Tuesday, September 30, 2008

(Way Time to Bring that Laundry In.....)

It's Karla's fault anyway. How'd I land up with these book-learnin' folk anyway? She keeps shoving these books at me and they begin to consume me. Gobble up my hours and hours of free time. Well, and Carol. She's the one who loaned me "Water For Elephants". Took over my life, it did. Amazing piece of writing- it totally sucks the reader in, and one is found utterly spent. Helpless. Victem to its allure.

Then Karla's "The Glass Castle". Holy criminy. Started reading that book, and found myself thinking (about 30 pages in); What the heck is this author trying to pull off? Spin a yarn that is entertaining in a bizarre, but unbelievable way?" That's when I went back to the beginning of that darned book to re-read the intro and the comments.

A Memoir!

Memoir. Real. True.
Actually happened to the actual author.
Makes one think about the resiliency of the human character, and re-think the stereotypes we hold about what makes some people turn out the way they do; and others turn out, well, differently.

I also tried really hard to read "The Shack". Really wanted to love it because people who I love and respect love it and I want to be more like them.

Guess that's too lofty a goal.
Just couldn't quite get into the "conversation" that books seem to hold. You know how some books totally suck you into their "conversation" and you are irresistably drawn back to it with every spare ten seconds that you can squeeze out of your day? I really wanted to feel that way about "The Shack".

Instead, I got that in "Water for Elephants" and "The Glass Castle".
So not about the trinity at all.
hmmmmm. Definitely about human nature though, which God thought of as well.
That's got to count for something, right?

Go read.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

There Are Not Enough Hours In My Day For Me To MAKE This Stuff Up

Any astute blog readers will have deduced from the previous blog post that our household runs at a standard enviable to the average pedestrian earth-resource-pillaging North American citizen. We are lovers of our earth, and as such, sneer at the very notion of wasting precious energy on an electrically powered drying machine to get our tighty whities to pounding-with-a-rock brilliant whiteness and dryness. We denouce all products that make our over and under garments static free and smelling like ocean breeze with a hint of vanilla bean.

Of course, such a commitment requires diligence, and that almighty word: dedication.
Sometimes, the laundry that spins on Monday, hangs on Wednesday, folds on Friday, and hopes to see the temperature controlled interior by Sunday. Just in time to recognize that one is five days behind laundry once again.

Most often, the laundry gets hung while children are building sand castles, jumping on the tramp, and generally causing backyard mayhem and bliss. Aiming to squeeze the last ounce of potential out of each precious moment of each day; laundry is generally hung, dried, and folded on the backyard deck turned temporary laundry room. And that never means that the stacks of clean stuff will actually make it into the house and into their respective rooms- much less drawers or closets.

And that's where the dog comes in. Really.
Lately she has been particularly annoying, clingy, irritable, and pissy. By pissy, I mean that on a walk around the neighbourhood she insists on urinating on every third blade of grass, every stop sign, hydro pole, leg of man, and truck tire. Aggravating when one is pushing a double stroller, holding a leash, and watching out for three kids on bicycles.

Which brings me to the drops of spaghetti sauce and ketchup on my kitchen, dining room, and living room floors. Which aren't.

Being a bear of very little brain, it took my friend to point out that the sweet little innocent doggie that was a puppy five minutes ago.... is in heat. It's not my fault. On the farm we had dogs, but we ignored them whenever we wanted to and never bothered to notice when they bled all over the bleedin' place. If they were lucky enough to survive the Russian Roullette of living on the highway. How was I to know that the entire friggin' animal kingdom has a menstrual cycle and only us few lucky ones get infomercials about tampax?!

Well, one must pride oneself on being teachable; at the very least. Girded with my new knowledge, I resolved to become more vigilent with the dog. She's a good dog, and can be trusted to go out in the yard without running away and causing her loved ones undue stress, so we've been priveleged to be fairly lax on her captivity. Knowing how the inside of my grey matter resembles swiss cheese on many many levels, and how easily it can become distracted by pretty colours, or smells, or a blue bike, a concerted effort was launched to steep my brain in this newfound responsibility.

I began by telling everyone I knew.
Logic suggested that by hearing a voice stressing the importance of containing the dog so as to spare her the loss of her innocence, my brain would respond by accepting this as an important truth that required follow up. Regardless of the fact that the voice would indeed be my own. My grey matter would never know that, so the approach seemed fail proof.

First victem was easy to target- a daycare mommy come to pick up her cherub. What else would she want to hear than tales about how the little doggie was bleeding on the floor and how exciting that our wee little one had approached that magical and mystical time of age. Yes, she had come of age, and one could never be too careful. Shotguns would never do for my little virgin. She would be cloistered inside her Red Tent and we would be more than priveleged to celebrate with her through this wonderful and strange new territory.

I waxed poetic about doggie periods as daycare mommy and I made our way onto the deck to dim some of the preschooler noise, and allow this committed pet owner to continue her eloquent expose in the wide expance of the great outdoors.

That's when it happened.

Like a mirage; nay, an appirition.
A white poodle, bounding out of the mists; through the field behind our house, up through the backyard and straight up onto the deck. A boy doggie, come to find our sweet virginous pet. Finding no suitable mate (since the grey matter had responded appropriately, and left young suitor inside, safe and sound); the white poodle decided to leave his urinous calling card instead.

On the laundry.
The laundry that had already made it through the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of her life cycle.
I'm guessing that scent of ocean breeze and hint of vanilla bean is now definitely, entirely out of the question.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

About the Whole Grocery Thing

Here's how it all goes down.
The white buns and nutella are gone. There's no frozen pizza or handy noodles'n'sauce packets in the cupboards. All that's left is this disgustingly nutritious stuff like meals, whole wheat and flax rivita crackers, cheese in an actual block, (as opposed to nifty strings in packaging that you can peel and twist into monsters and cool guys on skateboards), bread with seeds in it, cous cous and brown rice, and some forgotten mini wheats and shredded wheat at the rear of the cereal cupboard.

This means its time to back the gas-guzzler out of the driveway and drive a long way to save $0.50 on granola bars and hope for day-old rye bread in the discount section. Within an hour or two, the cart is heavier than Fat Albert, overflowing with all those boxes and packets and jars and jugs. Time to wheel over to that handy dandy motorized belt and take every last one of those things out of your cart for a pleasant little ride up to the money counter machine. As the boxes and cello packs are clamouring at one end for their ride at the fair, all the other stuff is already piling up at the other end, chips and eggs turning into salt and vinegar souffle as you scramble to unload the rest of the rubbish.

Cashier woman pauses wearily, and you wonder if everyone else in her day has the supernatural ability to unload a 464 lb cart at one end in time to reload it at the other. I offer a weak smile and ask her if she noticed the crumpled coupon amongst the foodstuffs?

Time to sprint over to the end of the conveyer belt and try to get all that ridiculous stuff back into the shopping cart. Surely this batch of granola bars and cheesestrings will last beyond Friday noon?! Cashier lady keeps beeping stuff across her scanner and I begin flinging onion soup packets and red peppers into my environmentally friendly re-usable bags. So E-friendly. I've just purchased enough packaging for a less priveleged person to build a five bedroom home out of.

Right around the time that the cashier merrily chimes out; "That'll be 5,604,987,354.00!"; I start to feel overwhelmingly weary and consider just leaving all those transfats and refined sugars right there at the cart and walking home. But then I'll have to face the children. And the dog. And the cat.

Not worth it.
Wheeling the wide-load out to the caravan, I am glad again for the oppurtunity for my longsuffering to blossom. The *^%$ hatchback door doesn't work, even though we've spend all of our children's imaginary post-secondary education fund on parts and labour, and new and used hatchback parts. I'm a huge fan of suffering, so I cheerfully tuck five four litre jugs of milk in between bucket seats, along the back bench seat, and all over all sections of the grassy and gravelly and snacky floor. .......not to mention the juice, the buns, the strawberries and the chocolate chips. I'm completely sure the bread won't get misshapen in any of this.

Still so much to look forward to. The sun has long since set, and there's still the drive home on the scenic, deer-infested highway. I'll enter my tidy kingdom, arms stretched down around my ankles from the fifteen bags straddling my forearms. How lovely that the children were allowed to stay up to welcome me home and offer constructive advice on what I should really buy next time I go grocery shopping.

I'm tired and the fridge is already full of rotting stuff that no one wanted to eat last week.
I open the door, begin flinging, and then take a running speed at the fridge door; willing it to remain closed until morning when I hope to get an infusion of enthusiasm. I feel a stab of guilt at all the people who'd be so grateful for those squash, garlic bulbs, and wrinkled purplish carrot nubs.

I shove some boxes of school snack rubbish up into the cupboards and grumble inwardly for the millionth time that my children don't like muffins or loaf or dried out oatmeal cookies from last January.

I remind Brian that tomorrow is garbage and recycling day, and could he please remember to haul last weeks packaging out in the clear bags for recycling, and the dark bags of rotting leftovers to the curb to peacefuly decompose in a landfill, all encased in plastic.

We need the room.
I've just been to the grocery store.

*Please Note* I'm much too fragile to deal with your criticisms about how your children eat home made unsweeted yoghurt made from the milk of your backyard goat. I know all about homemade granola bars that my peope tell me tastes like dry cardboard with wax on top. I've already heard about children who eat anything they are lovingly offered with a grateful smile, a bow, and a curtsy. I know about links to the uber organised house fraus with their frugal self-righteousness and their Ancient Language reading homeschooled cherubs. I know about the hundred mile diet; the people who give away their cars; and the other people who make climbing structures for inner city kids out of recycled Safeway bags.
See how fragile I am?

Besides, you'd never believe what I found on the internet. Makes me look like a total tree hugging, organic gardening, denim jumper wearing super-mama. Just check out This . I'm sorry, but that is easily the grossest thing ever.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On The South Side of Town; Its Still Sunday

Do your children torture you in the van by changing the radio station to their teeney bopper pop crap-o-rama as they do me? I tolerate it because its not a battle worthy of fighting, and because I like knowing what the kids are interested in listening to. How else can I be a moderately cool and informed mother?! Since I wrote that post a day or so ago, a song from the girls' radio nonsense has been parading relentlessly through my brain. I'm not nearly cool enough to know who the artist is, but its one of those pathetic love/broken heart whiney songs.

"You cut right into me and I keep bleeding; I keep, keep bleeding love.".
Weird lyric, I thought.

But yesterday I decided to take a bit of an inventory on why I felt quiet and sad-ish.
*my own hugely personal loss that I feel too vulnerable to say aloud.
*disclosure of suicidal thoughts by someone I dearly love.
*smallest family member off to school, now two weeks into seizure medication.
*brutal, unrelenting migraines stalking a friend.
*a friend's miscarried baby.
*the devastation of a 30+ year marriage.
*the devastation of addiction and its effects on entire families and social groups.
*two year anniversary of my brother Ken's death from cancer, and all the other deaths that have followed in its wake.
*the stuff I read online about Iraq, Afghanistan, and refugee camps in Chad and Darfur.

What I don't want from this post is a bunch of obligatory sympathy. We all have harsh garbage. All of us. And it cuts.

What I wish is that we would all consistently "bleed love"as we die from a thousand tiny cuts. I suspect it is love that makes these things hurt, because without love they would just be statistics, or unfortunate events that happen "to other people". I wish I would bleed love; much as I love the concept and love to talk about it, I would like to post a disclaimer that I am utterly incapable of living up to my own ideal. Often deep in thought or churning things over in my own brain, people and their sadnesses pass me by as I obsess about my own and try to get my thoughts in some sort of order, or find some sort of mental equilibrium.

The irony of believing in love as the ultimate salve is the (self-righteous) anger that arises when people react in less than loving ways to crisis or pain or to things they simply don't have tidy answers for. Not very loving. To want to blast people for not being loving..... Hmmmmm.

Like I said, there are ideals, and then there is reality.
Sunday morning in church just kind of opened the dam for me. Broken people speaking with unbelievable courage and authenticity. Jesus functioning in brokenness. That mother and father were bleeding love. And it clearly hurt.

There are victems in this world. Then there are victems without the victem mentality. Their blood is still flowing fresh and red from the wounds, but it does come out looking remarkably like redemptive love.

What else could it be?

Monday, September 15, 2008


There are times when I crave the catharsis that can come of writing. Times when I wish the things I need to explore would be easily understood. Times when I wish straightforward answers and direction would flow from that place. But some things realy are just too raw, and too private, especially when the circles intersect with others' lives and I can't take the liberties of broaching realities that are not mine alone.

But I'll dabble, nonetheless.
Yesterday in church we had the most amazing presentation from two people in our community who recently lost their son to suicide. They have taken something absolutely undeniably evil and are using what's left of it for good by advocating for people with mental health issues, increasing awareness, bringing down stereotypes, engaging in fundraisers, and bringing useful resourses to those who are struggling with mental health issues and may not know where to turn with any of it.

It was powerful. Honest. Courageous.
It certainly resonated, as the tears rolling down my cheeks and down into my lap would attest to. I was so proud of these people for their courage. So proud of the who's who of my church who opened up our building and our hearts to what they had to offer. It wasn't all about confessing ones' sins and claiming healing at the cross. It was more comprehensive than that. Jesus heals. He did some of that when he walked the earth, and from what I hear, He does it still. But he didn't and doesn't heal everyone who ever asks. I can't say why. But I can say that pretending that faith is enough (I mean in the sense of saying "I'm healed, even though I still feel like killing myself, but I'm sure that I'm really not thinking that because I must be healed-- shockingly DENIAL-like...) ... is just plain crazy, in my opinion. I've seen way too many people suffer with their illnesses because of their unwillingness to involve the scientific, medical community. I have myself been told to "flush the pills, since you know the truth of Jesus' healing promises". Fortunately for me, I've walked this road long enough to know what to tune out for the sake of my own health.

Imagine our world if we would all go back to the commandment that wrapped them all up-- "Love one another; bear each others' burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ"; and "Love the Lord with your heart and soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself". Maybe spend way less time figuring out who is "right" and who is "wrong" and just hear one another out?

Someone I love a great deal struggles with mental issues that I too am familiar with. I wish it were as clear cut a diagnosis and treatment as diabetes or a broken arm- even a seizure disorder. Then I could write about it without wondering whether you the reader will misunderstand or bury us in your judgements. I could write without feeling protective. I could involve my Doctor and not worry about his apparent lack of compassion, or wonder about his personal opinions on the matter. I could assume that the approach would be holistic- we would involve the Great Physician without assuming that pharmaceuticals would be a failure. I could speak of my love for the suffering with the same ease which I can assume when discussing Sam's seizure disorder, my sister's migraines, or my brother's cancer.

Yesterday at church, the Stotts spoke of a day when we could wear t-shirts that say "I Survived Suicide" much as we now wear shirts that speak of surviving cancer. I'd like to imagine a world where such honesty would be embraced; where no shame would accompany it.

But for today I won't even risk an unedited blog post. We've got a long ways to go, and a lot of misconceptions to tear down. God give me the courage to be a small part of that.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Another Evening Well Tasted

Ahhhhh, tapas night.
Check it out in all its colourful wonder, right here at The Groaning Board.
(We might have been groaning, but we were certainly not bored.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It started out like any other ordinary day. I'd awoken early and attempted progress on a week's worth of tasks before heading back up the stairs to wake the kids up in time for school. I had tucked them in a short nine hours earlier; whole, well, and full of adolescent potential.

Imagine my surprise when I went to rouse my beautiful daughter and discovered that overnight she had turned from level headed teen-ager to beast?!

But what is this I see?
As sweet as it would be to have a feline for a firstborn, I was relieved to find the original model buried under that big blanket!

Crazy cat. She owns the place.

Nap time? Same darn thing.
And she wasn't that easy to kick, kiss, or slobber out of her cozy little nest either.
Kitty daycare. Naps from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. Now there's a clever idea.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


msn encarta dictionary:
as·ser·tive [ ə súrtiv ]
1. acting confidently: confident in stating a position or claim
Modern education encourages the assertive student.
2. strong and pronounced: forcefully strong and noticeable

Wikipedia, the free Encyclopidia:
Assertiveness is a trait taught by many personal development experts and psychotherapists and the subject of many popular self-help books. It is linked to self-esteem and considered an important communication skill.

As a communication style and strategy, assertiveness is distinguished from aggression and passivity. How people deal with personal boundaries; their own and those of other people, helps to distinguish between these three concepts. Passive communicators do not defend their own personal boundaries and thus allow aggressive people to harm or otherwise unduly influence them. They are also typically not likely to risk trying to influence anyone else. Aggressive people do not respect the personal boundaries of others and thus are liable to harm others while trying to influence them. A person communicates assertively by not being afraid to speak his or her mind or trying to influence others, but doing so in a way that respects the personal boundaries of others. They are also willing to defend themselves against aggressive incursions.

How do you rank?
I was raised Mennonite. Assertiveness; easily confused with, or connected to aggression; was not encouraged. We were about passivity. We were about believing that people of influence were right, to be trusted, and not to be overtly questioned. That made things tidy and uncomplicated for our teachers, administraters, preachers, doctors, and politicians.

That was then; and this is now.

But the cloak of assertion wears clumsily on me. Guilt follows closely on its' heels as I evaluate and re-evaluate on whether it was indeed assertion, or its dreaded cousin; aggression. The desire to please people and keep the peace, even at the cost of my real beliefs and convictions wars in my body.

I tend to think that this awkwardness comes from attempting to learn assertion as a new skill. A new language. If I had grown up learning the language of appropriate assertiveness, would I be less hyper-sensitive to the affects it has on people around me; whether perceived or real? Have I so defined myself in keeping others happy that I suffer guilt for advocating for myself or my children? Is it the ol' Menno-Martyr syndrome rearing its covered head?

Sticking my virtual neck out here. Anyone brave enough to leave a comment about your own experiences and mistakes along the way of learning to be a little more forward; a little less of a doormat?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Friday, September 05, 2008

Because that whole "Simple Living" Thing had already been taken

Yes, I give tutorials. This is (I believe) called plumbing.
If you go into your laundry room and look behind those large white boxes that swirl water and soap, then suck all the water and soap out, and dispose of it somewhere near your drinking water source, and the other large-ish square thingie that dries the water out of all your delicates... You will likely find this type of plumbing in your home as well.
See? Here you see how closely those tubey things are located to the washer thingie.
I've never paid that much attention to these things myself. I put my stuff in one box, turn a dial, wait for a while, then hurl it in the other box, and generally the clothes come out clean and dry enough to deposit back into messy bedrooms for 11 hours or so until I throw them back into those same boxes for a repeat performance.

Recently, it has come to my attention that things are never as simple as they appear. (Could someone please send Martha this briefing?) For example, if the first box doesn't seem to perform its spin cycle properly, and the clothes come out dripping with water and soap, a service call may be in order. Now these guys don't exactly hang out on the corner with a cardboard sign that says "Will work for food" or anything affordable like that. So, for $62.48, service guy came to our house, grunted appreciatively, banged some tools around, and graciously informed us that the drainage hose had a kink in it. A Sixty-two Dollar kink. That I could have un-kink-ified myself for $0.00.

I think its time to start paying attention.

These hoses are high-tech, deadly, expensive, rebellious little suckers.
In fact, just yesterday the hose slipped out of the other hose (are you keeping up with the technical jargon?). Now when this type of hose slippage occurs, you may just lose the connection between the hose that carries the water from the washing machine to the hose that carries that waste water out, out, out away from your house to some mysterious location likely close to our drinking water well.

So, while I was blissfully reading, my appliances and hoses were conspiring against me in the bathroom and dumping an entire washing machine worth of water on the floor. Now, sometimes when things spill, I tell myself that its probably for the better since the floor likely was overdue for a good mopping anyway.

Not fifty million litres. Nobody's floor is that dirty.
Or their vents.

So, if you are tired of simple living, try living like me for a while. Don't pay any attention to hoses or connections or technical details about how things work. Instead of planning to do housework on Saturdays like your mother taught you; or teaching your lazygoodfornothing children how to do the housework for you; simply wait for tubes and hoses to spring loose and geyser-ize your home for you. Think of it as recycling. Why let all that perfectly good soapy water go to waste? In fact, you may want to test your houseplants for durability against Tide, and set them near the laundry area as well. Water your geraniums, do your wash, and mop the floor. All in one foul swoop.

Simple living? That's just Sooooooooooooooooo last March.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Of Broken China; Broken Dreams

With my super-duper sleuthing skills, I have recently discovered that school starts in just a few hours. Which naturally reminds the uber-observant among us that summer break is pretty much gone; along with any good intentions that may have gone along with it.

Sloshing past my yard sale find bistro table this severely thunder-stormy afternoon, I was reminded that yet another summer has passed by without that broken china mosaic having been created by yours truely. In 2006, it was going to be a stepping stone. And in 2007; a birdbath. In 2008, I purchased a bistro table at a yard sale for $5.00 that I thought would make a perfect canvas for this budding collage artist. I envisioned this fun, colourful collection of salvaged broken china bits creating a new picture and serving as a funky table top. Resting atop that virtual visual feast, I saw margueritas, hot coffees, zucchini loaf.......Now, I see that as it's snowing in Calgary and pouring in Winnipeg. Is another calendar year going to go by without my mosaic getting done?

And what about my fused plastic bag plans?!

So, it got me thinking. Anybody else have some bitter nearing-the-end-of-summer regrets? Any projects you promised yourself all harsh winter long, that this would be the summer you got your crafting goals met?

Lay your head on my shoulder. Tell me your sad, sad tale of supplies and good intentions gathering dust while we fear they may soon be gathering snow. Maybe with a support group of sorts, we could propel one another into goals accomplished.

Whaddya say?
You never know..... There might be some zucchini bread and coffee in it for you!