Thursday, November 25, 2010

Your Turn at the Table

It's Thursday an I think that in the interest of starting a tradition. I love tradition (most of them anyway. That one about kissing some complete stranger under a poisonous shrub during the holidays - not so much) I want to ask anyone visiting....

What's your gratitude?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You'll Thank Me Later

Orthodontist day, yuck! Not everyone detests orthodontist day, there are some fortunate souls who have miracle dental coverage which includes orthodontics. Ours does not. I'm not sure that even if our plan did cover bracing that I would enjoy the appointments. It always ends in a fit of tears and tantrums. Yes, as you may have already guessed our victim is 13 year old KJ. We've been struggling with a headgear appliance for 1 year now in a process that was to take 4 to 7 months. Clearly getting KJ to wear the appliance is a lot like pulling teeth (pun definitely intended) She's suppose to log 14 hours a day, we manage 7 on a really good one, if I get up in the middle of the night and help her reinstall it. I get it, I hated wearing one too when I was her age. That makes me wonder about orthodontic advancements. Surely in 30 some-odd years this contraption should have been replaced by a more user friendly, parent friendly devise.

Regardless, I pulled orthodontist duty today, rearranged my schedule, worked from home and gritted my teeth for the inevitable. This is part A of why I hate orthodontist day. It's a little like being called into the principals office. She measures and sighs and begins scolding. Not my obstinate child. ME! "How many hours are we getting?"...."she needs to wear it more." .... "You have to make her." That's my favorite "you have to make her" No parent on the face of this earth makes a hormonal 13 year old girl do anything. Is this woman for real? I've discovered that her daughter is 10 or 11, which explains a lot. All the same I smile politely with our newly adjusted headgear and a vow to do our best.

Our best lasts 15 minutes. This is where part B of why I hate orthodontist day begins. The adjustments cause KJ some pressure and discomfort. The orthodontist guilt trip causes me some pressure and discomfort. A perfect storm. Tonight’s storm ended in one headgear being hurled across the room, 2 door slams, a "conversation" only slightly lower on the decibel scale than a Bon Jovi concert and one glass of red wine.

Michael came home to find me pouring the glass. I don't drink wine during the week.
"Good day at the orthodontist?" he inquires sarcastically. He's taken a hit or too of his own on the front he knows from where I pour.
"Yup." is the reply I can manage.
"You're doing great, she’ll thank us later." He says.

I mull that over as Michael goes upstairs to shower off a day of work. I'm still mulling when he reenters the kitchen
"Black or beige?' he asks standing proudly in his dress pants and undershirt.
"Black or beige, for what?" I ask.
"For Dinner."
I'm staring dumfounded "We're dressing for dinner now?" I ask, thinking that this is one of his creative parenting tricks. He has an insane ability to approach challenges from some northwest direction and make things right with the world.
"No, we are going to diner remember?"
Clearly I don't. Then I look at the snap shot in my head of our family calendar. Nov 23...KJ orthodontist...Mom & Dad sports assoc volunteer appreciation diner. Damm. I look at the clock 30 minutes. I look at myself; I worked at home today, comfy pants and bed head are not going to cut it. Double damm.

Now I'm angry with a daughter, an orthodontist and a husband, on my way upstairs to speed shower and dress which will most inevitable end with bad hair and a run in my stockings. (I should have filled my glass again.)

By some miracle we arrived on time and in half decent humor. Diner is lovely, the wine is lovely. The guest speaker is interesting. The head coach for a university football team which has been suspended from play for a full year because of illicit enhancement drug abuse among a small selection of its roster. I'm listening to him speak about how he blamed himself, how others held him responsible. I listen as he discusses how getting  kids who enrolled under the football program through a year without a single football game is the hardest challenge he's faced in his coaching career. He speaks about sharing the issue with other teams, coaches and athletic support staff. He talks about appreciation and how so much of what volunteers and coaches do goes unrecognized and he assures us all that at some point "they will thank you later." a parent, an athlete, a member of the board. Not all of them but at some point one person from the sea of beneficiaries will.

I listen with compassion. If this man can keep a stiff upper lip, face the tantrums and ugly words of the press, the public and even some players, then surely, I can weather an orthodontist an archaic appliance and a 13 year old daughter.

I'm grateful for the 'buck up, shot to the shoulder' message I’ve taken from the evening...

Difficult challenges must still be faced, regardless of the discomfort. We must toil through. If there is a reasonable hope of future gratitude, it's the right thing to do.

(and a glass of wine)

Congratulations to Michael for the recognition he received for his dedication to the executive committee and the welfare of our athletes. Proof, that sometimes they do "thank you later."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Red Hot Toes

Michael and his Christmas Light apprentice E-man
Today I had planned a post recounting the grateful moments listed by my young nephews last night at dinner. I am impressed with their genuine understanding of what it means to be grateful. They are very young and do not subscribe to the rule of gratitude in their home. Truthfully I'm not sure that there is an abundance of 'things' to be grateful for in their lives at the moment. They are experiencing family separation and all of the hostility that accompanies it. All the same they have come to expect that at dinner with Auntie Shell everyone gets a turn to share somethings they are "happy" for. They love it! for 15 seconds everyone's attention is on them and they can share about something they choose.

I was looking forward to writing the post. Then this morning Michael and I went out to hang the Christmas lights and I was struck with another post idea. I would write a gratitude about Michael and E-man and their devotion to festivity. We are a week late decorating and have missed the warm weather opportunities so I really am grateful for their efforts.

Ordinarily I stay inside and cook while the lights go up however today I thought I would help. Of course I don't climb ladders and I'm technically challenged. I do however have a great aptitude for harassment. So, while Michael fiddled with frozen fingers on the roof I launched cleaver comments and jabs skyward, trying to lighten the mood and keep everyone merry and bright.

Once I get started hurling remarks I have difficulty stopping. While the banter kept everyone in good humour for the duration of the job I should have stopped when the last bulb was clipped into place; but I didn't. I took it inside and things went horribly wrong. 10 minutes into making lunch I was struck by a smartass pain. If you are unfamiliar with the terminology here's the definition:  Pain felt immediately after uttering a smart ass comment or remark. The pain generally originates from a stubbed toe, tongue bite, banged funny bone or paper cut. Karmic shock therapy for behaviour modification. You know what I'm talking about, I guarantee it has happened to you.

I'm a slow learner perhaps or simply a freak willing to risk a minute of pain for a moment of pleasure. Either way I suffer greatly. I must have really pushed my luck today. While retrieving a plate from the pantry 2 incredibly heavy broiler pans avalanched from the cupboard and attacked my bare feet. I buckled in pain to the floor, holding my breath and my toes. IT HURT! KJ and E-man came running, Michael was already attempting the pry my fingers away to inspect the metatarsal damage. (I'm so lucky to be married to a "foot guy") There's a tiny cut and some bruising, my toenail is destined to turn black. I suppose I deserved it.

Now I'm sitting on the couch with red hot toes, writing a new post idea. reflecting on how Tyler is grateful for dinner at Nanny's, How Riley is grateful for his Birthday (even tough it was actually Ayden's) and how Ayden is thankful for his Lego presents. I'm smiling and waiting for Michael, who has taken the kids skating and who is most assuredly due to return with a bruised tailbone. A smart ass pain of his own. When I explained that I knew the pans were destined to fall when I put them in the pantry, he shouldn't have commented that it was a reasonable explanation for my not swearing a blue streak.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

At the end of Nine Lives

As promised a post of eulogy

18 years is along time to love a pet. Zipper came to live with us that long ago after a long heated debate over the merits of pet ownership. It was the first real marital compromise Michael and I faced. It took some time but eventually I was standing at the pet store scooping up the tiny black and white bundle who had stepped on every furry face and arse in the cage to get to me. It immediately became clear that my pet ownership share was wrapped up in those 20 minutes at the pet store, after that everything else was Michael. He named the cat, made him a bed, took care of the litter and spoiled him rotten. In return Zipper followed him around the house, slept beside him, on him or under his side of the bed. I was the facilitator of a beautiful friendship. Eventually one cat gets lonely so we got Zipper a brother; Pepper. Pepper slept under a laundry basket for the first week because Zipper was not prepared to let another cat take over his claim. Eventually they worked things out and life became interesting. Zipper was like the older more responsible brother keeping Pepper in line with a swat or a squawk when needed. Pepper was the rebel, sneaking drinks of our rye and coke and sniffling candles. They were inseparable. They trashed, not once but twice, our family Christmas tree that first year knocking it to the floor and smashing every single ornament.

Pepper left our family early under unclear circumstances. One day the two went outside and 2 weeks later Zipper returned alone with streaks of dry blood on his fur. One can only imagine that something untoward happened to Pepper and Zipper stayed by his side comforting him in his last days. That's what I like to imagine anyway because that's how Zipper was. He would alert me to crying babies in the middle of the night, curl up with the ill in our home and stand by the emotionally distressed. When the kids were really small he would sleep on the floor outside their bedroom door while they napped. When they grew bigger he moved to their beds moving from Lula's to KJ's and eventually E-man's as their legs grew longer and the space grew shorter. Unless they were sick. When E-man had H1N1 last year that cat took up vigil on the bed and did not leave. Lula wrote about Zipper as her keeper of secrets for a school assignment that left us all damp eyed. To each of our children Zipper was fury sibling complete with the occasional spat and rivalry.

In 18 years there are moments that stand out. The $500 health spa vacation Zipper took by faking Feline Leukemia. The spectacle our champion mouser created when he brought a mouse INTO the house and how he sat back and laughed as Michael and I tried to get rid of it. I swear he was laughing! The smell from his encounter with a skunk and so many more.

Those memories of his last days are most revealing. He was not in any pain just simply old and at the end of his nine lives. We decided to allow him the dignity of passing at home. It was painful and heart-wrenching but he deserved our strength, having been ours for so many years. In those moments when you think no one is watching I witnessed each of our children seeking him out, checking on him, comforting him with words and touch. There were so many tears. The day before he passed a tiny meow sounded from the laundry room where he had chosen for his last days. Lula went to check and found him struggling out to the hallway and towards the living room. She propped him up and guided his walk. He moved into the living room. clearly he wanted to be with his family. It was his way of saying goodbye.

They following evening he passed. As I removed his collar and wrapped him in a blanket I uttered my final words of gratitude. When E-man helped Michael prepare his grave they uttered theirs. When the girls prepare a memorial shadow box they will utter their own.

Its all about how you choose to say good bye and honour his life. It's about being grateful for what he brought to ours.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Your Turn at the Table

Our family is mourning at the moment having lost our beloved Zipper.

I'd like to turn to anyone viewing this blog to help with some gratitude posting.

Your turn at the table... What 's your gratitude today?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When the Glass is Half Empty

Finding gratitude over the last few days has been a challenge. We are at the very end of Zipper's ninth life and our house has moved from feline nursing facility to hospice. I was unprepared for the grief, even though we knew it was imminent. My tribute post is being written throughout Zipper's last days with us and I will post it in memory.

One truth is that death waits for each of us, human and feline. In its' face we need to put one foot in front of the other and continue living. Children still need to eat and bills still need to be paid. dishes need washing and incomplete homework will still earn you a detention. Math teachers really do suck. (no offense to any math teachers who may be reading, its not you personally, it's just your breed in general.) Perhaps in these times more than any other and extra effort to acknowledge our gratitude is needed.

E-man always has great items of gratitude. Sometimes he's grateful for mastering a kick-flip or getting to go to a Rangers game with Dad. This Friday he looked at us in exasperation when it was his turn around the table and said that he was grateful the week was done; at which point I mused to myself "he's either had a really bad week or we have been setting a very bad example." I hope he had a really difficult week because I'm not sure my parenting can take another blow to it's confidence, we have so much we are attempting to correct already.

Lula hasn't dined with us much this week which leads me to suspect she is grateful for her boyfriend, his mother, sisters, nieces, nephews and grandparents. I hope they are grateful for her company. That sounded a little bitter and more like an ungrateful didn't it? Well I'm not going to disguise that one very well. I am bitter and ungrateful and really quite sad that she is migrating away from us. We miss her and I'm not ready for that stage where the comfort of strangers is more rewarding than that of family.

KJ's big grateful this week was her return to modelling. This week was learning to stomp the runway in 4 inch heels and proper makeup application techniques. In truth I should have said no. Last week she missed because, well she was simply being foul and obstinate. I caved however and allowed it because this week she was simply being foul. Next week I suspect she will make a return to obstinacy due to my critical parenting error.

Pharmaceuticals are paramount on Michael's gratitude list this week. In actual fact he should be grateful that his annoying nag of a wife managed to badger him long enough and hard enough that he finally went to see a doctor! Oh dear, that sounded bitter too didn't it? A person can only suffer so long with chronic sinusitis and diminished lung capacity before someone close to them snaps. Now he has some testing underway and some medication to alleviate the suffering. He's also made his wife happy in the process.

We've made it a rule in our home to recognize some gratitude each day. As my week and my entry clearly illustrates it's not always easy. Things go wrong. Kids leave you for greener grass, boys get bullied, math teachers suck. Fast food patrons can be downright ignorant. Brother's leave their wives. Husbands get sick and cats die. It leaves a taste in your mouth and gratitude is difficult to identify. My glass this week is half empty and I want to wallow in some hostility for a while. I want to pull a Rick Mercer Rant for 45 seconds and get it all off my chest. I want to tell 400 lb. double burger, extra large fries and a 1300 calories milkshake man, that yelling at me because it takes more than 90 seconds to get the goods from the grill to his mouth will not compensate for his sense of internal guilt. For a few minutes I want Zipper to not be on death's door so that he can comfort me; the way he has done for 18 years. I don't want to be grateful! But I am. Despite the "glass half empty" state of my life this week I am grateful for my friend who put her Christmas decorations up already. Grateful for karma retracting it's lesson and re-shuffling the secret santa list at work. I'm grateful that there is so much to be ungrateful for this week and the reminder that a glass half empty is still a glass and that with a little luck what's left is on the rocks.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes.

A simple little gratitude from last evening courtesy of my E-Man.

"I'm grateful that I didn't loose all of my blood tonight"

(He took a stick to the chops during a street hockey game last night and put some teeth through his lip.)

We are all grateful you didn't loose all your blood E-man!

Mom is grateful for real moments that remind you that they really are little and have a wonderful perspective on the world

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gratitude Coles Notes for a Busy Week

LULA, who dines with us sporadically now that she works and enjoys the company of her boyfriend and coaches, listed a few gratitude items this week.
  • grateful for her job - not because she loves to work but because she loves her new laptop the paycheck helped her buy
  • Grateful that work went by quickly so that she could move on to the company of her boy.
  • Grateful that her sister is selling Avon. it's always good to have a direct line to makeup and fashion when you are 15
KJ, has had a very difficult week. What 13 year old girl hasn't? There have been report cards and tantrums, a detention and a stolen bike and gratitude.
  • Grateful that she got to make cupcakes with her best friend
  • grateful that Friday is a day off school
  • grateful that her first Avon order arrived, That was like Christmas, those cardboard boxes with her name on them just waiting to be riffled through, organized and delivered
  • Grateful that Mom's food doesn't taste like poo! (She’s been incredibly nasty towards me this week so Daddy chose her to supply us with a "what I like about Mom" as well as a grateful one evening.)
  • Grateful that she got to stay and watch the school volleyball game.
  • Grateful that Mom's phone interview with her teacher didn't result in personal humiliation...yet!
***What I Like About You*** is a new feature we recently added to our Gratitude routine. Each evening we reveal a redeeming quality or trait we appreciate about someone else at the table. This was created to counteract the "you smell like cheese" comments that are hurled continuously in our home. There's only so many cheese stink, fat head, ugly butt comments a person can take.

E-MAN, greatest challenge this week was being responsible for the theft of KJ's bike.
  • Grateful for hockey school, even though this week his skates pinched and he took the stick that was too long
  • Grateful that his best neighbourhood friend was allowed to play outside. I'm not sure why people insist on keeping their kids inside. Do they prefer them to vegetate in front of the tv or computer?
  • Grateful for Trick or Treating and his teen buddy who makes a very great surrogate big brother he upped the Trick or Treating cool factor by taking him door to door sans Dad.
  • Grateful for report cards and parent teacher interviews. Grade 3, this is probably the last year he'll be grateful for this one.
  • Grateful that KJ offered her forgiveness over the bicycle incident. Although he is grief stricken with guilt it helped that he approached KJ to apologize. It helps more that she accepted his apology with compassion.
MICHAEL, most often needs reminding about the "your grateful can't be about food or dinner" rule. Pressed for other items he manages some great reflections
  • Gratitude for his new IPAD. A purchase for work but a fabulous toy for home too!
  • Carpooling with my stepfather to and from work. I think he enjoys the company.
  • Grateful that the car for carpooling actually fits into our garage Monday to Thursday
  • Grateful that the attitudes of the under 18 crowd in our home have taken a turn for the better as the week progressed. I'm not sure we are living in the same house.
  • We let him have one food gratitude this week because we all share his sentiment "chocolate"
MYSELF, There have been trials; the learning curve of a new job, hormone rage conflicts with teens, stolen bicycles, school holidays...and gratitude.
  • Grateful that I survived my first days of work and that the prospects of full time hours are closer than first imagined.
  • Grateful for a lovely dinner with friends, we don't always make the time
  • Grateful for store return policies and the ability to correct impulse buys and budgetary faux pas
  • Grateful for the power to modify behavior through confiscation. Removing cell phones and computer privileges, denying modeling classes and sleepovers has an amazing ability to make kids like you. or at the very least feign civility towards you. 
  • Grateful for my friends at work who always make me smile, a sweet old man who brought me Flemish beauty pears and my good friend Karma who chose to send me a gentle reminder to forgive and be gracious to those who irritate the living crap out of us and generally make our lives a misery. When I picked my name for our secret Santa gift exchange for work, I drew the name of the one person in that fast food joint that boils my blood. 
All in all it's been a pretty good week. Lula is on line. KJ is in-line. E-man is still cool. Michael is thinking about things other than food and I have a great new office job that I didn't get fired from in my first week!

Now the only question remains; what do you get a pain in your arse for Christmas?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Not Easy Being Green but it has Potential

The days preceding this post have been filled with chaos and anticipation. This week marks the beginning of my new employment. It's a part time position to start off although the prospects of fulltime hours and a very promising career have lured me; despite a return to the art of job juggling. It's very unlikely that I will excel any better at it this time than in the past. However my arsenal of tricks is growing and improving. I have two teens at home who can step up to the plate with our young E-man. I think that very soon one or both will be receiving a crash course in the fine art of weekday dinner preparation. Why not, at twelve I was doing it my self; mainly because I was the oldest daughter of a newly separated mother. A mother who, in a desperate attempt to make ends meet, rented the basement apartment of our home to female college students in exchange for childcare; a very clever use of space, need and resources without argument. I am fairly certain that adequate cooking skills were not included in the job posting. Let's face it most college students are not culinarily equipped with much aptitude beyond toast. Our first was challenged even with that task. It became abundantly clear very early on in the experiment that if I was going to keep myself and my two little hellion brothers alive I would need to cook.

I was green, much like I am now in my new job. Unfamiliar with the tools and techniques required to produce edible or marketable results. Undeterred, I mastered mac & cheese, hotdogs and banana muffins, teaching our freshman sitter along the way. My brothers grew to be strapping young hellions and nobody died. With a little bit of luck and some persistence I am hoping for the similar results behind my new desk and in our home.

Lula will be the likely candidate for cookery. Being the oldest she is at an age where she is beginning to understand the need for household cooperation for the greater good. I believe she will handle 'green' well. She’s mastered being green at high school and in her first job. I cross my fingers that at her age she remains green in the area of relationships and sexual exploration. Although I do feel for this time of adolescence, remembering myself how I abhorred the "green" label. It was thrown about like a curse word among my peers. Meant explicitly to insult and belittle members of our social hierarchy. That was the instance of being green that I hated; not that undeniable fact the I was... but that it was a tool of persecution.

Asking KJ to step up to the hotplate would be a hit and miss experiment; one that would most expectantly end in screaming and tears. Not to mention latent hunger. Her 'green' is social. At a precarious age where she is not certain of her place in the social hierarchy and convinced that our inability to supply her with the proper fashion labels is to blame. Consequently her world is fury right now. Everyone is stupid and tasks are pointless unless they advance her social spectrum. (Side note for personal reference: Teachers, parents, homework = stupid. Facebook, texting, shopping = good) I do not think that we will add to her frustration by imposing the cooking chore. In truth she's really quite skilled in the kitchen; she has cooked at my elbow for sometime and enjoys it. However, with the current state of grounding from facebook, texting and shopping we would most assuredly be dining on purposely disastrous food.

E-man will be happy if he can sway our home into the green revolution. He is determined to raise us up to be environmentally responsible citizens. We try but honestly some days I can't get people to take their garbage to the can let alone sort, crush or break it down. Bless his heart he keeps on us. I think that's a big enough task for an eight year old. He does after all have bigger things like hockey to concern himself with.

Making the green and spending the green remains the mission of my Michael. Although I know regardless of training a new house chef most days I will arrive home to find him slaving over a hot stove, Crockpot or frozen pizza.

Green truthfully I believe is one of those pleasant uncomfortable positions is life. I always think of Kermit sitting on that log in the swamp singing the blues about being green when the rest of the world is red and orange and blue. That amphibian had it good actually and I wonder if he realized it. Sure he felt over looked and dismissed but the expectations were low too, right. No one expected amazing things from him. They didn't look to him for perfection or direction. He simply muddled through. Like learning to cook or learning a new administration job. It's best if the expectations of you are not too high, if people will accept over cooked pasta and misplaced files. I expect that the day will come, like it did for Kermit, where I will shine in my new job position. Lula will achieve culinary excellence and KJ will grow into new colours. E-man will turn us all green and Michael will worry less about it.

Green is something to be grateful for. It is the first phase on the way to the big production. It's the quiet swamp where nobody knows who you are. The space for us to learn, take chances, make mistakes and grow.