Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"She's a Little Loopy"

I've been saddened by the church community's often inappropriate and ungracious attitude to people who suffer with illnesses that are a little more "grey area" than say diabetes or cancer. Do we have to react in fear and judgement when we are confronted by people who shake our beliefs about God, wellness, faith, and other ambiguities? If a person is diagnosed, or is living with a mental illness, why do we have to ask more nervous questions about faith and healing than we do when someone finds out they have celiac's disease?

I'm relieved and grateful to be part of a faith community that does not categorize one from the other. Still, being a survivor myself, I must own the fact that I would feel particularily vulnerable to stand before my people and tell my story. I would want to be able to conclude that my victory is consistent and unshakable. I would want people to have a reason to laugh and clap at my conclusion.

How do we make peace with the messiness of life? How can we?

The longer I live, and the more I ruminate, I think that I agree more and more with my blogger friend Judy who describes her image of God "spilling out of our gashes". On this side of eternity I don't think I'll ever be entirely healed. Oh, I believe that I am, but I just don't think it'll feel that way. I'll struggle with negative thoughts. I'll not achieve quite as monumental tasks as I imagine when I think of being "successful" in this life. And if it were possible to fully arrive, what would I need God for on a day to day basis?

I'm beginning to see that the powerful ones amongst us are those who don't apologize for their scars. Nor do they dwell on them, allowing pain of the past to define who they are. Acknowledging life's pain and messiness is different than being controlled by it. Here's where I need God. I don't want to barge on ahead on my own determination and sheer grit, with a dash of rebellion and change the world, the church, and all the people who annoy me.

I want to be powerful and impact my world, but not by myself. Not without direction and conviction from my maker.

So its also helpful to remind myself and others that courage is not the absence of fear. I am just going to keep working at resting instead of struggling, feeling fear without being mastered by it, and leaning into the bigness of my God.


Monday, February 26, 2007


It's a term coined by Bobita. I like it.

Yesterday after church potluck I got engaged in a conversation with a group of about eight women sitting in a circle. (only one or two of which I really knew very well). I got sort of caught up in what I was saying- maybe a little carried away with the passion of it, and threw in a word or two like "dammit" and "shitty". As the words escaped my parted lips, I sort of heard and saw myself in slow motion, as if from a distance.... but just barged on ahead, carried forward by the momentum of what I was saying.

Methinks I may have forgotten to use some church etiquette. Not for myself, but maybe out of consideration for the others who I subjected to my "common-folk" semantics. And dwelling on it, trying to decide whether I had been inappropriate or not, and what I should do about it, I began to feel a case of "suckitude" settling down on me.

That afternoon we took our kids to the pool for a swim time. Not only was I subjected to the character building exercise of wearing a bathing suit in public, I wasn't even able to indulge in a good old-fashioned game of calling myself a long list of unflattering words. (I gave it up for lent) To compound the stress, our beautiful, adolescent princess was also in one of her moods. We had to listen to her go on and on about how we should have waited for her friend to get home and come along with us so that she wouldn't have to PERISH from the unbearable boredom of hanging out with her family. (wearing her "ancient " bathing suit, on top of it all.)

After swimming everyone was just too itchy to go straight to sleep. Micah was worried about school the following day. Sam played loudly in bed with his plastic army men. The girls kept flying out of their bedrooms remembering crucial and vital bits of information that they needed to share with me immediately. I actually began to look forward to Monday. They would go off to school and I could fill my day with more simple, manageable toddler things. Read stories. Eat snacks. Make play dough snakes.

Monday morning. Children are piling into their respective clumps of outdoor gear. Micah is slumped on the floor no where near his backpack or snowpants. The slightest bit of questioning brings forth tears of tremendous drama. This guy is stressed out about school. Even the impending loss of gameboy and computer priveleges is not worth getting his butt off to the schoolhouse.

Well, I was feeling kind of sucky anyway. I may as well phone his teacher, tell her that Micah is tired of listening to her yell at kids, that he doesn't understand his math work, that he wants to quit school, and go work full-time at Chicken Chef deep-frying stuff.

That can of worms fully opened, I forget that I'd invited a friend over for coffee until she shows up to the tune of me grinding my teeth over Micah's hysterical tears.

Treatment options anyone?

Friday, February 23, 2007


"Like Ruthie Foster, I think it’s time to embrace our “phenomenalness”. Oh, I’m not saying we should all start bragging about ourselves, or taking on overly-inflated opinions of ourselves, but what’s wrong with believing that God made us beautiful and talented and phenomenal? Sure we’re all flawed – that’s a given – but we all have within us the seeds of great potential. Believing otherwise is doubting God’s design and ability to work through us."*

(*borrowed from Heather-the-phenomenal )
I was more than a little pleased to come across Heather's thoughts over at Fumbling for Words this morning. I agree that the Christian community, especially in the past, has confused humility with self-deprication and stunted women in their potential to impact the world. We have only so many hours in a day, and a limited number of days in the week. How much of that time should we spend on wishing we looked different, smelled different, had someone else's giftings? I've always loved Paul's model of the church, likened to the parts of the human body:

"... we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't."
I think this year for lent, I'm going to give up self-depracating thoughts and spoken words. Not only will I seek out beauty in others, I will recognize my own. I will make choices stemming from an honest estimation of my God-given gifts and abilities. I will begin to practise what Paul teaches in Romans 12.
"God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life- your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life- and place it before God as an offering.... You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."
Now, that's phenomenal!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Parenting: Chapter 3

Chapter Three: How to Raise Children to Become Excellent Assembly Line Workers:

Do not encourage autonomy or personal responsibility.
Keep children dependent on you as their moral compass. Enforce this by standing fully erect, with hands on hips, and using the word "punishment" a great deal. Establish yourself as the feared authority with powers well beyond what the child could ever hope for.

You will know that you are being punitive enough if your children consistently practise the following behaviors:

a) Furtively engage in a negative behavior so their caregiver doesn't notice.
b) When someone gets hurt; they immediately claim to have been out of the country at the time and there's no way that you could associate them with the incident.
c) When stealing property or candy they adamently refuse to take responsibility.
d) When allowed to eat more than concentration camp rations: they fully believe that their caregiver is being manipulated and taken advantage of. Children must never trust their own instincts or bodily signals.
e) The child accidentally falls down or bumps self: immediately they ought to cry their loudest, teariest tears and pin the blame on which ever child is within the immediate periphery.
f) One should hear children practise the words "allowed" or "not allowed" as often as possible.
g) At every possible oppurtunity, youngsters should tell on other children.
Tattle your face off.
The worse your peers look, the better you will appear.

Now, if you have a secret lifelong dream of being a drill sargaent, a prison guard, or a power-hungry mall security guard, then this parenting style is perfect for you. For the first ten years or so of parenting, you will be very, very busy growing extra eyes at the back of your head, handing out punishments, and reinforcing your child's belief that its a dog-eat-dog world out there. The home is no place for your child to feel safe or to tell the truth, but more of a training ground for the tough world out there where its strictly "survival of the fittest".

When they enter the teen years, you will have to try and figure out a way to stand taller, look tougher, and yell louder. Never give children the impression that they can be trusted.

Always assume that they are here to make you look bad.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Doing Business in Dirty Sweats

A few days ago, Brian and I made our way to a tall office building in the big city. Time to face facts: we were in need of some good counsel. We'd had challenges in the past, but this was a whole new row to hoe.

Back in the day when Brian was in university full-time and managing The Keg in his spare time to support me and the babies, we had our share of challenges. I used to moarn in those days that all I really wanted was enough money to have a nice clothesline, and a block of cheddar cheese in the fridge. Cheese was a real indulgence in those days.

Fast forward 10-odd years and picture us with a house full of kids, the fridge bursting with cheddar and boursin, a collection of debts to repay, and both adults gainfully employed. It seems we had survived to the point of having some choices and needing to ask some hard questions. Would we be able to retire before the age of eighty? Had we painted ourselves irrevocably into any corners?

Our chosen advisor began by asking us a few questions about our jobs. He seemed well pleased with all of Brian's answers, including that he had a retirement fund, some benefits, and that he was in the field that he really enjoyed. Then he turned to me.

The gist of his summation was that I was too nice. I needed to become more calculating. Kind, but calculating. "You need to think like a business woman"; were his words, I believe. He was eloquent, but his basic message was: "If you're going to work that hard, you really should be making some half decent money".

I don't like to be told. I don't like being the focus of attention, unless it was MY idea first. I don't either like to be set up for failure. "Aim low, and you can't miss" is more agreeable to me. Still, I had to think through what the man had said. Words like: "You don't have to be the cheapest daycare in town, you have to be the best", and "target your customers- they'll choose you because of your reputation, and they will respect you for it".

I missed my ten oclock bedtime that night, all that stimulation and virtual hand-slapping made me feel a little tensed up. I liked the idea of not working six days a week, and actually catching up, possibly going on a family holiday before Arianna turned thirty-seven but, the whole business thing made my skin crawl. I'm a hearts and mush type, not a rows and columns gal.

Sleeping on it seemed sensible. I dreamed that I was trying to locate a phone so that I could call work to apologize that there was no way I could make it on time. I went from phone to phone, but not one had numbers on it. I just couldn't dial the number.

I awoke to the sound of a truck idleing in my driveway. I flew out from under the covers, hair wild and flannels flapping as I raced down to open the door to child and father, cell phone in hand.

Maybe polishing up my image would be simpler than I'd imagined. Like the tired motels along the trans-Canada whose weathered signs read: "Air conditioning! Colour tvs!" I could work on a poster to hang in the local grocery store:

Tired Woman
Home Anyway
Sometimes Dressed
Always Apologetic

Colour TV!!!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dealing With Dying

There is a direct correlation between the open ended, uncontrollable event of death and the manifestation of self-destructive thoughts and/or behaviors. The frustratration of grappling with death is complicated by finding one's mind gravitating to old thought patterns that are unrelated, unhelpful and terribly distracting.

Death has been kind to me, as I've been relatively unscathed. My parents were not young when they had me, and even as a child, I played mind games to prepare myself for their inevitable deaths. The one thing I tried to prepare for has so far been unnecessary. They live on, active in their eighties.

My mental calesthenics did nothing for me when four-year-old Faye died from a massive cancerous tumour. Her body grew increasingly smaller, as the visible blue and black growth grew ever larger. I was sixteen, and her naive and ill-prepared baby-sitter.

Most recently was the sudden death of my brother Ken. The news of terminal cancer reached us on the last day of the school year. Two weeks into the following term, we attended his memorial service.

There were other funerals between the parentheses of Faye and Ken. Mostly elderly aunties and uncles, my grandmother who lived happily until the age of niney-five, and some friends' mothers or fathers. My part in those deaths was mostly thinking of the people who were close to the deceased. It didn't seem to have a direct impact on my day to day living.

There were also the less measurable deaths of friendships. Some were dark and ugly. Like my best friend deciding to give her virginity to my very recently EX boyfriend. That was a death to me. Our shared group of friends died along with her and him. They were frightened of my pain, and hid away. It seems that to them, it was me who had passed away. I limped away, alone, and my disloyal brain simultaneously turned on me, engaging full time in detrimental patterns of thought and belief.

Mental illness maimed another friendship. My legs felt amputated at the knee. My lungs lost half their capacity. My heart constricted and expanded wildly. My entire body was filled top to bottom with fear and nervous energy. I was propelled into completely foreign territory without so much as a moments notice.

So why dwell on the sadness of the past?
What good can come of it?
What can we learn from the patterns observed?

It appears that the blobby grey mass that lies beneath my tresses requires some reprogramming. It is wired to a default switch that is tripped when the uncontrollable agony of death is forced upon it. It instantly suits up in lycra and hits the track, hard. At some psychological level, it has been indoctrinated to believe that if it cannot control the uncontrollable, then it must generate a substitute. Even if the substitute is one hundred percent unrelated to the actual brain pain. The brain is under strict order to spend at least eighty percent of its output on grappling with the chosen substitute.

The outcome? So much energy is diverted from questions that cannot be answered, that it would appear on paper that the original issue has been resolved. Except, that I don't think its working. I think that the substitute begins to grow its own tumours. The substitute appears to be larger than life. It seems that if the substitute could just be evicted, the brain would have complete peace, complete clarity.

But the brain doesn't really want to evict the substitute, because laying dormant underneath it is the original, agonizing, unresolvable horrer of death and betrayal.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Why I Insist On Working Weekends

Any sane person would advise that after spending eleven hours a day, five days a week, running a home daycare it would be sensible to take weekends off. I often say that to myself as well, especially when I look at the calendar and really wish that I had forty-eight hours or so to do what sensible people do. Like.... maybe watch tv or have a shower or get a haircut or get to that list of stuff that's undone or get the bedrooms vacuumed or make twenty thousand meatballs or defrost the freezer or join the gym.


Who would want to take weekends off?

Take today for example. I slept in until a shameful 7:20. I got up, made coffee, soaked the dishes that some ungrateful vagrants left lying around the night before, threw in a load of laundry, then took a fistful of hard earned cash and spent two hours spending it on cheerios and ground beef. That brought me to 2:20. Seven hours into my ten hours off. Better squeeze in some "me" time. I vacuumed the slimey excuses for bedrooms, scooped two hundred teeny-tiny lego pieces into some plastic drawers, threw out a creature made out of cracked egg shells, unearthed some petrified socks, and spent some time on google researching some women's group ideas. Time to go to work.

"Work" consists of one adult individual who requires my company and assistance in her home. There's a lovely warm fireplace, a fridge full of food that I did not prepare, a phone that rarely rings, and no toys. Not even one.

After enjoying a dinner that I did not prepare, loading a deliciously few dishes in the dishwasher, and helping with bedtime routines, I check the clock and tally the hours left on shift. Three hours to go. All the tasks have been completed. Looks like I'll have to watch some television. "The Notebook" is on, and I settle in with a hot cup of tea and a box of kleenex. The commercials provide that coveted time I've been craving for my mind to wander. The movie provides that catharsis I didn't know I wanted to cleanse my body of some toxins via my tear ducts. The fireplace and fleece throw make me cozy and warm. Its quiet. Every conversation in the movie is heard by me, uninterrupted. No one asks for a snack. No one wants company in the bathroom. Even the phone rests respectfully in its cradle.

And in two weeks..... someone is going to insist on sending me a cheque for all my unselfishness.

And, that's why I insist on working weekends.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Intervention

Our unauthorized study in cryogenics has confirmed my suspicions that we are:

a) difficult to kill
b) prone to severe side-effects such as couch-potato-itis.
c) this is further confirmed and compounded by our rear ends actually flattening from parking on them well beyond the two hour limit.

I began to feel panicky and almost criminal when my offspring began to speak exclusively in memorized commercials, and experiment in some cross-gender fashion options.

Time to get radical about our addiction to screen stimulants. I put us all on a restricted diet, effective immediately. The children showed some severe withdrawal symptoms. They had to relearn how to make eye contact with real people, redevelop muscle mass to raise their sorry butts off the couch and learn to walk again, and worst of all: learn to entertain themselves!

Naturally, there was a painful transitional time for all six of us as we raised our eyes from our various flat screens, and we forced instead to interact with each other. The first week was downright frightening. I suspected that my husband had actually quietly hated me for a decade or more, that our offspring's formative years were way past us and we'd lost that window of oppurtunity to have any positive influence on them whatsoever. They spoke mostly in grunts and squeals, punctuated with prepubescent tears and accusations. We'd forgotten about the baby in the family, thinking that he was about 18 months old and tolerating the tantrums. But when the screens went off, we realized much to our surprise that he had turned four, spent his time in a pink tutu with spaghetti straps, and hadn't had a decent haircut in years.

Once we elbow-greased our way through those first memorable days, some new dynamics came into play. The girls who by all accounts hated each other began to spend time together, with no blood. One could actually hear the sounds of giggling and imaginative games instead of the customary selfish and territorial rhetoric. Micah resurrected his Calvin and Hobbes book and polished up his reading skills. He learned to make eye contact with humans, noticed his long forgotten brother, and taught him some wrestling and pillow fighting skills.

Sam cut down his pink tutu wearing by opting to stay in his spiderman pajamas at least 50% of the time. He also opted for hotwheels slippers instead of lipstick-red stillettos after recognizing the difficulty in shooting hoops balancing on those beauties.

Once Brian and I got over the initial shock of managing six people in withdrawal, we began to (wait for it...) have conversations! Brian had time to fix the wiring in the dining room which had rendered half the outlets to be purely aesthetic. I found time to sew Sam's duvet cover, and put away most of the Christmas decorations. While in the giant-walk-in-closet that doubles as a basement, I came across a carefully preserved box. It contained every card, love note, and enclosure that Brian and I had exchanged throughout our dating life and early years of marriage.

It turns out that I had great taste in men at the tender age of 22. Turns out he was a sweet mushball who wrote me poems and drew me pictures and complimented me well beyond the Dr Phil recommended dosage. Turns out that not watching tv made me remember what silly fun we had together, why we didn't want to live without each other, and why we still don't. And I don't think I would have remembered that nearly as well with my flattened rear end parked in front of "W5" or "What Not to Wear".

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Headless Chicken Dance

Lost my head some time ago, but I'm still pecking away for grain. Turns out I don't really need my tiny little head to keep doing what it is that I do...

Mondays have been blurring into thursdays at breakneck speed, burying me under oatmeal and tax papers, toast crumbs and valentines. I crave the time to let my mind wander, to change up some things around the house, or just to get to the bank. My drivers liscence payment is due, and I need a picture but few and far between are the days when I manage to both shower and get dressed well enough that my pants are on the bottom and the top is on the top ( a sign of brilliance, I've been told).

The winter has been unforgivingly cruel. We don't dream of going for a toddler walk, as I'd likely freeze one or two of them solid within a half block. The ice rink behind our house has been deathly silent for weeks, not counting the town truck that faithfully dumps more water on it every few days. How that truck doesn't spit out ice cubes is beyond me.

Its not that there is a lack of stuff to do. Its just all quite repetitive and dull. Out of sheer desparate boredom, I've been going through mysterious dusty boxes in the basement that we moved here from our old house a few years ago. A fair bit is landing up at thrift shop, and an equal amount goes straight to the landfill. Shame on me, but its just that I feel like I am being buried alive. If the boredom and the cold doesn't kill me, all this stuff will surely suffocate me.

"So, what is it that you want time and space to ruminate on ?", you ask?

Well, our church is on the small group band wagon. (I've stuff to say there that would fill another post, but I'm too lethargic to go there right now. I've been breathing the same, stale, indoor air for three weeks now, and I just really can't trust myself to speak of anything but drivvle right now.)

(Not that this is drivvle. Is "Drivvle" a word?)

As I was saying: a few weeks ago a booklet was passed out at church outlining all the groups that the church endorsed. I found myself flipping through it repeatedly, coming to the end, and realizing that I was looking for something specific and was not finding it. After a few days of this (READ: small head) I concluded that I was looking for an oppurtunity to explore self-image in light of our position as women of God. I don't want a bitch and groan session. I want to learn stuff. I want it to be practical, revolutionary, life-changing.

I want to be able to go through dusty old boxes that live in my head and clear out all the clutter for good. I want to breathe some fresh air.

Peck, peck, peck.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Parade of Homes

Brian's entire family seems to have been born with blueprints in hand and the genetic inheritence of skills for construction sites. Physically, they all look suspiciously like the mailman, Schwann's man, the meter man, the travelling salesman.... but all my questions were put to rest when I observed their commonality with drafting proposals and the sheer joy that fills the room at the meer mention of additions, garages, or house plans.

On Sunday, the women of the group found ourselves on a parade of homes, of sorts. Two brothers had recently constructed a house for resale and we decided to go and give our assessments. This morphed into a scavenger hunt/show-and-tell as I was challenged by my malicious sisters-in-law to find each of their houses in succession. We then admired newly painted walls, new flooring, some nifty appliances, kitchen designs, crown moulding, gorgeous couch sets, decorating ideas, and a shocking lack of clutter.

"We won't be including MY home on this tour!", I said, picturing my ratty couches held up by tuna cans, the cheap malanene cabinetry, the laminate flooring minus baseboards, the duplo on the china cabinet, the primed bannister, the paint splodges where I tested colours about a million years ago, then got distracted, the closet door that keeps falling off, the nail holes we never filled......... not to mention the spider webs (and summer was a long, long time ago...), the mis-matched kitchen chairs, the complete absence of curtains and blinds, and the clutter, CLUTTER, clutter!

Now, I'm not really embarrassed by my home. Its our home-- its where we are a family, where we have hilarious dinner parties, where kids come to paint, where we fight, where we love one another. That doesn't make it better or worse than anyone else's home, but it does make it special.

This got me thinking about all the homes that I have warm memories of. There was my best friend's farm house when we were little girls. It was old and quirky. The bathroom was in the middle of the house, just off the kitchen. There was a hand-written note on the wall suggesting that employing the fan was always a good idea. The only bathtub was in the half finished basement. That always made the idea of sleepovers a little threatening... to think of going down to the furnace room for a nice relaxing bath...

That house is one of the happiest places I ever was in. We rummaged through clutter for cake mixes and old pizza mixes and learned to "cook". We had Fantasy Island parties on Saturday nights in their kitchen. We had zillions of sleepovers. We played hide-and-seek. We tricked her mom into thinking we were cleaning up after ourselves by running the vacuum cleaner while we read comics on her brother's bed.

As an adult, some of my favourite memories are spending time with my collector friends. One of them lives in a giant castle of an ancient house, filled top to bottom with interesting repurposed furniture and ecclectic tidbits. My other friend lives in an old stone farmhouse that "wrote the book" on country living- complete with laying hens, a goat, and a grove of trees for the kids to make forts in.

In total contrast, I have friends who live in show homes. White leather. Real art. Pristine design. The most amazing fridges. I mean, I could be happy just living in her fridge!

I have friends who live in house trailers that drop worms from the ceiling every spring. I have a friend with three couches in her back yard, and just one chair to sit on in her living room.

It's not the physical structure of any abode that draws me back for another look. It's apparant that wealth of character comes in many packages, floor plans and colour schemes. The commonality of warmth in trendy or trashy is what has real people coming back for more. That diversity of taste and preference displayed in friends' dwelling places is simply an extention of what we celebrate about their personal qualities.

So, thanks for letting me in, everyone.
More than that, thanks for letting me into your realities, and sharing a bit of how you see it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Word Against Augmentation

Friday night: Immersion therapy at the pool. "Family Swim Night" is how the clergy cleverly disguised it. More like: "a gaggle of church folk meet at the local swim hole for the great reveal".

Being a blossoming author of a best-selling book on child-rearing, and an exceptional mother, I gathered my rolls about me and donned my most reverent swim suit. My wandering, covetous eye roamed furtively about, stealing glances at the other moms shimmying into lycra tops and bottoms, some clearly less preoccupied at the notion of mixing church and scanty. Strings and blings, proper and plucky- we all waded into the same baptismal.

There's no time like the 80% naked to engage in some proactive self talk. My undisciplined, irreverent eye had already sleuthed the perky from the droopy, and it was time for an intervention. I'd been given the straight up facts from my nurse friend who informed me that there's nothing enviable about an 80 year old sag bag in intensive care when all that defies gravity is her rock hard-earned silicone.

"I love to roll up my breast tissue and tuck it into my Wal-mart swimsuit", I told myself compellingly. "I don't need firm breasts, firm thighs, and firm buttocks."
I reached way back into my mental archives and recalled a truth that had been revealed to me some years back on Saturday Night Live. I breathed in deeply. I whispered tenaciously to myself: "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough, and gosh-darn-it, People Like Me!"

By the following morning, when I read about Anna Nicole Smith's unromantic death, my quavering convictions gained new ground.
Now, Anna Nicole and I have stuff in common. We are 39.
Okay, so I've never danced around a pole. I've never caused mass male stampeding. I've never even married an 89 year old oil tycoon. But still. What was the defining phenomenon that separated Vicki from me? That large-scale breast augmetation.

"Those double D's killed her", I thought to myself.

Maybe I'd underestimated the genius behind the church recreation planning team.
Maybe those faithful few were really onto something with their aggressive immersion therapy techniques.

Too bad for Anna Nicole.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Well, I'm Glad its Not my Personality!

"The term PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome, a familiar acronym used to describe a cyclical challenge with a confusing array of physical, emotional or behavioral responses experienced by an amazingly large number of women every month in the days and even weeks before their menstrual periods begin."

By simply googling "pms" I've been sanctioned to eat petrified tootsie rolls by the fistful for up to three quarters of my child-bearing years. The condition also explains my exhaustion, the inability to adequately rest at night, and the sensation that fourteen alley cats are having a scratching tournament in my uterus. It explains why I drench my unlaundered track suit with inconsolable tears; convinced of the bleakness of my wretched existence.
Google also enlightened me to the possibilities of other minor inconveniences that I could assosiate with the privelege of being a womb-wonder.

breast swelling and tenderness
upset stomach, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.
headache or backache
appetite changes or food cravings ..........

Whoah! You mean the tootsie rolls, dry tortillas wrapped around peanut butter, ritz dipped in cheese whiz, the chocolate pudding-- (cooked, not instant, and eaten just after the top forms a little crust and the bottom is still hot), the half hotdog with mustard, the desparate hunt for ice-cream, the after-eight-chocolate powder dumped into the coffee......... This can all be blamed on a syndrome?! Let the list roll ON!
joint or muscle pain
trouble concentrating or remembering ..........

I thought I was wickedly out of shape!
I thought I was mentally challenged!
....tension, irritability, mood swings, or crying spells
anxiety or depression


We have a winner!


I'd been under the demoralizing, depressing, despondant impression that this was my character. I can't tell you how relieved I am that I am simply a victem.

I have been victemized by a syndrome. Syndromized, if you will.
Now excuse me while I go cry at someone to rub my back and to fix me something nice to eat.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Borrowed Thoughts

Today is brought to you by the Queen, and the migraine philosopher.

The Queen:
"Love is something more stern and
splendid than mere kindness."
CS Lewis-The Problem of Pain

(I like the mystery in that).

".... It Cannot all be figured out, and it's truly annoying to have to listen to people who think they have. Wasn't it St. Augustine who said something loosely translated as "If you can figure it out, it isn't God"?

"....I know beyond any reasonable doubt that NOTHING is as it appears, I'm cynical, yet trusting in a guarded sort of way.

"I hear the TV evangelist variety telling how bad they were, and then Christ entered their life, and they became good. It didn't happen like that for me. Christ came into my life and showed me how much worse things were than even I thought possible. He never told me, 'There, I've fixed you up good, now you go point out to everyone else what is wrong with them'. He seemed to say to me something entirely different. Something more like - come to the party where everyone is an honest mess, but together I'll teach you where to find the joy."

What Judy says here resonates with sensible grace, doesn't it?
The more I want to be that person who so looks like Christ that people will want more of him, the more frightened I become that I must be causing mass, trampling crowds to run screaming away. The truth is, I'm shattered like any other honest human I've ever met. I don't expect to become a show piece. Ever.

But maybe grace is more about partying amidst the honesty of the mess of life. One can not wait for that elusive time when all the questions and failures have been resolved before offering grace to others.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


MSN Encarta Dictionary defines grace as :
generosity of spirit: a capacity to tolerate, accommodate, or forgive people.

Fantastic concept! And really easy to practise.
With small, furry pets. With the bagger at Safeway. Even with that moron who cuts you off in traffic. But people who are closely, intimately tied to oneself? With people whose daily small and large choices directly impact the life outcomes of those he/she lives and breathes with?
What does grace look like then? What does it mean when grace for others challenges and threatens one's own life concept or strongly held belief systems and convictions?

Maybe its an easier concept for people with flexible ideals. Or maybe for people who have very clear boundaries for themselves and others, and have something akin to a large mental walk-in closet. Here they are able to suitably store disappointments and fears without the door constantly flying open, allowing those fearful and ungracious little ogres to come crawling back to the foreground of thought and behavior.

This must be very closely connected with faith. With a loving God who enables waning-grace- wanna-be's with some great abilities to succeed at tolerating, accomodating, and forgiving. But even when it is a God thing, its gotta feel LOUSEY. Its got to feel like a lack of empowerment-- letting people get away with stuff that impacts others. Should they be allowed to do that?

Or is that the point? We can not control anyone, but we can trust that God's got our back? That good will ultimately win over evil? That the truth will always win? That faith is believing in things not seen? In things hoped for?

And what's to be done with the rage and sadness that the human body produces as routinely as excrement and perspiration? Is there an emotional shower or even a convincing body spray to mask the odours of fear and longing?

Is there a place for brute honesty while genuinely offering grace?
Or is it just really not about me.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Looked Real To Me...

Its difficult to live in the world where faith in the unseen has to be enough, even when the seen is so tangible.

It has been published, interviewed, and confirmed by more than one reliable source that we bloggers are not real. This made for an interesting dimension on the weekend when my loved one and I set out in really cold weather to enjoy some refreshments with Reymond et al, Donn and goodladywife, and Within/without. Call me crazy, but I swear the cat was no optical illusion. It was furreal.

The fish was no mirage.
But the humans- that's where things got tricky.
Donn was a lot taller than I'd remembered from our other memorable times together.
Rey was real the first time we'd met him, but since then he has crossed the great divide and become a blogger. That made it confusing for me.
WW seemed real. He was very tolerant of Donn tormenting him mercilessly about writing a "women's issue" blog. To me it was a thinly veiled, intentional segue for Donn's obsession with double "D" implants. (which clearly, are not real).
Brian has got to be real, blogger or not. Either that or some shrewd small-town prowler keeps dumping raunchy work-out gear into my laundry hamper when I'm not looking.
The dips were REALly good. Which I know for sure from the punishing, garlicky heartburn that I bore with great pleasure all night long.
So, like I said, its hard to rely on one's will to believe when my line of vision is flooded with bona fide people.
Then again, maybe only figments of an overactive imagination would venture out after dark into temperatures of MINUS FORTY BELOW!!!!!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Well! That's a Relief!

Borrowed from Heather at Fumbling For Words: "In the paper this morning, there was an article about this book on the blogosphere. Apparently the author thinks that we (bloggers) are "isolated and lonely, living in a virtual reality instead of forming real relationships or helping to change the world." It gets even better. Blogging is "melancholic and illusionary" and the community of support we find is "not real".

Well, that's a relief.
I'm glad I'm not really exhausted and feeling sorry for myself right now. And I'm glad I'm not really going to bore any real people or jeopardize any real supportive relationships. Wow. That takes a lot of pressure off. Now I'm free to be completely narcissistic and dull.

This is timely since I don't feel like I've got the right to whine about being exhausted or over-extended to my flesh and blood friends who know that I've done this all to myself. So now I can take advantage of my imaginary group of melancholic and illusionary readers and whinge away without a single pang of guilt. You're not real anyway.

After an eleven hour day of bum wiping, story reading, snack making, lunch making, snack making, puzzling, picking up toys, vacuuming, taking the baby off the table, giving him a snack, scrubbing the pee off the sides of the toilet, paying some bills, taking the baby off the back of the couch, answering the phone, distracting a toddler who wants her mommy, taking out some meat for supper, taking out the recycling, making some dental appointments, and not beating anyone, there's no way to unwind like cooking dinner, doing the dishes, folding the laundry, answering the phone, wiping the counters, changing the sheets, emptying the dishwasher, checking backpacks for homework, signing agendas, making a snack, cleaning up the snack, answering questions, encouraging children to clean up their sty-excuses-for-bedrooms, trying to monitor how much time they spend on screens, screens, screens, giving them baths, setting the shower to the perfect temperature, scrubbing the bath, mopping the bathroom floor, treating skin conditions, reading stories, brushing teeth, changing Sam to jammies and tucking kids into bed, then tucking them back into bed, then saying good night one more time.

It's nice to know that my reality is actually "virtual". And I'm relieved to hear that no one expects someone as isolated and melancholy as myself to do anything to change the world. That really clears things up for me.

Besides, instead of wasting all my free time on changing the world, I was thinking of joining the gym to improve my health so I can live my imaginary life for a longer, healthier period of time. Not that I'll have any real people to live it with.

Chapter Two: Affirmation

*reader discretion is advised*

Children in this generation badly need to develop a healthy and realistic self concept to prepare them for the rigors of the outside world.
What can a parent do to help?

Watch what you say. NEVER say, "You can be anything you want to be".

Be a positive role model. When singing in the shower, always preface by saying; "I'm no Katherine McPhee". When laying on the couch watching tv and eating chips, remind children that you are way too concerned for their health to allow them to eat food like that.

Identify and redirect your child's inaccurate beliefs. If you catch your child singing along to a kidsong video or cd with an inflated sense of confidence, be sure to remind them that they are NOT Katherine McPhee either.

Be creative with your child. Leave a note in your child's lunch box that reads, "I believe in you kid, but you bring home anything lower than a "B" and you're gonna wish you'd been given up for adoption. Actually, you were given up for adoption. I always meant to tell you that".

Create a just home environment: A child who is exposed to parents who fight and argue repeatedly may become depressed and withdrawn. Remember to take the time to fight and argue with your children as well.

If you follow these simple guidelines, the chances of your child embarrassing himself or herself on "American Idol" will be significantly reduced. Many of those tragically humiliating experiences could have been avoided if parents had not filled their child's heads with lies such as: "You can be/do anything." or, "You are the (smartest, prettiest, most talented, etc) child in all the world."

Ten minutes of watching American Idol should have have any skeptic running back for more of my sensible, easy to apply parenting advice.