Thursday, December 29, 2005
Every time I begin a new painting project (and by now, I've painted almost every room in this house at least once), I let the girls take first crack at the walls. They paint words, pictures, you name it. If there's a closet in the room, they get to go wild in the closet, and then I leave it that way. In both Julie and Maddie's closets, there are still colourful reminders of the children the way they were back when those walls were painted.
I wonder what an archaeologist would figure out if, many years from now, he/she were able to remove the top layers of paint without disturbing the bottom layer - the layer with the most interest. (I'm sure Gil Grisam on CSI would be able to figure out how to do that, wouldn't he? ;-) These old walls would tell him which children had lived here, probably their approximate ages at the time of painting, what they thought of each other (yes, if you look closely, that wall says "Nikki is wierd"), what bands they liked at the time (in Julie's closet, it says something about the Beatles - they were just discovering rock and roll back then), and probably a myriad of other things.
I like painting. I like the look of fresh walls. I like the way a room looks early on when there are no scuff marks, no chips in the paint, and no stray fingerprints. I like change. I need a home reno project at least once a year so that there is something changing in my house on a regular basis. My mom used to re-arrange the living room furniture in the house I grew up in on a monthly basis, and now that I've grown, I recognize that same familiar longing for change and renewal in myself as well. Some people can live with "sameness" for years and years, but I get a little stir crazy that way.
I may live within the same walls for years on end, but now and then the writing on the wall has to change. I think it's contagious - my daughters seem to have inherited the trait from me the same way I inherited it from my Mom.
And now it's time to go paint sunny orange on the wall...
Note: By the way, if you have a three-year-old helping you paint, I wouldn't recommend leaving a tray of paint lying on the floor. But if you do, it's comforting to know that little green paint footprints CAN be removed (almost) with a bucket of warm water, Mr. Clean, a scrub brush, and LOTS of elbow grease!
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
- Family arriving from Alberta. Knowing that we (our family) are worth driving across 2 provinces for.
- A day spent with my husband and daughters - lunch at the Forks, and then a movie (yeah, the movie was a little lame, but I was surrounded by my family, so what's not to like?)
- Maddie, jumping up and down on the bed, "Mommy! Daddy! It's Christmas!"
- Julie, throwing her arms around me, after opening Chronicles of Narnia (the book set), "You are the BEST Mommy EVER!"
- Nikki, poring over her new fashion design book.
- My niece Amy scoring over 200 in bowling.
- My nephew Nat, with his unique flare, tossing a bowling ball.
- My nephew Caleb keeping track of everyone's bowling score, and then ranking them in order.
- My nephew Brodie, suffering through pajama pictures, even though he'd rather be almost anywhere else.
- My Mom, looking content with her new life, surrounded by her old one.
- Sitting in church on Christmas morning, surrounded by my family, Marcel's family, and, of course, our church family.
- R, M , J & M coming over for lunch on Christmas day.
- A late night movie with my siblings. As AP says, we all have "experience junkie" tendencies (in varying degrees) and we all like each other. A LOT.
- Watching my newest niece Abigail, in her daddy's arms, get "dedicated" to God on her Mommy's birthday. (Christmas day).
- Listening to my brother Dwight sing a new song he'd written for Abigail and her parents. Watching Abby's daddy get a little choked up.
- Not getting too stressed out about company coming, 'cause my house wasn't very messy and didn't need much work to get it in shape.
- Annual pajama pictures, with the grandchildren all dressed in their new pj's. And this year, with the addition of Abigail, all four of the siblings have another generation represented in those pictures. It feels more complete now (though we hope there's more to come :-).
- Camper breakfast on Christmas morning.
- A new book to read.
- Listening to the children sing 12 Days of Christmas at the top of their lungs.
- Mom's home-made werenki (I have no idea how to spell it - it's a Mennonite dish, a lot like perogies.)
- Christmas Eve with Marcel's family.
- Pépère's pleased look as his grandchildren open the slippers he's had made for them.
- Toboganning with my s-i-l, my daughters, and my nephew.
- A delightful conversation with Maddie as her and I drove home alone from Grandma's house.
- A cuddle with my husband on the couch.
- Knowing that I still have 6 more days before I have to return to work.
- Sleeping in past NINE O'CLOCK!
It's been fun and full so far. I hope yours has been at least half as good. :-)
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
In the middle of all this, though, I remember one of the most life-impacting moments of the past year. I remember the day I ate bread with the Bishop...
We munch on the Bishop’s bread as we bump along rough country roads in SUV comfort. “It’s for my diabetes,” he’d said when he’d sent his driver into the store before we’d left town. After the bread, the Bishop reaches back from his front seat and hands me a fruit juice. “You can wash it down with this,” he says benevolently, and I receive it like a penitent parishioner receiving communion.
The Bishop laughs his deep belly laugh as he recounts stories of the days when he’d left Tanzania to study in America. “I could tolerate almost anything,” he says, “except for the rock and roll. It’s an abomination that they’re letting it into churches now.”
When we reach the village, throngs of people await our arrival. We step out of the comfort of air conditioning and leather seats, into the hot African sun. I step out alone on my side of the car. The Bishop walks ahead, bowing graciously to the multitude that clamours around him. Always, his chuckle can be heard above the din.
As the Bishop disappears into the crowd, I try to follow, but the masses close the gap and I am quickly surrounded by curious and eager faces. They stand a respectful distance away. There must be fifty sets of eyes on me. Some of them giggle as they examine my blonde hair and pale skin. One woman tentatively reaches out and, when I offer my hand, fifty other sets of hands take courage and reach out to touch me.
I feel hands all around me – all of these people eager to touch the woman whose white skin, to them, means “one blessed by God.” My throat begins to close with overwhelming emotion. My eyes fill with tears. “This is how Jesus must have felt,” I think, “when the hemorrhaging woman reached through the throng to touch his cloak.”
“I am not the Messiah,” I want to shout, as I struggle to move forward without jostling or offending anyone. “Hold your honour for someone more worthy than me.”
Finally, I make my way to where the Bishop and the others are standing. The crowd forms a reverent semi-circle around us. Eager faces await words of greeting from the benevolent Canadians who have brought the food they will eat for the next three months while they pray for rain.
The Bishop speaks first. He urges them not to let sin enter the village. His voice rises as he preaches to them of the blessings God will bestow on them if only they are faithful. They peer at his broad girth, and I wonder if they are hoping they can be as faithful as he has been.
The hot sun is unforgiving as the villagers wait – they’ve waited all day for us to arrive and now they are at the mercy of the Bishop’s words. All this they must endure to take home a few morsels for their children.
I feel hands urging me to step forward. “They want to hear from you,” someone whispers. Tiny needles pierce my throat as I try to speak. What can I say that is worthy of this moment? How can I assure them I long for friendship, not reverence?
“Thank you for your kind welcome,” I begin falteringly. “In Canada…” my voice breaks, “my father was a farmer just like you.” My mind races, searching the past for one kernel of connectedness. “We were poor, and sometimes we didn’t know if we would eat. Just like you, we’d wait for rain, and when it didn’t come…” I pause to wait for the interpreter to catch up. “When it didn’t come, we ate less than we did the year before. My father worked hard, just like you. And yet, sometimes the crop failed, or the markets sank and times were hard.” Pause. How can I let them know they are as valuable as I? “I know that, if there were no food on my table in Canada, and you were blessed with bountiful crops, you would help me too.” My voice drops to little more than a whisper. “I will pray that God will bring the rain.” The words come out of my mouth, but in the same instant I know that God will hear my anger and confusion before I remember to pray for rain.
Others speak, and I step back into the crowd. A group of grinning young boys wave me over. They gesture at the camera around my neck and strike a pose for a picture. As they ham it up, I life my camera to my face. Before turning away, I smile and wink, and they giggle behind their hands.
Someone thrusts a bucket into my hands and points in the direction of the mound of maize. Standing on the food they will eat, we fill the sacks held out with eager hands. Just enough sacks to satisfy the photo opportunity, and then we are whisked away again.
As we pull out of the village, I sink deeply into the leather seats, tears stinging my eyes. The Bishop’s bread and juice threaten to erupt from my churning stomach.
I turn to look back at the crowds. Part of me longs to jump out of the car and rush back to them. “You shouldn’t be thanking me,” I want to tell them. “You should hate me with every fiber of your being. I should be stoned in the village square for throwing away more food than you will eat this year. I should be flogged for my closets full of greed. At the very least, I should be barred from the village for keeping silent in the face of injustice.”
The Bishop chuckles in the front seat. “We’ll go to another village now,” he says, settling into his seat. “They have prepared a feast for us. You must try the goat.” He smacks his lips. “I do love goat.”
Later, as I try to swallow the dry hunk of goat meat the Bishop pushes my way, I silently plead to the God of confusion for absolution. Surely, there must be some worthy penance for my sins.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
And here's Nikki - nine, going on sixteen.
And here's Maddie, getting a little bored in the audience, wishing she could be onstage with her sisters.
I'm not sure what it has to do with Christmas, but Julie needs to dress like a Spanish dancer for the school concert tonight. Yeah, I suppose I could just slap a colourful skirt on her like the teacher suggested, but that's not the way my brain works. You may hear "costume", and I hear "opportunity". And the one person in the world who knows EXACTLY what I'm talking about is h8s2cln.
Sadly, though, I usually only get the inspiration or motivation the night before it's needed, so yes, I was up late last night. And, of course, when you're stomping on deadline's door, that's when something ALWAYS goes wrong. I had the red circle skirt all cut out, sat down at my sewing machine to stitch it together, and lo and behold - I'd broken my last sewing machine needle last week when I sewed a bunting bag for Peanut. So there I was, at 8:00 at night, rushing around the city trying to find a store that was open and would sell me a lousy sewing machine needle (the fabric store close to our place picked this opportune time to move across town)!
But in the end, Julie will look like the best little Spanish dancer around, with her red skirt and black poncho, with red sequins and a red flower in her hair! Look for pics tomorrow.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
It’s not the Christmas Eve phone call that I’ll miss. I never particularly liked rushing out to the shopping mall on the busiest day of the year because he hadn’t gotten around to buying Mom a gift.
And it won’t be the delay he caused each year by picking the very moment everyone was ready to open presents to go outside and feed the pigs.
It’s not his stubbornness or his lack of focus. It’s true - some things will be easier this year without Dad. I’ll get to relax on Christmas Eve. We’ll open presents sooner. We won’t have to plan meals around his unorthodox schedule.
But it’s the sound of him I’ll miss. His voice as he sang “Who is He in Yonder Stall?” His annual reading of the Christmas story in Isaiah or Luke – before any gifts could be opened. The silly sounds out of his mouth while he drifted off to sleep on the couch - still trying to participate in the family cacophony. His inquisitive tone as he pondered a new Christmas question – why does tradition assign the number three to the wise men? What makes us think Mary was riding a donkey?
It’s the feel of him I’ll miss. His shaggy whiskers on my cheek when he hugged me hello. His work-worn hands when he patted my shoulder in greeting or congratulations. His insistent fingers as he tapped my hand at the busy Christmas table to get my attention so he could share his musings.
It’s the smell of him I’ll miss. The Old Spice aftershave lotion he saved for Sundays and Christmas. The lingering odour of the barn embedded in his hair and the blankets Mom covered the couches with.
It’s the sight of him I’ll miss. The tilt of his head and the tiny grin that said “I’m happy to see you” louder than words. The bushy eyebrows over twinkling sky-blue eyes as he teased the grandchildren. The freckled hands cradling his well-fingered black leather King James Version Bible. The gentle smile saved especially for Mom for picking just the thing he needed for Christmas.
We’ll still gather at Christmas. We’ll still eat a big meal and exchange gifts. We’ll still read from the Bible – probably even from the same black leather Bible he fingered for all those years. We’ll play games, we’ll laugh, we’ll sing a few Christmas carols. That’s what we do at Christmastime – we won’t change that because Dad died.
But the heart of it won’t beat the same way this year. The Bible won’t sound the same from someone else’s lips. “Who is He in Yonder Stall” will sound empty without his voice or his unique line of questioning. Mom won’t get that special smile, and I won’t feel his whiskers on my cheek.
We’ll still celebrate the birth of Christ, but it will be the death of Dad that will hold captive our thoughts, our tastes and our smells.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
I'm a little tired, I'm happy to be home, my brain is fried from trying to think too hard and analyze too many people, my kids need my attention, I have laundry to do, and I need a day or two just to transition back into my life. I'll be back soon :-)
Just have to share one thought though - as I was flying over the prairies, I couldn't help but marvel at how lucky I am. When I was growing up a poor farm girl on those prairies, I never would have dreamed I'd some day get so many chances to fly over that same landscape and beyond. Somebody pinch me! I'm a lucky girl.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Friday, December 09, 2005
Sure enough, later that evening, when we were alone, she said, “I was asking about the word, because on my report card it says ‘Nicole is reluctant to speak up in class’.” Ah yes, I should have known that a week after she brought home the report card, she was still processing its contents. Other kids (like Julie) have long forgotten what it said in their report cards, but not Nikki. Nikki is a “processor”.
Let me tell you a little about the mind of this dear girl. She has always been a thinker of thoughts way beyond her young years. She’s always had a corner of the world on her young shoulders. From a very young age, it was clear that she couldn’t just be a “kid” – her little mind was always working; full of things too big for her to fully comprehend, but too important for her to ignore.
This is the girl who, at the age of 2, would worry when I pulled into the mall parking lot that I wouldn’t be able to find a parking spot. I’m sure the first word that came out of her mouth was in the form of a question. She needed to know EVERYTHING there was to know – all the little pieces of the puzzle that would help her put her world in order. We’d walk down the street – when she was still young enough to be in a stroller (and trust me, that didn’t last long) – and she’d see a man walking down the street. “Who’s that man? where’s he going? Does he have any children? Does he live close to us?” It wasn’t just a passing curiosity – it was like she NEEDED to know all these things. Only if she knew did she feel like her little world was safe. Oh, how wearying it was to ALWAYS be looking for answers that would satisfy her. “I don’t know,” was never good enough.
When she was about 3, her great-grandmother died. Driving home one night, a few days after Mémère died, Nikki looked up at the moon and asked “Mommy, who moves the moon?” Because she was too young for the scientific answer and I was too tired to try to help her understand, I said, “God does.” The look of concern on her face told me that, once again, that answer didn’t quite satisfy. “But what does Mémère Beauchemin do while God’s moving the moon?” It wasn’t just a random question, it was a genuine concern that Mémère might not be very well cared for up there in a heaven where God was busy being distracted by moon-moving duties.
When she was 4, we lost Matthew. She wanted to send our stroller up to heaven so God would have something to take Matthew for walks in. She also needed to know what we did with his body, and how all those little babies could fit in one little urn she saw buried under the ground.
When she was 5, the World Trade Centre came down, and I knew I’d have to handle it carefully with her. For one thing, I could never lie to this little girl. She NEEDED to know the truth. Fairy tales, like Santa or the Tooth Fairy were a waste of time with her – she needed truth, not fictional characters. She needed to KNOW it was Mommy sneaking into her room to put a quarter under her pillow. So, on 9/11, when she came home from kindergarten, I knew I’d need to tell her about what had happened – better she hear it from me than from the kids in the play ground; or worse yet, saw it on TV. After I’d explained what had happened, I found her standing at the window, watching some fire trucks go by. There was that familiar look of worry on her face. “Are they going to the towers, Mommy?” Somewhere in my communication, I’d forgotten to tell her the buildings that collapsed were far away from our house.
This is the same girl who will not take communion at church, because it just doesn’t make enough sense to her. How could bread and grape juice have anything to do with God? And if it doesn’t make sense to her, then it would be “cheating” to pretend otherwise.
So, when I heard the question about the word “reluctant”, I knew the question behind it was much deeper than just a passing interest. She needs to know what her teachers are saying. She needs to understand the problem. She needs to mull it over night after night.
Unfortunately, this is a little girl who runs the risk of getting lost in the system. As AC said when I reported her night of tears last week, some kids just don’t fit the mold when it comes to “books and larnin’”. No, it’s true. Some kids are too smart for school. When other kids are busy learning the ABC’s, she’s busy worrying that Hurricane Katrina might make its way to Winnipeg and wollop us like it wolloped New Orleans. Unfortunately, she’s in an environment where she doesn’t feel safe enough to ask the teachers all those questions she needs answers to.
So many days, my heart aches for that little girl. Other days, I gaze at her in wonder at her wisdom and depth. Once, a complete stranger looked at her picture and said “she has an old soul.” I don’t believe in re-incarnation, but if having an “old soul” means that you view the world through eyes that are older than your years, then she does indeed have an old soul.
I am humbled to be the mother of this wise and wonderful little girl. Some days, she seems too much for me. Do I give her the right answers to her many questions? Do I make the world safe enough for her? Have I helped her find enough coping mechanisms to face the world?
I’ve often said that she will either be a deep thinker and scholar, amazing the world with her insight and wisdom, or she’ll have a nervous breakdown before she reaches adulthood. I hope it’s the former. I hope the decisions we’re making as parents (like the fact that we’re not pulling her out of school when she seems completely lost in a class that’s way too big and she gets lost in the shuffle) are the right ones – or at least they’re “good enough”.
Please God, let her make it through. She’s a tender flower and I love her so, so much.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
2. Watching Julie put on a brave face, even though she was fighting disappointment when both of her sisters got something new for their rooms and she didn't.
3. Decorating the Christmas tree with my daughters (actually - they did most of the work :-)
4. Remembering the stories connected with each tree ornament. It's become quite an ecclectic bunch, and I love every one of them.
5. Finding paint in 3 of the 4 colours Nikki wants for her room at the Habitat Re-store for the price we'd have paid for just one gallon elsewhere. Yay!
6. Watching Maddie talk to the Santa figurine, sing lullabies to Baby Jesus, and offer to get the angel atop the tree a snack :-)
7. The VERY yummy recipe for the black bean dip I made for the shower tomorrow (and the fact that I get to scrape the bowl clean as I blog :-)
8. When Marcel came to wash dishes for me at 11:00 at night, after I'd been baking like a crazy (not to mention messy) woman. He could just as easily have gone to bed.
9. Finding the kind of boots Nikki really wanted in the right size this time.
10. Watching Nikki and her dad work together on a French school project - at least an hour of them working together without either of them losing patience with the other one - that must be a record! Maybe there's hope. Funny, with her it seems that almost every year, she reaches a bit of a breaking point (like last night), and then she turns the corner, she settles down a bit (like today) and school gets easier.
11. Finding the missing library book and cell phone in the cavernous hole in the easy chair. (Don't ask.)
12. A lovely home, decorated for Christmas.
13. Did I mention the black bean dip I'm scraping out of the bottom of the bowl? Good to the last drop! All the better with hint-of-lime tortilla chips!
14. Fully decorating the Christmas tree instead of leaving the bottom 2 feet clear - our children are growing up!
15. Hanging one of Matthew's angel ornaments near the top of the tree and watching the light sparkle through it.
16. None of my family whined about supper, even though I'd forgotten a key ingredient in the meatloaf.
17. The fact that tomorrow I get to see a bunch of my favourite people, and celebrate my new niece.
18. The encouraging words from my blog friends after last night's heartache.
19. The nice warm bed that I'm about to crawl into, and the nice warm husband who'll be next to me. G'night and sweet dreams.
Friday, December 02, 2005
"Why does my sister ALWAYS get better report cards than me? She gets almost all 'excellents', and I got 2 'needs improvement' and some 'fairs'."
"I never speak up in class because I'm too afraid I'll make a mistake and then I'll be embarrassed."
"I've been playing alone at recess for 2 weeks now because the last time I played with my friends, we got in trouble, and now I'm afraid of getting into trouble again. So I play alone."
"I wish I wasn't so dumb."
All this I heard tonight, and more. And now I am going to bed with a broken heart. How do I help this girl? Did I say the right things tonight?
Thursday, December 01, 2005
We spent the first part of the evening wandering around our favourite bookstore (where you have to climb Pooh's tree to get to the children's section :-) I'd promised to buy her a little something, since it was buddy night for us, and her sisters got concert tickets. Well, she didn't find what she wanted at the bookstore. Nor at the dollar store, or Children's Place, or Zellers. She didn't even want doughnuts at Tim Hortons. She wasn't in a very materialistic mood tonight, which made me smile because when I promised her something, I had visions of her begging for EVERYTHING.
In the end, we headed to Value Village (big second hand store), and her and I both found some "gently used" pants (I got lucky AGAIN! I don't know what's up with my luck with pants lately!) As her treat for the evening, she picked an Itsy Bitsy Spider game. Not bad for $1.99 - I love the fact that 3 year olds have no concept of the "monetary value" us adults place on things!
As we were leaving Value Village, she said to me "Are you having a rough evening with me, Mom?" Hmmm... what kind of signals was I sending her? "No, sweetie, I'm having a very FUN evening with you."
Later, in the car, this conversation took place - making me wonder once again, what she's picking up from me:
Me: "I really like you, Maddie."
Maddie: "Do you still like me when I'm bad, Mom?"
Me: "Yes, of COURSE. I like you ALL the time, Maddie. Every day of your life."
Maddie: "And when my sisters are making too much noise, do you still hear me?"
Hmmm... wonder what's behind THAT question?
Me: "Yes, sweetie, even when your sisters are making too much noise, I still TRY to hear you."
And then I turned the tables on her...
Me: "And when I'M bad, do you still like me?"
Maddie: "Mo-om - YOU'RE not ever bad!"
Me: "But sometimes I get grouchy and impatient."
Maddie: "Yeah, well sometimes I do too."
Do you WONDER why I like that kid so much? :-)
(By the way, ccap, Maddie picked out SEVERAL things she wanted to buy Abby, long before she found anything she wanted for herself :-)
The next time you’re submitting a resumé for a job you want, DON’T, under any circumstances:
- include a picture of yourself talking on a cell phone with a fake smile pasted on your face. Your wife might tell you it’s the best likeness of you, but that doesn’t mean a potential employer wants to see it.
- include a whole page of quotes from everyone you’ve ever known, expounding on how great you are. One word – OVERKILL!
- tell me you’re overqualified, but you want the job anyway. I’m not impressed.
- phone and ask if you can go straight to the interview stage and skip the resumé stage. What are you hiding – the fact that you don’t know how to write?
- write a three line sentence in your cover letter using every big word and excessive adjective you can think of. If an employment counselor told you it was a good idea, don’t trust her – she doesn’t have your best interests at heart.
- write a lazy e-mail. You may be able to get away with “l8r” or “btw” with your friends, but it just doesn’t work when you’re applying for a job. GRAMMAR, people!
- brag too much. There’s a fine line between honesty and outright arrogance – don’t cross it.
- cram your entire resumé onto one page. I don’t CARE if that’s the way the resumé book told you to do it – they were WRONG! I can’t POSSIBLY know enough about you to consider interviewing you if all I have is one page.
- apply for a job in Alberta, and then proceed to tell me you’re not willing to move there.
- bold almost every line in your cover letter. No, you won’t impress me by YELLING AT ME!
- tell me that you’ve hob-knobbed with some of the most wealthy people and corporations in the world. That might get you a job with an investment company, but not a non-profit organization.
- tell me you habitually work 16 hour days, 6 days a week. That tells me a few things about you – none of them flattering. Like a) you have no life and have to cling to your job for your sense of fulfillment, or b) you like to avoid your wife and kids and so spend most of your time at the office, or c) you work at a very inefficient pace and can never get the job done on time, or d) you like to soak the company for every bit of overtime you can get, or e) you haven’t got a clue what the word “balance” means, or f) you’re a workaholic with no personality.
- tell me that God wants you to have the job. God might, but he needs ME to cooperate!
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Tuesday is fine, Wednesday is fine - any other night of the week is okay, but don't mess with Monday. We barely venture out of the house.
Well, last night, the kids were all happy and having fun with each other, and it occurred to me, as I barked at them for completely harmless behaviour, that maybe it's just ME! I'M the one who's grumpy on Monday nights and needs the transition time! Not THEM! They're adjusting fine, and often complain of boredom on Monday nights because "Mommy won't do anything."
Gulp. Guess I'd better stop blaming them!
Anyone want to do stuff with my kids on Monday nights? I need a little time to myself... :-)
Monday, November 28, 2005
The last room in the battle against clutter has been conquered. A couple of weeks ago, after I’d finished the laundry room makeover, we had an unfortunate event that required a plumber to need access to the main drain hole in the basement. It just so happens that the main drain hole is in the floor of the tucked-away corner of the basement where old things go to die. It was full to overflowing with all kinds of things - baby stuff we don’t need anymore but wanted to keep for ccap and her boy, a toilet that we thought we’d eventually use if we turned that room into a bathroom, scrap pieces of wood, our christmas tree, the guitar Marcel dreams of learning to use, etc., etc.
It’s taken me about 2 weeks, but I finally finished sorting through it all this weekend. Now there’s only one small, neatly piled, stack of stuff I can’t bear to part with (I can’t ENTIRELY let go of all things sentimental, so I saved one box of old letters, playbills from some of the plays I’ve been involved in, etc. After all, some day I might be famous, and they’ll need SOMETHING to dig through to write my memoirs), one stack of things that ccap and her boy don’t have room to store at their house, the christmas tree, the guitar (maybe when he’s finished school, Marcel will have time to learn :-), and a bit of sporting equipment.
Now there are only a few more areas of my house that require attention: the hall closet, the drawers in the armoire in the living room, the drawers of my night stand, the top shelves of Julie and Maddie’s closets, the bookshelf beside the computer, and a few places that need a bit of a second go-round – wow the list is getting pretty short! By Christmas time, I’ll be able to celebrate a renewed house! My GOSH, I had no idea how good this would feel!
No more toys
Perhaps because she’s been watching me get rid of so much stuff, Maddie decided to join the parade. On Saturday she pointed to her toy box and said “Mom, I’m THREE years old now. I don’t NEED toys anymore.” She was quite determined I haul them out of the house, but I put her off for awhile because I wasn’t sure she’d feel the same by Sunday. Sure enough, on Sunday, she was back in the toy box, playing with her toys.
Room of many colours
I’ve been promising to paint Nikki’s room for quite some time now. She has a vision of walls of 4 different colours – lime green, blue, yellow, and orange. Some people would think I’m crazy, but I’m quite willing to go for it – once I can find the time. I’ve always liked a bit of colour, and I like to encourage creativity in my kids. I was worried about finding the right shades that would work together. I was quite excited this weekend, though, when I found the duvet covers I’d made when her and Julie lived in the sky blue room with hot air balloons on the wall (that’s now Maddie’s) – all four of the colours she wants are in the stripes of these duvet covers. Yay! They’ve still got plenty of use in them, and I think I still have enough leftover fabric to make a curtain and possibly a cushion cover. Ooohhh… I’m getting that old familiar “decorate the house” vibe that shows up every six months or so!
And they're not even teenagers yet!
This weekend seemed to be the weekend for heartache. Not mine, but my two oldest daughters. First it was Julie – crying herself to sleep because she HATES being the middle child. She gets picked on by her older sister, she gets hand-me-down clothes, she gets overlooked by her parents, she gets less attention than her little sister, etc. Sadly, I have to admit that she’s not all wrong. She’s a fast learner, so we don’t have to spend as much time with her, and she doesn’t require as much emotional energy as either of her sisters do. She’s the one who craves the most attention, so because I need a little more space than she provides me, I often push her away. Yeah, sometimes she gets a bum rap. In an effort to make her feel special, I baked cookies with her on Sunday – she LOVES to bake, and almost always ends up being the only one in the kitchen when there’s baking going on.
Then it was Nikki’s turn. She was having trouble with her multiplication homework and it makes her feel stupid, so the tears started to flow. She was particularly troubled because Julie finds schoolwork so easy. It’s tough being the oldest child when your younger sister can whiz through school work (and piano) with barely an effort. She gets tired of hearing Julie brag that she’s read ALL of the Harry Potter books, and hearing people proclaim how impressed they are. So I sat through the second set of tears, trying to think of the right words to ensure my daughters they are special, talented, and loved.
We had friends over for lunch on Sunday, and I made some very yummy soup (if I do say so myself) – corn and bean chowder, and peanut tomato vegetable. Yum, yum, yum. We’ve done this a few times now - made a couple of pots of soup on Saturday night, and then invited friends for lunch after church. I think we’ll do it more often. It reminds me of growing up – we almost always had people over for lunch when we were growing up. We went to a small country church, and there were often visiting speakers (we went for years without a pastor). Since my dad was primary leader (deacon) it usually fell to him and mom to entertain.
The best way to do Christmas shopping
I have successfully convinced my daughters that the BEST STORE IN THE WORLD is Ten Thousand Villages, an international fair trade store that sells interesting stuff from all over the world. It’s not far from our house, so it’s a favourite Saturday afternoon destination. Last year, they each got to pick an international Christmas ornament from there, and now they’ve convinced me it’s a “tradition”. So we went there Saturday, and, in addition to picking their ornaments, they pointed out what they wanted for Christmas. Yay! I think I can do ALL of my Christmas shopping in one store – and it’s a funky fair trade store to boot! (Marcel – hope you don’t mind getting a bag of fair trade coffee for Christmas :-) I have to say - it's kinda fun shopping with the girls and having interesting conversations about why it's better to buy stuff THERE than at Wal-mart!
Thursday, November 24, 2005
I sit here staring at them, knowing full well that I will disappoint forty-nine people. Only one person will get the job, forty-nine will not. Some of them (maybe 10 or so) will get their hopes raised even further when they're invited for an interview. But then 9 or so will have those hopes dashed.
They're probably all wonderful people, those 49 - with skills, abilities, and personalities. Several of them could probably do the job equally well. But in the end, only one will get the chance. Only one will rise to the top. It may not be the best one - it may only be the one who's managed to impress us the most. That's the way it goes, though, you can only make choices based on your own impressions.
That's alot of weight on my shoulders. It's why it's not always fun to be a manager.
To those 49 people - I apologize in advance. Try not to take it personally.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
No really... run along. I won't take it personally if you leave me. But come back soon - I promise I'll stop posting about dead people soon.
Ten years ago, the cradle made its way into our home. It was leant to us by Ed, a man I worked with at the time. “You can use it as long as you need it,” he’d said, with a twinkle in his eye, “but I may want it back some day if I have grandchildren.” His sons were in high school and university at the time – they weren’t even CLOSE to thinking about children.
Last night, I tried to phone Ed. I looked up his name in the phone book, and tried the number I thought might be his. I got a recorded announcement. Today, I phoned Suzanne, a friend of mine who still works in the place Ed and I worked ten years ago (he’s since retired), thinking she might be able to help me track him down.
“Strange you should call now,” said Suzanne. “I was just at Ed’s funeral. He died last month. He had a heart attack and died on his kitchen floor.”
Odd. I’ve had that cradle for 10 years, and for nearly 3 it has sat in our basement waiting to be returned. Why would I suddenly try to get in touch with Ed, after years of being out of touch with him, only a few weeks after he died?
I don’t think Ed even made it to sixty. I wonder if he ever had grandchildren.
I liked Ed. He was one of those affable people who’s fun to have around. He always had a joke up his sleeve, and usually, a smile on his face. For a short while, about 13 years ago, he was my boss. Later he became my colleague – my equal. I’m not sure why, but he used to call me “Heather-bell”. He was kind and generous. Life hadn’t always been kind to him – he’d lost his wife a few years before and had to raise his 2 sons alone. Early in our friendship, however, we shared a common experience - he was getting married around the same time I was.
In a strange way, Ed played a rather pivotal role in my life. It was from his lips that I first heard the term “World Wide Web”. His son was in university at the time, and he’d come home raving about something called the world wide web, where you could go onto a computer and look up stuff from all over the world. Ed had seen it with his own eyes. The university students at the time were dreaming about all that this might mean for the future – their future and the world’s.
Funny how this conversation stands out in my mind. I must have looked at him in disbelief. World Wide Web? What in the world was that? How could computers communicate with each other? And even if they could, what good would it do? Even as I asked the questions, though, I sensed that this was something important - which is probably why I remember the conversation.
Now here I am, only about 12 years later, and the world wide web has indeed changed our lives. This blog attests to that. Who’d have thought, when we first heard of the wonders of the internet, that just a few short years would see us all posting journal entries, shopping, researching, sharing pictures, and chatting online? Only 10 years ago, our first baby was born and made her way into that cradle. The only way we could share pictures with loved ones was through the mail. Now, a few short hours after my niece was born, I could e-mail her picture all over the world.
The cradle that Ed leant me now sits in my bedroom, reminding me of the passages of time. Two of Ed’s babies and three of mine have rested their little heads on its cushion. And now, its original owner has gone to meet his maker. The cradle hasn’t changed much in that time, but the world has. Those five babies who slept in that cradle face a different reality than we did when we were their age. I don't know if it's better or worse - just different.
When I watch my children fearlessly surf the world wide web, with the assumption of youth - that this is the only way it's ever been, I wonder what kind of passages their lives will see.
Addendum: I just found Ed’s obituary on-line. It turns out he was sixty-two. It doesn’t look like he had any grandchildren yet. Too bad. He would have been an awesome Grandpa.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Uncle Lionel is gone. His life has ended. Seventy-eight (I think) years of living, loving, working, playing, parenting, grandparenting, sleeping, eating, crying, talking, driving a school bus, singing, smiling - over. Just like that. One last breath, and then it's over.
Another family has lost their dad. Another woman has lost her husband. Another group of children have lost their grandfather. My mother-in-law has lost her brother. It happens every day. People die. It's almost routine - each week the newspaper is full of death notifications. But for this family, it only happens once - today. No other day will be like today. No other feeling in their lives will come close to preparing them for what they will feel today.
I sit in silence and think of them - this family who is suffering loss. I think of them, and the tears form in my eyes and the lump forms in my throat. I know what it's like to say good-bye to the man called "Dad". I know what it's like to lose someone who has a unique set of memories, a unique perspective, and unique wisdom that you can never turn to again. I know the tears that form on your pillow when you long for just one more chance to touch his age-worn hand, or see the twinkle in his eye, or hear his voice. I know the gasp of pain when you see other children in a supermarket call out to their Grandpa and then run to grasp his hand. I don't know what this family has suffered, watching their father deteriorate like he has, but I know what it feels like when he's gone.
Good-bye Uncle Lionel. You will be missed.
By now, we’ve probably gotten rid of enough stuff to fill a small home. Where did it all come from? WHY do we have so much STUFF? We don’t think of ourselves as overly materialistic, and it’s not like either of us are shopaholics. So why do we have it?
Truth is, most of what got junked yesterday was either hand-me-downs or stuff we inherited with the house. We hadn’t bought much of it, but somehow, at some point in time, we inherited it – or it inherited us. And now it no longer has a use in our home (and some of it never did).
Yes, Marcel and I both have some packrat tendencies. We have trouble parting with something that is either a) of some remote sentimental value (like do we REALLY want to throw away the heart-shaped box I made and then filled with homemade candy when Marcel and I were dating and I was a poor student who couldn’t afford a valentine gift?) or b) might be used some day (what if we own a cabin some day and we’ll be looking for an ugly set of pink venetian blinds – THEN we’ll be sorry we threw these away).
If you came to my house, you’d look around and wonder “where did they FIT all of that stuff?” Because it doesn’t exactly look sparse yet, even AFTER we purged and culled. And, even though it was a little cluttered before, it wasn’t like we were living in one of those houses where you have to blaze a trail through piles and piles of assorted collections (my siblings will remember Tommy and Sarah). (What’s the name of that show? Clean Sweep? Well, every ONE of those homes looks a whole lot worse than mine EVER did.) But over the years, we stuffed the closets, cupboards, and storage spaces full of all those things we couldn’t bear to part with, and somewhere along the line, the clutter seemed to multiply. (I could never confirm it, but sometimes I suspected there were naughty things going on in those closets – leading unfortunately to litters of baby clutter being reproduced.)
Some day, I’ll write a long post about WHY I’ve been on a fierce quest to rid myself of so much clutter. There are so many reasons. It’s been a bit of a spiritual journey, actually, in an odd way. Part of it relates to our quest for more simplicity that I wrote about a few months ago. But more about that later. I’m still mulling it all over in my mind, and don’t feel quite prepared to put it into words yet.
This past week, after a very unfortunate incident (involving a sewer, a plumber, a big snaky machine, and a messy floor - blech) forced me to tear apart the last remaining stronghold in the battle against clutter – the corner of the basement where old things go to die – it’s been on my mind a lot. I even used the experience during church – to share how cleaning junk out of your basement is not unlike a journey God wants each of us to take. Intrigued?
Yes, you’ll hear more about it soon. But first, I have to figure out what to do with the old hockey equipment, the baby back-pack I bought at a garage sale that none of my kids fit into any more, and all the craft supplies I never get around to using… Want to decorate a willow wreath for Christmas, anyone? I’ve got bags full of them – cheap!
Thursday, November 17, 2005
This is a powerful film. Not only is there a strong and moving plotline, the cinematography is brave and captivating. I love a director who will risk keeping the focus on something as simple as an overturned umbrella floating down the river for a little longer than might be acceptable in Hollywood’s rush to entertain. The other thing that really captivated me is the sparse dialogue. She (Deepa Mehta) tells a powerful story without wasting a lot of words. So much of the story is communicated by visuals and the viewer’s own response and imagination. Striking.
One of the themes throughout the movie is the theme of “desire”. These widows have almost no access to any of the desires of their hearts. Some of them have found surreptitious ways of indulging (eg. one hides a puppy in the attic, one has regular rendezvous’ at her window with a drug provider), but mostly they are denied what they long for. The oldest member of the group rambles on and on about her wedding day, when she was a mere child of seven – her recounting of it always centres around the abundance of sweets that day. She dreams of being able to eat sweets again – something she has been denied for many years. At one point, Chuyia sneaks out with some of the money she’s collected from begging and buys a ladoo (some sweet local treat) for this old woman. Her delight in indulging in it is almost orgasmic.
There is a tension throughout the movie about whether people are better off denying or indulging in desire. When one of the central characters becomes involved in an illicit romance, you can’t help but celebrate her courage and the near satisfaction of her desires. On the other hand, you wish the lascivious men who indulge in their own desires and thus reduce the widows to lowly prostitutes had been denied their desires because of the way it destroys the dignity and power of the widows.
In one of the most powerful moments of the movie, one of the widows is talking to a spiritual advisor. He asks her if she has attained enlightenment. She answers “if that means ridding my body of human desires, than no. I have not.”
Is that what “enlightenment” should be – ridding oneself of human desires? Or should we only rid ourselves of those desires that hurt other people? Are some desires permissible and others not? It’s hard to say. The desire that results in children being prostituted or abused, for example, can have no merit in it. The desire for a good meal or (as in my last post) a tasty dessert now and then, seems harmless.
I think God made us with longings and desires. This is not inherently evil. We long for comfort, beauty, and joy. This longing is what makes some us of us paint great masterpieces, craft beautiful songs and poems, build awe-inspiring churches, or cook great meals.
Sometimes, however, desire leads us down dangerous pathways. Where is that line in the sand that leads to destruction?
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Maddie (watching me cook supper): What are we having for dessert?
Me: Why are you worried about dessert before we've even had supper?
Maddie: The whole WORLD was made for dessert, Mom!
You have two choices around here when it comes to winter - you can whine and complain about it for months, or you can embrace it. I do a little bit of both. By the end of 4 or 5 long cold months, I get a little whiny. But at the beginning, when a blanket of fresh sparkly snow turns this place into a winter wonderland, I love it. Yesterday, as I trudged through a foot of snow in my heavy duty winter boots, down sidewalks that had yet to be cleared, I couldn't help but marvel at the beauty all around me - drooping branches tipped with white, fire hydrants with fluffy white hats, bundled children - showing nothing but their eyes - tossing snowballs at each other and laughing - it was all good. The girls and I spent about an hour outside last night, having a snowball fight, clearing snow off ccap's car (it's parked in our driveway), playing, and taking pictures. Julie tried to make a snowman, but it's not really the right kind of snow (yes, for those uninitiated southerners, there ARE different KINDS of snow).
Yes, we have 4 distinct seasons here - aren't we lucky?
Thursday, November 10, 2005
And now I will spend the evening loving my family, hearing my children's stories, holding my niece, and life will be good again.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Road trip is over.
I survived enemy territory.
There were several awkward moments, like when the person-who-shall-remain-nameless introduced herself to the person next to me (who had travelled here from Kenya) as "the person who used to work for XXX until HEATHER fired me."
People were friendly, though guarded.
There was a giant "elephant" in the room that everyone saw and no-one mentioned.
The road trip was fun - I love miles and miles of open road with nothing and no-one in the car but me and my thoughts.
Found a great radio station - alternative/indie with lots of fun music and no commercials.
Called a good friend for moral support as I sat in the car trying to mentally prepare myself - she came through for me. Thank God for friends.
I'm only in Calgary for a few moments and then I rush out to pick up my boss at the airport and head to Red Deer - next leg of the road trip.
Thanks for joining me on my road trip :-) Your presence gave me strength.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
So I'm thinking... it sure would be nice to bring along some friendly reinforcement as I head out into the "war zone". Doesn't every soldier face the battlefront with reinforcements? Who wants to come along? It could make for an interesting trip. Tomorrow, after staying with my brother and sister-in-law and hanging out with my other brother and sister-in-law and all the kids (thank GOD for family), I have to drive 4 hours into the war zone. Just imagine the trip, if we rented a bus and you all came along to "shore me up".
Cuppa would make us all thermoses of tea to keep us warm and cozy on the ride. Anvilcloud would take pictures of each of us, and switch our heads or edit out our blemishes. We'd upload pictures of the "enemy" and he'd photoshop them until they were unrecognizable and worthy of a good laugh. The Wikkerink sisters would bring baskets of delicious food and we'd stop to picnic at a roadside park. Linda would help me remember I'm stronger than I think I am, and Michele would make jokes about the-person-who-shall-remain-nameless. Yvonne would help us keep our minds off our troubles by engaging us all in some creative activity. Accidental Poet would keep us entertained with stories about carved candles we found in the glove compartment. CCAP (with whom I've taken more roadtrips than anyone) would bring great snacks and take a awesome group photo while we stopped for lunch. She'd sit by me without saying much, but she'd help me remember I could handle anything. We'd all take turns cuddling with little Abigail. Stephanie would tell us about her play and pass around a few good books to keep us entertained as we drove. We'd trust Dale behind the wheel of the bus, because of his many hours driving a train. He'd remind me to "step out of the boat" with courage. Colleen would bring her puppy and we'd all take turns playing with him. Eric and Micah would entertain us with some Mandolin and Fiddle pickin'. Others, like Mel and Suzanne would tell stories that would keep us on the edges of our seats.
Imagine - the blog bus out on the open road. By the time I reached my destination, I'd be invincible.
That is what I will think about those four hours in a car all alone tomorrow.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
I'm tempted to post pictures, but I don't want to steal all the thunder from ccap. I'll leave the first photos to her. She'll be in the hospital until tomorrow - check her blog some time after that for photo evidence.
It was a long and hard delivery, but in the end, the family is complete and happy. You know, after having a stillborn baby, a person never ever takes a live healthy baby for granted. There were moments during the long day of waiting, that I had mini panic attacks imagining the worst, because I know the worst CAN happen. But thank God, in the end, the very best happened and we are all celebrating.
Abigail's cousins are very, very happy. They can hardly think of anything else. They've been dancing around the house rejoicing. This baby will be very special to them.
Friday, November 04, 2005
It turns out that, on the bus ride home from school yesterday, meanboyC (one of 2 mean brothers that lives in the housing complex across the street - I've blogged about them before) asked her, in front of a bunch of other 4th and 5th grade boys, whether she was a virgin. Not knowing what it meant, and not wanting to be embarrassed, she said "no". Of course, it was the wrong answer, and the boys errupted in peals of laughter at her expense. Before the end of the bus ride, she knew what the word meant, and knew the cause of their laughter and her humiliation.
"Mom," she said, through her tears, "I pretended I was reading so they wouldn't notice that I was trying not to cry."
GRRRR!!!! I am just SO annoyed at these two pipsqueaks who continuously torment my children and other children at school and on the bus. It's been going on for a few years now - they are rotten little children who only know how to get attention through bad behaviour. Both Marcel and I have had opportunity in the past to yell at them at the bus stop for doing stupid things like dodging cars as they drive by, or throwing snowballs at passing motorists.
At supper time, we talked about it as a family, and we heard story after story of their bad behaviour. Julie reports meanboyM using the "F" word to her in the playground, and teasing her to make her feel stupid. And the stories go on and on.
I wish they'd get kicked out of school! I know they probably have a tough family life - their mother looks permanently frazzled trying to cope with her life - but I WISH they didn't have to take that out on MY KIDS!
This morning, Marcel drove the girls to school (Nikki was nervous of getting teased again on the bus) and he stopped to talk to the principal about it. Turns out there was another report of misbehaviour on the bus yesterday, so he may be suspended from bus use AGAIN. But these short term suspensions aren't doing any long term good. And in the meantime, so many kids, including my own, are getting subjected to idiotic bullying.
Sometimes I wish that pain was a community burden thing - that you could lessen the load by divvying it out to people who were willing. I'd take a share of it for her today.
This morning we hear that she is 3 centimetres dilated. Still waiting...
Do you THINK I'll be able to concentrate at work today?
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Sadly, this room represents the worst in me – my propensity for clutter, my inability to complete mundane tasks like laundry, my sloppiness, my procrastination, my avoidance of all things “housework” – I could go on and on, but the list is starting to depress me. I’m sure by now you’re getting the picture WHY so few people have ever been invited in.
I could wax allegorical about how this room represents the deep dark recesses of my soul – those ugly pieces of my personality that I hide from the world. But I’ll leave that to you to figure out. Suffice it to say that this room needed work – desperately.
Well, I’m happy to report that this room (like much of the rest of my house) has undergone a transformation. I decluttered, I scrubbed, I tossed, I tore out old musty carpeting, and I got down on my hands and knees and put in a new floor.
Without much further adieu, here are the before and after pictures.
This is how it has looked for nearly all of the 7 years we’ve lived in this house. Disgusting, isn’t it? Junk everywhere, scraps of the world’s ugliest carpet on the floor (which, sadly, still covers the rest of the basement until we can afford to replace it), overflowing laundry baskets, you name it.
And this is what it looks like now. Everything in its place, laundry cleaned and put away (where it can FIT now that everyone’s dressers and closets are decluttered), and a clean and shiny new floor! Nothing fancy – I just bought those cheap peal-and-stick floor tiles – they may not last forever, but they sure look great now!
So there you have it. I’m hoping a room transformed will continue to inspire me to keep all those nasty bad habits in check (or at least SOME of them - can't expect perfection, after all).
Yes, I finally feel better, but when I finally shook off the virus, I found myself caught in a whirlwind of stuff that got left undone when I was out of commission for a week. Perhaps after today, I can catch my breath again.
I had a couple of posts ready to go... even typed up one and tried to post it about 5 times, but our computer's been acting finicky lately. Marcel downloaded some new stuff - cybersitter and new firewall stuff, and it doesn't seem to like Blogger. Nor does it like some of the blogs I normally visit. (NO - they're not nasty blogs - just ordinary ones like Anvilcloud's - nothing pornographic about THAT!)
So, here's a list of some of the things I was GOING to post:
- for Halloween, my kids dressed as a Princess (Maddie), a punk rocker (Julie), and the Pillsbury Doughboy (Nikki). I used to go to great lengths to dress them in costumes that had some relation to each other (and as some of you know - spent many hours on a sewing machine late at night on October 30th nearly every year), but the more they develop their own personalities, the more their costumes reflect their own creativity. I like the way their little minds work. I'll try to post pics some day.
- I have transformed my laundry room, and I have a great post about it, but that's the one that my computer won't cooperate with. I cleaned, I decluttered, I scrubbed, I tugged out old carpetting, and I got down on my hands and knees and applied floor tiles. Now I just go in there on a regular basis to gaze upon my work and smile.
- I've fallen behind at work and because I'm missing a staff person (the one that got fired), I'm having to pull double-duty on a bunch of stuff. I lay awake at nights sometimes stressing about the stuff I've forgotten to do and the people I've let down because I let things slip through the cracks. I hope it gets better soon.
- On Sunday I leave for Alberta for a trip I really dread (related to the above point). But on the up-side, I get to see some of my family in Calgary.
- I'm waiting almost as anxiously as CCAP for the baby that hasn't arrived yet. For nearly ten years, CCAP and her boy have been like second parents for my kids, and now I'll finally get to do the same for theirs. I get all teary-eyed just thinking about it. I'm not much of a "baby-holder" (I leave that up to Marcel, who can't get enough of it), but you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll fight for THIS baby.
That's enough for now. Gotta get back to work now.
Are ya happy now, Michele? ;-)
Friday, October 28, 2005
Here's one of the things I meant to blog about... Nikki and Julie came home from school on Wednesday so excited they were practically jumping out of their skin. They'd won the grand prize for the chocolate-selling fundraising campaign. (No, they're not marketing wizards - they didn't have to sell the most, just sell more than 2 boxes to get entered into the draw.) And the grand prize? A portable DVD player! Not something we need or would necessarily choose to buy, but it sure was fun to see how excited they were. And next time we take a road trip... well, maybe there'll be a little less fighting in the back seat.
And I just gotta ask - why is there so much CRAP on daytime TV? Are the scheduling wizards at all those TV stations assuming their entire daytime audience is brain-addled? I only flicked it on a couple of times while I was home, but MAN there was nothing there to even TEMPT me to leave it on.
Oh, and here's another thing I would have blogged about, had our computer cooperated. It's another "Bathtime with Maddie" story (that's Maddie's and my best bonding time - in the tub).
Maddie: (picking up a small bowl) Mom, you pretend you're a doctor. (scoops water from between her legs) I'll pee in the bowl and you pretend you're checking my pee to see if I have an infection.
I think I prefer the stethescope version of "playing doctor"!
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
In the meantime, if you need something to distract YOU, do what I did - go visit www.catiecurtis.com and on the right side, scroll down to "Featured track - People look around" and click on "Listen". There are worse ways to kill a few minutes in the middle of the night than to listen to a good protest song! (It's a post-Katrina song, and Catie Curtis is a kick-ass folk singer who knows how to make a protest song sound enchanting.)
Oh - and on another topic, I'm pretty sure all of my siblings and some of my siblings-in-law read yesterday's post, and yet NOT ONE COMMENT! What's up with THAT? Are you HEARTLESS? Yes, even those of you who LURK could have come out of the closet for THIS ONE! Yeesh.
It's 2:19, and the extra strength Tylenol is starting to kick in. I'm going back to bed. To sleep? Perchance to dream. (Though I certainly don't want a repeat of yesterday's dream! I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that it had something to do with soiled underwear and an embarrassing situation.)
Monday, October 24, 2005
I think I got only 2 letters from Dad in my lifetime. He was a rare and contemplative communicator - which means he was a man of a few words but he made most of those words count.
This week, while I was sorting through yet another box of clutter in my basement, I came across one of those two letters. The "backstory", for those readers not related to me, is this... I was nineteen and living in Banff at the time. I was miserable in the worst job I've ever had - cleaning hotel rooms for the summer. My Dad was a farmer, and also had an off-farm job at the Auction Mart. At the time this was written, my brother Dwight was working with Dad on the farm. Dad had nicknames for all of his children and grandchildren - mine was "H".
Here's what he wrote:
June about 7, or so
I'm fine + you are probably better than when I last heard from you. - just came in from getting pump fixed - (want to get to Auction Mart again) - going to drink coffe just now - Jarvis's here to put in last field of grain - (Sun is shining)
Read 2 letters by H, - don't get to write letters to daughters and sons often - you might guess why this one is written - read letters with shiny eyes. One of best paragraphs, - you almost offered Dwight work, - sounded sensible by a sensible daughter. Feel close to you - you're only one with work similar to mine - I have to clean out quarters with last night's occupants still in them too - One of them kicked me - must have splintered my leg - said leg quite swollen - cheer up - g by
Thank you for material for Cindy's dress - when I - we were in Banf I carried family up mountain - should try it again sometime. (I saw the Gondolas when I was there) - we rode on them.
Someday I think I'll frame letter you sent me on my birthday - get lots of letters from people with completely different thoughts of me - some would prob-ly rather see me in jail? - Dwight wants me to come help him with pump.
P.M. Work waiting for you when you come home - approx 3 ft manure in 2 barns - you could maybe work with Dwight - pay 2 1/2 meals per day (above partly serious)
Unscramble above as best you can
And because no letter from Dad would be complete without his unmistakeable handwriting, here's a scanned version.
As much as I'm happy to get rid of clutter in my house, this is one thing I WON'T be throwing away.
Truth is, I enjoyed his visit for other reasons than just the tea. It was a treat having him here. He's a like-minded soul, an easy house guest, and an all-around likeable guy. I spent about 3 hours with him and his wife and son over breakfast in Kenya last February and we made a connection fairly quickly. Sometimes friendships happen that way - almost serendipitously. When he asked about stopping in Winnipeg on a cross-Canada tour, it seemed only natural to have him over at our house.
And let me just say, it's been so wonderful having a relatively clutter-free home lately. It makes it SO much easier to have weekend guests, when you don't have to fly into a frenzy, hiding things in closets and back bedrooms to prepare for them. And on Sunday, we had seven extra people here for lunch, and the whole thing was pretty relaxed because I didn't have to worry that they'd peek into the wrong door and expose all our hidden messes. This house is not perfect yet, but it's a whole lot closer than it was a few months ago. Now let's hope we can KEEP it that way. (I gotta say, coming home Friday night after a long week at work, it sure was a treat to see that Marcel had washed the floor, cleaned the entranceway, and scrubbed our rather disgusting ensuite bathroom. He rocks!)
Friday, October 21, 2005
The board room was comfortable. The seats were nice and squishy – a step up from most boardrooms. I hadn’t been in the room long when the three Bobs swooped in on me. I don’t think any of them was really named Bob, but that’s what they’ve become in my mind. Three thirty-something men cut from the same Corporate Christian cloth. Dressed in suits of various shades of grey-blue-green complimented with ties with just a hint of colour. Short gelled hair. Clean-shaven faces. Not a hint of dirt under their closely-cropped fingernails. Cell-phones and palm pilots hooked onto their belts. The perfect look for someone whose job it is to market Christianity. Approachable, professional, conservative but with a touch of fun.
In a room full of Christian communicators, set in a backdrop of the local Christian radio station/television/media conglomerate, I felt a little like the kid trying to pass herself off as one of the popular kids when she knows she belongs at the misfit table. Did it show on my face that I didn’t really fit in? Did the fact that I’m an “often-backslidden-always-questioning-nontraditional” follower of Christ shine from my face? If I opened my mouth, would I be noticed for not spewing forth the requisite “Christianese”? Or were there other people just like me in the room, searching for a genuine faith, hoping to build a world where the word “Christianity” doesn’t come with so much baggage?
Turns out there WERE people just like me in the room, and I sat next to one of them. I suspect others at our table were also cut from a similar cloth. The person next to me was Aiden Enns, publisher and managing editor of a new magazine called Geez. Read the first line of their mission statement, and you know he’s a like-minded soul. “Geez magazine has set up camp on the fringes of faith. It is a refuge and inspiration for people of restless faith and blessed instinct.” And their byline on their ad campaign – “Chicken poop for the soul”. We didn’t get to talk much, but it didn’t take long to find some common ground. He also used to be an editor for Adbusters, a fascinating anti-consumerism magazine that loves to poke fun at corporate culture.
After lunch, the three Bobs got up to speak. For the next 15 minutes, we were subjected to all the polished corporate Christian marketing lingo they could muster. “We’re here to build relationships.” “Our radio station is here to help you reach your goals and expand your ministry.” Blah, blah, blah, blah. It was painful. I suppose it’s necessary, some of this marketing stuff, and ironically, I have to do some of it in my own work. But it just smacks so much of artificiality. If nothing else, when I serve as “marketer” in my work, I want to be authentic. I want to be real, human, and honest. I don’t want to look like a “Bob” in corporate attire with corporate literature and a corporate powerpoint presentation. I want to be Heather the ordinary, flawed human with passion, ideas, and perhaps a bit of a message to share. If I start turning into a “Bob” someone please slap me.
During the presentation, I scribbled a note to my seatmate. “Pretty much goes against anything you represent, eh?” He nodded and smiled. “But,” he said, “I can’t alienate myself from this. I have to be open to the people within Corporate Christianity that want to hear a different message.” He’s right, I suppose. We can’t just paint them all with the same brush and dismiss them, even though it’s tempting.
It’s weird, this Christianity thing. I still cling to it, because it matters to me. I still feel the need to have God in my life. But when I see this version of Christianity that screams of exclusionism and little narrow boxes, a part of me wants to run screaming from the room.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
1. Finally, after all these years of having mis-matched dishes and cups, our cupboard is full of dishes that MATCH! All those mugs that say “Q-94 FM” or “Friends Forever” and all those odd glasses from sets we used to own have finally left the building! When I get paid for something I write, I usually consider it “development money” and buy myself something that helps my development as a writer/artist. This time, when the cheque came through from Winnipeg Free Press, I decided to use it to “develop” my kitchen, and instead of books, I bought dishes. It’s the first time we’ve EVER had a decent set of dishes.
2. Let me just say this – it really, really sucks when you have to fire someone. Really. Makes me wonder if I should re-consider my career choice of becoming a manager. Next job, I don’t want to be this accountable for people.
3. Seems I’m on a bit of a sewing kick. Last night, I sewed ponchos for the girls. Well, technically “sewing” is a bit of a stretch, since mostly what I did was cut them out of fleece and cut fringes around the edge.
4. Maddie, being the social butterfly that she is, seems to be attracting a lot of attention these days. Her “phone” never stops ringing, and most evenings, she can be found in the living room entertaining a long procession of guests. The other night, she welcomed Elmo, Big Bird, Mickey Mouse, The Grouch, someone named Gumpa, her friend/doll Misty, and several other celebrities and non-celebrities to our home, and all of them decided to stay for a sleepover. Apparently though, they ALL wanted to sleep in her bed, so at about 10:30, she was in our room complaining that all of her friends were crowding her and she’d have to sleep in OUR bed. It also appears that some of her houseguests have been less-than-gracious. She worked hard to make a tent for Elmo, and in the end he complained that he didn’t like it. Sheesh.
5. How can a three year old POSSIBLY take up more space in a bed than two adults? With those flailing arms and legs, it’s like sleeping with a restless OCTOPUS!
6. Why did I insist on buying that super-duper wind-em-up Pampered Chef cheese grater, only to abandon it when it got forever clogged and return to using my old-fashioned run-of-the-mill $5 version? Past experience should have proved that most of the time, “slice-em-dice-em” kitchen gadgets are a WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY. Anyone want a high end cheese grater? Speak now, or it gets added to the goodwill bag.
7. It’s amazing what you can do in 5 minutes when the pressure’s on. I just wrote a press release in less time than it took me to write this random list. Not that I wish there were always pressure, but sometimes that’s just the impetus I need to re-ignite my brain.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Okay, okay, so I'm exagerating a little. But they DID learn to sew today - isn't independent living the next logical step?
Nikki was first up.
Then Julie took her turn.
Their creations - pajama pants! I just had to help with the tough parts - like the crotch and elastic. :-)
Maddie was convinced that she had enough to make a pair of pants for Peanut out of the scraps. :-)
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Here are a few photos of a great night with great people.
Delicious and bountiful food in a beautiful, welcoming home.
An awesome bonfire!
Julie and Maddie - warming their buns by the fire :-)
This is what family is for :-) Nikki with her auntie and uncle and almost-cousin.
Maddie, Yvonne and George hangin' with Buddy
Me, Michele, Linda, Maddie, and Micah. If you want to read the story of the quilt, you can find it on Linda's blog. (Michele, I ALMOST posted the other picture, but decided to be kind :-)
There you have it - a few more reasons to be thankful :-)
But yesterday I got to go for FREE! A co-worker was planning to go with her husband, but he baled out at the last minute, so she asked me.
What did we see? A delightfully delicious play called Copenhagen at the Prairie Theatre Exchange. Wow! What a feast for the literary and intellectual senses! Here's what the playbill says:
In 1941, the German physicist Werner Heisenberg made a strange, clandestine trip to Copenhagen to see his Danish counterpart, Niels Bohr. Their work together on quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle had revolutionized atomic physics. But now the world had changed and the two men were on opposite sides in a world war. Why Heisenberg went to Copenhagen and what he wanted to say to Bohr are questions that have vexed historians ever since, but Michael Frayn's fiercely intelligent and daring play poses some possible answers.
At first I thought I might get lost in the complexity of quantum physics, and there was a fair bit of that, but it was brilliantly intertwined with relationships, ethics, the tricks of memory, the complexity of war, the pain of losing someone, etc., etc., ETC. There were so many layers to it, as it shifted from narrative to the re-enactment of memories and back again, that you were never sure if you were catching everything, but you never wanted to let your mind wander. It was so well-crafted and well-written that you always felt like you were getting fed delectable morsels of a bittersweet treat.
If it comes to your town, go see it. Or, better yet, pay a visit to Winnipeg and see it here! I think you'll be glad you did. I liked it so much, I'd see it again.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
4. Nikki, Julie, Matthew, Maddie
6. my siblings
7. the fact that my siblings were smart enough to marry three of the best people in the world
8. my nieces and nephews
9. my Mom
10. three more bags of clutter ready to leave my house
11. my friends
12. my job
14. the dishwasher
15. the comforter my mom made from the wool of my dad's sheep
16. the memory of my Dad
19. raw sugar from Tanzania (I wanna go back for some MORE!)
20. my children's friends
21. my bicycle
22. crunchy leaves
23. my sister
24. the baby growing in her tummy
25. my boss (he's not perfect, but he shows humility and respect)
26. city transit
29. orthotics for my feet
30. my wedding and engagement rings (still like them after all these years)
31. my oldest friend Julie in Alberta
32. the memory of the way my dad used to sing "His eye is on the sparrow"
33. my almost-new bathroom
34. sleep (I only wish I'd had more of it last night)
35. hot baths (even when Maddie and Julie join me)
36. that today's task never has to be replicated
38. big soft towels
40. hand lotion
41. the Wikkerink sisters - all three of them
46. kettle chips (stole that one from Linda, but I couldn't resist)
48. a concert to look forward to
49. Folk Festival
51. that I won't have to deal with a certain challenging person after today
53. trips with my family
54. an almost-clean house
56. Thai food
57. a husband who cleans the freezer
58. my African jewellery
59. a grocery store within walking distance
60. that I don't have to live in a cookie-cutter house in a cookie-cutter neighbourhood
61. second-hand clothes
62. jeans that fit
63. cards from friends
66. no more diapers (well, except maybe Peanut, and he/she goes home at the end of the day)
67. that I'm not as bad as the eleven e-mails (from one person) I got this morning say I am
68. conversations with interesting people
69. Marcel's favourite number (oops! TMI!)
70. that I can enjoy other people's gardens
74. warm clothes
75. Nikki's questions
76. Julie's love for baking
77. Maddie's stories
78. going for Slurpees with the girls (don't tell them I like them - I have to act like it's THEIR idea and a rare treat!)
80. supportive friends
81. toast with peanut butter and honey
82. my new cookbook
83. Marcel's family
84. lie-with-me night
86. my orange purse
87. my orange backpack
88. yeah, I like the colour orange, but not EVERYTHING I own is orange. I'm also rather fond of turquoise and purple
89. that I don't have to carry a diaper bag anymore
90. the growing independence of my children
91. that Maddie doesn't wake up EVERY night anymore and that the 3 times last night were exceptions to the rule
92. chai latte
93. the mentors I've had in my life. Gisele, for one.
95. friends who invite me for great meals
97. growing up in the country
100. giggling with my daughters