Sunday, January 31, 2010


Yesterday I did virtually nothing. I stayed in my pj's until the late afternoon, had a 2 hour nap (I literally cannot remember the last time I did that), read, tried to relax. I was very conscious of the 1:00 time approaching when I would've been at my class. I knew I had made the right decision to be home and not be there, but because I didn't feel the relief and "back-to-normalness" I was hoping for, it was still a tense and strange type of a day. My friend who is a nurse explained that in times of high stress, your body produces both adrenaline and cortisone. Adrenaline helps you get through in the short term, and when the stressful situation abates, so does the adrenaline. But the cortisone stays in your system for much longer, and needs to dissipate over time. That's why I still felt like I was fighting my way through a fog for most of the last few days. It's not a great feeling.

Last night, after the kids were sleeping, I began to feel a bit more like myself. I could see that pinprick of light at the end of the long tunnel, and I began to step toward it. When I look at the positive side of not having a difficult University course this semester, I see that I have been given a gift of writing time. I gave that gift to myself and I must not waste it. Three months in which to write; to set goals to write articles, stories, blogs and screenplays, then more goals for sending them off for publishing consideration and attempt to make my dream of being a professional writer a reality.

Hope stirring is a beautiful thing to experience within yourself, or to watch happening to someone else. It is fragile and must be handled with great care and affection. When a tiny flame of belief is burning, you must protect it at all costs as you do not want it to blow out. Guard it with care. It will take you far if you wrap it in layers of discipline and hard work. Inspiration without effort doesn't mean very much, but neither does hard work with no spark of creativity to ignite it. Both must be working at the same time, in equal measure. It's a little like catching lightning in a bottle, and when all of the elements are there, you must move forward, keep at it, and create something meaningful that will live on after you are gone.

This morning I feel those first stirrings of hope. When William was in bed last night, he called for me to come and sing him one more song. He requested Hobo, a haunting song from the 60's that my roommate from Southern California used to sing to her young daughter in 1993, and I picked up by listening to it over time. It's now William's favourite. I held his tiny hand in mine, singing and watching him press his ratty bear to his face, inhaling its smell which is sweet to him alone, and I realized I was firmly on the road to recovery. I felt moved by the song, by William's 3 year old freshly bathed body in his striped blue pajamas, and by his soft little hand squeezing my dry fingers (why can't I remember to put hand cream on in the winter?). This is life; being open to all parts of the human experience - the joy, the pain, the hope, and everything in between.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


In the good times, I pat myself on the back for how far I've come to improve my negative qualities. I like to think that I am self-aware enough to work on the aspects of my personality that frustrate me, like my perfectionism and the insanely high standards I set for myself, my kids, and sometimes on others in my life. By far I am the hardest on myself. When my life is balanced and I feel I can hit my high standards, I feel satisfied. But in the dark times, like this past week, and particularly yesterday, I realize that for all my strides to improve myself, I still have so far yet to go, a discouraging thought.

I spoke to my advisor at the U of C yesterday morning, and I got the depressing news that since I missed the drop deadline, I would have to pay my full semester tuition even if I wasn't attending my class. This news reduced me to tears, as I felt foolish, like I had made a huge $600 mistake. It doesn't bother me when other people make mistakes, but the grace I offer to myself is so limited, virtually non-existent, that my errors send me into a tailspin that I can't seem to recover from. Jason has been ultra-supportive, telling me, "It's just money. We'll work it out. It happens." But it doesn't happen to me. I feel as if I should know better, I should've timed my emotional overload for the week before, when I could've dropped my class and not had to pay for it.

My advisor encouraged me to write a fee appeal, listing the many reasons why I shouldn't have to pay tuition, so I did that. My Prof called me as soon as I e-mailed her to tell her what was happening, and her kindness, concern and support was encouraging. She wrote a very supportive e-mail to the fee appeal committee on my behalf, saying she felt I should be exempt from fees for this semester. So now I wait. And look unflinchingly at those parts of my personality that expect me to be perfect. No one goes through life making no mistakes, it happens to all of us, and we learn more from mistakes than at any other time in our lives. I need to be open to the lesson I can learn from this difficult period. I was under the impression that my perfectionism had been dealt with, improved, mastered. It turns out it has been there all along, dormant and under the surface, lying in wait for a series of events like this week to rear its ugly head.

Friday, January 29, 2010

No Longer My Own

Yesterday was a tough day. I had two issues to handle that took up more emotional energy than I felt I had, and then the relief when the discussions were over was so huge that I was instantly exhausted, but I still had to work and get the kids fed and to bed. I dropped my Communications Theory course online yesterday but missed the deadline by a day, so the fees are still showing as due. I left numerous messages for my advisor and didn't hear back, and today is the fee deadline, so I'm still anxious over that. I'll feel better when I've talked to someone at the University to confirm if I'm out with or without a penalty.

Stress makes everything seem much tougher. It's like walking through the day and night in a pair of lead boots with a backpack full of rocks. I've never been genuinely depressed, but I imagine the feeling to be similar. Everything feels like a slog, and even the smallest output of energy drains you completely. Today is a Professional Development Day so Ava has no school. I was so looking forward to a day without rushing out the door and having time to relax, but I find I'm still feeling tense, like the source of the anxiety is gone but there is still a residue of stress that has to evaporate over time. I want to feel better, to enjoy this day since I already made the hard decision to cut something out, but the idea that I'll still have to pay my tuition when I've dropped the course is keeping me keyed up. I'm normally very conscious of deadlines, but I didn't even consider getting out of my course until the day after the deadline, so now I beat myself up about that.

Yesterday I reminded myself over and over to just breathe. It's easier said than done when you have conflicts with people, and with yourself. But life is short and it's critical to keep ourselves as healthy as possible, which includes minimizing stress. My life is no longer my own, to soar or to fall as I wish, it now belongs to my kids and my husband as well. I cannot be reckless with my health, safety and sanity. When I can control my circumstances to maximize my ability to be healthy and balanced for my family, I must do so, and stand firmly behind my choices.

This too shall pass. Part of being an adult is accepting what comes, whether good or bad, and being brave enough to face it and make the necessary decisions as they come. Your feelings change, but it's important not to lose control of your life. When I make decisions to alter the shape of my life, my feelings eventually follow. I must trust the process, face my fear, and move forward, step by step. In doing this, I model something for my children to follow into their adulthood.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I always feel stress in my body. I get canker sores, a stiff neck, a headache, and the tell-tale sign so evryone around me knows I'm stressed: zits. I can go for long periods with reasonable balance and calm, and then all of a sudden, WHAM! it hits me up the side of the head with a 2x4 and I realize I've taken on too much or been too worried about what I am doing, and I go from thriving to managing to barely hanging on by my bitten-fingertips in record time.

Some stress is unavoidable. If you work for a boss, you will occasionally have job stress. If you live in North America (or anywhere in the world, let's face it), you will have money (or lack thereof) stress. If you are married, your spouse will sometimes drive you up the wall, and if you are single, you'll be stressed trying to find a mate. And don't get me started on the new levels of anxiety and strain you will reach when you have children, and one of them is sick, or mouthy, or having a fit in a grocery store, or even just breathing (on the worst parenting days).

Stress is an insidious enemy. It sneaks in, takes over, beats us up and leaves us bruised and bleeding. We must manage it or it will ruin us - take us hostage and violently strip us of our joy, peace and sanity. You can control your level of stress, or at least a good portion of it. Say no more often. Try to avoid the things and people who cause stress. Stand up for yourself when someone is bullying you and making your life hell. If you don't fight for yourself, no one else will either. Value your time and your energy, as they are both irreplaceable commodities. If you haven't had down time in a few days, stop everything and build it in, before your nerves are shot to pieces. I'm talking to myself here.

Last night I stamped with my ladies group. They are all fun women and I enjoy being with them, but I felt the cloud of stress surrounding me, weighing me down with worry. Thankfully, a good friend stayed late to talk with me, helping me sort out my own life in a way I wasn't able to on my own. Sometimes, you simply can't see the forest for the trees when you are in the thick of too much activity. She helped me see that I'm struggling to keep up in my U of C Communications Theory class this semester. I can't stay on top of the workload, I'm not enjoying it, and I'm stressed about the weather on Saturdays when I have to drive 45 minutes to the University. At first I was concerned about dropping as I hate the label of "quitter", but my friend helped me see that the best thing I can do for myself and for my family is to know my limits and stay within them. When the con list is long and the pro list is short, I knew I had found the thing that had to go, while there was still time to drop it.

Today is a new day. I'm going to take slow, deep breaths in and out all day, and remember to count my blessings. If I signed up for too much or took too much on, it is my responsibility to deal with that, get out of what I can, and not waste the time I have been given in a 24 hour period. I cannot take out my frustrations on my husband and my kids. If I created a stressful situation I must fix it, make it better and be watchful to be sure it doesn't keep happening. Dropping the course is the first step today, and for me that will clear up a lot of time to write, focus on the writer's class at the library (which is not only full, but there are now 8 people on the waiting list, prompting a meeting to decide if a second class should be run in March!), and have a bit more down time for myself, my family and my friends. There is a satisfaction involved with taking care of myself, even if it means giving up something else I want. All of life is like that. Choices. It's up to us to make the best ones we can in the time frame we have.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pep Talk

As a woman, I find it very hard to switch off and just relax. I wish I possessed this capacity in a greater supply. Most men seem to be able to separate work and relaxation with relative ease (and when I say "most men", I mean my male control group, AKA my husband) and I envy them that ability. I want to be clear here: my husband is not lazy. He works hard at his career and I shudder to think of what we would eat or where we would live if I was expected to support our family of 4 on my 12 hour per week income. Jason works hard and I am not only grateful for all he provides, but I'm also immensely proud of his many career successes. But when he comes home and his laptop is off, he relaxes. He plays the Wii with the kids, reads, channel surfs, lays on the couch and even naps occasionally.

I have such a long to-do list each day that I'm generally still working into the evening hours. When I do sit down to watch TV or a movie I'm folding laundry, cutting cardstock for my next stamping group, or some other menial chore that I can hopefully cross off my list. My husband often jokes that if anything ever happens to me, within 24 hours there will be goats in the house grazing among the wreckage. Jason can relax in the midst of mess but I'm not wired that way. Damn my Type A personality that pushes me to have everything accomplished before I can rest. The trick there is that it never actually gets finished.

I have a friend who says life as a stay-at-home mom is like a rat on a wheel. We run hard, all day and for some of us, into the night, and the wheel spins, and there's just more to do. So much of our home lives is repetitive - we have to feed the kids (and ourselves, if we remember) 3 times a day, plus snacks, then clean the kitchen after each feeding, make the beds every day (Type A's anyway), sort, wash, dry, fold, put away clothes (yes, non-perfectionists, I could leave it all in the laundry basket, but the stress of that outweighs the work factor for me), check the backpacks, make the lunches, scrub the toilets....I could go on ad nauseum, but just that small list is depressing enough, so I'll stop.

It's satisfying on a grand scale to be home with my kids, taking care of my family's needs and making our house as welcoming and comfortable as I can. It's just the day-to-day that gets a bit murky. I need to give myself a pep talk that I don't have to do everything, every day. Sometimes I can stop, put my feet up, and say, "It's enough. I can do more tomorrow." I think my husband has this down, and I need to watch, learn, and especially work on my tendency to resent him for relaxing when I'm still bustling around cleaning up and organizing life. I can feel that pep talk coming on, reminding me, "It's enough. I can do more tomorrow."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Personality Types

The Grade 1 classes went skating yesterday, and I went along to help tie and untie skates (a job I did last year for kindergarten and came away realizing I would rather have bamboo shoots shoved under my fingernails than do again, but when the teacher asked for parent help, I signed up again and realized I hated it just as much - I don't have fingers that work laces very well!). When the kids were on the ice, I stood to watch with Mr. Crankypants (AKA William), and was struck by the personality differences that could be observed by watching the kids.

Some kids, clearly hockey players, were zipping around the ice, skating circles around everyone else. But even in this group, there were kids showing off and kids just skating well, who were not above coming alongside their struggling friends and helping them along. Then there were girls who have had years of skating lessons, and the same rule applied as to the hockey players. Lastly there were the kids with no formal skating training, and the spectrum here was wide: kids clinging to the wall, on their knees on the ice, walking gingerly holding an adult's hand, walking on their own, and then those attempting to skate, falling, getting up and trying again.

As I watched I thought about all of the personality types out there in the world, and how often I am drawn to the personalities that I understand or admire (read: like mine). I gravitate to outgoing people who tend to take charge, because I understand what motivates those people. It's harder for me to relate to personality types I don't understand, which is likely why William and I butt heads as often as we do. Or perhaps, gasp!, what I react to in William (and others) are actually negative qualities I find in myself that I would prefer to ignore. William's pessimism and instantly negative attitude drive me to a blind rage, but if I'm honest and look deep inside, I see those same tendencies buried there. Over the years I've worked on those qualities, softening them and improving them, but I'm sure as a kid, when everything is raw and open like a festering wound, I would've had a similiar attitude to my small son.

I watched Ava on the ice, trying to skate, falling often, but getting up with a big smile on her face and I was inspired by her dogged stick-to-it-ness. I felt drawn to her personality, recognizing my good qualities in her attitude on the ice, but what will happen when William gets to kindergarten and goes skating with his class? He'll likely be the kid clinging to the wall, crying and saying he wants to get off the ice, begging his teacher that he hates skating and wants to be done. I need to develop new eyes to see the good and the bad in all personality types, not just the personalities I can relate to, and be more accepting of kids and people who are trying their best. We don't all have to be captains of the universe. There is room in the world for every personality, from the hesitant to the brave. One is not better than the other. What was most inspiring with the skating were the kids laughing and helping each other, not judging skills or abilities, just playing and enjoying the activity. I want to embrace that attitude and bring it into my adult life.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Entrenched Patterns

I had a good conversation with a friend last night and we got talking about our upbringings and how deeply they form us. To some degree, our adult lives take two forms: following entrenched patterns that we learned from our parents, or fighting against those patterns and forging new ways. When I got off the phone I thought about this in relation to my own family of origin. I looked at my compulsions to be neat, organized and in control and realized I formed those as a defense against tension I couldn't control between my parents. I saw my offbeat sense of humour as my way to stand out and find my own place as a middle child between a sister and a brother. And my darker qualities of perfectionisim and intolerance for weakness were bred in the same soil of childhood.

One of the best things about moving out of my twenties and into my thirties was the self awareness that dawned for me. I became more present in my daily life, more in tune with my emotions and I worked harder to find the reasons why I felt or behaved in certain ways. When I could connect my actions to my feelings, I realized that everything we do has a reason; it's all based in some primal urge somewhere that needs to be looked at and possibly corrected. We are not animals. We can and should learn from our mistakes. Repeating the same negative behaviours over and over doesn't help us, but we can't begin to fix what we aren't aware of. We must consciously work to bring the unconscious to light, assign reason to our behaviours, and decide to change if necessary.

I highly recommend the written word for this kind of self discovery. A nightly journal, for your eyes only, gives you a place to write in circles about how you feel until you make the connection that you are acting out a childhood behaviour that isn't healthy for you. You'll have these amazing "Aha!" moments where you'll realize that you have been using a coping mechanism, left over from childhood, that no longer has to rule your life. You can change. Baby steps at first, and eventually you train your unconscious to react differently to stress and change. It's an extraordinary transformation that has happened many times in different forms over the years for me, and I hope will continue to happen for as long as I'm alive.

I wonder what particular forms the neuroses of my kids will take. I know they will have their own journey as adults to work through these things, and I hope I'll be able to help them where I see they could use a nudge in the right direction. I pray I'll be able to teach them how to be self aware in childhood so they don't need to wait until adulthood to work on some of these things, and give them some skills to manage the tough things that come their way in life.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Girl's Night Out

I went for dinner last night with some friends for a girl's night out. It was luxurious to sit and talk with no little ones to interrupt, ask questions, or beg to go pee. We sat and visited with no regard for time while the daddies fed the kids and put them to bed. It felt like a mini holiday in the middle of our regular lives.

We talked about the things that are common to all women: body image, impossibly high standards for our parenting, worries about being judged, concerns that we are making too many mistakes with our kids. We wondered why it is that men can move through life without worrying so much about what people think of them. For women, we often assume that other women are looking at us and measuring us on a scale, and we feel that we aren't scoring high enough. I think in many cases we have a legitimate fear of being judged, because we do tend to compare ourselves mercilessly to other women. "She's thinner, taller, fitter, more organized, she plays with her kids more than I do, she's more successful at her job..." and on and on it goes.

We need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. This isn't a new thought; it's been said over and over in different ways probably since the beginning of time. But why aren't we improving in this area? Why do we still set ourselves up for failure, even when it comes to our friends? We are not meant to compete with each other. We should be supporting one another. We must guard our words a bit more carefully, especially in this electronic Facebook/Twitter/Blog age. Bragging about our kids's potty training prowess has the tendency to discourage parents who are struggling to complete this massive task. Moms who are legitimately proud of how well their child is doing in school unconsciously damage another mom's self-esteem as her child is reading at a lower level. We need to celebrate with each other in whatever stage we are in, and come alongside to encourage and support when that's what a mom needs.

Last night I realized how powerful words are, and how critical it is to watch mine more closely. When women appear confident on the outside, it's often masking a vulnerable soft marshmallow inside. We all worry, feel we aren't measuring up on some ridiculous scale that differs for each person, and what a better world it would be if we encouraged each other instead of labeling and judging. Let's lower our expectations, on others and especially on ourselves. We are all doing the best we can. Let's work off that premise, looking for ways to help shore up our own crumbling confidence, and in that process, help the women around us to do the same.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Candle in a Dark Room

Jason and I watched Conan O'Brien's final appearance on the Tonight Show last night. When we discovered we could watch it at 9:30 pm we got in the habit of catching Conan's stand-up once in awhile and I loved his offbeat, nerdy sense of humour. We caught most of the shows this week because of the controversy around NBC yanking Conan and putting Jay Leno back at the Tonight Show due to his failed prime-time project. Conan was marginally bitter about NBC all week and it made for some good comedy, but last night was unexpectedly touching as he wound down the clock on his time behind the famous Tonight Show desk.

He made a brief statement from the heart, saying that NBC had been his home for the last 20 years, and even though they were parting ways, he had nothing but gratitude for what they had done for him. He said that every comedian dreams of hosting the Tonight Show, and he got to do it for 7 months, and do it his way. He thanked his fans for their outpouring of support and said he would think of it for the rest of his life. He finished by urging people not to be cynical, particularly young people, that cynicism is his least favourite trait and he promised it will get you nowhere. My favourite line was, "Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

I didn't expect to go to bed and have those words rolling around in my head, but that happened. Then I fell asleep and 10 minutes later, William was in our room with a bleeding nose, and after I cleaned that up I really couldn't go back to sleep, so I thought about it some more. Not only was it a classy way to end a television show, but his words had the ring of truth to them. It's all in your perspective. If you choose to dwell on the fact that you've been screwed out of something, your attitude will be cynical, miserable and you will become a victim. Conan was taking control of his own life and destiny by intentionally focusing on the positive, "Hey, people, I got to do my dream job for 7 months and it was amazing, please don't feel sorry for me!" In the jaded age we live in, this kind of optimism is like a candle in a dark room, cutting through the darkness and bravely lighting the way.

Nobody gets what they want all of the time. It's a fact of life. But when entitlement begins to creep in, we start to feel as though we deserve everything we want. Our culture feeds this by advertising lifestyles that are impossible to attain, and then rubbing our noses in it when we don't measure up (the beer doesn't actually taste that good, we aren't on a yacht with our rich and gorgeous friends, our house doesn't look like the spread in Better Homes & Gardens). I love that Conan chose to remind people that life isn't perfect. You roll with the punches. Get up, move on, don't let the outside circumstances you can't control rule your destiny. You are the captain of your own fate, the master of your soul.

Then there was the advice to work hard and be kind, and you will see amazing things happen. I believe this to be true from the top of my head to the soles of my giant feet. It's so encouraging to me when someone says something simple, but so true, and I realize that I feel exactly the same way but didn't have the right words for it. Thank you, Conan, for taking the classy high road, and for your genuine words of wisdom last night. I wish you all the best in whatever form your future takes. You will be fine, as your positive attitude will light the path ahead for you.

Friday, January 22, 2010


I'm taking a Communications Theory course at University of Calgary on Saturdays this semester, and while reading my textbook I came across this glorious term: congruence. It means "the match between an individual's inner feelings and outer display; authenticity, genuineness." I sat and absorbed that definition for a full minute (which for me, with a 3 year old buzzing around during the day, a minute is like five minutes for normal people), just letting it roll around in my mind.

I realized that congruence is something I've been working toward my whole life, and only in the last few years feel like I'm within reach of it. It's the ultimate test of personality. Does your inner life match your outer one, or are you pretending to be something in the world that you don't truly feel inside? As a kid I really struggled with this because I spent as much time with my best friend and her family as I did with my own, which resulted in a fractured personality. With my nuclear family I acted the way I felt I was expected to with them, and with my best friend's family I did the same, but the lives couldn't bleed into each other because they were radically different. Most of my teen years and into my mid-twenties I felt like I had one leg in each camp and the distance kept widening. It's hard to stand on firm ground when you are essentially doing the splits, not to mention quite literally painful.

In my late twenties I went through some intensive counseling and worked most of this out. I began to realize that I didn't know who I really was; I had been acting for most of my life. The process of self discovery was a difficult one, but to date the best thing I've ever done for myself. Then the hard part came in living congruently with ALL people in my life; resisting the urge to go back to pretending in order not to lose the approval of people I deeply respected and cared about. There were many bumps and detours on this road to congruency, but pushing through and coming out the other side to discover I still had all my important relationships intact, and most importantly, I had myself - fully, truly, in all its complexities, mistakes and beauty.

I find that as I get older I have very little tolerance for people who are faking it. After a little while it becomes easy to spot. A person acts a certain way in one group, and completely differently in another. I wonder if they struggle within themselves the way I did for all those years. I want to tell them that it's not worth the fight. It's so much easier to live congruently, authentically, because you don't have to work so hard to fit in. You are yourself, and you are either accepted as such or you aren't, but you don't have to remember how to act in any given situation. You just be you with all your frailties and strengths intact. No pretending to be something you're not. The freedom is extraordinary.

More than anything I want to model this for my children. I will encourage them always to pursue their own identity with intensity. If they feel angry, they should be angry. That's okay. If they are confused, admit to it and work through it. Pretending will not help them build character. Mistakes will do that. So will standing up for themselves when it's not popular. Making a decision on their own and then experiencing the consequences will develop their individuality and give them the confidence to stand behind it and protect who they are. I'm going to watch for new ways to encourage congruence in my kids, to help them learn that who they are is always enough, and that authenticity and genuineness will be the best compass to guide them through life.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Paying Attention

I'm on day 5 of my daily blogging experiment, and I have been thoroughly enjoying the process. Knowing I'm going to write about something each morning has caused me to sit up and pay attention to my life in a way I didn't before. I'm more aware of my feelings in any given moment; someone will say something and I'll perk up my ears like a dog to listen, not only to the words but to the subtext.

Last night I heard my 6 year old in her bedroom, looking through books and talking to her students as she does every night (she sits on the edge of her bed with a book open, reading to a nonexistant crowd on the floor), but I stopped outside of her door to listen for a moment. She chattered on about the various pictures, describing the grass and the house and the animals. At one point, I heard her say, "These boys are twins. They are Todd and Mike and they like ice cream." I was struck by a memory of myself as a kid, looking through my mom's Good Housekeeping magazine and assigning names, personalities and friends to all of the pictures of the kids I found. The power of imagination never fails to stir and impress me, and it's fun to see your kids developing their own vivid creative abilities.

I heard great news from the library yesterday: the creative writing class I'm teaching in February is now full. FULL. 10 people want to come and challenge themselves to write on a more regular basis. There is even one person on the waiting list! The process of planning for this class has provided so much satisfaction for me. It's like reaching out my fingers and grazing the edges of my dreams. It seems real, true, possible. I feel like everything I've ever done in life up to this point has been leading me here: to write, teach, speak and inch toward writing as an occupation, not a hobby.

My husband is back in town, it's Thursday and there is new TV on tonight (yes, I'm that nerdy, my favourite thing is being in my jammies at 7 pm on Thursdays when the kids are in bed, sitting on the couch with popcorn, licorice and Henry Weinhardt bottled rootbeer from the US, watching Community, The Office, 30 Rock, Grey's & Survivor) and life feels pretty damn good. Having some of you follow this blog, just knowing you are reading, commenting and sharing in my writing experience means so very much to me. Thank you doesn't begin to cover it, but there are only so many ways to express what is in your heart, and today, for me, it's gratitude.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Community Pride

Last night we bundled up and went outside to watch the Olympic torch make a stop in our tiny Alberta town on its way to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympic games. I'm generally too cynical to be termed patriotic, but there was a real excitement in the air as we all waited eagerly for the convoy of buses to arrive with the designated runner bearing the torch. My mom made the 25 minute drive for the festivities, and brought my teenage nieces, who kindly entertained my young kids until the torch arrived.

We got our free hot dogs and cokes from our beloved town Grocer, and as I munched I looked around and saw many familiar faces in the crowd. We've lived here for just over 3 years, and I realized last night that it's no small thing to feel as though you belong somewhere. That is a hard-won privilege. The first 18 months of living in this town was like an uphill hike where there's simply not enough oxygen to go around. Everyone was friendly but not my friend. I had to push hard to turn acquaintances into buddies. But last night I looked around the sea of faces and found more I genuinely knew than ones I didn't. Like anything, I saw people I love, those I like, some I tolerate and a few I cross the street to avoid, but I felt warm and happy in the minus 2 temperatures because these have become my people. I fit, I belong, I matter to this community and they matter to me, and that is a commodity which cannot be bought or sold; its value is beyond estimation.

When the buses came and the runner suddenly appeared, sprinting down the street in the shiny white Olympic track suit, I found myself ridiculously excited, like a child who experiences emotion in the body instead of the mind. The runner came to the small stage area in front of our Community Hall, and as the next torch was lit for a new runner, the crowd began to sing Oh Canada. No microphones. No organized structure. Just singing from the heart, the sort of pure patriotism that cannot be mandated, but when experienced by a group, creates its own joyful power that surges through like a current, binding everyone together. It was extraordinary.

I'm so thrilled my kids got to be part of such a stirring community event. Before last night, I was frustrated that the winter Olympics were going to interrupt my February TV schedule. Now I want to cheer on my country, to let my pride at being Canadian spill over out of me and carry us to victory. I am beyond grateful to live in my town, among such great friends, and to live in a free and beautiful nation, at this exact moment in history.(Thanks to Eryn for the great pics that I lifted from FB as I didn't upload mine yet! :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Long Shadows

My 3 year old son William said in the van yesterday, "I want to be Daddy when I grow up." I laughed and explained that he can be like Daddy, but he will be William, his own person, for his entire life. When I tucked the kids into bed last night and had a couple of hours of silence in the house, I began thinking about the long shadows we cast as parents on our children's lives. They look to us as the example they will model their adult lives after. It's easy in the bustle and flow of everyday life to miss this huge truth - my choices influence and affect their every choice. No pressure there.

The good news is that our example is cumulative over their lifetime. Every single day I will do something (and I'll be grateful if it's just one thing) negative that I don't want them to follow. I'll yell, "What are you doing, moron?!" in the car, I'll talk about someone behind their back, I'll say, "What is wrong with you?" when William gets frustrated and knocks over his sister's elaborate Polly Pocket village. It's inevitable, but I can continue to work on these mistakes, and hopefully, one day before I die, improve on the amount and the frequency of them.

Overall, I think my kids are doing well. They see us as parents in all of our strengths and weaknesses, and living honestly is one of the best ways I know to combat the nasty side of our human natures. At the very minimum, Jason and I work hard to live peacefully with each other. I don't want my kids going to sleep with a pillow over their heads to block out the yelling parent voices like I did. Peace and honesty are two of our best parenting methods. Time will tell if they are working or not.

A good friend's husband lost his job yesterday. I was shocked and sad for them, and called to find out how they are doing, as they have a number of sweet kids to support. The positive attitude both of them had was very inspiring to me. They reiterated that God is in control of their lives; it's so easy to say that when things are going well but when it really counts it means even more and they are clinging to it as their light to follow in a dark and uncertain time. Their kids are looking to them to see how to react when something scary happens to you, and the lesson they are learning from watching their parents will likely go deep and give the kids the skills they need to face uncertainty in their own lives. Good parenting inspires me to dig deeper and be more aware of the footprint I am leaving for my kids to step into.

We had a good day yesterday. After school we went to the library (8 people signed up for the creative writing course....2 more and it's FULL.....whoop whoop!) and then I took the kids to Boston Pizza for a fun dinner out, made even more fun by using the Christmas gift card from Uncle Dan & Auntie Kristen (thanks, guys!). I enjoyed just talking to the kids and felt their excitement about eating out on a Monday night, which is unusual indeed. And I slept all night with no concern for little noises, another wonderful thing. Thanks for reading, friends. I appreciate you.

Monday, January 18, 2010

On My Own

Jason is going away today for 3 days for work. I have mixed emotions when I am on my own. I usually panic initially about not having the cavalry come home around 5:30 pm and help corral the kids into bath and bed, I worry incessantly about pipes bursting or abject mechanical failure that I'll have to somehow manage, and of course every small noise in the night causes a mild coronary. The good side involves no cooking, sole possession of the remote control (or the possibility that I'll write or read in the evening instead of watching TV), and a change of pace that can be refreshing for a few days.

As I watched the Golden Globes last night (I'm a complete awards show junkie when it comes to movies & TV) I started thinking about our celebrity-worshipping culture, and how ridiculous it is to treat celebrities as if they are different somehow from everyone else. No wonder they are so messed up as people. To be adored or detested by people you've never met is a strange phenomenon; what does it say about our North American culture that we set celebrities up to fail, and then rush to feed on them when it happens (Tiger Woods, for a very recent example). When I was a kid I dreamed of being an actress, accepting an Oscar and making my speech, and when I watched the Globes last night I felt grateful for the first time that that particular dream did not come true.

Here goes day 1 of my husbandless adventure. Here's hoping it's a good day and that everything in the house and van work like they're supposed to and the night is quiet for sleeping with no anxiety-related heart palpatations.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Daily Discipline

I watched Julie & Julia last night, and it inspired me to start writing consistently in my blog. As you can see, I have 2 posts from September, and then completely dead air for the last 3 1/2 months. I am making a commitment to write something here every day until the end of February as part of the daily discipline of getting words on paper (or on the computer, which counts too, right?!).

Since November 08, I've been disciplined about working on my screenplay, writing a minimum of 3 pages per day, and I'm amazed at how much better I feel when I'm writing every day. With 2 small kids and a husband to feed and take care of, plus a part-time job, a home business, a university course on the weekend, volunteering at my daughter's school and my son's preschool and serving on the steering committee for a local mom's group, life is full, satisfying and busy. Squeezing in time for writing is challenging, but I came to realize it was essential for my mental health and well being. 3 pages per day seemed like a modest goal, but on the good days it was only a starting point, and on the bad days it felt like the worst form of torture but I still sat down and did my best to complete those pages.

A year and 2 months later, I am on draft 4 of that screenplay and have it out in the world to be read, an equally thrilling and stressful proposition. I'm at work on my newest script, a comedy this time, and the process of writing feels marginally easier this time around. I've also been asked to teach a creative writing class for adults at our local library this February, and I'm over the moon with excitement. Every day I have to resist the urge to call the library and see how many people are on the list, but with the class half full I know it's going to run and I can hardly wait for it to start. Finally it feels like a dream I can almost reach out and touch, this dream of writing consistently, getting it out there in the world, and with any luck finding out that it means something to people.

I invite you to come along on this journey as I blog each day for the next 6 weeks. I can't promise every post will be riveting, but I'll do my best to dig deep and write honestly about life. My hope is that we'll all be better for sharing in this journey, realizing that we are not alone, and can in fact learn a great deal from the daily struggles, laughter and frustration that are common to everyone.