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Friday, August 29, 2008

Reflections on the Eve of the Weekend

Well, it only took four days to get the lawn mowed. Which means some parts landed up getting mowed twice. I'm going with a translation of "twice as nice".

The week's bags are all in the mail,with the exception of mystery bidder, and I have a bit of an idea of what next week's bags will look like.

Which brings me to the much anticipated wind-down of the work week. And not without drama. After my zero tolerence policy on five year olds peeing their pants, I do have a quieter snack-time while the unmentioned law-breaker languishes in lengthy time-out. We may or may not all remember the armchair that got escorted to the local dump after that long, warm pee that took place in that comfortable, convenient location not so very long ago. Ah, pee. And puke. Which reminds me that I must take the furniture-saving-ratty-quilts off the couch and launder them since the dog decided to have a small yak there in the wee hours of the morning. Maybe she was just too comfortable to propel herself to the yak-a-torium in time, and knew her loving alpha human would understand.

Aaaaaaaah, Friday. Tapas to look forward to. Sparkling champagne. Crackling outdoor fire. Brian's cooking. No alarm set at 5:30 the following morning- instead, the anticipation of days at the lake, watching Brian and the boys jump into cold, wet water without inhibition.

And, I'm in the middle of two good books as well. "Two Cups of Tea"'; by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin; and a re-run: "Loving Each Other" by Leo Buscaglia.

Plus, school starts on Wednesday, which means I get the house and routine with my toddlers back soon enough. That's a lot to be grateful for.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mr Sam

It doesn't really unravel me that Sam has a seizure disorder. Of course it is unsettling when I hear myself say; "Sam has a seizure disorder", but the disorder itself is not, in my opinion, the worst diagnosis a kid could get. He only seizures in his sleep, which means I don't have to worry about him riding his bike, walking to school, playing with his friends, etc. I don't have to worry about his friends witnessing a seizure and then becoming afraid, or thinking that my kid is a freak. I don't love the fact that I will have to include this information on all his school, camp, and lesson forms, and that I can't control whether other people will regard him with fear. I can't control whether his camp counseller will tell his compadries "I got the weird kid with the seizures." I can't be sure the seizures will be contained only to night. I can't decide whether this will last a year, a month, or a lifetime.

This is Sam last spring when we first discovered something cooking with his tender little brain; and then below at his most recent appointment with neurology. He has grown up a lot in a year, and he has now had five night time seizures that we are aware of. It's like the first big mark that that living in this world is going to leave on him.

When I think of the genetics in my family line, I figure he came out okay. In my dad's family, all the heads were in question. Dad and his sister suffered brutal migraines. His brother seizured. His other sister suffered a lifetime of mental illness. So, out of the available options, I figure it could have been worse.
We all have to go through life with these heads attached to our bodies. Sometimes it feels like a problem. I've often wished I could compartmentalize my brain and put a few sections into a box in the garage for a while. Just to take a break.
Every time you have a kid, you invite another "stranger" into your life forever. You fling open the doors of your life, your house, your heart, and your washing machine. You naively shout: "COME IN!" and you mean it with every cell in your body. You don't know that child any more than you can count the petals on a rose that has yet to open. But your heart has already grown legs and feet in the shape of that child, and you see it marching around outside of your body. That's forever.
I see it on my mother when her heart still breaks over her children. She is eighty-two. She can't keep the world from hurting her adult children any more than I can manipulate whether people will regard Sam with suspicion or not.
Mr Sam.
Looks like he's ready to take it on.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Two of my Favourite Prayers

One of the reasons that I love to go to church is that I absolutely love singing prayers to God as a whole building full of people. All that sound coursing around and through me, filling up the spaces and comforting the sad places within me. It is so broken and so hopeful.

I love the honest surrender of this song:
I love how it is not about me. It speaks to something bigger and more powerful and respectfully reminds me that I don't exactly want my own way. I want guidance. I want to be part of something bigger than me.

Beautiful Lord, Wonderful Saviour
I know for sure, all of my days are held in your hands, crafted into your perfect plan
You gently call me into your presence guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through Your eyes
I'm captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart, I know you're drawing me to yourself
Lead me Lord I pray

Take me, Mould me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter's hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter's hand

you gently call me into your presence, guiding me by your holy spirit
teach me dear lord to live through your eyes
I'm captured by your holy calling
set me apart, I know your drawing me to yourself
lead me lord i pray...

Take me, mould me, use me, fill me....

Here's one that my sister and I used to sing at the piano. We didn't have much access to "wordly" songs; even the secular Christian stuff. So when that stuff started coming out in the 80's, it was pretty exciting for us. Up to that point it had been most hymns (which I also love) and some great choruses when we got to camp for one glorious week of summer. My sis must have gotten the piano music for this Steve Green tune because I remember singing it with her at the piano and thinking; "If this is all I ever say to God, it would be enough."

Make my life a prayer to you
I wanna do what you want me to
No empty words and no white lies
No token prayers no compromise
I wanna shine the light you gave
Thru your son you sent to save us
From ourselves and our despair
It comforts me to know youre really there

Chorus
Well I wanna thank you now
For being patient with me
Oh its so hard to see
When my eyes are on me
I guess Ill have to trust
And just believe what you say

I wanna die and let you give
Your life to me so I might live
And share the hope you gave me
The love that set me free
I wanna tell the world out there
You're not some fable or fairy tale
That I've made up inside my head
You're God the son and you've risen from the dead

Chorus
I wanna die and let you give
Your life to me so I might live
And share the hope you gave me
The love that set me free

Anyway, they might seem corny as you read them on some random blog post, but sometimes the weirdest things can crank your engine. These "prayers" always comfort me, and sort of set things a little straighter in my meandering head.

What about you? Do you have any songs that you go to to bring your head a little closer to your heart?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

...About That Book...

I was laying in bed this morning, trying to get back to sleep after letting the cat out. It was early, and Sunday, and sleeping seemed like a good thing to do. Except that my darned brain started thinking about what my daughter and I had talked about the night before. She was telling me how when she feels ashamed of something, and prays to God about it; the bad feeling doesn't go away until she comes to me and tells me whatever it is that is weighing her down. Which got me explaining/speculating that God actually tells us to go to one another with our burdens. That her gut was telling her right, and that instead of God being an emotion-eraser or lucky rabbit foot, his wisdom suggests that people are meant to confide in other people. It's his idea in the first place.

Which got me thinking about prayer.

Which got me thinking about the book I just finished: Take This Bread by Sara Miles; who was raised atheist and stumbled upon Christianity unexpectedly. There is something enviable about such a fresh approach to discovering God--unencumbered by a lifetime of churchy-ism.

I appreciated how she described writing ligury to God, aided by David's Psalms; thereby baptizing herself constantly in ancient wisdom and questions, fears and reassurances. I loved how she didn't see God as a puppet or personal employee. There was a lot more that I loved, but my memory stinks and this post isn't actually about Sara Miles and her book. It's about raising kids.

So, as I was laying in bed this morning trying to fall back asleep, I thought about prayer so far in my little family. I haven't exactly been the praying warrior mom in the sense of teaching my children how to go to God with their stuff. That's because I refused to feed them stuff that didn't make a lick of sense to me, and I refused to teach them stuff that would make God look like the Great Santa of the Skies. So, it's been pretty basic. At mealtimes I thank God for food, and occasionally in a loud voice thank him for children who've decided never to fight and argue again. At bedtime, I sometimes pray; "God bless you and keep you, and may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you his peace". I can't pray it every day, although I would love to because it is my favourite benediction. But my kids think I am weird when I pray that one too often, so I'll just pray the basics, that we are grateful that God is good; that we are grateful that He loves us, and that we want to live our lives in love for others.

Which got me thinking about growing up in my family of origin. How at every meal we would take turns praying "Come Lord Jesus, Be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed, Amen". (weird. Isn't God omnipresent?) But the kicker is that at bedtime, just before drifting off to a restful, peaceful sleep, we would recite the following prayer:

Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray thee Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray thee Lord, my soul to take.

HUH?!
Doesn't exactly instill confidence and peace now, does it? Let's just break this thing down further. Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray thee Lord my soul to keep. Okay, so what happens if you fall asleep without saying those ritualistic words? Will he forget? Does he need sticky notes, or a blackberry, or does he like to torture his children with the necessity of asking and asking and asking and asking?

If I should die before I wake.... Okay. Am I laying down with the bubonic plague or something? A fever of 404? Is a bad guy about to come into the house and kill me in my bed? Is that access door to the attic that happens to be in my bedroom closet finally going to burst open and release teethy beings hellbent on my destruction?

I Pray thee Lord my soul to keep. Because I'm pretty sure you've already forgotten what I prayed two sentences ago. And it's my soul, and I'd really like you to keep track of it. Don't give it away or anything.... Just in case I die in my sleep.

Yes, we prayed that nightly, as part of a comforting night time ritual. Mom would read us a bible story about God-endorsed genocide , pray that God wouldn't misplace our souls, and then exit the blackened room, (past the attic door,) with the low german wish of "Schlope Schein" (sleep well). And I'm telling you that she was a loving, well-intentioned, God-fearing woman and a mother who cared deeply for her children.

I think we even did "schlope schein". And like I said in my other chapter, aside from being crazy, or migrainy, or cancerous, or addicted, or brilliant; we all turned out just fine. Parenting isn't perfect. Good intentions are only just that. We are all, every last one of us, dysfunctional in one way or another. I think we should just lower our expectations and hope that our children won't make it on "America's Most Wanted", or "Extreme Make-Over", or "What Not To Wear", or "Sewing With Nancy" or "Hour of Power".

And then send them to boarding school and blame all their problems on someone else.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On Taking a Year off to Write a Book

..... not.

But I have been thinking that if I took a year off to write a book on parenting, then I could justify putting all my children into full-time care (boarding school?! juvey hall?) and then I could blame someone else for the way that they turn out.

Parenting. They never gave us any information in those prenatal classes that we could actually use. No manual slid out with the placenta. And books? I've long since quit reading those. They just make me feel more guilty and more inadequate. In other words, I've been going with denial? Reckless optimism, riddled with guilty hopes that other people in their spheres of influence will fill in the cracks and crevices of my distractions, melancholies, absentmindedness It doesn't make any sense, but it's what I've got to work with for now.

How does an utterly flawed human being parent impressionable children? What's a mother to do- stuck with a head that tortures her endlessly with dips of melancholy and navel gazing, sadness and introspection? Not to mention the large dashes of fear and desire for control, masked by a perfectionism that goes disguised as a inability to make any decisions for fear of it being wrong, or impossible to implement or God forbid-- that it should cause friction, conflict, or disagreement. So, in an effort to keep the place happy and respectful, the tongue gets bitten and bitten until it begins to bleed in rants and exaggerations; and I hear myself bellowing: "Go ahead and kill each other!!! What do I care? You seem to want to fight and disrespect each other, and you've got your own consequences to live with. Just don't bleed on my good couch!!"

It's a wonder any of us turn out at all. My mother was brutally depressed throughout her menopausal time of life- directly after I was born the youngest of eight children. Her depression/menopause lasted for ten years. Ten years! Can we even fathom what it must have been like for her to have that household to operate, those children to feed, those gardens to tend, and all while her head felt like a foggy, grey, sad hole?

Yet, aside from being either crazy, or brilliant, or migrainey, or disordered, or addicted.... Her children turned out surprisingly well. Good citizens. Excellent employees/employers. Pleasant. Interesting. Ethical. Wise.

It's almost impossible not to see one's children as exensions of oneself. So when they are rude, or lazy, or unmotivated, or demanding, my heart twists. I feel panicked- I've not taught them well, because I've likely not taught them at all. I'm a stinky teacher. I'm an idealist with such high ideals that I can't even start because it is too overwhelming. Sometimes I write lists and goals, and even stick to them for a long while. That's how I got my children to clean up after dinner every night. My one crowning achievement as a mother. Wa-hoo.

But boy, oh boy, have we got a long way to go to turn out some decent citizens.
Maybe I'll hire a nanny so that I can sit alone somewhere and think about how to do that. But that would require living really tight on a budget, and that's another thing that I really, really suck at.

What about you? what is it that makes your head drop to your chest involuntarily and cause you to stare obsessively at your navel while your brain tries desperately to problem-solve? Because I happen to know that you are not perfect either, and it would really make me feel better to think about someone else's inadequasies for a little while. Indulge me.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Happy-ometer

Some weekends last for roughly five-and-a-half seconds, and one is left with the feeling that Monday has followed rudely on the heels of Friday's punching out . Other weekends are delicious- much what I imagine it feels like to be a five year old child before the grind of kindergarten and alarm clocks has quite worn down the anticipation of days filled with marble drop, little pet shop and toast-with-nutella.

Blissfully for me, this weekend is not of the 5.5 second quality. I kicked off early Friday, packing up two preschoolers in the van for some McDonald playland fun. We balanced pleasure with business; delivering some bags and meeting some supporters in the city, before heading home for a romp through the sprinkler in the backyard. After work, we converted the daycare into a delectable tapas setting, enjoying time, food, and wine with some friends throughout the evening. The weather was perfect for a backyard bonfire, and Brian was thoughtful enough to buy me a crackling red wine called Castelvetro that my winnebago touting hippy friend Lory recently introduced to me. It was the ideal complement to the best appetizer in the world, which Brian also cooked up. Deep-fried zucchini with bernaisse. Holy cow. I'd happily coagulate my arteries to those tunes for some time to come. So, just for practise, I hammered back about 44 pounds of zucchini with my castelvetro and threw back my head with some genuine belly laughs with friends. That's not something to take for granted.

Saturday morning I woke up in time for my dear friend Rosa's 8:20 phone call. We had a lovely long chat with few interruptions from the subjects of our recklessly optimistic venture of procreation. By the time those short-but-loud urchins started making a bunch of noise, I'd already managed a few loads of laundry and some backhoeing in the sewing room.

Arianna was away at camp again this week, and was I ever ready to see her when she frolicked home early this afternoon! She was a willing participant in an impromtu fashion show employing a box of vintage clothing that a supporter had sent for the Darfur project. She flew in and out of the bathroom, entertaining us with the best fashion, preserved from the early 60's. Gotta love those white fortrel hot pants!

There was just time for a load of laundry and a quick packing turn around before it was time to get the girls back to winnipeg for cousin camp with their uber auntie. But first a detour to meet up with thousand dollar JWB. (worthy of a post all its own). Nothing like a selfless philanthropist to make a gal have hope for humanity.

After the girls got dropped off and I was blissfully alone, I decided to share myself all atwitter, a-quiver and ferkelmpt with my friend Karla-with-a-"k". Shamelessly, I plopped myself on her couch and spread out the wealth of the Darfur donations for us to salivate over before heading to the bank and sending the funds off to the world food programme. We stared agog at the dough and discussed the goodness to be found in people; the love of Jesus who fed the hungry and cared for the widows, the children, the ugly and the scabby. We wondered aloud at the people who so selflessly support the project.

If that wasn't enough to just wrap up the weekend and start Monday early..... I also got to go shopping all by myself. I managed to buy Brian seven new shirts and myself two pairs of shorts for a mere $59.80. Really and truly.

And guess what? It's only Saturday night.
Maybe even "bath and treat" night......But I'll never tell.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sam

About a year ago, we first witnessed our little Sammy have a few nocturnal seizures. I recognized them immediately, since I'd spent some years working on the ward of the Rehab Center for Children, and some more years as a respite caregiver for Family Services. Although that helped me know what to do and what not to do; the dynamic was still sharply contrasted to caring for a patient versus caring for my own flesh and blood.

We then spent some time in waiting rooms at the Health Science Centre waiting to confer with the pediatric neurologist, or the lab technician, or the physician at children's emerg. Sam quickly went from curious and trusting to sad and wary and very, very opposed to bloodwork. We hated watching this, and felt so evil for willfully carrying him into yet another situation that involved yet another "poke". It made me feel crazy thinking about all the parents with kids who are truly sick with cancer or any number of horrendously nasty conditions that should go away and leave children alone.

We decided against treating Sam with a preventative medication until we could observe just how much of a problem this condition would be for him. I hated to think of unnecessarily medicating a little boy and taking other chances with side-effects. And for a year, we did just fine. We observed no more seizures.

Until this morning.
Yuck. what a helpless feeling to watch your little one writhe and tremor; even while utterly unaware and unconscious. It doesn't matter that I know the factual side of these involuntary muscle motions being caused by increased electrical activity in his brain. It doesn't matter that I know I can't do anything to stop it, but only do my best to keep him safe. Well, of course it does matter, but it doesn't stop my heart from hurting.

Some days by 7:25 am, you just want to call it a day and go back to sleep.
Now, Sam is going to be fine. We've already got a great pediatric neurologist, a great nurse right here in town to do his bloodwork, and a pharmacist around the corner if the word comes down for us to start him on some meds. And it's abundantly clear that things could always be worse.

So, anybody out there who might be reading this post, and lives with a sick kid or spouse or parent all the time-- Hats off to you. I think we all forget how taxing it must be.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

People. PEOPLE!! What Scurvey Luck!

A line from "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" that occasionally replays itself in my rattley brain. Not because I grew up watching the movie. Nope. I had the lp and I played that record on our giant brown stero thingie while I lay on the deep green shag carpet and imagined the story in my own little head. We never had a television so we had to make do with what we had.

So those words come to me at times when I wonder why on earth I love people so. Frustrating, demanding, impossible people. Especially when I myself am simply human.

It's tempting for me to go on a rant about exactly what bugs me and give you all sorts of reasons why I am unable and disinterested in engaging with people or trying to love them in any way. But I think that instead I will go on about a couple of people who have been highly encouraging to me of late. Firstly; Sara Miles. I am reading her book entitled "Take this Bread" and it's just an inspiring, raw, real book. I'd have to thank a new "darfur project" friend Karla for recommending this book to me.

I'll quote a piece from its back cover:
"Take This Bread is rich with real-life Dickensian characters- church ladies, millionaires, schizophrenics, bishops, and thieves- all blown into Mile's life by the relentless force of her newfound calling. Here, in this achingly beautiful, passionate book, is the living communion of Christ."

I laugh out loud as Sara describes the people who "blow into her life" and seemingly get in the way of her feeding people through the love of Jesus. Isn't that the way it is? You start out with an idea; people begin to pour into it; and the once fairly simply way of living out of a passion for Jesus gets all messy, untidy, complicated with the scurvey luck of loving people. Sometimes I find myself whining sardonically; "It would be so easy to be a Christian if all these annoying people would just go away and leave me alone!!"

The second piece of encouragement will be less simple to share. It was like a gift this morning when I attended church for the very first time this summer. I really wanted to go, and my morning was insane because of not feeling well; trying to do laundry really fast to get Arianna ready during a 18 hour stop-over at home between camping and camp; and the kids peppering me with questions and requests for where I should take them and how I should entertain them on this sunny, hot, summer day. I went in with a "scurvey people" attitude and a touch of guilty condemnation because I am the "decorating committee" at church and the stage has been sadly needing a tune-up for at least four weeks now which I've simply not gotten to. (but sincerely want to do).

The message was to die for. So were the songs. Once I figure out the web page, I think I'll put a link here in case anyone else wants to hear a message that makes sense. I'll try to put out a few words, and I know they will not do justice. The first word is REST. A word given to me years ago and one that has brought tremendous relief. This ties into another excellent point made which disciphered between "Christianity" and "churchianity". Who hasn't felt that pain?! And OH! Did Christianity sound restful, peaceful, and non-performance based.

Just what I needed to hear.
Like I said. My few chicken scratches here won't do justice and maybe this exercise is simply to help me get my eyes off the people who are really trying my patience right now, and to remind me to just rest. Be aware. Don't engage in the struggle for control. Don't believe the lies that faster is better or louder is righter. Let the passive-aggressives of the world suffer their own consequences without me getting sucked into their vortexes. Recognize that I cannot please everyone. And with a project growing ever larger, more people seem to think that I can somehow do it all, and quite in the way they see fit. Must have been exhausting to be Jesus. People thought he should be all sorts of things in all sorts of contexts to all sorts of people. But he only answered to his Father. If God through Jesus, couldn't please everyone.... Why the heck would we ever even think about it?! Seems to me that Mother Teresa annoyed people as well. I guess living as a human being amongst human beings is just messy and annoying.

And for now, I wouldn't have it any other way.