Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You're Gonna Miss This

I woke up today to this Trace Adkins song (yes, I know, I never listened to any country music before moving to Alberta but it's practically a requirement to be a country fan here) and the wheels of my mind began turning as I tried to wake up and focus on the words:

"You're gonna miss this/you're gonna want this back/you're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast/these are some good times/so take a good look around/you may not know it now/but you're gonna miss this."

The verses describe life with small children in all of its chaos, frustration and on-goingness. Many days there is a feeling of just barely hanging on, trying to survive and get to the other side of the early years of raising children. There is a relentlessness to the days and nights; it becomes easy to lose perspective on how short this time really is.

A few years ago I read a line that said, "With young children, the days are long, but the years are short." On the eve of William's 4th birthday, I can confirm that this is true. There were many times in the last few years where I felt certain I would never make it out alive. I was too exhausted, angry, afraid of my own short fuse and walked-on to be a person in my own right. Then one day I slept through the night, had a cup of coffee, poked my head up out of my rabbit hole and saw that there was a beautiful big world going on around me, and I had the energy to step out into the light and join in.

For those who are still in the bleary-eyed days of diapers, high chairs and midnight cries from your little ones, one day it will all be behind you. You will wake up to your country music station and get a little misty-eyed about the best parts of those days. Like childbirth, you'll remember the best parts and your subconscious will mercifully spare you from recollecting the traumatic bits.

Today I'm going to pay attention to the way William's tiny hand feels in mine when we cross the street. I'm going to focus on the sound of his piercing preschool voice instead of tuning it out. No stage lasts forever, good or bad, and we must be present in the middle of it to properly commit it to our memories. Today I plan to take a good look around since it's all going by so fast.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Thankful Attitude

We had another dreaded visit to the Pediatric Dentist yesterday. Ava had a tooth pulled 2 weeks ago to make room for an appliance designed to right her back tooth which is growing in at an angle. She was so brave, doing everything the dentist asked her to do, but it's painful for a mom to watch her child going through something so challenging. I wanted to crawl into the dentist's chair and have him glue the metal contraption into my mouth instead of Ava's.

The appliance had been explained to me in detail, but it seemed more involved than I was expecting. It is a metal band with a wire, then a button and a hook glued onto her back tooth, and it's all connected by an elastic "chain" designed to be pulled tighter at each visit to move the tooth forward.

At one point while he was working in her mouth, Ava began shaking slightly, her mouth trembling, and I noticed tears squeezing out of her closed eyes. I asked her what was wrong, and she began to cry and said something was really hurting. The dentist stopped immediately, investigated, and saw that the metal wire was poking her in the gums. He adjusted it and she stopped crying. Ava doesn't cry easily in front of others, and in the van after she said, "I was trying to be brave and not complain, but that thing poking me really did hurt."

We went to McDonalds for Happy Meals as a treat before returning Ava to school. Ava barely ate anything because she was finding the appliance so uncomfortable in her mouth. It's so hard to walk our kids through these difficult experiences. It will all be worth it in the end, for her to have a bite that is straight, but right now it's not easy. I'm inspired by her bravery. I'd like to think that I've shown her how to face tough situations head on and get the unpleasantness over with, but some of it comes from her own unique personality, and it's a good thing for a parent to be inspired by her child.

By dinner she was eating better and figuring out a way around the metal in her mouth. I hosted our first writer's group and the kids went to sleep like little angels without disturbing our meeting (I was worried because Jason was in Vancouver for the night). It all clicked into place and worked.

After an inspiring evening of talking about writing, I tucked them in, watched them sleeping and marveled for a moment at how wonderful my children are. For all of my complaining that I don't have enough time to write, or that I crave silence and time for myself, my kids are such a source of joy. They are healthy, and happy, and we have been blessed beyond measure. Instead of focusing on the hardships of yesterday, I'm going to be thankful for everything good in our lives, and resist the urge to complain.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Love God, Love Others

Growing up, being a Christian meant following a list of rules as long as my arm, feeling terrified to make a wrong move in case God turned away from me, and all of this was wrapped in a thick layer of judgements about others and myself. That way of living seems so foreign now. It's like remembering a childhood trip that you weren't particularly fond of. In many ways, I find it difficult to believe I ever worried about any of that.

I know for a fact that my kids won't waste time in that religious trap of trying to please God and others. It's not about that. We are all broken people, with pain and hurt in our lives, and I now believe it's as simple as Love God. Love others. The rest is just window dressing, and should never be used as a stick to beat ourselves or others with.

Faith is simple. I love God and know I am loved by him. I don't see him as an angry being waving a stick anymore. That childhood (and early adulthood) version is gone, pushed out of my mind by a truth that is easier to hold on to. He is good, loving and accepting, and wants relationship with me, even though I am a flawed individual. He understands and accepts that.

How else to explain all of the horrible things that happen in the world? I believe God is with us, at every moment, and that all of the things we have put on him simply aren't there. He is love, and forgiveness, and hope. Mercy and grace are his chief platforms. The list of "do's and don't's" are immaterial. When I listen to the still, small voice of God, I make better decisions than when I don't, but God will still walk beside me and love me, regardless of what I do or don't do.

Loving others is where it gets a bit trickier. It shows me a lot about myself when I love those who hurt me. Relationships are complicated and painful, but I try not to quit on them unless there are no other options. Human relationships are a picture of my relationship with God. They evolve and change throughout life, and I'm thrilled to see so much growth in my relationship with God, particularly in these last few years.

I'm grateful to my community of faith for helping me on this road. I believe it's not nearly as complicated as we've made it out to be. I love my pastor for boiling it all down to Love God, Love others and encouraging us to live honest, real lives with God and stop muddying up the waters with the judgements and condemnations that drove so much of my younger life. The freedom and joy I feel now is extraordinary. I could never go back. I want to move forward in this loving, supportive relationship and grow with God in ways I couldn't conceive of before now.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

No Such Thing as In-Between

I saw The Blind Side with a group of friends last night for a chick flick get together with plenty of junk food to go around. After Sandra Bullock's Oscar win, I was curious to see her performance. I was really impressed by it. I know the movie romanticizes and simplifies the complex real-life situation of Michael Oher and the Tuohy family, but it worked well for the confines of cinema.

The film absolutely rode on Bullock's capable shoulders. She took a woman who might be hard to like, or easy to love, depending on how sugary/fiery the performance was. Bullock played it straight down the middle, walking the line between kind and fierce. I was amazed at how much I respected and liked her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy, a gun-toting Republican with fake hair, nails and about 2 feet of liquid makeup plastered onto her beautiful face. She could've easily become a caricature, but was instead a woman you respected even if you didn't particularly like her. I was inspired by that.

There was a sign in the locker room during one football scene which said, "There is no such thing as in-between." I loved this saying. There is decision, and consequence. I respect people who are direct in their intentions. There is no sense living in the in-between. Even if you make a wrong decision, you'll learn from it and make a better one the next time. I don't want to live with constant indecision and fear. I want to be strong, and take risks, and communicate clearly with others.

Yesterday was a good day. In the morning, I woke up and reviewed my to-do list, and felt immediately overwhelmed with all of the things I had to do. I wanted to enjoy William's pirate party this afternoon, but knew that I would be stressed if I didn't get some things accomplished as my upcoming week was filling up quickly.

After we took the kids to the Easter Eggstravaganza in our town, I asked Jason to get the kids out of the house and give me at least two hours to myself. He is going to Vancouver for Monday/Tuesday for work, and I'm knee deep in birthday season, having done Ava's party last weekend and William's this weekend, plus taxes, an upcoming stamping event, another Creative Writing class to plan, and a fundraising event to promote (I could go on, but will lose all of you in the mundane details). I said, "I really need some time to myself. I've got too much on the go and can't get it all done with the kids around. Please take them to Costco, all the way into the city, so I can have a few hours by myself."

Being the great husband that he is, he took them without question or complaint. If he calls it an adventure, they will happily go anywhere with him (and the ice cream he fed them at DQ was a selling point as well). In three hours, I bustled all over my house and got most of my to-do list for the whole weekend accomplished, and my state of mind was virtually zen-like compared to how tense I felt in the morning.

What was different about yesterday was my complete and utter lack of guilt. Jason asked me if I wanted to come with them to Costco and Wal-Mart, and I said, "No way!" without any feelings of remorse. I'm making progress. It's not wrong to take time for ourselves.

I was able to go out last night, watch a movie with friends, and enjoy myself because I wasn't stressed. Ditto for this afternoon. I can celebrate my son turning 4 with my whole attention because I firmly said no yesterday, and asked for time for myself. We are not super women. We cannot have it all, but we can have what we choose, and we can lose the guilt when we ask for help.

Creative Genius

Creativity is limitless; there are no boundaries to inspiration. I used to worry about all of the good ideas being taken by the time I got to them, but watching Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox last night reassured me that as long as humans are alive, there will be a variety of ideas at play.

Creative expression can be genius, baffling, wonderful and trying. It can make us think, dream, and believe. I used to feel discouraged about my own abilities when I saw a masterpiece film, but I'm so happy to have banished that particular insecurity.

Genius now makes me smile and aim just a little bit higher. Our reach should always exceed our grasp. Without that we become complacent. Stagnant. Bored. There must always be more for us.

I've completed one screenplay that I want to sell and watch come to life as a movie. I have a drawer full of other script ideas that I've started or finished first drafts and can go back to re-work them. And I've started a new one that I want to be better - funnier, deeper and more meaningful than the one I have down in LA right now with a friend for feedback on my 5th draft.

One goal should lead into the next, in a never-ending procession toward our own personal greatness. We are the only ones who can limit ourselves. Don't give anyone else power over you or control of your destiny. Your life is held by you alone. Do not remain a victim of your circumstances. Rise above them. Refuse to be anything other than your best self, doing what feeds your soul and anchors your life with purpose.

I had a big week for writing. I received a writing assignment for a magazine based out of Calgary, and heard that a short story I recently submitted to a new online magazine had been purchased for an upcoming issue. Seeing your dreams turn into realities in front of you, step by step, building block by building block, creates a satisfaction on a level I haven't yet experienced but find I want more of. Suddenly everything seems not only possible but probable, and that knowledge brings a light sense of confidence to everything around me. I'm extremely grateful.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Love Always, Angry Sometimes

I got my first "I hate you!" from my 7 year old daughter last night. I thought it would hurt, but it actually struck me as amusing because her emotions were so front and centre and intense. And if she had said it, maybe it would've stung, but she wrote it on a Hannah Montana postcard, slunk into the kitchen while I was washing dishes, and left it on the island for me to discover.

I came home from work at 5:15, tired after a busy day, and found the kitchen an absolute disaster after Jason made us spaghetti for dinner (he worked from home to be with the kids while I was at work). I appreciate my husband's good cooking from the bottom of my heart, but when I cook, I clean up as I go, so there isn't a huge mess. Jason does not hold the same philosophy.

We ate, then William went in the bath, and Ava chose to create a glitter picture at the table with her new Hannah Montana set instead of having a bath. Jason took his book and went in to supervise William. I normally enjoy cleaning the kitchen with no little voices around me, but last night it seemed to take forever with the massive disaster zone Jason is somehow able to create while he makes a meal.

Sometimes these things combine to create a recipe for a relational storm. I asked Ava to come and clean up her art supplies, and put on her pajamas, and get ready for bed. I asked calmly the first time, but since she was playing with barbies in her room and didn't feel like coming to clean up at that moment, she chose to ignore my request. I asked again, and by the third time I was angry.

I began to think about all that I was doing to clean up, and I felt I wasn't asking too much of Ava to take care of her own mess so I didn't have to. Violins begin soaring in my head when I start to feel at the bottom of the family pile. It all becomes maudlin very fast. I raised my voice, and Ava raised hers, while both boys hid out in the bathroom and tried to ignore the fight heating up in the kitchen.

I'm so used to fighting with William that a blazing yelling match with Ava caught me by surprise. It's very rare for us not to get along, but in all relationships, if we aren't considerate and kind, the possibilities for arguments are always there. My need to have the kitchen clean clashed with her need to finish what she was doing and then come and clean up, and when both parties are mad, it's hard to communicate clearly.

She finally came, crying, to clean up everything I asked and get in her pajamas. Then I found the note. I took a deep breath, tried to calm down and see the situation rationally, and went into her room where she was crying on her bed, every inch the teenager she will eventually become, with her heart on her sleeve for me to embrace or crush. At that moment I realized that we all need to be heard and understood. It's hard to be a kid and feel like you have no power in the situation; that you must always do what you are told. I experienced this recently and hated the way it made me feel.

I sat down on her bed, rubbed her back, and waited until the storm of tears had passed. Then I asked her to tell me why she was upset. She was honest, listing off all of the things I had done that she felt were unfair, and telling me I "did nothing but yell at her since I got home." I shared with her why I was mad, and apologized for raising my voice with her. We heard each other, and worked out a compromise for the future to try to avoid what had happened.

Then I brought up the note. I explained again, very gently, that we can love each other always, but be angry with each other sometimes, and the anger doesn't change the love into hate. It remains as love, and when we work out the problem between us, the anger goes away.

I think it will take many similar discussions for her to truly understand this, but it's an important relationship concept. We must have the freedom to express our emotions within the safety net of a loving relationship. I don't want her to ever question my love. That doesn't change, but the emotions will come and go, and that's a part of any human relationship.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I recently read a wonderful book called 'The Postmistress' by Sarah Blake. I'm a sucker for World War II romantic novels (hence my love affair with Rosamunde Pilcher) and this book struck me as very timely in its comments about the randomness of life and death in war-time. Like this year's Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker, 'The Postmistress' turned my thoughts to current war conditions, and got me thinking about the everyday things I take for granted in my life as a Canadian in 2010.

We are free, but only because men and women gave their lives so we could enjoy this freedom. As a nation, we reflect on this in November, but I'm trying to teach my kids (and myself) to be more aware of it on a daily basis. Every day we are alive is a day to give thanks. I want to appreciate my life in a new way; to stop focusing on the problems and enjoy the sweet moments. There are no guarantees. We have today to breathe, to touch, to taste and to discover.

I want to stop worrying about what I can't control. We get one shot at life. We need to make it count, and to create peace and joy where we are. The thought of war terrifies me, as I'm sure it does for people who are experiencing it, but somehow I imagine it brings communities together in a completely new way.

In our independent Canadian culture, where people can't converse anymore without someone glancing down and texting on their cell phone, we think we don't need each other the way people once did. I hate how separate we've all become. How smug we can be when our lives aren't in immediate danger and we have our every need met. I want to replace the smug, entitled attitude in my own life with gratitude that flows naturally from me.

I need to trade envy for thankfulness. I don't need more clothes, a better car or expensive vacations. I need air in my lungs, a smile on my face, and the realization that I am safe in a physical, emotional and mental sense when others are not so fortunate.

I'm not sure how to breed gratitude into my children unless they follow it by example. My kids won't have any concept of what children in Iraq might be experiencing, and of course I'm grateful for that, but freedom is a precious gift that must be appreciated to be enjoyed.

When we haven't fought the war to win the freedom, we don't fully understand how much it cost, and therefore it can be easy to take for granted. I don't want to take my freedom for granted anymore. I'm going to live today with new eyes to see how amazing it is to be a Canadian in this moment in history. I'm grateful for those who gave me this gift, and will work to remain aware of what I have been given.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The End of the Line

Sometimes you reach a moment when you know, with absolute certainty, that you can't go any further. You've taken the issue as far as you can and have to get out clinging to the barest shred of dignity you have left. I've been fighting a fight that I believed in but knew deep down I would never win, but I wasn't ready to give up until last night.

The process of standing up for yourself is rewarding and difficult at exactly the same time. I've become keenly aware of every person's need for respect during this challenging period, and when respect was not given to me I could feel myself rise up and demand it. Every person deserves respect and dignity in the way they are treated. I must treat people the way I wish to be treated, and I'm proud to look back at this twisting, bumpy road and say that I can hold my head high and know I did what I could to make a bad situation better, and in the long run it will have been worth it.

Standing up for what you believe can make you popular with one group, and extremely unpopular with another when lines are drawn in the sand. I have to be able to look in the mirror and live with how I've conducted myself, and I can do that. I owned my mistake in this process, apologized for it, and tried to be civil and kind for the rest of the time. I am only responsible for my own behaviour. I can't force people to treat me a certain way or come around to my way of thinking, and the argument becomes meaningless after a while. What matters is how we treat people and how we allow ourselves to be treated.

I love that moment of peace that comes when we least expect it. In the middle of gunfire, peace can descend so thoroughly that it takes your breath away. I didn't know what to do before last night to solve the problem because the process wasn't finished. It was uncomfortable, and frustrating, and I wanted to quit many times along the way, but I didn't have the peace I was looking for.

I heard a sermon once where the pastor said, "Wait means weigh-it." If you are in that terribly lonely place of waiting for something to happen, or you can't figure out which way to turn, take that time to weigh all of the options. Don't proceed until it feels 100% right, and you know with certainty what you should do.

Trust that you will know when the time is right. I did. Last night, in the middle of one of the most frustrating experiences I've ever been through, I felt that peace settle around me like a blanket, and I knew, as clear as could be, what I had to do.

It's worth the wait. If you are in a tough spot, don't give up until you know that's the route you must take. If you don't know, wait, and weigh-it. If it doesn't feel right, you aren't ready to take a step, and then when you are ready, there will be no doubt in your mind about how you should proceed. Trust yourself. Treat others as you wish to be treated, even if you aren't respected in return. Don't settle for less than the best for yourself, because you deserve it, and you will look back at how far you've come and be glad you stood up for yourself.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Confidence Levels

Last night we finished the second Creative Writing class through the library. For some reason, 6 of the 9 students were MIA, but the 4 of us there enjoyed a smaller setting which felt more like a writer's group than a class. We shared our writing with each other, and discussed aspects of the writing process.

One of the things we talked about was confidence. I shared that I have struggled internally with the legitimacy of writing as a profession. It always seemed like a hobby to me and not something you could make money at or sustain yourself with. It's only been in the last 2 years that I can conceive of writing as a career, because I believe in myself in a way I didn't before.

Confidence is a delicate thing. When it's high, we dream big and have the motivation to act on what we are dreaming about. When our confidence is low, it's a struggle to get going because we fear we won't succeed at what we are trying. It's so important to believe in ourselves, and fill our lives with others who will support us.

We can't always tell by looking at someone whether they believe in themselves or not. Everyone has a different background, with an old tape running in their head that sometimes needs to be placed on mute or ripped out and thrown away.

We all have the ability to make our dreams come true, but first we must increase our confidence level. Facing our fear of failure is a huge part of this process. My writing was completely liberated by Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird when she told me that my first drafts were supposed to be crappy. Her advice was to "just get writing", that I could fix the problems in later drafts, and that all first drafts are meant to be bad.

This advice removed the perfectionist handcuffs I had placed on myself, and got me writing again. Fear of failure was crippling me, but I found a way around it, and I couldn't be happier to be writing now on a regular basis. What is holding you back? What stands between you and your personal dream? It's a good question to consider because if you can find the answer, you'll be on the road to your dream, and nothing will be able to stop you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Forming Memories

Yesterday we celebrated Ava's 7th birthday, all day, from a breakfast out at Smitty's on her request, to church, to a swim party in Didsbury, and then homemade pizza while watching Princess & the Frog to finish. It was a great day. I feel like I'm fighting a cold so had to dig deep into the energy reserves to complete the day's events, but as a mom, that's what we do. She had a wonderful time celebrating with cousins and frinds and I loved watching her happy, smiling face.

During the cupcake and present part, I was proud of how grateful Ava was for each present she received. When she had opened them, she went around the room with hugs and thanks for those who gave her the gifts. Then after the swimming, when everyone was putting on their shoes in the entryway of the pool, I saw her hugging her friends again and saying, "Goodbye, thanks for coming!" Those are some good parenting moments to store up in the soul for the lean times. You watch with a proud lump in your throat, amazed that your baby has turned into this friendly, happy girl with friends in her own right.

At bedtime, both kids (and parents) were tired. I went into Ava's room to wish her one last happy birthday and talk about her day. I could tell that she was upset by looking at her face. I asked what was wrong. She began to cry and said, "Right when we got in the pool, I looked around and I was having lots of fun, but I knew it was almost over, and I'd never have another 7 year old birthday party..."

She cried it all out, and I held her close, and when the tears were finished we talked about how we must enjoy each experience to its fullest, because we can't make it last, except in our memories. I asked her what she remembers from her previous birthday parties, so we listed them all - rubber ducky, favourite things, princess, farm, build-a-bear, High School Musical and swim party - and she had specific memories from each one. I explained that those memories become part of who she is; they form her, remind her of how loved she is, and give her a foundation for her to transition into adulthood.

All of life is like that. We look forward to events, enjoy them when they arrive, and then feel sad when they are over. But we don't want to get stuck there in the sadness, because in order to become a good memory we must stay in the moment and soak up the experience so we can recall it clearly in the future. For Ava to realize that it was almost over and she wouldn't get it again, tells me she is growing up. A good thing, to be sure, but also tinged with sadness, because growing up means leaving all of the innocence of childhood behind.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Day I Became a Mom

Today we are celebrating my daughter Ava's 7th birthday. As she is my eldest child, I'm also celebrating the day I became a mom. I wasn't like most of my friends, in that I didn't get pregnant on the first try. It took nine months of trying with Ava, and for a results-driven personality like mine, those nine months were challenging. I thought when I was ready to get pregnant, I would get pregnant, and that would be the end of it. Of course, motherhood doesn't work that way.

I thoroughly enjoyed being pregnant with Ava. People celebrate a woman experiencing her first pregnancy in such a special way (I'm always telling my friends to soak up that first pregnancy as the second and subsequent ones are just as special to you, but not the rest of the world) and I loved the feeling of life growing inside of me. At about the six month mark, I felt certain that I was having a girl. Our names were Ava or Elise, and we went back and forth with them, finally deciding on Ava Grayce. She would've been Alexander William if she'd been a boy.

My birth experience with Ava was also unexpected. I had a midwife, and planned a natural birth in the hospital with no drugs. I knew first labours could be long, so I planned on a 12-14 hour labour and delivery period. It ended up being 44 hours. After 30 hours of regular contractions, I was a 1/2 cm dilated. Discouraged is far too mild a word to describe how I felt at that moment.

I ended up with an epidural during most of active labour so I'd have some energy for delivery. After all of those hours I just wanted to meet my baby, plus give some news to all of my family, friends and co-workers who were anxiously waiting when they knew I had gone into labour! Finally, at 12:03 pm in the O.R. after 2 hours of pushing, she came with the help of forceps. I was prepped and ready for a C-section, but thankfully avoided surgery at the very last minute.

There she was, 10 lbs even, beautiful and miraculous to her new parents. The first baby is so unbelievably special because of the time you have to study them, and adore them, with no outside interruptions. I remember the day someone called and asked me what I was doing, and I said I was watching her eyelashes grow in.

As a new parent, you fall deeply and instantly in love with your child. Ava was a joy as a baby, sleeping and eating well, with a placid, easygoing personality. She has developed into a toddler, preschooler and elementary school child with the same easy approach to life. She tends toward perfectionism, like me, but when I spot it I can stop her and talk about it with her, and slowly that seems to be helping. She is outgoing like me and relaxed like Jason. She's a good blend of our strongest qualities. I could not be prouder of her kindness, generosity, tender spirit, and outrageous sense of humour.

Becoming a mother has changed my life, in all of the ways people say it will, and then some. I have less time to myself but more knowledge. I have less patience but increased understanding. I have deeper fears but greater faith. My kids have inspired a love so deep it cannot be measured. I would gladly give my life for them, and for others, because love stirred in the soul is not exclusive. It pours over and gives to the world in ways I wasn't capable of before I had children. Happy Birthday, Ava. I love you forever.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Life is a Playground

We watched Yes Man last night with Jim Carrey. I thought it was going to be Liar Liar re-done a decade later, but was pleasantly surprised by a hint of depth in the story (such as it was - the fact that it took 3 writers to create that mess gives me hope for selling my screenplay one day!). Zooey Deschanel, who always makes me think of that scene in Elf where she sings 'Baby It's Cold Outside' in the shower, told Jim Carrey at one point, "Life is a playground." That line jumped out at me and gave me something to take away from the movie and consider.

Deschanel's character was a fledgling musician who ran an early morning photography/jogging class and wasn't particularly good at anything she did, but she felt life was to be enjoyed and experienced, not for success but for pleasure. This idea struck me as particularly profound, since it rubs against the grain of my Type A, results-driven personality. It's a constant struggle for me to stop what I'm doing, look around, relax and enjoy myself. I want to play more, laugh more, and find more joy in the process instead of the result.

Kids are good teachers for this. They always live in the moment. They don't plan ahead and worry about tomorrow, for they are focused on today. I'm trying to adapt more of this spirit. All we have is today. Each moment we are in is a gift (that's why it's called the present - that little gem comes from Kung Fu Panda) and to fully enjoy it we must fight to stay in the moment. The rest is only the rest, and comes after.

I always want more time: to live, to write, to grow. But the only guarantee I have is this moment in this day. Life is a playground, and I want to play. I want to participate fully in my own life. I have so many stories brewing in my mind that I want to capture, and there are only so many hours in each day. I need to remind myself that we grow over a lifetime - patience is required and the realization that I can only do so much in any given timeframe.

I must believe that I have a lifetime to accomplish my dreams and transfer my ideas to the page. Rome wasn't built in a day. Pacing is important. I know, somewhere deep inside, that if I don't learn this now, I won't appreciate the end result of my dreams coming true because I will only be looking to the next thing and not appreciating the moment my dream has been realized.

On an unrelated note, a few of you have contacted me through e-mail or Facebook to say you've tried to comment on the blog and haven't been able to. In order to comment, you do need to create a Google account which requires your e-mail address, a password and a user name that you decide on (if your preferred user name is taken it will tell you and you can keep trying other options).

There is no way to comment anonymously on Blogger, but you can make your user name anything you want if you prefer to remain anonymous. I love to hear from all of you and promise to interact with your comments to keep a dialogue going with my readers. I thank you again for your support for my writing. From the bottom of my heart I am grateful for each and every one of you who is reading.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I've been through a tough situation for the past few weeks. Yesterday I had the feeling I came out safely on the other side and I learned a lot of lessons. With the hard stuff in our lives we have to put one foot in front of the other and walk through it. There is no circumventing the process. I think back to times where I was in pain and I did bow out in the middle because it was too damn hard, and I think my personality is the poorer for quitting before it was through.

One benefit of getting older is the wisdom that comes with it. When I was in my twenties and was in a hard season of life, I would always panic, thinking the jig was up and my life would be horrible forever. Then of course the bad times would end, good times would return, and I'd think that was going to be the lasting season. Neither one lasts. Everything that happens to us in life is temporary, and in my thirties I have realized this truth: there is good in the bad and vice versa. Enjoy the easy times but be prepared for life to change. Learn what you can from each season you are in, and take those lessons into the next challenge, and you will be better equipped to face it.

I've shed a lot of tears during these last few weeks. I questioned my abilities as a parent. I felt attacked and wounded. I knew I had the support of my friends but I still experienced loneliness in the battle I was fighting. Then I had a great conversation at my lowest point where I made a variety of connections to my past which helped me break free of the chokehold of my emotions and see the situation with new eyes. I developed a strategy which helped me win my confidence back. Yesterday I faced my fears and the situation head-on with this new confidence, and I found that the scorpion had lost its sting. The venom wasn't poisonous to me any more. I could walk away with my head held high, knowing I won't be hurt again by this particular thorny situation.

It was extraordinary to experience that freedom. The person I was dealing with stayed exactly the same. They had not changed, nor granted an inch towards reconciliation, but it didn't matter because I had changed. I was no longer afraid or emotionally invested in the problem anymore. It all somehow ceased to matter to me. I know I only arrived at that wonderful point by walking through the fire, by not turning around at the worst point, and by committing to see the process through to the end. It was worth it to experience that freedom yesterday, and know that I brought it about for myself. The next time I'm in a tough place I'll remember this time, and tell myself to stay the course, finish the process, and learn the lesson it has for me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


When something hurts more than it should, there is always a deeper hurt that is being remembered. It's often buried in our subconscious and takes a bit of work to coax out into the light. This happened to me yesterday. I spent an hour talking through an issue with a friend, trying to figure out why it was making me so crazy with emotion. We can't see the big picture when we are mired in our own pain, and when new hurts open up old ones, the pain is much worse.

I'm grateful for friends willing to take the time to help. It felt like a counseling session. I needed someone to say, "Isn't it possible you are feeling this way because you experienced this as a child?" or "Maybe this is triggering your fears in this specific area and that's why you are so upset about it." Making those connections to parts of your past is like trying a handful of keys in a lock and finding the one that opens the door. When the door swings open and the light comes into the dark room, the pressure on you evaporates and you can think clearly again.

I think of these moments as epiphanies; moments of great insight which have the power to change us. Epiphanies are rare but if we search for them when we need them, our minds will show us the way if we will allow enough time and space for the connection to be made. Most new hurts open up old wounds, and mess with our heads because the emotion is so overpowering. Yesterday I felt like a 5 year old child when I realized what was really going on. Recognizing that, and realizing that I'm not actually insane, was a powerful moment of change. I knew I had found the key and could move forward to resolve the problem without all of the emotion swirling and causing me to take everything so personally.

I read a snippet of advice in a People magazine yesterday. Betsy Myers, a senior Obama campaign advisor said, "Don't be oversensitive. I have learned that 99 percent of life is not personal." Yesterday this advice was spot-on for me.

The other thing I have learned in this process is that no one can make me feel anything. I am always in control of my own emotions, except of course when they run away on me, but I can get them back under my reins. No one makes us do anything or feel anything. We must stand up to pressure and say, firmly and clearly, "No." When our emotions make it hard for us to do this, spend an hour with a friend and get to the bottom of what is really going on. The result will be a connection made, a feeling of freedom and joy, and the courage to move forward to create a positive change.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Making decisions is hard, particularly when they impact others. As a mom I want to do the best I can for my kids, as I hold their lives in my sometimes trembling hands, but when the situation is good for them but hard for me, what do I do then? Many things in life are hard. I can accept this and understand it, but it's not always easy to determine when the exact moment for change has arrived. If you make a move too early, because you feel uncomfortable, is that responding to fear? If you wait too long, and put up with stress when you shouldn't, isn't that equally detrimental?

I wish The Right Thing was always clear cut and obvious, with a clock attached so we know when to act. It's never that easy. Many times we have to flounder around in the darkness, hoping to find our way when we are hopelessly lost. I hate to be lost. I prefer to be on solid ground, well lit and safe, with markers to show me the way.

I'm struggling with the idea of injustice: how do we know when to fight for what we think is right and when should we bow out, believing we aren't going to win anyway? Is it worth fighting what feels like a losing cause? I'm glad Abe Lincoln didn't back down. Ditto for Martin Luther King and many other social activists through the ages. They fought for what they believed to be right. History has applauded their efforts, but at the time they went against the grain with their very lives on the line. All change exacts a high cost on the person pushing for it. Big risks are required.

Why should it be any different for the rest of us? We must stand up and not be afraid. I do not like to be treated badly. It brings up my fighting instinct. The problem is energy - there is only so much to go around, and the energy I use for this problem leaves me less for my family and myself. I do believe that the effort must be made. If not for me, then for my kids, and for their kids after them.

Conquering our own fear is a daily challenge. We all want to be liked, and accepted, and are afraid to rock the boat in case we are ostracized and mocked. Sometimes the issues are bigger than we are. I wish I felt more prepared, stronger, and not so alone, but then again, this is how we learn. Through pain, and fear, and difficulties. In the easy times we don't know how strong we are, but when we are kicked and hurt, the wound shows us where our bravery and honour has been hiding.

Passion List

Last night in the Creative Writing Class everyone made lists of what they feel passionate about. For some, it was hard to get started, but for others, it came easily. Every list was different, because we all care about specific things. I make these lists every now and again and find it helpful for my writing. What I'm passionate about drives what I have to say.

I thought I'd pose the same question here for my readers to consider. What are you passionate about? What would be on your list? Some items on my list include identity, looking deep inside at my own brokenness and facing up to areas of weakness, living with honesty, body image, raising respectful children and the equality of all people. These themes become the basis of my fiction and non-fiction writing.

As life changes, our passions and interests change with it, but some things remain constant. In my early twenties I fought to form my identity, and therefore this theme will always be important for me. I feel immense joy when I see my kids strengthening their identities much earlier than I did. I want them to know who they are, to grow in their own unique personality, and never be afraid to express themselves honestly.

I've received some wonderful feedback in the last few weeks from many of you about my blog. I've heard that it's inspired some of you to discover what it is that you love to do, encouraged you to parent differently, or helped you find the positive in negative situations. Hearing from you has made this blog journey much sweeter and more meaningful to me. Thank you for taking the time to read, and to e-mail or Facebook me to let me know you are reading and how my writing has impacted you. It means so much to me.

Feel free to comment here as well, so that other readers can interact with your ideas and thoughts. If you sit down and make a list of things you care passionately about, please share your list with me. I hope it is a good exercise for you to figure out what makes your heart beat just a little bit faster, and drives you forward to action.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bad Day

I'm so glad yesterday is over and today is a new day. Maybe it was the time change, or the fact that I woke up with a stuffy nose this morning, but it was just one of those days filled with rage, self defeat and jealousy.

It started out okay. We went to church and got nicely fired up by our wonderful PASTOR (that was for him, since he worries the term "pastor" is somehow derogatory in this day and age) as he made us think about the concept of evil in a new way. I love how he spends weeks thinking on a passage of scripture, and researching the ideas of others, and then presents it to us with way more work put into the subject than I would be willing to invest, but I come away with new ideas to consider.

Church was good. William had a birthday party at 2 pm, his first ever party to be dropped off and picked up. I had been talking to him about it for a week, prepping him that I wouldn't be there. He wasn't keen on the idea but on the actual day seemed excited to go. I was relieved since I have a deep-seeded fear of him turning out like Will Ferrell's character on Stepbrothers - still living at home as a 45 year old man, not able to let go of my hand.

I told the mom of the birthday party boy that William might struggle with being in a new environment without me. He finds it so hard to warm up to a new situation, and by the time he's comfortable, usually the event is over. I have no idea how to help him with his anxieties in these situations, other than to make him do what he is afraid of doing to see that it's not so bad. All of us need to do that sometimes to prove that we can do it and survive.

I dropped him off and he didn't look back, disappearing into the house with other kids he knew. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and went home for 2 hours of writing time. When I went to get him, standing in the entryway with all of the other parents there to collect their darlings, I heard that he had cried on and off for me, that both parents had to "tag team" to comfort him, and that he eventually had fun but really missed me. Instant devastation. I didn't realize until much later in the day, when I tried to figure out why my mood was so damned black, but I felt embarrassed of my small son, and my own parenting, and wished he was like all of the other 4 year olds that could have fun and not cry for their mothers.

We came home and Ava asked to ride her bike for the first time this season. We took it down, got her set up, and I expected she would just ride away and have fun. She didn't. She rode with no confidence up and down the block with me running beside her, bringing up emotions from last summer when she took absolutely forever to learn to ride a 2 wheeler. And she is my daredevil child. Kids all around, much younger, were whizzing around while she was happy to stay on her little bike with training wheels. She finally got it last summer, and now seems to have forgotten it over the winter. When she eventually crashed, narrowly missing our neighbour's truck, there was some crying (her), some yelling (me), and I bustled us all inside and away from the other happy neighbours outside enjoying the beautiful weather.

Why is it so hard to accept our kids as they are? I should not be looking at other kids and comparing mine to them. I must support and encourage my kids where they are, but some days I don't know how to do it. I become this shrill, angry woman, expecting my kids to meet a standard I have set that they aren't able to meet. Then we all feel bad about ourselves. I felt like a failure as a mom yesterday. And I always take it to the extreme: "She'll never ride a 2 wheeler", "He'll never be able to individuate away from me."

Staying in the moment is what I'm going to work on today. Taking a deep breath and listing the good qualities of my kids, and my strengths as a mom. Focusing on the positive instead of the negative. Realizing people aren't judging me as harshly as I'm criticizing myself. Life is about mistakes, and learning from those mistakes. It's not the end of the world, and a failure is not a life sentence. It's an opportunity to grow, change and become a better person. Today I'm going to find grace for myself and for my kids, and hopefully for others around me in the process.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Following Your Dream

I had a marvelous day yesterday. Jason had been gone all week, every bedtime, due to work travel and dinners, so I bartered for some writing time on Saturday. He took both kids up to Calgary Olympic Park for Ava's third snowboard lesson (she even got to get off the bunny hill and go on the chairlift and come down the bigger hill on her own!). He had them out and about for about 5 hours.

I worked the entire day on my screenplay, revising for the fifth time based on specific feedback from a friend who knows scripts quite well. I'm used to writing for 30 minutes here, maybe an hour there if I'm lucky, and even then with near constant interruptions. To have this block of time was an unusual luxury and I reveled in it. It was amazing to be so absorbed into the story, and some great new scenes came out of it. When they got home, and began chattering about their experiences, I found it really hard to emerge from my created world of characters into my real life world of family. That's never happened so deeply to me before, and it was inspiring, because it means my writing is becoming more real to me all of the time.

This dream to write is alive, and like all growing things, it changes all of the time. I've enjoyed charting its growth and being open to its possibilities. In some ways, writing has been challenging for my family as I become very single-minded when I'm in the middle of it, but I am so much happier and more fulfilled, so that must count for something in our day-to-day experience. All dreams are worth pursuing. I love being able to model this on a daily basis for both of my kids. They can do anything they set their minds to. I don't want them to limit themselves; to feel like I did that I must pursue a "real" career and then just write on the side. I want them to believe they can do anything they want to do, personally or professionally.

Ava was reading a book at bedtime the other night and she came running out to show me that one of the characters was an author. "Like you!" she said. My heart beat a little faster with pride, in myself and in my daughter, for her joy was contagious. I smiled and said, "That's right, I'm an author." It felt wonderful to say it out loud and to have my almost seven year old daughter recognize it. I'm on the right road. It's never too late to pursue long-held dreams or even new ones. The act of following your dream turns out to be its own reward.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


We survived the pediatric dentist. My new, improved attitude made a difference in how I felt, but unfortunately did not affect the outcome of William's bravery. He got 2/3 of the way through having his broken front teeth filled, but when the dentist picked up the first real tool, William lost his mind and began thrashing around on the chair so it was unsafe for the dentist to continue. He said, "It's preventative work, the teeth are not decayed, we'll just watch it for awhile and only intervene if he begins complaining of pain. He's simply not ready and needs more time to warm up."

Usually at this point I would be shriveling up inside, feeling shame that my kid refused to perform as I wanted him to, and I would take it out on William through a myriad of loaded comments and heavy sighing. This time, inspired by my mom's group experience, I decided not to cast judgement on my parenting. I did the best that I could to prepare William for the dentist chair. The fact that it all fell apart at the last second was unfortunate, but not my fault. Sometimes we do our best and accept the consequences when they are beyond our control. His fear is not a rational thing and cannot be explained into obedience. He must find his way through it. Maturity will likely help. My berating him will likely have the opposite effect.

On the other hand, Ava was as brave as a lion. The only indication I had that she was terrified was her ice cold hand in mine. She had nitrous oxide gas, then "sleepy juice" (AKA a needle), then her back top right tooth extracted, a process I couldn't bear to watch. It's not easy to watch your child do unpleasant things. I know there will be many of these hurdles to face together, but at the end of the day I can't do them for her. She must work up her own courage to manage her anxieties in these situations. She came through with flying colours, and I was immensely proud of my girl, but we are all fragile, and must remember to extend grace to ourselves and to others in the difficult moments of life.

Last night we had homegroup, a gathering involving pizza, discussion and laughter. It was a good end to a stressful day. One of the things we talked about was capacity, how each of us has an acceptable threshold for stress, and when we go over that level, we must either increase capacity or decrease the outside stressors. We recognized as a group that God has infinite capacity, and coming to him when we reach our limit gives us a way to access more capacity to function at a healthy level. I went to sleep thinking about that last night. It makes sense to me. We are finite, but God is not. We have limits, but a relationship with God offers the possibility of strength and resources much greater than our own. The idea gave me comfort. It's a relief to be able to admit when my capacity has been reached and I don't have any more to give, but it's good to know where I can go to recharge my energy to continue on.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Attitude Adjustment

Yesterday we had a meeting with our local Moms group. I was particularly excited about it because a good friend was speaking, along with her sister, about something very personal and close to their hearts. There is an amazing feeling of cameraderie in a room filled with women who are committed to supporting each other. All of the ugliness in people just melts away, to allow room for a warm, caring spirit of acceptance.

I witnessed that in our group yesterday. It came from the transparent honesty of each speaker; the strength of character it took for them to tell us about their heart wrenching experiences with a no-holds-barred bravery that inspired everyone in the room. Tears were shed, emotions were stirred, and a call was given to action. We were encouraged to look around and realize that a kind word or a smile can be a lifeline to someone feeling desperately lonely. Women don't always feel comfortable talking about how they are really feeling. Often we smile and say we are okay because it's painful to admit that we are crumbling inside.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Is it society's expectations that have us so sure we must always be capable and functioning at our highest level, or our own? I wondered yesterday if I am my own jailer in this case. My judgements on myself become so harsh, my standards so ridiculously high, that I set myself up for failure before I begin. As a mother, so much of life is beyond my control, and yet I take it very personally when something goes wrong for one of my kids. I feel ashamed, as though I have failed, instead of taking a problem solving approach to the issue at hand and removing my emotion from the situation.

In my small discussion group we talked about the shame we feel as moms when something happens with our kids that we don't want others to know about. Shame is something we do to ourselves, but we hide from others because we don't want them to judge us and confirm that we should be ashamed. To be in that group of women yesterday, who were supporting each other fully, provided a positive energy unlike any other. It was extraordinary, but I would love to see that sense of open and honest support continue in my everyday life. Perhaps I should share what's really going on in my life and expect to be supported instead of judged. Would it change the interaction I have with people if my attitude was different? I'm going to try it as an experiment.

Worrying less about things outside of my control appeals to me. I cannot control what others think about me, my kids, and my life in general. But I can certainly affect what I think about myself, my kids and my life. I can project confidence or fear, misery or happiness, hope or panic. It's easier said than done, but I want to propel that sense of community support, bravery and honesty I experienced at my mom's group into my regular life.

It can start today. Instead of being afraid to take my kids back to the pediatric dentist for William to get his broken front teeth fixed and Ava to have a tooth pulled which is growing in at an angle, I can project a confidence I don't really feel, to reassure my kids that it's no big deal to face their fears and get a difficult job done. I can expect the best behaviour from them (and myself) instead of the worst. I can't change the outcome, but I can alter my expectations, and perhaps that in itself will make a difference to what happens.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cold & Broken Hallelujah

Jason had a work dinner last night, so I had the kids bathed and in bed by 7 so I could settle into my pj's and the couch to unwind from a good, but busy day. I usually watch American Idol with the kids, but felt like listening to the boys sing without answering a million questions ("Is he any good, Mom?", "Do you like his clothes, Mom?", "I wonder what Simon will say", etc.), so I found it on the PVR and watched all by myself.

Tim Urban, a guy with long, curly hair who has struggled so far to find his own voice in the competition, chose the Jeff Buckley version of 'Hallelujah', the Leonard Cohen penned masterpiece. That song brings me to tears whenever I hear it (when the kids are watching Shrek or KD Lang's performance at the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics) and last night was no exception.

There is something deeply piercing about a performance where the singer is making a genuine connection with the audience. When the singer believes in what they are singing and feels it deeply, that passion comes across loud and clear, and never fails to move me. It touched a chord, buried in my soul somewhere, and I felt as though I was swimming in rivers of gratitude, flowing and ebbing around me with an appreciation of life and pain and all hidden depths of feeling in this human experience. Life is equal measures of pain and joy. One anchors the other. Without pain, the joy wouldn't have its full meaning, and the reverse is true as well.

Last night, listening to Tim Urban sing, I experienced a keen identification with the double-edged sword of our emotions. I realized again how valuable it is to stay open to our feelings, and not to shut down because we don't want to feel pain. How empty life would be without those swelling crests of emotion. We must ride those waves to wherever they will take us. I love the phrase, "It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah". We rejoice, but it's imperfect - cold and broken. The true measure of courage is continuing on, every day, in spite of pain. It will form us, change us, improve us if we will allow it to.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A New Path

Yesterday was not an easy day with William. He pushed the limits and fought me on everything. It was a parenting day that seemed tilted uphill and I felt out of breath and off balance for most of it. We got Ava from school and she chattered away about picking a pink container from the office for her tooth that fell out over the weekend, and she just seemed so easy by comparison. My personality has always meshed better with hers. We get along with much less friction.

When I put William to bed after a couple of frustrating incidents after dinner, I asked him if he thought I was proud of him. With no hesitation, he shook his head, "No." Shocked, I clarified, and said, "Not right now, when you chose to do blank, blank, blank, but the rest of the time, do you think I'm proud of you?" No question. He said, "No." I pressed a little more and said, "Do you think I always love you?" Hesitation, then a slight shake of the head with his eyes averted.

I reassured that I could never stop loving him, and I'm almost always proud of him. I listed many of his good qualities and certain situations where I am bursting with pride in him. We sang Jesus Loves Me, prayed together and he went to sleep. I was devastated by our little exchange and took a few moments to look deep inside and I didn't like what I saw. I often say as a joke that I'm terrified William will be a "momma's boy" as I've seen a few in my time and I really do despise that dynamic. I wonder if it's possible that William is so clingy to me because I have intentionally removed myself from him in some way that I haven't withheld from Ava. Last night I saw him working for my approval instead of understanding that he already has it.

These parenting moments are deeply humbling. We have to become aware of the unconscious things that drive us, and fix what is not working. My drive to make William individuate from me, and in a very real sense, not need me, is having the opposite effect. He's working harder than ever before, and I'm trying to escape him. It's not going to be easy for me to turn and fully embrace his need for me. I worry that I will make him dependent on me as he grows, when I really want the opposite for him, but as I seem to be hurting him in the process, I must give up my own selfish desires and focus on what he needs at this moment, and try not to worry about what it may mean for the future.

I know that I love him and am proud of him, but the fact that he questions it, for any reason at all, means I'm not doing my job as a parent. It's never too late to change. As long as any of us are breathing, we can improve ourselves and our methods. We can try things that terrify us, and grow leaps and bounds in the process. We can be better moms, friends, spouses, children, and employees. Today is the day to turn toward the light, and begin forging a new path.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I realized yesterday how much I've come to rely on Jason for certain things like driving in stressful weather situations. I am often content to sit in the passenger seat and not be responsible for our safety on bad roads. He flew to Vancouver on Monday morning for a 2 day business trip, and I had to pick up the kids in Canmore where they stayed with their Nana and Auntie while we enjoyed 24 hours of kid-free life to host our annual Oscar party. I kept telling myself it was more than worth the drive back to have that time to myself, and it was, but after weeks of warm weather, to have snow blowing in was a shock to the system.

I had a leisurely, quiet morning at home, puttering around and working on the latest revision of my screenplay. It felt like being in Maui (I'm an easy girl to please!). It was sunny and clear here, but I kept checking the weather forecast for the mountains and it looked like snow, snow, and more snow. I grew up outside of Edmonton and learned to drive in adverse weather conditions, but as an adult I've lived most of my life in the Vancouver area and didn't get the opportunity to practice driving in blizzards there. I don't mind snowstorms, as long as I never have to leave the safety of my small town, but sometimes the weather doesn't cooperate with me.

Driving west yesterday, watching the clouds accumulate and the grey, heavy feeling descend, I thought about marriage, and how easy it can be to absorb into your partner. Sometimes it's a good thing, as marriage is about learning to rely on someone other than yourself, but at other times it becomes a crutch we use to avoid doing things we don't want to do. Fear and ignorance aren't valid reasons not to try new things. We can stand up to our fear, bravely face it, and we can learn new ideas to combat our worries that we don't know how to do something. Jason has an built-in compass that I missed out on when birth qualities were being distributed. He can find his way anywhere. I constantly worry about being lost, which is why my talking GPS birthday present last year was one of the best gifts I've ever received, as I feel more confident driving to new places now.

Marriage is a delicate balance. I enjoy being taken care of by my very capable husband, but I must cultivate my own usefulness or I am in danger of losing it, or at least losing confidence in myself. I grew up with a mom who tried everything so her kids wouldn't miss out on experiences. I'm sure she was afraid many times to pull a trailer, drive to BC on her own to camp, and take care of many other mechanical issues that didn't come naturally to her, but she provided the example that anyone can do it.

I'm content to let Jason take care of most of these things, but it's good for my kids to see that I'm not afraid to do what needs to be done. I can drive through blowing snow to find them, I can go bravely to new places and not fear becoming lost, I can come out from Jason's reliable shadow and find my own way. Independence is important. There is a lot we can learn about ourselves when we face our insecurities and believe that we can do anything we set our minds to.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Brick by Brick

The Academy Awards did not disappoint, at least for me. We laughed with friends, became disgusted by some egos, got misty-eyed at the good speeches, and ate, drank and felt merry. Probably because I am firmly in a season of nurturing my creativity, I was deeply inspired by the many speeches encouraging people to be free to express themselves (one winner stated that "creativity is not a waste of time"). Learning to be confident in yourself, to understand on some unconscious level that you can do anything you set your mind to, is like getting the combination to a locked door that holds everything you've ever dreamed behind it. I'm drinking my coffee this morning from a mug that says, "Go confidently in the direction of your the life you've imagined." It's a shortened version of the Henry David Thoreau quote that I taped onto my headboard as a teenager. I've believed it for years; but now I know that it's true for me, not just true in general.

One of the winners talked about borrowing his family's video camera when he was nine years old and making movies. He said that his parents always told him he could do it, so he grew up believing it was normal to make movies. He recognized in his speech that other kids don't have that type of support, so he stated that anyone could do it. I took those words to heart. I've heard that type of speech many times before, but this time I realized that I really am on the road to my writing dreams, and I felt buoyant and happy instead of discouraged. It's a good thing to measure your successes instead of your failures. To keep building on what you are doing, one small brick at a time, until it is something you can really see and touch. We don't want to become discouraged by the slowness of the process. It takes the time it takes. When we are ready, growth blooms in our lives. When we aren't, we must be patient and wait, believing that the seeds will grow.

The silence in my house this morning is a sumptuous feast. It equals a tropical vacation in its ability to recharge and renew my soul. I'm so grateful for Jason's mom and sister looking after our kids last night and for some of today. I had planned to sleep in a bit but was up before 7, wanting to enjoy the morning to the fullest before heading back to Canmore to pick up the kids and bring them home for regular life to begin again in the morning. This beautiful hiatus to focus on my movie dreams is coming to an end, but it's by no means over. It's actually just getting started, and I will see it through, day by day, brick by brick, until I get to the Kodak Theatre on Oscar Night.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscar Night

It's Oscar Night, one of my favourite nights of the year. It's definitely my favourite annual party. We've hosted this party with the same basic format every year since we've been married, except for the year Ava was born because I had her on Friday at 12:03 pm and we got home on Saturday afternoon. I was raring to go for the party on Sunday evening because the invitations were out and the work was all done, but Jason and my mom convinced me that after 44 hours of labour it wasn't in my best physical interests to host a dozen friends for our party. They were probably right, but I hated to miss out on the event. People who loathe award shows can't understand why I love this party so much, but the competitive format keeps everyone interested in the categories, the trivia questions during the commercials keep everyone laughing and interacting, and the comedy seems much funnier with a large group than when you are watching it alone in your pj's. I love seeing people come together and expect to hate 4 hours of award show boredom, and end up having a ball.

Oscar Night is about big dreams. As a kid I watched the show and dreamed of the day when I would belong in that auditorium, wearing my designer gown, and delivering my clever acceptance speech. As an adult, I continue to hold that dream, and this year, with a fully developed screenplay almost completed and ready to get out into the world, the dream seems more realistic than ever before. I'm grateful for this dream; even for the unapproachable nature of it, because it keeps me believing in myself, and in possibilities, and doesn't ever allow life to be boring and predictable. There is always a higher plateau to aim for. Our reach must exceed our grasp as humans or we become stuck, mired in complacency and boredom. On Oscar Night I see people's dreams coming true and for me it feels like magic, glittering and beckoning me forward, and urging me not to give up until I accomplish my dream.

Right now the house is quiet and ready for the party in a few hours. The kids are staying in Canmore with their Nana, Auntie and cousin tonight. It's a bit like the first day of summer vacation when you are a kid - a beautiful block of time to be on your own with no other responsibilities and only fun on the horizon. As a mom you have to become reacquainted with yourself when the kids aren't with you at all times. It is a much-needed sanity break and I'm grateful for the opportunity to sit and rest with my own thoughts. Tomorrow morning I plan to work on my screenplay for a few hours before driving back to Canmore to get them. I expect to be fully inspired after tonight's show. Inspiration and dreams are gifts to open and enjoy over and over throughout our lives. I'm grateful for the opportunity to dream as freely as I can, and when those dreams become real-life experiences, it will be even sweeter because I looked forward to them for so long.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A River Flowing

Our unconscious is a marvelous thing. Throughout this blogging experiment, I have learned to trust myself in ways I couldn't conceive of before. I'm a planner, down to the last detail, and don't like to leave things to chance (a by-product of my childhood with too many ups and downs that were out of my control). When I began this blog, I had a list of ideas that I could write about, as I couldn't imagine sitting down at the computer in the morning and not knowing what I was going to say. As the experiment has progressed, I've been leaving it up to chance a bit more, and the freedom has been teaching me a lesson all its own.

If we listen to ourselves, pay closer attention, there is so much to hear. Our minds, conscious and unconscious, are packed to the brim with feelings, memories, experiences and ideas. I'm guessing its always been this way, like a river flowing, and I've only just figured out how to tap into it. I feel as though I'm dipping my tin mug in this cool, refreshing water, and drinking from it, and instead of the water level going down, it's actually increasing all of the time. Trusting my own writing process has been frightening and rewarding in equal measure. Inspiration is everywhere - I just need to keep my eyes open to see it. Ideas and thoughts are brewing constantly under the surface of my busy life, but unless I take a deep breath and look inward, I miss them. In blogging daily I've made a commitment to look for these parts of myself that have been there all along, and my life is richer and more layered as a result of finding them buried somewhere inside.

We are back in Canmore this weekend, at our new timeshare, and Jason's mom, sister and baby nephew came from BC to join us for the weekend. It's so peaceful and relaxed, sipping my coffee and watching the sun glint off of the mountains. These short get-aways put the stresses of regular life into clearer perspective. It's good to have fun, to relax and not worry so much about my agenda of being productive and getting things accomplished. I think this timeshare is going to be very good for my hard-charging personality type. To be away makes me slow down, breathe a bit deeper, and enjoy my life. I feel grateful this morning for all that I have been blessed with: health, kids (even a daughter who wakes us all up at 4 am shouting, "My tooth fell out!"), a supportive spouse, fun-loving extended family, friends and creativity.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Staying Connected

My dad died 8 years ago this month. We had just bought our first house, but hadn't taken possession yet, so Jason was over there painting while I was preparing to host our monthly writer's group at our current house. The phone rang and it was my aunt, my dad's sister in law, calling from Victoria. We are not close and had never spoken by phone before. She delivered the news that my dad had died in his bachelor apartment in downtown Edmonton and the police contacted my aunt and uncle as his next of kin. They had no idea how he died, just that the neighbours contacted the police when a horrible smell began to seep into the hallway. Not good news to give or to receive. I will never forget the feeling I had, standing in my living room waiting for writers to arrive, hanging up the phone and staring straight ahead. So many feelings were trying to press to the surface and yet I was cold and numb. A life, over so instantly when the word "dead" comes down the phone line. It felt like a twig snapping in two, marking a moment forever.

I called Jason, shaking, and he said he would come home. Being myself, I insisted he finish painting and that people would arrive any moment for the writer's group, and I'd deal with all of this when the evening was over. At that moment the doorbell rang and it was the first writer, a good friend, who took one look at my pale face and asked me what was wrong. I told her, but said I was fine to run the writer's group, and she gently took me upstairs, made me something hot to drink, and turned people away at the door. Thank God for friends and spouses who know how to handle a crisis when the person involved is in denial. I'll never forget her gentle kindness, and Jason's unflagging support when he got home.

The phone calls one has to make when someone dies are very intense. Each time you are relaying news that no one wants to hear and it changes the person's life forever. I had to make flight arrangements, funeral arrangements, talk to the manager of his apartment, and let people know the details about the service. My siblings helped, but we were all in shock, struggling to move forward with the arrangements. Our relationship with my dad was very complex. He was an alcoholic and a drug addict, sober on an off throughout his life, and he also struggled with mental illness. He had violent mood swings, and when he was off his medication he could make life very, very difficult for everyone. My parents divorced when I was 15, and while that meant my mom could get away from the craziness, as kids we were still connected to him. I would maintain relationship via letters and phone calls and the occasional visit when I was in town, and then there would be some bad incidents, and I would break it off. This was the cycle of my adult relationship with my dad. At the time that he died, we were in an off cycle, but there was no real animosity left. I accepted that he was ill, that he couldn't meet my needs the way I wanted him too, and we more or less agreed to live peaceably with that knowledge.

Jason and I flew to Edmonton to meet with my mom and siblings. Stepping off the elevator in his apartment building, wondering aloud which apartment was his, and then seeing a towel rolled up against the bottom of his door, is a moment forever seared on my memory. All of our hearts dropped an inch or two. The police told us they felt he had been dead for at least two weeks before anyone called them. He had died in bed, watching TV. No one should die with that indignity of not being noticed, but he lived so disconnected to others, and that was the price he paid. We entered his apartment with a deep feeling of dread, our hands over our faces to mask the smell. The police told us they had removed the bed he was lying on, and also a big chunk of the carpet, so the small apartment had a huge hole in the centre. Looking back, it was a surreal experience to pack up someone's life, putting together clues about how he lived at the end, both good and bad. He had sticky notes all over saying he had quit drinking, dated a few days before he died, and on a shelf we found rows of empty alcohol bottles. I get my sense of meticulous organization from my dad, as everything was neat and tidy. Everything I touched I used to connect to him somehow; to attempt to cross the relationship divide that seemed uncrossable at so many points during his life. I said goodbye, over and over again as I cleaned up his life. I said, "Be at peace now. No hard feelings. I'm sorry things weren't better for you here. Be free."

As a family, we worried that no one would come to his funeral. He had hurt a lot of people in the course of his 58 years. We didn't realize how wonderfully kind people are. Our friends came, lots of them, and provided food and drink, surrounding us with affection and care. It was an outpouring of love that helped to heal what was broken during his life and his tragic death. To this day, I am grateful to those friends, for the gift they gave us that day. And when the coroner told us, hours before the funeral, that he died of natural causes, a massive heart attack, I could put that in my eulogy and set everyone's minds at rest.

In many ways, his death was a relief, as he struggled to be happy in this life. It was far easier for me to tell my future children that he was no longer with us, than have to find ways to explain his illness and why he was in and out of our lives. I find now that Ava is older, she asks about him quite a bit. I like to talk about my ups and downs with my dad, and to explain how important it is to understand that some people are sick, and need medication to function in life, and that's okay. When my dad was on his meds, we had the opportunity to form some good memories: shopping trips, meals out, listening to music on his expensive stereo, and lots and lots of movies. When he was off them it was a different story. It's a good starting point to discuss him with Ava, and eventually William, and hopefully teach them compassion for people who are lost deep within themselves.

I would say the moral of this story is to live your life with as few regrets as possible. I wish I had a "normal" dad who was stable and involved in my life. I missed out on that and my personality reflects that loss, but you can't change what happens to you. We must make the best of the circumstances we find ourselves in. I had the best relationship possible with my dad, and therefore felt at peace when he was gone. I reached out at times, and pulled away at times, but we never fully lost our connection with each other. We had many rocky moments, but some good times too, and those memories are important for me to dust off once in a while and remember. It's important to stay connected to people, to know and be known by your family and circle of friends. We all invest in each other, and these investments increase the value of our lives. My dad chose to stop investing in people, to pull away and hide, and the result was a tragic and lonely death. It's a good reminder of how valuable our relationships are, and even when they are tough and stressful, we must all work to stay connected to each other.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

We All Did It

My almost 7 year old daughter came home in tears yesterday from school. We locked ourselves in my bedroom to talk about it, with my 3 year old son banging on the locked door and eventually getting a butter knife to jimmy the lock and break in. Ava told me her story about girls not wanting to play with her and being mean and all of the things that 6 and 7 year old girls can do to each other. I phoned her teacher, an eminently approachable and kind woman, to get her take on the playground situation and to be sure she was aware that these things were going on. I took Ava out to the grocery store for a little girl time (and Ben & Jerry's ice cream) and she felt much better when we got home.

That evening, I called the mom of the girl that Ava had the disagreement with. We had a good talk, and I admitted that I was only getting one side of the story, and there was probably more to it. Sure enough, the phone rang 15 minutes later and I got the other girl's story, in which my daughter didn't come off quite so saintly. Back to the locked bedroom we went to discuss how important it is to tell the whole story, not just the one that makes you look good. I felt quite foolish for my flurry of phone calls, assuming blindly that my daughter had been victimized instead of taking into account that she also bore responsibility for some of the relational problems.

I got thinking about how this is not just isolated to children. As adults we all see our own side clearly, and feel righteous about our position. Often I fail to take all of the other opinions as seriously as I view my own. We must be open to the idea that we are equally flawed; that during a disagreement we all feel that our points are valid and none of us are immune to making mistakes. All sides should be carefully considered before rushing in and making accusations. There is a fine line to walk between feeling you are right, and recognizing that the other side of the argument carries some validity as well. I told Ava to be considerate of the other kids in her class and I must do the same for the people in my life. Walk carefully, speak kindly, and think about where others are coming from before I plunge in with the certainty that I am right and the other person is wrong.

I phoned the mom back last night after the second locked-door chat, and got Ava and her daughter on the phone to apologize to each other and move past this hurdle in their friendship. I think a valuable lesson was learned for both of the girls, and for us as moms. We all felt closer and better when the incident was resolved. Eating crow is never a pleasant experience, but it was an important reminder that my beloved daughter is not always innocent in the stories I hear from her. None of us ever are. As we get older the issues become more complex, with many layered shades of grey. It's not as clear-cut as it is in the preschool years, when your child says, "He did it", or "She did it." To some degree, "We all did it". We must step forward to take responsibility when that is required of us, and be part of a resolution that benefits everyone.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Example's Always Clear

At church on Sunday our Pastor quoted a Scottish poem that I found very inspiring. I quickly whipped out my pen and some preschool bedding plant fundraising sheets I found crumpled in my purse (oh, the exotic life of a mom) and got it down on paper:

"I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day,
I'd rather one would walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye's a better pupil, more willing than the ear,
fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear."

These words have been rattling around in my brain for a few days, and each time I consider this poem, the ring of truth is just a little bit louder and clearer. Words don't mean much if we don't have actions behind them. We all have a built-in sensor that goes off when someone's words and actions don't match. I recently found myself in a situation where a person tried to assure me with their words that they weren't feeling a certain way, but the body language and tone of those words were screaming something different. It was easy to spot the truth, but how do we convince people that their words and actions are not aligning?

I think I've come so far in this journey of authenticity that I can't stand to see others clinging to the hope that they won't be found out when they are lying to themselves. If you are angry, own up to it. If you are baffled, admit that you aren't sure what is going on. If you are happy, dance with true joy. By all means, please don't tell me you are fine when I can see that you are hurting. It's the adult version of lying, and we teach our kids to always tell the truth. There is a difference between intentionally being mean and hurting someone's feelings, and omitting certain things because it won't benefit a person to hear what you have to say. We all have to navigate our way through these emotional minefields, and the right way to behave is not always black and white. There are often shades of gray. We make mistakes and learn lessons in our relationships. That's a big part of life.

I'm talking about being in touch with our emotions and our words. They should be in the same basic vicinity of each other. This congruence makes our example meaningful and true for others. It's important to me to be as transparently honest as I can. Sometimes it causes hurt feelings, but it's worth whatever price I have to pay, because to be fake is to be eventually found out and busted. I want my words and my actions to match, and where they don't, I beg my family and friends to point it out to me so I can address it. Every now and again we all need to be reminded to check this ratio and see if it lines up. Giving our kids an example that will light their own path to adulthood is worth it.


The second Creative Writing Course began last night, with a new group of students eager to write and be inspired. The first class was such a great experience for me that I had some trepidation going into this one, wondering if the magic would be there again. It was. One of the students said she loves just being with writers, and I couldn't agree more. We all speak the same language, recognizing how important it is to nourish the artist inside of us who is afraid to come out into the light in case we are embarrassed. Being with a group of people willing to share their writing is like a tall glass of ice water on a really hot day. Refreshing and restoring.

At one point one of the students talked about how easy it is to compare ourselves unfavourably to others, so that we feel unsatisfied even though we've had some success. When your short story gets printed in a small magazine, someone else gets a contract for their novel to be published on a large print run. Comparisons happen in any industry or situation. Envy is the enemy that steals our joy and pride. We must routinely fight our enemies. It's important to rejoice in our successes and not compare ourselves to our peers. We are all walking our own path with our individual challenges and triumphs, at exactly the moments we are meant to experience them. Someone else's success should not diminish our own. There is room for everyone in this world to make their mark in their own corner of influence, and beyond it. Jealousy will only hold us back.

This advice is easier to give than to take. To struggle with this issue is to recognize our humanity. The positive side of good work is that it inspires us to be better. Watching a great movie makes me want to write better, when it doesn't devastate by lengthening the space between my writing and greatness. Reading a wonderful book pushes us to arrange our words differently to improve the craft of writing. Focusing on what is in our control will make us better on a word by word basis. Little by little our skills improve. We must keep writing. Our voice is unique to us and the world will be poorer if we don't contribute what we have to say. This is true for anyone, regardless of your area of interest and passion. Don't give up. Persevere in what you love until you see the success you are wishing for. Walk your own road with confidence, choosing to be inspired by the greats instead of defeated by them. As I tell my children, the only way to get good at something is to practice it, over and over again, and to never give up.

Monday, March 1, 2010

National Pride

Yesterday felt historic, like a turning point in our great nation's identity. The entire country was watching the gold medal men's hockey game between Canada and the US. There was bad blood from the US spanking us earlier in the round robin tournament, yet that loss incited our team to rise up and trounce every upcoming opponent, and made for one hell of a match-up in the final game. It was winner take all, with an extra poetic layer that Canada would beat the all-time gold medal record for any nation at the Winter Olympics if we were triumphant. For a country who has struggled to define our own global identity as anything other than "not American", with these Olympics we have found our footing and emerged as a fun-loving nation with a serious patriotism that is uniquely our own.

I loved the experience of watching the third period and the nail-biting overtime as a family of four. Our kids were as excited as we were, and when Sid the Kid blasted the puck into the net during overtime, we screamed and clapped and high-fived until we were hoarse. It was the buoyant excitement of Christmas morning combined with the levity of history being made. We stood up to our neighbours to the south and said, "This is our game. This is our ice. This is our national pride." It felt like a defining moment; one we can't ever turn back from. These Olympics have brought us all together in a way the world hasn't seen before, and indeed Canadians haven't even felt this way before. It's a new page in our story. I like what I see and how I feel. Congratulations are in order for Vancouver, who gave the world a Winter Olympics to remember, and united a nation to believe in herself and be proud of who we are.

The beginning of the closing ceremonies was brilliant, with our trademark self-deprecating humour on centre stage as we highlighted the gaffe with the fourth arm to light the cauldron. Other countries may have preferred to forget that moment, but we chose to laugh at ourselves. We also highlighted mounties, beavers and moose as a tongue-in-cheek joke about how the world views Canadians. I wonder if other countries were baffled by some of those things, but the point was that WE got them. We laughed, felt happy, and insanely proud to be Canadian.

Jason went to the grocery store for bread to eat with our lasagna, and he came home with a chocolate cream pie to celebrate. It fit the mood to a T. We ate, let the kids stay up late, and watched the closing ceremonies together (at least until I realized my advanced age when watching those young bands and singers I had never heard of that sounded a bit like cats being strangled). It was a night to remember a country coming of age, developing confidence in her own identity, and banding together shoulder-to-shoulder to realize we are all proud to call ourselves Canadians.