorb lots of information but are also required to further establish their own spiritual life through retreats, spiritual direction, etc. It's been a long time coming that I've been hoping to begin some sort of official masters program in order to start working towards something more career-oriented. This program, because of its unique nature, does not lead to any one specific job or career path. Still, there are plenty of directions one could head afterwards: teacher, coach, campus chaplain, hospital chaplain, retreat director, any non-profit work, etc. At least those are the options that interest me. So, we're making plans and doing our typical thing of making life way too exciting and, thus, a bit stressful at times. Still, Lauren and I are on board together for these new adventures (her doula school and my masters program) and Dennis is right there beside us being as cute and funny as ever.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


So, I've been sabotaged by the faulty library internet again! That's the second time that I've just polished off a new blog when the connection cut out and all was lost! That's part of the reason why Lauren and I have decided to give in and get internet at our place. We held out for about five months, partly because it would be one extra expense, but mainly because we wanted to try and live internet free (at least in our home). However, it really took a toll on communication (out here in Montreal and with people back home), and it was not at all convenient to go out to a cafe to use the internet (Why? 1. You have to buy something each time 2. The internet isn't always working at these places 3. Sometimes there's not an outlet free, and when you have a laptop battery from way back when that is a must 4. You have to go out in the cold winter weather each time just to get online!) So, we've been enjoying increased communication and connection ever since. Here's to online community!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hospital...or Zoo?

One of my friends (and the wife of one of the students in the Urban Cultures school) just gave birth to a beautiful, amazingly tiny-- yet absolutely healthy-- baby boy last Wednesday. I had the opportunity of talking to her about birth a number of times during her pregnancy, the intensely challenging yet wonderfully incomparable experience that it is. While she had some fears about her capacity to give birth, her husband and her decided to go to La Maison de Naissance, or Birthing Center. Unfortunately, 3 1/2 weeks before her due date, she was told that the baby was too small and there was not enough amniotic fluid: they would have to send her to the hospital for an induction. Reporting to the hospital, they found out that the fluid had doubled (??), but the baby was still too small, so they would keep the induction scheduled (too small of a baby= take the baby early???!). When I heard that she had given birth vaginally and had only labored from 6 am- 2 pm in such an environment, I was proud, ecstatic, amazed. Her statistics were beat the odds/ beat the system kind of statistics. Sounded great, but hearing her story of her experience I realized it was anything but.
She arrived at the labor ward to hear screaming; yes, screaming. Like in the movies kind of screaming. Doors would not be closed- nurses wanted the doors left open so they could enter and exit at will (without the strain of opening the door?)-, bright lights everywhere (too difficult for a nurse to work in a dimly-lit room: let's make sure to accommodate the nurses...). Because she was being induced and monitored, no movement was allowed-- not even to turn on her side. She was lucky enough to be in labor while a group of students were following the nurses and doctors around... there were actually FIFTEEN people in her room during the birth. She was asked the same questions repeatedly-- during contractions-- and was given an epidural when she was fully dilated because there was no doctor around to check her and they just went ahead with it, not knowing. She had reached that point of "I just can't go on"-- and little did she know she was at 10 cm and the baby would be out after 6 pushes. I could go on and on...
This all took place at a NICE hospital in Montreal. In fact, one of the best hospitals. I know that many, many women experience this every day-- it's normal. And it doesn't really matter anyways, right, because the baby is healthy... or does it?? I want to make sure and say that I DO NOT believe that birth is the say all, end all experience: if you have a traumatizing birth experience, you are not necessarily going to be scarred for life, nor is your baby. The health of the baby truly is the most important thing. However, I DO believe that birth has the potential to be an incredible, spiritual, formative rite of passage for a women. It carries the potential of being an incomparably empowering experience in a woman's life, and can be an extremely gratifying way of beginning a lifetime of parenting, for both the woman and the man.
The fact that the situation I portrayed is completely normal tells me that something is horribly wrong with the way we see and treat a birthing woman. A birthing woman is not sick. She is not (usually) suffering. Often, a birthing woman is not even in need of anyone or anything except an extremely strong support person and people. A birthing woman is intuitive and powerful, not the opposite. I would as far as saying that the situation described can be degrading and abusive. I really do hope I am not offending anybody, but I truly believe that women, especially those about to be the mothers of the next generation, need to be shown respect, treated gently, and empowered as women, as mothers, and as people. How can we strap a woman to a bed, turn on the brightest of lights, bring in strangers to look at all regions of her body, ask her annoying questions during labor, tell her when and how to push, keep her up at all hours after the most trying of physical activities, and then send her out and say 'Good luck!' ?
I'm very thankful that many hospitals around the country who are working hard to change maternity care and bring dignity into the labor ward. Not all hospitals are still treating women like this, but it is still very common.
Sooo...I'm goin' into the warzone. =) Being a doula will put me right there in the hospital next to these strong, capable women. I hope I can help to slowly change our birthing culture in the US and Canada, one beautiful birth at a time. Let me know what you think, and be gentle (or not-- I suppose I wasn't). =)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Some Housekeeping

For those who are interested in seeing our latest videos, we're having some technical difficulties with the blog. It keeps showing random videos from back in the day (you know, last year). So, here is the link to our youtube channel where you can catch the latest. Just click here and have a blast.
We'll have some new pictures up soon! Happy 14th Seaside!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Quotidian Mysteries

I was just reading in Le Metro (the daily newspaper that is distributed for free in the subway) that according to a recent survey, 1 in 2 Montrealers suffer from loss of energy and small bouts of depression during the winter months of January and February. Living in a very wintery place, where the days are short, and the climate biting, this is a reality I have become acquainted with this winter season. Lauren and I have both noticed a loss of energy and a lack of motivation (although I think I've been a bit more susceptible than she this season for some reason). Fortunately, I picked up a book back up that I had started this summer and remembered as pertinent for the daily grind we now face in these unwelcoming months. It's called The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris. It's a very small book based on some lectures she gave at a conference on women's spirituality. The sub-title of the book is "Liturgy, Laundry, and 'Women's Work'". Ironic as it may sound, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this seemingly female-oriented book the last few weeks because of the wisdom and inspiration it provides for the mundane tasks of daily life (i.e., changing a diaper, feeding your toddler, picking up all the food he throws on the ground, sweeping, taking out the trash, organizing, and on and on and on). The author, also a poet, describes how God has given us these seemingly-endless daily tasks much in the same way he has given us the task of worship. Both are never fully completed, and, thus, both require repetition: a repetition that at times (say in January or February) can seem deadening and worthless. However, we know all too well that the house must be cleaned, and the diaper changed and that we always feel better afterward. Much in the same way, our worship of God as the source and giver of life is an ongoing process, full of peaks and valleys, exultation and boredom. Yet we're asked to continue it through all seasons, and as we do that, our sanctification is fleshed-out in the fabric of our very ordinary days.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Return of Lauren

Yes, it's true. I am here; I am alive; I am well. It's Lauren, and I've sat down and told myself that I must write a blog. Short it may be, as my men are expecting me in 20, but so be it. It's time to let you all in on a little piece of my life. Hard to know where to begin exactly, but I suppose I better jump in where Denny said I would: Summer plans, it is.
So, I've been playing with the idea of doula-hood (not a medical term despite the professional sound) for some time now. I found this amazing-sounding training school right when we arrived last year (2008, that is), but it didn't seem like the right timing with Denny starting the DTS and a 3 month-old to nurture and adore. However, I've continued to be interested in it, and recently got in contact with the woman running the show, Lesley Everest (check out her blog, or her facebook page, MotherWit Doula Services). Turns out they're taking a bit of a break with the 9-month-long school and she is running a week-long intensive training this July. It will include the same amount of classroom hours as the 9-month school, which met one Monday a week, and if desired, students can follow up that week with an apprenticeship with an experienced doula. I had loved the sound of the Holistic Doula Training School because it was offered over a long period and not just a weekend seminar like most doula trainings, but this intensive week grabbed my attention because of the possibility of an apprenticeship and continued relationship following the training week. So, I did a little soul searching of what it is I'm really looking for in a career, what my passions and interests are, and what this means for my family, and decided that now is the time to chase after this. It encompasses so many different interests I have (health, nutrition, natural childbirth, fitness, spirituality) and is such an incredible way to empower women, teach on parenting, and put birth back into the hands of women.
So, I have applied, corresponded with Lesley many times over e-mail, and will be meeting for an interview very soon. I've begun doing some reading, and in the next 4-ish months will begin my journey towards becoming a doula by attending breastfeeding support group meetings, childbirth education classes in the hospital (to see what parents normally learn in the hospital) and writing a few reports on required reading. July 18-25 I will attend the week-long training session about an hour outside of Montreal, and in the months following I will be required to attend 5 births before I am a MotherWit Certified Holistic Doula!
I am just so blessed by this opportunity to pursue something so close to my heart and something I love so passionately. I'm excited about all the things this could potentially lead to in the future, as well as other trainings I may want to receive in the future to be a more capable and holistic labor assistant.
Doula: labor assistant, may provide prenatal education, continuous labor support (including pain relieving techniques), postpartum visits and care. >

Saturday, January 30, 2010


So, sorry about the random throwback videos that I just discovered were posted on the blog. I have no idea how that happened. Anyway, disregard. I'm in the process of uploading some freshies: a little four-part documentary I did on going out in Montreal with your one-year-old when the temperature freezes facial hair, etc.
Anyway, we're back from Quebec City. We enjoyed another great week in that unique city, but are definitely glad to be back in Montreal, back to chez nous as we say in French.
So, Lauren will write a blog sometime soon (someday...) about the recent program she applied for and is planning on beginning this summer. As I explained in the last blog, we have a pretty open summer to pursue some pretty exciting things before the school we run starts up again in October. As for me, the verdict is still out. A lot of what I could or want to do depends on our funding, which basically goes from month to month, sometimes week to week to be more exact. It's hard to make big plans or any plans for the summer when the rent check might be all we can muster. The financial trials of our last five months out here have been a great learning experience for us. As a missionary, it's a reality to live month to month without any idea of where or when next month's rent will come in, let alone food money. It's difficult, sometimes, to know when to just say hey, the money ain't there and give up, or to persevere, believing that we're out here for a reason. Several times now we've come to a place where the clock is ticking and time is quickly running out and I ask "Why are we doing this to ourselves?" And, then, the money comes in. I know, it may sound like corny missionary lingo, but, seriously, the money often comes in right when we start asking those questions. Just tonight, before I left to come write this blog, we got news that a support check had come in for us, and it was just a few hours earlier we were having that stressful money talk again. Amazing.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I'd just polished off a well-written, clever, quite phenomenal blog when the library internet connection cut out and all was lost. Apparently, I needed some humbling. Thus, this is my sad, discouraged, short blog in response to that.
Nonetheless, all is well. My prayer commitment has survived the first two weeks. We hosted two different people at our place last week. We leave for Quebec City tomorrow for a week of learning about that city.
Lauren and I are continuing to consider, pray over, and discuss options for this summer. The school will end in May and start again in October. That leaves four months in between. A lot can be done in that time. Lauren seems to have figured out what her major plans for the summer are. I'm still working on it. Maybe I can get her to write a blog soon about her recent, exciting decision. Stay tuned! Love you guys.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ignatian Spirituality

Yesterday, I began what hopefully will be about a year-long process of praying through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The link here gives a brief paragraph of what that entails exactly. However, my experience of the Spiritual Exercises will differ in that it will not be composed of an intense 30-day retreat, but rather a prolonged, not-as-intense 9 to 12 month daily retreat. Basically, that will consist of an hour or so of prayer everyday, journaling about my prayer time, and a weekly meeting with a spiritual director. I'll be doing it through the Ignatian Spirituality Center of Montreal, a Catholic-based, non-profit organization that exists to provide free spiritual direction. The spiritual directors at the center have all gone through a six-year training process in order to be adequately qualified.
It's something I've been rolling around in my head for quite some time, and thus decided to dive-in with the new year here and a new sense of calling towards a deeper spirituality. Carving out an hour five days a week for prayer will not be an easy task. I'm hoping, however, that the Lord will lead me in how to appropriately incorporate this new discipline into my life. Lauren, as always, is very encouraging, and Dennis, well, he seems pretty neutral about it all.
On va voir!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year's Resolution: Be A Better Blogger!

Hello Friends,
This year I promise to update our blog much more frequently. I hope that I have not lost all of you already. It's been nearly a month and a half since my last entry. Nonetheless, I truly believe that 2010 will bring much more frequent entries on the flan-clan blogspot. I promise this to you. Now, that means that things might get a little more personal, a little less tactful, and maybe even a little less interesting. Still, you will have at least one new entry, once a week. I'm going out on a limb here, so lend me your support and let me know you're up for it.
Thanks for sticking with us!
We love you,
Denny, Lauren, and lil' Dennis