Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Face Value

We went to the zoo yesterday with friends, and the kids had a great time, and so did the moms. I had a million things to do in order to get out of the house today for our trip to the cabin, but I had set up this plan a week earlier as a way to celebrate the end of school. In hindsight I was so glad I went. Memories were made, the packing still got done, and I had a relaxed and enjoyable time with my friends.

Children are simple in the way they interact with each other. I watched the kids include one another, regardless of gender or age, and meet new friends on the playground or at the zoo dinosaur dig. They are transparent, with their need for community and friends shining through. They could be easily hurt by how vulnerable they are, but it all seems to work for them. Maybe it's because they don't read so much into every comment, look or Facebook status. They simply take each other at face value, and don't automatically assume the worst of their friends.

Somewhere along the line to adulthood we lose this charmed innocence with people. I wonder if the teen years are what do us in, with wildly raging hormone shifts that cause us to be distrustful of people. I suppose we all get hurt, and begin to find ways to protect ourselves from others, and the shell we build creates cynicism and fear.

I miss the childhood version of myself. I think I was probably gentler, and more fun, and kinder as a child than I am as an adult. I don't want to have a thin skin with others. I want to assume that people are basically good, and that the onus is on the other person to tell me if I've hurt them, and remind myself that not everything is about me. Every comment isn't loaded with a double message that I have to decode. Some things are simple, if I will take people at their face values and not read into each situation.

We all have to walk lightly with each other, and be prepared to offer the benefit of the doubt when people fail us. For years I've worked on communicating clearly with my friends and family; telling them where they have hurt me, and listening to their side of the story and offering my own apologies for my actions. We all have the ability to hurt each other, intentionally or otherwise. I strongly believe that clear communication is the key to healthy relationships. I'm deciding today not to read so much into what people say and do, but do my very best to take people at face value. I think it's safer to assume the situation is not about me unless someone tells me it is.

This is going to be a real challenge for me. I'm about to go and live in close quarters with family for a week, and I think this new perspective comes at a fortuitous time. I am responsible for my own actions, words and behaviours. I will take responsibility for them, but I will not guess at how other people are feeling about me. It is their responsibility to tell me. I'm going to do my very best to leave the emotional subtext and passive comments in the shadows, and let the rest of the relationship live in the light.

I apologize in advance for the possibility that I won't be writing posts for the next few days. I feel a mix of happiness and guilt when readers tell me they aren't sure how they are going to make it without reading my posts each day. I'm so glad to know you are reading and enjoying them, but sad that I may not have internet where I am going until Tuesday, when we resurface at a friend's house in Kelowna. I'll do my best to write when I can. I'll definitely miss talking to you each day, but I'll have my pen and paper with me at all times, and hopefully there will be no shortage of ideas for me to communicate when I'm home.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I have a love/hate relationship with vacation. About a week before I go, I enjoy a dreamy anticipation of leisure, not cooking or cleaning, and a relaxing change of pace from my regular life. A few days before we leave, I begin making lists, what feels like hundreds of lists, so I won't forget anything. Then there is the race to keep up with the laundry, and finally packing suitcases, bins and food for the trip.

While I'm packing, I become grouchy about how much work it takes to get a family of four into the van and on the road. I'm usually cleaning my house at the same time so I don't come home to a mess, and the combination of packing and cleaning is enough to make me reconsider my vacation in the first place.

I also notice how comfortable my bed is before going away, and how good my coffee tastes because I make it exactly how I like it for myself, and for some reason I start to feel anxious about leaving. I think I have to fight against this, or I'll become a lonely old woman who never goes anywhere or does anything because it's easier just to stay in my house.

Once we are on the road, I will begin to unwind, and everything will be good again. I could just do without these two days right before I leave. I don't like any state of limbo, and preparing to go away is the worst kind of waiting time. I'm anxious to just get going, while still feeling the appealing draw of my own home and surroundings.

We all need change or we become bored and settled. Mixing it up is good for me, even if I don't always realize it. I feel off-kilter without my laptop, as I'm still waiting to hear if anything can be recovered on my crashed hard drive. For seven years I've been doing a monthly newsletter for my rubbber stamping home business on the first of the month, and I can't for July because my contact lists have been erased at worst, and are unavailable to me at best.

It's all part of life. Holding loosely to things I depend on is hard work. It's worth the effort because it will keep me more aware of the things that really matter in my life, and let go of the rest, but it's a draining process. I have much to learn and a long way to grow in the area of letting go, and not being controlled by outside influences. I think we all do.

Tomorrow we are driving nine hours to Jason's family's cabin. We didn't think the cabin was going to fit into our summer plans this year, but over the winter the kids began talking about fishing, canoe rides and smores at the cabin, and we looked at each other, went back to our joint calendars, and found a way to squeeze in this trip. We all love it there; wide-open days to fill with books, walks, naps, junk food and swimming in the icy cold lake on a hot day.

We just need to get there first. I'm surprised by this realization of the yin/yang process in order to go on vacation. I think it has always been there, but I didn't identify it before. We've gone to BC so many times, it should be old hat by now, and to some degree it is, but the accompanying emotions are always there. It's always worth it to go. It helps to recognize the ups and downs and understand that they go with the territory of going away from my comfort zone for a week.

I'll do my best to piggyback wireless internet from the neighbours while I'm away, but since we don't have cell coverage or our own internet connection at the cabin, I may not be able to do blog posts from Thursday to Tuesday. In a way it's refreshing to unplug for a few short days and not be wirelessly connected to the rest of the world. It's sort of a forced electronic break. But on the other hand, I jump out of bed each morning looking forward to writing these posts, and I love hearing from all of you about where my writing intersects with your life and experiences. Thank you for reading, and for sharing your lives with me.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hold Loosely

For years I have feared the crash of my hard drive, so we bought an external hard drive a little over a year ago from Costco. Right away we had trouble saving to it, then I thought I had saved photos and writing to it, but when I checked I couldn't find anything on the drive. I found this frustrating, so I left it for another day. Every day that my laptop functioned normally was a good day, and it was easy to push it to the back of my mind.

Yesterday it crashed. The screen went black, and the lights were still on, and after removing the power cord and battery and resetting the power for 60 seconds like the techie told me, there remained that ominous DOS message: no operating system found. I am easily frustrated by technical glitches. I want all electronics to work at all times, and when they don't, I am usually overcome by a sense of blind rage at the personal injustice done to me.

Yesterday was different. My attitude may have been different due to the garage cleaning day, where I realized I wanted to simplify my life, but somehow I experienced a calm attitude to this computer crash. I told myself, "Most of my photos are on Facebook, and all of my writing is handwritten in a binder and can be re-typed, and there is no sense panicking over something I can't control." This zen-like outlook is not the norm for me, but I didn't force it. Like some kind of miracle, it was there when I needed it.

Thankfully the laptop is under warranty for one more year, so the kids and I made an unscheduled trip into the city to drop it off at Future Shop. The seventeen year old behind the repair counter told me what I already knew, "The hard drive is likely fried." He did say that for an $80 fee they could try to recover my photos and data, so of course I asked them to try, but I had already reconciled myself to their loss, and realized that I must hold loosely to these things which are not under my control.

The techie told me that hard drives crash for no apparent reason, and he said he bought a back-up for everything he had since 1998, and three months after he bought it, fried it out and lost everything. This information was a further balm on my worry. We can't control electronics. It's better not to be too dependent on them or wrapped up in what they can give us. Our information is not always secure, and holding loosely to that fact helps me relax into life. It's a good lesson.

Future Shop will call today and let me know if my hard drive can be recovered. It would be helpful if I didn't have to re-type all of my work, and if I can keep older pictures of the kids. If it's gone, I've already accepted that fact. What's important is that my kids are right here, to hug and squeeze and love on, and that the sun is shining and it's the last day of school, and we are going to the splash park for a picnic. I will focus on what I can hold and taste and see today, and try to let go of all that I can't control.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Garage Clean-Up

We cleaned our garage yesterday, an annual task I find myself dreading as the scheduled day approaches. I generally take care of the inside of the house, and the garage, shed and yard falls under Jason's responsibility. Let's just say that his attention to detail is significantly lower than mine. He treats the yard like a newborn which requires infinite love and attention, but the garage and the shed become like neglected, angry teenagers, locked in their rooms and separated from the rest of the family.

Annually, I step in to set a date for this wretched job, and I try to dirty my hands as little as possible while still urging the job to its full completion point. Usually we fight and argue the entire time, with me laying blame and Jason becoming more and more irritated with me. This year I took a different tactic, and decided to face my fear of rats and cat-sized spiders lurking in dark corners, and actually plunged into the job alongside of him.

As a result, the job was finished in a matter of a few short hours, with no arguing or angry words exchanged, and looked better at the end than it ever has before. We could entertain and serve meals in there right now. It's a beautiful thing to behold. We make the usual promises to ourselves to keep it neat and organized, but if history has taught us anything, we'll lose all of our resolve over the long, cold winter, and next year at this time we'll be right back where we started. But for now, I feel like standing in it all day and beaming with pride.

Cleaning up stuff we own but don't use sharpens my resolve to simply own less. Buy less, and therefore maintain less. I hate buying into our cultural message that we must have more, more, more. More debt, more stress, more frustration when things break or take up all of our living space. I was offended when someone recently said to me, "I thought you just moved in, because your house is so empty." After yesterday, I take that as a compliment.

I'm making a new resolution to stand up to my culture and just say no to the pressure to buy more product that I don't really need. It's easy to say right now, and will be harder when I'm standing in a store or see something cool advertised, but I will ask myself if it's something I'll be taking to the dump during my next garage or house clean-up. We don't need most of what we own. I want to put my energy into creating memories, not maintaining products eventually destined for the landfill.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Only One You

Ava was honoured at her elementary school yesterday with a Lamplighter award, given to 2 students from each class who are considered a positive influence on their peers. As a mom, I was thrilled and proud of her, but awards like these can cause hurt feelings for others, who are also good role models but won't be celebrated publicly because only 2 out of 19 children can be picked.

All kids are special, and excel at specific things. One of my least favourite areas of parenting involves the competition that goes on between moms for how advanced their kid is compared to mine. I try to stay away from that at all costs because no one wins when you begin this useless competition. In Ava's classroom this week, every child was celebrated for something exceptional about them, and I was thrilled to watch that inclusive spirit at work.

I had a lump the size of Kansas in my throat at the Lamplighter assembly, when there was a slide show of pictures from throughout the year, set to a song that all of the kids have sung in music class. Every child in that small gymnasium sang, their voices soaring to the rafters with confidence and joy, some performing the actions, while they cheered for their friends or themselves on the screen. I felt the happiness of children all around me, and saw what a great group of kids we have in our community, and I was beyond proud to live here and be linked with them all.

Each Lamplighter was given a book when they were called to the front. It's called Only One You, by Linda Kranz. Ava read it to me at bedtime, and suddenly I was crying again. I said, "If you can live by this advice, each and every day, you will be a very successful person." I loved how succinct and true each sentence was. I saw where I succeed and where I fail, and recognized the areas I need to work on in my own life.

That little picture book about fish gave Ava and I a natural window to sit on her bed and talk about life and dreams and hope for the future. I couldn't be prouder of my 7 year old daughter. On the bad parenting days it helps to have moments like the one I made last night with your kids, so it will shore up your confidence when you worry you aren't doing a good enough job. Last night I celebrated alongside of Ava for all that she is now, and all that she will become as she grows up.

Here are the simple words that inspired Ava and I last night:

Always be on the lookout for a new friend.

Look for beauty wherever you are, and keep the memory of it with you.

Blend in when you need to. Stand out when you have the chance.

Find your own way. You don't have to follow the crowd.

Know when to speak. Know when to listen.

No matter how you look at it, there is so much to discover.

If you make a wrong turn, circle back.

If something gets in your way, move around it.

Set aside some quiet time to relax and reflect. Every day.

Appreciate art. It's all around you!

Make wishes on the stars in the nighttime sky.

There's only one you in this great big world. Make it a better place.

Friday, June 25, 2010


I feel like I'm getting back on track. Yesterday I had a few hours of writing time while my boy went to his dayhome for the last scheduled time before summer properly begins next week, and I got pro-active about my query letters for my screenplay. I sent out four at the same time, because all of these agents didn't mind multiple submissions. The process, once again, is hopefully crawling somewhere and not at a dead and discouraging stop.

I borrowed Pretty Woman from a friend the other day because I hadn't seen it in forever, and Jason was out of town, so the necessary ingredients were in place for a chick flick night. As I watched it, I was flooded with happy memories of watching that movie with my friends when I was in high school. Twenty years later, the same movie still transported me away into a different world, as all good movies are capable of doing, no matter when you watch them.

I've been so focused on writing my memoir that I've allowed my newest screenplay to fall by the wayside. Yesterday I sat outside on my deck, picked up my fancy pen (thanks, boss!) and worked on it. The old panic returned for the first fifteen minutes, when I was stalled out and couldn't think of where to go, and then slowly the magic descended, and my pen was flying across the page. Ideas sparked and flowed, and I hit my goal of three pages and sailed right past it. Then I wrote a quick article for Gear4Guys, and sent off my four query letters to new agents.

I proved to myself that I will work when I give myself the time and space to do so. I walked in the sunshine and heat to pick up William, then we read and dozed a little in the afternoon calm, and walked to get Ava from one of her last days of school. In the evening, we strolled down to the farmer's market as a family, and enjoyed visiting with friends while the kids buzzed around, high on life and ice cream.

It was a good day, and I've slowed down enough inside to really appreciate what is going on around me and within me. Awareness is an important goal. I want to be fully present in my own life and with my family and friends. Not thinking of the next thing on my list, and not hurrying constantly to achieve, but intentionally slowing down to stillness. It's the journey that matters, not the destination.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Relaxing is a challenging concept for me, but this year I've been working with it the way a child experiments with playdough: rolling it around in my hand and trying to be comfortable with its texture and shape. I learned when Jason was away for a week in May that I can't go from morning to night with no downtime, or I become very tense indeed. All tasks don't need to be done in one day. If I build in time for leisure, the rest of my life is automatically more enjoyable.

Typed like that, it seems infinitely reasonable, however the hard part comes in making it happen. Summer is easier, because hot weather lends itself to going outside, leaving the housework and the query letters, and just playing for a few hours. People everywhere are doing it, and that gives me some kind of permission to indulge in recreation myself.

Yesterday William and I met a friend for lunch in the park. In the morning I felt tightly wound, like my gears didn't have enough oil to keep things moving smoothly, and I was harsh with William and with myself. Walking to the park for lunch, late because I decided to clean my house an hour before we had to leave, I was wearing my shoulders like earrings and stomping along with a black cloud above my head.

I thought about my blog post, and the mantra I was going to try for the day: I will, I will, I will. I ran it around in my mind, gently at first and then gathering more steam, and I found it altered my miserable attitude. It reminded me that I am the master of my fate, and the captain of my soul. It was a beautiful summer day, and I didn't want to waste any more time being grouchy. What is the point of being productive all of the time if I'm not happy about what I'm producing? Where are the memories for my kids if I'm charging around trying to get things done, instead of stopping to laugh, cuddle, or do something fun and out of the ordinary?

We got to the park, set up our blanket and our picnic, and something miraculous occurred. I relaxed. From the top of my head to the soles of my feet, all of that tension just went away. I stopped looking at my watch, thinking about the next thing on my list, and I simply engaged my senses. I smelled the grass and the flowers, I saw the kids running in the water and on the playground, I heard them giggling, I ate delicious food and drank cold water, and I hugged William when he ambled by for a drink or a snack. I engaged in myself and my environment, and it was a gift I didn't value highly enough before.

I planned to stay at the park for an hour or two and then go home to get more done. I stayed all day, until it was time to get Ava from school, and when I went home, I was different from when I set out for my picnic lunch. I was better for my day in the sun. William was happy, and so was I, and I realized that it's not selfish to take time for ourselves to play and unwind. It's essential. I'm so glad to be understanding this now, right before school is out and summer comes with all of its delights. I'm going to taste what summer offers me, and stock up on leisure, and see what it does for my soul.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Jagged Edges

Last night I stood out on my deck for a long while, watching the colours change as the sun set, and I tried to analyze what has been bothering me. My emotions are right at the surface, and I know it has to do with Ava finishing Grade One and moving on, and it relates to my transition out of my job and into my writing, but there was something else persistently nagging at my spirit and it was a relief to pinpoint it.

I look at people sometimes and indulge in a fantasy that their life is simple and easy; that others are content with their lives and don't want more out of them. I have always fought with myself over my dreams. I don't wish to be without them (most of the time), because they propel me forward and offer a deeper sense of purpose and meaning to my life. But every so often, they poke me with their rough edges, and remind me of how far I have to go and how much time I've already wasted.

This is one of those times. This fear sneaks up, gently at first, whispering in my ear, and then when I am lulled into a sort of stupor, my dreams hit me over the head with a 2x4 of failure and abject panic. That sordid underbelly to the bubbly joy of dreams is the side of this process I could do without. It was easier to pretend in obscurity for many years that my life was good even without making movies and seeing my dream of being a professional writer turn into reality. Now I'm putting it out there, this most fragile, vulnerable part of myself, and riding the coattails of optimism is fear that I'm not good enough, and that I will try and fail.

Waiting is very hard for me. I feel as though I've wasted enough time not writing, and now that I'm writing all of the time, I want the selling stage to be easier than it is. It's painful. It messes with my confidence and my mind. It allows space for all of the dark doubts to grow and shadow out the good stuff in my mind and heart. I must focus on the good things; on what I have accomplished versus what has yet to be done. Fear is the enemy of hope, and all enemies must be faced and fought. Bringing anxiety into the light is the best way to send it running, for terror likes the dark.

It's a beautiful day, and William and I are going to have a picnic lunch with friends. Ava is heading to school for her fourth last day until September. Tonight I have my final stamping group, and I'm ready to move on from this monthly commitment.

I know that Rome wasn't built in a day, and dreams take years to sprout and grow. I can see progress along the road I want to travel down. I will force patience onto myself and learn from this period of waiting. If I give myself this mantra, perhaps I will shake the black mood that has plagued me this week and find some of my old joy and faith. I will, I will, I will...those are my words for today, and hopefully they will round off a few of my jaggedly painful edges.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Soul Restoring Friendship

I had a coffee date yesterday with a friend I haven't seen in months, due to our mutually busy schedules, but in two hours of non-stop chatting, we managed to encourage each other in a way that stirred us both and gave us a boost to continue on as wives and mothers. Friendship has a unique power of identification. Through our conversation, we saw ourselves in each other and that idea of your soul looking in a mirror and finding a similar image was deeply moving to me.

I began thinking of the people in my life who do this for me, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I'm reminded of the old saying, "If you want to have a friend, you must be a friend." It's very true. I've been trying to teach this to my kids, but I'm aware of how important it is to put it into practice.

We've all had friends who drain us, taking our energy and happiness with them, and leaving us with nothing in return. That is not true friendship. Real friends give, without expecting anything, but receiving back what they gave and then some, because the other person is giving back to you. It's like a miracle of energy exchanging between two people, and I want to surround myself with these people, and encourage my kids to find those friends and pour into them, for they will give far more than they take.

The best friendships are the ones where both parties have a similar level of emotional health. This loose rule is true for marriage as well. It should be like a teeter-totter where you are both standing and the seat under you is somewhat stable. If one person rises in the air, through personal growth or other improvements in their life, and their partner stays mired in their own habits and frustrations, over a long period of time that friendship or marriage takes a real beating. It's so satisfying when both people are at similar health levels because the see-saw is working the way it was designed to: a slow and steady up and down with equal weight, not one person flailing in the air while the other sits on the ground with their arms crossed, refusing to budge.

Sometimes hard decisions have to be made in these friendships that aren't beneficial. It's never easy to hurt someone and pull away, but spending time with people who give so much to us is infinitely preferable to those who take away from us. I was inspired yesterday to be the best friend I can possibly be to those I care deeply about. I want to give as I've been given. I want to have my soul restored as I encourage my friends and give my best to them. I want to keep the teeter-totter moving, up and down, and not get it stuck in any one position.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mini Burn Out

I think I've isolated why I feel so ragged around the edges right now. It's probably an affliction common to most teachers and moms of school aged children: it's End of June-itis. Last night I tore the house apart looking for Ava's school agenda, and I couldn't find it anywhere. All year, I've looked at her agenda, initialed it, and put it back in her backpack. Now, at the last gate, I took it out on Friday, wrote in it, and did not return it to her backpack for some reason that mystifies all logic. It's as if it vanished into thin air.

Mistakes like these don't sit very well with me. I believe in order and routine. Any disruption to my well-oiled system causes something akin to panic inside of me. I tell myself, "It's the end of the year. There is one week left of school. I'm sure it's not a big deal if her agenda has disappeared." But to me it is a big deal.

Perhaps I'm just really ready for summer and a change of pace. Everything is winding down, one activity after the next, but I still don't feel myself relaxing. I feel coiled up, tense, and ready to strike at anyone. It's not a good feeling. I need to learn to offer myself permission to unwind and relax. I know how to go-go-go and I can relax when I'm on vacation, but the in-between times of transition and change are hard for me.

The weather is finally beautiful, and this is my first week in ten months where I won't be going out of the house to work. I've got writing time booked for Tuesday and Thursday morning which I'm looking forward to with every fiber in my being. I think adjusting to change is something that happens gradually, no matter how old we are, and the transition is felt in our emotions and our physical bodies. I can control my mind a lot easier than my feelings, and tension comes to our bodies in ways that slow us down and tire us out.

Embracing what comes our way is all that we can do. Whether it's wonderful or terrible, life moves in around us with its ebb and flow, and we have no choice but to adjust. When I resist what is happening around me, I become stressed and frustrated. Resistance doesn't change any outcome, so I'm learning to try to relax and enjoy the ride along the current, without fighting the stream. It's ridiculously difficult. I want to control what happens to me and how I feel about what is going on around me. I can't always do it, and I'm trying to surrender to the experience.

There is one week left of school for Ava. Grade One is now behind her, and we look to the next year and all that it will bring. Do all mothers feel a sense of melancholy at another year gone for their children? I would guess the answer is yes, but if anyone wants to share, I'd love to hear from you. I'm looking forward to summer on one hand, but on the other side I'd like to keep my girl and boy at the ages they are now, and that's not an option open to me. I don't want to fight the tide, as they are going to grow up, but sometimes it isn't easy to watch it happening.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


There are many different kinds of fathers in this world. Some are uninterested and not involved with their families, and others are unselfish and fully invested in their family life, and then of course there are other spots on the spectrum that dads fall into at different points in their lives.

My dad was closer to the first part of the spectrum. I knew he loved me, but from a far-away distance. He had very little to do with the day-to-day details of my life. As an adult, I understand some of his struggles and pain in a fresh way, and this perspective offers me a little grace for his shortcomings as a parent. It also helps that he has been dead for eight years, which sounds harsh, but it's much harder to come to terms with the failings of our parents while they are alive, and still capable of inflicting emotional damage to us.

I'm grateful that I had a stand-in father in my later teenage years, in the form of my boss in the first office I worked in. He loved me unconditionally and gave me support and encouragement in a way that my own dad wasn't capable of providing. Over many years, this man helped to heal some of those old hurts, and still does that for me today.

I needed him this week, so I made a phone call to ask him for some encouragement, and with not a second's hesitation, he said, "The answer is yes to whatever it is that you need." To have a person in your life who says this to you is like someone holding up a glass of ice cold water on a blistering day in the middle of the sandy desert. It's a lifeline, and I'm grateful for this man who has filled the gap for me many times and will continue to do so in the future.

Father's Day was always a hard day for me as a kid, because my dad didn't match up to my hopes and dreams for what a father should be like. Seven years ago, Jason experienced his first Father's Day, and the love on his face when he looked at our baby daughter did a lot for my disappointed heart. Since then, every year has been better and better when it comes to this day on the calendar. Jason is involved on a daily basis with our 2 kids, handling everything from the mundane to the important, shoulder to shoulder with me as a parenting team. It's even better in reality than I made it in my imagination, which is saying a lot for a person like me who tends to dwell in my own mental house.

I'm grateful today for all that we have built together as a family. Step by step we have talked about what we wanted our family life to look like, and we have made it happen. We have a long way to go, but since we aren't quite in middle age yet, we need more goals to work toward. I never want to stop improving what we are doing, for that is what life is all about.

There is always something else to anticipate and look forward to; as one stage ends, another begins, and we have a learning curve to master all over again. It keeps life interesting and challenging. There is no one else I'd rather walk through life with than my husband. If I was getting married tomorrow, he would still be the one I'd pick, and without a doubt, choosing him to be the father of my kids was the best decision I've ever made.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Sometimes we need to step back and reconsider when we have been hurt. I find it helpful to process the feelings as they are happening, but until the storm of emotion has receded, I can't really gauge why it was so painful and what I can do about it.

Altering my expectations has always been challenging. I want things to be a certain way (Leave it to Beaver comes to mind), and I want people to behave the way I would in any given situation. I understand in my mind that things don't work that way, but in my emotions I still yearn for a happier ending than we sometimes get. Separating my hopes from the reality is not an easy task, and I'm learning slowly how to get better at it.

We can't avoid being hurt, and we can't stop hurting others. It's part of the human condition. I have to remind myself that I let others down as well, to avoid the "woe is me" victim mentality. We can try everything possible to be kind and considerate, and we will still hurt others, probably on a daily basis. I think the key is to talk about what hurts us, to be honest with others, and allow each other to repair the relationship with apologies and actions.

I enjoy this process with my kids a lot more than with other adults. It's easier with children as they are more transparent and haven't built up an elaborate maze of defense mechanisms yet. If I hurt my kids, they cry, and tell me that I hurt them, and it opens the door to a healthy discussion, usually ending with "I'm sorry" and hugs all around. With adults who are frosty and not honest about how they feel, it's much harder to break through to any real resolution.

I've decided to pray about it on a more regular basis, to ask God to soften my heart and the hearts of those I struggle to communicate with. I'm going to ask for a better attitude for myself, and for my hard edges to be rounded off a little. I'm going to appreciate the many people in my life who are supportive and loving and with whom I can communicate clearly when there is a problem in our relationship. Those people are like gold in my life, and I'm going to treasure them accordingly.

Today is one of my favourite days of the year. It's our small town rodeo, a day packed with fun activities: pancake breakfast, parade, BBQ lunch on our new deck, rodeo, kid games, and a demolition derby. We come home for supper tired, dirty, sunburnt and happy, having added another layer of memories to our family story. We share the day with a group of good friends, the kids running wild and playing together while the adults laugh and chat. I can hardly wait.

Friday, June 18, 2010


I had an enjoyable final work lunch at my favourite Greek restaurant yesterday (mmm...saganaki!), worked all afternoon, and felt happy as I walked out of the office for the last time to get my kids and officially welcome the next phase of my writing life. Our moods can change on a dime. I walked in the house and a couple of things immediately occurred which spun me around emotionally 180 degrees, and go me thinking about how painful it is to be disappointed by people.

Those we love can wound us quickly and painfully. If I had one wish for a societal utopia, it would be that we all communicated clearly with each other. Passive-aggressive conversation laden with subtext wipes out my emotional reserves and leaves me bruised and bleeding by the side of the road. I wish I could shut down my antenna for all of the non-verbal cues when someone is pissed off with me, because my emotional barometer is wildly jumping but the words are not directly saying what the person is really saying. It makes it very hard to respond.

After this exchange, I looked to someone else for support and couldn't get it, for a variety of valid reasons, but it was disappointing all the same. When we are hurt we feel like we are left to twist in the wind, alone and vulnerable and bleeding. Sometimes we want to know clearly that someone cares about us in this state. I tried to be grown up, and tell myself that I have the choice for how I feel in these situations, but it didn't work so well when the wound was gaping.

I know for sure that I can't make everyone happy, even those people who are close to me. Sometimes we want things from each other that we just can't give. Often the situation is stacked up with impossibilities, and no one can cross over them. When that happens, I think it's best to step back, get a little breathing space, and hopefully find some perspective.

When I can't get what I'm looking for from someone, there are others in my life who can provide it, and I must lean on them to close the gap in my heart. And where others can't fix it, I can work on it myself, through counseling, journaling, prayer or any number of gentle, soothing ways.

My expectations must be lowered. On a daily basis, I need to adjust what I expect from myself and others, so I'm not setting myself up for disappointment. People are not going to communicate as clearly with me as I would like, because their own brokenness and fear gets in their way.

If I want people to extend grace to me for my shortcomings, I must do the same for them. It just becomes painful when situations rip at our old scabs on our hearts. Old wounds hurt much more than new ones. When pain hits that is too strong for the current situation, I am learning that it's related to something much deeper and older, and I must identify what it is before I can heal from it.

On the upside, at our lovely farmer's market in town, we ran into Ava's teacher, who gave us the news that our sweet 7 year old daughter has been asked to serve as a lamplighter at a school ceremony next week. Two lamplighters are identified in each class as children who model the virtues that the school focuses on each month, and prove helpful to the class and the teacher. I am a proud mom today. In life, there is pain and joy, in equal measure, in every day. I'm grateful for the good stuff, and for the chance to be alive so I can keep working on what hurts.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Endings & Beginnings

Today is the last day of my part time job at a local newspaper. I've been there for ten months, and even though I wasn't planning to start working this past year, it's been a very good experience. I know I've been motivated to write in a completely new way because of having less time to do it, and the fact that my writing came together this year is due in part to my job outside of the house.

Life is full of endings and beginnings. In time the seasons change, and we move on to something else. Transitions are filled with many different emotions, from foreboding to joy, but the one certainty in life is that change will come to us. It is how we manage it that builds our character and tells the world what we are made of.

I've never been a person who could be described as easily "rolling with the punches." I'm a settler personality, not a pioneer. But whether you thrive on change or are terrified of it, you will have to adapt in order to survive in our culture. Every time I make a change and it turns out well, it takes away some of my fear for the next transition. Age also helps with this dilemma because I understand myself more with each passing year and can rely on my skills and personality to get me through a difficult chaotic time and safely to the other side of stability.

Yesterday afternoon I spent some time scouring Writer's Market to make notes on which magazines and papers I can query for some freelance work. It's all new and somewhat overwhelming, but I remind myself that I can do this, and it's only scary at the beginning when you feel uncertain, but it will get easier. In the midst of this positive self-talk, I received an e-mail accepting an article I wrote on screenwriting basics for a writing newsletter. The editor is a friend who asked me to submit something on that topic, but I had no guarantee they would want to purchase it. That was encouraging. I know I'm moving in the right direction.

All endings have a bittersweet quality to them. I will take a lot of things away with me from this job: friendship, a sense of self I rediscovered for 12 hours a week away from my kids and my house, a growing competency in my tasks and therefore in myself, and the solid routine that I came to enjoy.

There remains a small fear that I won't push myself to write as hard when I have more breathing space and time in my week, but I'm going to stir my motivation like it's cooking on the stove, and attempt to keep the heat alive. That's all I can do. Face my new beginning with a sense of hope and joy, for I'm stepping directly into my dream without a safety net below me, and while scary, it feels right on every level.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Making Mistakes

When Ava came home from school yesterday, she wanted to work on her science project, and I said, "That's Daddy's domain. When you need help with an emotional problem, Mommy will help you, but science projects fall to Daddy." She accepted this, and on the van ride home from the library she told me that she had an issue with some friends at school during recess and wondered if we could talk about it.

I love those parenting moments. For me, it's as if the sky opens and the sun beams down when I hear my daughter ask to talk through a problem. Since William chatters non-stop in the car, I asked her to wait until we got home. We got settled in and she told me about a couple friends playing fort at recess, and when Ava asked to join them, she was told she needed a secret password. She immediately went to the supervisor to complain, but recess was over, so she told her teacher when she got back into the classroom.

Listening to this stream of consciousness, I immediately took the side of her friends, amazed that Ava would be so quick to tattle on them. We talked it through, and I tried to dredge up all of the parenting advice I've ever read or been given, and asked her how she could've handled the situation differently, so she could learn some problem solving skills on her own. She said, "I could've told my friends that my feelings were hurt and they should give me the secret code so I could play too, but I've done that before and they have said no, so I went straight to an adult for help."

I couldn't fault her logic here, but it was my parenting job to help her see that if the situation was reversed, she would be upset if her friends ratted her out at the first sign of trouble. I encouraged her to think the best of her friends first, and make every effort to work it out herself, and only go to an adult as a last resort. Her fabulous teacher pretty much told her the same thing, and with no hesitation at all, the secret code was given to Ava, apologies were made, and they went on nicely as friends.

I told my daughter that as adults, we have no one else to go to when our feelings are hurt. We have no choice but to work it out on our own. She will be so far ahead socially if she can learn to manage her conflicts with limited outside help at 7 years old. I know it's a long process, because I'm 37 and I still struggle with ways to get along with everyone in my life.

Just before supper she wanted to have a snack and I said no, that supper was almost ready, and she burst into tears and fled into her room. At first I worried that she was hurt because I didn't immediately support her with her story from school, but then I slowly realized as I got supper on the table that she was embarrassed about her behaviour and beating herself up about it. This hurt me deeply because I do it all the time, and I desperately want her to extend more grace to herself than I know how to do for myself.

We talked about it from this angle, and I saw her relief when she realized that we all make mistakes, and learn from them, and that's okay. I need to remember this too. Making ourselves sick over stupid things we've said or done is a fruitless exercise. Much better to forgive us our own trespasses, and move on with a new perspective on the situation that will help us another time. Lessons like conflict resolution are not learned overnight. They take a lifetime to refine and grow in our spirits, to make us into more compassionate and loving friends.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Recently I read Committed, by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, and I was inspired by her thoughts on marriage. In her book she quoted an old adage which says, "Plant an expectation; reap a disappointment." I've had that quote rolling around in my mind since I read it, and it really helped me work through my anxiety about the first agent not responding yet to my query letter.

All weekend I had a sense of low-grade anxiety and I couldn't place where it was coming from. We had a lot of fun activities stacked up, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but underneath it all there was a nagging sense of frustration that I couldn't identify.

Last night I got serious about pinpointing what was bothering me, as I hate wasting time feeling upset when on the surface everything is going fine. Just by taking a few minutes to really analyze the problem, I was able to face my fear of the unknown and accept that a "Yes, please send us your screenplay" is what I desperately want, but even a "No thanks" is okay with me because there are more agents to submit to. But the desperate waiting in between, where my fate is out of my hands, is the killer to my confidence and self esteem.

My whole life I have struggled with high expectations, and then I'm constantly amazed when I'm disappointed by the outcome. Reading that little adage helped me understand that it's a cause and effect relationship: expectations lead to disappointment. I think the key is to hold loosely to the way the event plays out, because it can be ten times better than we expected, and also much worse. We do what we can do, and then when the end result is out of our hands, we must be willing to accept any outcome.

I thought I was doing better in this area, and I suppose I am compared to many years ago, but old habits die hard, and we must stay vigilant in order to beat them. When three weeks came and went with no response to my query letter, I sent another short e-mail on Friday and I still haven't heard anything. Patience is required. The world is not ending because I don't know what is going to happen with this particular agency. I will hear an answer when they have the time. I'm trying to remain in a state of peace and joy instead of frustration and anxiety. Deep breaths and calm reassurances are the order of the day.

It's impossible not to have any expectations on ourselves, on others or on situations, but I'm going to try to manage them, making what I expect more realistic, and still holding loosely to what happens. I want to believe the best of people, not the worst, and also expect the kindest behaviour from myself toward myself. Grace is required on all sides. I'm going to imagine grace all around me like cotton balls, cushioning me against my own rigid hopes. Softer, gentler, kinder. May those three words lead the way.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Middle Voice

Truth is easy to recognize. Sometimes I wrestle with it before it settles into my soul and becomes part of the fabric of my life, but other times I hear it, and immediately recognize it, slapping my hand to my forehead and saying, "Of course!" because I've always known it but didn't have a way to classify it.

That's how I feel at my church. Most Sundays, my pastor speaks, and instead of being a revolutionary idea, it descends on me as simple truth that I immediately recognize and comprehend, and it offers such peace and joy to finally understand a piece of the puzzle that I didn't have words for before. After spending most of my life sitting in church learning concepts that felt heavy-handed and difficult to really understand and walk out, this new way is a weekly revelation in how simple and exciting faith can be.

He talked about the middle voice as an alternative to the active or the passive way of being a Christian. "When I became a Christian," he said, "It was all about action. I read my Bible an hour a day, I studied hard so I could grow, I served everywhere. I worked to be close to God as I learned that was the way to be a Christian. Then I joined the Vineyard church, and became very passive. Everything was God and I didn't have to do anything. I turned away from all activity and focused on what God was doing. But now I'm understanding there is another way; a middle ground."

He called that middle ground the middle voice: where we listen to God and respond. It's a mix of active and passive, but it's all led by God. We are not in control, but he is, and if we will listen and respond to what is specifically asked of us, we will live in peace and joy, which is how we were intended to function.

My pastor made an interesting observation about Jesus, saying that Jesus was our model for this kind of life. When the Romans asked what authority he was under, he responded that he did what the father asked him to do. Perhaps Jesus didn't come to earth with the understanding that he was the second member of the trinity and completely divine; possibly he came to listen to his father and put his hand to what God was doing. It was just a supposition, but one that gave me a new perspective on Jesus, and that's always something that I appreciate.

I've been adjusting my life toward the middle voice for several years now, and have never felt closer to God, and more spiritually free of all of the mumbo-jumbo I learned in the past. I just didn't have a name for it, and now I do. It's not about anything big and flashy, but it boils down to Love God, Love Others. Now I can add the middle voice as a way to walk out those four simple words. All I have to do is listen to God, and respond when I'm moved to action. So simple, and so life changing.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Highs & Lows of Motherhood

Motherhood is a profession which offers the wildest of the vacillating emotions. Everything from feeling tender and mushy about your wonderful children to staring longingly at the Greyhound bus as it pulls out of your town and wanting desperately to be on it (Jason refers to this as my Greyhound Fantasy and when I've had a really bad day with the kids, all I have to say is "Greyhound" and it's code for the fact that I need some alone time).

On Friday night, I read Goodnight Moon to William at bedtime, pausing for him to find all of the places the mouse hides on each page, and I had the clearest memory of buying this special book for Ava when she was only a few months old, and reading it to her through all of the stages that brought her to being a 7 year old today. I thought about how she rarely holds my hand when we are out in public anymore, and how I take the feeling of William's sturdy, baby-like hand in mine for granted most days.

It's almost over. My days of walking around holding his hand while he smells his bear are drawing to a close, with people smiling fondly at me and at William as they pass. I know for a fact that I haven't fully appreciated this stage. I've let it go, slipping through my fingers, while hoping he would get older and be more independent, so I could have more time for myself. That is happening, right now, and I have celebrated his metamorphosis from toddler to child, but part of that process is saying goodbye to the toddler forever. It was easier when it was Ava, because William was still a baby and all of those stages were ahead of him. Now he's four, and we will never experience these early years again as parents.

All of these warm and fuzzy thoughts came on Friday, and I went to sleep determined to appreciate and enjoy these last two years before he is in school full time. I know now that they will go by in a blip, so fast it will make my head spin. I didn't know that when Ava was four, but I do now. Appreciation and awareness are the keys to holding the memories forever. I don't want to miss it.

Yesterday we had a babysitter for the afternoon, and we went out with friends to see The A-Team (good, campy, ridiculous fun) and out to dinner on the Moxie's patio in the sunshine. We laughed, and told stories, and talked with no interruptions. Escaping for a few hours of fun as an adult is the closest we get to re-living the pure joys of childhood. I really didn't want to come home. I wanted to stay out just a little bit longer, and be just myself, and not be responsible for anyone else or to anyone else.

We came home, hugged the kids, paid the babysitter, and before we could even get them to bed I was grumpy and frustrated, with all of the joys of the afternoon erased in my mood. How could I go from uber-sentimental about William on Friday to rage that I had to come home to my kids on Saturday? It's part of motherhood. We can't sustain the high times any more than we remain in the low points. We get both, sometimes within minutes of each other, and we have to manage the bad in order to enjoy the wonderful things our kids bring to us.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Attitudes and Words

Yesterday was a great day. Jason worked from home so he could do a bit more work on our deck in the late afternoon, and after weeks of mess and chaos in the backyard, it's almost finished and ready for some entertaining on our upcoming small-town rodeo weekend. I spent the day relaxing, puttering around the house, going for a long walk with William and playing at the park, then concocting a delicious chicken lasagna for dinner.

After dinner we visited with neighbours, then went to our grocery store for some Oreo ice cream treats that we enjoyed on our new deck. After our burst of sugar we jumped on the trampoline and had a few laughs together. Ava remarked out of the blue on the fact that I am "a little chunky", and we all chuckled because it came completely out of left field. When you laugh once at something a child says, all parents know what happens next: they repeat it. And so she began to experiment with variations on the theme that mommy needs to go on a diet and is chunky and chubby.

Lessons for our kids (and ourselves) come in all forms, and often when you least expect them. Telling Ava sternly to stop being rude didn't have the desired effect, so we halted the trampoline fun and came inside for bath and bed. I spent a long time alone with Ava, talking about how our words can be hurtful to others, and explaining the attitudes that power our words and our outlook on life.

These aren't easy discussions to hold because I have to think honestly about my own attitudes when I am encouraging her to be aware of her own. I told her it's not enough to think of yourself as better than someone else and choose not to say anything, because that attitude of superiority leaks out just as clearly as if you stated it in words.

I said, "You aren't better than anyone else because of your body shape, or your brain, or your sense of humour. Everyone is good at something, and as people, we are all equal to each other. You have the choice to be upset by other people's opinions of you, and don't ever give that power away to someone else. You and only you are in charge of your feelings and actions. If you think kindly about others, you will be kind, and not hurtful to other people."

I believed it as I was saying it, but needed to take a minute to think about how often I don't take my own advice. It can be easy to become superior to someone else, or allow myself to feel inferior because I'm not as thin, pretty, successful, etc. as someone else. The point is, we are all in control of how we feel, about ourselves and others, but we don't take the time to make our unconscious thoughts and attitudes conscious. If we aren't aware of what we truly think and say, we can be hurtful all over the place and we have no idea of the destruction we are leaving in our wake.

Today I'm going to be more aware of my judgemental attitude. I'm going to notice my thoughts as they flit into my mind, and keep track of how often I'm rude to others in my own mind and attitude, even if I don't ever say anything with words. I can't teach my children how to be genuinely kind in their attitudes and words unless I can show them the way with my own life. It's important not to lose sight of this truth. If we were all more aware of our private values and judgements, we would all be kinder, each and every day.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I'm not good with waiting. I prefer certainty to uncertainty. I e-mailed my first screenplay query to an agency exactly three weeks ago today, and they state a response time of two to three weeks on their website. When I first e-mailed it, I came up with several fanciful scenarios in my mind: they responded in one day because they were so impressed by my letter, they rejected it right away and I could query the next agent, they took a week because they were inundated with queries, and on and on it went.

As two weeks stretched into three, I told myself it was a good sign, as previous article queries I've submitted have been rejected within a few days. I reassured myself that it is likely faster for agents to say no to material than to express interest. Yesterday I went into a slight emotional funk over it, panicking that maybe my query was lost in cyberspace, so I decided to be proactive and re-submit my original e-mail today with a short note attached, and I will affix a "read receipt" so I know for sure it has been received.

These are uncharted waters for me. I'm not sure exactly what to do, but I do know that waiting is not my strong suit. I felt better instantly when I drafted the e-mail that I will forward later today. Action motivates me into a better mood because I feel energized instead of demoralized. It may not make a difference to the outcome, but changing my emotions creates a more positive experience for me, and that seems to help the situation.

I know that I am more patient now than I have ever been, but I still have a long road ahead of me in this area. If I embrace the experience and look for ways I can grow and change, I will learn something through this process of waiting. It is good to be reminded that I am not always in control, and that is okay. I must submit my will to God and fate and trust that I will be safe and that events will unfold as they are meant to. It's not an easy lesson but a very important one, if I can remain open to learning what it has to teach me.

My newest article is up on the Gear4Guys site. It's called Men & Healthcare. If you are in need of a Friday laugh, head over there and have a quick read about how radically different men and women are when it comes to child care and other such responsibilities.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Castles in the Air

I feel like I'm walking a very fine line between my dreams and my reality. One doesn't function well without the other, but I'm trying to learn the balance that makes the most sense for me. When I was younger I lived so much in my own head, dreaming of big things that were some day going to happen, and I missed most of what was going on around me.

Dreams that don't come true are very painful things. I think I learned this in my late twenties, and politely stuffed my dreams deep down inside, buried with a layer of busyness and material things, so I wouldn't have to face up to them for a few years. I had my two babies, became consumed with them, and began a slow process of simplifying my life so I could once again access those forgotten dreams.

Someone asked me recently if I thought you were ever too old to pursue your dreams. My emphatic answer? No. Never. As in, "Until you draw your last breath, you can go after what it is you want in this life." I do believe that there are seasons for things; specific times for certain events to happen, but that doesn't mean you should ever give up on your right to be happy. The successful people in this world aren't lucky, but rather persistent. They get knocked down and stand up again, to keep on going in the direction they want to go.

I think it goes back to the quote I have in my bathroom from Henry David Thoreau: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Dreams have their place, but we must walk them out with lead boots firmly planted on the ground. It may take many, many years, but time is immaterial. It's the decision not to quit that counts.

Our dreams are meant to soar in the sky, but our feet are meant to walk on this earth, and that means being present with those in our lives. I am here today, and I want to fully engage with my family and friends to embrace living as deeply as I can, while I continue to nourish my dreams and move toward fulfilling them.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fleeting Moments

A friend of mine who is a writer and a mom of two young kids, wrote a blog post yesterday about how she was looking forward to maternity leave with her second baby so she could spend some time writing (she admitted that most of her mom friends would be laughing as she wrote that). Of course, her days have been filled with her 2 year old and her newborn, and she came to the realization that she's not on vacation, or on sabbatical, but that it's called maternity leave for a reason, because her job is to focus on her two precious children for this period in her life.

I have been slowly understanding this idea more and more with my own children, who are much less demanding at 4 and 7 than they were a few years ago, but they are still my first priority and must always remain that way. I tried to encourage my friend by saying that her words will keep, but her children won't stay at this age and stage forever. When we sign up as moms, we are offering up our own dreams and desires for the greater good of our children's needs, and this sacrifice will launch them into a confident and secure adulthood.

It sounds like a lofty idea, and I believe in it wholeheartedly, but walking it out is where it gets challenging. I'm not advocating giving up on our own dreams, not by a long shot, but rather prioritizing our children first. Taking the long range view of our dreams in light of the eighteen to twenty years we have our children in our home is the best way to go. I love that my kids are both describing me now as a writer. They are watching and observing me on a daily basis, and they are seeing me inch toward my dream, and understanding that there is room for all of our dreams in this family.

Today I am going with Ava to Heritage Park for her Grade 1 field trip. A cold snuck up on me at work yesterday around 11 am, and I luxuriated in a restful afternoon and evening in the attempt to be better for today. It seems to have helped, and while I know I'm not feeling 100%, there is no way I would miss this special day.

Another part of parenting is sucking it up and moving forward to capture this moment in time and create a lasting memory with my daughter that we will both carry with us for the rest of our days. She only has one chance to be in Grade 1 and go on her end of the year field trip with her class. Tylenol was created for days like today, so that these fleeting moments can be captured and saved in our memories.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


The process of writing this memoir about my dad's life and death has been a healing one for me so far. Certainly difficult at times, to wade through emotions I don't think about on a daily basis, but inspiring to realize how far I have walked along the road and hopefully my words can provide healing to someone still in pain over a sense of disappointment with their own father.

At the retreat I was at on the weekend, ladies I had just met were asking me what I was writing, so I gave them a brief sketch of the memoir. Everyone was interested and had stories to share about their own relationship challenges with a difficult parent or parents. I did a small poll, asking the question, "Who was disappointed with the father they were given?" and found most of the hands in the room were raised.

Why is this the case? Why are there so many daughters in the world who are damaged by the dads they had? A difficult relationship between father and daughter colours everything in a woman's life. I've always struggled to be comfortable in the presence of a man who is the rough age of my dad. I don't know where to look, what to say, or how to feel. The whole exchange is generally awkward for me.

The exception to the rule is my first boss when I was 17 years old and just graduated from high school. He stepped in and filled the role of surrogate dad to me, and began my road to healing with his no-nonsense affection and support for me. He offered the toast to the bride at my wedding when I made the difficult decision not to invite my dad because he was off his medication and not in a stable emotional place to be with guests on such an important day for me.

At the B&B I was at over the weekend, I enjoyed a few interesting conversations with the hosts, and was amazed at the level of comfort I felt talking to an older man who could've been the age of my father. I realized when I got home that something deep inside me that was broken is starting to mend, at the ripe old age of 37, and that thought brought me to tears.

We can grow, and change, at any age and at any time in our lives. The possibilities for healing are always there, if we are open to them. I feel a little better every day when I watch Ava interact with Jason. I thank God that she won't have the same angst and fear in the world that I did, facing life as an adult with only half of my confidence in place, and a gaping wound somewhere in the middle of my soul that I've spent years trying to fix. She'll have other struggles, but she will take for granted a comfort level with men that I started life with no knowledge of. For this I am grateful, and I will keep my eyes open for every chance I can find to heal the cut on my heart, and continue to mend what was once broken.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Undesirable Qualities

I spent time recently with a person who got under my skin and really bugged me. I decided to invest a little time in thinking to determine why certain people drive me up the wall, when I like to think I can get along with most personality types. I think it's a common problem to experience friction with people who are similar to us, but I've isolated a few particularly undesirable qualities that make it very hard for me to be in the same room with a person, and I think these traits frustrate me so much because I've struggled with them in my own life.

Anyone who is not genuine, who fakes their way through social situations with a bravado that tends toward blowhardiness and exaggeration of their own sterling qualities, instantly sets my teeth on edge. Generally these people aren't kind to others around them, because they are so busy puffing up their own accomplishments, real or perceived, that there is no room for anything else. They tend to be patronizing, always have to have the last word, and everything they have ever done, said or thought trumps everyone else's, to the thousandth degree.

As I type this, my heart beats a little faster, and I'm in danger of my rage building to unhealthy levels on this fine Monday morning. I get down on my knees and thank God that I have come through the worst of these qualities in my own life, thanks to family and friends who have taken the time to point them out to me over the years. Marriage has also been good to refine my sharp edges and carve a nicer person out of me.

All bragging and self-exaggeration is born of insecurity. I know this as gospel fact because I was once a person with very low self-esteem, and I thought the way to build it up was to make myself sound so impressive that I could convince others of my awesomeness by the sheer volume of my promotional campaign. It doesn't work like that. It turns people away from you in droves, and rightly so. It is always better to let your life speak for itself, not your words telling people what your life is like, because generally the two don't match up, and this fact is obvious to others.

As I get older, I'm happy to realize that the world is filled with people, and I am simply one of them. My opinion is not right all of the time, and my voice is not the only one that people want to hear. I should not dominate every conversation as a way to prove how smart I am. I know many times I fail in this challenge. I am still a person who talks a lot, and I have come a long way in my convinction that the world is fascinated by me, but I know I still have a distance to travel to learn genuine humility and a respect for others.

It was helpful to identify these undesirable qualities by name, and realize that the handful of personalities I struggle to get along with share the same traits. But I am not perfect either, and must continue to improve my negative attitude toward the people I don't like. I would like to be kind and warm to all people, regardless of how I feel toward them, and I certainly have not come anywhere near that goal.

The first step is to recognize what bothers me so that I can understand why it frustrates me and slowly improve my reaction to it. Until I can see it for what it is, I will continue to react on an unconscious level to it, and now maybe I can find a little more compassion for people working through their insecurities without judging them so harshly.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lasting Marriage

Recently I read in Entertainment Weekly that Heidi Klum and Seal are renewing their wedding vows for the sixth time this year, and Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott got married in 2006, and they feel compelled to re-do their vows in 2010. If I've ever heard of anything more ridiculous, I can't think of it at this exact moment. It's as if celebrities, so afraid that their marriage will collapse, are trying to ward off disaster by renewing their commitment annually.

What happened to making a vow and keeping it until death do you part? It's becoming an antiquated notion in our fast-paced culture where we are always moving on to the next new thing. Temporary marriage seems to be the norm now, and it's one of the saddest things I've ever seen. What do our kids learn from this idea that our word means nothing; that promises made at our wedding only hold for so long?

I have been so inspired by our hosts at this B&B we have stayed at this weekend. They have been married for thirty-some years, and are as companionable and happy as two people can be. They each have their lists for meals to prepare and chores to do to keep the bed and breakfast running, and they move in and around each other, talking, laughing, joking and teasing each other. He never missed an opportunity to compliment her on something she did well, and she encouraged him to take care of himself and offered to take on some of his duties for him when he was tired. The genuine regard they held for each other, while still doing some of the usual good-natured sniping that comes up in all marriages, was such a pleasure to watch.

The rapport between them offers me something to strive for in my own marriage. I think we need to have role models to follow, and I found some in these kind and loving people who have hosted us with tender care this weekend. Their attention to detail and loving care for their guests has added so much joy to this weekend retreat, and offered me many warm memories to take home.

I'm sad to be leaving this peaceful place today, but looking forward to returning to my husband, kids and friends with a renewed perspective on how wonderful my life really is. How many blessings are all around me each day. I want to cut through the frustrations to reach the joys more regularly. This weekend away has been exactly what I needed. I have written twenty pages in my memoir, gassed away into the small hours with girlfriends, and consumed about 75 pounds worth of high quality nourishment. I feel relaxed, happy and hopeful for what the future will bring.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Personal Risk

A friend of mine put this quote by Edwin Freeman on her Facebook status this week: "Boats are safest in the harbor. But that is not what boats were made for." It struck me with its simple truth. Boats are designed to get us from one spot to another, through choppy waters and fearful uncertainty, to the destination we were made for.

I'm at Down Home Bed & Breakfast in Ferintosh, AB, and if I was any more relaxed on this Saturday morning, I'd be in a coma. I realized last night that my intense preference for routine can easily become a handicap if I don't push myself to move outside of my comfort zone once in awhile.

We all have character traits that are positive on one side, and negative on another. I'm organized, but rigid. I'm outgoing, but dominant. I'm focused, but not spontaneous. If we don't make ourselves do what's uncomfortable sometimes, we become set in our ways and miss chances to grow in our personalities.

My two roommates for this weekend retreat are night owls. As one of my friends said yesterday, "Coffee is running in my veins at all times." I went to bed at 11 pm after a successful writing session, feeling peaceful and happy, and they were just revving up to do their best stamping and scrapbooking. They fell into bed around 4 am, giggling and enjoying themselves, and that was out of my comfort zone because I'm used to getting a solid eight hours of sleep every night.

They were terrified this morning that I was going to be pissed at them for waking me up in the wee hours (there was a spider panic on as one creepy crawler made its way onto my friend in her bed) but I wasn't at all mad. I needed the process of seeing life from a different perspective. When I get home I won't be up at 4 am, but here on a girl's weekend, it's a good thing to be nudged out of my fuddy-duddy ways.

We all need personal risk from time to time. It becomes easy to expect that everyone is like us, that our "normal" is everyone else's standard, but I've been reminded on this get-away that we all function differently. Going to bed at 11 like I do isn't better than staying up until 4 am. I'm glad I have the confidence to do my own thing without feeling like I have to do what my friends are doing, and they have the same assurance. It means we are all growing up, into the people we have become, and it's refreshing to embrace our differences and still enjoy spending time together.

This morning I slept in until 8:45, which was like a piece of heaven on earth. At 9 our friendly B&B hosts provided a breakfast fit for royalty, and the rest of the day is spreading out before me like a Christmas present, shiny and tempting, to open whenever and however I would like, with only myself and my desires to consider. I'm going to revel in the delight that this relaxed day brings, and pay attention to the ways I can take small risks to stretch my personality and improve my sense of spontaneity.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mom Guilt

I'm going away this afternoon for the weekend. Just me. Packing a suitcase for one person feels like bliss because it's so simple. I didn't have to think about anyone's needs but my own. It felt selfish, and foreign, but delicious all the same.

A friend from high school, who is my rubber stamping mentor and a blazing success of a Stampin' Up demonstrator, invited me to a Bed & Breakfast for the weekend to scrapbook and eat home cooked meals. It sounded like fun, but I didn't even consider it because I want to spend all of my free time writing, not scrapbooking. When Jason was gone for seven days for work, he suggested I look into a trip for myself, so the penny dropped and I asked my buddy if I could come and write instead of scrapbook. She said sure.

That was months ago, and now the day has arrived. I've been looking forward to it on and off for weeks, but as it draws near I begin to feel that familiar emotion common to all mothers: guilt. Not because I'm going away, but because my kids would prefer me to be with them at all times with no change to their routine.

Ever since Ava was born, I've always felt like this when it comes to getting away and doing something for myself. I am excited about the break, particularly when the kids are driving me up the wall, but then when it comes I get soft around the edges and think about how sweet they are and I wonder if I really do need to go away from them. The answer, of course, is that I do. If I didn't have this trip planned, I wouldn't feel all mushy toward them, but would instead be tense and frustrated like I normally am when my kids push my buttons.

Going away and investing in ourselves as moms is critical. It's not easy to do, because to survive as mothers we have to give away so much of ourselves to our families, but the process of discovering who we are as individuals apart from our kids and our husbands is a powerful one. A few hours here or a weekend there makes a big difference to our outlook and personality. We are ourselves first, foremost and always, and can't allow ourselves to forget who that woman is.

I'm going away with my packed suitcase, my laptop, my binder and my pen. That's all I really need for a few days to get some of my thoughts down on paper, laugh with girlfriends, eat food that I haven't had to prepare, and savour the lovely responsibility only for myself.

Jason will do different things with the kids, and that's a good thing, for all three of them. They will make their own memories, that I am not a part of, and I will celebrate that for them, and return on Sunday to resume our regular family life. I will not waste my rare weekend away by feeling guilty. I will allow that feeling to pass, and not invite it to return. I will celebrate who I am, separate from my roles as wife and mother, and just be myself for a few short days.

I have been told there is wi fi at the B&B, so hopefully my blog posts won't be interrupted for Saturday and Sunday, but if they are a little late, I apologize, as I'll be rooming with ladies who are known night owls! A big thanks to those of you who have recently created Google accounts and followed my blog. I appreciate the visual increase in readers. I'm constantly amazed at the feedback I get from people who are reading and I had no idea. Thank you for following, and for your support.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Now and the Not Yet

My Pastor uses this term, "the now and the not yet", to describe the tension we feel in this life. We have been promised heaven, and some kind of peaceful future with God, but in the meantime we must live out life here on earth, in all of its wonder and brokenness.

I've been feeling off-kilter for the last few days and in trying to pinpoint why, I kept thinking of that phrase "the now and the not yet." When I was younger I wanted everything now, or even faster than now, if such a thing was possible. Waiting wasn't an option I was even vaguely interested in. I've worked through that in my late twenties and early thirties to discover the immense value in delayed gratification. Sometimes it means so much more to long for something, and then to experience it happening.

I've seen that with this dream to write. I've felt the growing pains, and the excitement for the "not yet" part of this dream to unfold. But I still hate waiting. The first agent has had my query letter for my screenplay for almost two weeks. The agency said they respond in 2-3 weeks, so it could be any day now. I'm trying not to be too attached to the results; to have my next agency ready to e-mail when I've heard from this one. I want to keep the process moving, but I failed to understand the emotional component attached to the waiting.

Our emotions chip away at us over a period of time, eroding our confidence like the waves alter the shape of the sand. I realize that I'm not good at managing change, never have been, and probably never will be. For all of my excitement to start this new phase of writing as my sole career, I'm still at my job and therefore struggle with the concept of "the now and the not yet." Ava is finishing an amazing year of Grade One, but it's not onto the new adventure until she's finished this one, so we are still walking out "the now and the not yet."

Perhaps I become impatient when I'm at the end of something, and just want to push on to the next phase. It is important to finish well, and to have no regrets, or at least as few as you can manage. I think I have to accept that my emotions have an agenda of their own, but I don't have to be enslaved by them. I can sit down, figure out why I'm feeling down, and understand the cause so I can make adjustments to my attitude. I'm hoping that this blog post will do that for me.

We all live in the now and the not yet. We are always beginning something, in the middle of something, or finishing up. All of the threads are never neatly tied up, and that's part of the human experience. I find it hard to accept that, but for as long as I'm alive, and in this world, I will have to find a way to come to terms with the ongoing nature of chaos and change.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Petty Grievances

No one is immune from a bad day. When I woke up yesterday, with the birds chirping outside of my window, I felt like a world-beater. I was happy, settled and hopeful for the future. After breakfast and a good cup of coffee, things began to go downhill, and once that slide begins, it's hard to get back on track.

I get so frustrated by the amount of little things that pile up to create a bad day. If you isolate any one or two or even three of the people or issues that crop up to irritate you, they would be virtually meaningless on their own, but combined, they conspire to ruin your good mood and fix a large, angry cloud above your head.

That was yesterday for me. One thing after another, all day long, so that I felt the snowball effect and became overwhelmed by it. I was hoping to remain positive by a sheer force of will, but sometimes it's not possible because our emotions get in the way and mess with our thinking. Once we begin to take things personally, and feel slighted and upset, those emotions take over our rational selves and we are totally at the mercy of our wildly vacillating feelings.

At bedtime I let go with a good cry, and found that it washed away the minor annoyances of my day. I tried to imagine my fist, clenched around worries and petty grievances, opening slowly and each one escaping out into the air so I could be free of it. I wanted to write it off as one bad day, and not make myself a prisoner of that anger going forward.

This morning I am breathing deeply and trying to lower my expectations, on myself and on others. People let me down in the same way I disappoint them. The opinions of people get under my skin and I'm sure my opposing ideas irritate others. The way people choose to communicate with me is sometimes confrontational and gets my back up, and I have to examine all of the ways I do that to people in my life. It goes back to the old saying about pointing your finger and have three fingers pointing back at yourself. It's important to remember that when it's easy to blame others for the bad mood we are in. How have I contributed to this situation? What could I do differently next time?

In the end, life is far too short to hold onto what frustrates us. I think we have to experience the feelings as they come, and when the wave of emotion has crested and we are riding the other side of reason, we can take a deep breath and make a decision to forgive, both ourselves and others. A day like yesterday reminds me that I am human, that I do not have it all together, and that I still have so much to learn about myself and life. I'm grateful for the chance to live and experience more today, both good and bad, and remember that no season, happy or otherwise, lasts forever.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


It's the first day of June, and the last month of Grade One for Ava. She has blossomed this year, from a little Kindergartner into a bona fide kid. I thought her transition between 5 and 6 was astonishing, but the one between 6 and 7 has taken my breath away.

She has opinions and ideas and isn't afraid to share them. She goes in her room and reads Geronimo Stilton books for hours on end. She is fascinated by American Girl dolls and pores over the catalogue and magazines, marking the ones she wants (she's lately stepped up her chores, clearing our plates like a waitress before we are even done eating, and then sweetly asking for an increased allowance). She is becoming her own person right in front of our eyes, and I'm inspired by her process of growing up into who she is going to become.

It's also the first day of the last month I am working at my part-time job. I have three weeks left and I want to soak up everything there is left to learn. This school year has created me as a writer; proved that I do have the discipline deep inside me to write every day and keep at it even when the words aren't coming.

I've challenged myself and found I was up to the challenge, and now I'm taking a leap of faith that when my time is my own again, I will continue to be disciplined to work and not laze about. When the alarm went off this morning I thought about how summer is coming, and how glorious it will be not to make school lunches each weekday, and how we can all enjoy a quieter pace in the mornings.

I expected to feel some anxiety that I may not write when I don't feel pressure exerted on my time, but that fear had vaporized. I have a ridiculously unshakeable confidence in myself right now, and I know it won't last forever, but while it's with me I'm going to root it deeply in my spirit and pray it gets me through the hard times when the words don't flow so easily.

What good are dreams if you don't put action behind them? I believe that my years of dreaming have led me to this magic time of turning my ideas into something marketable. I know I wasn't ready when I was younger, or my kids were younger, but I'm ready now, and I want to make the most of it. I want to stake my belief in the ground as a flag that I can point to, and say, "There it is!" Before it actually happens I want to know it's going to happen.

It's a satisfying feeling. I feel like I do after a big meal, and yet I haven't eaten the first course yet, but I can smell it cooking. It's a good season of life, and I want to savour each day as it comes, with all of the joys and pains inherent in each moment. I love June. A time to reflect on the school year that is almost over, and look forward to the fun of summer.