Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Last Week's To Do List:

1. Grieve for a brother, who by all accounts, ought to be on the other side by now.

2. Get the kids and me ready for camp. The oldest three are registered in the same week, and I am scheduled as a cook. That expectation has graciously been reduced to "Whatever you can, or can't do will be fine, don't worry about it".

3. Drive the husband to the clinic for minor surgery on his absessed knee, then 15 minutes south to another community every day for a dressing change where they stuff the open incision with sterile gauze while Brian digs holes into the stretcher with his fingernails.

4. Scratch. My body, not sure how to deal with the whirlwind of emotion and stress thrust upon it, has ever so helpfully broken into hives. These insanely itchy little nodules travel from face to limb, not wanting any part of me to feel less cared for.

5. Drive 3.5 hours to camp, move the kids into their respective cabins, and me into the cooks' quarters. My preoccupation having been largely on the children, and other life events.... I opened the rear of the caravan and had a bit of a giggle. My week's worth of camp supplies are sensibly packed into one rough tote for ease of transfer. Unfortunately, the bin is still at home, and it looks as though moving in this year will be exceedingly easy. After scouring the van's interior, I came up with a few items to make my stay more comfortable.

* a tea towel, aka a swimsuit top, change in underwear, or simply, a towel.

*a running magazine, complete with info on how you really only need a little black dress. (too bad I grew out of, and forgot said necessary item..)

*Spongebob tin, empty- no mood stabilizers, inflatable t-shirts, or toothbrushes.

*a few odds and ends: a plastic arrow, lipstick, coffee creamer, melted chocolate bar, sample of cream to rub on stretch marks, and some tylenol.

I'm grateful now, in unexpected ways:

That I spend most nights having nightmares about putting metal bowls and babies into microwaves. I don't think the flow of the dream will be overly affected by my attempting sleep on a bare, blue plastic mattress.

That I hate hygiene anyhow. I hate getting wet.

That I get a free staff t-shirt (oversized), that will double as a nightshirt, and forgivingly cover my generous rear end when I resort to borrowing my 10 year old daughter's "stretch" capris.

That my friends, and fellow cook-ies see the light side of life, and I get to fall asleep at night on a borrowed pillow and sheet laughing, and dreaming up new and innovative uses for a handbag filled with useless things.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Everybody is dying a little bit.
Everything is changing colour.

Yet, the mind refuses to stop grappling, to stop trying to process the unbelievable. A mind untrained in untimely endings.

Witty; gone morphine-muddled.
Desirable; gone swollen-gaunt.
Cynicism melted into teary vulnerability.

Sweet sadness, kissing this man, and carressing his dying hair.

Then the bright sunshine, where the earth's cracks ever widen, begging for rain.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


The human body- so intricate, functional, miraculous; really. Capable of moving, lifting, breathing, weilding strength, growing soft. Can these miracles be carried out in bodies outside of the BMI charts, in bodies missing limbs, or in bodies that popular culture would deem repulsive? Do acts of love and selflessness come in size 00 to size 3, but lose their value in dimpley cellulite or bulging rolls of fat?

Neither hangers, nor mannequins, these bodies are capable of tremendous good-- a calling much higher than what we've been duped to believe. Periodical navel gazing and critical evaluations of our physical selves will likely plague us here below, but lets agree not to be defined by it. Would we spend motionless hours in our cars and vans bemoaning the lack of leather, the loss of "new car" smell, or the tiny specks of exterior rust? How ridiculous it would seem to spend life in the driveway, wishing that there was something prettier to drive us to our destinations!

Let's slide into the end of our lives, battered, rusted, dented, and grinning ear to ear. In the words of Erma Bombeck: When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say ‘I used everything you gave me.’ (thanks, Ruth!)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Gratitude, not Attitude

Life is a little like a thrift shop bag sale-- Here's your sack- fill it up and do with it what you can. This morning, I rummaged around and dug up a well worn item called gratitude, and here's a little patchwork quilt that I'm going to make with the bits.

scrap #1: My parents. Although by the world's standard, they are undeniably OLD (mom just turned 80, and dad 84), my parents have got to be among the most gracefully aging pair in the bunch. Where one expects age to cement "getting set in your ways", they have proved to soften with grace and mercy with each passing year. Never known to meddle, they nonetheless offer support, love, and acceptance to their eight offspring in more than one heartbreaking set of circumstances.

scrap #2: Nature. I don't begin to understand the mysteries of God, and don't like to dwell on the big, huge, "WHY" questions. But when I see the prairie ditches swaying magically with bullrushes that no man planted there, I watch the bizarre beauty of backyard campfire turning dead wood into uncontainable dancing colour, when I watched flawed humanity act in selfless and loving ways, then I can't help but be grateful for my big, mysterious, creative and loving God.

scrap #3: Cheese. Have you ever gone to the grocery store and indulged in picnic food like olive spread, baguette, camembert, cheddar, Boursin, and maybe some pastrami or shaved turkey? Oh- but you should!! It's remarkably easier to be grateful when you have savoured the sharp flavours of cheese with a little red wine to wash it down.

It goes without saying that there are heaps more scraps. But on this particular bag sale, these are what I've made use of.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Cancer Chronicles

It's funny what cancer does to people. Funny-strange, not funny-ha-ha.

My sisters are teary, kind, helpful, innovative with problem solving, selfless, and positive whenever there is an appropriate oppurtunity. My oldest brother (due back in the country next Saturday) is concerned, not only for Ken, but also our aging parents, and is willing to fly home at a moment's notice if anyone deems it necessary. My other big brother is diving ever deeper into a blurry liquor-induced version of his own reality.

My family members still seem capable of decision making, doing things that make a difference, hugging people compulsively.

I, on the other hand, fight the ridiculous urge to take up smoking and drink black coffee until I rupture a spleen. Or running myself through a paper shredder.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Out of Context

I've spent some years working with geriatrics, and an equal or higher number of years working with children who have moderate to severe disabilities. I know what to do with a man or woman who has the smell of death clinging to their greyish skin. I know how to comfort them, sing to them, rub their arm or back. I know not to correct them when they speak of the baby they brought home yesterday, and the barn chores that have yet to be done.

I can cradle a child born in a body with muscles that refuse to cooperate to the requests of her mind. I can stroke her hair, laugh with her, feed her gently. I can scoop her up in my arms and place her in a wheelchair effortlessly, then fasten all the straps and velcros without giving it any conscious thought.

I'm less sure, and seemingly less competent with a youngish brother whose hair has taken on a somewhat geriatric look (flat in the back, wild on the top), whose skin colour can sometimes rival the grey streaking through his hair, who breathes heavily with the effort of living with his pain.

It's out of context.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Arianna's twelfth birthday

I'm a boob when it comes to electronics, and I still don't know how to use Brian's handy dandy digital camera, so I've no photos to post of Arianna's fabulous 12th birthday party at Caribou Lake. I'm feeling a little like road kill that semis, vans, and sportscars insist on backing up and driving over again and again, but I want to write a little about the event, since my memory is so undependable. If its not in written word, then by tomorrow I'll be saying- "Huh? someone turned twelve? How nice!"

The two hour drive into Ontario was effortless between the cookies and cream chocolate bars, and the portable dvd player that the girls hovered around, and my own indulgence- a waffle cone with the best- in- the- world vanilla ice cream. The girls were down the hill and in the lake within minutes of arriving. I don't know how anyone can run off a dock clutching a floaty noodle and dive into ice water without dying of cardiac arrest, but either they were faking it extremely well, or they really did think this was the greatest thing ever.

After a screechy, dramatic, girly response to the outhouse, and all the bugs it attracted, the girls got jammied up and pulled out the hide-a-bed and snuggled in for movie time. They watched "Aqua Marine" and consumed enough salt and sugar to nearly topple the food pyramid. I caved before the girls, with strict instructions that they go to sleep after the movie as the next day promised to be 30 degrees and I didn't want them to spoil their day being grumpy and sleepy.

Auntie Carol (my faithful sister who joined us, knowing that I shouldn't be left alone. At the best of times, my brain operates like day old donuts, and after a stressload day trying to imagine life with cancer, the old noggin had clearly slipped a few cogs. I had no idea how to run the dvd player, get the canoe in the water, find the keys for the cabin, or flip the breakers. If it wasn't for Carol showing up, we would have spread our sleeping bags on the deck, survived on melted ice-cream, and stared despondently at the grounded paddle boat and canoe.)

As I was saying, Carol, Jane and I headed off to bed. Theoretically to sleep, except that Jane spent the night having night terrors- sleep talking, and walking. I swear she got up 10 times. She actually walked out of the cabin and down the path to the outhouse FAST ASLEEP and if it weren't for my sharp mother-spider-senses, she might still be wandering around sleeping in the bush to this day.

Next day was bright and hot, and after a feast of crepes, chocolate milk, and fruit salad, we were off to the lake. They lived in that water. Between the canoe and paddle boat, and hunting for minnows, or screaming at fat bellied spiders, naming two bothersome flies "winky" and "twinkie", I hated to think that we weren't staying for days on end.

Arianna had planned the menu, so we ate corn on the cob and tasti taters for lunch. The girls loaded up their plates on the paddle boat to eat out on the floating dock. (sure would have been a bright idea to bring a camera.....) a few million more dives into the lake, and it was time to pack up for home.

I'm proud of my kid. She has chosen really neat friends- well mannered, fun loving, active girls with a great sense of humour. Its going to be fun to watch them grow up, drive them to sports events (they pride themselves on not being girly-girls), see how they grow into women.

I like to remind myself that in six short years, Arianna will be an adult. God help us do our best by her. May she always feel safe to tell her parents anything, ask any questions, and feel sad when she disappoints us. May we respect her individuality, while guiding her as best we can with what we know, and be honest about what we don't know at all. May we remain humble, and grow together.