Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween 2006

Why it was the best day ever.

On this day, I cried on my keyboard and poured my heart out to the mercies of the world.
They were merciful. And more. Without a single cliche, I felt loved, validated, and understood.

On this day, my husband sent me a love letter. Who wouldn't love to get that in their inbox? What he said was true. It was sincere. And I am reminded again of why I believe in him, of why I love him, and of how unbelievably complex and wonderful love can be.

On this day, I had a meeting of the hearts and minds as a mom came to pick up her child. Maybe I sometimes feel like the worst childcare provider ever, but I have a feeling that she doesn't think so. I have a feeling that love and understanding, and helping one another out saves the day again.

On this day one of my favourite friends called me with some very good news. Some news that she and I have hoped and prayed for for a very long time. We cried again, but this time with joy.

On this day I had a moosehead, three tootsie rolls, and a biscuit and plum jam for supper.

On this day, my love letter writing husband cheerfully headed out into the snow with his son for some trick or treating and left me in the house, nearly completely alone. (Sammy had to stay home, since he refused to eat anything of remotely nutritional value. I have NO idea where he would get an idea like that from). I have not been able to stay at home on Halloween since I became a mommy. That's 12 years now. When I'm happy, I love going out and seeing all the kids. Today, I just wanted to stay at home. Warm. Dry. Alone.

On this day, as on so many others, I remain sure of one thing. Love.
The love of God. The love of people.

The darkness is inevitable, but the light will always win.

On Why I Hate Hard Times

It's one thing to deal with what life chucks at you, I think I can do that pretty okay.
What makes me REALLY MAD is that my mind has some well worn ruts that it automatically falls into. Its outside of the realm of consciousness. So, not only do I have to navigate through regular life stuff like death, kids learning about sexuality, dad getting old, my brother being an alcoholic, the van breaking down, and relationships of substance being a lot of hard work......

I have to deal with the sh*t that my brain serves up.

Stuff about how stupid I must be.
Stuff about how cellulite is UNACCEPTABLE.
Lies about how horrible a parent I am.
Lies about how I am "not doing enough".
Thoughts about what a pathetic daycare provider I am.

Since I've already concluded that those are lies, it would be really helpful if my BRAIN would catch on and stop handing out cleverly packaged CRAP.

This makes me very angry. Then I start to think about how a nice daycare lady, a really stellar mom, and a loving wife does not behave in rage induced manners. Which is true. Its not a lie. So, I suck it up, but it always oozes out in a less planned way. Maybe I don't slug anyone, or tell them to stop asking me stupid questions, or how if one more person asks me for food I will force feed them raw seal. I don't do those things, I promise.

And I am really not going to say how this ugliness comes out because I'm not proud of it. Which leads my brain to cycle back to the stupid, fat, unlovely pattern of thought.

I am really sticking my neck out in cyberspace today. Really a lot. I DO NOT WANT ANY CLICHES, BECAUSE THEN I WILL HAVE TO HUNT YOU DOWN AND HURT YOU BADLY. But I'm not to proud to admit that I could use some help. I must saying that posting an extremely personal letter to my bro made me cry for going on three days now. And the comments. Oh MY. Such love.

Any shrinks in the house?

Monday, October 30, 2006

What Makes Sense

This life is a quest.
There are adequate supplies for the mission.
I believe in the competencies of my travel guide.

Lord I come to You
Let my heart be changed, renewed
Flowing from the grace
That I've found in You And Lord I've come to know
The weaknesses I see in me Will be stripped away
By the power of Your love
Hold me close Let Your love surround me
Bring me near Draw me to Your side
And as I wait I'll rise up like the eagle And I will soar with You
Your spirit leads me on
In the Power of Your love
Lord unveil my eyes Let me see You face to face
The knowledge of Your love As you live in me
And Lord renew my mind As Your will unfolds in my life In living every day
By the Power of Your love

Hold me close
Let Your love surround me
Bring me near Draw me to Your side And as I wait I'll rise up like the eagle
And I will soar with You
Your Spirit leads me onIn the power of Your love

This song always chokes me up.
The image of soaring, of trusting, of not being left to my own devices.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Just a Message

Hi Ken.

Been thinking about you today, wishing that you'd come around. I'm not thinking of myself really, but about your wife, and your parents, and about our other brother. You're probably wondering about your kids-- they seem to be acting their age, laughing and learning, and showing signs of being so much like you...

I'd like to send you a note on that blackberry- just something stupid like I'd do on days when you were still here, but we knew you were sliding away. We didn't want to monopolize your time, so I'd just write that you were on my mind, and that I love you. You don't have to write anything back, but it would be nice to know I'd told you that you're missed.

Dad is looking old. He never did, ever. Today at faspa we got caught up in a conversation about his recent physical and Carol and I started to pepper him with questions about this test, and that symptom.... things that we've never really gotten into before. After a few questions, dad got that exasperated father look on his face, and said-- "Can we change the subject?" We laughed and obliged, but his naps on the couch, and difficulty with walking, and these visits to the doctor have taken us all by surprise somehow. Dad has never acted his age before.

Mom said that she had called our brother this week and asked him what he was doing. "Sitting by the window and crying" is what he told her. He misses you.

We all do.

I feel like I lost more than a brother. I lost the number eight that was us- five girls, three boys. I lost my other brother years ago, but somehow between you and I we could piece things together and make sense of the goodness left in him. Now, I feel like dad is slipping away. Maybe not in weeks or months, but still his mortality is clear.

It sounds really irreverent, but the image of dominoes keeps revisiting me. Were you the first to set the inevitable in motion? I know we don't live down here forever, but couldn't we go for some sort of group plan? The whole idea of domino-roulette really unnerves me. We're all gonna fall, but there's just no way of knowing who's next in line? Who will have to watch the others go before? Who will be left here to pick up the pieces? order the cheese and platz?

Anyhow, Ken, I'm sure you're okay so I'm not sad about that. I just wanted to say how crazy and mixed up life is, but how I love it. I wanted to say how it cuts me up that its so unpredictable but I'm glad we had some time together. And I just wanted to say again, how you'll never, ever be forgotten.

You've been on my mind Ken, and I just wanted to say I love you.

Friday, October 27, 2006

no friggin' kiddin' Friday

Oh, the sun comes up looking promising and all, but we all know what's coming. That time of the year when we are shamelessly stripped of our parental masks, where our unpreparedness; indeed our total lack of attentiveness to the interests of our future generation are laid bare to the scrutiny of all.

Halloween. Don't get me wrong. I love candy, community, and walking around in the autumn with my loved ones. I'm even okay with the whole concept of begging. But the costume thing is a personal affront to me on more than one level. We have enough creative costuming in our tickle trunk downstairs to outfit most of our small town... BUT. Somehow at halloween the children have been brainwashed (I like to blame other school children) to believe that you MUST visit a retail facility of some sort and purchase things in order for halloween to have any meaning. This is fundamental for the proper collection of enamel erroding materials, and the impending sorting of the suckers, and the yucky blackish-brown orange-wrapped halloween candy (my favourite) from those itty bitty nummy mini chocolate bars.

To wear some OLD RAG from the basement?! Shocking indeed.

Every year is the same. I flip the calendar page, grateful to have navigated my way through the many starts and stops of September. October's page shows up in mocking orange. (why not just make a musical calendar while you're at it, and start yelling at me the moment I've licked Thanksgiving's sweet potatoe casserole off my lips?) Oh, I'm aware that its coming, and I know the children will have big ideas. But every year, I give denial another chance.

Well, 2006 appears to have the same basic pattern as all the halloweens preceding it. This morning over hurriedly prepared school lunches and unsigned homework, the kids reminded me of my obligations . To be a proper mother, I must prepare Jane's "Queen" banner- And Soon. Micah is still waiting for his "all black suit" (I don't think either he or I know what it's supposed to be, and I know I"M NOT ASKING). "Well", I say, stalling... "I guess we'll have to find something this weekend".

"FIND SOMETHING ?" he is genuinely shocked. "Don't you have some black fabric mom? You could JUST make me an all black suit, then we could JUST buy a mask!".

Brilliant, I think. I'm sure I'll make the time to design a black body suit, IN MY SPARE TIME. Maybe between snack and "gee-the-weather-is-nice-I-really-ought-to-take-down-the -trampoline-and-do-something-about-all-those-leaves" time. I'm sure the pre-schoolers would understand.

At least I'm sure of what I'm NOT going as this halloween: everyone's dream mother.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Extreme Make-over Home Edition

Somehow I've got to tap into the cash flow and applause of this reality show.

They put up a huge fuss whenever they transform a place.

What do I get for turning this:

to this:
About fifty thousand times per day?

And always,
just in time for

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

No beginning and no end

sucky vulnerability.
feeling raw.
so in love with people.
so needing to be alone.
thrilled with life's possibilities.
wanting to hide under the covers.
bored silly.
mind racing with ideas and directions.
content with who I am.
wishing I were so different.
passion for authenticity.
critical scrutiny of my own reflection.
wanting to feel better.
suspecting its not a feeling.
quite sure another human doesn't hold the answer.
tired of reading their books.
in love with diversity.
frightened of it all.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Bit Random

Sunday afternoon was the 90th birthday party for my tante Leine. She is my mother's oldest sister, and like her mother before her, she is of sturdy stock. Grandma lived to be 94 and was sharp as a tack, right up to the last 9 months of her life.

I always enjoy these family times, especially now that I am older, and I attend them by choice. Its probably kind of stupid, but I'm always pleasantly surprised how we've all grown up to be real people, with opinions, experiences, and stories that we couldn't have anticipated when we first met as children in tante Leine's basement.

Last night, I got into it deep and dark with my cousin-in-law Wendy. Seems everywhere I go in recent years, people are hungering for more authenticity in their faith. We're weary of programs, image, and the perceived pressure to fit into preconceived, tidy boxes. I trust in the largeness of God whenever I encounter this. I remember how much energy Jesus spent trying to explain to the religious experts of the time that they were MISSING THE POINT of his message.

I don't want to miss the point.
Which brings me back to yesterday's conversation. It may be connected to the facts that I
(a) work at home, and (b) generally hang out with wanna-be hippies such as myself but......
I was more than a little shocked to hear her tell me about what SHE is sick of with church people. It seems that women are buying into some sort of church-lady image ideal and going so far as to pursue breast implants and liposuction.

Yeah. That'll feed the hungry.
Are we REALLY willing to spend our entire lives not admitting to one another that we're **GASP** not perfect? Are we going to minister more effectively if we're not "lacking confidence" due to our saggy breasts and doughy thighs? Maybe we should have 12 board meetings in order to launch a new church program: A beauty pagaent! Then women would have a platform from which to reach out to other women. We could all sign up for seminars to learn more about world peace. Maybe we could raise money to send some gals to Darfur to hand out some Mary Kay samples.

I'm penetent of any associations I have built between myself and this ridiculous beauty ideal that North America has paralyzed us with. Are we smart enough to know they can't take away our vote, but so stupid that we don't notice how ineffective we are when all we think about is what our bodies look like?

When you come to my 90th birthday party, may my breasts sag proudly beneath the hem of my dress. May grey haired wrinkled women surround me with their love and passion for living. May we lean into each other, lost in discussion of what a full, useful, purposeful life that God has directed us through.

Its time to get real.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Homo Escapeons Incarnate

It may not win any awards for photography, but this is a photo that simply must be posted here.

Last night, my blog-writing man and I drove down a familiar Winnipeg street straining our necks to discipher a house number in the early evening dusk. I could see the form of Homo Escapeon and his wife Alice through the glass darkly, but then: through the yellow door, and face to face! Feeling like we'd been family forever, the hugs we exchanged were big and genuine. I knew we were in for a memorable evening.

We'd been forbidden to monopolize conversation with blah-blah-blogging, so as not to alienate the 50% of the guests who were of a different persuasion. So, we did what any considerate guest would do. Sit back and watch our hostess wow us with apps and drinks.

Clearly in the presence of fine wine connoisseurs; I felt obligated to swish and sip graciously and repeatedly. I suspected the hostess would be displeased at the sight of empty glasses, so I selflessly did my part to keep her happy and appreciated.

The entertainment was top rate. We had joy, we had fun... singing along to Donn's favourite 1970's musical selections and cheering on a couple of uninhibited dining room dancers. I knew that a homo escapeon of Lutheran roots who learned his numbers from the holy sisters would probably be blessed with the ability to move to music. The Mennonite uptighted-ness in my genetic background robbed me of rhythm many years ago, but not so for Alice's cousin, who easily kept up with Donn's choreography. The rest of us cheered them on, singing at the top of our lungs and gratefully sipping our liquid campinos.

Seven hours. Here's what I can tell you for sure. Out of the four people who we had the privelege to meet last night, 100% of them were the real thing. Don is funny, sweet, kind, wears the best party shirt ever (cocktails and olives) and doesn't bother to pretend he's something that he is not. Alice is sweetness incarnate. She is a lovely, serene, genuine gal who has lived through some storms without allowing them to etch rivulets of bitterness or hardness in her face. The third couple were the sort that you felt you'd known all your life, and half expected to run into at a Christmas family reunion. I loved how the hours slipped away. I loved the belly laughs which wove in and out of it all. I loved the lack of pretense. I loved the fresh air of the back yard, sharp with the winds of impending winter. I loved the recognition of the pain in life, without the celebration of pessimism or hopelessness.

In life, lucky are we who love and are loved.
Lucky are we who can struggle together. Laugh together. Dance together. Eat together.
Be together.

I feel like my family has grown again, and perhaps this season, several more holiday reunions will be in order. Andrea, Cherry pie, Pamela..... your invitations are in the mail.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Bag Trims

Went hunting for "bag" trims, and came home with the mother load. Looks like someone's needling granny may have passed away, and her 7 sons threw all her bits and bobbins in a bag and hauled it off to the thrift shop. After sifting through a tonne of crap, I came away with some terrific vintage buttons, a bunch of trims and ribbons, and some belt buckles for Michelle, if they are anything she can use for her funky candy wrapper belts. There are also these packages of sewing needles that must have come as samples along with flour, and milk. How come we don't get treats with our flour and milk any more?

Dinner with Homo Escapeons

Its Saturday morning, but no time for diddle daddle and lazy coffee sipping in jammies and bathrobe. Nope, today is the long awaited day to have dinner with Homo Escapeons and his lovely counterpart, Alice.

I will be hunched behind my thesaurus most of the day, so as not to embarrass Brian with my apparent lack of wordiness, and to give Mr HE the impression that I understand every third or fourth word that he will no doubt awe me with.

And Alice? She already knows MY innermost thoughts and workings, so the burden of conversation will clearly fall on her shoulders. Does that mean that my role is to listen, and look pretty?

I learned last night on CNN that Canada has re-approved the use of silicone breast implants for use in breast reconstruction or augmentation. That got me thinking about this whole pressure I am under to impress Alice with my actual, physical presence instead of the phoney-pack-of-lies clap track that I peddle on-line. Its too late for liposuction, and my nose piercing refuses to heal because I continually, obsessively pick at it......but should I pursue this whole silicone option?

I think we have some leftover caulking in the garage from a home reno project. I think I can prop up my thesaurus on the bathroom counter, brighten up my hair with half a box of highlighting product, and simultaneously pump some caulking into my flacid appendages using one of my kids old medicine syringes.

I just hope that my preoccupation with sore-picking won't be an overwhelming obsession tonight.

Rupturing a hand made implant over a bottle of shiraz is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Funny Mama

Okay, so I messed up the hyperlink.
Please try it again!

You must read this post about my mom.
My sis wrote it, and the photos are just the best!

spring 2006

I will always remember this day in spring as the last day that we were a whole family. We weren't preoccupied with our mortality; watching the kids play at the park, feeling the timid sun on our overly wintered skin.

We'd have many more days as the sun got hotter- days of being family to one another in increasingly intense ways. But, on this day, it seemed that life could go on forever.

The seasons have shifted again, and a thin layer of snow now coats the ground.
We have woken up now.
Our fragility is undeniable.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Identity Theft

Checking up on a few of my favourite invisible people this morning, I came across this set of words:

"So I will be kinda like Joyce, with the exception that she knows how to knit. OH! And she also looks great with short hair. But other then those 2 minor incidentals, we will be nearly the same. (Job wise, anyhow)

"Joyce! What do you do when - 2 kids want the same toy, one wants to go to the bathroom, and one kid is crying for his mama....at the same time?" "

Turns out that Ruth is trying to steal my identity. Oh, it started out innocently enough, with little things that one could easily overlook. But I really started to get frightened when she shaved her head, and she only pretended that she'd had head lice. (or have I paraphrased that a little, and she actually got lice while being a missionary to children, kept loving the chidren, and kept her hair long? Anyhow, those are just trivial details, really). Then she went ahead and had the bold-faced nerve to ask me to learn her how to knit. With sharp, impalable instruments. Shocking, but not at all made up.

NOW, she plans on running a little daycare operation on the side. (did I mention the sharp instruments?) Wow.

So, Ruth, I know what you did last summer. I'm on to you. I've got my eye on you. I've got your number. I've just now run out of cliches.

But I'll be the bigger man. (mostly since I've not been running for about a year now, and I REALLY like nacho chip layered dips.... but I digress). What you want to know is how to share toys, and how to otherwise split your body in 5 or 6 equally portioned pieces? The moment the children enter your home, you duct tape potties to their precious little behinds. They double nicely as booster seats for snack time and in no time, you'll find your toilet training woes behind you. (well, more like behind them, but I think you follow).

Toys: All you really need is a couple of cats, and an assortment of fly swatters, available at most dollar stores for an affordable price. I find this encourages exercise, cooperation, strategy, and teaches some of the necessary building blocks for early education. You can: Count the swatters. Discuss colours. (What colour is kitty with one of auntie Ruth's knitting needles imbedded in her furry little paw?)

If you follow the first two suggestions diligently, you will find no need to deal with homesick babes. They will be so busy running about and swatting, screaming with joy, that even if one of them is actually crying; "mama, mama!!", you're not likely to discipher it over the din.

Best of luck Ruth.
You can steal my identity, because, believe me-- there are days when I really wish someone would.

Blog, Blog, Blog

This is my response to Heather's questionairre:

1. Why did you start blogging?
My husband discovered it, I saw how much attention it generated,and I wanted to get me summa dat.

2. Do you feel that you've developed meaningful relationships on your blog? If so, tell a story or two of a relationship that made a difference to you. How are these relationships different and/or similar to your in-person relationships?

I've met a lot of lovely people through this venue. I would have to say that some of my best surprises are real life people who I'd already met in person, and so they'd have to be polite and listen to me rant in real life...... but some of these people voluntarily come around and anonymously read my thoughts. "They LIKE me! they really, REALLY like me!!" (Woops, did I write that out loud?) One of my favorite surprises has been my sis-in-law; we didn't know each other really well, yet she voluntarily has become a faithful reader. (really, I don't pay her, or anything!) It has given me such a sense of warmth, and my visits to the family gatherings there have become more precious as a result.

3. Have you used your blog as a place to work out tough situations in your life? If so, what was the situation/challenge, and how did the blog help?

I have made references to some of my personal struggles, without actually spelling out in blatant terms what the deal it. Its like therapy for me- write down the good that I believe, then re-read it. Somehow I believe myself better that way.

Of course when my brother became ill with terminal cancer, my blog was an invaluable tool. I was able to get in touch with my emotions by just letting the thoughts flow out.

4. Were there people you met through blogging who helped you through those tough situations? What did they do that helped?

Local people brought me flowers and meals and prayers. Far away people expressed their love and support, shared their prayers, identified with my pain.

5. Were there ever things that you felt you could talk about on your blog to "strangers" that you couldn't tell your flesh-and-blood friends and family?

Oh, sometimes I wish I were more private....
I kind of think of everyone as my friend and family until proven otherwise...

6. Do your family and "in-person" friends read your blog? Why or why not?

Many of them do, and I have no idea why. It must be some form of ministry.

7. Have you ever regretted admitting really personal things on your blog? Why or why not?

Yes, once. And the next day I deleted the post.

8. Have you come into conflict with anyone on your blog? Did it destroy a relationship that you valued, or was it someone you didn't care about?

I once overreacted to a question asked in my comments. I think if I had remained more calm, I could have kept his readership and been more useful and loving instead of just scaring him away.

9. Do you ever think about quitting blogging? Why or why not?

Never, ever. Not in a million years. When I was a little girl, I used to fall asleep making up sentences in my head. I used to dream of writing books. Eventually I concluded that it was about as likely as me becoming a marine biologist, or an aerobics instructer.
Now, I'm so grateful to be able to write.

10. Any other interesting stories that might be applicable.

I have met a psychologist who is writing a book called "Every Woman Has An Eating Disorder". Her work is fascinating, and relevant.

I have begun work on a fund-raising project for the women in Darfur, in partnership with one of my favourite bloggers, "Bobita". This work was inspired by one of her posts expressing her anguish and sense of helplessness for the horrible abuse that our African sisters endure there on a daily basis. Within the proximity of our own homes, we have "met", shared a passion, and are now embarking on a pro-active mission. That's empowering.

I'll end on a very personal note.
My brother Ken lost his ability to walk early this summer, the first of his many losses due to the cancer. One of his lifelines was his blackberry, which we affectionately referred to as his "crackberry", and my father tended to confuse as a "blueberry".

Ken spent hours communicating with his friends on that little gadget, and it enabled him to send love messages to his parents, which will be treasured eternally.

Ken is a very intelligent man. I have spent a lot of energy in my younger years looking for and craving his approval. He was always very popular, very front and center. He seemed to be good at anything he put his hand to. Last December, less than a short year ago, Ken won first prize in a local newspapers writing contest. I was proud of him, and remember thinking-- oh gee, that just figures! He just puts his hand to it, and Presto! he succeeds. Ken's first girlfriend love was Miriam Toews. I mean, this guy never did anything boring or by the regular passageways.

All this to say that one day when I visited Ken at the hospital, he told me that he had been reading Chronicles of Blunderview.

"It's good", he said, "If I were you, I'd keep writing."

Blogging for me, has been one of the most humbling, most therapeutic, most healing outlets in my life.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I got the bestest package in the mail and for ONCE it had my name on it, and not my e-bay-in' husband's. It was a care package from my fellow vintage loving, sweet friend. The brown paper package contained: a non-cheesey condolence card, an old fashioned wall plaque, and some useful pamphlets about puberty. I like the title "Growing up And Liking It". Sounds sort of threatening.- like "Just please, for your mothers sake and mine, SAY YOU LIKE IT! It'll take away so much of OUR discomfort and anxiety about you being a teenager with hair and body odour!

A few of my favourite tips on "What's OK on "those days":

Dance with moderation.
Avoid violent exercise.
Careful when it rains!
In consideration of others, stay out of pools.
Competitive sports involve an emotional strain. If you find the excitement gets you in a dither, better sit on the sidelines.

And finally, a tip on purchasing the necessary products:
"In case you have to ask a clerk, just say "Teen-Age by Modess, please". (pronounced MO-dess; rhymes with Oh, yes.)

(Thank you, Rosa. You have NO IDEA how timely this information was.
Then again, maybe you do, do you?!)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Prenatal Classes

Oh sure, they call themselves public health nurses and set up weeks and weeks of special exercises and educational lectures. No qualms speaking boldly, unabashedly about mucous plugs, afterbirth, placenta, and engorgement. No holding back on the full colour videos of splashy squalling purplish blobs that are taught to say; "mama, mama".

Aahh, it all appears so thorough in its education. But it is nefarious in its omissions.

Never once was I told that just as I was getting used to them wiping their own bums, it would be time to anticipate the rites of their pubscient development. No one bothered to tell me that although many, many days would feel monotonous to the extent where I actually felt my brain oozing from my ear canal, I would simultaneously feel completely intellectually ill equipped for the job of adequately teaching my offspring. I was not told that although the evening holds approximately four to five hours, you will need to homeschool (after a full day in school), feed, clean, medicate (oh, sorry that's for me), buff, polish, encourage, listen (With your whole self, not a yawning, moaning version thereof) for the equivalent of four to five hours.

For. Each. Child.
OH! And don't forget to do some tasks "ahead of time" to free up your schedule.
And if you don't make these suggestions work, you run the risk of being "Dr Phil"-able.

I'd like to stroll back into that stuffy prenatal class and stretch my big 'ol ass back out on those floor mats.

And then,I'd like to tell THEM a thing or two.

Baby Steps

Grief is a funny thing, because at the weirdest, and wildest times, you feel like you've just been severed at the knees and its time to dig your own grave, legless, and bleeding, and willingly surrender to the darkness.

On the weekends, I work at an assisted living home. Our lovely patron is fond of calling her staff f**king bitches whenever things aren't going EXACTLY the way she wants them to. Last night, I was the resident bitch. I'm familiar with how to deal with the situation: calm speech, redirection, etc. But at one point I was just BROKEN. It was challenging enough to be there, feeling quiet and sad as I was, when I knew that she would prefer more of a party atmosphere. I simply could not dredge up the necessary credentials. On some very base level, I felt that perhaps she was right about who I am.

Its the morning after the night before now. And I still don't feel like wonder woman. So, I'll have a few small goals for myself in order to survive my day with few regrets.

1) Not go with the "F--ing B" prophesy.
I just don't think people would feel good about leaving their precious children with me
if that were indeed who I made myself out to be.

2) Not pick my nose.
Not snack on it.
I think this is ONE area where I can most certainly feel successful in.

Some days, you just gotta start small, so that you can start at all.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thoughts on Healing

I have vague childhood memories of my dad's sister hiding under her bed because she saw satan drive by her house in a black car. She spent years in and out of facilities, and in my opinion, never found real healing. It seemed to take over her, and actually become her identity. I don't think she would have known who to be if some part of her body or mind weren't hurting and needing to be attended to.

My more immediate family has also dealt with issues related to the area of mental health. Uncles, Cousins, and siblings and their children have dealt with diagnoses such as: bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, clinical depression, and a few other garden variety challenges. Most received good medical care in timely fashion, cooperated with the advice of their physician, and have gone on to living full, productive, authentic lives. They recognized their struggles as illness. They treated the imbalances with the appropriate medication- much like a diabetic takes insulin, assuming that the research on the illness was correct, and that supplementing their bodies with chemicals that it was not producing on its own would help it run in its intended healthy way.

Not so for everyone. For reasons mysterious to me, some have refused medical treatment, and believed that God would heal their minds. I believe that this is possible. I believe that God heals in our day and age and that he is the Great Physician. But these are the same people who take tylenol when their head hurts, antibiotics for strep throat, and trust the anesthetist and surgeon to repair broken bones and ripped ligaments. Which begs the question-- Why is the issue one of faith if your mind is ill, and science when your physical body is ill? What would one do in response to cancer? Refuse treatment? Spend more time in prayer? I'm all for prayer. I just think that God is way less narrow minded than we are. Who made the scientists smart? The Great Physician. And I say, thank God for that.

When people see lithium, prozac, clonazapam, and anti-psychotic pharmaceuticals as "giving up on God" and instead pray for healing, and believe that God will change a persons blood chemistry, I can't help but think of a little story that my 12 year old daughter recently shared with me.

There was a man inside of his house who saw a huge flood approaching. He cried out to God to save him. A van pulled up alongside of his home and offered to take him to higher ground.
"No, thank you", the man responded, "I'm, believing in God to deliver me."
The flood waters continued to rise, so the man went up to the second story, and again, cried out to God to save him. A moterboat roared up to his second floor window and offered to take him to safety. Again, the man insisted that his God was faithful, and would deliver him from the flood waters.
As the waters drove him up to his roof, he refused to give up on his faith.
"Thank you Lord for your faithfulness! You, and You alone can deliver me from this trial!"
At this point, a helicopter flew above him and lowered a rope for the man to climb.

Needless to say, the man stood on his rooftop crying to God for deliverance, until the floodwaters washed him away.

We have the privelege of living in the wealthy west. We have medical care at our fingertips. We have pharmaceuticals. We have caring professionals.

We have vans, boats, and helicopters.

Thank God.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I hate the question "why".
Mostly because it begs some sort of lame attempt to make sense of non-sensable events.

Many endure negative, unloving, ill-paired relationships.
Others live alone, or with Jack Daniels.

But others live well, and love deeply, fiercely, sincerely.
And die.

unavoidable, poingnant pain.

does it feel like hunger?
or adrenaline overload?

Nothing much can be done.
not much can be answered.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Getting Lucky

Spent some time mall-hounding and picked
up a few things.

I had enough savings to buy the couch without a
payment plan.

Also on special were vintage Christmas bulbs, a
little stool with a worn stencil of Little Bo Peep,

an April Cornell wool sweater in fall colours, some

sewing trims and vintage dress patterns. On the way

out, I picked up a zucchini and a butternut squash.

Total spent: $11.25

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Am I Allowed to Say That?

Less notable daycare moments:

"I know for sure that you are NOT hungry. There isn't a single good reason for you to pick your nose, then eat it. Any more than you would want to lick your own bum. Dirty. Very dirty."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Manual, Anyone?

Being a self-professed scrounger/thrift shop goddess, I am accustomed to things coming my way sans manual or instruction sheet. Even when things come from a real retail store, and you don't actually get around to reading the enclosed booklet, its still reassuring to know that you have it.

Not so with offspring.

I was reading Heather's post this morning, and nodding my head vigorously. ("fumbling for words", friggin hyperlink won't cooperate) We make zillions of decisions daily affecting our childrens' present and future. Should we work more hours so they can have some half decent clothes and take a few lessons? or does that mean we've bought into a Western notion of child rearing, and we're totally missing the point? Should I insist that the children eat what I cook, or focus on making meal times pleasant and turn a blind eye about fifty five times a day? Will they grow up unhealthy? But if I turn it into a power struggle will they grow up to be neurotic, hating their bodies, obsessing about their sizes?

Children do not come with instructions. Complicate that with the fact that no matter how many times you procreate, every single child will break the previous mold. What "works" for one may be damaging to the other. Complicate it further with the fact that no matter how "grown up" we mommies and daddies appear, we are all still growing. We don't hold all the answers. We make mistakes. Every. day.

I started apologizing to my firstborn when she was a wee babe in the crib. I knew enough to recognize that humility would be a key ingredient. Still, I've been at it for over 12 years now, and I can't tell you how many times I've shouted out--

"Isn't it about time for a mid-term exam or an evaluation, or SOMETHING?!"
Its at this point that my brother-in-law calmly advises me to simply put an extra $100.00 in the kids therapy fund. This only exacerbates the angst. FUNDS? Holy macaroli! Another area of FAILURE!

If you are hoping I am going to wrap this up with some really touchy feely advice about living in the moment, just doing your best, or my favourite: "Just ENJOY them, they grow up so FAST"! I'm sorry that I will have to disappoint you. Sure they grow up fast. That's the point, isn't it? By the time I figure out a few things about parenting, they'll be horizontal on the proverbial couch of overpriced counsel.

Yup, I've had lots of experience with missing manuals. With the bread machine, I did my best guessing with flour and yeast,a bit of hydro and a splash of milk. Even the cats looked frightened. After dark I reluctantly slunk back to the charity shop (that's what they call it in the UK, and I just think its adorable, so humour me) and dumped the instruction-free thing back into the donation box.

I've tried it with the kids, but they keep following me home.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Who Wouldn't Be Thankful?!

A whole extra day without daycare, two out of four kids off at the lake with their aunties, and time enough to sew!

This time, I made the bag backpack size- good for school kids, or adults like me who like to have a whole closet full of bag choices.

I hadn't gotten around to buying a turkey in time for thanksgiving, but when a friend stopped by and smelled my borscht simmering on the stove, she agreed to a turkey for soup swap.
We pulled off this colourful, delicious dinner with minimal effort.

I'd like to do Thanksgiving weekend all over again, starting right now.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The aunties: Chapter one

It was Anne Lammott who named her thighs "the aunties" when she grew weary of trying to change them. This more affectionate, gracious approach struck a chord with me, since I confess I have openly and secretly hated my thighs for way too long.

It doesn't take a whole lot of expensive therapy to figure out how we get ourselves into these culturally condoned relationships of hatred. The economy must remain viable. The magazines must sell. Every month, we want new ideas on how to pummel our bodies to better suit our impossible standards.

I'd like to change.

The truth is, its not easy. My mother hated her body. Her sisters hated theirs. I grew up learning about the value of loving your neighbor, loving your enemies, loving God. But, somehow, it was okay to hate yourself?

My fragmented, and often diametrically opposed trains of thought often collide or hold shouting matches inside my aching head. I believe that our bodies hold wisdom. That if we never read stupid articles about what to feed them, or how much, and just listened, recognized, and acknowledged our sensations, we would know how to take care of ourselves-- ALL BY OURSELVES!

But: I live in fear of becoming potluck lady.

I want to think of my body as more of a vessel, and less of a symbol.

I must tread gently. The aunties, and the colliding trains of thought upstairs, are all sending me signals that perhaps I have exposed enough of them for now. I must care for this complex vessel, learn to listen to its subtlties more closely, learn to treat my aunties with the respect that they deserve.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The aunties

The following post must be at least partially credited to Linda.

I have written many a post listing the accolades of more than one of my family members. It seems fair that I should "thin my skin" a little and introduce you to the seamier underbelly of my counterparts. Allow me to introduce: The Aunties.

The aunties are an integral part of the family. Without them, much doing would go undone, many scenes would go unseen, things would seem undeniably lop-sided. But they are that high maintenance, embarrassing, omni-present type of relative. Over time, they have been hated, cried over, abused, scrutinized, and under-valued. I have tried to change them. There were periods of time when I really believed that I had them under control. But as anyone with control issues can testify, there comes a day when you are brought to your knees and you recognize the need for genuine acceptance if you really want to live in peace and harmony.

I won't make any promises that I can't keep, but I intend to make peace with the aunties. I intend to practise what I preach about the futility of judgementalism, the healing powers of love, the decision to live fully, regardless of the fragmental, imperfect condition of living human.

This may just stretch me in entirely new ways.
Consider yourselves my partners in accountability.
Think of the aunties, and wish me God speed.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pie Songs

Cherrypie is a sweet slice of humanity. She has tagged me to list the top 10 songs that mean something to me.

Now, I confess that this was intimidating to me. Not because I don't love music. Not because there aren't at least ten that have meaning for me. But because in typical, overanalytical, introspective, neurotic fashion, I feared what this might reveal about me.

Then I remembered: I WRITE A BLOG! ON THE INTERNET! That doesn't exactly fit the profile of a woman who values her privacy. So, bring it on, Miss Pie. However, there is nothing tidy or chronological about Mrs Blunderview, and so consider this your warning.

I grew up Mennonite. For those readers outside of the Bible belt, WE ARE NOT AMISH! We had electronics (You know, the 8 track...), we had vehicles, electricity, flush toilets, and wore relatively normal clothing. But, we were conservative, we valued family, hard work, the laws and suggestions of the Bible, quiet living. There wasn't a lot of loud music being pumped through our farm house, and if I listened to rock 'n roll, I did so very quietly, very furtively, and could rarely make out the words in the songs. Still, music was huge in our lives.

My sister was an achiever, and she took piano lessons for many years. After school, she would practise scales and complicated pieces for many hours, sometimes till she cried and felt compelled to kick at inanimate objects. I can still hear her piano playing in my memory and I can feel all my nerves and tendons cheering her on as she attempted to perfect a particularily difficult run. Many times, she would play hymns and we would sing together- she got harmony and I would sing tenor or alto and when we thought it was really something, we would perform at church on sunday morning. (The infamous "Special Number").

My brothers played guitar. When Al decided to teach himself, he would play until his fingers bled. When Ken picked it up, he played Whoa, black Betty bam-a-lam until our ears bled. Ken always got away with way more worldliness than the rest of us.....

When I was about 22, I was bored of my job as a medical receptionist and decided to move to Wichita Kansas to work for a non-profit housing company through MDS. (How stupid was that?!) The only things that got me through that blotch on my life were dating a bonehead from my team, and because that really only made things much, much worse for me, I lived for evening when I could listen to James Taylor on my walkman, alone in my ugly bedroom. Especially: "Damn, that traffic jam, how I hate to be late, by the time I get home, my supper be cold......damn, that traffic jam." It was probably just cathartic to listen to someone use a bad word...

When I was dating Brian, he wrote me a song for my birthday. It was pretty cute.
He is a very persuasive person, and a couple of times now in the past 16 years, he has convinced me to sing with him. Now, Brian is a very talented musician, which only enunciates the truth that I am not. Still, we sang at our wedding, then at my friend Danielle's wedding, then again at last year's Christmas Eve service. I love the sound of Brian's voice, singing, or not. Mine-- Not so much.

I once bought Brian and I tickets to go see Le Miserable. I love that story. I listened to that soundtrack ad nauseum.

Years later, I surprised Brian with tickets for Holly Cole. I felt a little threatened by her. She was thinner than me, and sang a whole lot better, and I had a sinus infection. I never took Brian to see Holly Cole again.

We love to go to the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Brian gets lost in the beauty of the sounds. I get lost in the crowds of people, drinking in their diversity, and enjoying the atmosphere of the park in the summer, with constant and varied music always in the background. It feeds my creative spirit, and I always resolve to make enough time one day to sell my handicrafts in the handmade village, and to revisit my dream of becoming a hippie when all the kids have grown up and are living comfortably in bungaloes with 2.5 children.

These days, one of the sanest, most meaningful, personal, and spiritual moments that I live during the week is worship music at my church on Sunday mornings. I go alone. Something deep inside is broken each time, and I drink in something pure, something holy, something indescribable. I receive hope. I see beauty in life's brokenness. I sing with my entire body-- my heart, soul, mind, sinew--- everything.

And God knows, I don't care if I sing well or not.
God knows: for once, its not about me.

That may or may not have been 10. I'm an artist, not a mathematician.
Thanks Cherry pie. I don't even feel the darkness so far today, you've given me oppurtunity to be grateful for SO MUCH.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pawing Feebly In the General Direction of the Dark

Last night I had support group.
Actually, I met two sisters at the mall food court - we laughed, we cried, we ate, we counselled. Its cheaper than a real therapist, plus one can scoot over to Wal-Mart on the way out for milk and granola bars, fabric for Arianna's home ec, and a couple of bags of candy for my mindful eating program.
I talked my sisters out of a pricier Italian restaurant in favour of the food court since what I really wanted to do was watch people. I know I have stooped to a new low when I make a point of finding people who clearly are much worse off than me. And that's where I spawned my highly cynical, super sarcastic list of gratitudes:

My breasts are saggy, but comfortably within the "c" range. If I had to haul around pendulous appendages in the double "z" zone, optimism would seem a lofty goal. So would the hopes of my back ever feeling aligned.

I'm not exactly a trend-setter, but at least I've glanced around since 1981, and I don't sport a MULLET!! Maybe, I'm just not self-confident enough. Either way, I'm good with it.

My husband does not think of track pants as formal wear. Or casual wear. Or as something that goes with a mullet.

I was genuinely, un-sarcastically touched and encouraged by the food court cleaning ladies. They weren't pretty, or well-dressed, and I'm sure they worked very hard for very little financial return. The one lady was decidedly warty. Still, she came by our table (we stayed for hours, there didn't seem to be a "no loitering" by-law... ) and with the most pleasant smile and graciousness that would lend itself well to a better paying establishment, offered to clear our trays for us.

She didn't have to do that.
She could have been a grouch, and to be honest, I would have expected that from her. Whether she had decided to or not, this lady was doing the ordinary in extraordinary ways.

And that, folks, is some of what I learned at the food court yesterday.
Stay tuned. By late this afternoon, or tomorrow, I may be simply be reduced to reminiscing about the days when I kicked at the darkness. Kicking right now sounds way too closely related to another thing I suck at : consistent exercise.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Kicking at the Darkness

Every day, I can feel this dark cloud creeping up behind me. I already decided that I don't want to turn this trial into another one of those body image problems where I channel all my uncertainty, depression, and other messy emotions into the singular goal of shrinking my body. So, without that to focus on, I find myself dealing with: boredom, restlessness, anxiety, fear, self doubt, sadness, guilt......
Every day it feels like I need to make a decision all over again. Give in to the emotions that tell me to hide away,
that tell me its hopeless,
that tell me I"M hopeless, OR: kick at the darkness. Here is how I thrashed yesterday.
I took the kids out for a walk in the unbelievably gorgeous autumn weather. Then we came home and made ma and pa leaf people. They are ideal relatives. So unintrusive. They seem to get along with just about everyone, and they always have these smiles plastered on their faces. If I didn't like them so much, I'd swear it was an act...

Today, after chewing my cuticles down to bloody pulps, eating pink wafer cookies that I don't really like, a handful of stale pretzels, and consuming nothing less than six cups of coffee with cream......

I sewed this bag.
There is nothing simple about the complexity of human emotion.

Maybe tomorrow I'll dig an in-ground pool.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Secondhand Smoke

Once upon a time, smoking was a sign of sophistication. Important decisions were made through a haze of grey in the boardroom. Classy restaurants, coffee shops, public transportation, even elementary education staff rooms were places to light up in. Mothers gathered in each others kitchens to encourage one another and enjoy their coffee with a smoke. Indoors.

Now, smoking has got a really bad reputation. And for good reason. We've all heard the sad stories about non-smoking waitresses dying of lung cancer, babies with asthma, and people dying of emphysema. We've come to accept the negative image associated with smoking-- poor health, smokey clothes, people shivering outside , 12 feet from the exit.... OUTCASTS!

Here's the thing though- the associations I have built around smoking don't tidily fit the I-live-for-bingo-and-I-don't-bath type of mentality. Some of the big players in my life are smart, educated, wise people who.... --GASP-- SMOKE!!

When I was a little girl, my big brother Wally smoked menthols. He was my daddy in many ways. It was always him who drove me to and from events, took me sledding at the ski run, took me to the beach in the summer, and then bought me a pizza pop and ice cream on the way home in his 70's velveteen van. I always felt safe and loved, roaring around in that ugly van and enjoying the smell of Wally's menthol in the air.

In my adult years, one of my favorite friends enjoyed every cigarette she furtively smoked as though it were her last. She respectfully hid this from her children, but when they were in bed, we would chat over the fence and I would soak in her wisdom. Lory thought out of the box. She was unconventional, gracious, brilliant, creative.

In the summers at the cottage, I enjoy watching and learning from Al as he packs and savours his summer pipe. I don't mean I learn how to pack a pipe- I mean I have enjoyed getting to know him, glean from his wisdom, watch him mellow with the years, and watch his intellect morph into something messier, something more grey than the textbooks ever taught him.

Recently, many bridges have been built with smoke. Without a bonfire to gather around, we would wheel Ken's wheelchair outside of the hospital, and although he had kicked the habit, we would light one up for him for old times sake. I wept with Ken's friends under a pergola rich with cigarette smoke. Al and I ran funeral errands in the comfortable presence of Du'Maurier.

The short answer, the tidy one, is that smoking is evil.
That nothing good could come of it.

But there's not much room for the hazy shades of grey in that.