Sunday, October 31, 2010

Boundary Walls

When you struggle in a certain area, the possibility exists for those you love to wound you in ways you didn't even know were possible. We are all insecure about certain things that are specific to us, and the people closest to us can cut us to our core with a few words, or a look, or a roll of the eyes, and when we are at our most sensitive, the effects can be devastating.

For my personality type, I tend to take on way more than what actually belongs to me. In addition to my own burdens, I will readily take on those that others should be carrying and working on, and I'm realizing clearly that I must stop that. I am learning how to draw a line in the sand, raising a boundary wall that I must not cross, for the sake of my own mental health.

It takes me outside of my comfort level to practice this kind of restraint. I want to volunteer to fix the problem, but when it's not my problem to fix, I can't take on all of that stress because it simply doesn't belong to me. It weakens me, chipping away at my reserves until I have nothing left to give, and the problem wasn't even mine in the first place.

We all possess the ability to wound each other, particularly those who are closest to us. We sometimes fight with unfair weapons, hitting below the belt where we know it will hurt the most, because out of our own brokenness we want to break someone else. I'm trying to separate my pain from the situations I am in, but very often it's entwined like a braid, and untangling my own hurt feelings tends to become messy in a way that becomes hard to control.

Recognizing that all human relationships are messy is perhaps the first step to recovery for me. It's not neat and clean to be a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. We all carry weapons and often they are loaded. Our words can embarrass, mock, demean and damage, and once the words have been spoken they can never be retrieved. Apologies help to settle the dust when the skirmish is over, but they don't remove the poison from our system. It's still in there, swimming around, kicking us in the shins when we least expect it.

I wish I knew how to be kinder and less afraid of being hurt, all at the same time. I would love to be able to sew up my own mouth sometimes so I couldn't say things that hurt people I love, and I wish I could sew up a few other mouths too. I understand that there is a place for grace and mercy where I fail, and that forgiveness must also be extended to those who hurt me. But sometimes the pain runs so deep that I simply don't know how to move on from it, and the fear that it will never improve tends to haunt me from a distance.

Recognizing the fragility of all communication might help me to be more aware of what I say and how I say it. I know that I am responsible for my words, and that I must be more careful with how I speak. I can't control what others say and do, but I can firmly keep my boundaries in place, so I'm not blindsided as often by the kind of things that hurt me the worst.

I think I want to take on other people's issues because I feel some measure of control if I'm trying to fix what isn't working, but I have enough of my own problems to fix, and other people have to be responsible for their own judgements and biases. It's really hard to be vulnerable and honest while at the same time developing a thick skin so you aren't wounded all of the time. I haven't learned to do it yet, but every day is another chance to practice the balance, and try to find the mix that will work best in my relationships.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I Have All Day

I read an interview with a famous writer (unfortunately, I can't remember her name and I already took the magazine back to the library) who was asked how she gets so much writing done, and she answered, "Well, I have all day." I chuckled when I read this, thinking it was both clever and true, but as the days pass and I'm not getting much writing done, those five words have lodged somewhere in my subconscious, pricking and prodding in a very uncomfortable way, and my self-flagellation begins.

"You have all day too," that nasty, snickering voice taunts. "Why aren't you accomplishing very much?" I try to answer back, feebly of course, "Well, I have a four year old at home, and meals to make, a house to maintain, friends to call and e-mail, Christmas cards to make, and about a million other things to take care of." I know my excuses are valid ones, but they still feel like excuses, and not like real reasons.

It all comes back to time and how I schedule it. I know that I can say no more often. I can resist pressure to attend parties and events, and to stop volunteering for more things to do. I think in a way I've been punishing myself for quitting my part-time job by taking on more and more things, proving to myself and others that I am effective and busy even though I'm at home.

I'm not sure who is asking me to prove anything (well, I am sure, and the answer is no one) or why I feel I have to work so hard to impress myself. I suppose the answer lies in my own value assessment. I'm tired of rubbing up against this painful area again and again in my life. We all have these things that run deep, all the way back into our childhoods, and they grip us in their fierce claws and drive so much of what we do.

I hate taking commands from my subconscious and not being aware of what I'm actually doing. Talking to friends sometimes provides my "aha!" moment, or writing in my private, uncensored journal, or often putting these thoughts into my blog does the trick. I'm on a quest to make as much of my subconscious conscious, so that I'm not shooting myself in the foot for long periods of time without realizing what I'm doing.

I want to balance my driving need to perform with my validity to simply exist in the world. I want to see time spent with my kids and my husband and my friends and family as important and not an impediment to writing or doing something else. I don't want to rush through life, producing a lot of busywork but neglecting to enjoy anything I'm participating in. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed as much as it is designed to create some kind of legacy. I may have all day, but I must choose wisely, every single day, how I spend those precious twenty-four hours.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Old Ruts

In two months, the transformation between William and I has been extraordinary. We've both changed, for the better, and hopefully permanently, and my gratitude has no limits for how much cleaner the air is between us. We still have setbacks, however, where we fall back into old routines, and picking up the kittens yesterday was one of those times.

We got the kittens from an acquaintance who lives in the country and has at least four dogs. Simply getting out of the van was stressful for William, which by extension became frustrating for me. I carried him while the two huge dogs sniffed at his feet, and he screeched and climbed higher, calling out, "They are going to eat me!"

When we got inside, we found two small dogs running among the kittens, and the hyperactivity of the dogs seemed to make William tense and jumpy. He clung to me, and whined, and I was not only embarrassed by his behaviour but also angry as I had a mental idea about how the kitten choosing process would go, and he was ruining it.

So much of what I do, with William in particular, seems to be driven by my preconceived notion of how I want something to go. Inevitably, William messes with my plan, and I become frustrated. I've been slowly improving where it comes to accepting him as he is, naming his fears and trying to help him find strategies to manage his anxiety, but when I feel pressured in a social situation, I end up back in my old rut of browbeating, eye rolling and apologizing for him.

My friend asked how old he was, when he pointed out some Halloween decor in her house which he considered scary, and I said, "Four and a half, not that he acts like it." Immediately after I spoke, I realized what I was doing, and that is a step forward from how blindly I used to act with my son.

Ava makes everything seem so easy, with her "anything goes" nature, and I end up contrasting her with William which is not helpful for anyone. Accepting both of my children for who they are is critical to how well our relationships function. I want the health of our family to run deep, and not be strictly on the surface or for any kind of show. If we don't work it in organically, it won't be a permanent thing. Just because it's easier with Ava doesn't mean it's any less important for the same relationship to develop with William.

I wish I hadn't been embarrassed of him yesterday. If I could do it over again I would change my words and my reactions to his fear of the dogs and the Halloween decorations. I would be kinder and more aware of my feelings that I was being judged, when I probably wasn't. So much of my parenting comes from my own fears and hang-ups, and not those of my children.

I'm supposed to be the mature one in the relationship, and I know I can do better. At least I'm aware of making these mistakes now, instead of being angry and not recognizing why I feel that way. That awareness is making me a better parent, moment by moment and day by day, and if I fall back into old ruts I can learn to identify that, forgive myself and improve on it going forward.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Great Kitten Adventure

We are embarking on the great kitten adventure today, whether I'm fully prepared for this stage or not. Ava has been begging for a dog for years, but I am not a dog person and have assured her that she can have as many dogs as she wants, when she is an adult and moves out of our house. William has been asking for a cat for a long time, and cats are something I can get on board with, as I am a cat lover by nature.

When Jason and I were first married, we went to the SPCA and picked out our first kitten, a solid black fuzzball we called Sasha. A year or so later, when Sasha began chewing giant holes in my clothes, we went back to the shelter and adopted a grey tabby named Riley, to keep Sasha company while we were at work. The chewing got better, and we loved all of the laughter and cuddles we received from our cats.

Fast forward a few years to when Ava was born. We still loved Sasha and Riley, but in the usual way, the needs of our human child bumped the cats a few rungs down on the family ladder. By the time William came along, I felt bad that I didn't give the cats anywhere near the same attention as I used to.

Right before we moved to Alberta, Riley disappeared one night, and a neighbour said there were coyotes in our area, so we think that's how he met his end. He was a very affectionate cat, brainless in a sweet way, and I missed him when he was gone. We moved with Sasha, and about a year later, we let him out one evening as per usual, and he never returned. We told the kids he found another family, and it's entirely possible, as that cat had many near misses with death and always survived, so I like to think of him happily ensconced in someone else's house.

For more than two years, we have been pet free in our home. I loved the freedom of going away and not having to task someone to look after our pets. I enjoyed not being responsible to keep anything alive besides myself, Jason and our two children. In March, we got a beta fish for Ava's birthday, as she had been asking for one for a long time. I thought that would be a good way to ease us all in to the demands of pet ownership, but for the last few months, the requests for a live and cuddly pet have been heating up.

Recently Jason has been in on the game, saying things like, "Wouldn't it be great to have a cat again? Can you imagine how much fun the kids would have with a kitten?" I just smiled and looked the other direction, happy not to consider it. Then pictures began to appear on Facebook of the cutest, tiniest kittens you can imagine. I found myself drawn to these pictures, snapping the computer window closed if the kids or Jason would walk by.

The timing began to feel right to me. I heard that still, small voice which I trust to guide me through life, whispering that this was the time, and these were the cats. I resisted for a time, and then relented. The still, small voice has never steered me wrong, but that doesn't mean I'm always ready for the challenges that it leads me into. Sometimes I would prefer to say no, but it isn't always about me.

In this case, it's about my kids, who are now 7 and 4, and ready to take on the joys and responsibilities of pets. We went shopping yesterday for the cat things we need (over the two years our litter box, food bowls and cat toys seem to have made their way out of our house) and both kids were absolutely brimming with excitement. Their enthusiasm and gratitude was coming off of them in waves as they carefully chose food bowls, toys, food and litter for their cats.

After school today, we go to pick them out. I'm looking forward to the kids choosing one each for themselves, and naming their cat, and they've already planned out the tour of the house they will give to their new pet. Blanket beds have been made at the foot of their beds, and they are hatching up a lot of plans together for how they can entertain the kitties.

I'm finding myself swept up in their excitement too. I need to let go of my desire for a perfect house. Less hassle and work doesn't need to be the motivating factor for everything I do. If I've learned anything in my thirty-seven years, it's that we must allow life to surprise and delight us, even if it causes a little mess and chaos, because those are the memories that will make a lasting imprint on our minds and hearts.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Like Myself

I feel more like myself these days. I'm aware of a quiet gratitude that the worst of this stressful season might be behind me, and I'm looking forward to understanding the growth that has occurred in this phase. Conflict is exhausting when you are in the middle of it, but on the other side, it's a bit like a spring rain, where everything smells fresh and new, and you feel hopeful in a way you couldn't possibly imagine in the middle of the storm.

The nature of life is that you finish one thing and move on to another. And there is always more conflict coming around the next bend, but with a little luck you can manage it better with what you learned the last time around. I don't want to be afraid any longer; of people, of problems, of pain. I want to dig deep and find a little bravery to shield me from what hurts in this world.

I'm aware of a growing feeling of hope and confidence, particularly when I wake up each morning, and I'm taking the time to revel in that sensation. It reminds me of the very beginning of this revised writing dream, two years ago this November, when I began to write three pages of my screenplay each afternoon when William was sleeping. Every morning I'd wake up and get out of bed with a renewed sense of purpose and vision. There is nothing quite like the feeling that you are doing exactly what you were created to do. It transcends joy and takes you just a little bit higher than you've ever been before.

The possibility of finding that feeling again sends shivers of anticipation up my spine. I am slowly learning that I can't rush the stages I find myself in. Some weeks and months are wonderful, and some are not, and I'm trying to learn what I can from whatever is happening to me. Life is a dance where I contribute some of the steps, and sometimes I follow someone else's lead, and back and forth it goes. I am not always in control, and I'm trying to accept that truth.

Being grateful for what I do have is the key. I'm healthy and so are my kids and my husband, and I want to be more aware of that huge blessing. We have food to eat and a warm house to be together in, and it's important for us to give to those who don't have these things, because we don't deserve them any more than someone else does. In the hard times, these gifts have still been given to us, and must still be given away without fear. It's much easier to give when I feel abundant, and hard to share when I feel pinched, but it makes me a better person to give of myself regardless of how I feel. I've learned that lesson in a vivid way over the last few months.

For today, I will enjoy this peaceful feeling. I'll keep working against being too busy, so I can settle into myself and make self-care a bigger priority. The hard times balance the good times, and make everything a little bit sweeter. Life is a cycle, and will come and go, but I'm tired of fighting the current. I want to relax, unclench my hands, and surrender to the ebb and flow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Eyes and Hands

I can pretend I'm not aging as quickly as I am, until I notice my eyes and hands. They used to appear youthful and unlined, and they don't anymore. The crinkles by my eyes when I smile give away my age much faster than any number on the calendar in December when my age goes up by a year.

I look at twenty year olds now and I want their smooth skin, their toned bodies, and their baby soft hands. Mine are starting to look more reptilian than human (perhaps I simply need more hand cream?). I must admit that often I am shocked when I glance at my hands because they used to look so young, and now they look more like my mom's hands. My eyes are the same. When did this extra skin appear under my eyes and beside them? When I really smile it starts to bunch up and I think I could probably pack a lunch in there and carry it around with me.

I may long for the youthful bodies I see around me, but I would never go back to being as unsure and unsettled as I felt at twenty. The cosmetic stuff will change for everyone, as we are all getting older day by day, but the work that has been done inside of me is forever.

I read a book a few years ago called The Story We Find Ourselves In by Brian McLaren and he explored the idea of heaven as a place where we are all fully ourselves, aware of every moment of who we were becoming, all in a pleasing whole with nothing missing or forgotten. That was the first description of heaven that genuinely made me excited about the experience, and I've never let go of it.

What is physical will pass away, but I love to think that who I am inside will never tarnish or fade, but remain forever, within those people I've invested in, and also in whatever is to come next after this life. I like to hope that my children will be further ahead in their identities and confidence as young adults; that their launch into the world on their own will be with a surer footing than I experienced. This is the gift I desperately want to give them, so they have a chance to appreciate their youth in a way that I missed because I was so buried within myself.

Coming to terms with the physical parts of aging is a long and difficult process. It's one step forward and then a few back. On a daily basis, I must conquer my fear of my body failing me, breaking down and not supporting all that I want to do as I get older. I can combat my fear with my faith in God, who is much bigger than I am, and who loves me and cherishes me whether I'm old or young, or somewhere in between. My hands and my eyes are beginning to tell the tale of my thirty-seven years on earth, and the lines and pouches say, "I'm here, and I'm living and learning every day, and the more I laugh, the more lines I create, and I'm not about to stop laughing."

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Social Network

I read the book "The Accidental Billionaires" a few weeks ago, and have been eager to see the movie since it was released on October 1st, but wasn't able to pull together babysitting until this weekend. I've been a fan of Aaron Sorkin's writing since A Few Good Men brought me to tears in an LA cinema when I was nineteen and just on the cusp of my filmmaking dreams. And director David Fincher? Loved Fight Club and Benjamin Button (didn't see Seven or Zodiac since as a rule I don't watch movies or TV centred on serial killers if I want to sleep at night).

With great anticipation, I settled into my comfortable seat with my bag of hot, buttered popcorn on my knee, and waited for the lights to go down. I was keenly aware of that delicious thrill of excitement that precedes a movie you are sure you will love. There is nothing better than slipping into an alternate world for two hours and allowing all of your stress to melt away so you can inhabit someone else's world for a little while. It's one of the purest joys I know, and this movie delivered everything I wanted it to.

We all know that Facebook is a global phenomenon, but tracing the origins of how the idea developed is a fascinating process. It's a story of computer nerd vs. wealthy Harvard establishment frat boys, and for once the nerd is the winner. It's too bad Mark Zuckerberg as a character is so hard to like. He's a boy genius with a painful case of social awkwardness. He struggles to keep any friends at all, and yet he created the most successful "friending" tool the world has ever seen.

Aaron Sorkin did a masterful job creating a linear structure to tell this complicated tale, with three opposing viewpoints, and spanning the course of several years. From's inception in a tiny Harvard dorm room to the legal issues that plagued Zuckerberg for years, The Social Network covers all of it, with a building tension that begins in the first frame and doesn't finish until the last sad image.

Writing movies like this is my longest held dream. The dialogue is so original and zippy that it soars, supported by performances you can sink your teeth into and really believe in. Jesse Eisenberg is terrific as Zuckerberg, prickly and unapproachable, isolated within the cold brilliance of his own mind. His only friend, played well by Andrew Garfield, provides the heart and humanity that the rest of the characters lack. And Justin Timberlake? As Sean Parker, the rich playboy who founded Napster and took Facebook to the global level, he is dynamic and unlikeable in every scene he is in, but as mesmerizing as a car wreck that you just can't take your eyes away from.

In the middle of watching this movie, every nerve and synapse enjoying the ride I was on, I became aware of a dawning sense of joy and peace that creativity in any form is what makes this world go around. I hope to be a part of that experience one day, and if my writing isn't as stellar as Aaron Sorkin's right now, I still have the chance to improve on it. Working hard for the dream is what will make it so satisfying when one day I can sit in a theatre and watch my own words unfold in the story before me. There is time to dream, and to write, and to get better. For today, I'm inspired, and it's enough for me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


We all sit in judgement of each other, whether we admit to it or not. I'm learning, very slowly, how much better love is than judgement, but criticizing is so much easier. It's easy to be negative and hard to be positive. The path of least resistance is popular because it's so damn simple. Taking the high road requires character and maturity and bravery, and it's very lonely, steep and terrifying.

I want to take the high road. In my mind, I choose it over the low road of gossip, sniping and meanness. I recognize that the cost is high, but it's the only thing that changes me and makes me better. Every time I avoid judging someone, in my head or with my words, I make myself just a little bit kinder and more loving. And it's not simply a surface improvement, but it goes deep and alters something in my character.

I need a lot of character adjustments. By nature, I am a nasty person; superior in some ways and hideously inferior in others, and my low self esteem causes me to lash out at those who are more beautiful, intelligent, nice or anything at all that I perceive to be something I am not. For years I have been working on improving myself, but I either didn't recognize how deep the work had to go, or I became skittish and backed off when things got too personal.

This time around, everything feels personal, and my thick skin has been reduced to open flesh where I feel exposed and vulnerable, as though I can't protect anything. I think it's important for my writing, to really understand this kind of vulnerability, but on a day to day basis it has stripped me of many of my protection devices, and I'm finding that I have a unique opportunity to really grow and change.

I want to keep struggling through this, if it means I'm getting closer to laying some of these old ghosts to rest. I used to be the most critical person anyone had ever met. Think of someone ultra-judgemental, now make them just a little bit worse, and you would have me. I've come a long way since my teens and early twenties, but I still have a good distance to travel, and I think I'm learning right now how hard it is to genuinely love and accept, instead of mock and condemn.

I've taken the easy way for too much of my life. I'm approaching the halfway point now, and I want to chisel away what's left of the hate and the fear, and replace it, deep down, with the kind of love that only God can provide, in me and through me. The cost is high, but like anything, practice makes perfect. Every day, I have more chances to choose love and kindness instead of the road that feels more familiar. I won't beat myself up for the mistakes, but will ask forgiveness and move on to the next opportunity to choose love instead of judgement.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Different Now

I am different now. Yesterday I felt discouraged because it seemed I was mired in the frustrations of this hard time I'm in, with thorny conflicts all around, and I've had to come to terms with how much work it takes to grow personally. Nothing good comes without sacrifice, and I believed that I would eventually see growth from this barren season of my life, but last night I saw that I have already changed.

This morning I woke up with a Frank Sinatra Christmas song running around in my mind (I've been stamping Christmas cards all month and listening to Christmas tunes - Jason and others think I'm nuts but I'm okay with that). The chorus says, "I can weather the storm, I've got your love to keep me warm." Those lyrics covered me with peace this morning as I reflected on how different I will be going forward, because of how much strain and stress I have encountered since the end of the summer.

In the middle of pain, we just want it to end. We don't want to analyze the benefits and advantages; we simply want to stop hurting and feel good again. I've had many good moments in the last two months, but overall its been like walking with a heavy backpack and ten pounds of sand in each shoe. Sometimes I begged for a break from forging my own way and standing up for myself when I felt pressure to conform and pretend something I didn't genuinely feel.

All of a sudden, I'm grateful for the series of events which conspired to bring me to this point, where I realize I've been weathering the storm, and I'm never going to be the same again. I am fully myself, owning my own identity, strengths and weaknesses, in a way I have never come close to before. There are no shortcuts for this kind of growth. I look at the type of conflicts I've been faced with, over and over from different groups of people, but all related to deepen my own confidence and identity.

Fighting for anything is exhausting. It taxes us, weakens us for a time, and then eventually shows what we are made of. If we believe in something, we must fight for it, for the good of our own soul. When the personal cost feels high, we know we are getting somewhere. I love this sense of hope and peace, for it means that the worst of this time might be behind me, and the seeds that were planted might be ready to grow and eventually bear fruit.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Soul

C.S. Lewis said, "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." I love this because it helps me to put my priorities in order. My soul is the most important part of my life, here on earth and in whatever is coming next. I want to invest in more soul care, where I stop to notice beauty, recognize when I need solitude, and when social interaction is beneficial for me.

The soul is where our conscience resides. If developing our moral compass and refining our social responsibilities is important to us, then finding ways to increase awareness of our soul is a good investment for our time. Sometimes I long to be kinder and more considerate than I am naturally. I have to work at it, on a daily and often hourly basis, in order to grow into the kind of person I hope to become.

No one who is truly giving and loving came that way naturally. They worked at it, like a carver chips at stone or wood to create something exquisite over time. It's not a process that you come by lightly. It takes investment, and commitment, and it comes at a huge personal sacrifice.

Giving of myself to others is a process I struggle with. It's never been easy for me to give up something I want for what someone else wants. Without a doubt, it's been the steepest learning curve of parenting. In order to be the best mother I can be, I must give more of myself than I ever thought possible. If I hold anything back, my kids will be the poorer for it.

With my friends, I also long to give more than I am comfortable giving. I want to give meals when people are sick, look after babies when my friends are in a pinch, and offer a listening ear when someone needs to talk or work out a problem. In reality, I often have my own agenda planned, with reasonable excuses for why I can't meet the needs of those around me, but my soul suffers in the process when I place myself ahead of others.

I must remember that my soul makes up who I am. What I give to others is what will be remembered when I am gone. What I do is less important than who I am, and you can't fake who you really are. Eventually it will be obvious to others what you are really made of, and I want to develop a character that is backed by the genuine substance of integrity, honesty and kindness. This is my dream for my own soul, and every day I can make choices that will become habits, and help me make this dream come true.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I wish I could figure out that I'm too busy before I hit that point where I feel stressed and shaky, and know I've taken on too much in a short period of time. I plan things far ahead of time, hoping that I'll have the energy for my commitments when the time comes. Sometimes it works out fine, and other times it becomes far too much, and I only realize after the fact that I need to say no a little more often, and value leisure and time off a little higher on my priority list.

We all have to look carefully at our schedules once in a while and evaluate what is working and what isn't. I had a visit with a friend yesterday who is in the middle of this process, and she is finding it hard to make these decisions because everything feels critical, but of course when you cut it from your life you realize that it's not as important as you once thought it was.

Time is our most precious commodity. Deciding how we spend it is the best determination of our personal satisfaction in life, and the choices we make shape the footprint we leave behind us. I can't cram everything in that I want to do, but I can be smarter about what I say yes to, and be more aware of my energy level. There are things I do that don't bring much life and excitement to me, and I have to see what can go from that list.

I can breathe a little deeper when I feel more in control of how busy I've become. I'm in charge of it, and must fix it so my family gets the best parts of me, and not what is left over after I'm spent and exhausted. Jason is just beginning his journey into the world of municipal politics, and I'm very excited for him, but it means that some of my busyness needs to take a backseat, so I have something left to give to my kids.

I'm going to think long and hard about this today. I love most of what I am doing, but when I can't find time to write, or sit down and read or watch a movie, I've got too much on the go. Jason gave me an iPhone as a present yesterday, completely unexpected and out of the blue, and maybe I can use some of its features to simplify my life instead of adding more complications. I can hope so, anyway, but up to this point, technology hasn't mixed well with me, so it's anyone's guess. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Three simple and easy words, but so hard to put into practice on a day by day basis.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Obligation & Passion

I read an article in the latest Writer's Digest magazine which said, "Your blog is part of your platform; it is not what you write." I stopped, put the magazine down, and thought about this for a few moments. It's true, but I enjoy the immediacy of the blog in a way that I can't get from my screenplay, memoir, short stories or articles. I can write something in just a few short minutes, post it, and begin receiving almost instant feedback on it.

I am trying to do something very specific with my blog, which is to spread the word that I am writing, and when it comes time to find an agent for my screenplay or memoir, have a small body of work to direct interested people to. I began it with this purpose, but over the last few months when things have not gone well for me, I've leaned on it like never before. It's been like a personal journal, where I can explore how I feel about issues, and the fact that others are willing to come along with me is amazing and humbling.

I've realized how much I look forward to my first cup of coffee in the morning, while embracing the opportunity to write something that will be read by living, breathing people. Writing as an act is lonely in nature, because my eyes are the only ones reading my words for months at a time, but blogging provides an immediate connection from writer to reader, and every single time I hear from any of you, it provides a satisfaction unlike any other.

I've been trying to get up early to work on my screenplay revision and my memoir, and that only works some of the time (damn that snooze button!). I've been going at full speed ahead on Jason's campaign for town council, preparing for Christmas card classes, teaching creative writing, and working on my mom's group and library board documents and ideas. I find inspiration everywhere these days, simply floating in the air, but the days and evenings roll by so quickly that I don't end up sitting down to harness those words. I have been going to bed at night with that familiar sense of disappointment and frustration sneaking up on me, the one that tells me I'm missing out on what I most want to do.

There is a fine line between our obligations and our passions. All of the things that get in the way of what I most want to do are still priorities, and must be seen as such. This is William's last year at home before Kindergarten, and I don't want to miss out on the chance to cuddle with him and spend the time together that we will both remember. I have to remind myself that there is no deadline to see my professional writing dream come true, but I feel a sense of urgency to write after so many stagnant years.

All of it is important. I can't push aside the responsibilities I have taken on to feed and clothe my family, making them feel valued and cherished. I have made commitments to the boards I serve on, and must perform those duties to the best of my ability. I want to keep my friendships alive and active, and that requires time and energy. Writing is a priority too, but I must make space for it in my life, wherever I can, and be gentle with myself when I can't hit the high targets I aim for. I have to trust that the words will not go stale, and that when I can, I will write, and try to keep all of it in reasonable perspective for this time period in my life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Election Results

Yesterday was voting day for municipal politics in Alberta. I was keyed up all day, and I'm not even running. We handed out all of our brochures by Sunday afternoon, hand delivering one to every house in our town over the last few weeks, and yesterday we had to sit back and wait while our fellow citizens went to the polls.

The evening stretched on forever, waiting to hear the results, with endless nervous chatter on Facebook to keep ourselves busy while the minutes dragged on. I expected news by 9 pm, but suddenly it was 10 pm, and then 11 pm, and finally the garage door went up and I ran to meet Jason who had been waiting at our Community Centre during the count. Before he got out of the van, I could see the grin on his face, and I knew it was good news. There were a record setting number of votes cast, which is good for our town, as personal investment leads to new ideas and action.

We celebrated with apple crisp and chocolate dipped strawberries, talking excitedly about the future and all of the possibilities for positive change in this town that we both love living in. I couldn't be prouder of him if I tried. It's a huge risk to put yourself forward for something as polarizing and personal as civic politics, and he did it with unwavering dedication and commitment.

He felt the time was right to try for town council, and he never faltered during the campaign process. I struggled with my own private (and sometimes not so private) fears and emotions as we walked this new road, filled with potholes and curves that you can't see coming. He always seemed confident and relaxed about the whole thing, and that's one of the things I most admire about his personality. Where I'm high strung and anxious, he's the opposite, and we all need a counterpoint to both our best and worst qualities.

I know that the learning curve will be steep for the three year term that Jason will begin when he is sworn in as an elected official on Wednesday evening. There is no way you can be fully prepared for what will come at you. But I also know that during the campaign process we both learned valuable things about ourselves and our community. We came to understand the driving need for positivity in the midst of negativity, and we saw the power of a small light shining in the middle of a dark room, and he is planning to rely on that light to be his guide as he moves forward.

I don't want this to feel like a soppy Oscar speech, but I would like to express my gratitude for those who have supported Jason during the last few weeks. Many of you spoke kind words just when they were needed, and helped us form new opinions when the ones we had were no longer working. We came to rely on our friends and deepened many relationships in the course of this political process, and we needed the support we felt from each of you to get to this jumping off point.

It feels a bit like stepping off of the high diving board in pitch darkness, and hoping that there is water down there somewhere to cushion your fall. We have equal parts excitement mixed with terror for what the next stage will bring. Jason wants to do the best job he can possibly do, while understanding that all of the problems won't go away overnight because we have a new mayor and council. He feels called to serve, and to give his all, and since that's how he approaches the rest of his life, I'm confident in what the end result will be.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Prairies

I love living in small town Alberta, smack in the middle of the prairies. Everywhere I look I find inspiration. There is the tall wheat swaying in the breeze, the hay bales that dot the landscape as far as the eye can see, our historic grain elevator against the horizon, the sound of the wind in the trees, and the feel of dry leaves crunching under my shoes when I walk.

The fall in Alberta stirs my soul in a way that no other season can. After the heat of the summer (okay, maybe not this summer, but most summers) comes the crisp, refreshing nature of the fall, invigorating the mind and the body before the harsh reality of winter descends. Like spring, fall is that in-between state of moderation between hot and cold. I feel like I wake up in the fall after being drowsy and relaxed over the summer.

I have been slow this fall to reach this state of happy wakefulness. I've been run ragged by conflicts and personal problems, and then busier than usual with Jason running for Town Council. But today is voting day and the campaign will be behind us. I sat at the park this week while the kids played, and I looked around and slowly stirred my soul to action. I saw the beauty, smelled the bonfire smoke in the air, and felt joy as I considered why we chose to live in this small town.

I listed the reasons to myself: safety, friendship, to know and be known by others. When Jason is out of town, there is not just one person I could call if I needed help or had a problem with the house; there are many. I can't walk out of my door without running into half a dozen friends and neighbours who know me and my kids, and those relationships ground me and make me visible here in a way I couldn't come close to in big city life.

Last week Jason and I both realized the ripple effect of our actions and words on other people. If we are positive and kind, our ripples carry that to other people. If we are negative and nasty, the same is true, and that crabbiness spreads like wildfire to others. Every person has this influence, no matter where you live. Our attitudes and opinions permeate our circles, like yeast throughout dough, and we are all responsible for our imprint on our world.

I found it helpful to remind myself why I love my town. There were many reasons why I chose to live here, and I needed to focus on the good ones instead of the parts of small town life that bring frustration. There are so many things I love about my town, my community and my province. It's a good life here, and celebrating it gave me that burst of positive energy that I had been lacking. It changed my view, and therefore changed everything.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Living in the Moment

I watched the documentary Babies last night with a group of friends. It made me keenly aware of two things at exactly the same time: I'm thrilled that I no longer have any babies, and I miss my kids as babies. I think that all of life is like this. It's human nature to miss a stage when it is over, while not appreciating it fully when it is part of our lives.

I'm trying to get better at this, but it's still not easy for me. I tend to look forward to the next thing, peering to look around the corner at what is ahead, instead of luxuriating in the only thing that is certain: the moment I am residing in. I have suffered with this affliction since my childhood. Why is contentment such a tough one to master?

My bathroom calendar had this anonymous quote on it the other day, "Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have." To me this means appreciating what I have at any given moment, and not banking on a future which has yet to arrive.

I tried to enjoy my kids as babies, because everyone who had walked the parenting path ahead of me reminded sagely about how fast it would go, and how I would miss it when it was gone. As always, I listened and participated half-heartedly, not fully understanding what I was being told until it was too late and the stage was behind me.

I was longing to sleep through the night again, and not hear crying on and off all day, and have no more poopy bums to clean or food to cut up and place on the high chair tray. I was waiting for the next thing, and in doing so I missed some of what was right in front of me, both good and bad. I don't want to do that anymore. There has to be a way to embrace the stage I'm in, at any given moment, and still look forward to the future.

It comes down to the right balance. If it's too lopsided, the whole thing tips over. We can't hold onto anything, except in our memories. I want to be fully present so that I can commit the experience to memory - the sights, the sounds, the smells and the feelings I felt. This is not just for the vacations and the red-letter days, but for the everyday.

Watching that movie last night brought back a nostalgia for a stage that is behind me, and I wouldn't want to bring it back because I love where I am now, and I know that we can't re-do anything in our lives. But it's good to be reminded to live in each moment, not wishing it away, because as sure as the wind blows over the prairies, the stage will be gone before we realize it, and I don't want to regret that it's gone forever.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Change The Way You Look At Things

"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." I saw this on a friend's Facebook page and it hit home with my recent personal decision to stop focusing on the negative and begin moving toward positive action in the situations I find myself in. My new saying to guide my life goes something like this, "If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

I'm guilty of being part of the problem, in many areas, but I'm trying to get out from under that wherever I can and explore creative ways to improve. It can be as simple as making a list for possible ways to solve the problem that has been raised. Basic suggestions are better than nothing at all. If I'm not willing to put time in to find a solution, I shouldn't be participating in the complaint.

I'm tired of living in negativity. It's all around each of us, and in us, and it's the simplest thing in the world to participate in it. The problem is that it creates a drain, and the water gushing down that drain moves faster and faster with each complaint, until the drag and pull of the water threatens to drown you. I want to fight that tide, and be the change I want to see in the world.

I talked to Ava about this very thing last night. I asked her what she loves about living in our town, and suggested that she talk about the good parts of her life at school with her friends instead of the bad or negative things. She said with confidence, "I can do that." I smiled and said, "So can I."

I have a renewed passion for my community, and need to remind myself often why I chose to live here, and what we love about small town life. Making a list of the benefits once in a while is a good reminder to let the petty frustrations go, and hold the good things close, and spread that positivity around as it appears to be in short supply most days.

We can't be daunted by the difficulties in our path. I tell my kids to take one thing at a time, and make slow, incremental changes, as that is what lasts. I want to take my own advice. I can't change anyone's attitude except for my own, but when I change mine, I can create a ripple effect in my family, friends and social networks. That ripple effect can grow and grow with no end in sight, but I want to be sure the ripple is something positive and encouraging instead of destructive. I can change the way I look at things, and find that the things I'm looking at are changing.

Friday, October 15, 2010


It's good to eat a little crow once in a while. I always find it very hard on my ego, because I hate to have my bad behaviour pointed out to me in any way. After I fight with the brave person who tells me about it, I often go away to think, and discover that it would be beneficial for me to change in the area that has been highlighted to me. Nothing about this process is easy, but in the end it makes me a better person, and that's what it's all about.

I love that there are people in my life who will do this for me. Those who will gently correct me where I'm blind to myself and need an adjustment to my attitude or outlook. I want to treat people kindly, and be positive instead of negative, and give others the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. Just when I'm busy patting myself on the back about these things, it's pointed out to me where I've in fact done the opposite, and I have to apologize and do my best to repair the rift I have made.

The more I practice walking the high road, the easier it becomes to apologize for where I've hurt others. It's now becoming more of an automatic response. What is the point of clinging to my hope that I haven't been a jerk and trying to convince others of that? We all struggle with the darker aspects of our personalities, and when those ugly things rear their heads, I feel better accepting responsibility and saying I'm sorry.

A little genuine humility in human relationships goes a very long way; it softens the heart and clears the air between people. It allows you to breathe a little easier, and when the apology is received with grace and respect, the process of restoration works exactly as it is supposed to, and there is something deeply satisfying in the experience.

None of us is perfect. No one should expect perfection of ourselves or others. I expected that for many years, and fought to defend my idea of my own perfection instead of accepting that I may have been wrong, and could possibly learn from my mistake and become better in the future. I love the freedom of imperfection now. If I get on the wrong side of an issue, or react with negativity and gossip where I could've taken a better path, I can humble myself, apologize, and create a better dynamic in myself and therefore the world.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Marathon Runner

Being home with small children is like running a marathon. As moms, we have to conserve our energy and can't expend it all in fifteen minutes of wrestling and chasing like the dads can do when they come home from work. Jason is like a sprinter when it comes to the kids: high energy and maximum impact not unlike a rock star, while I feel a bit like the old bag washing the dishes and complaining about the noise in the kitchen.

The running and the chasing is lots of fun and a source of great memories for the kids, but he has the energy for it where I do not. I think it comes down to having different roles. I am the pack mule, steady and sure, who plods along making sure the lunches are made, the backpacks are ready, the spot behind the ears is getting washed and the million daily questions are answered. Jason is the flash of lightning who blazes in and has all of the noisy, rowdy fun with the kids in fifteen minutes that I wasn't able to squeeze in during my busy day.

Sometimes I'm jealous of these memories that he is making with them. I would like to be more energetic and fun than I am. I recognize that Jason comes home from work and has a very short window of time with the kids before they go to bed, and he has had stresses in his day but they are of the adult variety, not caused by opinionated people under four feet tall, so therefore he doesn't mind expending his energy running around with the kids.

If I chased them all over the house and rolled around on the floor with them at 8 am, by 8:30 am I'd have nothing left to make it through the rest of the day. I understand this somewhere in my cerebral cortex, but while I'm washing dishes and they are giggling and laughing and running all over the house, I contemplate what it would be like to change up our roles. I know I'm better at managing all of the moving pieces that make up our home life, and I love working out of my house and having the flexibility to put the kids first ahead of my schedule.

Jason has a great job and he excels at it, and provides well for our family, so I know our roles are in the right place for this moment in time. The kids will have memories of me which are different from the ones they will have of Jason. We each have a part to play with our children, marathon runner and sprinter, and we are playing them well. I can always look for more ways to punch up my fun quotient, and he can help more with the daily boring grind so that I have more energy to expend. And somewhere in the middle, we'll hope to find the right balance, and get it all done the best we can.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Something strange is happening to me these days. I'm not as afraid of people as I used to be. This must be what confidence feels like: to stand up and say, "You don't have to like what I'm doing or even who I am, but I won't let that stop me." I don't want to become some kind of personal vigilante where I don't listen to anyone at all, but I think I'm listening to that still, small voice, and I'm understanding that it is better to listen to it than to other people, who are just as damaged as I am.

I've contorted myself in the past to be whatever others wanted me to be, and the end result of that is no identity of your own, and no way to know if you are on a good path or a bad path, because everyone has a different idea of who you should be and what you should be doing. Taking power away from other people that I should be possessing for myself has been a wonderful transition. It was easy with some people, harder with others, and seemingly impossible with a few, but the benefits of freedom and confidence are so rewarding that I'll pay any price to get there with everyone.

This is a battle everyone must fight. For me, it was one step forward and one back for a very long time, and now I feel like I'm inching forward and hardly losing any ground as I go. Once you taste a little freedom in this area, you can't even imagine going back to how you used to be in the world, terrified to be judged by others. When those criticisms don't affect you anymore, you have removed a massive weight from your own shoulders.

It took me a long time to understand that I was in charge of this process. Our parents and our authority figures and society in general tend to convince us that we should be working for the approval of other people. They just neglected to tell us that we won't ever get it, at least not to the degree that we need it. That validation has to come from inside of us first, and then we can accept it from others.

I love the differences that exist between people. Those differing ideas and values are what make the world go around, and if we can be respectful in the way we listen to others and disagree with them, we can move through the world much easier. I don't expect everyone to agree with me and would be shocked if they did.

Since I've been blogging, I've heard from several people who think I'm completely wrong in some of my views, and I respect them for their opposing opinion. But the fact that they disagree with me won't make me change my mind, in and of itself. I'm open to new ideas, and fully embrace the freedom to choose a new thought pattern at any time, but I won't be bullied into it because you say I should. I will reason and consider, and decide for myself how I feel about any given issue.

This kind of freedom is like blue sky that goes on forever, without a single blemish in it. It changes everything, opening up the world in brilliant colour instead of black and white and shades of grey. It means you can be who you are meant to be, and you don't have to apologize for it. Others will judge and criticize, and you can learn to have it roll off your back the way a duck handles water. It gives you what you need to stand firmly on your own ground, with a smile on your face, and the sting of the arrows that come at you will not hurt like they used to.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mental Illness

I watched House last night, and was impressed that they tackled the subject of mental illness. They even offered a promo at the end for an organization people could contact if they had questions about mental illness. As a child, I lived with my dad's bipolar disorder, and rode that roller coaster of meds/no meds for many, many years.

His death eight years ago freed me from the fear and stress of what he might do next, but left behind a crater of regret and sadness for how much better his life (and by extension, my life) could've been if he would have stayed consistently on medicine to control what was beyond his control.

As I move up into my late thirties, I experience moments of panic that his mental illness will rise up in me from some latent place where it has been hiding, waiting to strike. I am constantly monitoring my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, as my dad's were manageable for awhile, and then slowly began to take over his life, and I want to stay vigilant to ensure that doesn't happen to me.

I'm not afraid to talk to my doctor about these things, and to medicate what I have to in order to stay available and open to myself and to my family and friends. I have fought long and hard for my own identity, and don't ever want to lose it. So far mental illness hasn't been a concern for me, but watching a dramatization of it last night brought some of my deepest fears to the surface for a little while.

We can't predict what's coming. All we can do is enjoy what we have today, in this moment, and stop to notice the health that we generally take for granted. I am healthy today, physically and in my mind, and I am extremely grateful. I won't waste time worrying about something that may never happen, but I don't want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that these kinds of illnesses aren't hereditary, because they are.

Awareness is the key, and managing fear with a dose of faith that God will take care of me and of those I love. Any other option is too frightening to consider. For today I will appreciate that my mind is under my control, and that is a blessing so huge I must remember to notice it and do what I can with what I have been given.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Normally I love Thanksgiving. I don't find it hard to count my many blessings, but this year, so much has been happening - activity and emotion swirling all around me so that my sense of gratitude has been impaired. I feel like I'm one step behind, all of the time, and can't quite catch up.

When we live in a flurry of activity, we don't have time to stop and think about all of the things we have. I need to push the red emergency button on the merry-go-round I'm on and stop the ride for a while so I can step off, catch my breath, and reflect for a few minutes on what I have been given.

I don't know why I was born in Canada, into a home where I took shelter, clothing and enough food for granted. I assumed everyone had these things, and my children probably think the same thing. As I got older, I began to understand that children were starving, in other countries and possibly in my own neighbourhood, and bombs were being dropped in other places of the world, and the very safety of others was not a right but a privilege.

Sometimes I panic about the future for myself and my kids. I want them to be safe, at all times, and yet I'm not guaranteed anything. I have to counteract my fear with my faith in God, and use positivity to fight all of the negativity in the world that threatens to swallow me whole.

There is just as much good in the world as evil, but I have to seek it out and dwell inside of it. The problem is that the negative stuff pulls me in so violently and I feel powerless to fight against it. But I am not powerless. I can fight it, and my weapons are gratitude and positive action. I am not a victim of my circumstances. I am in control of how I feel and how I react to what happens to me.

Love can combat hate, faith can fight fear, and kindness is the opposite of meanness. I am thankful for how far I've come from the negative person I used to be. In my twenties I thrived on gossip and complaining. Now I understand that complaining without taking action is wasting your time and eventually your life. I want my time on earth to count for something good, day by day until at the end of my life the positive far outweighs the negative.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The High Road

Sometimes it's really hard to take the high road. There are times when I desperately want to right an injustice, but I know I don't always have to stand up and fight. There is a time to speak and a time to stay silent, and the silent part is the hard one for me.

Why do some people have a sensitivity to issues of justice, and others don't seem to care if they aren't affected by it directly? Even as a child, I had an overly developed sense of right and wrong, and become outraged when I perceived there to be an inequality. Of course, as an adult, I recognize that my perspective is biased and warped to suit my own needs, as is everyone else's, and so my idea of perfect justice is actually as imperfect as the next person's.

I think I long for some kind of utopia where we all maintain our own opinions and ideas, but we communicate those concepts with respect and kindness. I'm not sure this dream will ever be possible in the broken world we live in, and that thought makes me sad. I want to leave a better world for my kids and the children that they will have, but sometimes I don't see it happening, and my heart sinks like a stone in my chest.

Never is this sort of thing more apparent than at election time, and we are in the thick of it with Jason running for civic politics in our town. It's been fairly positive up until this point, and I knew going into it that a thick skin would be required, but when it rears up and becomes personal it can surprise you with its violence. Even if it's not personal for us, the ill will that exists toward others manages to feel personal to me.

Until I can learn to disable my ultra-sensitive personal radar system, I must find ways to manage what I feel and observe. My worth as a person is not tied into what others think of me; it never has and it never will, but old habits die hard. I would like to search a little harder for the positive things all around me instead of being defeated by the negative ones. There is just as much good will as ill will in the world, but the negative stuff stings so badly that it tends to drive away the happier bits.

It's all in my perspective. I'm going to stop and be intentional about finding the people who have the ability to communicate respectfully, even when they don't agree with me, and let their optimism light the way. I can't change those who are unfriendly to me. I can only do my best to be friendly and kind to them, and improve when I fail to be as polite as I would like to be. I don't want to punish anyone, regardless of how they treat me, but this concept is easier stated than practiced, and must be worked on every day in order to see improvement.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Art of the Apology

Apologizing is powerful because it forces you to take responsibility for your own actions. When you blame others for how you feel and act, you are giving away far too much power to someone else. I want to be in control of my own emotions, actions and reactions. No one else should be blamed for those. I always have a choice when it comes to how I behave, and where my words or attitudes are hurtful to others, I must apologize, in order to set myself free from guilt and blame.

I don't understand why saying, "I'm sorry" is so hard for some people. It's as though it costs them some kind of high price to admit any wrong and apologize for it. I look at it the opposite way: not apologizing is a price too high for my own soul, because it means I'm dodging responsibility for my own actions, and lying to myself.

We all make mistakes, lots of them, on a daily if not hourly basis. Coming to terms with this provides a freedom so immense, it feels like the horizon on the prairies. It opens up your spirit to breathe deeply and heal from any expectations placed on yourself to be perfect. Accepting that mistakes are okay is as liberated as you can get in this lifetime.

Excuses are the opposite of apologies. Making excuses for bad behaviour doesn't do anything for you, or for the relationship that has been damaged. Apologies heal the rift and free you up from the guilt you feel, and hopefully prevent you from making the same mistake again. Facing up to the truth of how our actions affect others, and not backing away when we have hurt someone, is the path to personal and relational redemption.

Having just come through a difficult conflict, I realized again how powerful it is to say, "I'm sorry." If you don't mean it, there is no point in saying it, but when you mean it, the power that lives in those two words can transform any situation. True humility and repentance blazes the way to a stronger and healthier relationship, but the best benefit of all is the freedom it offers to the person who apologizes. The other party wasn't willing to take responsibility for their actions, but I still liberated myself from the painful situation, because focusing on what I can control is the only way to escape with my dignity intact.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Conflict Resolution

I'm always in a rush to resolve conflict, because I think it's more mature to negotiate peace between people than leave an open, festering sore in the middle of a relationship, and then try to pretend it's not there. But other people don't often share my commitment to this, and I am slowly realizing that coming on too strong might be as immature as ignoring the problem.

There is a middle ground, and that is waiting until the fracture is not quite so fresh, and you have a little perspective on it before sitting down to talk about it. I'm learning, very slowly, not to panic when there is a problem and the other person wants to pretend the problem isn't there. I'm trying to gear down in my own spirit, waiting until the timing seems better to work out a resolution.

Sometimes a resolution can't be found, and peace is not able to be brokered. I have to understand and accept this as well. I am only responsible for my own feelings and reactions, not for the other person's. This is hard for me to accept, as it seems built into my personality to empathize with others and try to make things better for them. I can't always do that, especially when the conflict is with the other person. I have to learn to remove my hands, heal my own damaged heart, and allow the other person the space to work through their side of the issue.

I'm glad that I can see this process a little bit clearer now. Waiting doesn't necessarily mean ignoring - it can be an intentional part of the journey. One day I may feel better able to talk it through, but I have to accept my limitations where they exist. When we are overloaded with too much stress, it's not a great idea to take on more, and often time is the only thing that can heal some of these deep hurts.

Patience is not a strong suit of mine. I want to tick items off my list and move on to the next thing, but there is a quiet strength that has the chance to grow in the chaos and conflict of relationships, if we will sit back and wait for it to take root. The process itself is thorny and difficult and painful, but my faith is growing that the possible resolution will be better and sweeter for this forced time of waiting.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I began teaching another Beginner Creative Writing course through our local library this week, and it's so good to be back talking about writing with people who are looking to be inspired. It struck me again during the first class how hard we tend to work to get permission from others for the things that we do.

Even the simple act of preferring to write with a pen on looseleaf paper was liberating to some of the students, as they felt pressure to type on the computer instead of handwrite their thoughts, and I told them I generally handwrite everything on paper first. This was such a small thing, but they wanted to hear that it was acceptable to write in this manner, and knowing that someone else uses a pen on paper solidified their own preference, and gave them a measure of freedom they didn't have before. The students were pumped up by the end of the class to go home and write, believing in themselves a little more because I told them they could do it, and somehow they found permission inherent in that praise.

This type of validation is common to the human experience. We all want to be seen and encouraged to continue what we are doing, or to feel it's okay to stop and do things another way. We are all looking to each other for guidance and direction, which is why it's so important to surround ourselves with people who build us up instead of making us feel insecure.

The best kind of friends are actually cheerleaders, helping you find your motivation when it has deserted you, and your courage when your fear threatens to overtake you completely. This morning we are launching a small program through our mother's group with this kind of encouragement at its heart.

The point is for moms to notice each other and offer permission and praise when someone needs to hear it most. To say, "You are doing a good job. It's okay to be frustrated with your kids. You are a good mom and you have terrific and funny children. You are on the right path." Those words are so simple and cost nothing, but have the potential to be life changing to the recipient, who might drink them up like a dry plant absorbs water, and be the lifeline that keeps a mom going when she wants to throw in the towel.

Encouragement is critical in the kind of disconnected, technology-driven world we live in. We need each other - to validate, encourage, support and to lean on when our own strength is giving out. If we don't have those kinds of people in our lives, we must seek them out, and be vulnerable enough to ask for help when we need it.

When things are good, I tend to forget how desperately I need people around who notice me, and care about me, and give to me when I don't even have the words to ask. Those who say, "How are you really doing?" when I've already said I'm fine, and they know that I'm not fine. I need those friends, and I need to be that friend to someone else, and also to the writers in my class, who have the potential to soar and offer others permission with their words, if they can hear someone like me cheering from the sidelines, and telling them, "You can do it."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I was completely inspired by Glee last night. It tackled the thorny subject of religion in such a lighthearted yet serious manner, exploring various points of view on faith. Years ago I would have been horrified by someone praying to "Grilled Cheesus" and snapped the TV off in a fury.

I've come so far down my own road of faith that none of that stuff bothers me anymore, and I can barely remember why it ever did. Instead, I love that the discussion is even happening in the first place on a popular TV show aimed at people much younger than I am.

An honest, open discussion about any subject is much more interesting to me now than something cut and dried. Life is not that neat and simple. It's messy, and filled with shades of grey, and all that really matters anyway is that we love other people without restraint or judgement. I wish it hadn't taken me so long in my life to truly understand this one simple truth.

The episode last night focused on Kurt, the gay glee club member and one of my favourite characters on TV, as he struggled through a health crisis with his father. I shed a lot of tears watching Glee last year, particularly as they explored how Kurt's conservative blue-collar dad came to terms with his son's sexual orientation. It was so honest and real and true, and I was inspired by his character's journey because I had already walked that road. I spent time laying each of my fears to rest about accepting those who are different from me, and recognizing that it's no big deal to God or to me how other people live their lives. I am only responsible for myself, and I want to love instead of hate and judge.

It's hard to work these things out of our system. From the time I was little, I was taught things that I have had to unlearn in order to become personally closer to Jesus. I had to search for a new value system, one that makes more sense to me than the rigid set of rules I grew up with.

I want to accept and not condemn; to love and not serve as judge and jury. I didn't want to pay lip service to it - I wanted to change from the inside and walk a new road, relating to people in a completely different way than how I was originally taught to. And I was moved and amazed last night to discover how far I have come from what I used to be like, and how deeply the change has taken root in my heart.

I'm so grateful, because I could never go back, and hopefully my kids will not have to untie these kinds of knots in their soul. They will start so much further ahead on the road to love and acceptance, and even though they will have other struggles of their own in their faith and world view, I'm so glad that in accepting others without judgement, I have worked on my own prejudices so that they could begin life in a better place.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Falling in Love

A curious thing is happening between me and my son: we're getting to know each other in a completely new way, and I enjoy him like I never have before, and I literally feel like I'm falling in love with who he is. It's as though I couldn't see him clearly before; I only saw my fear that I might create an unhealthy dynamic like the one that I see between my mom and my brother, and I didn't really embrace William for who he is.

Now I seem to be waking up to the fact that I am not my mom and William is not my brother. We have a chance to create our own dynamic in this world, and inadvertently I was pulling away from him since the day he was born and causing a problem where one didn't need to be. I seemed to be better prepared to raise a daughter than a son, and when I faced my fears head on and really looked at what I was doing in the psychologist's office, a light went on somewhere for me and I knew I had to turn the ship around before it ran into shore and sank.

Every day I discover new things about William that I really didn't see before. He's so funny, and charming, and cuddly most of the time. He has a great imagination, and makes up all kinds of unusual games and activities for himself on a daily basis. He asks interesting questions, such as, "How do the words make sense to you in a book so you know how to read?" and calls out all of the house numbers when we walk anywhere in town.

The confidence he has developed in a mere month of preschool is astonishing to me, considering how terrified he was when he started. Now he gives me a hug and a wave, and he knows that I will come back for him, and he enjoys himself. I sit back and bask in the pride that this brings to me, because I addressed the problems I was creating for my son, accepted my responsibility for them, and tried out a new way of parenting. The proof that it's working is in my son, with every new day, and also in me, because I am not afraid to embrace him and love him fully now.

If something isn't working, there is usually a reason why, and if you can isolate the reason, you can fix the problem. I wish I hadn't waited four and a half years to figure this out, but with parenting, it's never too late to change what you are doing and see a positive result. I might have been literally blind in the way I was relating to William before; I had no concept that I was parenting him out of fear and panic.

Parenting blindly is a horrible feeling. I couldn't even love my son with the same reckless abandon I felt for my daughter, because fear was holding me back. I had to address my fear and recognize the simple truth that I am a different person from my mom, and have the opportunity to raise my son how I would like to raise him, only I had to make the unconscious conscious in order to do it. I'm so unbelievably glad we saw the psychologist to ease William's fears, because it ended up transforming me as his mother, which is really what he needed all along.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kid's Memories

As my kids get older, their memories become more and more important to me. I'm becoming conscious of them on a daily basis, considering what they will remember from their childhood and from the time we spend together. Being aware helps me to cut down on my selfishness and remember to notice what they are doing and participate.

Yesterday we went to the park as it was a cool, crisp October afternoon and we wanted to enjoy it. The kids climbed all over the park and made up the usual games with each other while Jason and I sat on the grass and talked. They both asked me to go down the slide with them and I did what most moms do if they have the chance: I sent Jason. Then it looked like so much fun that I dragged myself up and joined them, racing down the double slides, playing hide and seek, and getting a little exercise while forming a positive memory for me and for my kids.

When I was a child, I loved playing games with my Granny and my mom, and I want my kids to enjoy those memories too. But somehow, the daily grind takes over and weeks can slip by before we crack out the cards or a board game and spend that time together as a family. I want to be more intentional about this area. I love it when they say, "Remember that time I had some hotels in Monopoly and you kept landing on my property and you lost all of your money?" Not that I particularly love that memory, but they are only seven and four and they have that memory already cemented, and that's what counts.

I don't want to play Russian Roulette with their memories; leaving them up to any form of chance. I want to be involved as they are forming their memories, and help guard and protect them from unnecessary outside stress and chaos. I am so excited about this Christmas, as it will only be the second one in Ava and William's lives to be at home, in their own house with us, on Christmas morning. No rushing to be somewhere to open presents, just a relaxed morning in their own home with their new toys and gifts. This is a future memory that I am standing by and protecting, and eagerly anticipating for myself.

Childhood is filled with magical experiences. All major holidays are so exciting to kids, and I have so much fun pumping up that excitement for them. It makes us adults like kids again ourselves. I want to pay closer attention to what is happening for my children on a daily basis, because before I know it, this stage in their lives will be gone forever, and will only remain in all of our memories.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

New Growth

Really hard times in our lives tend to result in new personal growth. It's tender at first, like a new bud on a tree, but it's there, and after a lot of chaos and change, it's so encouraging to see that underneath the difficulty, there is something happening which will grow and eventually bear fruit.

It's a little like sediment forming in puddles of water. The dirt is what is left behind from the pain and the problems, and it weighs you down and gives you a kind of gravity that you didn't have before. Now when stress comes at me, I stand firmer and taller than I did in the past. I will not be pushed around, since I've already come through this miserable place and survived it.

Strength is very hard to measure in the good times, but when you need it, you find it has been developing and growing all of the time. Standing up and saying "no" when you need to is a powerful process. Confronting the longest held patterns in our lives with people takes a lot of time and energy, but I'm better able to do it now because of all of the incidents that have added up to a kind of strength test, and I feel this morning like I might be passing instead of failing.

It feels really good to take care of myself and my own mental health. To push back when I am being challenged, and not apologize for the need to make choices that are good for me instead of dragging me down. I struggled with this before, but now it appears much clearer to me, and I think it's because of the new growth and the weight from the sediment that has been left behind in my life from what I've recently walked through.

It's enough to encourage me to keep walking this path. To not give in to old patterns and pressures. To stay strong, and fight for myself. No one else will fight for you when the chips are down. You must believe in yourself enough not to be pushed around. Boundaries are designed for a reason, and must be upheld, even when there is pressure to cave and make someone else happy. If I'm miserable, it's not a fair transaction, and I have a little more confidence now to stand up and negotiate for something better all around.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Leave the Rest to God

A friend found this quote somewhere on the internet and made it her status this week: "Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God." It states my philosophy in this life with power and simplicity. A dozen or so words describing a road map for navigating our way through the complexities and pain that being alive brings to us.

No person is spared hurt and shock. It is as much a part of the human experience as breathing or eating. We all walk through joy as well as pain, and how we react in a crisis shows what we are truly made of. We can't fake our depth. The way we live every day reveals us, and never more so than in the awful times, when words don't do anything, but we can still offer something of ourselves to others.

I'm realizing slowly that I can't control the outcome of anything. I can only play my small part, to the best of my ability, and not be attached to the results. There is an element of faith and the opening of my clenched fingers to everything that I do. I am not responsible for other people's feelings and actions. They own those the same way that I own mine.

Recognizing that "the rest is up to God" is very freeing, because it takes the weight from my shoulders and puts it on God's, where it belongs. It doesn't help me to stay mired in guilt and worry about how others perceive me or feel about me. Those areas are out of my control and responsibility; they do not belong to me so I must not fight for ownership of them. It's enough for me to focus on simplicity, kindness, love and caring, while letting go of the outcomes of the situations I am in.

It's easy to type it here, and of course much harder to live it out on a day by day basis. But I can learn to do my part better, and release the control to God for what does not belong to me. Each day I can improve a little bit in this area, until I'm further down the road, and I look back, and see that I am not wasting energy on what I cannot control. For today I will do my part, be as kind as possible, and leave the rest to God.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Yesterday was an uphill climb. All day. My friend's death hit me hard, and gave me no room to move and breathe without finding grief and sadness waiting for me. One death is tied into other deaths, as one falling rock creates a landslide, and my tears for my boss and friend became intermingled with my feelings about my dad's death eight years ago, under very similar circumstances.

There is no manual on how to feel in these situations. You have to walk through the pain, and the anger, and the fear and the overwhelming sadness. There is no shortcut if you want to heal with only a small scar instead of a gaping wound that doesn't quite close. You can't rush it. It's not an exact science. It is what it is, and nothing more or less than that.

For my Type A personality, this grieving process is difficult. It's not cut and dried. I can't plan for it, scheduling it in for a more convenient time in my calendar. I have been slammed emotionally for going on five weeks now. One tricky emotional problem after another has been confronted and worked through, and with no warning at all, there's something else to manage.

Yesterday my cup was empty when I had to face this pain and shock. Naturally people who knew my friend wanted to talk to me about her, and offer sympathy, and try together to make some sense out of a situation that was impossibly difficult. I felt I had nothing to give. My instinct was to hide away, not answer my phone, and get off Facebook.

Something curious happened, and I discovered that even when I felt I was at the bottom of my exhaustion and grief, if I thought about what I could do for someone else, there was a little energy there. Not enough to even notice, but when I made a meal for the widower and collected other meals from caring friends and drove them over to him, I did have something of myself that I could give, and it meant something to him.

I was moved and inspired by the group of neighbours, family and friends at his house. Everyone felt as emotionally bankrupt as I did, but we were there, and we told him we loved him and cared about him, and even though it felt like nothing at all, it was actually something that we were all doing. It was the best we could do in such horribly sad circumstances to demonstrate our love for him and honour her.

This kind of community when the chips are down is why I wanted to live in a small town. When we need each other, people are there for us, and when we feel we have nothing to give, we find we give anyway, and experience some measure of blessing in that generosity. I learned a powerful lesson yesterday. It's not about me. My emotions and my schedule comes further down the list when there is a crisis. I saw "all hands on deck" at that house yesterday and I saw that it worked, with each person feeling insignificant, but together we made a difference.