Sunday, January 31, 2010

This site is moving to its own domain!

At the ripe old age of 5, I thought it was high time this blog grew up and moved out on its own. So I staked my corner of the web and set up camp.

Introducing... http://www.fumblingforwords.com/

Please be sure to change your bookmarks, bloglines, favourites, rss feeds - whatever - so that you don't miss anything. I've got a fun little video up there today to celebrate the move.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pity party cut short

Sometimes just a snippet of conversation is enough to turn your day around. Sometimes you don't even need to be part of that conversation for it to take effect.

I was having a grumpy, no-good, very bad day. There was really nothing significantly wrong - it was just one of those days when the gremlins were winning. You know the ones... "you're not talented enough, you shouldn't bother trying, you're wasting too much time, you're not focused enough, nobody will listen to you, you might as well forget about the proposal you sent in yesterday - it'll never happen."

I was walking through the skywalk at lunch time, heading for the far-away food court where I could feel sorry for myself and eat unhealthy food without any colleagues finding me. Didn't I deserve to eat fast food crap, after all? Hadn't I earned the right for a little pity party with extra calories?

"He lit himself on fire when he was 2 years old." That was the first snippet I caught from the woman on the cell phone power-walking past me. It was enough for me to quicken my pace to keep up with her.

"He had burns all over his body, one of his hands fell off and all of the fingers on the other hand fell off."

"With only one thumb, he learned to tie his shoes at 12 years old and he said that changed his future."

"Now he's a famous drummer. If he can do that, there is NOTHING that I can't do."

That was all I heard, but that was enough to shift something inside of me. What the heck was I doing, moping around with this "poor me, I'm a failure" attitude?

I ate my lunch, but it was curry instead of mac-crap. When I got back to my desk, I googled "drummer with no hands". Sure enough, the story was true.

And if he can live without excuses, why can't I?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Art of the body

How does one prepare for the day when a surgeon will cut off a piece of what makes one a woman?

I've been thinking a lot about bodies lately. Christine intrigued me with her choice of "embody" as her word for the year. And then Leah invited us to focus on the body as our creative muse this month. So since the beginning of the month I've been contemplating how I wanted to incorporate "body" into my creativity. I was full of ideas and just needed the time to play with them.

Then the envelope came in the mail. The envelope that held the letter that says in simple Times New Roman font, as though it were no more important than my daughter's next soccer practice, that my breast reduction surgery has been booked for March. Gulp. Suddenly all creative ideas were blocked and all I could think of was "I'm going to lose a piece of what makes me a woman."

Don't get me wrong - I really want this surgery. I chose it. I'm so tired of the aching back, the carvings in my shoulders, the sore ribs from impossible under-wires, the impossibility of finding double H bras for less than my mortgage payment, the shirts that never fit, the near earthquake that's caused when I try to jog - all of it. I want it to be over.

But that doesn't mean it's not complicated. It took me a long, long time to come to this decision, and I won't back down now, but there are so many mixed emotions that play tricks with one's mind. All of those memories of the babies I've nursed, the pleasure I've shared with my husband, the aching fullness of unused milk when the baby who was meant to nurse has left this earth - they're all wrapped up in my identity, my shape as a woman.

And then there is the message I'm sending to my daughters. Is it okay for me to have plastic surgery, when I want to encourage them to value their bodies and not let media images dictate how they view what they see in the mirror? I would be lying if I didn't admit to myself that at least part of the reason for this decision is about my own complicated body image.

Tonight I finally had time to disappear into my studio for awhile to play with paint, ideas, memories, heartache... and breasts.

I started with a few of those images that surround us - the perfect bodies with the perfect breasts. No, those aren't the only reasons for this choice, but I have to at least acknowledge them and let them be a part of the picture. And the truth is, not even those women in the magazine ads are completely content when they look in the mirror.

As I prepare for this journey, I will try to acknowledge the hope and the hurt, the beauty and the ugly, the truth and the lies I tell myself. I know that I will be changed in more ways than one.

P.S. I had thought I'd be a little more private about this journey, but for some reason, I feel compelled to share it here. I know that you, my kind readers, will hold these words gently in your hearts as you have so often done when I've been vulnerable. If you're interested, I first wrote about it here, when I went for my original consultation with the surgeon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Drawing Class (so far)

Week #2 - perspective...

Week #3 - still life with charcoal...

And I am a happy, happy girl!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Getting through the week

First it was the weariness from five days away (some of which included a fairly intense staff retreat). Then it was the scrambling energy it took to start filling a small role in response to the Haiti disaster (communicating, responding to donors & media, issuing appeals, looking for appropriate images, writing web text and ad copy, etc., etc.). Add the ups and downs of the ongoing drama of motherhood and management. Throw in two very different (mostly good) pieces of news that are potentially life-changing and that carried me into an odd introspective space. (No, I'm not prepared to talk about them here yet - maybe later.) Add a few complicated relationships. Top it all off with a major screw-up in which I totally overlooked a presentation I was supposed to give (ugh). And there you have it - the week that was.

Now you know why I was mostly silent last week and will probably continue to be much of this week. There are only so many balls a woman can keep in the air without dropping a few of the rubber ones.

But then there was last night. Last night, for a few precious moments, I managed to put all the balls away on a shelf and walk away. The house was fairly quiet, and other than the laundry that needed to be shifted from washer to dryer to folding table, and a mostly-content seven-year-old who flitted in and out for a little mommy-love now and then, I didn't have a lot of demands on my time. So I disappeared into my little studio and soon I was lost in a drawing that had begun to emerge at last week's class.

It's a row of small fishing sheds lined up on a dock with a couple of fishing boats in the foreground - meant to teach about perspective. Follow the lines to the vanishing point to determine the angle of rooflines, dock edges, etc. Lots of little details and extensive use of a ruler for all those doors, roofs, windows, and wooden siding. It's not the kind of art work I would normally be drawn into (I get a little bored with symmetry), but oh my, was it zen-like! Soon those heavy thoughts were disappearing right along with those lines on the way to the vanishing point.

Though I recognize the value of meditation, and I've tried it several times in various iterations, it just hasn't been something I've been able to fully adopt into my life. Too many monkeys playing around in my mind, I suppose.

That was before I discovered the meditative quality of art.  A paintbrush or pencil in my hand, and suddenly I'm a zen master!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Sometimes parenting wrenches your heart right out of your chest,
tosses it on the floor and stomps on it.
Sometimes you have to sit in the bathroom holding your daughter
and listening to her sob for half an hour
all the while knowing you can't do a damn thing to FIX IT.
Sometimes those beautiful children who own a big piece of your heart
bottle stuff up forever and then one day it's released
in a sudden outburst that results in a hotdog flying across the room.
Sometimes you have to live through the cruelties of life vicariously through your children
and sometimes that second-hand pain is almost worse
than if it were happening to you directly.
Sometimes you feel the weight of realization that you are the only safe place
where their deepest fears and troubled emotions can be unleashed.

And then sometimes you go to bed worrying about your beautiful daughter,
and through the basement floor you hear her humming along with her ipod,
a sure sign that the tears in the bathroom were just right for helping her carry on.
And sometimes you know that the best you can hope for is "carrying on".

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sometimes you just have to find a tree and lean on it

It was day one of the staff retreat. The day that my team was meeting under my leadership. Staff and volunteers had come from across the country and I had to lead them, inspire them, and encourage them. The trouble was, I wasn't feeling very inspired myself. I was just feeling.... well, kinda blah. Low energy and low motivation.

Halfway through the day we took a break. It was a beautiful day and we were close to the woods and the river, so I went for a walk. Near the Red River, in the middle of a small wooded area, I spotted the largest tree I have ever seen in this province. It would have taken about 4 people with their arms fully spread to make a circle around that tree.

I spread my arms as far as I could reach and leaned against that big solid tree, my face pressed up against the rough bark. I stayed there for a few minutes, just leaning. Borrowing energy from a tree that had stood through more than a hundred prairie winters and a myriad of floods, storms, and pestulance. Soaking up inspiration from a life-force that had born witness to endless human and animal stories. Finding encouragement in this remarkable source of oxygen, shade and beauty. All the while, thanking the Creator for this love-song shaped like a tree.

Refreshed, I returned to my meeting.