Friday, April 30, 2010

How we Spend our Days

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." I came across this quote by Annie Dillard on a friend's Facebook page this week, and it stopped me in its beauty and simplicity. The best truths in life are straightforward and easy to understand, and this short quote fits that bill.

I like it because there is no room to hide with the usual excuses and fears we use to put off doing the things we need to do. At a certain point, you can't label yourself as doing something if you aren't actually doing it. I called myself a writer for many years but I wasn't regularly writing. I was spending my days doing other things, valuable and good things, but if it's true that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives, then I was spending my time in pursuits other than writing, so I wasn't turning out to be a writer.

I'm so incredibly relieved that those days of confusion and procrastination are behind me. It's still a challenge on some days to sit down and work on my screenplay, or carve out even fifteen minutes to start a story or an article, but most days I am doing it, because I know how frustrated I feel if I don't.

We are what we do. It's important to make this distinction so we aren't tempted to separate our behaviour from ourselves. If we are routinely rude to people but we call ourselves a kind person, we are not being honest. If we speak about the importance of kids and family but we constantly put other things ahead of our family and don't spend a lot of time with them, our actions and our words aren't lining up, and therefore not ringing true. We tell ourselves that others won't see these incongruencies; that we are hiding them from the world. It's simply not true. Most of us can tell when someone is not telling the truth. We use words like "blowhard" or "know-it-all" to describe them, or we say our "B.S. meter is dinging".

It's not an easy thing to look bravely at ourselves. We run the risk of seeing the many places where the cracks are in our lives. We all carry brokenness and pain inside of us, but unless we are honest about our behaviour and our thoughts/words lining up, we don't move forward in life at the rate we could if we would take a hard look at the areas we need to improve.

I find it easier to explore my blind spots in writing, so this blog has been helpful for me to find new ways to stretch and grow and be accountable for my own areas of weakness. If you aren't a writer, don't despair, because you will know when something is wrong. That's what our subconscious is for. Listen to it, for it will guide you if you will take the time to pay attention, and be willing to face what it shows you.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Next Step

It's a snow day today, with school cancelled for Ava, our Mom's group called off for me, and my office closed due to the snow. It's like a mini vacation on top of having 3 solid days of being at home with a sick 4 year old. He's finally turning the corner with this nasty virus, but he's still weak and firmly planted on the couch after not eating for 3 days, so we would've been home-bound again today, even without the snow.

It's been an unusual week, reflective and slow, with time taken to stop and smell the (snow covered) roses. I feel absurdly peaceful and relaxed, like a kid with no responsibilities. I am so grateful for all of my blessings: for my family, my friends, my health, my life. I feel happy, settled, rooted. I know when the storms of regular life blow in again I will struggle to keep this contented feeling, but I want to dig deep and hold on as long as I can, for it's a gentle and wonderful place to be.

Yesterday I received my screenplay in the mail from my friend in LA, with another round of comments. She loved my last rewrite, and gave me 3 pages of notes to tighten up a few loose ends and strengthen a few scenes. She gave me the advice that after this next rewrite, I should get it read by a "professional script person type object" (you have to know my friend to get her fabulous sense of humour).

Reading her comments, and her advice, I felt a rush of excitement. After eighteen months of writing, then getting friends to read, and rewriting again and again, I'm almost at the next step of the process, the one I've dreamed about in one form or another for 22 years: the selling step. It still feels surreal, but for a person who dreamed instead of actually writing for many years, it's very satisfying to realize that there is an end point, and I believe I have a polished product that could be marketable.

I was hoping that my LA buddy would have many agent friends to pass it to, but she's in a different side of the industry, and I completely understand that. I have a few other friends in the industry who I'll ask, but I'm also working on a query letter for agents and I can begin sending it out to gauge the level of interest. Writing on your own in your living room is one thing, and getting it out into the world to be read by people who aren't your friends is a separate part of the procedure, scary and thrilling in equal measure.

It's been fun to share the process in this blog. The ups and the downs; the moments of great certainty and accomplishment and the ones that feel like a terrifying freefall. I'm nearly at the next step. I look forward to charting the course of contacting agents and trying to get my script seen by the right pair of eyes. I'm sure it will be an interesting roller coaster ride, and I'll do my best to describe it as it's happening. Thank you for reading, for walking this path alongside of me, and for sharing your thoughts and support. I deeply appreciate it.

A writer friend of mine profiled me yesterday in her blog for a feature she calls "Writers-on-Wednesday". You can read it on her blog at The Koala Bear Writer. It's a brief interview with me about how I became a writer, what inspires me to write, and what I like to read. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pie Chart

I was home yesterday taking care of William, who stopped puking but ran a high fever all day. He mainly slept off his exhaustion from Monday on the couch, waking once in awhile for me to give him more medicine and water, since his chapped, dry lips were alarming to me. I was supposed to be at work, and planned to work from home, but my kind boss told me it was all taken care of, and I should be home with William. She said the same thing for today, and it feels like being given a gift, to look after my child without additional stress and responsibilities on top of it.

These days of puttering around the house when I wasn't supposed to be home, are like an unexpected mental and physical vacation (if you consider non-stop laundry and scrubbing vomit from couches a holiday). I feel rested and recharged, with all of my stress melting away. It's as though the cure has been discovered before the illness was diagnosed. I've found a new perspective in terms of busyness.

I cannot be too busy. I must manage my stress. My kids come first in life, as that is the commitment I made to be their mother. I want to make everyone happy all of the time, to do everything to the best of my ability, but often I pay a high price for that. I want balance and peace in my life, at all costs, and sometimes tough decisions have to be made in order to achieve that balance. Sacrifices have to be made, but life isn't all about money, because money doesn't satisfy when everything else is out of whack.

I have seen that I am too hard on Jason, who brings a single-minded devotion to his career and sometimes I am jealous of that focus, because I miss the days when I could follow my own ambition without thinking of my kids first. But I have chosen to be home with them for these early years; to sacrifice money and career for their greater good.

As a result, I have signed up for a divided focus, with my life broken into pie charts (mmm....pie) with Ava's needs, William's needs, Jason's needs and my needs all given their appropriate amounts. The amount each person receives changes based on the week and the time, but as a mom we must keep our section of the pie chart (mmm...pie) taking up some space so we don't disappear entirely. Our kids need us, as whole people, with all of our good qualities and weaknesses intact. They must see us evolving and changing so they have a model to follow into adulthood.

Today I am grateful that my boss knew I needed to focus on William instead of my work for these two days. She knew what was best for me even when I didn't. I worried about letting her down, about having a sick kid when I was supposed to be at work, and she extended grace and understanding to me. It means a lot to be saved from yourself, to be given a reprieve from your ridiculously high expectations, and to receive the chance to do what you need to do without guilt or fear.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I am not an overly compassionate person with Mother Teresa-like tendencies. Never have been, and likely never will develop a nurse's loving and caring heart. Jason knows this all too well, as my level of care for him when he is sick rivals a Drill Sergeant's: "Get up, suck it up, life goes on, stop whining, go to work!" are a few of the choice tidbits he's heard from me over the years. When he finally went to the Doctor last winter and found out he had pneumonia, he was relieved, because he was afraid to come out and tell me it was just a virus. Poor man.

My kids are slightly different, but I'm too efficient to make room in my schedule for illness. I prefer to just power through it, as much as possible, and with colds that's easier to do. We haven't had a proper vomiting virus for well over a year, and even then, in the seven years since I've had kids, NO ONE has ever puked like William did yesterday.

He got up at 6:30 and sat on the couch to drink his warm milk, as per his usual custom, and since it was a Pro D day for Ava with no school, I crawled back into bed for a bit. He came to get me around 7, his hands pressed to his mouth, crying and saying he was puking. From that point on, he vomited every 45 minutes to an hour until 5 pm, and from 5 until 6:45 he cranked it up to every 15-20 minutes.

I did 6 loads of laundry in the morning, and then we worked out an arrangement with blankets tucked into the couch and the bucket on the couch instead of the coffee table, as even that 8 inches was too far to reach. We developed a pretty good vomit system by the afternoon, so everything was cleaner, but the poor kid was so exhausted and couldn't sleep, because he would fall asleep and wake up 10 minutes later to vomit. He just couldn't catch a break.

I spent the entire day on the couch with him, changing his clothes, running up and down to the washing machine, and disinfecting like a maniac. I had heard of bugs where people couldn't keep liquids down, but had never experienced it until yesterday. He would drink water, or a water/juice mix, and then at the end of the day a water/Gatorade mix thanks to a kind neighbour who dropped off a bottle, and throw it up a few minutes later. I kept telling myself, "Soon he'll keep this down, this is passing, he'll be better soon," but it literally took 12 hours of constant puke before he stopped.

At 6:45, he threw up for the last time, and fell asleep in my arms moments later. I got a chance to study his face in a way I don't get to anymore, and I noticed he is developing a smattering of brown freckles on his perfect baby skin, beside his eyes and not far from his ears. I noticed the distinct colour of his red-gold eyelashes and how red his eyebrows have become compared to the pale blonde caterpillars he had as an infant (they always looked like they would bunch up and crawl off his face - you had to peer really hard to see them).

Something strange happened as I cuddled him close and looked at his sleeping face. I fell in love with him all over again. All of the bad blood and obstinate fights between us dissolved into nothingness, and he was my baby again. It was like a moment stolen from time, for me to enjoy him with no complicated feelings or fears, just the pure love between a mother and her child. The storm was over. We had survived it together. He looked to me for help and I gave it, with no reservations or conditions, and stayed with him until he could sleep on his own.

He slept through the night with no more vomit, and woke up this morning with a 102 fever, so our cuddling times will carry on into today. I feel bonded to William in a new way after our experience yesterday. By the time Jason got home from Vancouver in the evening it was all behind us, and I couldn't begin to explain to him how tough the day was. It's a memory for William and I to share together, and I'm proud of how brave my boy was, and I hope I can remember how close I felt to him when he is recovered and we go toe-to-toe in the ring again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Life is Beautiful

Life is beautiful. I don't mean the big moments, the sunsets and the milestones, although those are wonderful too, but in this case I mean the everyday: the simple things that we mostly fail to notice and enjoy. Life moves so quickly. We plan our days, stuff them full of activities and people, and then fall into bed at the end of each day, exhausted and trying to summon up the energy for what is coming tomorrow.

Yesterday I made a conscious decision to slow down, to still my racing heart and mind, and to look around. The result was surprising to me. I saw my husband and realized that he is still my best friend, even after living in the same house for almost twelve years. I counted the number of times we laughed together in the course of the day, and the number got to double digits by lunch time. I noticed that our conversations come easily and we haven't run out of things to say to each other. There is very little tension between us on a daily basis, and that is a gift worth its weight in gold.

I enjoyed my kids as well. I heard the sound of their laughter, their young voices chattering away, even the sound of them fighting over toys or books. They are learning how to relate to each other, how to compromise, to try to get what they want while attempting to get along with another person. I looked at my kids as people in their own right, and I was impressed by what I saw.

We went to church, which was good as always except that I was teaching William's preschool class and had to miss the teaching time, and then in the afternoon we went to a birthday party hosted by friends for their sweet 2 year old son. I paid attention to how relaxed I felt when socializing with friends. Nothing was hard or forced; conversation flowed easily and kids ran around enjoying each other's company. It is beautiful to be with people who are kindred spirits and easy to be around. Genuine friendship is a gift in this world and must never be taken for granted.

We spent the evening relaxing at home. I got things accomplished on my to-do list, but I felt different as I was being productive. There was no stress. The day had an easy, flowy pace, and I think I created it simply by turning up my awareness of what I was doing. Being intentional in our days gives us a greater sense of control over ourselves and our emotions. Choosing to be grateful instead of irritated made a big difference for me yesterday. It's something to work on as I move forward into today and tomorrow. Life is beautiful. We have today to embrace that beauty and cultivate it within our own souls.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Emotional Outbursts

It's important to recognize that our moods shouldn't be linked to other people's moods and actions. I understand this fact with no problem at all, but the issue comes when I try to implement it as a practice. When William is having a challenging behaviour day (read: yesterday), I want to rip up my parenting card and quit. As far as I know, that isn't an option, and it bothers me that I'm so easily discouraged and pushed into a corner by my child.

So much of life is separating our expectations from reality. I am constantly working on lowering my expectations so I'm not so frustrated, but if I lower them too far, my kids will get away with poor behaviour because I won't be expecting enough from them. I don't want that either. I think it's a matter of managing our expectations, and separating our feelings from the situation we are in.

When William acts like the worst version of his four year old self, pushing limits and refusing to obey his mother, life would be much easier if I could remove my emotions from the moment and simply solve his behaviour like a puzzle. Usually I feel like a bull, pawing the ground while he waves a red flag in my face, and I charge. I go from calm and reasonable to enraged and furious in about two seconds flat.

From talking to other mothers, I know I'm not alone in this struggle. Our kids can bring out the strongest of emotions, from love to hate in a single moment. All relationships contain the seeds for these emotional reactions, but children seem to push our buttons the most violently.

Today I'm going to try a new strategy. I warned William from the time he woke up, that he will receive one warning today and then instant discipline. I will not waste the day being held hostage by his four year old moods and ideas. When he pushes the limits and refuses to do what is being asked of him, I will stop and take ten long seconds to breathe in and out, and fight to stay calm, before carrying out the discipline.

My job today is to avoid yelling and screaming like a crazy person at my small son. I am the parent, and he is looking to me to understand how to behave. I wasn't a very good example yesterday, but today is a new day, with another chance to get it right.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Investing in Yourself

I'm late with my post because I decided to be spontaneous (never a natural thing for me) and go to the zoo for the morning with my mom and my nephew and nieces. It was a bit of a rush to get out of the house in time to meet them because Ava had to sell Girl Guide cookies with her troop at our town's grocery store at 1:45, but we decided to go for it anyway.

It's fun for a person who plans everything to do something unexpected. The kids had a good time (in spite of the trauma William experiences while passing the new dinosaurs that roar and move in the prehistoric area of our zoo) and the adults did too. It was good to walk in the fresh air and get some exercise, while spending time together as a family.

After my bad day on Thursday, I made a decision not to go to bed on any day unless I had written at least 3 pages of my new screenplay. No more excuses. No procrastinating. Three pages is a reasonable target. It got me from point A to point B on my last script, and it will get me where I need to go again. If I put it off, saying there is housework to be done, or that the kids have sucked all of my creative energy from me, I go to bed and know I didn't do what I was supposed to do that day. Everything else will have to wait until I get those 3 pages written.

That decision has turned things around, once again, for my mental state. I feel calmer, positively zen-like compared to the way I felt on Thursday. As women in general and as mothers specifically, we must take the time to isolate what is bothering us when we are angry, and find a solution to the problem. It's a very empowering way to live. We cannot wait for our spouse, our mom, our kids or our friends to help us out. We should do it ourselves. A little self-examination goes a long way. I'm just frustrated that I would let the problem go on for any length of time before taking the time to really look at it. All of the time in between where I didn't write daily was a waste for the goal I'm trying to accomplish.

Beating ourselves up for missed opportunities is a losing game. We have today, to figure out what's wrong and to move forward. It helps to look at our feelings as a barometer to tell us when all is not right in our world. When we are angry and frustrated, something is wrong, and our emotions are trying to tell us to stop and pay some attention. Feeling restless is a good thing because it means we need a change. Life is change; we are not meant to stay in the same place with the same people or we stagnate.

Has something been bothering you and you are just hoping it will go away? I encourage you to take a moment, right now, and think about why you are feeling the way you do. For me, a pen and a piece of paper is very helpful as my thoughts crystalize better through the written word, but for others a conversation with someone may do the same thing, or even just sitting in a silent room and letting your mind wander might accomplish the same "aha!" moment. Isolating the problem and then brainstorming a solution will do so much toward getting you back in mental and emotional balance. You deserve to feel stable and centred, not harried and stressed. Take the time. Think of it as an investment in yourself.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Obligation Box

I had a bad day yesterday. It's always easier to blame our tough days on outside circumstances, but I knew deep down that the issue was within me. With rushing around at home and then going to work for five hours, I couldn't sit still and isolate the problem, so I wasted the whole day feeling exhausted, frustrated and angry.

A well-meaning friend asked me yesterday what was wrong, and trying to be helpful, she asked what was making me so tired when I only worked for twelve hours a week. I tried, and failed, to explain the never-ending workload of young children. I can keep up with my kids, my husband, my house, my job, my home business, my friends, my committees and social obligations, but I can't keep up with what I really want to do (writing) and it becomes a cycle of frustration.

I'm slowly cutting things out of my schedule, piece by piece, to make space and time to play with words and improve at what I want to do. People without young kids don't understand the constant interruptions that you cannot predict. Requests for help, fights breaking out among siblings, hunger, thirst, wanting to play on the computer or watch a movie, and many random questions to answer (William just asked, "Do bugs glow in the dark?" and it becomes necessary to stop what I'm doing to answer this question which is ridiculous to me but important to him).

Yesterday I felt like I was stuck in a box of obligations that I had to meet. The box was airless and constricting and I couldn't breathe inside of it. Everywhere I turned, there was something I had to do, and not something I wanted to do. I understand that life is not about me and my desires. I do get that. Everyone has obligations and responsibilities. I just told myself when I broke through the writing wall eighteen months ago, that I would never be without writing again. I would write consistently from that point on, because it gave so much joy to my life.

I have been writing consistently. I've even been getting paid for it. I've had a handful of stories and articles published in the last four months. It's my dream unfolding in front of me, and most days it gives me pleasure and satisfaction. But not on the days when I am so busy I can't see straight, and I have idea upon idea sifting around in my mind, and no time to turn the idea into the written word.

I know somewhere in the recesses of my mind that I have a lifetime to work this out, and that these are very short years when William is home and not in school. It doesn't help me to calm down when in this period of time I want to write. I finally started reading 'Eat, Pray, Love' because the movie is coming out shortly and I didn't bother to read it when it sat on the bestseller list years ago.

Something remarkable happened as I read it last night before bed. A peace came over me as I read Elizabeth Gilbert's soothing words. I felt again that when the time is right I can work on the memoir about my dad that I've been thinking about writing for years. I may feel like I want to write it now, but the words will keep inside of me, and grow, until I'm ready to put them on paper. I believed it last night, and this morning I came up with a daily writing plan that may help me break out of this funk. I know I will continue to be interrupted. I will accept that and not let it stop me. I will make the time to write, because if I don't, I'll continue to feel as frustrated as I did yesterday, and I'm not going to allow that to happen.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Home Parties

Last night I was out for dinner with some friends, and the subject of home parties was raised. Someone said, "Oh, we know how Julianne feels about home parties" and I went home and thought about it for a bit. It's ironic that I'm developing a reputation for avoiding home parties because I'm a Stampin' Up demonstrator, and was very busy doing home workshops for people when I lived in BC.

Small town home parties are an entirely different animal. You want to support everyone's home business, but it's simply not possible for me to attend every party I'm invited to, or I'd be going four nights out of every week, possibly more depending on the time of year. I really enjoy my time at home. I'm trying to carve out time to write, which is never easy, and when 7 pm comes and my kids are tucked into their beds, I want to unwind and relax at home.

I realize it sounds like I'm making excuses, and that's because I am. In general, I freeze up and immediately resist pressure I feel being exerted on me, and no matter how many times people invite you to a home party and say that you don't have to buy anything, really you are supposed to buy something. The pressure is always there. I'm trying to simplify life, to move away from owning more and more products that I have to maintain and dust, so home parties really aren't the scene for me.

It's difficult to explain, because it hurts people's feelings no matter which way you say it, and I don't like to be intentionally hurtful. But all of life is a choice. We choose how we spend every resource we have, whether it's money, health, time, or energy. The older I get the more comfortable I feel to make the decisions that I need to make. I try not to worry about the fall-out, but I recognize that the potential for emotional collateral damage is always there.

All of life involves this delicate balancing act. I don't want to become self-absorbed and full of myself, closeted away to be sure my needs are met without any concern for supporting my friends, but I have also found that saying "no" more often relieves stress and offers more freedom to pursue the goals I am reaching for. I suppose we have to take it on a day by day, invitation by invitation basis. We don't want to overload our schedules and then have nothing to give to our family and friends, but we also need to socialize and give what we can to keep our friendships alive. Perhaps we simply do what we can, and embrace the fact that we can't do everything we are invited to do.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Mundane

Our lives are filled with the mundane. Chores, meals, dishes, laundry, groceries, and the endless wiping of counters and picking up clothes and toys that are under our feet. As an experiment, I'm tempted to calculate how much time I waste on a daily basis with menial jobs, but I think the tally would be so depressing that I shy away from this measurement.

I try to remind myself that there is comfort in the everyday tasks; that working to keep my house orderly and welcoming has its own reward. I know my kids won't remember that the dishes were done or the floors were clean (at least I hope not because most of the time my floors are sticky), but they will certainly remember the atmosphere that they grew up in. Was it comforting or cold? Did they feel relaxed and good when they were home, or tense and irritated?

The atmosphere in any home tends to flow from the woman who lives there. If I'm resentful and angry, everyone in my house walks on eggshells. If I'm in a great mood, it rubs off on the rest of the family. I'm not sure why it falls to women to be the barometer of the household, but I'm guessing it's been that way since the beginning of civilization (I can't comment on the jurassic period).

It's important to be honest about how we feel as women. If our husbands aren't willing or able to help out with the dishes, meals and laundry and we are exhausted and need a break, pay a teenage neighbour to come in once in a while and help with the kids or the chores. Attempting to be superwoman and failing (as you inevitably will) exacts a high cost on you and your family. We need to be reasonable about what we can accomplish in any given day.

When I give myself a list, I am almost frantic until I complete each item on the list. I'm trying to learn to slow down, and not rush my kids when they are playing at the park in beautiful 20 degree spring weather, in order to cross another item off. If I can't do it today, there is a tomorrow coming, and even a day after that. What good is accomplishing everything on my list if I'm tired and stressed and not enjoying my life?

The mundane will always be there. We have to eat, wear clean(ish) clothes and pack lunches for our school kids. These little, time-consuming jobs are necessary for the fabric of our lives, but they are mostly unnoticed and unappreciated. While we wipe the counter for the 20th time each day, we dream of beach vacations where we get a break from the menial stuff of life. Don't forget that your state of mind affects your family. Dreams are free, and we should indulge in them as much as possible as an antidote to the mundane.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thick Skin

It's hard to develop a thick skin. I know for a fact that I am improving in this area, but I see that I still have a long way to travel down the road of managing my writing expectations. Rejection is a big part of the process, and endless re-writes, and some days its easier to accept than others.

My screenplay is on its way back to me with notes for more revisions. Looking at the big picture, I can sometimes say, "It takes however long it takes to get it just right. The fact that I've been working on it for 18 months is normal. I'm making the story stronger and better each time." That's the rational, reasonable side of me. The other side screams, "Seriously? It's not ready yet? I'll still be working on this thing when I'm 95!"

The important thing is not to quit. To quote Winston Churchill, "Never, never, never, never, never give up." My script is coming back to me at the same time that my editor read the first draft of my magazine article and essentially told me to go back to the drawing board. Not because the writing was bad, but because I'd covered material that will be featured in other articles, and I needed to focus on more specific areas for the piece.

It's all a learning curve. I recognize that I don't enjoy the learning part. I want to be proficient, dammit, at what I'm doing. But then I remember that there are no shortcuts to success. I must put one foot in front of the other on a daily basis, and keep writing, and get better on a page by page basis at what I'm trying to do. The high of having a story published was wonderful to ride, but a few days later I'm back to re-writing and re-working. Such is life.

Gear4Guys posted another article I wrote about the differences between men and women. It's called Men & Meow Mix. Pop on over and have a read. It's a very short and light blurb on men's brains vs. women's. I hope it gives you a laugh today.

As for me, I'll go to work and then come home and re-write my article. I'll wait for my screenplay to arrive and be grateful that my friend is taking time out of her busy life to help me make my screenplay as good as it can be before I try to find an agent to rep it. I will recognize that re-writing is not a comment on my skills; it is simply a necessary part of the writing process and I must embrace it as such. And above all, never, never, never give up.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jason

Jason turns 33 today. It's always a good day for me, because he closes the 5 year age gap between us down to 4 until my birthday rolls around again in December. It was somewhat frightening to realize how much younger Jason was when we met. He always seemed older, even now, probably because he's the oldest of 4 and was born responsible.

I remember asking him if he went to see Star Wars in the theatre, as I was 4 1/2 when it was released, and his answer silenced me: "I wasn't born when it came out." Ouch. Or sometimes I'll hear a song on the radio, and reminisce about how popular it was when I was in high school, and he'll say, "I vaguely remember this song. I was in grade 6." Double ouch.

The older we get, the less significant the age difference seems, but it's still always there. It doesn't seem to matter when the man is older, but culturally it is still unusual to have the woman the older one in the relationship (Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher made it popular again, but our 4 1/2 years doesn't really compare to their age spread).

Marrying Jason was hands-down the smartest decision I have ever made. I tell my kids, on an almost daily basis, to choose their marriage partner wisely, as that one decision will inform most of their adult quality of life, for better or for worse. Simply falling in love is not nearly enough. You have to make the choice with your head and not just your heart. All factors must be considered.

Because my parents divorced when I was 15, and they didn't have a happy marriage for the twenty-some years they were married, I approached choosing a husband as a near-business decision, and I don't regret that at all. I fell in love first, which is a great and beautiful thing, but then I asked people if they thought he was good for me, because I worried that my happy feelings were clouding my judgement. Every single friend and family member I asked told me he treated me well, and was a kind and loving person, and I should hang on to him at all costs.

For the first few years of our marriage, I worried that it was going too well and that the other shoe was going to drop. I'm happy to say that in almost 12 years of marriage and 2 years of dating before that, I love him as much as I did at the beginning, and it's only getting better. With all of the heartbreak and divorce in the world, it's very satisfying to have made a good marriage decision, and know that we are both willing to put the work into the relationship to keep it alive and vibrant.

This post would probably be better suited for our anniversary, but I hijacked it for Jason's birthday (a decision I may regret come July). Welcome to the last year of your early thirties, Jason. Next year you'll be in your mid-thirties, just as I move into the end of mine. It's been good, in every sense of the word, and I look forward to our future together.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

10 Best Days

It's Jason's birthday on Monday, so we hired a babysitter on Saturday and went out for a date afternoon (the best kind of date since we came home, put the kids to bed, and still had the whole evening to ourselves). I looked forward to it all week, the chance to escape our regular, adult lives and have some fun with no responsibilities for a few hours.

We saw Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carrell and it was much better than I thought it would be. There is something very relaxing about munching popcorn in a dark theatre, holding hands like teenagers with your husband and laughing together. It's my favourite type of escape because it immediately reminds me of all of the other movie experiences along our journey - it feels timeless somehow to sit in the theatre and remember why we chose each other in the first place.

After the movie we went to Chianti's for some pasta and conversation. While we were there I asked Jason which days so far in his life were his best ones. When I went for my morning run this popped into my head and I had already compiled my list, and I wanted to see which of my best days intersected with his.

It was a fun exercise. We strolled back down memory lane, remembering trips, experiences, and memories. Many of our best days were the same (the 3 obvious ones were our wedding and the days both kids were born), some were different, and one or two were before we met each other.

It's amazing the details you can recall about certain days that become seared on your memory, and they aren't days when you are sitting around at home in your pj's watching movies and eating chips. They are experiences where you are out in the world, doing interesting things with people you love.

Not one of our 10 best days involved material gifts. They were all experiences that you couldn't hold in your hand or touch, but things that involved all of our senses: the colours of the water in Cornwall, the unhurried leisure of our first morning in California when we stopped at a park to let the kids play, the joy on Ava's face during The Lion King play last summer, and the incredible peace we felt on our lanai in Maui.

Thinking about our 10 best days made us both glad that we purchased a time share in December with places to stay all over the world. Those are the memories we want to give our kids. Not more and more stuff, but more and more experiences. What are your 10 best days of life so far? I look forward to making more memories in the years to come, and adding to my list of best days.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another Step

I had a great day yesterday. I was reminded that life is a roller coaster, and you never know what you are going to get (the metaphor "box of chocolates" also comes to mind here). Sometimes you look forward to something and it ends up not going well, and the reverse is also true. It's part of what makes life challenging but also interesting. For all of our planning, there is a reckless element of excitement to every single day we are alive, and it's fun to embrace that spirit of adventure.

Weather helps too. The annual miracle of spring never fails to move even the most cynical of people to joy, hope and inspiration. New life and growth is all around us in the spring. After a winter of hibernation, we emerge into the sunlight, blinking and looking around at each other. Everything seems possible, even probable, and there is a surge of goodwill toward our fellow man/woman.

Yesterday was like that for me. I got outside, and walked with my kids, and played at the playground (they played, I sat on a rock and visited with friends). My spirit soared, just doing ordinary things, because it was twenty degrees and gorgeous outside. I slowed down after a busy week and thoroughly enjoyed a sense of leisure.

In the late afternoon I received an e-mail titled, "You are officially published in Pages of Stories!" I went immediately to the website to read the first magazine, and it was a real thrill to see my story in print. You can read it at Pages of Stories. My story is on page 19 of the magazine, and it's called 'June 18th'. After this first issue, you'll have to pay to download the magazine, but the first one is free. Simply click on Current Issues, create a profile with your e-mail address and a password, and then you can view the first issue for free.

It was fun to send the link to my family and friends and have them celebrate this small success with me. Every step toward a dream is an important one. Enjoying each building block as it comes is fun and it all leads to the place I want to go. I feel grateful, excited, hopeful and satisfied with this writing process. Thanks to all of you for sharing in it with me, the good and the bad. It means a lot to me.

I finished the day with our first-ever Mom's group evening mixer. It was as if we left the "day" versions of ourselves at home and emerged with a slightly wilder, more fun "evening" edition of our personalities. We laughed, a lot, and enjoyed each other's company without any interruptions or clock-watching because it was time to get our kids. We just drank decaf, ate dessert, told stories, laughed, and got to enjoy ourselves and each other as adults. Not moms or wives, simply ourselves. It was a wonderful end to a memorable day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Difficult People

Life is hard. It would be much easier if I could deal with people I like all of the time and steer clear of the people I find frustrating. Why is it that time spent with someone you like adds so much to your life, and difficult people drain you of all energy and joy? It's as if the canvas of our day is blank when we wake up in the morning, and throughout the day it's either filled with pleasing colours and shapes, or muddied up and stark black and white by the end of the day, based on the company we kept that day.

I sometimes ask my friends if they find me hard to get along with, because I'm so afraid that I am one of these obtuse, overly-opinionated people and no one has been kind enough to tell me. I don't know how difficult people can carry on in the world, when they wreak havoc and frustration all around them, and then go on their merry way, whistling and pretending that they had nothing to do with the problem.

As I type this I can hear my pastor's oh-so sensible voice in my ear, reminding me that all people are broken and dealing with their own hurts and pain. I do understand this on a mental level, but I can freely admit that I struggle to be a compassionate person. I have more of a "suck it up and deal with it" philosophy, for myself and for others. There are many that don't agree with my ideas, and I can accept that, but it's challenging where my values and philosophies collide with other people's and they don't mesh.

Perhaps that is the crux of why we hit it off with some people and are repelled by others: our philosophies, personalities, and values either ring true and agree, or clash and repel. I hadn't thought of it quite that way before. It might help me not to take it so personally if I realize that the person driving me up the wall has redeeming qualities, like everyone, they just don't fall in the same hemisphere as I do when it comes to values and ideas. And that's okay, but for peace and harmony in life I prefer to surround myself with people whom I can connect with on a deeper level.

Usually when we first meet a person, we get an immediate feeling about them. It's as though something in our spirit recognizes and connects with something in the other person, or doesn't connect. I always assumed it was a personality thing, or the fact that the other person was a jerk, but I'm wondering if it goes deeper than that.

I don't necessarily want to have the same beliefs and ideas as all of my friends, but that core recognition of values such as kindness, respect, and genuine regard must be there in order for us to be friends. When I can't make that connection with another person, I have the urge to flee in the other direction because I see a difficult person who will mess up my canvas for the day.

Sometimes we can't escape people we don't mesh with. We serve on committees with them, work with them, run into them while running errands and make polite small talk with them. All I can do is watch myself and be as true to my values as possible. I can't change anyone else and have no interest in trying. I'm responsible for myself, and I rely on my friends to keep me in check where I have blind spots and can't see times I might be annoying or considered difficult. I really do want to know what these problem areas are and work on them. As far as it depends on me, I want to live peaceably with everyone. Sometimes it's easy, and sometimes it's not.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Last night, in that delicious moment right after you fall asleep, I jerked awake with a dream that Jason was falling out of bed and I was trying to catch him. I've been sleeping soundly lately and can't recall the last time I had a dream, so this was really strange. I sat up and reached across the bed to grab him; I was so sure he was falling away from me and I had to save him. Of course, he was sound asleep, and then I was awake for awhile.

I used my awake time to think about the fragility of marriage (light topic, I know, which is probably why it took me so long to fall back asleep). It's very easy for me to take my husband for granted. I carry along in my busy life, and assume he will be there, that our relationship will continue to grow and improve, and that we would never fall out of love with each other.

It's not a good idea to get too comfortable in any state of life. It's important to notice the people in our lives and appreciate them on a regular basis. I find when I get too settled and comfortable, I get lazy with my relationships. I begin to feel entitled to the love that I'm receiving, when in fact I must give as much as I receive, and regularly express gratitude to the people I love.

Years ago a friend lost the diamond from her engagement ring. One day, she looked down and saw her ring was empty, with 4 claws holding air. She had no idea where it fell out and never found it. Like my dream, it could've been a random event, not worthy of analysis, but my friend took it as a sign that she wasn't working on her marriage. She began to communicate differently with her husband, put more time into the relationship, and their marriage became stronger. I was inspired by her perception. What could've been a frustrating discovery about her ring became a positive impulse for change.

I know my dream was just a dream, but today I plan to appreciate my husband in a new way. How fun he is with our kids. How hard he works to support us. How good and solid and true he is. How much he makes me laugh. Sometimes, the best things in our lives become more precious and important simply by stopping to notice how wonderful they really are. Look around today and see what fills your life with joy. Take a moment to say thank you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Being a mother is a never-ending job. It doesn't matter how tired or crabby you may feel, you are still "on" if your kids need you. If your spouse or a friend needs something from you, the option is there to tell them, "Not right now. I'm exhausted and I can't help you."

For small children that tactic doesn't work very well. They keep coming and coming, with the tenacity of the tide pushing up to the shore. I crammed too much into my day yesterday and hit a wall of fatigue about 5:30 pm.

I was trying to re-read my first assigned magazine article and found myself frustrated with the flow of the piece. It's outside of my comfort zone to write a researched article on a topic without personal commentary. It's a good thing to be stretched and feel slightly out of our depth, but at the time it's hard on the self confidence.

I just really wanted to focus, to get the article done and off my to-do list. William had other ideas. "Mom, look at this. Guess what I stored inside my pirate ship? Ava won't share her Polly mall with me and I want to make the elevator go up and down!" And on and on it went. I focus for 30 seconds, and am interrupted. I long for the day when I can settle down with my ideas and my pen for longer than 30 second increments.

Then I tried again to get my eyebrows waxed in the evening, after attempting to get them done in the afternoon, and both times the person wasn't available to do them. A small frustration, to be sure, but often the smallest inconveniences add up to create the worst moods. I came home, sat back down at the computer, and found my mind wouldn't work properly so I couldn't fix the problems with my article.

I flopped onto the couch to watch American Idol and zone out. I wanted no more little voices or demands on me. Suddenly William started crying out from his room, "I don't want mommy to go get her eyebrows done...I want mommy to stay here with me!" He was literally wailing, and I felt smothered by his transparent need for me.

Ava's independence is comfortable for me; William's desperation is not. I told Jason last night that William is not going to be able to function in the world the way he is now. He's too vulnerable and needy. I keep trying to offer him security so he will have the confidence to make his way in the world, and then he wails for me like he did last night, and I feel like I'm failing in my job as a parent.

I know we all need each other in life, but William takes it to the extreme. I have to remember that he is only 4 years old, but some days I'm not sure age is going to matter with him. Being a mom means digging deep and finding that last bit of energy and patience that you didn't know you possessed. It's sacrificing your own needs so your child's will be met. It's often unnoticed, thankless and exhausting. It's motherhood, and it's important.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Precious Days

I had a strange, introspective kind of day yesterday. I experienced some general malaise (or GM for short as I like to call it) on the weekend at the idea that spring break was over and normal life was once again underway. When I'm in a routine I like it, but when I get a break from it I like that too and find the transition challenging.

A friend from our BC days recently got in touch on Facebook, and sent me a link to a memorial site he created for his wife who passed away from cancer in 2005. We weren't close friends, but we went to the same church. We watched this family receive the diagnosis, trudge through the treatments, celebrate the remissions and then grieve through the relapses. Her cancer spread quickly and we could only stand by helplessly while three young boys lost their mother and a devoted husband said goodbye to his wife.

We brought meals, and prayed, and offered what practical help we could to this family in crisis. At the end it wasn't nearly enough. Every mom in that church held her kids tighter and spoke gentler words to them because we saw the evidence that we weren't guaranteed to do so forever. It was heartbreaking at the time, and looking at the website yesterday brought it all back. William asked me what was wrong when he saw tears streaming down my face yesterday morning, and I could only hug him and tell him how much I loved him.

It's hard to find words to describe how precious our days are. So often I waste my time complaining about things that don't matter at all. I get irritated by people who I shouldn't be wasting time with anyway, and I focus on the small things instead of looking at the big picture.

Sometimes I'm afraid to truly embrace all of the good parts of my life because I'm afraid of losing them. But I knew yesterday that I must work to let that go. Without embracing life in its fullness, the joy and the pain, I am not fully alive. I want to squeeze the last drop out of this gift of life. Time is short and today I am here. I want to make the most of it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Church & William

I love church, but yesterday I had an off day. Apparently so did William, or perhaps he caused my difficulties - it's the classic chicken and egg scenario. We were on greeting duty which makes for a disrupted morning, my mom came which I was looking forward to, and for whatever vague reason, William refused to go to his Sunday School class, crying and clinging to my leg as though he was a baby and not 4 years old, and it combined to put me in a very bad mood.

Since I began this blog, I've noticed my attitude softening toward William. This has been a very good thing. I tend to polarize myself from him because I don't always understand where he is coming from and I shy away from his emotional outbursts. Writing about my life in this daily forum has helped me look at my son differently, and find connections to him that I can understand and work with.

He craves routine. This is a similiarity I can relate to, but I'm always affected by the rawness of the characteristic in a child. I have had years to refine my slavish adherance to routine, and to experiment with breaking it once in a while and knowing that I can survive change. William has only had 2 solid years to really wrestle with the idea that some change is okay.

I mentioned yesterday morning how much I was looking forward to hearing our fabulous pastor speak because he had been on vacation over Easter, and William heard me and casually added, "I hate church." I don't know where this attitude comes from.

I asked a friend at church what to do about it, and she suggested that William doesn't hate church as much as he hates any experience that he's unsure about. He worries during the worship portion of the service about having to go to his Sunday School class. Meanwhile I look forward to that because it's 30 minutes of adult time when I can interact with my pastor's ideas and thoughts.

I teach William's class 2 weeks out of every 6 and I think it's counterproductive to him enjoying his class because he wants me to teach it all the time. It's hard for his personality type to understand that he can't get everything he wants at every moment he wants it, and sadly, I know all too well what that feels like, I've just learned to work around it and he has yet to gain the skills to do that.

He flipped out and cried in his class, and then I ended up distracted and missing half of what my pastor had to say because of William. At the end, when my mom was raving on about how good it was, I was disappointed that my son can't just conform and do what he's told to do without fighting it.

It constantly feels like two steps forward and one back when it comes to parenting him, but in many ways my mom may have felt like this while raising me, and I love the person I've grown into. Maybe I just need a little more compassion along the way, and the eyes to see what his adult characteristics will become if the raw emotions are encouraged into a positive direction.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Twenties vs. Thirties

Yesterday I had a conversation with someone who hadn't heard about my blog. I gave her one of my swanky new writer business cards and we talked about pursuing your dreams. She was so enthusiastic about many of the topics I was writing about. It was fun to talk about some of these things and see the wheels of her mind turning.

It turns out she was in need of inspiration that day to stop waffling about what she really wants to do in life. She's known for years what she is passionate about doing, but for all of the reasons that hold us back in life, she had been waiting. Just by talking for a few minutes about what I'm learning through pursuing my dream of writing, she had an "epiphany" about what she needs to do next and we both left the conversation inspired.

During the same conversation, I also put my foot in it nicely by saying that when I was in my twenties I really didn't know myself at all, and that you are so sure of everything when you are that young but you don't necessarily have the confidence or life experience to be effective in your own life. I believe I even used the word "stupid" at one point to describe myself in my early twenties, only to find out that the person I was talking with was 25. Whoops.

I don't think she was offended by what I was saying, but I realized that sometimes I need to slow down and think before I pontificate. I love how this blog has put me in tune with my thoughts and feelings as I'm experiencing things, but I'm not sure why I assumed the person I was talking to was nearer to my age instead of in her mid-twenties. Is that just me not paying attention? Possibly.

After I took my foot out of my mouth, she asked me some questions about the good parts of aging. She asked if I felt more settled in my thirties, less urgent about everything, and I said most definitely. I understand time in a very different way. Yes, time is going by too fast, but in a strange way it slows down so that you notice more, and I have realized that I don't have to accomplish everything NOW - that today is followed by tomorrow, and so on.

She also confessed to worrying about failure, and I told her that gets better too. You begin to be concerned more with what is under your own control and less about what is under other people's control. Part of that is confidence, but some of it is experience; knowing that you will regret more of the chances you didn't take, than the ones you took and failed at. This single enlightenment has been huge to move me away from the obstacles that stopped me and opened up the road so I could travel to where I want to go.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


I am not a dirty kind of gal. Scratch that, I mean I don't like to be dirty. Wait, that still doesn't sound quite right. I like to be clean, and have all modern conveniences around me. I'm getting closer to it now. In short, camping in a tent is not my cup of tea (not that I like tea, but you know what I mean).

I think most women would agree that daily showers and 4 walls are the way to go. However, my husband had a mother who didn't mind backpacking for a week on a dirt trail with a tent strapped to her back and eating freeze-dried food, so he grew up believing that was a normal summer holiday. Then he married me, and I told him my idea of a holiday, and it certainly didn't include stew in a one inch cube that inflated when you poured boiling water on it.

We tented once when Ava was 5 months old. She didn't sleep well the first night, crying often, and around 4 am when I was very frustrated I realized that summer pajamas in a tent in a valley in August was not great for her, considering I was in flannel jammies and socks in my fluffy sleepy bag. I bundled her up warm and she slept great for the rest of the trip, but the damage was done that first night, and my great tenting adventure was over.

Jason is a rugged, hearty kind of guy. He likes the outdoors. Bugs don't phase him. Temperature doesn't rattle him. He just likes to be outside. I'm more of an indoor, hot-house plant type, but in Alberta, where virtually every person owns a trailer and goes camping all spring, summer and fall, I began to be sucked into the camping vortex two years ago. I did have my high standards, and we found a tent trailer which adhered to them. It was pimped out with hot water, a furnace, a porta-potty and a king bed for us. We could pull it with our van.

I had fun packing it up and going camping in it two summers ago. I was up off the ground and it was fun to see the kids reveling in the camping experience. I started to slowly come around to why people did this. As long as we camped with power and showers, my basic needs were met.

Last spring, Jason's CR-V died suddenly and we needed another vehicle. Jason felt the Alberta pressure to own a 1/2 ton, and soon his transformation from BC boy to Alberta man was complete and he was driving a truck. It took about 5 minutes of the truck sitting in our driveway for me to realize that I could now be in a trailer with 4 hard walls and a real toilet instead of our tent trailer (I really did come to love the tent trailer, but carrying a potty full of my own pee to the bathroom in the morning was not my favourite part).

Suddenly I was on Kijiji every 30 minutes looking for the right trailer at the right price, and I found it days before our planned May long weekend camping trip: a 1999 Terry 24' that smelled and looked brand spanking new, and the price was $3K lower than it should've been. For me, it was perfect. I fell hard and fast for this piece of stylish outdoor living. You could say we formed an instant bond.

We camped quite a bit in it last summer, each trip better than the one before. I could not believe my transformation from hotel-preferring girl to camping fanatic. Having the trailer made all of the difference. Then came the fateful August long weekend at the church camp my family has attended since I was 12 years old. One of the fiercest hailstorms on record hit hard on the Sunday of the long weekend around 1 am. Besides terrorizing us and our kids, the storm pummeled my beautiful trailer, and created an instant insurance write-off.

I was devastated to say goodbye to my Terry trailer. I wanted to keep it, but with suspected seam damage, we couldn't get insurance on it unless we fixed everything, and that would've cost more than the insurance payout, so it didn't make financial sense. But when you love something like I loved that trailer, it's hard to let it go. We decided last fall to take the insurance cheque and skip camping for this summer since we don't have a truck anymore, and buy a truck and trailer next year.

It seemed like a solid decision at the time, but in the next few weeks we'll see all of the trailers around us start to rustle back to life, and I will miss mine. We'll go stay in our timeshare this summer and do some small hotel trips, and I'll have fun, but I'll still miss my trailer. Next spring seems a long time away right now. Every time I see a Terry trailer I'll have to turn away and wipe my eye. I'll pray for a miracle and see if camping this year is a possibility after all. What is life without the hope of a miracle? The fact that I'll miss camping at all is a miracle in itself.

Friday, April 9, 2010

No Shortcuts

There are no shortcuts to success: no quick-fixes, no get-rich-quick schemes, no true overnight successes. It takes work, and time, and hope to build your dream into the success you imagine. It is true that the journey means more than the destination. If you only want the end goal, you'll miss so much along the way.

When I was younger, I demanded instant gratification for everything. I couldn't stand to wait for what I wanted. One benefit of getting older is the patience that slowly descends into your spirit. I am developing eyes to see the long-term goals, and I find a deep satisfaction in knowing that I am making my way toward my dreams, step by step, inch by inch, and that is enough for now.

I do not miss the impatience of youth. The panic that I'm failing in some way, the fear that I won't "make it" in the way I've dreamed of succeeding, or the rollercoaster of emotions with euphoria at the height and devastation at the bottom. I didn't understand the pleasures on the journey before my mid-thirties. I was always racing to get to success, to achieve my dream, and I didn't pay enough attention to the day-to-day. I've changed in this respect, and my life is much richer as a result.

It's important to embrace the truth that we cannot take a shortcut to where we want to be. We look at successful people and think that they must have cheated the system in some way, but it's simply not true. The only way to become a success is to earn it, day by day and step by step.

We must plan and then do the work required to execute the plan. Enjoy the process. Try not to fight it in a wave of self-pity. And when you fall, stand up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Don't let failure defeat you. Put one foot in front of the other and keep trying. Soon you'll look back and see how far you've come, and realize your dream isn't as far away as you once thought it was.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Conflict Resolution

Yesterday I had an issue that needed to be resolved with someone close to me. All day I had that nagging, nervous feeling about how the discussion would go. Life is full of conflict. I say something stupid and wonder if I've hurt the other person's feelings, or I feel upset after an interaction with someone and have to put my finger on the reason why it hurts.

I find my journal is very helpful in these situations. I write until I hit upon the reason I feel upset. Usually it jumps off of the page when I've invested enough time in isolating the problem. Until I know what is really upsetting me, I can't proceed to fix it.

When I spoke to the person yesterday, I was reminded again of how good it feels to resolve the conflict. Thinking about the discussion is always the worst part. Once I've broached the subject, stumbling past the initial uncomfortable opening, it generally gets better. I say what is bothering me, and then stop to listen to where the other person is coming from, and I always learn something helpful.

There are two sides to every conflict. We know our own side, but must work to see the issue from the other person's perspective. When both sides are considerate and gracious, the conflict is resolved and the relationship becomes stronger. I think of it like those stepping stones in gardens: where there was a gap, there are now stones, and you can walk across to the person you were separated from.

I love seeing my relationships grow stronger instead of weaker. Conflict is always hard, but a good conversation clears the air like rain in the spring. It makes everything lighter and easier between two people. Understanding greases the wheels of relationship and keeps things running smoothly. Without a hiccup every now and again, we wouldn't know how valuable our primary relationships really are.

It's been a good week. I seem to be ending it with the beginnings of a cold, but I'm nurturing it, making excuses to sit down with my novel instead of bustling around accomplishing things. This spring break for Ava has been like a vacation for all of us with a slightly different change of pace, slower mornings, and fun activities. I would describe it as a luxury of time. Creating an inner stillness is rewarding on its own. It sharpens my other senses to slow down and notice how I feel and become more aware of the small pleasures in life.

If you have a chance, pop on over to and read my article there on the Doghouse. I'm honoured to serve as their staff writer for a woman's perspective on the male/female dynamic. It's a new site designed for guys to connect with each other and buy a membership card to get discounts on gear for guys at various local vendors. They are still getting everything set up, but are selling friends and family cards now. Go to the website for all of the details. Every time I write a new piece I'll direct you over there. Go check it out!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Why does the sting of failure go so much deeper than the thrill of success? I find success gives me a high, but one failure can so quickly remove the shine on the good things in life, and it requires constant effort to fight against the power of failure to drag us down into the mud and hold us there.

I have had a string of writing successes in the last few months. A short story I submitted to a new online magazine is being published next week, I've been assigned an article for the summer issue of a Calgary magazine, a friend recently asked me to be the staff writer for his new website, and my screenplay is in its 5th draft and down with a friend in LA for another read. The ball is rolling on this dream to write professionally.

I wrote an article on parenting and submitted it to two national magazines. I got the first rejection right away and told myself, "It's normal to be rejected. I don't have a lot of magazine writing experience." Magazine writing pays better than most other forms of short writing, so I was hopeful for the other magazine. To get the second rejection was a bit harder to deal with. I can rationalize it in my brain all day long, about how it's a part of the writing life, blah, blah, blah, but it still has the effect of the wind going out from your sails.

The writing class is similar. We tried it as a pilot project with very low expectations, and found an overwhelmingly positive response, creating extra committee meetings to decide how to meet the demand of writers wanting to attend. Almost everyone from the first classes expressed interest in a second class, but when it came time to register, only 3 are on the list and by Friday I'll decide if it's a go or if we postpone the class and try again in the fall.

Sometimes life is a freefall, from the highest of highs to the lowest end of the spectrum. We soar, and then we fall. It has something to teach us. The important thing is not to take it personally, but to understand that it's part of the process. Achieving our dreams means many bumps along the way. If the road was smooth and flat, we wouldn't appreciate the journey as much as we do when we climb, and stumble, and get to look-out points along the way to turn back and look at the view. I like to see where I've been and how much further I have to go.

Failure and success are not permanent states. They are flexible, coming and going like the tide. I want to enjoy the high times, squeezing every bit of joy from my current vantage point, and ride out the failures, knowing they are passing. Every time you inch closer to your dream, you know you are on the right road. Failures are a part of the process, and they don't define us or hold us down. Only we can do that, and I spent too many years in a holding pattern. Now I want to move forward, day by day, step by step, and never give up.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Ava is on spring break, so we enjoyed a leisurely pace to our day yesterday. It was pure bliss not to race out of the house for 8:30 am. I could nurse a second cup of coffee and read my book while the kids played with their new birthday toys. Around noon we all got dressed and I decided spur-of-the-moment to take the kids to see How to Train your Dragon.

I am not a person who does spontaneous things. Generally my days and weeks are planned to the letter. This organization is soothing to me and helps to minimize chaos. In general, I like knowing what is coming, but once in a while it is like a fresh breath of air to do something fun without any plan or forethought.

I said to the kids, "Let's go see a movie to celebrate Ava being on spring break." Their eyes were as wide as saucers at the idea. We got to the theatre, ordered popcorn and a drink, stayed in the lobby to avoid the "scary" previews as William has a horror of being trapped in the theatre when something frightening is advertised, and then crawled in to find seats when the movie began.

I sat between my kids, watching them enjoy the experience. Ava at 7 is so fun because she's starting to get more of the jokes and situations. She leaned over in the first 5 minutes and said, "This is going to be a great movie, I can just tell." Her joy and enthusiasm was contagious. Then there was William, quoting back all of the lines he liked in his only mode of communication (read: loud and piercing) while I whispered, "Yeah, that's right, now shush!"

Before the dragon enters the story, my kids were captivated, but my attention wandered. I found myself thinking of my to-do list, and allowing my mind to go wherever it wanted. Suddenly I had an idea for a children's book I could write for Ava and a similar idea to create one for William. Inspiration is a marvelous thing - it comes when we aren't expecting it, and settles in around us so quietly that we miss it if we aren't paying attention.

I wonder if I had inspiration for writing for all of my life, but I didn't pay close enough attention to record it, or if it's a new thing for me. I'm ticked that I wasted many years of not being open to new creative impulses. There is no sense dwelling on time that is gone; I'm better off moving forward and trying to grab hold of any new ideas that float down from heaven toward me. I don't want to miss them. It's fun to have a book to record these ideas in, and when I have time, return to explore them further.

Inspiration is around all of us on a daily basis, but it's important to allow unstructured room in our lives to quiet our minds in order to receive it. Look for it. Attune yourself to its whisper. Inspiration gives meaning and shape to our lives; filling our canvas with vibrant colour instead of shades of grey. I encourage you to look around today, at all of the beauty in the world, and find what inspires you.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I hate that money often divides people. It shouldn't be allowed to. We control how we feel about any given subject, and we must work hard to moderate how we feel about our money and other people's money.

Life is a game of priorities. We choose how we spend all of our resources: time, money and energy, to name a few. I think of it like a pie chart, with sections greyed in to represent what I do with all of the resources I have. Each of us has to answer for our choices, and it doesn't benefit anyone to blame others for the choices we make.

Obviously, certain things are out of our control, like losing a job, the economy tanking, or interest rates on the rise. But we still make choices, every day, on how we spend the money we do have, or how deeply to go into debt for things we value and want to purchase.

I am getting better at accepting responsiblity for my resource choices, but I know I still have a long way to go. It's a waste of time to compare myself to others, I know that for sure, and it only leads to jealousy and hurt feelings. We should not be competing with our friends and family for any kind of status or lifestyle.

Years ago we had friends who were in a much higher income bracket than we were, and it was challenging to make plans with them as they always wanted fine dining when we could afford fast food. They went on fancy vacations that we couldn't attend with them. It could've divided us, but we made it work. We did what we could together, and the rest of the time we bowed out, or made plans that weren't so pricey and they happily came along with us.

I remember my friend telling me how devastating it was when she went to someone's house and they made disparaging comments to her, saying, "I know this is pretty crappy compared to your house, but it's all we can afford." My friend didn't create that dividing line; the other person did. They allowed it to get in the way of the friendship and then it was always there.

Friendship is not meant to be a competition. We must put that aside in order to get along peacably in this world. If we can't set it aside, it becomes a prickly thornbush in the middle of the relationship, and there's no way to get around it without someone getting hurt.

Money is a sensitive subject. It requires great care not to judge other people's choices and expect the same courtesy in return. If we stand up and own our financial choices, good or bad, maybe we won't be tempted by jealousy over what others have or where they go on vacation. Sensitivity can go a long way to smooth the bumpy road of different income levels, but don't allow it to divide your relationships up. Be confident in who you are and where you are at in life. Your value as a person is not connected to your bank account or mortgage. If we all worked harder to separate ourselves from our possessions, the world would be a much brighter place.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Authentic Living

"He is risen. He is risen, indeed!" As a kid, this popular phrase and it's rejoinder was a favourite of the Easter Sunday service. The congregation always said it with such gusto, and the very enthusiasm of the people swept me along in a sort of current of joy. The fact that I didn't understand the significance was immaterial.

As an adult, I still enjoy coming together with my community of faith to celebrate the resurrection. It's about new hope, the power of beginnings, and the ability to believe in something that we cannot see but feel deep in our spirits. I love how much my faith has evolved and changed over the years. I enjoyed struggling to explain the crucifixion and resurrection to William in language he could understand. I firmly believe that faith is not about having the answers, but rather the confidence to ask the questions.

If our belief system isn't changing on a regular basis, I would argue that it isn't working the way it should. Nothing in life is static; everything alive is growing and changing all of the time. Our faith should be the same. Gone are the days when I believed everything I was told - now I embrace the process of struggling to own what I think is true.

I love that it doesn't matter to me what other people believe. I can be friends with those who believe like me, and those who don't. It doesn't make any difference at all. I have no interest in convincing anyone of anything. I just want to live my life, as authentically as possible in all areas (not just the ones on public display), and let the chips fall where they may. Being genuine and true is the only thing that lasts. The rest is just talk, and meaningless without action to back it up. Words and actions that don't line up are worse than meaningless; they are irritating and completely turn people away from whatever you are peddling.

I explained to William last night about the cross and the stone and the tomb being empty. He asked questions and I answered them the best I could. I told him about the bridge Jesus made for us all to cross over to God. Death and human frailty are lofty subjects for 4 year olds, but I enjoyed the challenge of using real language, not the "Christianese" I grew up with and always distrusted. There is no point in talking about anything if the conversation is not rooted in reality and honesty. It's not worth the breath to speak unless the words are coming from a genuine place. Every day I'm alive I want to get better at this authentic living, for it's the only thing that will live on after I'm gone.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


I love Easter weekend, especially in Alberta when you have a virtual guarantee that the sun will shine and your spirits will rise. Yesterday Jason took the kids out for an adventure so I could work on my home business tax preparation, a job I'd been putting off for too long and found I couldn't do with the kids buzzing around. He gave me a few hours to myself, to scratch pencil against paper, work the calculator, and watch the job move toward completion.

I felt the sort of reasonless happiness that you feel as a child and rarely as an adult; that sense of peace and optimism which knows no bounds. Part of it was the sunshine and warmth in the air. I dug out a pair of capri's from last fall to wear along with a t-shirt and (gasp!) no sweatshirt. I'm sure it was also related to finishing a task I dreaded annually, but I didn't want to put a reason on it. I just wanted to soak in the moment, to enjoy the happiness, and revel in gratitude for my many blessings.

The Kid's Swap Meet is coming up on May 1st, an event I started last fall for our local Mom's group as a place to buy and sell items for kids under 12. I went into William's room yesterday with 2 huge bags (1 to sell, 1 to throw out) and began to work my decluttering magic. That lifts the spirits like nothing else. We don't need all of the stuff that we own. Most of it slows us down and clogs up the wheels of our life. Everything we buy must be maintained, cleaned and moved around on a regular basis. It feels so good to thin out our stuff and give us more room to live in our house.

I really needed this 3 day weekend. It has energized me, given me a new outlook on my life, and helps me balance work with leisure. Ava is off for spring break next week, and I'm planning to adopt some of that relaxation into my life. I've started Jodi Piccoult's most recent book, I'm almost finished my tax work and can ship it off to my father-in-law, our esteemed accountant, and Easter is a suitable time to reflect on the wonderful things in our lives. I'm going to look for ways to cultivate that type of reasonless happiness on an ongoing basis in my life. We get one shot at living in this time and this place, and I want to worry less and enjoy myself more.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Different Perspective

I was tempted to skip our Mom's Group yesterday because the topic was adoption, and I figured it didn't relate to me. I was so humbled by my arrogant attitude when I heard the women share their stories and I realized how little we know about people until they tell us.

One woman talked about deciding to adopt instead of trying for their own children, with the philosophy that there are a lot of kids in the world who already need homes. This amazing family has fostered many children who are apprehended (I'm not sure why Social Services uses that word as it sounds like the kids are criminals) in the middle of the night and brought to their house as a temporary place before moving on. I was trying to imagine the depths of love you would have to access to do that kind of short-term parenting to a terrified child. She said, "From the moment a child comes into our house, no matter how long they are there, they are ours and treated that way. We deal with our own broken hearts after they have gone."

That kind of bravery was foreign to me. I couldn't even conceive of it in my mind, let alone my heart. I found myself inspired by the love people have to give, and ashamed of my own selfish desires for more time for myself instead of thoroughly appreciating the 2 children I have been blessed with.

The other mom spoke about how hard she tried to get pregnant, her long roller coaster of fertility, ending with the choice of adoption. Emotion hang heavy in the room. I looked deep inside and saw the smug certainty that I was able to get pregnant and carry a baby to term. I assumed it as a matter of course, when it is nothing of the sort. It is a blessing, something to be savoured and enjoyed, and I must be conscious of the fact that it is not a gift that is given to everyone. Almost any time a group of women is gathered, pregnancy and birth stories abound, and I have never stopped to think about the woman who feels devastated that she didn't get the chance to experience it.

At the end, the speakers were discussing the challenges and the joys of adoption. One of the moms talked about how hard it is to have someone from Social Services in your house on a monthly basis, marking items on a chart, and causing you to feel judged. I had never before considered that side of adoption as there was no one checking on my house or my parenting before my kids were born. Then when she spoke about the joys, she boiled it down to one sentence that she had trouble choking out through her tears, "The joy is that I got a family."

I will be more understanding in the future of where other people are coming from when I share my birth stories. I'll try to control my cavalier attitude toward the miracle of pregnancy and delivery. I will be grateful for what I've been blessed with, and more sensitive to the pain of others in this very personal arena. I'm so glad I went yesterday, and listened, and changed my perspective on this topic.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

William's Birthday

Today my son turns 4. As moms, we can't help but turn back the clock on our children's birthdays to the day they were born. My mother-in-law was going to look after Ava while I was in the hospital with William, and she teasingly told me that it would be more convenient for her teaching schedule if I went into labour on a weekend or over spring break. I couldn't pull the trigger on spring break, but was determined to have him on a Saturday, and I did.

My midwife gave me a recipe for a vile concoction that was meant to induce labour. I mixed it first thing Saturday morning, one day after my due date, drank it down, and immediately began having contractions. These petered out by mid-afternoon. I called my midwife and she suggested I suck down a second dose of the putrid drink. I did, and from that point I didn't look back.

After 44 hours of labour with Ava and wearing the label "failure to progress", I was nervous to have a repeat with William. By late afternoon when the contractions were becoming very intense, I was secretly wishing for it to stop but knowing that it wouldn't until I was finished the work and held my baby in my arms. In the early evening we went to the hospital. The whole world shrank to 30-45 second intervals of focused pain, but I knew I was progressing, and I was grateful.

William was born at 10:55 pm. Jason, the ever supportive and brilliant man that he is, leaned over while I was pushing and said, "If you hang off for an hour, the baby won't be born on April Fool's Day." Good luck telling that to a woman who just wants the pain to be over. In 3 pushes he was here, but unlike Ava, he didn't cry right away. That silence seemed to go on forever. I remember the midwifery student telling me it was normal to be stunned after coming through the birth canal and not to worry.

I still worried. It's part of the territory as a mom. And then, that beautiful sound of a baby's first cry. I said to Jason, "I'm so glad I got to do it naturally, the way I wanted to, and I'm so relieved that I NEVER have to do that again." I asked if the baby was a boy or a girl while they worked on him in another part of the room, and before I received an answer I heard this low mumbling, "11.2? Does that scale say 11 lbs. 2 oz?"

His enormous weight was the big story at an hour before midnight on April Fool's Day in 2006. Followed by the fact that he had red hair. I heard both of those facts before I was informed that he was a boy. I remember being worried that I wouldn't love him the same way I loved Ava, but the instant he was placed in my arms all of those worries went away. I fell deep, and hard, and knew it was exactly the same as the first time.

William has been a more challenging child than Ava. He has humbled me as a parent, and shown me parts of my own personality that I would rather forget about. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and hasn't yet developed a hard crust to protect his soft, marshmallow insides.

I have spent 37 years learning how to protect my vulnerable core from the outside world. His vulnerabilities and fears are completely exposed. As a mom, I have to help him survive in the world while trying to keep the essence of his sweet personality intact. It's a tight rope act and I often feel like I'm free falling and making it up as I go along. With Ava I'm on more certain parenting ground, but if I'm honest I realize I've learned much more from parenting William.

I love you, William. Have a very happy 4th birthday. Keep on being yourself.