Friday, June 30, 2006

Leave your troubles aside and DANCE!

Have you seen the dancing guy video yet? If not, you really should. It'll make you want to drop everything and DANCE!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Keep it in your pants man!

I may not be a perfect parent, I may yell at them from time to time, I may get impatient and ignore them when I've got something I want to do, I may forget to do the laundry and send them to school with mis-matched socks... BUT at least I don't leave my sleeping child in the car while I prowl for HOOKERS! AND THEN FORGET WHERE I PARKED!

The fact that someone could do such an utterly ridiculous, irresponsible thing without facing charges leaves me completely dumbfounded. Dumb. founded. Flabber. gasted. (On a completely different note, does anyone know where either of those strange words come from?)

You made her feel welcome - and now can I ask you for another favour?

Thank you for welcoming the cool Nikki to blogworld. She's tickled pink with all her comments.

Now can you oblige me one more time and welcome another new blogger? Want some more hints?

- she's a spunky freckled redhead with a great sense of humour
- she's a whiz at school
- she read all of the Harry Potter books by the time she was eight
- she loves to bake (and eat) cakes and cookies

Yup, I'm the proud mom doing my best to raise writers!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I work downtown. Nearly every day, I walk past the poor, the destitute, the marginalized of society. I’ve learned to block it out – the glaring poverty around me. After so many years of walking downtown streets, I know how to insulate myself against it. I don’t really see them. I brush them off when they ask for change, I hurry past them when they get in my way. I rarely look in their eyes. I forget about their humanity.

I think I’m safe behind my walls. I justify my actions. “It’s best not to hand them spare change – they’ll probably spend it on alcohol or drugs.” “There are downtown ministries that can help them – I don’t have to.” “I’m doing my part for poverty overseas – I can only do so much.”

It’s so much easier to feed people in Africa. It’s easier to care for the children who don’t stumble drunk down back lanes of my downtown. It’s easier to visit their mud huts, take pictures of them, and then go home to my comfort and my table full of plenty.

I think I’m safe in my fourth floor office with my posters and brochures about ending hunger in Africa or Asia. I think I’m okay blocking out the poverty just outside my door. But then I leave the building at lunch time, open the door in a distracted state, stumble over the drunk sleeping body of one of the poor of my own city, and I find myself shaken to the core. My heart won’t stop racing.

The poor are right here. With me. Around me. And I have learned to ignore them for my lofty ideas of feeding hungry children elsewhere.

After lurching past the body on the sidewalk, I stepped inside the church next door. The priest spoke words directly to me. God cares for the poor. It may not be what he said, but it’s what I heard. Blessed are the poor. Blessed is the drunk man sleeping in my doorway.

Truth in Advertising

Don’t you sometimes want to mess with billboards and ad campaigns? Sometimes advertising brings out the subversive in me and I find myself tempted to climb up onto a billboard with a can of spray paint to add a few words of truth.

In the mornings, I cycle past an armoury where they display recruitment posters for the military. “Strong, Proud,” the poster proclaims above a picture of a young soldier in uniform, and I want to add at the bottom “and sometimes dead.”

Beneath the multitude of ads for the latest cell phone, I want to print “Seriously. Isn’t your old one good enough?” or “Get real – you need to watch TV on your CELL PHONE? Perhaps a visit to an addictions counselor is in order!?”

Under the ads for the latest exercise equipment – the ones with the buxom babes and bronzed bodybuilders, I want to say “Come on – you KNOW you’d have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for plastic surgery if you want THAT body. Buy the exercise equipment and you’ll be out a coupla hundred dollars and you’ll STILL have your old body!”

On the clothing ads… “Take a good look in your closet. Do you really NEED more clothes?” or “It may look good on the model, but it will look like a SACK on you!”

Under “Wal-mart. Always low prices,” I’d put “Abusing people all over the world so YOU can enjoy low prices.”

Fast food restaurants: “Do you want to add THIGHS with that?” or “Bring us your kids – we’ll make them fat and lazy.”

And speaking of the “Truth in Advertising”, check out this hilarious video clip.

And here’s another fun link about the truth in tobacco advertising.

What truth would you add to ad campaigns?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It may not be World Cup, but...

With tonight's final game (a nail-biter resulting in Julie's team emerging victorious), soccer season ends until September. Next week will find us twiddling our thumbs, not knowing what to do with all the free evenings. Perhaps we'll set up our lawn chairs on the edge of a soccer field anyway, just out of force of habit.

It's been an incredible season - no missed games because of bad weather. Only a few at the beginning were too cold to be pleasant, but mostly it's been a delightful way to spend the evenings.

So now, because I know you're dying to see them in uniform, I give you THE SOCCER PICTURES....

First of all, Nikki, who's wearing #7

And here's Julie, wearing #3

And because he got in on the action too, here's a pic of Coach Daddy with his favourite team-member and with his coaching partners (note the stylish coach attire - I made them all photo shirts with the team pic on it).
If I were handing out end-of-season team awards, I would give Julie "most improved player" (she got quite aggressive toward the end there!) and Nikki "strongest kicker" (yikes! I'd be scared to get in front of that powerful leg of hers!). Oh, and Daddy and his coaching buddies - "most valuable coaches" (they made an awesome team)!

Look Mom! I can do it myself!

When I got home from work one day last week, four-year-old Maddie tugged on my arm. “Mom, come watch me – I know how to pump on the swing!” Beaming my approval, I followed her to the swing set. She hopped on the swing and started moving her legs – back and forth, back and forth. Slowly, the momentum lifted her into the air.

I sat down on the deck and watched her, cheering her on. Marcel stepped out of the house and stood beside me. “Yeah,” he said, “she just figured it out today. It’s kinda nice now – I can sit on the deck, read my paper and drink my coffee, and she doesn’t bug me to push her on the swing anymore.”

A few days later, we were at the church picnic and I sat relaxing in the shade talking to the other grown-ups as we watched the kids play. Maddie swung high in the air on the swings. Julie wandered off to play somewhere else, and Nikki picked up her 7 month old cousin and found a quiet place to entertain her. “Ah,” I sighed happily to my friends, “my kids don’t need me much anymore. I can actually finish a drink now without having to get up to push someone on the swing, change a diaper, or wipe a snotty nose.” It felt SO luxurious to have a conversation with friends at a church function without interruption.

Maddie’s accomplishment on the swing marks another milestone in the growth of our family. With the third and final child, each “first” also marks a “last”. The first step meant our last crawler. The first word meant the end of baby talk. The first sippy-cup meant the last bottle or breast-feeding. The first time on a real bike (with training wheels so far) meant the last of the tricycles.

Sometimes it feels like only yesterday that we became parents and learned how to change diapers, soothe aches and pains, potty train, etc., etc. Now here we are with all these major steps already behind us. No more potty training. No more rocking them to sleep. No more high chairs or bibs. No more pushing them on the swings (well okay, sometimes they still WANT it even if they don’t NEED it :-).

It comes with some bittersweetness, this growing up thing. Yes it’s nice to sit back and watch them swing high as the trees without my help. Yes it’s nice to finish a grown-up conversation without interruption. Yes it’s nice to not have to be the source of everything for a needy little baby anymore. I don’t deny the pleasure in those things – in fact I quite enjoy it.

But there’s the other side of it too – the part that fills us with a bit of sadness when they don’t need us anymore. Nikki is such a grown-up girl she handles her baby cousin with ease and responsibility. She’s almost ready to stay home without adult supervision, and soon she’ll be babysitting. Julie can quite capably bake a cake by herself. Maddie can reach light switches and pump herself on the swings.

From here on in, they will continue to need me less and less. It’s beautiful and it’s painful all at the same time. Before long, I’ll be in the same shoes as Linda, watching my youngest graduate. Sigh.

In the meantime, though, before they run off to lives of their own, I sure hope I can remember to taste the sweetness of every moment I still have them with me. I may not have to push Maddie on the swing anymore, but once in awhile, I'll at least sit and watch her.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Wander on over and say hello

Why don't you go on over and welcome a new blogger to blogland. I'll give you a few hints:
- she's cute
- she loves soccer and running mini-marathons
- she's always been a deep thinker beyond her young years
- she made me a Mommy

(Note: if you're a creep and you have no business being there, than stay far, far away from this particular blog, because I'm not afraid to HURT YOU!)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

In Cahoots

That's right, I'm in Cahoots. Remember when I fussed and fumed about the fact that there are very few good magazines out there and I thought I'd have to start my own to satisfy my high standards? And remember when I said that two smart women in Saskatchewan read my mind and started the magazine of my dreams? (Whew! It seemed like a lot of work to start my own, so I'm glad they beat me to it.)

Well, that magazine is Cahoots, and shortly after I fell in love with it, I sent them an article (many of you already read it when it appeared here - it's about preparing to turn 40). Those two smart women were kind enough to publish it in the latest edition. (If you're reading this, Carla and Michele, thanks!)

Here's a picture of it. Trust me, you really should whip out your credit card, go here, and subscribe to this magazine. No, they didn't pay me to say so, it's just SO GOOD! Women of blogland (and other friends), this is the kind of magazine that NEEDS to thrive. This is the kind of magazine that should appear on every magazine stand, bravely telling the world that smart women are looking for a little more than glossy fashion magazines, celebrity rags, and homemaking tips. Take my word for it - you'll be glad you did. (And I'm not just saying that because they had the good sense to publish my article - there are lots of other things in there that outshine my meagre offerings.) For starters, isn't it refreshing that the cover page features artwork instead of airbrushed models?

(For my local readers, you can get it at McNally Robinson. Other than that, I'm not sure where it's available.)

In other news, I'll also have a piece appearing in Beyond Ordinary Living, another new magazine that shows alot of potential. I'll let you know when it shows up on a magazine rack near you. And I have a contract for a couple of other short pieces for another magazine that, at this point, shall remain nameless.

It's happening, folks - I'm putting my stuff out there in the universe and lately, the universe has been responding favourably. I can say much more bravely now - I AM a freelance writer.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Black paint in the tunnel

I ride through a pedestrian/bike tunnel every day on my way to and from work. There is almost always graffiti in the tunnel. It seems to be a favourite place for graffiti-painting teenagers with time on their hands. It’s out of the way and can’t be seen from the street so it’s an ideal place for idleness. About the only time there isn’t graffiti in the tunnel is the day or two after the city crew comes by and removes it with their sandblasters and gallons of grey paint.

Mostly, I don’t mind the graffiti. I actually like some of it – the stuff that’s artistically done. For a long time, the word "Hush" greeted me as I entered the tunnel, and it often made me smile. I wish the city crew could leave the good stuff there and just get rid of the pointless messy stuff.

A few weeks ago, they cleaned the graffiti off, and it was clean for a couple of days. Since then, however, the graffiti painters have returned. But these aren’t the artistic graffiti painters – these are the ones with just a single can of black spray paint and an evening of boredom on their hands.

A few days ago, a swastika appeared in the tunnel. A big, black, ugly swastika. There is nothing even slightly artistic about it – just an unevenly painted ugly symbol of hatred.

I don’t understand hatred. I don’t understand the feelings behind something like a swastika. The idea that one group of people can hate another group of people so deeply that they wish them destroyed boggles my mind.

Most of the time, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t (usually) yell at bad drivers, because I try to assume that they’re cutting me off because they’re having a really bad day and need to get home to their sick kids. If someone’s rude to me in the grocery store, I try to imagine that they don’t have much love in their life so they can’t entirely be blamed. As much as I can, I try to put myself in another person’s shoes before I cast judgement on them for their actions.

The problem is, I can’t put myself in the shoes of anyone who would paint swastikas in a tunnel. I suppose it was just an ill-advised joke by some bored teenagers, but I can’t fathom the kind of boredom that would reflect itself in hatred.

There are lots of things I CAN understand, if I try hard enough. I can understand prejudice – at least a little bit. I can go back in my memory bank to the day a new girl moved into our homogenous little farming community. When she didn’t fit in well, and everyone thought she was a little odd, it was easiest to chalk it up to the fact that her skin colour was different from ours. And when she moved away again, only a year later, it was convenient to assume that her family’s transience had something to do with the fact that she wasn’t like the rest of us.

The truth is, though, I don’t have to go all the way back to childhood to find the deep roots of prejudice and ethnocentricity. Every day, I see homeless people on the streets of downtown, and almost every day, I have to resist the urge to equate their homelessness with their ethnicity. So, you see, though I work hard to drag out any little vestiges left in my heart, I can understand prejudice.

I can understand anger too. I can go back to that day in the park, some time after I’d become a mother, when I saw a man luridly revealing himself to everyone who walked by, when the anger welled up in me, and I knew instantly, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I could kill or at least seriously injure a man who would sexually threaten my children the way I had been sexually threatened several years earlier. And suddenly I knew why, on the day that I walked into my parents’ kitchen and told them I’d been raped, my dad told me the story of the man he’d known who’d hunted down his daughter’s rapist and castrated him. I remember knowing that, just like my pacifist father, I was capable of the transformation that would cause me to destroy the man who’d hurt my daughter.

I can understand anger, but I’m still not sure I can understand hatred. Perhaps it was hatred I felt on those nights after the rape when I’d lie in my bed, staring at the window, praying that no one would ever crawl through it again. Perhaps it was hatred when I cried myself to sleep, knowing that those filthy hands and tattooed arms had destroyed every last shred of the little bits of innocence I’d still held onto. Perhaps it was hatred, but mostly I think it was anger and fear. I can’t say I feel hatred now, after the years have mellowed and matured me.

The truth is, I can understand a lot of ugly feelings that might be the seeds of something dark inside my heart. And if I think about sinking deep into the shadows of that anger and prejudice, and allowing indoctrination and peer pressure and a little bit of mob mentality to wash over me, perhaps I’d come out on the other side of hatred too.

Maybe, just maybe, there is very little distance between myself and those who paint swastikas and kill for their passion, their prejudice, and their hatred. Maybe there’s enough darkness lurking in the shadows of each of us that, if it were fed the right amount of ugly fodder, we could become Nazis or KKK or Janjaweed.

I don’t know. I pray to God that it’s not true. I hope with all my heart that nothing will ever hold enough power over me to turn my little bits of darkness into hatred.

I'm pretty sure the idle, bored, teenage swastika painters aren't murderers, but I hope they recognize the seeds of hatred growing in them before it's too late. I hope they lay awake tonight knowing they’ve done a very bad thing. I hope one day their circles of friendship enlarge enough to include a Jewish person or a person of colour and they find out that love is better than hate.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Not much to see here

I thought I had something interesting to post, but then I wandered over and read Accidental Poet's series of posts about something incredible that happened 7 years ago, and I realized anything I might want to post about tonight would be trivial and boring in comparison. As most of you know, AP is my sister-in-law-who-feels-like-a-sister. You really should read her last 4 posts, starting with this one.

But if you don't have time for all of them, at least read this one - it has something to do with a business trip I once took across two provinces with my mom and oldest two daughters, a bunch of (slightly annoying) phone calls while I was trying my best to get there at a reasonable time, a visit to a nursery room we all assumed had been empty since the-little-niece-I-didn't-get-to-meet spent one solitary night there, a surprise involving my father and a baby boy (which I thought was an apparition), and, eventually, the dawning of a realization that I'd become an auntie again. That's my (much abbreviated) side of the story, but AP's telling of it is much more interesting. Go on, I won't take it personally if you desert me.

The long awaited photo

After at least a million tries, Blogger is FINALLY letting me post the photo of Nikki nearing the finish line at the marathon. That's her in the red circle, looking like she's got some kind of strange protective shield. Maybe she did - it's called her Momma's love. :-) If you're wondering what she's holding, it was raining at the beginning of the race, so she wore her jacket. By the end, she was carrying it.
And because you waited so patiently, I'll throw in a bonus picture. That's her, before the race, excited and nervous, and just a little bit silly. She's not too fond of having her picture taken, so I've got lots of pictures of her looking something like this:

Monday, June 19, 2006

Race day

The alarm woke me at six o’clock. I lay there with my eyes still closed, listening to the morning news. I was still in that semi-conscious zone between sleep and wakefulness when I felt the tap on my arm. It was ten-year-old Nikki – she was up and ready. It was race day and she wanted to make sure we made it there on time.

While I splashed water on my face and tamed my bedtime hair, she dressed in her pink t-shirt and running shorts. I emerged from the bedroom to find her in the living room pulling socks onto her feet. She stood up, and with a look that showed both nervousness and anticipation, she handed me her race number. I pinned it onto her shirt, smiled, and reached up to stroke her tousled hair.

She grabbed her shoes, and together we attached the small sensor chip to her shoe laces. This small chip would register with the computer when she crossed the start line and the finish line, letting us know what her final time was. She pulled her shoes onto her feet, and I felt a small lump form in my throat as I watched her. These were my old shoes – a nice pair of Nikes I’d bought and later realized were a little too tight for me. My tall, long-legged ten-year-old daughter is now old enough to wear shoes that I can fit onto my own feet. How did she get there so quickly?

Together, we hopped on our bikes and rode through the early morning air to the University, across the river from our house. On the way, we met up with her friend and her friend’s mom. We were headed to the start of the annual Manitoba Marathon, and for the first time in her young life, Nikki was set to run the Super Run – a 2.6 mile run that’s just right for kids and novice runners.

There was a high energy buzz in the crowd gathered at the start of the race. Thousands of people had gathered to run various distances and thousands more were there to lend their support. It was a drizzly morning, and some hid under umbrellas or raincoats, but Nikki and her friend barely noticed the rain in their excitement. They scanned the crowd for other friends.

I followed them to the starting line, but soon they got swallowed up in the crowd. The whistle blew, and they were off. I stood alone on the sidelines, watching my daughter’s strong legs propel her into the distance. I’m sure I was smiling. I know I saw smiles on the faces of many of the other parents gathered to watch.

I followed the spectator crowd to the finish line, and climbed up to a seat in the stadium just across from the finish line. It didn’t take long before the first Super-runners started to arrive on the track. Parents cheered as they watched their children approach. Quicker than I’d expected, Nikki’s pink shirt appeared in the stream of runners. She looked strong and agile. Her stride was good. Her long legs carried her across the turf to the finish line, and I stood and cheered.

With my mommy-heart swelling with pride, I headed to the gate where the runners exited the stadium. Before long, I spotted Nikki eating a popsicle while she scanned the crowd for a familiar face. When she spotted me, her face lit up and she walked toward me. I grinned at her and a tiny smile tickled the corners of her mouth. She couldn’t show too much pride in this crowd of thousands, but she couldn’t fully hide it either.

This was a shining moment for her, and she knew it. She’d run the race, she’d finished the course, and she was victorious. She’d been afraid that she wouldn’t be able to run the whole distance without stopping to rest, but the first thing she told me when she reached me was that the only time she’d had to stop was to tie her shoe.

I know, as a mom, there will be many more moments like this, when I’ll watch from the sidelines as my children accomplish something they’ve set their minds to. But there’s something about the first time you see your child cross the finish line that fills you with an emotion that’s hard to describe. I couldn’t have been more proud of my daughter, who’s filling my old shoes, but running faster in them than I ever did.

Her time was 25 minutes and 39 seconds. Quite respectable. If you scan the results at http://www.manitobamarathon.mb.ca/ (click on Super Run) you’ll see that she out-ran A LOT of people. In my rough estimate, she finished in the top 18th percentile for ten year olds. Out of about 510 ten year olds, only about 93 beat her.

(I have a picture of her nearing the finish line, but Blogger doesn't want me to upload it right now. Phooey for Blogger.)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

My man

It's Father's Day, and my man is busy making pasta salad for his OWN Father's Day barbecue. Is it any wonder why I love this guy?
Happy Father's Day to a man who brings honour to the name "Dad". A man who is fully present for his children. A man who teaches his daughters what it means to be a REAL man (and that includes making pasta salad!). A man who demonstrates what it means to feel the fear and do it anyway. A man who's helping his daughters understand that they can do or be anything they set their minds to. A man whose proudest moment was the moment he became a dad.

I'm so glad I get to be his wife and share the joy of parenthood with him. Here's to many more Father's Days.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Someone lost their home today

Trust me, THIS is not something you want to see parked in front of your house when you arrive home in the afternoon.
I was leaving the local grocery store when a lady pointed to my street and said "about 5 fire trucks just turned down that street and there's a big billow of smoke over there." The "over there" she was referring to was in the direction of my home - where my husband and two of my daughters were. My heart leapt into my throat and I started running home. By the time I got to the intersection a block and a half from my home, the police had blocked off the road, and another 2 fire trucks were racing down my street. Two others were parked directly in front of our house.

I raced home, not sure what I'd find. Part way there though, I realized that Marcel was on the sidewalk in front of our house, looking across the street. That's when I realized that the smoke was coming from the area where he was looking, and our house was okay. I took a deep breath, and my heart slowed to just a little above normal.

As it turned out, one of the units in the co-op housing complex across the street was on fire. We don't know anyone who lived in that building, but we do know several people in the complex. And we later found out that Marcel's cousin used to live in that building. From what we've heard, the only casualties were a couple of house cats. What's really disturbing is the fact that someone was hauled into a police car, suggesting that it's a suspicious fire. I guess we'll wait for the evening news to find out any other details.

For now, I'm feeling alot of mixed emotions. Relief that my family and home are safe, fear that there may have been an arson at work in our neighbourhood, and great sadness for the people (possibly 4 families since there are 4 units in each building) who have lost their homes. A house fire has always been one of my greatest fears - especially since I've been a mom. I hope the people who used to live there have a bed to sleep in tonight, and I hope their sleep is not haunted with nightmares.

This is what it looks like now - after the fire trucks have all left. I can't imagine losing everything I own in the short time it took the flames to tear that place apart.

Friday, June 16, 2006

My, how quickly they grow

Julie turns nine today. And I am feeling nostalgic...

Happy Birthday, my beautiful girl.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

She's getting older

Accidental Poet has been my sister-in-law for so long, it feels like she's really my sister. I was sixteen when she married my brother. And you know I just celebrated my 40th birthday, so you do the math. My dad was a wise man - he used to say he had seven (now it's eight) children rather than four. He considered those who'd married into the family to be his children just like those who were born into it. So I often feel like I have three sisters and three brothers. Lucky me.

Today is AP's birthday, and I wish I could show up at her doorstep and whisk her away for an evening out - maybe a movie, maybe a piece of cheese cake and a latté, maybe just a walk in the park. We'd have a good laugh, we'd talk about our kids, and we'd tell each other stories about what's going on in our lives. I wish I could, but I can't. She lives too many miles away from me.

But she DOES read this blog, so this will have to be her virtual "night out". AP, put up your feet, grab a cup of coffee (and cheese cake if there's any in the house), and read a few of the many things I like and admire about you...
- you make me laugh almost as much as my husband does, and that's a HUGE compliment
- you like my laundry room ESPECIALLY when it's messy, because it shows our shared weakness
- you know that if I show up at your house for holidays, I'll get just as giddy as you over the possibility of staying up all night sewing costumes for our kids
- you understand why it's important to not only sew circle skirts but to add bandanas and matching circles on t-shirts
- you know the beauty of words well placed
- you ALWAYS welcome us into your home, even when it's messy
- you let me come to your writing group when I visit
- you let me go to a movie with Technobrother when I visit, and you hang out with my kids
- you can read a book faster than anyone I know and you REMEMBER THE DETAILS!
- we can talk about writing together and you understand why I write
- you cheer me on when I get something published
- you have the greatest way of engaging people in conversation and making them feel like they are the most important people on earth
- you have a heart full of compassion and you remember important things about people
- you let me be lazy at your house
- you have a sharp wit and quick mind and it makes me realize why my blog is called "fumbling for words" and yours is not
- you are humble and honest and real

Oh, and there's one other thing. My brother could have brought home a beautiful girl, but instead he brought home one I LIKED! (And for anyone who thinks I've just insulted her, you'd have to be there. She forgave me the first time and I'm sure she will this time - 25 years later.)

How to have fun at a meeting

Meetings are boring, right? Stack up all the meetings you’ve been to in your brain and put the ones that weren’t boring in a separate pile. Makes for a pretty small stack, doesn’t it?

I’ve been to A LOT of meetings. And I mean A LOT. (Thirteen years in the public service and two years in non-profit = approximately 3,987,072 meetings. Don’t ask me how I came up with the number – I just KNOW!) If I could have all the time back I’ve spent in meetings, I could add about 17 years onto my life.

Yesterday I spent all day in meetings. From 7:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night (with a bit of a break for a bike ride and supper). Fortunately, they weren’t the dry, boring kind where you go through your annual budget line by line and decide that if this is what you have to do for the rest of your life, you’d rather poke out your eyes and live the rest of your life in the dark to avoid it.

Trying to look on the bright side, I’m lucky that I get to facilitate more and more of the meetings I have to be part of. That’s good for a few reasons: a.) it’s harder to fall asleep when you’re runnin’ the thing, b) I get to control the agenda, c) I get to throw in fun things now and then, d) I can tell anyone fiddling on their Blackberries to shove them up their @#$%#$, and e) if the finance person wants to pick apart the budget, I can kick her/him out of the room (mwahaha!).

Yesterday, I did one of those fun things that help make meetings at least somewhat less boring. It was one of those brainwaves that strikes you at approximately midnight, the night before a big meeting, when you’re trying to sleep but you can’t help running through the agenda time and time again.

Picture this, 5 respected church elders sprawled out on the floor with old magazines, colourful paper, scented markers, and glue sticks. (Okay, so the truth is, they’re not the kind of elder you might be thinking of – these are the kind of elders that are all way younger than your grandfather – the kind that are hip and fun and they’re not just leaders of your church, they’re the people you like to have over for a bonfire and glass of wine on Friday night. They’re the kind of elders who tell you that their son messed up with the law and has to go to court. The kind that let you know they’re in the middle of a depression and are considering medication. The kind that cry with you when life looks like shit and you can’t find your way out. They’re the kind that SAY shit. The honest, authentic, flawed kind that EVERY church should have.)

So… back to the picture… 5 elders, glue sticks, and pictures torn out of magazines. Out of this moment came 5 beautiful collages, each of them representing someone’s vision of the church. Each one had personality. There was the one with the picture in the centre of a bad-ass kid with a colourful mohawk and an attitude. Another one focused on the different kinds of relationships we all have. On almost every one, the faces were as diverse as a box of new crayons. On one of them, there were words like “hope” and “love” and “community”. On another, the pictures represented the realities of life – the messy stuff that most of us hide – the depressions, the anger, the fear. One of them had a variety of pictures of people expressing themselves in art and music and all kinds of creativity.

It was brilliant. I want to do it at every meeting. I’m just not sure I can convince the board of directors at work to get down on the floor and get glue on their hands.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Turns out I didn't need a cleaning fairy...

I just needed to ask my husband nicely. :-) Came home to a clean house today. Aaahhh...

Yes, I'm lucky. And he's cute in his little fairy outfit too.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hello-o. My house is THIS way. Did you lose your MAP?

Has anyone seen the cleaning fairy? She keeps missing my house and I want to know what's up. If she comes by your house, can you point her in my direction?

I keep sending her messages through the cosmos telling her my house is just the right house to test out all those new heavy-duty magic potions she's been dying to try, but she doesn't seem to get my message. I even leave treats out for her - like the bits of broken cookies on the kitchen floor and the chips my kids left scattered all over the family room last night. But alas, she turns up her nose at my meagre offerings and flutters off somewhere else.

Anyone have any tricks to entice her to visit? I thought perhaps she preferred to work alone, so this afternoon, when the dusting and vacuuming and sweeping and wiping needed doing, I went for a bike ride instead, hoping against hope she'd show up. But of course, nothing. And tonight, when the laundry mountain looked way too imposing to tackle, I wandered off to the playground, thinking the peace and quiet would be just what she was looking for. Sigh. Still nothing.

I'm discouraged. I've waited and waited and waited for her. If she takes much longer, I may have to take drastic measures and start cleaning my house mySELF. Sheesh. Cleaning fairy, if you can hear me, PLEASE don't let it come to that.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The day after

Well, it was a GREAT party. G.R.E.A.T. I haven't had that much fun since... I can't remember when. There was plenty of food. Of the over 100 hot dogs we cooked, only a few shriveled weiners were left (it seems alot of people like weiners without buns, because there were more buns left over than weiners - go figure). I thought I'd run out of chips, but so many people brought chips that I think we had more AFTER the party than we did before. We could have used a bit more pop - I guess I thought "BYOB" meant that people would bring along enough beverages (including non-alcoholic), but we ran a little low.

The fireworks display was a BIG hit. Quite impressive for a backyard party, I'd say. Marcel and Julie got positively giddy when we went to the fireworks store to stock up. Those two are turning into pyrotechnic addicts!

Lots of people showed up. Our best estimate is around 75 people. It turns out that alot of people like us. :-) (Or at least we know alot of people that like to party.) I think there was someone there representing nearly every factor of our lives - family, extended families, work, church, school, neighbourhood, kids' soccer, childhood friends, old workplaces. Wow! What a rush to see so many people gathered who are there because they like you and feel connected to you. Wish you ALL could have been there too!

The weather was awesome - a little cool, but not as cool as we'd feared. There was a great fire in the firepit that warmed up anyone who got cool. The kids had a great time playing soccer and running around in the grass. Every time I looked around, there were lots of great conversations going on, people were laughing and having fun, and nobody really looked left out (at least I HOPE nobody did). People from different parts of our lives were connecting with each other and striking up new friendships. At least one dinner party will result from one of those new friendships, and apparently other phone numbers were exchanged.

Stopping in the middle of the crowd, I looked around and was both humbled and honoured by all the people who had gathered to show us their love and support. There's something about being in the middle of a crowd of about 75 people who are all connected to you that makes you feel strong - like you can accomplish great things with so many people on your side.

Oh, and we got great loot too. We now have a well-stocked wine cabinet, gift certificates for a few meals out, a night at the movies, cash, and an assortment of other things. Marcel got the iPod he's been longing for from me and his siblings.

And the pièce de resistance? I GET TO GO SKYDIVING! I guess Marcel's not TOO worried about me jumping out of a plane, 'cause he bought me a gift certificate! :-)

So today I'm basking in the glow of a great party, lots of friends, and a night of good conversation and lots of great moments. Sorry I have no pictures to share - I was too busy talking to old friends, keeping the chip bowls stocked, introducing people to each other, hugging people, welcoming newcomers, etc., etc., to think about taking pictures. I didn't even take the time to eat one of those hotdogs. And today, they just don't look as appetizing anymore.

Friday, June 09, 2006


We’re throwing a big party tonight. An outdoor party. At Marcel’s parents place out in the country. We’ve invited almost everyone we know – work friends, church friends, siblings, cousins and aunts and uncles, friends from old work places, our kids’ friends, neighbours – you name it. It could be 100 people… or it could be 10. Who knows? We didn’t ask for RSVPs.

We’re celebrating Marcel’s graduation and my 40th birthday. But REALLY it’s more about Marcel’s grad, because turning 40 takes NO effort compared to three and a half years in university. He NEVER lets me throw parties in his honour, because he’s an introvert and hates to be the centre of attention. I like throwing parties, but I’ve honoured his request so far. When he started university, he told me that the one and only time I could throw him a party would be for his grad. I never forgot and now I’m holding him to it. In the end, though, the only way he’d agree to it was if I offered to share the spotlight. So, ostensibly, it’s for both of us.

It’s a big party, but because our budget is dreadfully tight, it’s pretty low-brow. No steak or lobsters or even chicken drumsticks on the barbecue. Nope, the best they’re gonna get tonight is hot dogs and chips and cake and ice cream. (Did I scare anyone off yet?)

I have no idea who will come. I have no idea if we have enough food (but, as my sister says “You have ENOUGH. When the food runs out, people are done eating.”) I don’t know if we should have planned entertaining games, or just assumed people will have enough fun just chatting with each other. I went with the latter, ‘cause I couldn’t think of any games and didn’t feel much like planning any anyway.

I didn’t think I was stressed out about it, but last night I lay awake wondering if we’d thought of everything. Weiners? Check. Buns? Pick them up this afternoon. Plates, cups, napkins? Check. Coffee urn? Check. Fireworks? Pick them up this afternoon. Condiments? Check. Table cloth? Check. And the list went on and on through my head.

I suppose, in the end, we’ll be ready. Now if only people will show up and we won’t be left, forlorn and neglected, with 100 hot dogs!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Where do I live?

I live…in a simple bungalow with an attached garage full of bicycles and a red car in the driveway.
I live…with my husband and three daughters.
I live…just a block from the mighty Red River.
I live…within easy walking distance of a grocery store, a drugstore, a dollar store, a bank, two gas stations with convenience stores, a GREAT wine store, Licks ice cream, a poster store, and a few other stores I’ve never been in yet.
I live…in the shade of a giant maple tree.
I live…within easy biking distance of St. Vital Park, where there's a duck pond, a boat launch where we've put our boat in the water, and lots of picnic space.
I live…in a house with ugly multi-colour carpeting in the basement, and a kitchen that’s too small for a family of five.
I live…next door to a bunch of university football players who are polite and friendly and don’t party too much.
I live...a 2 hour's drive from the farm where I grew up and the cemetery where my dad is buried.
I live…within easy biking distance of Ten Thousand Villages, the best store on earth.
I live…across the street from a housing co-op and the daycare centre my kids don’t have to go to anymore.
I live…just a 5 minute drive from the edge of the city and open sky and prairie fields.
I live…in the province where I was born.
I live…in a country that is known for its politeness, its cold north, its peacekeeping, and its multiculturalism.
I live…about 10 blocks (which is much too close) away from a shopping mall.
I live…in a house with a rotting deck and a play structure that’s almost too small for my children.
I live…within biking distance of my church.
I live…in the house with the wooden deck chairs in the front yard instead of on our deck, because we like to sit and watch the world go by.
I live…close enough to my sister and brother-in-law and little niece that we get to see them every week.
I live…further away from my brothers and their families than I’d like.
I live…closer to my mom than I used to, but further than I’d like.
I live…far from where my mother is right now.
I live…close enough to Marcel’s family that we can see them nearly every week.
I live…in a bedroom that has one dark burgundy wall, and three white walls that I wish I’d painted burgundy too.
I live…just far enough from my office that I get a good workout biking there.
I live…across the river from the University I attended nearly twenty years ago.
I live…with contentment and enough of almost everything.
I live…in a country where my children can grow up without fear or discrimination or poverty.
I live…in a world that’s getting smaller, but that’s big enough to offer me lots of places and opportunities to explore.
I live…in a house that’s never quite as clean as I’d like it to be, but clean enough to be comfortable.

Where do YOU live?

(Seriously… I’d like to hear about it. Consider this a “meme” and do it on your blog and then leave me a link. Don’t worry, Hope, I haven’t forgotten about your tag. :-)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Weekend wandering

Well, since Marcel is so bound and determined to have a good attitude about all this, I guess I'll just have to quit sulking and move on. Yeesh - he takes all the fun out of my petulant mood. (Yes, for those who asked, there's always next year. But at 41, prolonging your education - and subsequent return to work - for an extra year just seems too long to wait.)

Instead of stewing in disappointment, though, I'll turn to lighter things and give you some of the pictures Michele requested. We had an exceedingly delightful walk along the lovely Seine River. Along the way, we saw lots of wildflowers, a couple of deer and even a fox. The evening was capped off with a fire in Michele's backyard. Ah, what a way to relax with a bunch of beautiful women.
On Sunday, while we waited for Marcel's grad to start, the girls and I did a little more wandering - through downtown Winnipeg. Our favourite part was a photo shoot by the fountain. Maddie was particularly delighted whenever the fountain went shooting up toward the ceiling. (I threw in that last picture because I love the way the light shines on her hair.)

Well that REALLY sucks

After the emotional high of yesterday’s graduation, we got bad news this morning. Really sucky, energy-draining kind of news. Marcel didn’t get accepted into the Education program for the fall. That’s always been his plan – get a 3 year History degree, and then a 2 year Education degree so he could teach High School History. Now the plan has hit the rails.

I’m flabbergasted. I never even let myself CONSIDER the possibility that he wouldn’t get in. I was sure he had EVERYTHING in his favour. He’s mature, he’s male (they always say they want more male teachers), he’s got good marks, he’s dedicated, he’s got lots of experience with kids, he’s French, he had amazing reference letters from highly respected people… I just assumed that would put him leaps and bounds ahead of the average “fresh out of high school” university student.

But apparently I was wrong. Turns out they only let in 5 history students, with a GPA of 3.7 and higher. Did they not READ his portfolio? Doesn’t a 3.2 GPA, after 22 years out of school count for a whole lot more than a 3.7 right out of high school?

Not only that, but it turns out that the integrated students – those who start off at the beginning of their university education taking both their BA and B.ED simultaneously – are a shoe-in regardless of their marks. In other words, if he’d started that way, he would have been fine and wouldn’t have had to compete with the 3.7 and above crowd. But no one told him that when they gave him the option of doing it separately or simultaneously. (And I was there during his initial interview, so I KNOW they didn’t tell him.) He chose the separate option because he was also a stay-at-home dad and couldn’t afford the extra classroom time the integrated program would require. So he gets dinged for his dedication to his kids.

I’m just getting more and more mad as I write this. I think I’ll write a nasty letter to the university. Anyone want to join me? We’ll start a “get Marcel into Education” campaign. He’d make a GREAT teacher. It’s hard to believe he won’t get a shot at it.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Graduate

For three and a half years now, I've been sleeping with a university student. Scandalous, eh? What's a mature woman like me doing hopping into bed with a student? It gets worse... that student fathered my children! And I'm not the least bit ashamed of this love affair.
Well, the truth is, this particular student is one year older than me, and today, he is a graduate. Yes, I'm married to him, so no, it's not an illicit affair. He is my beloved. I've been married to him for nearly thirteen years, and I intend to stay married to him for a whole lot longer.
To the average observer, this might seem like just an ordinary graduation, ending with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in History. But let me tell you, this is no ordinary graduation. Few people attend their first graduation at forty-one years of age - with a GPA of 3.2.

But that's not all... this graduation represents so much more than three and a half years in school. This graduation represents a great victory. Victory over so many demons of the past. Demons of self doubt and fear. Demons of anxiety disorder and depression. Demons that made him drop out of school before he made it to high school. Demons that made him try to end his own life.

I can hardly describe the wave of emotion I felt as he walked on stage and accepted his diploma. I am so incredibly proud of him - this man that I love so deeply. He's living out his dream, and teaching his daughters that it's never too late to "go for the gusto". He is my hero, and I'll keep sleeping with him for a long time, even if it means he's a student for a few more years and I don't get to retire yet. :-)

I love you Buddy.

Friday, June 02, 2006

There must be something SERIOUSLY wrong with me

With the advent of Spring, thoughts turn to new birth – flowers in the garden, puppies on the lawn. All around me, people have one of two thoughts on their mind “what can I buy at the garden centre today?” or “oh, I just LOVE my little pet”. Yup, even in the blogging world, I’m surrounded by people who are either plant lovers or pet lovers, or (cringe) BOTH. Even my friend Michele, who, though I knew she loves to garden, I was SURE would continue to be my compadre in the “don’t want a pet” category, has fallen head over heels in love with a puppy. She’s even become a POSTER CHILD for petlovers everywhere. Yeesh! I have been abandoned.

I am neither a plant lover nor a pet lover. Well, that’s not entirely true, I do love plants, I just don’t particularly like to plant them, prune them, weed them, water them, or worship them. I like plants that grow green and lush on their OWN accord with no input from me. It’s why I live in a house with huge maple trees all around it – no work on my part, and they look fabulous.

Sometimes I think there must have been a flaw in the gene pool that I got neither plant-loving nor pet-loving genes. But then I just have to remind myself that bbb (my big brother) is on my side, so the gene pool essentially got cut in half on that particular gene. Don’t you DARE fall in love with that puppy, bbb, that you have the AUDACITY to let into your house or I may never speak to you again!

My friend and colleague Dan tells me that kids who grow up with pets grow up more well adjusted. So, in other words, I’m cheating my kids out of their adjustment, and they’ll probably need therapy. Dan also has an organic farm, so he heaps the guilt on on BOTH counts. Did I just call him my FRIEND? Sheesh!

Fortunately, my husband and oldest daughter didn’t get the genes either, so I’m not outnumbered in my house. So far, we haven’t had to give in to the pressure from the other two girls to get a puppy, and when Julie needs a gardening fix, we just send her to her grandparents’ house.

Sometimes I wonder… do I lack compassion if I can’t get all warm and fuzzy about a pet and I’ve killed more house plants than most people ever own? Am I a cold fish? Am I stunting my children’s growth by passing on my cold-hearted ways? Oh, the guilt. (What’s a mom without a healthy heaping of guilt?)

Seriously though, I will embrace my gene pool, I will stand tall and proud in my uniqueness, and I will not let all this plant/pet craziness beat me down. You have your plants and pets to connect you to Spring, I have my bike rides down river pathways and, starting this weekend, sleeping in a tent! I LOVE sleeping in a tent!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A little dose of "warm and fuzzy"

Marcel's cousin Leon is a long distance truck driver. He told Marcel a great little story that I can't resist repeating.

He was having breakfast with a fellow truck driver somewhere down in the States not long ago. When they got up to pay for their meal, they were told it had already been paid for. When they asked by whom, the cashier pointed to a woman sitting alone.

It turns out this woman used to be married to a truck driver. When he passed away, she sold the business, but she wanted to find some way to give back - or perhaps "pay it forward". So every Sunday morning, she goes to a truck stop, picks out a random table of truck drivers, and pays for their breakfast anonymously.

Isn't that a great story? Just think of all the neat little stories that are floating out there in the cosmos because of her acts of kindness.