Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Let's Get Started!

Tip #1 for struggling parents:

Ever grow weary of assembling all those school lunches for your hungry offspring? With a little time and effort, you can take care of that inconvenience once and for all.

1. Clear a large area, (the dining room floor works nicely). Lay out slices from ten to twelve loaves of 60% or 100% whole wheat bread. Leave spaces between the rows wide enough for you to navigate. You may want to subdivide the rows according to the number of your offspring.

2. Begin by spreading any toppings. For example, the three popular sandwhich combinations in my family are: turkey breast with margarine; ham with mayo and mustard; and tuna salad. I would spread 1/3 with mayo and mustard, 1/3 with margarine, and leave the remaining 1/3 as is.

3. Now mix up the nine cans of tuna (be sure to have a cat nearby to lick up the tuna water). Begin to methodically scoop tuna onto bread slices. Turn a blind eye to any felines or toddlers who crawl about getting themselves a mid-morning snack. This will also be a time saving measure, as you will not have to prepare one later.
Follow the same basic idea for distribution with the ham and the turkey breast.

4. Now, simply wrap up the sandwhiches, and stack them in the cupboard at a convenient height by order of the sandwhich flavour.

If you follow this simple advice, you will find your children happier, healthier, and you will have carved out a few precious moments in your hectic morning that you will now be grateful to spend with your lineage.

I suggest that you use the oppurtunity to teach them the art of hand sewn garments.
I guarentee you will not find a happier, healthier, more well-adjusted child.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Boy

My son is a bit of a perfectionist.
On the last day of Christmas break, he was overwhelmed at the thought of returning to the pressures of grade three. He'd been told that after the break, the students would be expected to complete their classroom work in handwriting. Their printing days would be over.
Micah couldn't fall asleep.
He cried inconsolably.
He was sure he could not succeed.
I imagine that he cursed the cursive.

And now we can all see why. I mean, with a little bit of effort, he surely could have written "dry" properly.

I guess I'll just have to increase his beatings.
I'll have to ask the hard questions;
"Why can't you do anything RIGHT?"

Maybe after that I'll write a parenting book.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I'm not Half the Man I Used to Be

Actually, I've never been a man.
Turns out, I'm not anywhere half the man that my Brian is, either. To be more specific, I'm actually 4% of the man that Brian is. And just barely 4%.

Allow me to explain. Instead of a dinner party on friday night, we decided to do some family time (may or may not be similar to doing hard time, depending on everyone's cycles) and take the offspring to the pool for some sliding, splashing, and bonding. The pool is familiar territory for Brian. He actually likes being in shape, and proves his point by getting up in the dead of the night three times a week, slipping into microscopic lycra, and swimming like a maniac. (He's probably being chased by crowds of women, but that's another post).

All this to preface the fact that at the pool, I am like a fish out of water. I hate being in a bathing suit. I hate shaving. I hate being wet. I hate being cold. I hate the bright lights. I hate the mirrors. I hate all the resolutions I make when I'm at the pool, and then later reevaluate over a pecan sundae.

Now Brian has told me more than once how he loves to swim. How fabulous he feels after his laps, how rewarding the hot tub feels. How he normally does NINETY SIX lengths, but this morning had decided to round it off to the nearest hundred. I had smiled supportively, admired his rock hard thighs, felt appreciative that he had some diversions besides my dashing and tantalyzing beauty.

But then, on friday night, I actually stood ankle deep in wet water. Water that my Brian had mastered. He had subjugated its coldness, its depth, and risen like a sleek, muscled god-of-the-deep-and-cold-and-wet.

I felt myself hypnotically staring at the lap pool. I felt words rise out of me, unsolicited, unwise.

"I bet I couldn't make it for two lengths. Do you dare me to try?
You're not allowed to laugh out loud. You must repress your laughter, you must not bend over and require CPR after watching my lardass haul itself, gasping and wheezing, across that pool."

And so I saw myself waddling on over to the ropes. I chose the lane nearest the edge, so I'd be easier for the lifeguard to rescue. Fearing the cold, fearing the wet, I resolutely threw myself at that aquatic intimidation.

I made four lengths. I thought my heart would spill out of my heaving chest. I thought "jello" would pursue my thighs for a part in their next ad. Four. F-o-u-r.

Not that I'm competitive or insecure or anything, but that makes 4% folks.
Yep, four out of one hundred makes 4%.

Someday, maybe I could aspire to being half the man that Brian is, but for now, I'll have to settle for .04.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Beauty for Ashes, or some other over-used phrase

The morning began with a sense of being unprepared on every imaginable level. All I really wanted to do was wander over to the church, by myself, and sit in the presence of people in prayer. One look around at the flock who required me within twelve inches of the fridge and toilet set that dream to rights.

I sat down to the computer, eager to attach words to the sprectrum of thought and emotion that waged in my heart and brain. I longed for the release it would provide, half hoping it would trip my tear duct switch and provide some physical relief as well. I wanted to be leaning into my keyboard, propelled by the words that would flow from some partially conscious aspect of my humanness. I wanted to explore some latent thoughts that had to do with the co-existence of rot and miraculous, contradictory new life.

Anyone living with their eyes open knows what I mean. The irony of learning a thing or two, and just after that, you recognize that your body is inches from being dead. The exquisate beauty of the face of Africa that must be reconciled with all its horrendous deadly ugliness. The prairie garden, beautifully and stubbornly rising from the ground after an unforgiving winter- thriving on manure, crawling with worms. The castle I spent hours on the floor constructing for the pleasure of the children , swiftly levelled in two swipes by a towering toddler. My mother's uterus, 39 years after housing and sheltering eight fragile human lives; now a splodge of tissue in the hospital incinerater.

I'm weary of all the old analogies. I won't regurgitate something about death being a natural requirement of new life. I won't wax unpoetic about the circle of life.

I will say inarticulately that mothers of toddlers do miscarry. That human love is inadequate, riddled with pain, disappointment, and wonder. That one may or may not be rewarded for making unselfish choices, and conversely that negative consequences are not a guaranteed justice for the selfish one.

I will whisper that God is good, but an awful lot of bad things happen. I will continue to hope for the resurrection of the gut-birthed shout of His goodness and wisdom.

As I sat and waited for the cathartic words to come, a shadowy whisp of God's incomprehensible love and goodness came to me. Friend. A creature of exquisate beauty, spotlessly put together. Manicured and velvety, vogue and pleasing to the eye. Surely the antithesis to my grey and strained features, pulled taut by a too-small pony tail. Dark shadows partially concealed by spectacles that couldn't possibly cover enough facial features to dupe anyone into thinking that I was filled with happiness uncontainable.

Better than all that, a friend who understood. A friend who gave me the physical substitute for a heavenly father hug. No suffocatingly trite answers or suggestions. No judgements. No need for me to reavalute whether I'd been too honest, too revealing. No fear of misunderstanding, or of my pain disrespectfully being whispered throughout some "prayer chain" in pretense of others caring.

I still have no answers. But I will still insist on the goodness of God, and I will awkwardly bellow out my gratitude for the loving piece of humanity that He bestowed on me today.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tag-a-Roni and Cheese

Lettuce has tagged me.

This is supposed to be six weird things about me. I think that I am so extraordinarily weird, that all my weirdnesses seem quite normal and ordinary to me. I've been waiting all day for six weird things to spring to mind, and now I'll just settle for the first six that I can think of before I turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of 9:00 pm. (is that weird?)

1. I have been known to: sing, cry, yell, scream, and walk in my sleep. I once found myself downstairs, at the back door, leaning into the darkened yard apparently looking for something. I often rummage around on top of tall furniture, looking for lost babies.

2. I have given birth four times, and successfully gotten through infancy four times. I can't remember a single developmental stage. Other people seem to remember when babies should get teeth, crawl, eat solids, and talk. I have no clue.

3. I cut my own hair. I just can't be bothered to make an appointment, make small talk, then drop a bunch of money.

4. I can not wear a watch. I once had a watch that would begin to slow down, then I would give it to my sister to wear for a few days. It would go back to normal time, then I'd get it back and I could wear it again for a while.Now I don't wear a watch at all. I just never leave the house. (or I take the microwave with me).

5. I bought my daughter a package of panties that she thought were old lady panties. So, I tried them on, and sure enough, they are perfect!This is not because I have the rear end of a ten year old, but rather that they are indeed old-lady-panties, planted by some bored deviant in the girls wear department.

6. I have a penis.
But its not mine. I have to share it with my husband.

Tag! You're it-- Judy, Carol, Brandy, Bobita/Trabinski, Roofus, & Michele.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Every now and again, life forces the recognition of parallel universes. Directly across the street from the life I believe in, the one that makes sense much of the time, the one I feel passionate about, was a funeral that I attended yesterday. It plunged me completely into a forgotten world of yesteryear.

It followed the ancient unpublished manuel of traditional Mennonite rites of passing. The tiny church was stuffed to capacity with relatives and grey-haired acquaintences, hot and silent, pressed into unforgiving wooden pews. Tante Leine had passed 90 years, living a decent, responsible, uncontroversial life. She was now stuffed with chemicals, laid on white satin, her waxy skin twisted into a mien of peace and serenity. Her costly wooden vehicle was ferried up the aisle by a hundred or so black-suited grandsons accompanied by the crowd's utter, solemn silence. The only sign of life rose from the beading forehead of the nephew/preacher taught to believe that he was born for a such a time as this. A church filled to capacity with inadequate exits. An audience committed to his message of moral obligation and spiritual laws.

The faintly familiar scents of Fear and Guilt rose in the air, blending with old man sweat and lost ambition. The air settled thick and unforgiving around us as we shifted in our vertical, wooden positions and took in his message . We too, could anticipate eternal life with no more pain after only 90 or so years of living well behaved. If we only said the right words, spent our lives preparing for that prepared place, did some deeds as proof of our transformation. The usher shifted, and rose to employ his long hooked stick to open a few windows. The air had grown increasingly stangnant. The pianist swished into place, hair held unbending and disciplined in its netting. Arms stiff at our sides, we sang slowly, methodically of joy, times without tears, and circles unbroken. We sang with heavy sighs, through our barely parted lips and clenched teeth. The torpid air rose heavy into the cramped balconey as we squirmed in our uncomfortable shoes, breath baited in anticipation of the closing prayer.

Back in my universe, I gulped lungs full of crisp, clean air. Eternal life surely begins NOW and not in a century or so of held breath. If we are loved by our creator, we are loved to be free and the fullness of life springs from being so intimately known by God, and loved anyway. That abundance of love pours surely out of us like a fresh water spring, requiring precious little of our own human determination. Church exists in people- vulnerable in their questions, failures, and brokenness. Received by a love and compassion so broad, so mysterious, that no amount of resolute good behavior could have created it.

I mean no disrespect to Tante Leine. None at all.

I'm just so glad to slip out of my constricted sunday shoes and dance with the smells of life- giving rains on the soil of my reality.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I figure I'm about half way through now, if I calculate my life expectancy based on the example of my mom's sisters. Tante Leine's life will be remembered tomorrow at the little church across the street from my house, and I wonder how she measured success? Or did she? Did she ever stop to ask questions of herself?

My questions dance to the tunes of Ken's music, gifted to me by his friend the night we celebrated his life. His life lived too short, too bright.

What's to become of us? I sometimes whisper in my husband's arms. I'm joking; kind of. But how WILL we measure success? Or do I only ask that question of myself?

It's not as if I don't have any skills. Do they make me enough money to join the better half of every-frikkin-one who seems to go on winter holidays these days? Nope. Does it matter if they make money? I guess so- it sucks to have a big shortfall every month; and I like throwing the occasional "Joe- fresh" sweater into my cart at Superstore without having decide between that and cheddar cheese for the family. Making a bit of money is just part of getting on with life.

Its just that I know I don't want to define success that way. Oh, it would be great if I could indiscretionately throw money at the #@! van and not have to crawl through the back hatch, when the unlock button laughs insolently in my face. (see "Why I should NEVER leave... ) I know that money doesn't make people happy, but I don't see those rich people in their fancy SUV's crawling over bags of reduced meat and bread in the grocery parking lot either...
But I digress. I know people with money who live in fear, and I know people without money who live life big and unafraid.

If I was assertive and I had a memory that spanned further than the tendons in a gnat, I could go back to school and make something of myself. Or maybe someday, I could get discovered and become Blunder-ville's very own Miriam Toews. Or, I could get good at marketing and revisit my sewing machine. I used to do a brisk business making stuff and selling it, till I figured out how to do math, and realized that I was keeping most of the fabric world employed, while slowly starving my family to death. (It was awfully nice to be emaciated though.... )

I used to measure success by the numbers on the scale, but that's not working for me anymore. It got really dull, and sort of addictive. Besides, we have dinner parties nearly every Friday night and the food is to die for. There is NO WAY I'm going to measure my achievement by saying "no" to all that culinary prowess and taste bud tantilizing pleasure.

I could look to my kids as a measure of my success, but that seems awfully risky. I mean, have you ever noticed that kids are actually separate entities? There's only so much credit that you can lawfully take, and after that you've got to calculate in the grace of God, a million or two environmental influences, and the whole bunch of other factors. Besides, what are you gonna do when one or two of them decide to get strung out on drugs for a while? Blame yourself? Seems kind of useless to me. There's just way too many variables for a control freak such as myself to use the parenting experiment as my indicator for success.

There is of course, the big eternal aspect. And for me, that goes without saying. I want to get to know God more all the time. I want peace to grow. I want to live a life challenged and fertilized by love. I want to believe in His goodness regardless of popular opinion. Those things are central to success playing itself out, but I still ask these other questions. How will I know?

And so the question remains unanswered.
I don't know what Tante Leine would have said.
I suspect Ken's defining achievements would also have to do with loving others.
How do you think you measure success?
And how should I?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why I must Never Leave Home

I feel downright lucky on those -45 days when I don't have to get into a frozen solid vehicle to get to work, but believe me- when those balmy temps of -15 roll in, I'm ready and desparate to get out for some change of scenery. Not that its ever an effortless event. Everyone born of my flesh, flesh of my flesh, and cleaved unto my flesh, plus the better half of all children born of someone else's flesh, has gotten pretty darned used to me being here and serving them hand and foot through the rise and fall of seasons and an empire or two.

Wednesday night it was. Target departure: 5:35 pm. The last of the snack-munching, glue-smearing crew should be out by then. While setting them up with a craft, I would fry the bacon to go with the perogies that I would lovingly prepare for my brood, lest they should starve to death during my departure. Brian should be about done teaching his guitar student, and all the play dates and homework plans should be pretty much sorted out by then. I could quickly shower off the "essence of smoked pork" , and still make it out in plenty of time for supper with the gals.

Brian was none too thrilled about missing his gym time, but saw the wisdom in letting the unstable one out for a little refresher, so off I zoomed in my sporty family van. I took some country roads to drop Jane off at a friends, then made my way to pick up my sister from her country paradise. I was only 30 minutes off my targeted timeline.

That was before I attempted the precipitous drifts that lay between me and my goal. If you own a Dodge Caravan, you know about the serpentine belt. You know that it is mounted too close to the ground for us indomitable prairie folk, and with the slightest provocation, will throw its tiny belt arms up in the snowy air, and quit. And that, folks it just what happened.

I no longer had power steering. But such a small detail would in no way prevent me from my glorious outing. I cranked that baby HARD and got onto my sister's yard. We'd simply have to take her vehicle into the city, live in denial about mine till we got back- we'd be so refreshed by that point that it would surely feel like a small quest to conquer. But that was before we discovered that her car was stuck firmly in the snow. All our pushing and grunting and spinning were of no consequence. We'd need a man. A man with a four wheel drive, and a tow rope, and a good attitude.

That taken care of, we were only an hour and fifteen behind schedule.
The actual outing was fabulous. It was so devoid of complications, that its retelling is irrelevant in this context- Good greek salad and therapeutic group counsel. It all seemed worth the effort.

Heading home, we recognized that the time her car had spent hung up on a drift had deposited some snow in her wheel well which now acted as additional weights on the wheels. We shaked and shimmied the thirty minute ride home, a harsh reminder of the van problem that yet awaited us. I was frozen solid from sitting in a drafty restaurant corner, so before I attempted the power steering-less drive home, I had the foresight to deck myself out in snowpants, boots, scarf, and mitts. Kathy offered me her cell phone, but I optimistically waved her off, thinking I'd inconvenienced her enough for one 24 hour period. It was only a power steering problem after all, and anyone worth half my body weight would be able to turn that beast with just a little extra effort.

I made it a chilly mile and a half before my electronics began a forbidding dance. Lights on, lights off. Radio, no radio. Who knew that the serpentine belt also caused the alternater to do its job, and I was now running on an extraordinarily low battery... A battery without enough juice to work the hazard lights. Have to take my chances leaving the van on the side of the road, and hope that all large trucks would stay their course, and not slay me or my troublesome sports-mobile.

Those snowpants sure came in handy, walking alone in the dark down a busy highway in the night. Boy, was the guy at the strawberry farm ever happy to see me drop by at 11:00 pm to ask for a phone. He was so happy, he put his sorrels on over his jammie pants and drove me back out to the van to see if he could figure out what the deal was. The deal was : no deal. So, he cheerfully gave me a lift back to my sister's house, me clutching my precious milk and eggs that I needed from that van before tomorrow's early morning mania would hit me in the face.

"Sure woulda been nice to have a cell phone", I announced, tromping back into her kitchen, relishing the look of utter disbelief on her face. I sure was glad I had decided to not inconvenience her, I thought to myself as her husband mercifully gave me a midnight ride back to town. Sure am glad I got out for a rejuvenating outing. Too bad I'll have to work for about two weeks now to pay for the costly tow that I'll have to arrange tomorrow morning, and some high-priced mechanic fees to get that #%@* belt back in place.... Sure would be nice to have a radio and power steering though, not that it would do much good in the morning for Brian's 20 minute commute to work without a functioning vehicle.

Maybe I could loan him my snowpants.

And folks, it doesn't end there. Because I must never leave home and must always go to bed at 10:00 pm sharp, I shut off my alarm while in a dead sleep. Yes, I did. And when I woke up, fully an hour late, I had to let poor, defenseless, impressionable children into the house, wearing my housecoat. I also had to phone the father of the child who I'm sure was at my door 30 minutes earlier, and apologize profusely for having ever left home. Leaving home makes me vulnerable to a multitude of sins. Ruining vehicles, waking neighbors, providing undependable childcare, running up bills, causing my loved one to miss his work-out.

So, if you need me for anything at all, I will be here.
I will never again be so selfish that I would actually leave home.

*somebody... please help me. I really, really need to get out of here....

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Self Confidence Re visited

And, no.
"Sam" is not short for "Samantha".

Nor will it ever be.

Monday, January 15, 2007

(Wo)man Cannot Live by Strokes Alone

Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr

“The important thing is not the finding, it is the seeking, it is the devotion with which one spins the wheel of prayer and scripture, discovering the truth little by little. If this machine gave you the truth immediately, you would not recognize it,” Ursula K. LeGuin

There's an odd sense of loneliness in living life human. Even when the facts are contradictory- being part of a community, family, and being engaged in meaningful relationships. At the end of the day, its you that you go to bed with, wrestle thoughts with, search for meaning with. And at the end of this life, You alone meet with your maker to have some one on one time talking through the twists and turns you and He navigated during the whole "human body" part of this life.

Society is full of tips on how to boost our self-confidence and feelings of significance. Every January is as predictable as the one which preceded it- lose that weight, and store that stuff. At Wal-Mart yesterday, I found myself titling each center aisle as we passed them; "lose that weight", "brush those teeth", "clean your ears", "organize your stuff", "buy chocolate- (Valentine's is just around the corner)".

In the New Testament, Paul tells us to "forget about self-confidence.... Cultivate God-confidence". I like the sounds of that, and I've been meditating on it for some time now. I'm thinking that in order to develope that type of confidence, a gal has to spend some time getting to know the heart of God. Its hard to love someone with your heart and soul and mind if you're pretty confused about who they are. So, I've begun by assuming that God is good. There's plenty of evidence to the contrary. I am not always rescued from pain and ugliness, nor are millions of people who live in real suffering and lack. I won't pretend to have any answers for any of that, but like a stubborn child, I will insist that God is good.

I love the analogy Paul uses about people being parts of a body, with "all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together.... think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. You are Christ's body-- that's who you are! Only as you accept your part of that body does your "part" mean anything."

Once I fully and actually believe this truth, and learn to listen more clearly to the small, still voice of God, I anticipate that my craving for human validation will decrease. Self-confidence will be replaced by something more permanent, something with roots. Longer strides will be taken, less time spent checking over my shoulder for others shaking their heads in disapproval, or nodding affirmatively. No holding back due to doubt or fear.

Then I'll have a clearer picture of what it means to "Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it- because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you."

*thanks to ME for those quotes

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The ad I'll never post

"Local Daycare has spaces for: any number of girls between the ages of two and six.
Preferably potty-trained and not potty-mouthed, strong-willed, or whiney.
Come prepared for: colouring, cuddling, story-reading, nail-polishing, and chatting.

Spaces for boys older than two, with tendencies to run, to eat voraciously, catapult over couches, wrestle,throw tennis balls at light fixture levels, or pretend that other boys are hockey pucks, are temporarily unavailable.

Openings may become available after the windchill values rise considerably above minus 47."

In case I've left anything to speculation, friday the twelfth was the school year's first snow day. Cold is not an adequate term to describe the outdoor conditions.

Kids began streaming in at 7:15 am, as optimistic as they were energetic.
"Do you have skates for me to borrow?"
I find myself counting to ten slowly, and we haven't even gotten to breakfast yet.
"If classes were cancelled because its too cold, and yesterday was indoor recess..... do you think it would be wise for me to send you outdoors to skate today?!"

"oh. Right. Well, how about I just walk over to the school then, just to make sure its really closed?"

"Just a minute, while I count to four hundred slowly, while breathing deeply into a paper bag."
Truthfully, things went remarkably well. The children were all advised that the first one to utter the words "I'm bored" would be gifted with a math worksheet to complete. Most kids came with some version of hand held game that they could resort to when human relationships became too challenging, or when daycare lady put an end to the hockey stick and tennis ball game in the dining room.

Jane (being a girl, and all) used her time to make up an eye spy game for everyone to enjoy. Even the boys stood in line for this one, since there was a candy prize involved for finding all the hidden objects in a bowl full of birdseed.

I myself had been banned from having any tantrums, drinking gin before 5:30 pm, or locking myself inside my bedroom.

I also did remarkably well, and didn't break a single thing or have a single tantrum until well after supper. By that time, gin had become an option, as had the idea of cryogenically freezing myself in the back yard until the spring.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Emporer's Clothes

When I became a "blogger" it was nothing but a good case of envy and competition. My husband would sit hunched over the computer night after night, getting commented on by babes in provinces far and wide.

"I can do that", my most base nature cried. Sure, it had been a century and a half or so since my jarbled mumblua had counted for marks in anyone's course evaluation, but surely now, without the pressure of a pass or fail, I could ramble on indiscretionately to the great faceless cyberworld. They could accept or reject me in their annonymity. I would never know.

Initially, everything went as planned. Readers cropped up from far away places to offer their encouragements or opinions. My courage deepened. My (already negligable) discretion eroded. Soon, I was chatting away to the great crowd of unknown, nestling ever deeper in my disclosionary couch, imagining the warmth of my countless therapists bolstering me in my deepest, most personal fears and insecurities.

Then, one day, I became aware of my utter lack of protective clothing. And I'm not talking about a suit of armour here. I mean your basic Wal-mart panty and cami set. I mean, I've been strutting my "stuff" out here, in the community. No longer safe within the "confines" of readers from countries far, far away that my twelve air mile points would never carry me to. Suddenly the exotic, faraway readers were joined by another crowd-- one within driving distance, even for our humble, seats-six-what-were-you-thinking van. On I marched, no escape in sight. Without the crown, the bullet-proof vest, or the optimistic, got-it-goin'-on-sista smile.

Do you ever wonder where the emporer went after the parade?

Hey, parade viewers-- is one of your pint-sized sons going to shout at at the post office one of these days, "Hey lady! You are Absolutely, buck-naked! You have NO SECRETS! You're the town freak!! Instead of watching "Desparate Housewives", or "Grey's Anatomy", our mothers now have their own version of a local reality show."

Maybe its time to relocate.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Funny: ha ha, or Funny: strange.

In the weeks and months of my brother's illness and subsequent death, personal stress was undeniably high. I recognized some things in myself that were not good indicators of perfect mental health, and being an adult of nearing forty years I couldn't be bothered to hide in shame. So, I went to visit my doctor. She was wonderful- set me up for some blood tests, had me visit my pharmacist, suggested that I contact a spiritual ministry in our community, sent referrals to mental health, and referred me to a psychiatrist. I reentered my life feeling optimistic.

The first contact was to the leader of the church-based counselling service. I was advised that her caseload was already overflowing. No problem, I said. Its not like a crisis, and I still had several other avenues of assistance that needed to be explored. I went in for my blood tests, waited patiently in the waiting room, feeling mildly guilty for taking up the time of the daycare sub that I'd arranged. Finally seated in the doctor's room, I was informed that the appointment had been wrongly booked, and there was no lab person in on that particular day. No problem. I'll simply get a sub again, make another appointment, and wait on the appropriate day.

Its nearly impossible to find the time.

A few weeks later a letter came in the mail with the mental health emblem in the left corner. The letter read in part as follows:

" A referral was sent on your behalf to receive some support from the Community Mental Health Program. The position is currently vacant. If your situation changes and you require more immediate service, please contact the local crisis service."

That's code for: "If you feel like killing yourself, save the mess and call us instead so that we don't look bad". Only one problem. I have no interest in ending my life. I quite like my pulse, thank you very much.

I've never heard from psychiatry.

I've told this tale to a few people, thinking that it was humourous. Not too many people threw their heads back and laughed until the tears flowed. I find the humour because this is not new to me. It does not surprise me. But what about all the people out there who would find it incredibly intimidating to visit their doctor in the first place? What kind of message do they receive?

"No, you're not delusional and paranoid. Its actually true that everyone is not only out to get you, but that all those nasty fears will probably catch up to you by the time any sort of support systems actually come into place. When and if you become catatonic or suicidal, we will pay close attention, but until that day, you are only imagining your symptoms. Now, go on, be a good boy, dash off and play with all your imaginary friends. Oh, and on your way, could you double check if the stove is turned off, then open and close the back door fifty times, and then give your hands a good wash? Like, maybe til they bleed? Unless the voices tell you to do anything else. Don't forget to purge. Oh, I meant your kitchen of sharp objects and hand blenders."

"Above all else, hide yourself. Nobody cares."

Just in case anybody reads this and doesn't either see the humour in it, allow me to cover my butt, please. "Nobody cares" is not my personal belief. In fact, I have had wonderfully amazing experiences through this grief journey. So many times I have received phone calls from people who I'm not even particularily close to who tell me that God impressed on them to raise me up in prayer. I have been heard by people of greater love and compassion that a dippy, self-centred, cold-fish psychiatrist I once saw when I was young. Every Sunday, I am wrapped in love that actually feels physical and strengthens my heart and lifts my spirits. My husband daily wraps his arms around me and loves me with compassion and honesty and makes me feel safe. And biggest of all, I believe that God cares.

Monday, January 08, 2007

New Years Resolutions

I'm not much of one for resolutions, since they just seem to reinforce insecurites and short-comings when you repeat the same sentiments January after January. It doesn't mean that I don't have the same base desires: spend money more wisely, lose that weight, exercise consistently, and become a more stellar parent. It's just that I'm tired of aligning myself with standards that really don't resonate with who I believe myself to be.

Saturday, as Brian and I were waiting in check-out #3 in Superstore, Brian observed the woman ahead of us- 65-ish, lumpy in all the wrong places, and purchasing Slim-Fast. I was reminded of the many desparate measures I have adopted to just lose that weight. Even while knowing that the method was crazy, but speculating that once those pounds came off, I would deal with the whole "lifestyle" change. I would surely then begin to eat sensibly, and simply maintain a low weight without see sawing. Surely it would be wise to start with a slim body, then work to maintain it. Instead, I developed a few eating disorders that made me even crazier and desparate than I'd ever been in the first place.

So, what if I have that January fat feeling? Does that make it a reality? Does it actually matter? Will I construct my life activities around that "feeling" and try to make my life work out by beginning with the physical? I think not. True change comes from the inside and moves outward. Real lifestyle change has a lot more to do with the renewal of the mind; not renewal of the body. I'm not going to spend year after year purchasing new year's meal replacements and holding onto the much commercialized lies of better body= better life. When I'm sixty-five, I'll be at Superstore buying party supplies in January to have a dinner party with people whom I love. And we won't be eating slim-fast.

Spending money more wisely sounds very righteous, and is a sensible goal. Unless you hoard your money, become proud in your frugality, and turn money saving into some kind of sacred cow. I think I'd like to free up some money to balance the world a little- put together some aids kits for MCC, be generous with my neighbors and our local food bank, and continue to pursue our fund-raising brain child for the women and children of Darfur.

Sometimes I'd like to resolve to quit smoking, and use all that saved money to take my husband and children on a family vacation. I've heard of people who saved that way, then went on a posh cruise to celebrate breaking free from their addiction. There's only one problem: I'm not a smoker.

So, that leaves becoming a stellar parent. I don't think there are any potential addictions stemming from that desire. I suppose I could get over-involved, or over-protective, but I've never been accused of anything resembling either of those. Rather quite the opposite. Perhaps this can be the year that I remember to tell the kids to : brush their teeth, do their homework, shower with some regularity, and look adults in the eye, say "thank-you-for-the-meal-may-I-please-be-excused" once in a while. Maybe I could work on getting Jane's warts burned off, teaching Sammy to adequately wipe his own bum, impressing on Arianna the value of learning her math so she can move on with her peers in a year, and learning Micah where and when are appropriate places to pass gas.

I know for sure that this year I am going to:
drink a lot of great coffee,
embrace my husband with honesty and admiration
have more dinner parties
feel the feelings
learn more from Peter, Mr Armbruster,Cheri and Mr Tetrault ( a few of my spiritual teachers)
love people in my own way, and work on a strategy of not comparing myself to others
visit my parents every 7 to 14 days. I won't have them much longer. When they go, I know for sure that I won't say "I wish I'd spent less time with them".

I'll probably also:
go to too many garage sales
not drink enough water
break a lot of stuff
try to grow a garden in the spring, and fail again
chew my hangnails until they bleed

And that may never change.
Happy 2007.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

That January Feeling

I don't know which I like better; hauling all my Christmas stuff out of storage and covering every square centimeter in holiday cheer, or getting that "January feeling". As much as I'm horrified at the thought of overflowing landfills, my garbage pile in the first weeks of a new year are always notable. I feel ruthless and minimalist as I purge the house of irritating clutter, and long for clean swept horizontal spaces. Notice that I specified what type of clutter, for in my home it will always not only exist, but be embraced. I love my collections and clean spaces always land up looking like a canvas to me.

And so the house will undergo some changes.
Its an old truth, but I'm reminded again that the only constant in life (besides the big, obvious, holy ones) is change. Our bodies, our families, our circumstances, our friends. They will all be subject to the forces of time and change. It seems valuable to explore the emotion attached to that reality. I want to say that I'm good with the constant flux, for it would indeed be dull if each day mimicked the one before, and there's nothing duller and more depressing than that person we can all picture who bucked change and left their lives as predictable as possible. So, I welcome fresh winds that blow in. New friends, new ideas, changes in the seasons, and countless other events.

But I'm not the swiftest salmon in the stream and I'm left feeling like I'm getting pulled back towards the falls. Or worse- into such shallow waters that there's no room to swim. My brain knows some things, and pretends to own them with some confidence, but then goes on an immediate "snooze" mode at the most crucial moments. Like a narcoleptic at a press conference.

So, I'd like some changes- I'd like to grow some muscle where the fat has moved in. But I'm too tired, and I'm afraid to get increasingly preoccupied with the inconsequential exterior. I'd like to grow in my love of God, but I've so many people tell me so many versions of the absolute truth, that I want to hear no more. I'd like to watch the news and read the paper with some regularity so I don't feel like an ignorameous with a finger up her nose when people discuss events. But I'm not a good reader, and besides I need glasses, and when I watch the news I either fall asleep, or become distracted speculating on whether the anchor is happily married, at peace, or whether she has menstrual cramps on that particular day. I'd like to teach the kids more, but usually when they ask me great questions, I haven't a clue what the answer is. ("Why is most stuff made in China? When can you take me to have my wart burnt off? Where is Quatar? If we still lived in our old house, would I still be sharing my room?") I want to be a less distracted childcare provider, but they keep expecting to eat stuff, and pee into clean toilets, and know where their blankies and soothers are at all times.

If I were Beth Moore, or Mrs Graham, or someone along those lines, I could leave you a scripture that would just nicely tie this all together and leave you inspired. I must, however, confess that its Geneen Roth again who I hear in my seive-like head. "Feelings don't go away because you're afraid of them". Well, neither will change. So, people will continue to die, tall buildings pulled down and others erected, kindred spirits may disagree.

The process is not nearly as predictable and immediately gratifying as January clear-out. It seems a lot of the less tangible "stuff" that I thought I'd hauled to the curb years ago has grown legs and crawled back to the house. With a bit of providence, I'll hope for the next change to be a set of wings grown spontaneously so that I, or the unwelcomed company, can fly away.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Quick Note

Lest you think I'm dangling over a precipice somewhere... I've been off having a good, theraeutic time. Spent two days at my brother's cabin, even got snowed in there and enjoyed a Canadian snow storm in the cozy comfort of the wood stove. Got to share thoughts and feelings with my siblings and although it was anxiety-provoking to hear of others' pain, it was a good release in the end. The girls and I went sledding down the lane and hiked across the frozen lake to explore an old abandoned cabin. They hardly fought. What a gift.

Now we're packing up again to head off to the country paradise that houses the old shed that is pictured on my banner. They have four kids to match our four, and Rosa is a dear friend from the city we moved from three and a half years ago. It will be wonderful.

Thank you all for your kindnesses, and good wishes for the new year. I rung ours in at the assisted living home, and only got called a f**ing B**tch a nominal amount of times.

2007 will be a time of healing, and further revelation. No great strengths come of hiding or running, and my choice is to continue to feel the feelings and give them the chance to become resolved. I have already made myself vulnerable to people who can offer me tools and directions for healing. I find that letting the beasts out is scarey, but usually they land up reasonably "tame-able". I don't expect it to be simple to make room in my schedule for this help, but I recognize it as necessary. And I'm grateful for it.

Many of you are also on my mind, as I know of challenges ahead with your families or health. And I sincerely stretch out my hand and heart in a desire to walk that path with you. What are we is we cannot hold one another up?

God bless in 2007.