Monday, May 31, 2010

Practical Faith

Yesterday my pastor finished the second half of his message from two weeks ago on "the end times" (an expression I no longer find valid, but for continuity purposes will use it here). He was supposed to finish on the May long weekend, but a lot of people were away and I begged him to wait.

Of course, I was scheduled not only to teach preschool but as a family we were on for greeting, so it was a busy Sunday morning, but it was my last time to teach before the fall and I put some serious pressure on Jason to take the shift so I could hear the end of the message. It worked, not without some grumbling from my lovely husband, but he ended up enjoying the preschool kids and I heard that William "came alive" with Jason as his teacher, participating and laughing and singing instead of viciously sniffing his bear like he usually does when I am his teacher. But that's another blog post.

This one is about the conclusion to that message. I've been amazed by the number of people who found his first message as inspiring as I did, even just by reading a tiny bit about it in this blog. It goes to show that new ideas that have a ring of truth contain power to change people's ideas and therefore their lives. I've discovered this transformation during the last 3 1/2 years at my church, and it means more to me than I can say.

My pastor wasn't as fired up emotionally this week as he was two weeks ago, but that fit the context of his topic, which was another reassurance that our lives are in God's hands, and it doesn't matter whether we are alive or dead, healthy or sick, happy or unhappy, rich or poor, if we believe that God loves us and will take care of us, we have no need to be afraid. So much of my earlier Christian life was based on fear and anxiety: a sense of panic that I wasn't doing it right, that all of my sins would be brought back to haunt me, and fear that I was going to be found out as a fraud, not good enough for God's love.

It is all so much simpler than that. My pastor continued to assert that if we feel anxiety about God or what is going to happen in the future, we are missing the peace and joy that God has for us. God is about love, and mercy, and joy, not fear and worry. Such a simple idea, but so much power contained inside of it for how we live our daily lives.

He talked about the practical nature of our faith. If we attempt to hoard God's love and blessing for ourselves, we are missing the point again. It should flow through us, meeting our needs and then flowing out to others. He said that he's so tired of the huge ministries being built as legacies, that tend to fall apart under the weight of their own expectations. It's about people around us. How we treat those in our circle is what matters, and what leaves a lasting impact.

Do we offer water to someone who is thirsty? Do we spend time with someone who is lonely? Do we give food to the hungry and clothes to those who are cold and in need of warmth? This is faith in action; not because we are looking for a reward, but because we have been loved and our heart's desire is to show love in return.

I felt comforted and warm after yesterday's message. At peace in a turbulent world. It is much simpler than what I have previously been taught. Love God. Love others. The rest is just so much noise in an already overcrowded world. I want peace, and joy, and love to flow from my life. To give as I have been blessed. To reflect the love and forgiveness of God to those in my circle, and to withhold judgement. No easy task, but something to work toward on a day by day basis.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


For most of my Granny's adult life, she had a metal triangle-shaped calendar on her dresser. It had knobs on each side to control the month, date and day of the week. She changed it every day of her life, and when she died, I asked my mom if I could have it. Now I change it every single day, thinking often of my Granny, and last night I got a shiver down my spine when I turned those knobs, because I thought about how short time really is.

I sat down on my bed and imagined my Granny as a young woman, just starting out in the world, turning that calendar each day. I thought of her as a young mom with my mom as her daughter, in the same stage of life as I am in right now. She told me as she got older that every time she looked in the mirror she was surprised, because she still felt like that young girl inside.

In my twenties I couldn't really understand that, but all of a sudden I can, as I approach the halfway point of my life. Life is a continuous thing; a loop that extends on a thread from one generation into the next. My Granny died 18 months ago, and I was privileged to be in the hospital room with her when she took her final breath and moved on to the next place. I recently wrote a short story about this powerful experience, from the point of view of my Granny as she died, and I realized that a certain amount of time has to go by before we can face these kinds of momentous experiences, and comprehend the impact they have on our lives and our perspectives.

Towards the end of my Granny's life, she was beginning to tell the same stories over and over again. Her mind became fuzzy around the edges, but she could reach back through her earliest memories and find that they were still crisp and clear. I got tired of listening to the same things, nodding and smiling in all of the right places, but now that she is gone, I'm grateful for those stories. They gave me a more complete picture of who she was as a person. She wasn't always 90 years old, frail and arthritic. She was a young woman with hopes and dreams, who loved and was loved, and built a happy life filled with good memories to keep her warm as she got older.

I'm inspired by this. It offers me a pattern to follow in my own life. Living as fully as we can with the time we are given is all that we can do. We can watch our kids grow and ensure that the thread between us is unbroken, and we can nurture our parents and keep that relationship as strong as we can so we have no regrets when they are gone.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


On this ridiculously snowy Saturday morning in late May, Jason took the kids out for an adventure so I could have some peace and quiet to write. But before I could start I had to finish the Anna Quindlen book because it was ripping my insides apart, and I had to complete it to find any peace of mind at all.

I just closed the last page, tears running down my face, and I felt so grateful that my family wasn't here so I could simply let go and experience that cathartic release. For some strange reason when I watch a sad movie with Jason I always try to censor my tears, forcing them in so I don't cry while sitting beside him. I know he wouldn't judge me for crying at a chick flick, as that's what girls do, but it goes against my nature to show weakness, even in front of the person who knows me the best.

To be alone when I finished that novel was a gift. I identified so strongly with the main character, in the happy beginning of the story, during the gut-wrenching middle, and through her grief to find some measure of healing at the end. She was so much like me at the start of the book, leading a hum-drum family life rich with contentment and satisfaction, but she never stopped to appreciate how good it was until she lost almost everything. Then she became a different person altogether, looking back on her earlier self with an air of pity because she didn't know what real pain and suffering was.

It put all of my daily complaints into perspective. What do I really have to complain about? As a culture we have so much abundance, every day, offering us everything we want or need at the moment we desire it. And yet, we are quick to feel hard-done-by when anything goes wrong. I feel far too entitled to my own happiness. I am so easily upset by small frustrations and setbacks, when people are sick, starving and dying in this world on a daily basis.

I know that pain is pain, in any form, and we don't have to place our sufferings on a scale to see how they measure up to others. I understand that. But I also see clearly how spoiled I am in my own solid life. I have so much, and must appreciate what I've been given with genuine gratitude and joy, knowing that I'm not assured I will have it forever. Life changes, seasons moving from one into another with no warning, and I must embrace all of the joy and pain as it comes.

I am beyond thankful for you who are reading my posts each day. Your support and feedback means so much to me. I had someone tell me yesterday how much they enjoy reading every day, but I didn't have any idea that she had been reading. Since I'm now sending query letters to agents and to magazines for freelance writing assignments, I would love to show interested parties that I have an audience of readers already.

The person I spoke to yesterday thought she had to have her own blog in order to follow my blog, but all you need to do is create a Google account with your e-mail address, a user name, and a password. You have the option to upload a picture but it's not necessary. Then you click "follow" on the top right side of my blog, and you can also comment on any post that you like to engage other readers in a dialogue about the topic.

I would love to see the number of readers increase, and the only way I know you are reading is if you follow it. Thank you so much for reading. Those words don't seem big enough to express the gratitude I feel, but it's the only way I know to say how thankful I am.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Under the Surface

I'm reading Anna Quindlen's newest book, Every Last One, and I find her books similar to Jodi Picoult's as they either grab me instantly and I'm absorbed, or they don't and I limp all the way to the finish. This one got me hooked on the first page, and hasn't let up.

Last night I went to bed early, eager to read, and by page 157 I was lulled into a sort of calm complacency by the peaceful story about a normal family raising teenagers. Suddenly, a horrifying event occurs and my blood literally ran cold. I cannot remember the last time that has happened to me when reading. Watching a movie, sure, because I am a much more visual person, but I don't read a lot of crime novels, so this hit me over the head with the force of a 2x4.

It's a testament to the power of words. It reminds me of the Clint Eastwood film Million Dollar Baby, where the pace is slow and sleepy for most of the story, and then suddenly you are thrown under a bus and mangled emotionally by something awful that you didn't see coming (Gran Torino had a similar effect on me). Quindlen has done that in her newest novel, and I was astonished by how skillfully she had me fooled.

I was almost ready to close the book and fall asleep when I hit this fateful page, and then of course I was so disturbed that I couldn't sleep. I began thinking about all of the things we ignore on a daily basis: the hurting people who are at risk to themselves or others, the many blessings in our lives, and the ability to notice what is going on under the surface for people.

I have had many years of counseling to work out childhood fears and issues that I carried with me into adulthood. So much of what we do is informed by our past in ways that we aren't consciously aware of. I love counseling because it brings the unconscious to the forefront of our minds and emotions, allowing us to make rational decisions about how to move on and improve our lives.

I don't want to be so busy in my life that I don't notice what is going on around me. As parents we must be vigilant about our children, paying attention to their patterns and moods so that when they change we can discuss it with them and find out what is really going on. I want to notice when my friends and family members are withdrawn and struggling, so that they know they aren't alone in what they are facing. If we are all just a little more aware of each other, we can do so much good in the lives of those we love.

Of course, with all of this lofty musing, William was up at 5:30 am for the third day this week, and there was a lot of shouting (me) and crying (him) as I forced him back into bed. It seems most of life is one step forward and two steps back, but at least we are in motion. All we can do is our best to improve, moment by moment and day by day, and be as kind as we can possibly be to each other, with a lot of grace and mercy for the times we fail.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


It's human nature to compete with one another, and it's one of my least favourite qualities, in myself and in my friends and family members. There is a healthy side to competing because it pushes you to be your best, but the downside is the endless bragging about your own accomplishments in the shadow of someone else's, and that type of competition is driven by insecurity.

I hate it when I fall into this trap. I try to avoid it at all costs in the mothering realm, where other moms push me all the time to find out where my kids are on their imaginary scale so that they can determine where their own kids fall. This kind of competition has no winners. Someone always feels bad because their kid is behind, and someone always feels superior because their kid is ahead, and both are dismal outcomes.

In the work realm it's a little trickier. We all have different seasons in our lives, times when things are going outrageously well, and times when we are down in the dumps. No one is immune to these ebbs and flows, but often when we are down, we look to take others down with us. Misery loves company, and all of that. It's a bad idea. I think it's a truly enlightened and generous person who is struggling with their job satisfaction but can still be happy for someone in a successful career phase.

It's important to remember that when someone is feeling optimistic and excited about their work, they didn't always feel that way. No one can sustain the mountaintop for a long period. The key is to rejoice with them, knowing that it won't last, and then you can commiserate with the person when they hit a snag. True friendship does this; celebrating together in the high times and crying as a team in the low ones.

I celebrate those friends today. I talked with 2 of them yesterday, women I love and respect who are unfailingly supportive. I hope and pray that I am as supportive of their aspirations and dreams as they are of mine. They give me an example to follow. And where people aren't so supportive, by chipping away at your excitement and accomplishments, grace is required. I must remember not to take it personally, and not to do the same thing to others.

It costs very little of ourselves to be genuinely happy for other people, but yet we are often grudging with our praise and support, as though it takes away from our own accomplishments. This world would be so peaceful if we could understand that giving to others doesn't mean taking away from ourselves. It's actually the opposite: the more we give, the more we receive for ourselves. In theory it doesn't seem to work, but when you practice it, you find that it does. Rejoicing with other people adds to your own life, instead of taking away from it. I'm going to work on that today.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sheltered Dreams

This morning I flipped the page on my inspirational calendar in my bathroom, and I discovered this little poem by Louise Driscoll:

Within your heart
Keep one still, secret spot
Where dreams may go
And, sheltered so,
May thrive and grow.

In a nutshell, this is what I've been trying to say about dreams for the last few months. I believe that dreams are the blueprints for our realities. When I was younger, I was in constant angst about my big dreams, because they made me feel like a failure since I wasn't in any place to make those dreams a reality. But over the years, I've settled into myself and now, when the conditions are right, those dreams don't seem far-fetched at all.

Hope and expectation always bring frustration to our souls when our dreams seem unreachable. We want to give up because that is easier, and it will silence the pain of hoping without achieving. I encourage you not to give up. I quit on my dreams for many years, but that little flame of belief was thankfully never completely extinguished.

There is a time and place for everything. I couldn't write well when I didn't know myself, and I needed this first half of my life to get to this place. My dream was always there, propelling me forward, even when I felt angry and betrayed by it. I can see now that I needed it, like a voice singing bravely in the dark, to make it to this place, where getting out of bed each morning is easy because I have something to say and a place to say it.

I don't think we can ever know when the conditions will be right for our dream to blossom into reality. The soil of our lives needs to be overturned, and watered, and rototilled until something can actually grow there. That's part of the magic and the mystery of life, to walk our paths and be open to the moment that is ours to grasp.

I'm so grateful for the e-mails, Facebook messages and comments I've received lately from several of you, saying that my blogs have inspired you to pursue your own dreams, and not to quit when times are tough. Those messages literally brighten up my day. I love that in life we can encourage each other when we most need it so that we keep walking our road, bruised and weary, until we reach our destination. In the meantime, keep that still, secret spot in your heart, for it will show you the way when the time is right.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Winding Down

I have 4 weeks of work left, starting today, and 2 of my monthly stamping groups to prep for and run, and then both are finished in June. I've been working 12 hours a week for the last 10 months, and have run monthly stamping groups for the last 7 years, so I'm closing them both out with a mixture of excitement and nostalgia.

I want to finish well, not wishing away the time but instead enjoying the best parts of both of them. This year has been about self-discovery and awakening from the sleepy/busy pace of having children under the age of 3. I've grown in ways I didn't know I was capable of this year, taking steps as they opened up in front of me and realizing that my dreams were closer than I thought they were.

It's been a fantastic process. As the school year draws to a close for Ava, it seems like exactly the right time to finish my part-time job and to wind down my home business. They have both been exactly what I needed at the time I had them, but now it really is time to move to the next chapter. The key for me is simply living in this moment today, and not impatiently wishing I was done already.

I've lived a lot of my life that way. Bored of the current stage and eager for the next thing. I realize that I've missed a lot of joy by always straining my neck ahead for the next adventure, instead of fully embracing the situation I'm in. I am determined to enjoy these last weeks of my stamping business and my office job. I need to do the best I can do and learn what I can before I move on to the career I've always dreamed of having.

There is so much value in doing something well. Whatever I put my hand to, I want to succeed at, and if I fail, I want to go down using all of my abilities. Just because I'm finishing up doesn't mean I'm giving up; I've made a choice to finish 2 work experiences and focus wholeheartedly on writing, but I want to discipline myself to finish well before closing these chapters.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Childhood Self

Everytime I go to my home town, I feel like I'm reaching a hand out and touching my childhood self. Driving around the streets of my town, I find memories on every corner. I excitedly tell my kids, "That's where I went to the dentist!" and "There's the office I worked in for a year and every summer in University!" My kids slowly lift their heads from what they are doing in the backseat and feign a little interest, and then go back to their books and toys.

There is a power in connecting to your childhood; in remembering the feelings and the freedom of having no responsibilities and being loved and cherished. My best friend from elementary school and her extended family still live in our hometown, and going a few times a year to see them gives me a warm, happy feeling of where I've come from, and also the knowledge of how far I've come as a person in my own right.

I struggled with identity as a teenager. During my parents' divorce when I was 15 years old, I moved somewhat seamlessly into my friend's house and family. I fit there. I belonged to them, and was possessed by them. I really needed that security and sense of belonging at that time in my life, but moving into my early adulthood, I found that my personality was split down the middle. There was the part that belonged to my family of origin, and the part that became absorbed by my best friend's family.

I learned, subconsciously, how to fit in with both groups. I behaved a certain way with my own family, and another way with my friend's family. It worked for a number of years, and then suddenly, the cracks began to show, and I hit a crisis point when Jason and I became engaged and he noticed how different I was in both sets of company. Slowly, I came to understand that I wanted to find out who I really was, apart from what I was expected to be in these two different settings.

I worried about offending my family with behaviours that were more suitable for my friend's family, and vice versa. The two had different belief systems and acceptable actions. I could keep them separate in my mind, by being intentional about my words and behaviours when I was with each group, but in my spirit, I was struggling because I couldn't figure out what I really valued for myself.

A large part of my early married life was living in BC, away from both family groups, and taking risks in order to get to know who I really was. Once I was on more equal footing within myself, I then experienced the challenge of behaving as myself with my family and my friend's family, without fear of reprisal. It wasn't easy. There were a number of years where I panicked and felt I wouldn't be accepted.

After riding out a few rocky years, everything sort of stabilized and now these visits are so relaxed and easy and fun. I love that we have a new sort of relationship, based on truth and honesty, and it works much better than the old one where I was bending myself like Gumby in order to fit in. Our kids play together, and have a good time, and I get to watch my kids be fully themselves with my friend's kids. It's like coming full circle for me.

My friend's mom hosted a delicious BBQ steak dinner and made my favourite dessert in the whole world (mud pie!) for me. I felt loved and accepted through the tender care and the food she and her husband provided. It was like going back to being a teenager, but without any of the angst and crippling self esteem issues I faced at that time. This was wholesome, and pure, and I fully appreciated what this family has done for me over the years. Now I get to share this bounty of riches with my husband, and with my children. It's a beautiful thing, and I'm very grateful.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


It was a good thing to go to Edmonton as a family yesterday morning. Jason and I really needed a chance to reconnect and talk, when there had been too much distance between us. A 2 hour car ride was just what the doctor ordered. William played his Leapster, Ava devoured every inch of her American Girl catalogue, and their little voices chattering away was our background for a long discussion.

I love making connections between what's bothering me and something that has gone before in my life. I'm learning that when I'm more upset than the current situation warrants, there is a deeper connection and I must discover it and face it in order to move on from it. I prayed and asked God what the trouble really was, and I got the answer.

When we were first married, I really struggled with my fears whenever we had a fight or disagreement. My parents argued a lot, and eventually divorced, so that panic reaction that things were falling apart was my go-to in times of marital stress. It took us many years to sort this out, recognize it as it was happening, and deal with it.

Our relationship has been very stable in the last few years, with small ups and downs regarding the kids and regular life, but it's been a long time since I experienced that sharp worry that our marriage was failing and I was going to be on my own. When I feel threatened, I pull away and quietly punish the person who I perceive to be hurting me. It's my standard defense mechanism, and it caused a lot of issues between Jason and I for the last couple of weeks.

Something wonderful happens when you isolate the cause of your pain and uncertainty: it all melts away into the background once its been identified. You immediately feel less crazy, and your life makes sense to you again. Counseling has really helped me in great periods of stress because you learn to recognize these "aha!" moments, and now it seems I have the skills to make those connections on my own. It's a really good feeling, because it solves problems in both immediate and long-term ways.

We talked, for the entire drive to West Edmonton Mall, and then we had an incredibly fun day together. We ate lunch at Tony Roma's on Bourbon Street, bringing back lots of good memories for me, and then we walked the mall, looking at pirate ships and ice rinks and wave pools and all of the fun things West Ed has to offer. We finished the afternoon by seeing Shrek Forever After in 3D, which the kids loved, and then came to our hotel for the night.

I worked at being spontaneous, and having fun that wasn't overly planned. I loved it. Jason and I were connected again, because we took the time to work out some of the issues that were forcing us apart. Even the tiniest crack in a marriage can become a large chasm over time, so it is satisfying to patch it up sooner rather than later and enjoy feeling close to each other once again.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Moving Forward

Yesterday I e-mailed my carefully worded query letter for my screenplay to the first agent on my list. I chose the agency because of their write-up in Writer's Market. They seem professional, they are based out of Pasadena where I lived for six months when I was 19, and they have a typewriter on their website home page, similar to the picture I chose for my writer business cards.

It all felt right. I finished the re-write of my sixth draft and got it printed yesterday so I have 3 brand-new copies, ready to be sent out when requested. I'm surprised at the ridiculous level of confidence that I have for this process. I know that rejection is inevitable, and there will be many ups and downs, but I've turned the corner to walk on this road toward selling my script and watching it become a movie, and there is no going back. I don't ever want to go back.

I recently read Angeles Arrien's famous rules for living. They are:

1. Show up
2. Pay attention
3. Tell the truth
4. Don't be attached to the results.

These rules had the sharp ring of truth for me. They describe the last 18 months when I have been writing regularly, pouring my heart onto the page, and loving the satisfaction the process has brought to me. Now I'm at the 4th stage, and it's probably the hardest one, for I have an idea of what is going to happen with getting an agent and selling my script, but the reality could be vastly different. I have to accept that, and not be too tied up in my own expectations.

Simply allowing events to unfold is hard for me. I think my control issues come from my dad's influence on my childhood. With his bi-polar mood swings and substance abuse issues, he was regularly unreliable, and I came to crave certainty the way an alcoholic craves a drink. As I've grown into an adult, I've worked to build room for spontaneity into my life, otherwise it wouldn't exist anywhere, and I'd be as rigid as a drill sergeant. Part of why I react so strongly to William is because he craves routine as well, and behaves badly when his routine is disrupted, and I see myself as though I'm looking in a mirror.

Today we are heading to Edmonton to have a fun day at West Edmonton Mall. The kids are very excited to see Shrek Forever After, and I want to wander the mall and practice doing whatever we want with no real agenda. Then we are staying at a hotel overnight, and heading to my hometown to see longtime family friends for the day. It will be good to get away as a family and re-connect after 2 weeks of being separated. I want to move forward, with writing and by building up our family. We're on the path; now we just have to walk it out and keep growing, even when it's uncomfortable to do so.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Work/Life Balance

Our marriage has had a tough couple of weeks. Jason has been on the road with his job, and even when he's been in town, he's had dinner meetings and has hardly been home. I have to remind myself that it's not always this bad, that he's usually home more than he isn't, and that this was an unusual set of circumstances. But my mind generally goes to the worst-case scenario, and I panic a little about how our marriage is changing, and not in a good way.

I'm a very routined person. I like to know what's going to happen as much as possible. When Jason comes home at 5:30 and we eat dinner together every night, it's a good routine for our family, and I enjoy it. When he was gone for 7 days, the longest he's ever been away in 12 years of marriage, I missed him, but it wasn't difficult for me to settle into that routine, and then it was a rocky adjustment when he came home.

We had a discussion about how fine the line is between relying on him and needing him, and just managing on my own. I don't want to push him away, but that becomes my defense mechanism, and I have to work very hard to override it. His job provides well for our family, and it gives him a lot of satisfaction, but I don't want to see our health as a family be the thing that gives under the strain. I know we have to fight against that happening, but the travel demands of his position don't make it very easy.

Blackberries and iPhones are amazing pieces of technology which have revolutionized business. I get that as an idea, but in reality I hate those tiny damn electronic masters with a passion. They rule your evenings and your weekends, when you used to be able to shut off from work and have a little fun, and now work and life are one in the same. I believe our world is worse off because of it. When the burn-out rate becomes astronomical, I wonder if things will change. Probably not, as technology will continue to advance and find more ways to create workaholics and damage the simple joys of people in real, human relationships.

At a certain point, it's up to us to say no. We have to stand up to the steamroller of more and more work, and take time for ourselves and those who we love. Without a balance, life doesn't function very well. The pillars that hold up our lives become lopsided, and eventually the whole house of cards comes down. It's important to be aware of our own limitations, and not promise the moon to our employers, because sometimes we need the freedom to say no. Examining our priorities from time to time is a good idea, and it's better to do it early on, before the stress kicks in and clouds our judgement.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


We live in a world that is not safe. I understand this in a visceral way, but I don't have to face it on a daily basis, thanks to living in a small town that feels secure to me. Yesterday I picked up Ava from school, then took both kids for a haircut. Meanwhile, a block away from the barber shop, an armed robbery was occurring at one of our banks.

We came out and got into the van, my kids chattering to each other about their blue hair since the barber sprays a temporary colour of choice into their hair after the cut. We noticed a helicopter, flying low right over our heads, the engine drone loud over our conversation.

As I drove a block up the street, the kids were straining at their seat belts to see the helicopter. When we turned, we saw that a large portion of main street was blocked off for police and fire trucks and emergency personnel. This kind of thing just doesn't happen in our little town, so spectators were gathering and everyone had heard something and was happy to share it.

I pulled up beside my co-worker, who was standing outside of her house, and found out that the bank had been robbed and the helicopter was looking for the get-away car. Her husband had been in the bank an hour before this had happened. Someone said that there was no gun, and that no one had been hurt, but I've since heard that a hammer was the weapon they used.

People move to small towns for safety. I was becoming afraid living in a big city in the Vancouver area because the crime was out of control, with house break-ins, drug busts and robberies the norm. Moving here felt so safe for our family, and it has been, for the most part.

Our drug store was robbed in a smash n' grab a few months ago, where they drove a truck into the store in the early morning hours, grabbed some money and product and took off. That was unusual, but no one was around. This was at 3:30 in the afternoon with employees and customers in the bank, kids out of school and on the streets, and in the full light of day. That frightens me more because it's so brazen, and because they got away. I want them caught, and fast, and for a sense of safety to return to our town.

At bedtime, I had the difficult job of answering Ava's questions about the robbery without terrifying her. She told me that at school, her teacher has talked to them about what they will do if anyone ever comes into the school who doesn't belong. They will go to their story corner and read books, talking very quietly so that no one will hear them. My heart cracked inside when she told me this, in her innocent, child-like way, and I knew then how very hard it is to protect our children in the kind of world we live in. A place where people steal what is not theirs to take, and use the threat of violence to get what they want but have not earned.

I told Ava that we cannot live our lives in fear. To cower in our houses and be afraid to go outside is to let the people who do bad things have power over us. We must move forward, with our heads held high, and have faith that God will look after us. I believed it when I said it to her, but now I have to walk it out, every single day, and model this courage for living to my children.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Burnt Meatballs

I made meatballs yesterday for dinner because I could prep them ahead, and they are delicious and kid-friendly, and I've never once screwed them up. By the time my friend from California arrived with her friend and her kids, the meatballs were smelling yummy and the kitchen was tidy and ready for us to sit down and visit.

Which we did, covering years of ground in a few short hours while the kids played outside on the trampoline. One of my favourite benefits of good friends is the fact that years go by between your visits, but you can pick up the threads of life and conversation as though you just saw them yesterday. It's a miracle to me how little distance matters to really strong friendship.

We sat down to eat, and it turns out you can simmer meatballs for far too long in a sauce. They were burnt and nasty and my kids, who love this meal, wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole. My reaction is a testament to how far I've come in dealing with my perfectionism: I laughed. And I really meant it. I made jokes about the burnt meatballs, and I took the attitude that we'll remember this years from now, and laugh, so we may as well laugh now.

I love that I'm not so worried about being perfect anymore. Even a year ago, ruining a dinner that I had planned for and been excited about would've darkened my evening. Last night it made me laugh, and didn't affect the fun I had in the slightest. My friends were gracious guests, and didn't care at all about the meatballs, proving once again that I used to worry about little things far more than other people did, and I don't want to waste that time any longer.

I wish to model this attitude for my kids; sometimes you try your best and it just doesn't work out, and it doesn't change your worth as a person. You laugh, brush yourself off, and move on in life. It was an impossibility for me for many years, but I think I've turned a corner regarding my perfectionism, and I couldn't be happier about it.

Life is too short to try to be anything but yourself, with all of your strengths and weaknesses showing. I don't want to hide behind any more facades, but rather be fully myself at all times. It's so freeing not to worry about how I'm behaving with one group or another, because I'm always the same person. No acting or games. Just myself. It's the path of truth and identity that I want my kids to follow and walk for themselves.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Old Friends

I have a friend coming for dinner tonight who was my next door neighbour in my dorm at Biola University in Southern California 18 years ago. She lives in Northern California, but is in town for a few days and I can hardly wait to see her.

Spending time with old friends is a form of time travel: a way to access myself at 19 years of age with all of my hopes and fears of that stage. We'll giggle and remember things we said and did, and find that those memories are just as fresh as if they happened yesterday instead of almost two decades ago.

Longtime friends give you back a piece of yourself, because they have been holding it for you. They knew you at a certain stage in your life, with all of your frailties and mistakes, and they loved you then and they love you now. It's a powerful thing to spend time with those who started a journey with you a long time ago and are still on it today. You grow up together, even if you are far apart, because whenever you see that person it is like a snapshot of who you once were, and a measuring stick for how far you have come in your life.

My oldest friendship dates back to elementary school, and is still going strong today. We've had many ups and downs, and differences of opinion, and varying life tracks, but we've always been in touch. We're going to visit her and her family this upcoming weekend, so this whole week is one to celebrate enduring friendships.

In our fast-paced society, it is easy to lose touch with those we love. Facebook makes it a little easier, but effort must be made in order to remain connected, even electronically. I believe it is worth any effort or expense to stay in touch with a few people who knew us as kids and teens as it forms a deep connection and bond that can help us through the toughest times we'll face in our adult lives.

I'm looking forward to tonight. Physically we will have changed, and our kids will run around and interrupt us as we visit and laugh, but that's okay. We are still the same inside. We still value each other as people and friends, and we have chosen to stay in touch with each other, and old friends are a valuable commodity in this life.

Monday, May 17, 2010

New Perspective

My pastor was on fire yesterday morning. He nearly had steam coming from his body, that's how fired up he was about his topic. I find passion in any form to be inspiring. When people feel strongly about something, they get me instantly engaged if their argument is compelling. Whether I agree or not is immaterial; I am moved to consider ideas from a new perspective, and that's very valuable.

He was speaking on a passage at the end of 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, which many Christians would say is about "the end times" or "the rapture". Both ideas have always been foreign to me, much like the concepts of heaven and hell, where there are passages in the Bible about them but they have never been sufficiently explained to the point where they make any sense to me.

My pastor, in his precise care and study, explained that in the Jewish mindset, heaven was simply defined as "another dimension", with nothing ethereal and mystical about it. Over the years, heaven theology has developed into this mysterious space in the clouds, where we float as spirits, happy all day long, and my mind can't seem to wrap around this vague concept.

He said that the term "rapture", used by Christians to explain this passage in 1 Thessalonians 4, is not found in the Bible. It is a creation of mankind over the centuries of church history, and in recent years has been used to create fear and anxiety about what will happen at the end of time.

Books and movies have made millions from this "end times theology." As a kid, I saw one of those movies at my church and it traumatized me for most of my Christian life, until recently when I realized it was mostly bunk and I could let it go. I'm thrilled that my kids won't grow up with this panic and fear that I could disappear at any time, float up to the sky and leave them alone with the earth falling to ruins all around them. These ideas developed over time, and have been taught as the absolute truth in most churches and Christian schools, and they always sat uneasily in my mind and spirit.

My pastor read the passage over twice, and had us discuss where our mind stopped as we heard it. What questions could we raise? What did it seem like Paul was really saying? He encouraged us all to put what we've learned before out of our minds and just focus on the words in their context. This is such a helpful exercise when reading Scripture. The basic point of the passage is a reassurance that whether you are alive or dead, you are in God's hands. The rest doesn't really matter. We don't have to be afraid. It's very comforting to put your faith in the goodness of God, in his infinite love and care, and believe that he will take care of us.

This one 45 minute message about death and heaven made more sense to me than 30 years of teaching in other places. It had the effect of control-alt-delete to reset my mind to be able to have new ideas seed and grow. During my pastor's teaching, he engaged in a small rant on some of our "friends to the south" and their interest in spreading fear about what is coming at the end of time, all in an effort to encourage us to open our wallets and give to them. At the end, when he was wrapping up, he apologized for his attitude and asked us to forgive him for his cynicism. He recognized that blaming others isn't going to help in the road to unity as believers and people who live peacefully with one another.

That example of humility, following such a powerful message of hope and encouragement, was a first-rate example for me to follow. I love my community of faith. I love my pastor and the ideas he offers for consideration. He was clear that he doesn't know what is going to happen after we die, simply because he is still alive. No one knows. But I can rest on the confidence that God knows, and that he loves me and is in control of what will happen, and that's enough for me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Soul-Stirring Beauty

If we are open to beauty, we will see it all around us. So often I'm rushing through my days trying to accomplish things, and I miss the moments that are the most meaningful and stirring. Yesterday I experienced a day full of such beauty, and it moved me in ways that will be difficult to describe, because things that are profound often lose something in the telling.

We enjoyed a relaxed Saturday morning at home, puttering about and not being in a rush, while the sunshine streamed in through every window of the house. Puttering is good for my soul. Lingering over breakfast with my book, laundry, exercise, tidying toys, laughing and conversing with the kids about everything and nothing all at once.

After lunch our babysitters came and my kids were so excited to be outside on the trampoline with two of the sweetest teen girls on the planet. I took my writing binder, my screenplay and my copy of Writer's Market and went to the library for two hours of peaceful solitude, my pen scratching at the paper, and joy settling around me like a blanket.

My main goal was to draft my query letter. I've picked an agent to submit my query to, and I really wanted to knock it out of the park. I had a rough start, crumpling up several attempts at my log line (a one-sentence summary of the plot), and then, suddenly, getting it right.

I was on a roll, writing so fast my hand could barely keep up. Hands down, that is my favourite part of writing. You put up with the blank page, and the fear, and the intense panic that your work is terrible, just to get those moments where you feel like you are flying, and that anything is possible. Inspiration stirs the soul in ways that are deeply meaningful.

While I was writing that query letter, I felt the presence of God so clearly with me, in me, around me. I knew I was on the path I'm supposed to be on, at this moment in time, and that type of certainty is hard to find in this world. I breathed a prayer of gratitude for all that has come before to bring me to this place in life; this happy hope and unshakeable belief that I'm doing what I was born to do.

On the way home to get my kids, my favourite Celine Dion song, "Love You More", came on through the CD shuffler, and as I listened to her soaring voice and the stirring violin, I was moved again to tears. Goosebumps stood out on my arms and legs, and I made a new vow to notice more of these beautiful things that are all around me. Sounds, sensations, feelings, sights and tastes. I want to look around and experience more beauty in my life.

The crowning jewel was coming off the highway and cresting the plateau to turn toward our town. I never get tired of that gorgeous view. The fields in every direction, merging with the deep blue of the sky and the fluffy white of the clouds. It takes my breath away if I stop and take the time to actually look. Life is full of change. I recognize that anything can happen with Jason's job and we may not live here in this beautiful place forever. But we are here today, and I can open my eyes and my senses to how wonderful it is, and soak it up to store inside my soul forever.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Today I have a babysitter coming for a few hours so I can escape the house and work on my query for my screenplay. I've been using this week when Jason is away to polish off the sixth draft of my script, get it registered with the Writer's Guild, and now my attention shifts to the business side of getting it represented and sold.

I've been scouring Writer's Market, flagging production companies and agents that might be suitable, and now I have to craft a query that will get attention and intrigue someone to request the entire screenplay. I was confident about this process until I spent an hour last night searching the blogosphere for help and ideas on creating a strong query letter, and my certainty began to flag a little.

I tell myself that editors and agents make the process challenging because they don't want you to waste their time. They want to read good material, they are actively searching for it, but they are deluged by writers and they make it sound like your work must be perfect in order for them to have any interest at all.

Before I started reading all of this agent and editor advice online last night, I thought, "I'm a writer. I can write a simple one page letter with three paragraphs outlining my story and my writing credits. I can persuade someone to keep reading my writing."

I began having a crisis of confidence last night when I wondered if my script was really ready to be paraded around and read by strangers who know movies inside and out. If you're about to ask your dream to dance, you want to be sure that your skirt isn't tucked into your underwear and that you don't have spinach in your teeth. You want to get it right, but "getting it right" is subjective, and there is no empirical way to be sure. At a certain point, you have to take a deep breath, do the best you can, and hit the "send" button.

I do think I'm at that point, but rejection is never enjoyable, in any form. I want to draft a great query, e-mail it to my agency of choice, and hope for a positive response. It's sure to be a bumpy road, filled with equal parts hope and panic, and all I can do is walk it and learn the lessons that are waiting for me. I feel some trepidation, but I can't let that stop me. I must remember that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to move forward in spite of the fear.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I'm not certain that intentionality is a word, but it doesn't set off the spell checker in Word, so I guess I'm okay to use it. I was thinking about the post I wrote on the morning that Jason left for his week-long business trip and I'm curious about the relationship between our intentions and the resulting actions in our lives.

When he left I wrote about how much I tend to rely on him, and how I don't like to be apart, but for this trip I was going to work on having fun with the kids and enjoying the change of pace. We are on day 5 now, and it's going like a dream. The sun is shining, the kids are happy and well behaved, and I'm relaxed and having fun.

So much of our destiny is controlled by our attitude. I'm not convinced that my intentions could make the weather gorgeous (if so, I should've worked harder on my attitude during the beginning of May when it was blizzarding), but being positive has definitely set the mood for our household during this week.

I'm a firm believer in the "if you dream it, you can become it" school of thought. It has brought me this far in life and I'm confident that it will get me to my dream of being a professional writer. But dreams are meant for small things too, and I think it's worth investing time to think about how you want each day to go, and adjust your attitude accordingly.

I don't want to lose control of my attitude and outlook, as that is firmly under my control. Many things will happen to me that I can't predict and that I don't like, but I always have a choice as to how I will react and behave in any situation. I want to be intentional about my attitude from this point on; to be positive instead of negative, even in the smallest things.

I know that my determination to have a good week has been tied into the fact that I am having a good week. It's like turning a light on and having the room flood with light instead of fumbling around in the dark, banging my shin on the furniture and grumbling under my breath. It was an experiment in attitude and I've been amazed by the results. What else can I try intentionality with? It's a new way to look at the world, and so far, it's really working.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Remember Moments

The line between obsession and accomplishment is a very thin one for me. I want to cram so much into each and every day that I end up missing the chance to enjoy myself. We only have one life to live, and sometimes that truth terrifies me into action, but it can be a frenzied action, where I spin like a top in order to succeed.

Last night I tried to look at it from another perspective. It's true that we only have one life, but it's also a fact that all we have is now, this moment, to be with these friends, our children at the age they are at now, and experience these career opportunities. The Italian poet Cesare Pavese said, "We don't remember days, we remember moments." If we are always moving toward the goal but not looking around to enjoy the experiences we have today, we have missed out on the moments that will become our best memories.

I miss Jason being at home in the evenings (he's on a week-long business trip) because he offers me a balance that I can't find easily on my own. Left to my own devices, I go at top speed all the time, until I crash and burn from exhaustion. Leisure is important to create a balanced life. I just get so focused on what I'm working on, and I love sneaking away to write a few sentences here and there, but when it's time to feed the kids or spend some time with them, I find it hard to draw myself back from the writing world I'm inhabiting.

The best part of my day was breaking our "no Wii on weekdays" rule and playing a few games of tennis and bowling with Ava right before dinner. We laughed and teased and William cheered us on. It was fun because it was spontaneous, and I was right in the moment, not wishing to be doing anything else.

I need to work on cultivating an awareness of what I'm doing each day and be intentional with the activities I'm involved in. I don't have to write everything inside of me today. I have to believe that there are more days after this one, and scale my expectations back to a reasonable level, or I'll run the risk of missing out on joy that is all around me. My kids at these ages are changing, every single day, and if I don't fully engage with them, I will have missed this precious stage.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Turning the Page

I gave my resignation yesterday for my part-time job, in order to pursue writing as my sole career (aside from mothering, of course). I was approached in August, 2009 by my boss, who is a friend, to come and work part-time writing ads for a newspaper and doing other administrative functions.

I wasn't considering returning to work at that time, with a child about to start Grade 1 and a 3 year old, but a few days before she called I had that still, small voice whisper to me that it was time for a change. When the phone rang with the request about the job, I wasn't surprised because I had already been nudged in that direction. After six years out of the workforce, I was nervous walking into the office for the first time and settling back in to an office job.

The first few weeks and months of anything new are always rocky and stressful, and then suddenly you find your groove, and you aren't thinking about each step anymore. You simply do your tasks, and compared to the uphill climb at the beginning, it feels like flying. I loved that stage of this job.

I also fully embraced the connection I made with myself again after six years of being home with my kids. Ava was doing well in Grade 1, and after a bumpy start, William was slowly warming up to preschool and his dayhome for the twelve hours a week I was at work. It was as though I looked in the mirror during those hours each week and said, "Oh, hello. It's you! How are things?"

Connecting with our true selves is a powerful thing. I discovered that after a period of dormancy when I was focused on diapers and nursing and potty training and discipline, my personality was still intact. I just needed to coax it out into the light and become reacquainted with it all over again.

Work gave me that opportunity. The chance to go for lunch with my co-workers and just be myself, with no kids to fuss over or hide behind. The revelation that I was competent at the job, that my brain still functioned, was marvelous to me. I also learned to be gracious with myself when I made mistakes, a lesson I couldn't seem to learn in my previous office career before I had kids. I realized that my children have softened me in a way that I really like. I'm much more sensitive and relaxed than I've ever been before, and I've come a long way to be able to truthfully write that sentence.

I've been writing consistently the whole time I've been working, and a few weeks ago a shift began to happen for me. I knew I'd been working toward writing as my sole occupation, but hadn't completely replaced the income I'd be losing if I let go of my job, but suddenly that still, small voice was back. I listened, and I heard, through the book I'm reading, that the time had come for a leap of faith. I posed the question, "Do you believe in yourself?" and I found the answer was a resounding, "Yes." That made my decision for me.

It's a bit like the chicken and the egg: did my confidence in myself to try for a writing life come because of my part-time job, or was it there all along and I just couldn't see it? All of life is like this. One thing leads into another, and then something else after that. When you look back, you can see the winding paths that lead you from one place to another, and you realize as you get older how interconnected all of the roads are.

If you will listen to yourself, and follow your desires, all roads will lead back to you and your abilities. To be able to earn money doing what you love is unbelievably satisfying. I'm so grateful for the experiences I've had over the past year. I'm going to enjoy winding down my time in this office environment, and then turn the page on the next chapter of my life. I can hardly wait to write in it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I read recently that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to be uncomfortable with a situation and proceed anyway (I'm certain the quote was more elegant, but I'm far too lazy this morning to go get the book and dig up the right page). I read it in Take the Step: The Bridge Will Be There by Grace Cirocco. It got me thinking about all of the ways that courage can be defined in my life using that definition.

I have always equated courage with bravery, sort of a head-down, power through anything kind of stamina. With this gentler way of looking at it, courage is accepting a level of risk and fear in our lives, and choosing not to be limited by our own worries and inabilities.

To stretch and grow as people we must do things we don't want to do. We must love where it's easier to despise, forgive when we prefer to hold a grudge, and take chances where we are tempted to play it safe. I believe in listening to that still, small voice, call it God or your own intuition, and follow what it tells me. This is how I've made most of my decisions in life, but it almost always requires courage to take the step required when I get that nudge to action.

As I read this book, I keep seeing that scene in my mind from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, the one where Indy is trying to get to the Holy Grail and he stands on a ledge and steps into the air, expecting to fall, but suddenly he is standing on an invisible path that takes him to his destination. That picture encourages me to take a leap of faith myself, to manage my fears, and to believe in myself.

Life is about change. If we can't embrace that, life becomes very stressful and challenging. Nothing is meant to stay the same. As humans, we are wired to evolve and grow on a daily basis. I want my kids to take this growth for granted. I don't want them to be afraid to break free of expectations and routine to listen to that still, small voice and have the courage to follow it wherever it leads them.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Sometimes I forget to be grateful for everything in my life. I simply carry on with my day-to-day responsibilities and I don't stop to tell people how thankful I am for what they bring to my daily experience.

My husband is the first one who comes to mind. On Friday he gave me a shiny new People magazine (brain candy of the first order) and told me it was to start off my Mother's Day weekend. Then on Saturday we went out for a date to Iron Man 2 and out to Whitespot for dinner because I was craving a Legendary burger and sweet potato fries. We had so much fun on our date with some friends, laughing together and remembering what we love about each other.

I woke up on Mother's Day to a few gifts, from Jason and the kids, and my heart was so full and warm you could've roasted marshmallows by it. We went to Smitty's for the delicious buffet breakfast on our way to church, and then came home for Jason to make us all lunch. He also gave the kids gift certificates to Humpty's so we could go out to eat while he is gone to Las Vegas and California this week for work, and me a Boston Pizza gift card so we could eat out and have some treats. The thoughtfulness and kindness of my husband knows no bounds.

My mom came over for a dinner that Jason spent most of the afternoon preparing. Barbequed chicken and ribs with homemade biscuits, green beans and potato salad, with fruit crisp for dessert. I felt cherished, appreciated, and very thankful for the many blessings I have been given.

Today I'm sad to lose Jason for a week from our family unit, but I'm going to be positive about all of the fun adventures that the kids and I will have together. It's a change of pace; a chance for something different, and I'll embrace that change with enthusiasm instead of dread. I'm going to push myself in this area, becoming more independent and less afraid of being on my own. I know I need to grow in this area, and there is no time like the present to improve.

This will be the longest time we've ever been apart since we've been married, but it's a good thing to know the relationship is solid, and can survive what comes at it from the outside. We are grateful for each other, and thankfulness greases the wheels of life so that everything runs much smoother.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers, all those who want to be mothers, those who have yet to be mothers, and even to those who have chosen not to be mothers. I have friends in all camps, and I respect and love them all.

Motherhood is the toughest of callings, because so much personal sacrifice is required. I had no idea of the demands until I held my firstborn in my arms, and comprehended that I would do anything for her. I would cross deserts with no water, I would fight with no weapons, I would gladly lay down my life to make sure she was safe, loved, and protected.

That kind of love washed over me in an instant in the hospital, and I knew my life was over as I had known it until that point. My time, my energy, my very existence was no longer my own to spend as I wished. My child came first, and her needs would be the yardstick by which I would measure my every decision from that point forward.

Becoming a mother pushes your selfishness to the bottom of the pile, and you realize how many other redeeming qualities you have. This process is painful, and raw, and brings you through the fire of your own personality so you can focus on the needs of your children. It's a beautiful thing, but the hardest job of my life so far.

I remember phoning my mom when Ava was a baby. I said, with wonder in my voice, "Is this how you felt about me? This kind of love, and sacrifice, and amazement?" She laughed and said, "Yes. That's how much I love you." I really didn't get it before that point - I don't think it's possible to fully understand it until you've experienced it with your own child - and I remember being astounded that my mom cared for me with this much detail and care when I was a child. It gives you a new appreciation for your own mother when you become one yourself.

I know this day must be very painful for my friends who long to be mothers but who have been devastated in the path toward motherhood. Trying to get pregnant each month is a roller-coaster ride which I remember all too well, and my miscarriage still hurts five years later. To my friends who are currently experiencing this pain and loss, I tell you that I love you, and I am praying for you, and I won't stop praying until you are able to experience the miracle of motherhood, or come to a peace and contentment about the situation you find yourself in.

I also have friends who have made the courageous choice not to have children. They enjoy their lives as they are, and stand bravely by their choice, and I salute them. These women love other people's children, and are aunts to them, and this choice should never be judged, but instead celebrated. It requires bravery to know yourself and stand up for what you want in a society that expects married couples to produce children.

I celebrate all women on Mother's Day. I am grateful for my kids today, and for my husband, and for my own mom and my mother-in-law. I'm going to enjoy a day of rest, and reflection, for all that I have been given, and all that I give. Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Body Image

I would like to be skinny, and pick any clothes I want from the mall, but the problem comes when I have to restrict what I eat and make time to exercise and sweat. Apparently, I can't have one without the other, so for now I've chosen to remain pleasantly plump and save the deprivation and motivation for a later point in life.

I've noticed a strange phenomenon for the last few years: as my personal confidence and satisfaction grows, my comfort level with my body shape has improved. Sometimes I worry that this is a negative thing, because it lowers my desire to eat less and work out more, but other times I am quietly grateful because I don't obsess over body image in the way I did when I was younger.

I know what is required to lose weight and maintain a smaller frame, and that is sacrifice and hard work. I understand this fact quite well in my mind, but I stumble and fall when I try to put it into practice. I have the utmost respect for my friends and family members who are currently losing weight or have recently done so. I'm impressed by their willpower and dedication, but I feel sad when I see all of the work they put into it, and sometimes I wonder if they feel any differently about themselves with the finished product.

Simply losing weight and toning up is not enough. We must change ourselves on the inside at the same time. If we look in the mirror and see Jennifer Aniston, but we still feel insecure and not beautiful enough, we haven't actually gained anything. I think the key is to work on our inner confidence before or during our physical transformation, so the sacrifice makes a difference to how we feel. Changing our bodies shouldn't be about giving something to the world, but about improving our health and confidence for ourself.

Today I'm going to see Iron Man 2 with Jason and some friends, and then out for dinner. I'm going to eat popcorn and enjoy every morsel, and plan for the time in the future when I will make exercise a higher priority for weight loss and health. For now I am grateful for how happy I am with my life, and I'll offer grace to myself and my excess baby weight (if William is 4, can I still call it baby weight?!).

There is only so much we can do in each 24 hour day we are given, and today I'm going to eat popcorn and enjoy a movie. Tomorrow is Mother's Day, so exercise will be off the table yet again, but there's always hope for Monday. Maybe if I write it on my to-do list, it will actually get done, but at this point I'm not hopeful. I'll look at it as an area for improvement, recognizing that I can only focus on one thing at a time, and be aware that eventually I do need to make this a priority.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Take the Step...

I'm so late with my blog post because my internet conked out as I sat down to type at 6:50 am, and didn't come on until supper time. That hasn't happened since I moved here, so I figured in all of my paranoia that it was Shaw getting back at me for railing on against electronic media in my post yesterday. At any rate, it magically came back on, so I am quickly using this window of opportunity to capture what's rattling around in my brain.

I started a book yesterday called Take the Step: The Bridge Will Be There. I grabbed it from the library because I liked the title and the front cover photography of an out-of-focus bridge surrounded by green leaves and bushes. I started reading it last night, and I was struck by a curious sense of recognition; I am living the words of this book at this exact moment in time. I understand the concepts the author is trying to convey because I'm walking them out as living proof that the ideas work.

It was as though the planets aligned and everything was crystal clear in my mind and soul and I felt God speaking to me, which is no small thing. The writer, Grace Cirocco, talks about the dance between faith and action. If you have only the faith part working in your life, you'll talk forever about what you are going to do without actually doing it (she called it "analysis paralysis"), and if you are focused on the action side, you may have many projects on the go but lack a cohesive plan because you don't have confidence in yourself.

I immediately recognized myself in both of these states at various points in my life so far. I cringe when I think of how much time I've wasted dreaming and planning instead of doing, and also creating busy-work for myself so I wouldn't have to look at the bigger picture and realize that I didn't believe in myself and so my dreams were impossible to reach. Somehow taking that film course at the University of Calgary last fall brought all of it together into a cohesive whole, with faith and action walking shoulder to shoulder for once, and moving me forward toward my dream.

At the beginning of the book, Cirocco said, "Your body can't go where your mind has never been. What we need to do first is convince ourselves that we can do it, nurture faith in ourselves, and then take the step." This was comforting to me. Perhaps all of those years of dreaming about screenwriting success was actually paving the way to this time when I could bring action alongside of my faith to see the dream become a reality.

Take the step, and the bridge will be there. This is as true as any statement I've ever heard, and I plan to put it into practice. I've been writing regularly again for the last few days, and it's brought back that missing dimension of satisfaction and effervescent happiness to my life. I encourage you to wrap your fingers around your passion and move forward. All of the pieces may not be in place, but that shouldn't stop us from walking in the direction we want to go. Plan it, and then walk forward in faith, believing that the road will be firm under your feet, and it will all work out as it should.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vooks & Other Electronic Nonsense

I read in Writer's Digest yesterday about the newest publishing phenomenon: vooks. Video combined with books to create a multi-media reading experience. When I was ranting to Jason about this last night, he said, "Isn't combining pictures and music with a story a movie?" Exactly.

Recently we rented a DVD and one of the previews was for the newest generation of Blu-ray technology. A prominent feature was Instant Messaging with your friends WHILE you watch the movie. Seriously? Teens can't just watch a movie now, they have to text on their phone and IM on the touch-TV screen at the same bloody time? As it is, most kids born after the mid-eighties can't have a conversation without surfing the net, texting, talking on their cell phone, playing their DS or being otherwise insanely distracted from the person they are "speaking" to.

I worry that we are creating a very bad ADHD vortex for young people with all of these frantic electronic choices. Whenever I go out for dinner, I'm always dismayed at the tables with two bored parents people-watching while their pre-teens type away on their phones or have their noses pressed up to their DS's. It's easy for me to criticize this because I'm not there yet with my kids. I'm not saying the teen years are a breeze and every family should be actually conversing while at dinner together, but if we don't limit the electronic assault on our kids, they will be washed away in the tide and the quality of our family lives will be damaged.

This article on vooks said that for novels, they have graphic designers choosing photos and music to go with the text, effectively removing the personal imagination from the process. Books are important because they transport you to another world in your mind, and my idea of each character will differ from the next reader's, and that is the magic inherent in reading. I would never want a novel that has been designed graphically for me by someone else's vision. No thanks.

And self-help or non-fiction vooks with links embedded in the text to research more information about the topic? That's called the internet. In the insane effort to make a buck and be ahead of the electronic revolution, all of the forms of electronic media are doubling up on each other. I think it's very sad. I sincerely hope that in ten years my kids will still have the choice to read a book on their own, with no electronic interference, if they so choose. Will we hit a saturation point with all of these choices? When will publishers consider that the "dumbing-down" factor has been fully achieved?

I realize that I sound like an 85 year old here, shaking my stick and mumbling about young people while I rattle my dentures around in my mouth. I know my voice isn't going to stop this deluge of electronic schizophrenia from continuing to grow. But I do worry about the lasting effects on the next generation. I'd love to hear some opinions on this. Am I an old-fashioned fuddy duddy? Is there a good side to offering e-books with video and additional information embedded in them? Am I missing something fabulous here with my puritan approach to books as a way to stimulate our imagination? I'd love to hear what you think.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Out of the Habit

I tell myself that I must write every day in order to be a writer. Writers write. The very word describes the act. After taking a long hiatus from writing in order to have my kids, I have said that I will never be without writing again because it adds so much to my life. All of that is true, but if I take even one day without putting the pen to the paper (I tend to write in longhand and then type it so it becomes a second draft at the end of the typed version), I can make that day stretch into a week with very little effort.

I've had a busy week. That's the excuse I use and it's actually true, but the truth is irrelevant. Time never opens up to us. We must make time for the things that are important to us. I can't blame the weather, or the fact that I'm tired, or rationalize that I'll get to it tomorrow. When I'm out of the habit of writing daily, I find it very hard to get back into it.

There is something about training your mind to sit down at a certain point in the day and work. The creative process is best served by this kind of a schedule. I look forward to that chance all day, but if I put it off once, I can quite easily come up with a list of why I deserve to put it off again, and then I go to bed at night with that little stirring of disquiet because I missed the chance I had to put some words on paper.

Last night I made a to-do list for writing. If it's in front of me, waiting to be crossed off my list, my chances of actually doing the task go up significantly. It's odd because when I received my screenplay from my friend in LA, I was bursting with ideas to do a short re-write, and start querying agents to move to the next step. The excitement was palpable as the dream has been slowly inching its way to this moment for twenty-one years. And yet I dodge what I need to be doing. I'm working on other projects here and there, but avoiding what I should be doing. Is that human nature, or simply MY human nature?

Either way, I'm going to improve, starting today. I'm going to progress, day by day, on my writing goals. I'm not going to take time off. I've taken enough time off. Now is the time to capture the words that are in my mind and my heart; to catch them and collect them into some semblence of order that means something to me and will hopefully bring meaning and inspiration to others.

If you could use a laugh this morning, head on over to Gear4Guys and check out my newest article on the doghouse page, about men and sickness. I hope writing for this website won't cause issues in my marriage, but I think the article covers a common relationship dynamic for most men and women. And while you are over there, look into buying a membership card for your man for just $20 for a year. They recently announced that you can get movie passes for Empire Theatres for just $8.50 a pass with your membership card - that's $4 off the regular admission price! Go on over and have a quick read. I'm enjoying the comedy writing and would love to hear what you think.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Humble Pie

Yesterday I ate a slice of humble pie, while I was vacuuming and cleaning my house. I thought about my own attitude, and how that is the only thing I can control, and I recognized how easy it is for me to dig my heels in, think I'm right, and develop a hard heart toward people I find challenging. I think this is a natural human condition; it is why there is so much conflict and pain in our world.

We see our own side of the argument very clearly, and it stretches us to consider the other points of view and feelings involved in disagreements. While scrubbing my bathrooms I really tried to soften my heart, to recognize that where my attitude is brittle and hard, no new growth is possible.

I didn't enjoy the feeling of patching up the argument with the people involved, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I was mad, I told people why, and then with a good rest and the space of a few days, I could see where I needed to step forward and take responsibility, and offered apologies to the people I felt were owed one. It was an interesting process.

For a perfectionist like me, it used to be like pulling teeth for me to admit I was wrong, that I had spoken rashly and behaved badly. I used to hide from that truth because it was too blunt and raw to acknowledge to myself. I didn't grow very much personally in those days, and it's no wonder: you can't grow if you won't acknowledge your own limitations and frailties. It's remarkably freeing to recognize publicly that you make mistakes. It's nice not to have to hide from it anymore.

It's a good process to experience an event, get violently mad, tell people you are mad, and then make peace with the situation, offering apologies where they are required, and move on by putting the issue in the past. I like that I have no hard feelings associated with that issue anymore. I talked to someone last night about the other struggle I had earlier this year, and I was thrilled to find out that when I said, "I have no hard feelings; they did what they felt they had to do, and so did I," it was absolutely true.

I think that if you circumvent the process, you miss out on that closing peace. It's important not to jump ship when the going gets hard. Don't quit because someone is driving you up the wall. Stay the course, try to be kind (there's a Bible verse which says something like, "As far as it is possible, live at peace with everyone.") and let the experience teach you what it can. I knew yesterday that the soil of my heart was hard and I needed to let it soften up for springtime so new life could come from it. I don't want to be hard, cold and cynical. I want to grow and bloom and change. Eating a piece of humble pie was good for me, and so was the admission that I make mistakes, and that is how we grow.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Straight Truth

I know a few people who regularly bend the truth or create a version of events to suit their own needs when they talk with me. I find it really tiring to talk with them, because I have to pretend that what they are saying is true when I know for a fact that it is part truth and part fiction.

In my teens and twenties I was guilty of this. If one dog barked at me and jumped on me while I was out walking, it became 3 dogs when I told the story later. If someone was rude to me, when I reiterated it to a friend, the person was much meaner in the version I told. This was a real struggle for me and I think it went back to overdramatizing the event to make it more interesting, but a lovely person came along once in my life and told me I was actually lying, and how could people believe anything I said if I exaggerated all the time?

It was some of the best advice I ever received. I began making a real effort to tell the story exactly as it happened, even if I knew I could make it more interesting by adding some fictional details. A lie is a lie is a lie. I teach my kids that if they lie once, I can't believe them at all, and the same is true with adults. Because I struggled with this issue for years, I think I am more sensitive to it than others, and I find it lights a flame inside me when I catch someone in a conversation with me and I know they aren't sticking to the facts.

The older I get, the less I want to pretend. I want honesty, communicated with bravery and clarity. It takes guts to do this. We don't always come out looking so great if we are honest with ourselves and others. I know I still slip up sometimes and tell a story that's been souped-up a little. It's human nature to brag a bit and make ourselves sound better or funnier than we really are, but I discovered that I can tell a story honestly and then say, "I should've said..." to get my comic bit in there while not pretending I actually said it.

If I want my kids to learn the difference between the truth and a lie, I must understand it myself. I have to model it, story by story, moment by moment, and day by day in order for them to live it too. I know I will continue to make mistakes in this area. I will extend grace to myself when I fail, but the next time, I'll listen for that little voice, pointing out that exaggeration is actually lying, and the straight truth is the best version in any situation.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Why is it that when 95% of a day is positive, and 5% is negative, that the bad part takes over in your mind and your spirit and erodes all of the good parts? Everywhere we go we run into difficult people who complain, will not be pleased no matter how hard you work for them, and the ones who are grouchy and treat you rudely.

It's one thing to tell yourself, "Ignore them. No one could make them happy. Don't waste time trying. Focus on the kind people who are all around you." It's another thing to override your emotions with your mind. I have a fairly long fuse. I don't get mad quickly or easily, but when I do, it's like a red flag waved in a bull's face. I am instantly hot around the collar, and spoiling for a fight.

I'm not sure if this is a good quality or a negative one. I suppose the answer lies in how I behave when my emotions are raised to the surface in such a raw and instant way. The problem, of course, is that our emotions are not rational. Unless we can get our mind working properly, helping us sort through the feelings to arrive at a reasonable and helpful course of action, we simply blow our top and let the chips fall where they may.

This happened to me yesterday. I took some time to think about it, but I passed the point of no return when it came to my emotions. I was mad and I didn't want to pretend I wasn't. It was freeing in a way, causing a flurry of activity that had to be dealt with, but sometimes you just don't want to take something lying down.

After a good night's sleep, in the light of a new gorgeous spring morning, everything is better. I wonder if I needed to say what I said, but it's too late, and the words are out there and cannot be retrieved. Words are dangerous that way, for good or for evil. We all have motives driving us, propelling us forward in our words and our actions. We each have to live with what we do and say, every single day of our lives.

I'm thankful for friends. For people who walk alongside you and lift you up when you are discouraged. Our friends make our journey so much sweeter and easier; they help us focus on the positive when we are overwhelmed with the negative. Friends see us as we are, point out our strengths and gently walk us through our blind spots and weaknesses. I appreciate that about my friends. The honesty, the love, and the caring I receive from them. It brought tears to my eyes yesterday, and today my spirit is lighter, happier, and ready to move the 5% negative to the bottom of the pile and concentrate on the joy of the 95% that is positive.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Golden Rule

I offer an apology for being late with my blog today, but I've been insanely busy with an event I was organizing for our Mom's group. It's all over now, thank God, and I'm wiped out. What is it about my nature that causes me to take on virtually everything for a huge event? Is it to prove to myself that I can do it, that I really am that good? Is it about my ego?

These are questions that I am facing today about myself. They deserve a hard look because I crossed my t's and dotted my i's for every moving part of this event, and it all went off well (I'd love to say without a hitch, but the coffee I put on to perc came out like swamp water), but when I begged for help I found it hard to come by.

There are so many interesting personality types in this world. There are the hard-charging Type A's like me who sign up, roll up their sleeves and do their damnedest to get everything done to the best of their ability. Then there are the wafflers, who want to help, but come up with many reasons why they can't, or promise to help and then renege at the last second. The third group are people who ignore requests for help and simply don't look around to see that anything needs to be done. They are in their own world, busy with themselves, and can't seem to break out of navel-gazing to offer assistance to others.

Today I wished I was in the third group. I'm not a waffler, never have been and don't want to become one, but today I didn't want to be so hyper-responsible. I wanted to focus on my own needs and not worry about anyone else. It's emotionally exhausting to reach out to others and solve the problems of a large group of people. It looked so appealing and relaxed to me to focus solely on your own needs. But then I realized I don't want to live my life insulated from reality by my own design. I want to be aware, of myself and others, and not become self-absorbed and ridiculous.

It's a fight to think about others before myself. It's not easy. Many days I don't want to do it, especially when I look around and see other people who are perfectly happy to live their lives on their own terms and not inconvenience themselves for the sake of others. Is that what I want to teach my kids? Or does The Golden Rule still mean something: to treat others as we would like to be treated? I'm banking on the fact that The Golden Rule is still valuable, even in this cynical age where it's every man, woman and child for themself.

Those who will lay down their own comfort or desires to help others are like gold in a society that trades in copper. Those friends that you can rely on, who genuinely care and will go the extra mile for you, are a treasure that should never be taken lightly. Hold those people close, thank them often, and be willing to give to them when they need you. The Golden Rule, like everything in life, only means something when it's put into practice, not simply spoken about with words.