Thursday, November 30, 2006

A good choice, I'd say

Remember the coat I bought for $90 and then decided it wasn't quite right for me? Well, I returned it, paid a visit to the Sally Ann (otherwise known as the Salvation Army thrift store), bought this coat for $5...
And then for good measure, I bought this funky wrap/shawl for $3...
BUT the best part of all? With a few extra dollars thrown in, I bought THIS PAINTING from blog friend and talented artist, Andrea Pratt from Colouring Outside the Lines.
I'm SO excited and I can't wait to get my painting in the mail. Like I've said before, when I make money freelance writing (and it's not usually very much), I try to re-invest the money in myself by buying something that will inspire me - a book, a cd, something like that. Well I wasn't sure a faux fur coat would inspire my creativity, but I'm pretty sure this fun and colourful painting will.

One of the greatest things about blogging (a rather unexpected delight) has been the opportunity to meet artists, writers, and other creative people from all over the world. I love to be part of a creative community like this, and I hope the brilliance of all these shining stars rubs off on me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What makes a person do that?

Today I read of a 68 year-old great-grandmother who made fresh pita bread for her family for supper, then left the house, strapped on a suicide belt, approached a group of Israeli soldiers, and blew herself up.

I can't get this woman off my mind. I want to understand her. I want to be able to comprehend what it is that leads a person to do that. It seems important to me to be able to understand the tipping point for her. Maybe if I understand her, I can honour her in some way. Maybe if I understand her, both her pain and her hope can have more meaning than what seems like just a wasted death.

What darkness creeps into your soul and eats away at you until you are convinced that blowing yourself and others to bits is worth the pain and heart-ache you will cause your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren? Did she become obsessed with revenge, or did she really think she was contributing to a solution? If it was revenge, was it the loss of her grandson and the crippling of another? The injury and imprisonment of her three sons? The destruction of her home? Or the deep sorrow she felt after witnessing a massacre?

If she had loftier visions of helping to resolve the conflict, did she envision that the death of a 68 year-old grandmother would be a powerful wake-up call for the warring factions and those who stand by as witnesses?

Each of the things she had to endure is painful, and together they seem almost incomprehensible in their tragedy. It's not hard to understand her anger and desire for revenge. But I just can't quite get past the fact that, by avenging the pain she'd seen and suffered, she caused even more pain for all the people who loved her. You'd think that would have stopped her from pulling the pin.

Surely she knew how hard it would be to swallow her last offering of pita bread after they'd learned of the offering of her life.

Or perhaps the pain had buried her in its rubble, destroyed her capacity for reason, and rendered her only a shell of the grandma she wanted to be. Perhaps she thought the future for her family looked brighter without her bitterness and anger tainting their every waking hour.

On the other hand, maybe she was thinking clearly and knew the pain she'd cause, but she felt a strong calling from God to offer herself as a sacrifice. Perhaps, in the depths of her faith, she believed that this was what she'd been put on this earth to do.

Putting aside the complicated middle east politics that I don't pretend to comprehend, I'm not sure whether to think of her as a hero for being willing to sacrifice her own life, or a coward and a fool for not sticking around for her family. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between.

Given the same set of circumstances, would any of us do the same?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Just say maybe

Eight years ago, my supervisor at the time said something simple yet fairly profound in his assessment of me. He said that one of my strengths and flaws was my ability to see both sides of an issue. In his view, it was a strength in that I was able to understand people’s perspective and tend to refrain from being overly judgmental. But it was a flaw in that it held me back when it was time to make a decision and stand firmly on one side or another.

A few months ago, I had yet another annual performance review in a long line of annual performance reviews. As much as they’re necessary evils, I dislike them – both when I’m the one DOING the review (of my staff) and when I’m the one RECEIVING the review. I’ve had approximately 10-15 of them. I’ve done even more of them. I’ve grown weary of them. Partly it’s because they’re a little artificial and I think that people should be guided along a pathway on a day-to-day basis rather than face an annual assessment of how close to the path they’re staying.

I get along great with my boss, and mostly he said highly positive things about me, but one of the things he said about me has stayed with me because it reflected what I’d heard eight years ago. He said that sometimes I’m a bit too much of a “maybe” person – that I occasionally have trouble making a firm decision or seeing things as black or white, especially if it might negatively impact a person or group of people.

It’s true, it’s one of my greatest flaws. It’s also one of my greatest strengths. I am a leader and communicator partly because I can understand different people’s perspectives and can usually figure out the best way to get through to them and empathize with them wherever they stand. I can also find common ground in almost every disagreement. At the same time, I am held back in my leadership abilities because I am often not as directive or bold as I should be. I anticipate people’s negative responses to a decision (on one side or another), and so I hold back to avoid hurting them or causing dissent. I can usually see why something is a bad idea just as clearly as I can see why it’s a good idea. As a result, I get stuck in the middle of too many issues.

I think this strength/flaw explains why I prefer to be a “facilitator” rather than a “leader”. In my current job, I have to be a leader. I have to make decisions for a team, and every time I do, there are some people who disagree with me. I don’t enjoy it. I don’t like to “play the heavy”. I’d rather be the consultant they hire to help them come up with good ideas, help them see their way through impasses, and help them figure out how to strengthen their communication and build their teams. That way I can leave the decision-making up to someone else as I wander off to another project or task. That way, I can use my strength/flaw to its greatest advantage and nobody gets hurt.

The truth is, I want to embrace this piece of me, this strength/flaw. I want to embrace it and make it beautiful, so that it will in turn bring beauty to what it touches. I don't want to be afraid to be bold, but I also want to be content with being a "maybe person". Because sometimes the "maybe persons" are the most comfortable ones to be with in the middle of all these shades of grey. And sometimes, the "maybe persons" are the ones that lead us in the directions that feels right for all of us.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Much better now, thanks

I'm starting to feel human again. Yay! Do you know how good it feels to brush your teeth and have a bath after you've been sick? SO good! (Again, I'm searching for a metaphor, but I got nothin'.)

I'm surprised I actually managed to post yesterday. Truth is, I was a little delirious, so you'll have to forgive me for my lack of discretion. I was so exhausted all day, I couldn't make it from one room to the next without stopping to rest on whatever piece of furniture was in my direct path. At one point, Marcel asked what I was doing on the couch when I'd said I was going to bed and I said, plaintively, "I just couldn't make it that far." I think the only reason I made it to the computer was because I had to get downstairs to throw the soiled clothes and bedding in the washing machine, and the computer chair was the closest place to rest before making my way back to bed.

I just have to say one more thing... I think my daughter Julie is growing up to be a beautiful gracious girl, and the next time I'm sick, I want her around. She brought me blankets, offered to get me drinks, and basically served me whenever she could. This morning, when I emerged from my bleariness, she brought breakfast in bed. How good is THAT? (I'll overlook the fact that she's fighting with her sister right now because she was so good to me yesterday.)
Update on Julie:
Today, while I sat by and watched rather groggily, she baked the most amazing blueberry muffins. I may just have discovered the perfect "after-you've-been-sick-and-can-barely-smell-food-let-alone-digest-it" food - Julie's blueberry muffins! Mmmmmm...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Not for the faint of heart

I am sick today. Sick, sick, sick. (I'm trying to think of a catchy metaphor to emphasize just how sick I am. 'Sick as a dog' just isn't working for me. 'Sicker than a mad cow?' Hmm... has potential.) I got whalloped by one of those stomach bugs that my body takes very, very seriously. I'm sure I threw up ten times last night. And I am not a polite, lady-like vomiter. Oh no - none of that for me! My wretching is violent and horrible and frightening for small children. Sometimes I swear my stomach will turn itself inside out, do a flip flop out my throat and into the toilet. Last night I'm sure I saw the shadow of death pass over me.

(Okay - if this is turning you off, feel free to visit someone else's blog. 'Cause it gets worse from here.) Perhaps the violent wretching contributes to the fact that I frequently pass out when I vomit. I think it cuts off the oxygen to my brain or something. Or else my brain says to my body parts "Okay folks, shut 'er down, this one looks like the death of us. Might as well make ourselves comfortable on the floor." It's pretty horrible. You don't even want to imagine what it's like to wake up on the floor in a pool of your own vomit. And last night it was even worse, because it was coming out both ends. (Am I going too far here? I SAID you could leave.)

Because he's used to me passing out, Marcel is usually right there beside me, trying to catch me when I fall. Let me tell you, there are few sounds more comforting when you're huddled over a toilet, than the rapid footsteps of the one you love.

I'm not sure Marcel knew what he was getting into when he said "in sickness and in health." When you're standing up there at the alter, ready to say "I do", you do not immediately picture your beloved lying in a pool of vomit. Nor do you imagine yourself cleaning her off and shuffling her back to bed.

And yet he shows up in the bathroom every time, and with a look of resolve on his face, puts his hand on my shoulder while I wretch. I don't care what anyone else says, but THAT'S how you define love. I can do without the flowers or chocolates or fancy dinners out, as long as I have that hand on my shoulder for as long as we both shall live.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

About the person who shows up in the comments as "Old Roommate"

Remember the black skirt? Remember the good karma? Remember the friend who came back into my life after an absence of almost ten years?

It's my friend Kari and she's BACK! And she's a blogger! She's gonna hate me for this, but you should all go over to her blog and say hello. She'll get mad and probably tell me I had no business sending people to her blog because "it's boring, she's a bad writer, she's a techno-illiterate, blah, blah, blah" but don't pay any attention to her self-deprecation because she's brilliant and funny and YOU WILL LOVE HER. Besides, she's been mad at me before (I seem to recall a drink in my face when she thought I was trying to set her up with some guy at a party), and she always gets over it quickly. Here's hoping she hasn't figured out a way of tossing a cyber-drink my way.

Truly, she is funny, humble, down-to-earth, bold, beautifully honest, uninhibited, and she writes a really entertaining blog. It is so much fun having her back in my life. I have the greatest memories of life with Kari, back when we were roommates. Some of the memories are kind of strange, I'll admit. Like the night we were both laughing so hard at something (possibly at the way we were both inconsiderate slobs and our other roommate kept the place together) and I ended up lying on the floor under the rocking chair - I really don't remember much except that I remember the view from beneath the rocking chair. Or the night we rented the movie The Music Box, but by the end of it we were both so depressed and didn't want to go to bed on that note, so we walked to the video store in the middle of the night and rented a comedy. Or the time we got the munchies after testing a bunch of recipes in the drinks recipe book she'd bought me for my birthday and we walked to Safeway and ended up sitting on the sidewalk giggling. Or the really raunchy postcards of X-rated clubs and peepshows she used to send me from London (just to make me LAUGH people - no other reason!), addressed to my OFFICE because she didn't want our other roommate to see them.

For years, I knew there was a hole in my life because Kari wasn't there anymore. She keeps me grounded in a way few people can. She has a unique way of making me feel normal and special and reasonably well-balanced despite my many quirks and flaws. She knows some of my deep dark secrets, my insecurities, and my stains and she loves me anyway. ('Course she has no choice because I know HER deep dark secrets too. Mwa-ha-ha.)

Now that we're both moms we can continue to laugh at our failures and flaws and the way we're messing up our children and feel a little more sane because we're not the only one in these shoes. Welcome back Kari!

Here we are, back in the days of our youth. Kari's the one in the middle.

Random bits and pieces

- In the last 24 hours, the temperature has dropped 24 degrees - from a balmy +12 degrees (Celsius), to a rather cool -12 degrees. Those living in the warmer south may think that's a little whacky, but I don't really mind living in a place with temperature mood swings. It makes life interesting, because it can just as easily swing the other way around.

- If you want to see an amazing sight, visit my office at about 4:30 in the afternoon. I have a view of the highrise office buildings of Winnipeg, and around that time, the sun is beginning to set and it makes all the tall buildings glow a brilliant orange. Breathtaking. Yesterday there was a verigated pink cotton candy effect on the skyline behind it to add to the tapestry.

- Is it just me, or when you see an empty plastic bag dancing in the wind do you remember that amazing scene from American Beauty? Sometimes I see one float up to my fourth floor office window and I have to just stop and stare at the raw beauty of it.

- It's not only raw beauty I see from my office window. Sometimes it's rather ugly. There's a rather seedy hotel across the street and occasionally there are people passed out on the street in a drunken stupor. Once in awhile I see a fight break out. A few weeks ago, there was a car on the sidewalk and police had taped the area off. It turns out, the guy driving the car had died of a heart attack while driving and when his car hit the sidewalk, he'd hit one of the people who was hanging around in front of the hotel.

- Does anyone really care about TomKat's extravagant wedding? Do they think sinking hoardes of money into it is going to make the marriage last longer?

- Speaking of TomKat's wedding, why the heck was Brooke Shields there? Has she no pride?

- And speaking of TomKat's wedding (maybe I do care after all - teehee), don't you just feel horribly sorry for his two older children? They had to watch both of their parents get married in the same year. That's just not fair. It was hard enough for me to get used to the idea of my mom getting remarried and I'm an ADULT and my mom was a widow. I can't imagine how messed up it feels for a kid whose parents are still both alive.

- Does anyone understand why Oprah insists on putting a picture of HERSELF on every single magazine? Is it some kind of huge ego trip, or does that really help sell magazines? I can tell you it's a deterrent for me, but perhaps I'm a minority.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Maybe there's such a thing as overthinking something

I had ninety dollars burning a hole in my pocket. It was the last cheque from my short-lived writing contract with Words of Life magazine. (Just after they accepted me as a monthly writer, they shut down the magazine. Bummer.) Since I usually consider the small amounts of money I receive for freelance writing as my "fun/personal development money", I felt justified in spending it on myself.

I headed to Winners to see if I could find a new coat. I don't really NEED a new coat. I have a perfectly good parka that's still fairly new, plus I have a long coat that's good enough even though I don't particularly like it. But what I wanted was somewhere between the two - a shorter coat that was a little more dressy than a parka.

At Winners I found a coat that I instantly fell in love with. Perhaps it was the feel of it that I just couldn't get enough of. It's black faux fur with a black and brown stand-up collar and large cuffs at the arms. It is so soft you just can't resist touching it over and over again. I tried it on and glanced at myself in the mirror. Wow. I'd never looked so glamorous and put together! This coat was smokin'! And it was $89 dollars! Perfect.

I bought it, and as I drove home with it, I kept reaching into the bag to touch its luxurious softness.

When I got home, I put it on in the garage before walking into the house to model it for my family. When I opened the door, I was greated with dumbfounded stares. And not in a good way. The stares quickly turned into frowns and even sneers. They were NOT impressed. Clearly, my family had not fallen in love in the same way I had. Nikki promised me she'd walk five feet away from me if I EVER wore that coat in public. Marcel tried to redeem himself after his first stuttered response, but he only sank himself further into the hole. It just wasn't working for him.

Undeterred, I swore that I didn't care whether or not they liked the coat, I LIKED IT and that was what counted. Part of me was more convinced than ever that I would flaunt this coat in front of them every chance I got because I HAVE A RIGHT TO LIKE WHAT I WANT even if they don't agree.

But... a few days passed, and I didn't wear the coat. My excuse was that the temperature had warmed and it just wasn't cold enough to warrant a faux fur coat. That wasn't the whole truth though. I began to suspect that perhaps my family was at least partly right - the coat just didn't suit me.

Last night, when I drove the girls to piano lessons, I wore the coat for the first time. During their lesson, I went to my favourite bookstore and wandered around wearing the coat. I realized as I wore it that it didn't quite have the effect I'd hoped for. It didn't make me feel special and elegant and interesting. It made me feel self-conscious. It's a coat made for someone who carries glamour gracefully, not someone like me who wears scuffed shoes and torn gloves, never has the latest hairstyle, doesn't push back the cuticles on her nails let alone paint them, doesn't pluck her eyebrows, and wears little if any make-up. I realized as I walked around the mall that if I kept the coat, I would also need to buy new accessories to go with my "new look". I'd need new gloves, a new pair of boots (instead of my clunky boots that are warm but scream "non-glamorous"), a new headband, and a new scarf. And my bag made from African fabric just wouldn't suit, so I'd need a new bag too. This coat could end up costing me alot more than $90.

Another thing happened while I was in the mall. I spotted some people who are associated with the non-profit organization I work with. When I found myself avoiding them, I realized that I would feel horribly self-conscious wearing my new coat to work (or to the circles closely associated with my work) where I'm surrounded by a lot of committed idealists who believe in simplicity and non-consumerism. The coat screams the opposite of those ideals. And then, as I analyzed my reaction, I realized that those ideals are not only important to the people I work with, they're important to me too.

So then I began to think about what I base my decisions on. Can I buy a coat that I like just because I happen to like it and overlook the fact that others think differently? Can I buy a coat that might make me look like the person I try hard not to be - a materialistic consumer - even though it wasn't ghastly expensive? Can I buy a coat and be satisfied that I don't have the necessary accessories to match? Or will the coat make me feel pressured to buy more stuff? Am I too concerned about what other people think of me and the way they might judge me? Is it okay to be a little extravagant now and then and still be committed to simplicity and non-consumerism? Would I feel comfortable wearing the coat in front of some of the people whose hunger we are trying to end - like Paulina? Am I taking this stupid coat WAY too seriously?

Before I went to bed last night, I knew I'd be returning the coat. Perhaps it won't be for the "right" reasons. But then I'm not entirely sure we EVER make decisions with entirely pure motives. Aren't we always at least a little influenced by peer pressure, self-consciousness, and what other people think? Sometimes there are conflicts even in our non-pure motives (for example, I know that SOME of my friends and associates would love the coat even though others don't) and that muddies the water even more. Sometimes even the decisions that seem morally pure and altruistic are made mostly for the purpose of APPEARING morally pure and altruistic.

I know it's just a coat, but it represents something much bigger than that. It represents the choices I make in my life, the image I portray to the world, the importance I place on "things", the example I set for my children and the way I try to find a balance in an imbalanced world. I may not make the "perfect" choice with the $90 (for example, I'm not sure I'll altruistically give it to charity instead of spending it on myself), but I want my choice to at least reflect the person I am, not the person I'll never be.

And now it's back to the thrift store - imagine what $90 can buy me there!

Monday, November 20, 2006

The one in between

She's rarely the first to do anything. She wasn't the first one to walk, talk, or ride a bike. She rarely got marveled over in that "wow - look at that - one of our OWN offspring is capable of all that" way. Her older sister beat her to that honour. She's also not the last one to do anything. She's not the one whose baby cuteness is held onto for as long as possible because there will be no more of it after she's done. She's never had her cute toddler sayings recorded for posterity on her mom's blog. That would be her little sister's place.

She's the one in between - the one who is not celebrated for being first or last. She's the one the birth order experts say is most often overlooked. Sometimes, the birth order experts are right.

She's my daughter Julie, the in-between child. Though she is marvelous in her own way, she rarely gets the spotlight for being a marvel. It's true, I know it, because I am often the most guilty of overlooking her.

Last week when I wrote this post about Nikki and then this one about Maddie I saw it happen once again. Julie got overlooked. It's not on purpose - it just happens that way.

So the express purpose of this post is to marvel at my in-between girl.

Perhaps part of the reason I tend to overlook Julie is that, in many ways, she is the most like me. In the good ways and the not-so-good. She is smart, stubborn, adventurous, disorganized, spontaneous, fun-loving, opinionated, and easily distracted. She loves to do things her own way and rarely gives up until I let her try. (You'd think I'd know by now that I should just let her try the first time she asks instead of engaging in a battle of the wills, but I'm a slow learner. Plus I'm just as stubborn as she is.) She loves to cook, but she does NOT want to be Mom's helper - she wants to be Mom's BOSS. She bakes cakes by herself and has even cooked a meal or two. (And she's only nine.)

She is a whiz-kid at school. Few things challenge her. She told me the other day that she'd never made a spelling mistake on a test, and I'm inclined to believe her. When she's supposed to do homework, she asks "Mom, what's the point, if I get all the answers right the first time I try?" She has a point. I've often said that she didn't "learn" to read, she just "absorbed" it. One day she couldn't read and the next day she was reading novels. She read ALL of the Harry Potter books by the time she was eight years old. (Okay, so that's not QUITE true - the last one came out a month after her eighth birthday and by about 4 days after she'd bought it with her birthday money, she'd finished it.) She often reads a novel per night - we have a hard time keeping her in books. There are many, many nights when I'm on my way to bed that I have to remind her "Julie - it's time to turn out the light now." As I do it, I'm reminded of the same gentle tone my dad used when he'd say the same thing to me. Readers tend to understand readers.

Julie LOVES to play games. That's one of the few ways that she's not like me - or any other member of the family. She begs and pleads the rest of us to play games, and once in awhile we agree, but not nearly as often as she'd like. Nobody else cares much for games, other than Maddie whose games are at a slightly different level. (Too bad we don't live closer to ap or grandma - we'd send her over to one of their houses for game night now and then.)

When there's fun to be had, Julie is often first in line. If I'm looking for a fun, spontaneous family thing to do on the weekend, I usually turn to Julie as my first ally because she'll almost always be game. Yesterday, when she was looking through the paper and saw all the fun things going on all over the city because of the Grey Cup, she said "Mom, let's make it our goal today to not be at home ALL DAY." A girl after my own heart. The whole family ended up at The Forks because of Julie's nudging.

Some day, I can imagine myself travelling the world with Julie. What fun it will be to don a backpack and head out on an adventure with my marvelous fun-loving daughter!
This is not the best picture I have of her, but I like the way her personality shines through. The slight sneer on her lips is pure Julie.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The soul awakes

Sometimes the spirit comes gently, riding a summer breeze, waiting on the side of a mountain stream, or curling up on the couch like a comfortable friend. On those times, the spirit waits unobtrusively for us to answer the beckoning, rest from our travels, and find solace.

Sometimes the spirit comes boldly and powerfully, shaking the rafters with energy, shouting from the mountaintops, and crashing with lightning from the sky. On those times, the spirit defies us to ignore the power and presence of something much greater than any of us.

Last night was one of the latter. Last night, the spirit crashed into the room, riding the musical power of an orchestra, wafting upon the intricacies of Steve Bell's voice, and shouting boldly "Listen! This is important. Awake from your slumber and know that I am here!"

Wow! What can I say about such an incredible night? I've been a fan of Steve Bell for a long time, have been to several concerts, and have even been blessed to become his friend, but I have NEVER been moved by any musical night as much as I was last night. Remember a few weeks ago when I said my soul had fallen asleep? Well, it has definitely been awakened.

We sat in the front row (no, they're not the expensive seats - they're actually considered lower end because you're beneath stage level - I got tickets late and that was almost all that was left), and the energy in the concert hall was palpable. It felt like you could reach out and touch the spirit as it moved through the room. We couldn't see much of the orchestra from where we sat, so I don't know if they were all grinning, but I can certainly tell you that Steve and his band were having the time of their lives. Their faces glowed with energy, and it was contagious. I think there were grins all over the room.

Each song got a little better than the one before. Just when I thought "oh, this one is definitely my favourite", they'd play the next one and it would get even better. In the end, I think my favourite arrangements were Deep Calls to Deep, Dark Night of the Soul, and Moon over Berknau. Wow! What made Moon over Berknau even better was Steve's incredible ability to craft a story and draw us into his world.

When Steve recorded a cd of Bruce Cockburn songs last year, he talked about how a song doesn't really belong to one person, even if that person wrote it. He said that Bruce's songs had become his own because of how they impacted his life. Last night, I think Steve's songs became everyone's. I sat closest to the pianist Mike Janzen (who also wrote the score for the orchestra) and it was clear that the songs belonged to him as much as to Steve. I think the audience, like me, would agree - these songs are no longer just Steve's. They are ours because of the way they have changed us. Thank you Steve.

There were times last night when the awakening of the soul was almost more than I could bear. I could feel it in every part of my body and sometimes my eyes involuntarily filled with tears. The wakening of the soul awakened the muse, and my own words of poetry flowed through me as I closed my eyes and listened.

What an amazing night! I am so glad I was there. Now I feel like I need to honour the spirit and create something myself...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Still a little girl

Almost as though she understood how monumental yesterday's event was in the journey of a mother with daughters, and almost as though she knew the pace of change sometimes steals my breath away, Maddie climbed up next to me on the couch last night, curled up inside my arms, and promptly fell asleep. It's not often anymore that I get to hold a sleeping child in my arms. Too quickly they move from vulnerable sleeping babies to blossoming young women.

Last night, I held my sleeping baby for a long time. I buried my face in her hair and held on tight until, eventually, her daddy carried her to bed.

She's still my little girl and I will savour these moments for as long as I can.

Tonight, as if to further prove she's not all grown up yet, she danced around the house - first in her "Angels in Training" shirt and then later, before her bath, buck naked. At one point, as she flashed her private parts to her daddy, she saw him flinch and asked "Daddy, are you overwhelmed with vaginas?" I covered my mouth and hid my face so she wouldn't see me giggling. (Yes, as he looks forward to three daughters in puberty, I think he's feeling a little overwhelmed with vaginas.)

Incidentally, she firmly believes her shirt says "Monkey in training." I haven't made any effort to correct her. Seems more appropriate somehow. (And in case you're wondering what's all over her shirt, it seems she was enjoying the play doh at day care today.)
Silly Maddie

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On becoming a woman

Today my oldest daughter took a huge step in the journey toward womanhood. She made me promise not to blog about the specifics, so I won't go into the details, but you can guess what that "big step" is.

I look at her and I am in awe. In awe of her beauty, her strength, her wisdom, and her growth. She christened me "mother" and has walked with me in the journey ever since. Only when she becomes a mother herself will she understand how much her journey has impacted my own. Only then will she catch a glimpse of how much she has changed me and molded me.

Today heralds a new journey - one that could be rocky sometimes with hormones and teenage angst. I think she's ready for it though. She has always been wise beyond her years, and if today is any indication, she will accept the changes with a healthy measure of pride, strength, and determination.

Instead of going to a church meeting tonight, I took my beautiful daughter on a date. We ate cheesecake at Baked Expectations, smiled at each other alot, talked about everything from the silly boys in her class to the way her body is changing. I am blessed and honoured to be called her mother.

I love the above picture of her with her little cousin, because it shows the beautiful young woman she is becoming. When she carries little Abigail, I catch a glimpse of the woman she will grow into.

I am excited about her journey. She is already incredible, and I know that she will blossom into a beautiful, strong woman. May I be worthy of the task of guiding her.

Sriving for mediocrity?

I’m not particularly fond of the new report cards the girls brought home this term. The school division invested a whole truckload of money in a new reporting system, and in my humble opinion, they could have left their money in the bank.

When I look over Nikki and Julie’s report cards (that came home in fancy expensive folders with high-end brochures to explain them), you could swear they are almost identical girls. Anyone who knows them can vouch for the fact that they are NOT. Yet, the report cards reveal so little real information, I’m sure 95% of the students in the school come out looking like cookie cutter models of each other.

One of the reasons for the change is to separate their academic achievement from their social skills. On the front of the report card, there are about 10 boxes related to their social/interpersonal levels. These boxes are marked with an “M” for “meets expectations” or a “D” for “developing”. I suppose they were trying to move away from levels (excellent, good, fair, etc.), so that young students won’t feel overly judged or categorized, but to me, it just means that all students come out homogenous. Where is the motivation to work hard, if you come out looking like every other student? It’s not working for me.

On the back, where they focus on academics, they have no quantitative marking system whatsoever. Instead, they just have comment boxes, that include so much rhetoric, my head began to spin. “Nicole has a grasp on mathematical concepts.” “Julie can process information successfully.” What does that MEAN?

I don’t know much about child psychology or educational models or formative or summative marking systems (Marcel used those last words – apparently he’s learning something in all those university classes he’s taking!), but I do know that both Nikki and Julie were disappointed with their report cards. It was clear that neither of them feel motivated to work harder if there isn’t some indication that their efforts are worth it. Are we encouraging our kids to strive for mediocrity?

Nikki was particularly disappointed. She said to me a few weeks ago, “Mom, you know how my first report card of the year is always a little lower than the ones later in the year? Well, this year, I think it will be better, because I’m doing really well this year.” She has a new-found confidence about school, (which makes me so happy, because I’ve wiped away too many tears in the past) but I wouldn’t say that these report cards did anything to feed that confidence.

Julie, on the other hand, is a gifted student who told me the other day that she has never made a spelling mistake on a test (she’s in grade 4). It’s probably true, though I can’t verify it. This is the kid who devours books – reads one almost every night from cover to cover. Few things challenge her academically. Yet, if you read her report card, you’d think she was an average student.

Anyone care to comment? I know there are some educators who read this – perhaps you have some insight that I’m missing. Perhaps report cards really aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. Who knows?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Apparently, Melissa wants jewellery for Christmas

Since Melissa is surfing the web checking out other people's jewellery (I think she has her eye on Marnie's new Disney necklace), I thought I'd answer her question and show her what my ring looks like. I'm not sure which one you were asking about Melissa, but here's the pinkie ring I bought about 20 years ago at some roadside jewellery stand in Arizona...
pinkie ring

And here's the one my husband found under the seat of our old van, just before we sold it (the van, that is). Nobody else claimed it, so finders keepers.
thumb ring
Anyone else have jewellery to show Melissa? Perhaps, if you find a ring under the seat of YOUR van, you can send it to Melissa and make her Christmas a happy one.

UPDATE: Oh. My. Gosh. Did I just post pictures of my MOTHER'S hands? When did mine start looking like hers? There's some serious roadmaps on those hands!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Good people everywhere

Yesterday, as I drove from Brooks back to the Calgary airport to fly home, I caught myself smiling while I bopped to the music. I was feeling energized and happy. It was a good trip. Even better than the miles of smooth, nearly empty highways with nothing but good music and my thoughts, were the many good people I spent time with. This trip was just what I needed. I was refreshed by relationships.

1. My brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. On Thursday night, I hung out with my niece while she showed me a cool powerpoint she was working on for school. Later, my brother (sometimes known on this blog as bbb, though he doesn't have a blog - unless you count the five entries he did while he drove across Florida) and I went to a movie (Catch a Fire - worth seeing, by the way). Movies have always provided a bit of a common bond with my siblings and I. It's what we often do when we're together. Two of us (bbb & ccap) are more addicted than the other two, but we all enjoy a good night out at the movies now and then. The next morning, we played a couple of games of Settlers (and nobody cried :-), and then went out for Vietnamese food for lunch. It was a delightful time. Comfortable, relaxed, and just the right way to start a business trip that I initially thought would have its stressful moments. I am blessed with good family.

2. Volunteers and supporters of the non-profit organization I work for. On Friday night, I drove to Red Deer for a annual meeting with about 100 dedicated volunteers who commit time and energy to our organization's mission to end hunger. It was SUCH a good meeting. There was a great spirit in the room. Given some of the challenges we've been through lately in that province, I really didn't know what to expect, but it turned out much better than I even dared to hope. I've made some good friends there over the past couple of years, and it definitely feels good to walk into a room where you know there are people who support you. They energized me to come back home and re-commit myself to doing my job the best way I know how.

3. Staff. In the Spring, we hired 2 new staff to work on my team in Alberta (there are staff across the country that report to me). It's a husband and wife team that job-share in the role. They are the kind of people you want on any team - compassionate, understanding, cooperative, energetic, committed, and all those other good things. More than anything, they feel safe - the kind of people you just know you can be yourself around and they will support you and continue to respect you. I spent Friday night and Saturday morning with them, and the trip was worth it just to see them in action. Their presence was one of the reasons Friday night's meeting was so successful. Also, another new director was there from our Winnipeg office, and he's a similar kind of person. (I was also on the hiring committee when he was hired, so I'm starting to think I have good instinct when it comes to hiring!) After the meeting Friday night, the four of us congregated in my hotel room and hung out until about 1:00 a.m. It is so much fun when you enjoy the presence of the people you work with. Things have gotten much better in that regard.

4. Hope. Yay! I got to meet another blogging friend! I hooked up with Hope for lunch on Saturday and it was everything I'd hoped for and more. We chatted for two and a half hours and it felt more like half an hour. I don't think there was an awkward silence throughout. In fact, we probably could have chatted for another two and a half hours if I hadn't had alot of miles to cover to get to Brooks. What can I tell you about Hope? Well, I think I'm in love. I want to live next to her, share recipes with her, wander along the river with her, stay up late at night chatting around a campfire, you name it. She is warm, comfortable, safe, kind, funny, and lots of other good things I can't think of words for. Plus she's the classy kind of woman who thinks to bring a gift AND pay for lunch. Wish I'd thought of at least SOME little gesture! Maybe when she makes her way to Winnipeg, I'll get a chance to return the favour. I'm waiting for your visit Hope.

After my second successful blogger meet-up, I'm getting a little addicted. Anyone else want to meet me? You never know where my travels might take me. In my limited experience, you really CAN get to know someone from reading their blog, and so far, I've been drawn to just the kind of people I would like in "real" life.

5. Julie (and family). My third night in Alberta was spent near Brooks at the home of my very dear friend Julie. When I arrived, she was alone (her husband and sons were at a birthday party) so we got a few hours of alone time to reminisce and catch up on family news, etc. Julie and I have been friends since we were in diapers. We grew up about a mile apart, but out there in the country, they were our closest neighbour. We used to ride bikes or horses or walk to each other's houses all the time. Our families did lots of neighbourly things together too. We didn't have a TV growing up, so we would sometimes get to visit their house to watch special shows like The Sound of Music, Disney, or the Santa Claus parade. One of the memories Julie and I reminisced about was the time (I think it was around Halloween) she and I decided we wanted to be world-changers and we wrote and performed a play for neighbours and friends as a fundraiser for a charity. I think there were about 10 people in my parents' living room, and if I remember correctly, we donated about three dollars to the Gideons (an organization one of our neighbours worked for). I guess life has come full circle since I now work for a non-profit organization and part of my role is leading the fundraising campaign. It was such a treat to see Julie again and actually get some one-on-one time without our kids clamouring around us.

6. Julie's church family. Part of my reason for visiting Julie (or at least the reason that justified my visit on a business trip) was so that I could make a presentation at her church. It was one of those incredible services where you know something bigger than any of us is at work. The speaker spoke on exactly the same topic I had planned to talk about in my presentation. The story I told couldn't have been better suited than if we'd sat down and planned it together (which we didn't, since I'd never met or talked to the speaker before and we'd made no arrangements through Julie about the topic). I felt completely at home there, and left feeling happy that Julie and her family have a wonderful church community surrounding them.

So there you have it - relationship refreshment. I have been renewed by the people I met. Thank you to all of them for sharing pieces of themselves with me.

Speaking of relationships - now I think it's time I start catching up on all of your blogs so you don't think I've abandoned you. (And just so you don't think I'm doing this on work time, I've taken today off to recuperate from my trip. Catching up on blogs sounds like recuperation to me!)

Before I go though, Hope, this picture is for you, just so you know how much I enjoyed the gift. Mmmmm...
sipping chai

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Go west, young woman

In a few hours, I'll be on another plane heading for Alberta. No, I don't have much time to formulate any meaningful thoughts, but here are some of the things I'm looking forward to and some of the things I'm not:

Looking forward to:
- Seeing my brother, sister-in-law, niece, nephew, and dog-nephew. (Yes, AP, that last one is for your benefit.) I'll stay with them in Calgary tonight.
- Hanging out with my sister-in-law tomorrow morning. She is one of my best friends.
- The airplane rides. I love planes and airports and just about anything associated with travel.
- Miles and miles of open road and me, alone, in a rental car. I love driving, and I'm rather fond of driving alone, with no fighting going on in the back seat and nothing to interrupt my thoughts other than the radio.
- Meeting another blogger friend. I'll tell you more later.
- Spending time with my new employees in Alberta. They're both beautiful people with good souls.
- Visiting my closest childhood friend Julie and her husband and sons.
- A quiet night in a hotel room.
- Meeting some of the friendly supporters and volunteers who have become friends in the past year and a half when I've had to travel to Alberta more than I wanted to.

Not looking forward to:
- Three nights in three separate beds.
- Weariness from an agenda that looks a little too full.
- A potentially contensious management issue I have to deal with.
- Being away from my family.
- Spending part of a day with a pasted-on-smily-face working at a booth at a trade show.
- Missing the weekend routines at home, like Friday night supper with my extended family, lazy Saturday mornings, good conversation in church on Sunday mornings, Sunday night supper with Marcel's extended family, and watching Amazing Race on Sunday night with my daughters.
- Not being the one to drop Maddie off at the second birthday party she's ever been invited to.

There's not much chance I'll be blogging or catching up on your blogs while I'm gone. Since I'm already behind on the "catching up" side, I'll have lots of reading to do when I get home. Talk to you then! In the meantime, like my dad used to say whenever we parted, "Be good."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

We didn't just break the mold, we threw it away

Tonight, while I sit here sipping tea and reading blogs, Marcel is at the parent council meeting at school. He's their new treasurer. Everybody loves him for volunteering. I love him for volunteering. It gets me off the hook. At least SOMEONE in our family is doing their part.

He's a rare commodity - a father who's willing to volunteer on parent council. Even though we've come a long way, baby, there are still some things that are traditionally mom's roles. Volunteering at school is one of them. But I'm quite happy to let him have this role. I'm not very good at the whole "mommy volunteering to make this world a better place" thing. I'm happy to go on the occasional field trip, but I'd rather not hand out pizza on hot lunch days, cut out hundreds of pig faces for kindergarten crafts, or listen to kids read in the hallway.

For the most part, Marcel and I have managed to live our married life outside of the "rules" of a traditional marriage. For the past 4 years, he's been the primary caregiver and stay-at-home parent (while he went to university). He's been to more doctor's and dentist's appointments than me lately, he volunteers at school, coaches soccer, nags the girls about homework after school, signs agendas, packs lunches, makes supper, serves pizza on hot lunch day at school, takes Maddie to story time at library, etc., etc. It works for us. It some ways, I think it suits us better than if we'd done things the other way around.

It's not like we sat down one day and decided "hey - let's be radical and kick tradition in the butt". Mostly, we've tried to make each decision in a way that worked for our own marriage, rather than in a way that lined up with traditional expectations of our roles. For a long time, we both worked and, back then, we shared the roles. We took turns with things like meals, volunteering, transporting to doctor's appointments, etc. Then one day we arrived at a crossroads where I was advancing in my career, he was stagnating in his, I was making enough money for us to survive, he wanted to go to university, and we wanted one of us to be at home for the girls more. It just seemed like the right choice for him to stay home with the girls and go to school (mostly in the evenings at first).

The transition wasn't without its road-bumps. At the beginning, I probably had unrealistic expectations of what he would take responsibility for. At the same time, he occasionally felt that I was taking him for granted. Sometimes, I have to admit, I found myself feeling little twinges of jealousy when he knew more about the girls' schooling than I did, knew more of the other parents than I did, and got to spend more time with the girls. And I'm pretty sure sometimes he was a little jealous that I got to spend more time in the company of adults than he did. But we got used to our new roles, and soon found that it worked quite well for us.

In the future, we might make decisions differently. When he's back to work, for example, I hope to spend more time at home, and then I'll take over more of the responsibilities around here. Nothing is forever, and neither of us is afraid to take one type of role or another. We just find what works for us. This year, since he's in school almost full time, we're back to sharing most of the household and parenting tasks.

I remember sitting on a farm in Africa talking to the owner of the farm who was a well respected community leader and politician. We were waiting for the meal that his wife (or wives - can't remember which) and the other women of the village were preparing. He was quite puzzled when I told him that I had small children who were at home with their dad. When I explained that my husband was the primary caregiver who cooked most of the meals and looked after the children when I worked, he looked at me with shock and probably a bit of horror. He couldn't quite fathom what I'd just told him. I'm pretty sure he was hopeful that I wouldn't have a chance to chat with his wife. I have to admit, it gave me some measure of pleasure to see the look on his face.

I am grateful that I live in a culture where it is not particularly surprising anymore that we've chosen the roles that we have. I am grateful that I'm married to a man who's comfortable with this arrangement (or any other we might want to try). I am grateful that my daughters won't grow up with any preconceived notions about what roles a man or a woman should or shouldn't fill.

Tomorrow, I leave for Alberta on another business trip. While I am gone, I never have to worry that the kids won't be well cared for or that the house will fall apart. Homework will get done, lunches will get made, dishes will be washed, and my absence will barely have an impact. Chances are, there would be more chaos around here if Marcel went away for a few days than when I do. (Fortunately, though, I will still be missed.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Just another reason why Walmart is E.V.I.L.

When we were kids, we would wait with eager anticipation for the arrival of the Sears Wishbook. After Mom had a chance to peruse it, it was our turn. With pens in hand we would scan the glossy pages, skipping quickly over anything that looked naughty (like the lingerie pages), and heading straight for the toys. In awe of the world full of wonderful things that we had never seen or even imagined, we’d page through it carefully and with what was almost reverence. The first time through, we’d just look. The second or third times, we’d put little marks beside the ones that caught our attention. And then, when we were brave enough to mark up the shiny pages, we’d circle the things we dreamed of, going back several times to gaze upon the pure beauty of all those things we knew we’d never own.

It was all about the dreams, really. We were poor growing up. If we got one small toy (a doll, a second-hand bike) we were lucky. We never really believed those extravagant things in the Wishbook would arrive under our tree on Christmas morning. It was just too far out of reach. But that didn’t stop the dreaming. I remember the years I dreamed about the Barbie camper van that my cousin Christine was lucky enough to own. I coveted that camper van with every fibre of my being.

As much as we loved to dream about the beautiful things on those glossy pages, I don’t really remember it feeling too painful knowing that we wouldn’t own them. Sometimes dreaming is enough. Sometimes owning only serves to extinguish the dream. We were happy kids. Yes, sometimes we felt the sting of poverty, wishing we could have what some of the other kids had, but mostly we were content with our second-hand bikes and our hand-me-down clothes. Even though I never owned the camper van, I remember all the things my friend Laurel and I constructed for our Barbies to make up for its absence – three-story houses out of stacked chairs, cars out of cardboard boxes, you name it.

My kids have a lot more toys than I ever had, but still they have to live with less than most of their friends. Sometimes it’s about what we can or can’t afford and sometimes it’s about what we choose not to buy. Nikki wants a Gameboy more than anything else she can imagine. She knows she won’t get a Gameboy. Too expensive and too anti-social for my Christmas-buying list. And maybe it’s better for her to dream about it than to own it. If she owned it, she’d probably be bored with it in a couple of months.

Don’t get me wrong – I DO like to indulge my kids (and myself) now and then. When we sold the camper last year, every member of the family got to buy something their heart cherished. Nikki got an mp3 player, Julie got a bean-bag chair, and Maddie got some toy she had her eye on (I can't remember which). I got my digital camera. Marcel got a new bike. But that was a rare moment. I think the indulgences have to be rare and special for them to mean anything. In between, some of the dreams have to remain just that – dreams.

All of this is my meandering way of getting to the original point of this post – bashing Wal-mart. Have you heard about their new advertising ploy – Toyland? It’s a website where kids get to play a “game”, pick out all the things they want, and it then sends an email to their parents with their wishlist, saving them the time of writing it down, and helping them do some of the parent-nagging. Is it just me, or does this turn your stomach too? Maybe it’s no different from the Sears Wishbook, and maybe I should just chill out, but it bugs me how sneaky advertising is getting these days – especially when it comes to marketing for kids. To disguise a marketing campaign as a cheery little game, where little elves appear to tell you how cool each toy is, seems just a little too manipulative. I’ve gotten used to all the advertising on the internet, but I’m an adult and I can tune it out fairly successfully. Although we often talk about it with the girls so that they’ll be able to recognize clever marketing when they see it, they’re still very susceptible to what the advertisements tell them they should want.

In one of Anne Lamott’s stories (I think it was in Traveling Mercies), she talked about how it stunned her to realize how “entitled” her son seemed to feel – like the world owed him all kinds of things and he could expect to receive them. That’s what I fear in my kids – that with all this advertising being pelted at them thousands of times a day, they will begin to feel that owning all that stuff is the norm rather than the exception.

In spite of all of this, though, I have to say that our kids are fairly well grounded and not particularly greedy. Oh, they beg for things like every other kid, but they don’t make a lot of demands. They know their parents’ buying-power is limited and they’re also well aware that there are a lot of things we choose not to buy even if we can afford it. Mostly, they’re okay with that. As much as advertising to kids makes me see red now and then, I still believe it is possible to influence your kids to not be overly materialistic. (In fact, I've so indoctrinated my girls that the running joke in our house is that I start to twitch if we get too close to Walmart. I boycotted it a couple of years ago and haven't been back since. In fact, they've been so influenced by my shopping choices that their favourite store is Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade store with cool stuff from all over the world.)

I guess I just get a little weary of fighting the Wal-marts of this world to re-inforce my values with my kids. Those mega-stores have got the big bucks behind them, and a bunch of highly paid marketing gurus. My arsenal seems a little paltry in comparison.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Random things from my random brain

Random thought #1: First of all, I wanted to say thank you to all those who responded so kindly to my last post. I expect I'll go through some rough spots in the coming weeks and months, and I've come to realize that one of my support groups is made up of you, my blog community. Thanks for being that. I wish I could tell you more about what's going on, but it's complicated, involves legal issues, and is just a little too risky to discuss in an open forum. If anyone is dying to know, feel free to email me and I'll tell you more. Just say "spill the beans" in the subject line, and I'll bring you up to speed.

Now, some more random stuff...

Random thought #2: Has anyone seen the movie The Prestige? If so, what did you think? I LOVED it. It's one of the best movies I've seen in awhile. I went to see it by myself on Friday night, when I needed a break from the mental callisthenics my brain was doing, and it was just what the doctor ordered. It's smart, full of intrique and drama, well written, unpredictable, and has a delightfully surprising ending. It's about 2 young up-and-coming magicians who become obsessed with outdoing and ultimately destroying each other. In an odd way, it helped me understand a bit more about the human psyche in relation to the difficult situation I'm going through. At the beginning, the non-linear fashion of it (it hops back and forth through time) is a little distracting, but when you get used to it, it adds to the quality of it.

Random thought #3: Even though I know that part of being a good parent means teaching responsibility and life-skills, sometimes it would be WAY easier to send the kids away for a day, clean like a fiend and then let them back in the house rather than involve them in the cleaning. The girls and I cleaned all morning (in preparation for out-of-town guests and a birthday party we're hosting for our niece tomorrow), and between settling arguments about who had to clean more, checking the 4 year old's bedroom about 15 times when she asked "is it good enough NOW?", helping them haul the vacuum cleaner down the stairs, and saying "if the cleaning doesn't get done soon NOBODY gets a Slurpee", I barely got anything done. But I suppose the long term gain should be worth the short term pain - when my daughters invite me to their homes and they're at least reasonably clean, I'll be glad I made the effort. (On another note, someone tell my WHY I'm bothering to clean the house for the birthday party of a one-year-old? Like she'll really notice?)

Random thought #4: I just traded an old bicycle for a phone. Some guys from our youth group showed up at our door, playing the trade-up game that's inspired by the one red paperclip, and when they offered me a phone, I said "hey - why don't you take this old bike off our hands?" They were thrilled.

Random thought #5: One of my newest blogging friends is a talented artist named Andrea Pratt. One of these days, when I have a little extra cash, I'm going to buy one of her paintings, and hang it on my wall to inspire me. If you've got a minute, why don't you go on over and look at her art work, and while you're there, congratulate her for being the featured artist in an upcoming edition of Cahoots? When I first saw her art, I thought "she would be PERFECT for Cahoots", and it turns out I was right, 'cause they've decided to feature her. What's even more fun is that the article I wrote about blogging (which some of you provided quotes for - thank you very much) will appear in the same edition. You really should go on over to Cahoots and subscribe so you don't miss any of the fun.

Random thought #6: My beautiful niece Abigail turns one year old today. Our whole family is totally smitten with this little girl. The girls love to remind people that she is their "double cousin" (her dad is Marcel's brother and her mom is my sister), and they dote over her every chance they get. It's fun watching her grow up surrounded by cousins who adore her.

updated to add:
Random thought #7: If you're desperate for a little mommy-quiet-time, you might want to try my new trick. When the kids are all downstairs, wash and wax the upstairs floor (which includes the space just above the stairs) and every time they start to come up, shout "Stop! You can't come up right now. The floor is wet." When you're done, curl up on the couch and read a good book. Or just stare out the window aimlessly like I just did. If you're lucky, you can convince them it takes an hour for the wax to dry.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

No, I will not be joining NaBloPoMo, or whatever it's called

Nope, I will not promise you a post every day (especially since I already missed yesterday). Normally I'd be happy to - in fact, I often post every day. But this month, I need the freedom to sulk and pout, and just be uncreative and occasionally uncommunicative. Yes, sometimes I might be found curled up in my bed with the covers over my head instead of at the computer being all friendly. It's not the pending winter - no, I rather enjoyed the fresh layer of snow. It's not the restlessness I talked about a little while ago. It's not even my sleepy soul.

It's something else entirely, and I'm dying to talk about it, but I can't. Let's just say it's ugly and unpleasant, and my name will probably be dragged through the mud a few times in the coming months and perhaps even years. And, starting next week, I will probably need to make a few too many trips to another province.

I'll just say that sometimes it's really, really hard being in management. Most of the time, I enjoy being in a position of leadership, but some days, it's not worth the "big bucks". Some days, I just want to be a working stiff who shows up in the morning, counts widgets, and then goes home at the end of the day. Some mornings, when I wake up from a nightmare brought on by all of this like I did this morning, I'd rather stay in bed.

On another note entirely, I've been reading Torch by Cheryl Strayed (recommended by Laura before she disappeared from the face of the earth under the allegations that she was a fake), and I have to say the woman (Cheryl Strayed, that is) knows how to get alot of things right. Like grief, for example. Like the deep trench left in your life after the loss of a parent. And like the betrayal you feel when you watch a parent move on to another relationship.

Here's a quote:
"...as the weeks passed and then turned to months, Claire's sorrow thickened, deepened. She came to see that her grief did not have an end, or if it did, she would not be delivered there. Grief was not a road or a river or a sea but a world, and she would have to live there now. The world was different for each person, for her and for Joshua and for Bruce. She couldn't say what Joshua's or Bruce's was, but hers was a place vast and wide. It was everywhere, went on forever. The sky at night in a place famous for its night sky: Montana or the Sahara Desert. And her face eternally tipped up to that sky."