Thursday, December 6, 2012

There is a Lesson Here Somewhere

Job action begins. I'd like to say 'You Go Teachers' but seriously... no. I actually want to say 'Can we all get our heads out of our asses?' This gets old, I've had children in school for 14 years and have never once enjoyed a year that didn't feel like their education was being held over a barrel. Disputes over planning time, wages, benefits, duties, responsibilities, continued education requirements; there has always been something, some issue to be tiptoed around in an effort to accomplish things within the school community.

I have seen kids go without help. I've seen help get pulled out like a rug. I have also witnessed a great many teachers standing around with their hands tied behind their backs by collective bargaining bent on keeping them from performing to the very best of their compassion and knowledge.

What I have never seen is a situation where the kids come out the winners. They get less time, less attention, less sense of school as a community to flourish in. Parents either throw their hands in the air and claim the situation is beyond their control or they pull their hair out battling the red tape bureaucracy that keeps us from filling in the gaps of extra curricular events, sports, celebrations and enhancements to learning.I always find it comical that we can raise children unsupervised but that a group of dedicated parents can not, let's say, run a basketball program without school board representation at the helm.

I can't pretend to understand all of the sticking points on the current labour storm but I can tell you it feels like an old broken record and I wonder what the warring within the school system has taught my children in the last 14 years.

KJ informed me last night that she is not going to school on Monday. Technically she is going to school but to join her fellow students to sit in the hallway outside of their classrooms and send their own message.

So clearly her school years are teaching her something; If you don't like or agree with a situation speak-up, speak-out. I fear for the next lesson, the one parents know all too well, all that speaking-up and standing-up is destined for deaf ears. That of all the players in this game the kids are, beyond a doubt. the most mature, valuable and also the most devalued.

I stand behind my kids and their message, and while they are at school making their point, I will be trying to figure out a way to salvage those things that make school an experience not just an information delivery system.

Take the time to educate yourself today about Bill 115 and add your voice to the voice of our students. There are 3 sides to this issue.

There is some good layman's information here and a link to the actual mumble jumble http://www.citytv.com/toronto/citynews/news/local/article/239160

Check your local School Board website for updates on labour disputes. Local Waterloo Regional District School Board link http://www.wrdsb.ca/labourupdate

Michelle

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pleased to Meet You

Today I am grateful that we have allowed are kids to Dream their Hotdog Dreams.

Mike and I spent last night submersed in Meet the Teacher - High school Edition. As a rule I detest meet the teacher, in primary grades it equates to pediatrician visit for a check up to make sure growth and development are on track. Those sit downs are critical to the success of your child. Grade school is where you find out if your child has all of their academic fingers and toes so to speak.

High school however is a whole new ball game. Going to meet your children's high school teachers is like going to sit in on a performance review for your spouse. This really is the truth, this is their world, how they preform or do not perform is up to them. The effort and attention they give to their success is that...their effort. The success or failure that results is also theirs. We are not dealing with children anymore, these are people who can drive and will soon vote and will be able to legally consume alcohol, rent cars, lease apartments, file taxes and land in the 'big house' not the juvie home if that is the course they chart. Most parents recognize it, high school is a testing ground for young adults to try on their choices with a safety net.

But we go, because even though it is completely optional it is also completely crucial. We go because that is what advisors do, and advisors is what parents become. Personally I go so that I can put a face to a name when my young adults are complaining. I go so that I can understand the personalities of the adults they are spending time with so that when they say "I don't know what to do." I can offer some insight on how they might appease the ego at the front of the room. I go so that they know that even through this is their gig they are not there without support. It is a little bit like following the bus in your car the first time you let them take it to the mall. It is our job to know their business not run their business.

Gratitude today for the teachers met last night who greeted us with smiles indulged our general academic chit chat and who put their nerves on the line everyday in the name of preparing young adults for the real world; that's a job worth a medal!

Gratitude as well to my girls who have impressed us once again with their commitments to making the very most of the opportunity high school represents.



Gratitude, Hope and Smiles are meant to be shared...it's Thursday... Your turn @ the table, what are you grateful for today?

Michelle

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When Things Turn Out Better Than You Planned

Monday night in an effort to get everything accomplished I wished to accomplish, I asked Mike to take KJ to the drugstore to pick up some facial cleanser she was desiring.

I wanted to get everything done so that I could participate in a Twitter party chat about building more connected families. Thank you to our lovely host @Seemummyjuggle for moderating a great party and a big thank you as well to @JustinCoulson who is facilitating a parenting boot camp in Pleasantville over the next few weeks. This week we were challenged to become more emotionally available to our children (something most of us think we do a pretty good job of already until we examine just how good a job we are doing at it).

So I sent Mike and KJ to the store in search of some elusive yet magical face goop. It tied in beautifully with the challenge for boot camp this week and co-ordinated with my 'already in my comfy pants' state. A win-win for everyone. I gave myself a gentle pat on the back.

Then they returned, giggling and joking around about old lady creams and teenagers who need jobs (ahemmmm...a hint, hint worth repeating) mission accomplished! They also returned with a gift for me...Ahhhhh, how very sweet.

This was it...

"We picked up that book for you everyone is talking about"

To which I answered with a red face and a muted giggle, "Thank you, that's awesome."

Maybe it was the money sticking out of the top (KJ's half of the face cream - repaid to Dad) or maybe it was the look on Lula's face. Maybe it was the quiet conversation she pulled me aside for afterward in which she 'warned' me of the adult content of the book, wanting to be sure I was prepared for what she hears is "Porno for Women"

I can't look at my gift without laughing now...


 
 
Gratitude today for boot camps, conversations that challenge us, gifts from the heart, gifts of the heart and confirmation that my teenagers are comfortable approaching Mom on such delicate topics. (Gratitude that apparently I am sending just the right signals as well ;)
 
 
Have an amazing Tuesday, If you get the chance, if you feel inspired to challenge yourself a little stop by Pleasantville, join in on the Boot Camp...kids aren't the only ones growing on this journey!
 
Gratitude, Hope & Smile are meant  to be shared!
Michelle


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Could You Save 'Amanda'?

A person would be hard pressed to turn on the television, link to their social media or crack the spine on a good old print rag this week and not be confronted by the name Amanda Todd. If you haven't seen the name or the story here is a summary for you; Amanda Todd was a teenage girl who was tormented to the point at which she saw no escape other than to end her own life. She posted a dramatic You Tube video in which she quite literally spelled her heart out for the world and she shattered a million lives in the day that followed. I say we have been confronted by her name not as an insult to the media attention her story has garnered, but as a descriptive aimed at identifying that thing we all feel inside upon learning of her tragedy.

Response after response, comment, status and conversations in the street are outpourings of apology. We are a country full of people who did not know Amanda Todd but feel a need to atone for the transgressions of her aggressors. There is this ache that if we simply apologize enough, express enough sympathy and condemn the events leading up to her death enough that we have some magic power to make the ending different, that we will erase the heartache of her family, that maybe we could save her. It is some novel disconnect here in which our brains tell us this story is real but our hearts refuse to accept that reality as final. Is it because none of us knew Amanda personally, is it because we did not see her cry and struggle and fight back, lose hope and give up. Or is it something darker? Is it the knowledge that had Amanda's story gone viral, without the tragic ending of her life all those notes of condolence would be words of opinion and judgement? Is what we are confronted with when we read Amanda's name or see her picture guilt? If it isn't, it should be.

Ironically, or not, because I think this same story could repeat itself on any given day in any given community in North America. I wrote a piece for Best Tools just a day before Amanda's story broke in which I ask parents to look in the mirror at their behaviour. It seems timely now but incredibly watered down. It will be posted to the site next week and I am good with it because the URL does not bear my name, is not my brand and I would not wish to jeopardize it's brand with my raw outrage.

But this space is a different story...

In this space I want to say that if you are truly sorry for Amanda's heartbreaking story, if you are disgusted by her tormentors and weeping for her family...instead of closing the gate after the animals have escaped...do this...

Get off your self-righteous high horse and look at yourself, look at your behaviour, replay the conversations you have where you trash people who are not in the room, talk about people unable to defend themselves, pass judgement on  people you do not know and turn a blind eye to those around you doing the same thing.

Stop posting comments like...

"I need a new gym where the people are not homely"

"This girl is f'd up, get a life and a new shirt cause you look like a skank"

"Comment for TBH"

People, even the ones you consider not up to your standard have feelings just like you; they have stories that you don't care enough to ask about. That girl who is f'd up is just like you only maybe she is not as nasty. What makes you so important that others should seek out your honest opinion about them... what people think are 'honest' comments are the things that drive people to despair.

Back in the old days we had a saying drilled into us by our parents and grandparents "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." it was a really good rule of thumb, it kept people from hurting one another, it made you pause and reflect before you opened your mouth. It asked you to think about what the reaction to your verbal noise might be. It kept people from treading water in a constant stream of condemnation, opinion and self-consciousness. It prevented a great amount of mob mentality towards a person who may be struggling with poor choices, unfortunate events and struggles dumped onto their life laps that they did not ask for.

That simple rule seems to have been lost with the art of face to face conversation. People have become so accustom to saying what they think in an arena where there seems to be no audience that when faced with the real world we can hardly contain our thoughts, bite our tongues, and keep our opinions to ourselves. And what of that world on the other side of the screen? There are real live people out there reading the words you write, taking them personally, taking them to heart, and here is the kicker... the person you are aiming your comments at, they are probably listening. So are a thousand other people who, by the very nature of the human psyche, take those words and twist them until they can match them to their own circumstances. It has become easy to think outside of our minds where we used to have conversations with ourselves in which we solved a great many issues without taking them into the public arena. Perhaps we need a rule for social posting. How about... "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

While we are at it how about adding this "My life is the one I need to worry about, I will not involve myself in the life of others unless it is to build them up, improve their happiness or help them reach their dreams."

In my personal life I am not immune to transgressions, my children are not perfect. We struggle with these rules just like the rest of society. We slip into conversations that are probably none of our business and pass opinions that are better kept private. We say things we regret and listen to things we should speak out to halt. I cannot even begin to suggest that we are getting things right, living above the line and treating the world at every turn the way we wish to be treated.

But I can say we are trying, that we are reminding each other every day when we falter and pushing each other as people to live more compassionately and I can say it is hard work. We slip and transgress and we make mistakes and we call each other out when we fail.

Amanda Todd....

If you are devastated by this young girl's story, if you are yearning in your heart that your condolences and sympathies might have some magical power to change her end, then you need to do more than post R.I.P. in response to her story because it is the buzz this week. You need to take that yearning into your everyday life from this day and into all the days that follow. You need to use it to keep yourself in check and hold others up to the same standard of human decency.

How many more Amandas do we need to lose before we change our ways. That was not a question.

It is difficult to find the gratitude in this story, in this tragic loss but I suppose if there is one to be found it is in the lives that Amanda's story will change and the lives Amanda's story will save because her story has forced another to do a little introspection.

To truly honor Amanda's life do a little to change your own.


Gratitude, Hope & Smiles are meant to be shared...do something to make things different.

Michelle

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gobbling Up Control

Lula's Thanksgiving Turkey!


I am a bit of a control freak in the kitchen...I'm trying to let it go. Clearly there are others capable of taking over.

Gratitude today for kids who are not afraid to get in the kitchen make a mess, cook up some love and some Turkey!








Friday, October 5, 2012

My Wish for Every Mom

if I could...

There is this very demanding stage of life that finds us very much at the mercy of everyone else around us. It grabs a hold somewhere between the birth of your first child and your last child entering puberty. In that span of time we as Moms are the keystone that holds everyone's life together it seems. Kids need guidance, nurturing, patience and discipline. Husbands need support, attention, time and friendship. Friends need shoulders to lean on, help with their families, their challenges and their struggles. Family needs help, traditions upheld and milestones recognized. Co-workers, bosses, neighbours...every person in our lives it seems is dependant upon us and we find ourselves the centre of a needy vortex. We arrange, schedule, wipe, change, pamper, please and 'care' for everyone but ourselves. We pick up, drop off, pick up after, run errands, wake up early and stay up late.

Keeping up is not the hard part, any Mother will tell you that if you don't think too many chores ahead, if you operate under 1/3 intention and 2/3 auto pilot you get to everyone and everything. You crawl into bed at night, sometimes hours past the rest of the house but life is handled and laying in semi-organized wait for tomorrow. Most times we are not even aware of just how much life we take responsibility for but we are often left with a gaping unidentifiable void.

I long suspected that the ache was in response to the absence of appreciation, and the "more where that came from expectations" I thought that perhaps if there was some acknowledgement of my efforts I would 'feel' better, but that is not the thing. I've come to appreciate that a mother, or any parent for that matter, will do infinitely more than they will ever receive recognition for and that the absence of that recognition does not stifle your efforts any more than the occasional 'thanks' fuels you to do more...you are already doing everything you can. It's inherent.

My void was 'not measuring up'. Like most Moms I was my own worst critic. We spend the wee hours of the night replaying events and envisioning all the ways we could have done better, because we want to be better; better moms, better wives, better friends, citizens, better people. Rarely are we satisfied with the amazing things we are able to accomplish in a day or the amazing things we are able to offer to the world. We fail to recognise our gifts because they seem unremarkable. We chastise ourselves for not having the time or the energy to improve ourselves, grow as people and 'fix' all of our failures.

If this is you, I wish you could meet the woman you will be a few years from now.

All those things you are trying to accomplish today, all those lessons, traits and hopes you are trying to instill in your children on a daily basis; the ones you think they aren't getting...they will emerge. All those things you thought you needed to improve about yourself seem small in comparison to growth and transformation in the woman who will greet you on the other side of the vortex. 

An amazing woman will stand in your shoes in spite of your doubts, your self reprimands and your struggle to teach her. I wish you could meet her now, I wish she could take you out for coffee and tell you that these years are good to you, that your best effort everyday to care for those around you is enough and all the self improvement you need. These years nurture your soul like the roots of a tree, they build your strength, your patience your appreciation for life. I wish you could hear her say that your time is coming, your quiet minutes, your meditation, growth, and indulgence time.

I wish you could see just how amazing you are today and just how amazing you will be.


Michelle

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

There WILL be Turkey!

 
 
Thanksgiving is coming! Thanks giving is coming!

An odd brain loop to wake up to but that is where the frequency is stuck. (There is also residual, "did you know you only manged five written pieces in September?")

My attention has been so centered on mission "Upsize Living" that I miscalculated the arrival of my very favourite holiday of life! Generally in the week leading up to Thanksgiving I have my squashes picked, my pumpkins baked, pureed and waiting to be transformed into pies and napkins pressed at the ready. So far this year I have....done nothing. That's not entirely true I guess, We picked up a store bought pie on grocery day this week and I have two acorn squash in the fridge from our trip to the apple farm last week; where by the way, there were no apples.

Usually I have things well organized and planned. We create a table for 25, set up a 'crockpot station' for the vast array of dishes that arrive with family and friends and dedicate a side table exclusively to desserts. This year I have packed all of my cookbooks in boxes, my linens stored, there are no 'extra dishes'. I have missed my last Saturday opportunity to harvest our feast at the farmers market and somewhere a turkey is on his knees saying his very own prayer of thanks that I did not get him ordered in time for the roasting pan.

We have only ever missed one thanksgiving. It was the year E had H1N1. Thanksgiving Sunday was the first day in seven that either one of us got out of his bed. Our regular guests where not so much disappointed that year as they were terrified of our self imposed quarantine. I can't remember exactly what our little family of five had for Thanksgiving dinner that year but I recall thinking at the time that it was one notch above 'Swanson's Hungry Man' dinners. I also recall crying all the way through that dinner. I cried because of how sick E was, how exhausted we were as parents, how disappointed the girls were that there was no 'Turkey, stuffing, green goop salad or screaming relatives'. I cried because I missed weeks of tradition in preparation and anticipation.

And I promised myself it would never happen again!

So this year even with our world in it's topsy turvey don't touch the walls or lick the windows state I'm going to pick it up double time! I'm going to get some baking on, whip up a batch of green goop, a pot of cranberry sauce and some cod cakes. Then when I have it all together I am going to drive it all over to my Mother's...

...Because She knows just how important turkey and Gratitude is to me. I'm just glad she called me first so that I didn't have to spring it on her! It's not just turkey; it's dogs that want to pee in the house, overturned Lego buckets, upside down pumpkin pie and whip cream on the carpet, laundry, rearranged furniture, leftovers, and smeary fingerprint portraits on the stainless steal.

Gratitude to my Mother and her willingness to sacrifice her home for a little gratitude.

Gratitude, Hope & Smiles are meant to be shared...get busy!
Michelle

Monday, September 24, 2012

Taking Back a Life


My mind is blown!

(Guy in the back with your smart ass 'statement of the obvious' comment ...sit down.)

When we started out on this journey to get a grip on reality, right our course and take back control of our very out of control lives, I promised myself that I was not going to disguise our move, our decision or our rational. That if anybody asked I would be honest with them and say; "We've been living far too long in a life we thought we were supposed to want, struggling to acquire, preserve and maintain the things and activities that we came to believe represented a successful life. We traded the life we were dreaming of for a life others were dreaming for us. Yes we can do it, but we don't want to anymore.

When you say that out loud to someone you get one of two reactions.

Reaction #1 I'm sorry.
Okay the words "I'm sorry never escape the lips but there is a look in their eyes that portrays their concern for your 'need' to move. You can read their embarrassment for you (these people also whisper when retelling your plight to others) and yes some of these people we hold relation to by blood. If that doesn't say it all about the state of now; family that would be more willing to see you struggle with a facade than take charge of your happiness and your future. Despite the twisted reaction of the "I'm Sorry" group it is a relatively small contingent of people with this general reaction.

The vast majority of reactors fall into...

Category #2 'You too?'
This is where my mind gets blown (again, guy in the back...) We've plodded along in this life for so long now, struggled through, making ends meet and tying knots, so focused on keeping our heads above water that we failed to notice the people around us who are living the exact same life. I never wanted to be one to say that we were the type 'keeping up with the Jones" but you know what...we are all Jones. I am astounded by the stories of families drowning in debt, maintaining the style but missing the life. The more I talk the more I hear back from people who have resigned themselves to the knowledge that they will never be out from under their burdens. It is completely amazing the reality people are willing to share when you are open with them about your own struggles. People who I believed to have it all together are buying groceries on credit, revolving payday loans, charging their lives and putting their paychecks back on to their cards so there is room to charge the next week. Families are tanking out overdraft protection, maxing lines of credit, and securing ridiculously high interest personal loans knowing that spending and having today can be easily consolidated tomorrow. You can see the pain on a person's face when they open up about their struggles and their stress, it breaks my heart. Worse still is knowing that there is always more iceberg under the water than you see on the surface.

I leave these conversations knowing that I could return in ten years and their stories will not be different, we could keep our own story alive indefinitely focusing on the 'stuff'. That is a scary reality.

I look at the big picture and I can't help but think "how crazy is this?" How completely disillusioned are we with what matters in life? Are we really a better, happier society for having two new cars in the driveway, our kids dressed in the latest fashion and a FB status updates that says 'gone to Mexico'? Are our kids happier with the newest phones, tablets and running shoes? Should it not break our hearts that they probably have a very vivid understanding of the financial pressure these things place on a family but that they accept that it is a fair trade off? What futures are we setting them up for? We've reached record levels of anxiety and depression today largely fueled, I fear, by our need to keep up and have it all. People drink from coffee mugs that cleverly state "money can't buy happiness" but we try anyway. I wonder who we are trying to impress.

By trying to do the best for our families we are missing out on the best of them.

These last few months have ranked right up there in my top ten 'scary events of all times'. They have also landed on the 'best decision ever' list. There is excitement in taking control, fresh starts and taking concrete step towards the life we've always wanted. Even if to some it looks like we are trading it all in for a lesser life, you have no idea just how much bigger of a life we are creating!

I only wish one thing, and that is that we could take more people with us. I wish I could encourage  people to let go of the life they think they are supposed to want in favour of the life that is waiting for them.

Gratitude today that if you look into your heart, study it and answer it's questions you find the answers for your life. Gratitude that if you are lucky there are people strong enough and who believe in you enough to help, support, go along for the ride and help carry a couch.

Gratitude, Hope & Smiles are meant to be shared...Happy Monday...make this week count!
Michelle

 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Not Cut Out for the June Cleaver Life

My house sparkles, beds are made, dishes are washed, laundry is folded neatly and put away. There are no cobwebs or dust bunnies, no knicks in the baseboards, no leaking taps, loose toilet seats or 'junk' to be found under the kitchen sink. Towels match the paint that matches the tiles, that matches the flooring and makes it look like we planned it that way. Children's rooms are pristine and smell like fresh summer breezes and ocean mist not hockey bags and school lockers. I can look in the mirror and see me reflection not a week's worth of tooth brushing spittle. That refection, by the way, scared the begeebers out of me earlier this week. I've been so busy and intent on getting this house ready for sale that I clearly have let some things go, namely my eyebrows! (there's 45 minutes of my life I'm never going to get back)

Couple the house preparations with the first weeks of school, hockey tryouts and my 9-5....I am exhausted! and I feel deep sorrow for grown-ups everywhere who try to maintain this level of perfection on a daily basis. Who are you kidding? People are not meant to live under such expectations. My current pace is fuelled only by the knowledge that the situation bears no threat of permanence. It won't be long and we will be back to letting the grass grow and the laundry pile up. There will be toothpaste in the sink and shoes scattered at the front door. Kids will neglect to make their beds or put their dishes in the dishwasher and I will not read the riot act over their transgressions. We will leave the kitchen a mess in favour of walking for after dinner ice cream and I suspect that the dining room table will be slowly buried under 'stuff' again in no time.

For now the house is ready for the world to view, the For Sale sign adorns the front lawn and the open houses are in full swing. We spent a lot of extra time preparing and 'staging' the house in hopes that we will shave time off the selling end and return to normal sooner than later. Sooner, sooner, sooner please!!!! Before Mike gets attached to a clean, uncluttered home that smells like gardenias and Mr. Clean. Sooner please before I get ambushed in the mall by one of those emergency make-over teams. Sooner please before the novelty of bribing the kids with surprises of chocolate, stickers and movie tickets in recognition of their bed making, dishwasher using and general tidiness wears off. Sooner please before I turn into the loud mouthed woman in the grocery store checkout line spouting off about the customer the cashier ratio. I don't want to become that person, I can't become that person. Sooner please so that we can return to writing, motorcycle riding, movie watching, game playing, sitting on the deck with a glass of wine a grilled steak and some great friends time.

It will happen. In the meantime there is much gratitude today for the reminder that life is a thing to be enjoyed. That family life is a thing to be created not just lived. Gratitude for the reminder that in the pursuit of 'doing it all' a great many things get over-looked. Gratitude for the temporary nature of our circumstances and the co-operation of all parties involved as we create a life with more time and freedom for 'enjoying' it.

Gratitude, Hope & Smiles are meant to be shared, Have a great weekend!

Michelle

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Parent's Job...

 



This is not my mess. I did not haul rod, reel, worms, tackle and fishing net out to the end of the dock. I did not bait the hook cast the line or get stuck in the weeds. It seems however that as soon as things got out of control and tangled up the expedition became my problem to solve...and I did. For the success of the adventure I cut the line, re-threaded the eyelets, re-rigged with tackle and sent my junior Izumie back to his post.

My kids bring me problems like this all of the time, they expect that when all else fails Mom can make things right (oh, the pressure) Sometimes I can fix things and sometimes I have to pass the problem sideways like a hot potato over to Dad. Occasionally we have to reach even further to solve a problem. In seventeen years it has become glaringly apparent that I could easily spend the rest of my life 'fixing' other people's problems, cleaning up other people's messes. As fulfilling as that sounds I also know that it is highly unlikely that I will live forever (despite my desire to do so) and that at some point these children will be going it alone. This thrills and terrifies me.

I have one hope...teach them to attempt their own solutions before running to me for help and if they do run to me for help teach them the solution. I forgot this when E first approached with monofiliment birds nest. Truthfully at that particular moment E's available time to learn a new skill far exceeded my patience to teach one. 

Gratitude today that I regained my parental heading when he came back a second time with an equipment malfunction. He didn't need me the third time.

"A Parent's Job...is to teach people not to need you anymore."

Gratitude, Hope & Smiles are meant to be shared...Happy Friday!

Michelle

Friday, August 31, 2012

Once In a Blue Moon

If you look up into the sky tonight and provided you can see through the haze of city lights, smog and clouds you will be a witness to a phenomenal sight...A Blue Moon! I am rather certain that the moon will not actually be tinted blue, although given the fact that I have never seen a 'blue moon' before this is not a fact I can confirm either way. In my opinion it would be an astronomical feat of techno accomplishment on the part of God & Mother Nature but I'm not expecting it.

To be quite honest up until this very week I thought that a 'blue moon' was a not real thing. I believed it was one of those anomalies parents and grandparents made up to quantify their level of  astonishment when a child performed some amazing random feat of the unexpected; like putting dishes in the dishwasher or taking the garbage out un-nagged. Those things are the stuff of parental urban legend!

You can imagine my excitement to learn (via the power of facebook news) that a Blue Moon is an actual thing, an event, a scientific possibility! It happens tonight and this is going to be the best day of my life (if you don't count those ones when I got married and had babies and jazz)

I am expecting all of the following and then some...

  • I will sleep though the night
  • the kids will sleep through the night
  • the dog will sleep-in in the morning
  • somebody else will get up and feed the dog if he doesn't
  • Michael and I will go out on like a real live date
  • we will eat somewhere that doesn't serve slaw or present a 'treasure box' with the bill.
  • I will buy groceries and they will cost less than $200
  • I will bring said groceries home and the kids will unload the van and help put things away.
  • the laundry will be caught up
  • and put away
  • my in laws will visit
  • my brother will call
  • I will have awesome hair
  • there will be time for a full leg shave not just to the knee
  • I will control the remote
  • time will present itself for novel reading
  • kids will brush and floss without being reminded
I have high expectations for this blue moon thing, there won't be another until 2015, if I don't see results that's a long time to wait for a do-over. I should probably place a caveat here...I will gladly forgo the items listed if we can get the dishes into the dishwasher! That alone would put me 'over the moon.'

Enjoy your 'Blue Moon' and all the possibilities it holds for you. What is the one thing you hope comes with the second full moon of the month of August? (it really is a phenomenon, one that will not occur again until 2015)

Happy Friday everyone...Gratitude, Hope & Smiles are meant to be shared!

Michelle

Monday, August 27, 2012

10 days...the Coles Notes

Life returns to normal this week, or falls back into routine at least. Our days at the lake are over for summer 2012 and as expected a great time was had by all. We made the decision to 'unplug' the family this year, leaving social media, texting and the internet at home. Everyone survived...Even Mom! although there were a few moments that were 'tweet-worthy' to sum them up;

spider, spider! where's my drink?, where's my dog?, spider! where's my kids? more gas? put poly on it. #Cottage12

First, the unplugged thing was not as difficult to enforce as anticipated. We took only one cell phone so that we were 'reachable' and allowed the teens intermittent use to touch base with boyfriends and social life. there were a few tense moments, a bout of cold sweats but no tears so I am declaring the exercise successful.

What did the kids get up to in the absence of electronic influence? Lula swam across the lake and back, that's 2 miles! KJ and her cottage buddy built a backwoods hangout, planning a myriad of diversionary routes to throw everyone off their trail. E perfected his angling skills (I made frequent expeditions into town for worms and minnows)  There was also a great deal of ATV adventuring, kayaking, swimming, board game playing, and tubing. There were boat rides and campfires, s'mores, hammock rides and sunset watching.

I was so proud of their enthusiasm, they always enjoy our time at the lake but I worry as they get older that they will delight in the simplicity less and less. I was impressed with every blister, bruise, slice, bump, sunburn and sliver they earned themselves. We bathed in polysporin, bug spray and sunscreen and we carried on.

The grown up contingent reveled in games of washer toss, ladder ball. flolf, bean bag toss and dominoes. We sang along to the songs of our youth and indulged in foods and spirits a little more losely than 'normal'. We built things and started fires, we sat in the sand and watched the sun set. All of this was enjoyed in between filling gas tanks, driving boats, untangling lines, unhooking fish, hooking minnows and cooking meals, washing dishes and hanging soaking towels up to dry. A parent never really knows just how tired they can be until they take their family on vacation.

I completely love the traditions of the lake and the traditions our family is building on our annual pilgrimage. Dad's sweet & salty kettle corn, the sandcastle building contest (which may have been conceived in a desperate need for 10 minutes of peace and quiet). There are the UNO games and requisite photos of sunsets and sunrises, boxed mix pancakes for breakfast and dinners of corn on the cob. I was delighted to see that the chalkboard we left behind last year has been put to good use by cottagers leaving out-going greetings to incoming guests...ours to the next; 'a week a the lake, a lifetime in the heart. With Gratitude The Luelo Family'

Our poor dog is suffering severe withdrawal from a week of 17 full acres of leash free freedom and returning to our suburban backyard. I have almost finished the laundry, everything that goes to the lake comes home to a date with the washer. I am surveying everything for dock spiders, horrible, horrible creatures that move indoors with wood spiders as the temps drop. I am also not entirely sure that we haven't brought home a stowaway chipmunk with a propensity for dog kibble and potatoes.

There will be much more to write and when the laundry is all caught up, the dog is detached from his stink and the 8lbs I brought home on my waist have been whittled away I will have more tales to share. Tales like the spider that shared my bed, an introduction to 'Robinson' my Pike counsellor and  why it's perfectly acceptable to use the boy's shower house.

For now I leave with a few pictures of our adventures and a message that as wonderful as it is to get away there is something wonderful about being back. Back to routine, back to writing, back to chatting, back to friends and the spider free comforts of home.

Gratitude today for a family of adventurers happy to go all in or nothing in the name of family memories.






E at the wheel


Lula on board



KJ the kayaker

The big snapper

The wee snapper


Hope Gratitude and Smiles are meant to be shared!

Michelle

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'm Up...Let's Get Moving

Everyday we are purging ourselves one step closer to staking the 'For Sale' sign into the front lawn, the closer we get the less I sleep. I become a victim of insomnia fed by one part worry and two parts excitement and a to-do list that goes viral in the moonlight. Paint, replace baseboard, pack-up, store away, minimize, de-clutter, sterilize (both virtually and emotionally) trim, tidy, nag, shine, polish and primp. Remarkably we are only a week or two behind schedule!

A schedule I'm not sweating too much, okay I am but I am pretending like heck that I'm not. Everything in it's right time...right? That is the 'thing' I'm working on right now; improving my tolerance for the slow coarse. Typically I want things when I want them which stiffens a body with tension when every aspect of your life is at the mercy of someone or something else. Waiting for approvals and markets, for the right home, the right buyer, the best rates. If I could wiggle my nose and blink my eyes to make it so you know it would be done. This is where Mike and I are polar opposites, he could wait a thousand years with a smile on his face and a song in his heart, for all the pegs to fall into their right holes. It drives me nuts, there is never any panic or pressure and I wonder what it must be like to live your life in such a perpetual state of zen. Is it possible and more importantly could I get anyone to take me seriously?

So the schedule and the to-do list are robbing me of sleep which is causing my skin to regress into some adolescent stress response. Some days I can't see because my wrinkle cream reacts with the acne cream and causes my eyes to burn. I am pretty sure the rest of the world probably thinks I am either perpetually in tears or high as a kite and probably settle on the latter explanation after 30 seconds of conversation. I'm a tad punchier and giddier at the moment too. Partially to be blamed on sleep deprivation and partly on excitement!

We have lived in our current home for almost 9 years, it has been a lot of fun, we have done a great amount of growing here, made some great friends and learned a lot of life lessons. The most important one perhaps is that there is always a trade. You have to choose; boxes or bags, shoes or sandals, mashed or fries. What I have learned is that a person can accomplish a lot trying to build a life, then one day you sit back and look at everything you didn't choose and suddenly your life doesn't fit anymore. You stand in  the middle of everything you have and you feel a little lost. I always think of showing up to the beach in a business suit; you might look like a million bucks but you're going to to be uncomfortable as hell and you probably won't enjoy yourself as much as you could.

Time for us to change our course in a move I've labeled operation 'Downsize life to upsize living' everyone is on board. E is helping scout great new homes for our family. KJ our in house organizational guru is fixing up closet and cupboard spaces and optimizing our 'room'. Lula is keeping the mood light. Mike is keeping us calmly on course and I am keeping the night watch. I have no clue what exactly I'm watching for except that it must be something great. It takes something pretty exciting like the arrival of Christmas morning or summer holidays for me to submit to being awake and happy about it at 3am.

Gratitude today for adventures and the ability to re-chart your course as you go so that you don't miss any of the scenery you were hoping to see along the way.


Gratitude, Hope  and Smiles are meant to be shared :)
Michelle

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Date with the Basement

Michael and I cleaned up the basement this weekend. I say that so casually like we went for pizza or took the dog for a walk. If you have ever seen my basement I appreciate how quiet you have been about my secret shame. For those who have not had the horror of hunting through my subterranean  jungle, you will have to exercise your imagination.... Close your eyes; picture the mismatched, jumble of random thought that fills my twitter feed and this blog, package it all in cardboard and chuck it over a cliff. Now creep over to the edge of said cliff and look at the carnage...That is my basement.


Everything a person could want, need or desire to hide can be located in our basement. It is a gigantic sitcom closet; it has no capacity maximum but an impressive air of impending doom that strikes terror in the hearts of children and adults alike. For the record, my kids are afraid of never surfacing from the basement not a monster under the stairs. His room has be crammed with cartons full of books and CD's. Michael's "Life before marriage" boxes filled with beer paraphernalia, sports knickknacks and fast-food collector toys. There is a broken VCR, some leftover flooring and comforter bags jam-packed with every single piece of paper my three children have brought home since junior kindergarten. I'm going to use it to wallpaper their children's nurseries, that way when they're all... "you're not putting that crap on my walls", I can toss it to the recycle bin released from guilt. It's a lot to lug around house to house but not nearly as heavy as my conscious.

I do a pretty good job of avoiding the reality that is my basement, venturing down only when no alternative exisits to Rubbermaid bin diving for seasonal fodder. I ignore it until it can't be ignored anymore, that time is now. On the 'purge and stage' list we drew the 'basement' card and I instantly hated my disorganized borderline hording self just a titch.

Eventually the past catches up with us all, mine caught up with me on Saturday. I expected to be frustrated and fed up sifting through box after unlabeled box, organizing, pitching and re-packing, what I found however were some great memories. To be quite honest most of my past lives are in that basement. I found fifteen remaining cookbooks from the original run of 700 books created from gathered family recipes in support of a cousin stricken by a medical tragedy. I smiled when I placed them in a box for her Mom. Those books helped a little but more importantly that lovely young lady has her life back due to a determined spirit. In a strawberry crate I unearthed my books from a wedding planning course I took they were tucked on a shelf beside a portfolio crammed with story/design boards from interior design school. Those things together made a run in wedding decor a fun adventure, one I may return to once the kids are into their own lives and they can help not play checkers in the corner while mom yells for extension cords and safety pins.

Michael helped me pack up box after box of cake pans and cake making accessories. What began as a birthday cake or two quickly became a couple hundred sweet creations. I can't part with those pans, I need them 'just in case' and secretly hope a creative child takes up the art.

We packed up crates of outgrown Brats and Barbie dolls, dinky cars and monster trucks. I packed a small bag filled with dishes from pets well loved and sorely missed. We carried boxes and bags to the garage for donations, the dump and re-homing. Bit by bit bins were approved and shelved, organized by holiday, event and usefulness. Eventually the Broom could get across the floor...eventually the basement was conquered!

A pic just to prove to my future self
that I have the ability to organize.
I now bask temporarily in the glow of optimum organization and minimal ownership. I also have a heart warmed with memories of lifetimes past and a great deal of gratitude for Michael who stood by and helped me sift (in fairness he really only holds responsible claim to a box of beer stines and a sack full of collector hockey pucks). He has stood beside me for more than the cleaning, he's been the one believing in me all along, no matter what my undertaking. It's not easy being hitched to a creative spirit.

Of course it's not easy being hitched to a tinkerer either, and next purge day, when it is his garage under the microscope I will hold my patience and the bags, tape shut the boxes and know that these are his memories to sift through.

Hope, Gratitude & Smiles are meant to be shared... spread them around :)
Michelle

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What Happens at Grandpa's...

E is off on a grand adventure....he is spending some time with Grandpa. Just how long is yet to be determined, it could be as long as two weeks it could be until tomorrow night. He's loving the days, the nights are a little tougher to manage. In all fairness it is his first time away from home and he is pretty far away (eight hours by car) Last night the 11:30 tear filled call came in. I did my best to be a brave mom sharing my confidence in him over the wire, we will find out tonight just how convincing I was.

Sitting at my desk this afternoon I was thrilled with the distraction of a phone call from my little guy. (he's not the only one struggling a little bit.) I was relieved to hear him more relaxed excited to share his day.

As I understand, E and Grandpa spent some time running errands this morning, paying some bills, shopping for groceries, picking up the mail...all things he could be doing at home. I wonder if errands are more fun with Grandpa. I am betting they are. The afternoon was enjoyed in the bush picking blueberries and raspberries. I understand they are for sprinkling on tomorrow morning's breakfast of chocolate cereal (That's a good Grandpa making sure the boy gets his fruit). E wasn't nearly as excited about the fruit or chocolate cereal as he was about his new pocket knife and the moose call Grandpa had helped him fashion out of birch bark with it. Cool, chocolate, foraging in bear country and knives...a 10 year old's dream! All of which paled in comparison to the next piece of excitement....GRANDPA LET ME DRIVE THE TRUCK!... (a gulp on my end of the line..... holy *only rhymes with* truck) Okay, I'm not completely surprised, in no-man's land there is kind of this unwritten rule that nobody goes in that can't get themselves out, I half expected this was coming, but it's cool for Grandpa to be the rebel adult.

We agreed that what happens at Grandpa's, stays at Grandpa's, as long as he is brushing his teeth twice a day.

I'm getting ready to call and tuck him in over the phone in a few minutes and I really hope that his enjoyment is greater than his nighttime homesickness. There is something so magical about the time a grandchild gets to spend with their Grandpa, it makes me nostalgic for the days I spent with mine. These are ones you don't get to do over. I also hope he doesn't wear out his Grandpa, if he decides to go the whole two weeks they are going to have to pace themselves!

Gratitude to my Dad today for sharing himself with my children, they really don't know how lucky they are.

Gratitude, Hope & Smiles are meant to be shared...share on!
Michelle

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Oh, Deer...When Pineapples and Ice Cream Fail

We rounded off our long weekend with an adventure to the Indulge Caboose for ice cream and a walk along a Cambridge stretch of the Grand River Trail on Monday. Okay we started out going to the beach. Those plans became a new plan to go mini-golfing which quickly disintegrated into "everybody get in the van...You've got 3 minutes!" Yes, what started out as a quest for family togetherness systematically dissolved into a pineapple event. (yes please click that link to find out)

Here we go again! In all fairness if I hadn't allowed all three kids to stay up the night before way past their bedtimes, eating junk, playing video games and giggling until tears rolled down their cheeks they would have been a far more agreeable group. In short I think we probably pushed the 'get along' train a little too far. None the less, I lost my patience and ix-nayed the water, then ix-nayed the mini golf. A measure I probably could have stopped short of except names started flying followed closely by hands and feet. They left me no choice. It was the beginning of the end and a solution for resolution needed to be found. The pineapple solution was a one timer. It's power would not have been strong enough to diffuse the tension and set us back on track. I realised this when Mike came outside, walked up to the passenger side window poked his head in with a smile and a "you know they don't care that you are our here waiting don't you?" Damn! The goat getting had grown stronger that my ability to guilt them into compliance. Time to hand the reins of creative parenting over the the master...Dad, the guy who hatched the Darthvader consequence.

Mike's plan took us on a drive, (the whole time by the way someone was whining about 'where are we going?', complaining about the seating arrangements or the odour of a close range sib.) Heck of a plan Dad. Stop one of his plan was the awesomeness that is Indulge Ice cream with no stipulations on cone selection or scoop quantity. The first hint of childhood will bending and smiles could be seen curving a dimple or two.


Okay, our picture of the deer did not turn out,
something about icecream on the lens.
So I am offering this insanely cute pic from
Boreal Forrest Library
Four waffle cones and a regular cone, 4 scoops of chocolate mint, a granny's cupboard, a Bordeaux cherry, peanut butter brownie and double chocolate fudge later and we were following Dad down the wooded walking trail. Riding an ice cream high, laughing, joking and capturing the 'great old time' we were aiming for before our day fell apart. As we have all come to accept, it is generally a short walk from laughter to tears, in this case 1.4km; that's when I was checking KJ for injuries at the side of the trail following her not so cleaver attempt to remove the tree branch, leaf and twitch grass headdress Lula had been so imaginatively constructing in her messy bun as we walked. While I tried to evaluate through her tears E offered a constructive or rather counter-constructive "that's what happens..." Really? like really E? Need I remind you that you are part of the reason we are walking on this frigging trail in the first place! (I would like to take a minute here and thank random guy on a bike who didn't stop to ask questions.)

Determining that the only damage was to our disposition and our pride Dad smartly decided this was the time to turn around. I have a feeling the darts shooting from my eyes may have been a influencing factor.

We turned back towards the trail head and walked in silence utterly defeated, It's a sad day when 'Dad parenting' can't right the course. I was trudging (which is really the only word I can muster) when a deer stepped out from the woods and onto the gravel path. She stopped in her tracks and I halted the kids as not to frighten her and let her on her way, but she wasn't moving. We waited and watched as two white spotted fawns emerged from the where she appeared. They stepped timidly onto the path and crossed into the opposite brush followed by mom. The sight was beautiful.

"Look at that," said E..."every time something rotten happens there is always something good that comes next." I smiled and agreed. I didn't have the heart to tell him that what I was really wondering was if those deers had just been for ice cream too?

Do deer children squabble and goat farm just like us more evolved creatures? Are we actually more evolved?

Gratitude that Mother Nature and the good Lord took over where pineapples and hiking trails covered in ice cream failed and that we arrived back to the van and back home in one piece and right again with the world and one another.

Creative parenting is becoming an increasing challenge. I hope we stay on one another's good side for a while, I can't imagine what it will take next time!

Gratitude, Hope and Smile are meant to be shared!
Michelle

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Olympic Movement (to Tears)

We've been absorbed in the Olympic experience in our home this week. Checking schedules and watching Olympic Prime Time, which has provided fabulous coverage with the exception of coining the phrase 'ShuttleGate' how cleverly insipid *rolls eyes*

photo credit *National Post - Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
I cry a lot during the games; the wins, the losses, the pride on parent faces and fellow athletes as one of their own achieves personal perfection. Every minute of competition someone reaches a personal best, attains or surpasses their goals, or suffers the disappointment of falling shy of their dream. It's an emotionally overwhelming roller coaster.

If the performance of athletes fails to start the tears flowing there are always those Olympic Spirit moments to jerk a flood of emotion, not to mention those dammed commercials. Who creates these things? Did they build a room somewhere invite every hallmark writer still breathing into the space and say "here are the products, nobody leaves until we've come up with a punch to the gut concept for every single one." Man they get me every time. Well played marketing gurus, well played.

Then sometimes right in the middle of all of those tears, there are the things that make you say hmmm. (yes, sing it...I am) Things like the the word Velodrome that's Velo as in Velocity tell me this isn't every mother's nightmare and why the aerodynamic helmets? do they really make you go faster? and do they have to look so cool that my 10 year old wants one? Something else that sets me pondering is Shot-put. In a sea of people at the very peak of fitness I don't get this, isn't there some minimum attainment of fitness level? I know there must be. I couldn't 'put' a 'shot' farther than the end of my left foot but I caught a preview commercial for the upcoming event and couldn't help but think they were down a guy so yanked someone out of the pub on the way to the venue.

Other things that set me giggling and provide some cranial respite from the tears; Royal spotting, the fact that McDonald's is a sponsor of the world's greatest showcase of personal health and fitness, speed-walking...I'm going to argue that this is not really a sport, not if the world record can be challenged by any mother trying to get her potty training toddler to the restroom end of the mall in time.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of some super fan or the Olympic Mascot for this years event and I turn to uncontrollable laughter. Then my son asks a question like "Mom, are you going to cry when I get my gold medal?" and I am right back in the land of tissue. Darn you dreamers darn you *shakes fist at sky*

Gratitude today for dreams, achievers, supporters, National pride, and kleenex (I might be looking for sponsorship for my athlete)

Enjoy Friday everyone, Hope Gratitude and Smiles are meant to be shared :)
Michelle

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Better a Learner than a Listener be

I swear I have had just about enough of life's little instruction book and the trending advise de jour that floats about cyberspace and media like an unwelcome influenza outbreak. How to be social, How to avoid 8 social pitfalls, How to be happy, How to write, How to argue, How to sleep. and the very latest one to catch "How to listen"

Are you serious? How to Listen.

How to listen implies that everything put out there for us deserves our attention that just because you have something to say other people owe you the respect of undivided attention and appreciation. Who cares. I hear so much in a day that it is simply not possible way to listen to it all, and who wants to?

But if you have to... listening is easy.

First you filter...if you are listening, someone has your attention either with topic or urgency and I guarantee you are 'listenening' to what they have to say. The rest, the processing, assessing, retaining of information happens naturally if the information is crucial to the survival and thriving of your own life of the life of someone you love.

Imagine sitting in a Doctor's office with your sick child. Do you have to practice active listening, absolutely not, it happens because it matters there is information you need to learn.

A real skill is not listening a real skill we could all use a little 'How To" on is Learning 

Learning in my opinion is a skill far more valuable than any amount of listening. I understand this because in my life there are people who "listen" to me in the How To sense of the word (ok, not my children, but there are people) I know they are listening because they have no clue what is going on in my life. These people ask questions like "how was your weekend?" even though when the Friday "Any big plans for the weekend?" question came up, the answer was "a funeral"

Listeners have their place and I love them for it. You can tell them anything you want and be confident that they won't have any recollection of it later. There is always that 'refresh my memory' part of the social interaction program. This is great because if things don't go as planned there are no explanations you just don't bring it up again and no one is any the wiser.

Learners on the other hand are special people, rare even among our closest friends and relatives. They keep a mental cue card of what they know about you. They ask questions and file away the answers not just nod their heads and fake attentiveness. Learners are the people who run into you at the mall and ask if you are feeling better, leaving you to recall the string of status updates related to your recent flu. Learners send you messages out of the blue to check in on your progress and send you wafts of inspiration unique to your current challenges. Learners remember details and facts. Conversations with learners are void of the 'catch-up' they simply pick up where left off. Okay, learners may have stalker qualities but don't we all love that even just a little bit, to feel like people are genuinely interested in us?

Having said all of this, being a learner takes effort, it takes energy it takes an interest in someone besides yourself. It also provides rewards beyond measure. If you can encourage someone because you remember their goal, if you can celebrate someone because you know their dream, if you can comfort them when their hopes are dashed you are making real connections with people. Perhaps this is where the real appreciation of learners lies, in the knowledge that they care about things beyond their own world enough to take note.

Learners make an impact where listeners make a mark.

Gratitude to the learners in my life and to the listeners who make me appreciate the learners even more.


Gratitude, Hope and Smiles are meant to be shared :)
Michelle




Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Dog's Breakfast

Grateful Thursday from the dog this morning....

I went to reach for the dog food this morning, it wasn't there. We ran out at last night's feeding apparently, why doesn't anybody tell me these things?

Given the circumstances, the hour, my pyjama-ed state, the pouring rain and insufficient coffee consumption, I did the next best thing to going out to the store for dog kibble....

He's eating cat food. The K9 equivalent of pie & ice cream for breakfast.

He would like to pass along the following message for Grateful Thursday...

Life is good.




Happy Thursday everyone, Hope Gratitude and Smiles are meant to be shared. What are you grateful for today?

Michelle

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Living In the Reality We Created

Where are you on the gun issue? I want to weigh in with some politically educated opinion and knowledge but I have none. From what I understand it is far too easy to acquire fire arms, way to legal to possess them, way to impossible to determine who might be walking around with the ability to destroy lives tucked under their jacket of stuffed in their waistband. Truthfully I am not informed well enough to share an opinion on the big political picture gun issue, and clearly, irrefutably there IS an issue.

A lack of educated insight should not however be mistaken for a lack of position. I have a very strong position on guns. "Not in my world, not in my house, not in my children's toy box, not on their video game console, not in the games played on the street. Not in our life" It has not made me a very popular mom. Yes, I pull my son off the street when the gang war-esk games start, and 10 year olds are running around with make believe weapons using quiet peaceful neighbourhood homes, cars and gardens like an urban hand to hand combat jungle. I exchange Birthday and Christmas gifts that arrive sporting gun violence. I once threw an entire present in the garbage complete with miniature plastic scope and hand grenades because I could not return it for something less offensive. (Okay the act may have been fueled partially by a complete 'I can't believe you would even consider that gift Grandma." response.)  My nephews hate coming to hang out with me because my video game selection, while completely appropriate for 4-8 year olds, contains Wii sports, and Lego Star wars not Call of Duty Black Ops or Sniper Elite.

Do I sound paranoid that exposing my children to guns, violence and the virtual extermination of society is going to create in them an appreciation for violence and weaken their regard for human life? I'm not afraid of that at all. I'm not even convinced that those exposures have the power to insight violent rampage fantasies in people who are mentally stable and high functioning. I do however believe that our kids get enough or rather far too much exposure to violence and tragedy in their everyday lives to require the supplement.

It has become inescapable, each and everyday there are stories of gun violence and acts of terror precipitated on innocent unsuspecting people. People who go to neighbourhood block parties, drop by the mall for a new pair of shoes or decide to take in a movie premiere. Students who leave for an education in the morning and end up in a box on the lawn of a university campus in the afternoon.

In the days of my childhood we would play Cops and Robbers and Cowboys and Indians (yes I am that old) for hours upon hours, we would capture the bad guys and draw our weapons and even shoot them at one another, but our imaginations could create without much effort worlds that did not exist beyond our backyards and playgrounds. That is just not possible today. A child cannot imagine a world more violent than exists in reality, for their minds to conceive scenarios more devastating or gruesome than have already been imagined for them in movies, video games and television is incomprehensible, I'm not sure as an adult I could pull it off.

The things others have imagined we have accepted into our lives and in this regard we have fostered the very violence and terror that breaks our hearts and causes us to weep for the world we are raising our children in.

"Not in my world, not in my house, not in my children's toy box, not on their video game console, not in the games played on the street. Not in our life" I, foolishly (or not) choose to envision and encourage our kids to imagine a world free from violence and disregard for human life. Hoping that they might fuel a new reality for a world we have let be imagined way off course.

So the gun issue becomes for me, in my mind, a matter of parents having a position and then having the balls to enforce it in their own homes. Have the conviction to back up your outrage with action. There is no 'on the fence' about this topic and yet so many are. They say I am against guns and violence then they give their kids a ride to the video game store to buy the latest first person assault game. Parents cry over school shootings and send their kids out to play with orange capped AK47s and handguns. Those things don't magically appear in your home, they reside there with your permission and their presence is like a big 'BUT' in a sentence, it erases everything that came before.

Have the resolve to say no when everyone else is following along. If you are truly opposed to a thing make sure what you preach is what you teach.

Gratitude today to all of those doing just that.

Michelle

Written with a heart overfilled with tears for the families of such senseless tragedy. It is to them we owe our very best efforts to envision a better world through the imaginations of our children.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lily's Story

Today I can't think of a better thing to share than this brave little girl's story and the amazing gratitude of her family.


 


It's in you to give a family hope.

Hope, gratitude and smiles are meant to be shared, Gratitude to Lily and her family for sharing their hope and gratitude and smiles.

Michelle

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Adopting GRACE

If life can bring you to it, GRACE can move you through it. Trying hard everyday to adopt a little...



   be Grateful
                                                 Respect everyone - yourself included
                 your Attitude is a choice
                                                  Celebrate everyday accomplishments
                     Encourage others



Thursday...Your Turn @ The Table...  What are you Grateful for today?


Enjoy the sunshine...Keep smiling :)

Michelle



Friday, July 13, 2012

It's Been an Educational Week!

Things I learned this week...

  • If you have a teenage daughter on track for film school you don't need summer camp. (I will post links to parts 1 & 2 of the first summer production once part 2 leaves editing)

  • It is always important to hear it from the source. Little brothers will tell you their sister has bus tickets to get to summer school without even checking.

  • Hotdogs are better to throw than hurtful words. or are they? Depends on the amount of ketchup vs. the words under consideration. A case by case circumstance I suppose.

  • There is actually a scenario in which scorching humid air is desired over the car air conditioning system. You have to be stuck on the 401, late for a championship ball hockey game and covering your eyes so as not the witness your ten year old son 'dressing' in the back into stink soaked equipment, but it does exist.

  • Lavender scented poop bags are a mosquito attractant not a repellent.

  • Anti-bacterial hand gel is just as effective as stinky afterbite.

  • Celebration ice-cream eaten in quantity is not calorie free.

  • The dog, no matter how many times you send him off the bed will always find a way to creep back on. Dogs are like boomerangs and my back is like a twisted pretzel.

  • Homework is only homework if the teacher refers to it as such in class. Otherwise it is a 'thing' you have to do, that's not that much, won't take long, and can wait until 10pm on Sunday night.

  • If the only resident to ever be charged with continually violating municipal watering by-laws moves to Montreal - there will be conformity in the neighbourhood. Brown lawns for all!

  • You can't lie at math.

Eventually Friday arrives as another whirl of adventure begins! This weekend I hope to find water, purge a walk in closet and participate with my family in a Guinness Book of World Records event - we are going to be part of the world's longest picnic. Check one off the list!

Happy Friday everyone, do your homework, love your family, leave the lavender scented poop bags at home :)

Gratitude, Hope and Smiles are meant to be shared...pass it on.
Michelle


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Popping in for a Grateful Thursday ... (then I'm gone again)

I feel rather obligated to write a post today, not that obligation should ever be the fuel for creative expression. There is pressure that comes with obligation that you just don't get from impulse.  There should be no expectation on this piece therefore. (that just took some of the pressure off)

For my friends who meditate you understand that there is great clarity born of silence. An understanding found in moments of self inspection and observation that aren't found standing in the middle of the freeway. We need moments of silence to reacquaint with our desires and check our bearings. You just can't get that standing in the middle of the fast lane in nothing but your knickers and flip-flops desperately trying to hold your own against the rush of traffic, waving your arms and jumping around frantically to get noticed so you don't get mowed down. At some point you need to step off, plunk yourself down in the grassy median assess your circumstances and recharge.

That's where I am, over here in the grass between the east-bound and west-bound lanes. *waves hello* I've taken a break from everything, writing, social media, T.V. texting, talking, thinking; it's just me over here catching my breath checking the map and figuring out where I need to be and how I am going to get there... or rather it is Mike and I plunked in the weeds figuring it out together; where our family needs to be and how we are going to get them there. I'm looking at the traffic rushing past in both directions and wondering how the hell we've survived this far! It is easy to see exactly where we want to get to, but it means jumping back out into traffic and trying to navigate across four lanes of eastbound traffic in our knickers and flipflops to the other shoulder. This is not going to be easy, but no adventure worth risking ever came without some fear.

Gratitude today for grassy medians, big signs and my first class husband and travel companion - I love you.

It is also Grateful Thursday, (hence to obligation - I need to hear from you!) so I'm hollering across from the center lane "WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR TODAY?" can you hear me over the traffic?


Michelle

Now I have to get back to standing in traffic.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Art of Victory and Defeat

We are in Mississauga this weekend for the OBHA Provincials. This is very exciting, the last time we were in Mississauga for a hockey event E got to work the defense gate, benched with a major concussion, so he is very grateful to be out on the floor running with the team this time around.

Game one was an exercise in the team getting their bearings. There were some really good plays and some very great passes, the goalie made some extraordinary saves but mostly there was a great many 'one man teams' trying to win the game, to our downfall. 5-3 was the score for game one.

First face-off of the tournament for E
Between game one and two Mike, E and I grabbed a pizza to supplement our packed picnic and headed to a shady spot to enjoy a relax and some downtime. I especially love these reflective moments when Mike talks with E about his strengths and weaknesses from a game, they have a real routine built around hockey. Mike asks "what was your favourite thing about that game? and he asks what do you think needed some work?" E always answers with the same observations Mike comments to me in the stands and I am impressed with his game comprehension. Everything I know about hockey I learn from these conversations. I also learned today that "Mom you probably shouldn't shout out, you really don't know what to say when, maybe just leave it to Dad." This is especially comical because 'Dad' doesn't know how to shout. We are a doomed cheering squad.  After game one E was happy with his positioning, the reason behind his assist and two goals.

On to game two, a hard fought match up Kitchener vs. Cambridge which comes with a Hometown vs. Hometown rivalry. The game was phenomenal! Our teams so evenly matched that there was not a goal scored until 10 minutes left in the game. First goal to Kitchener. The stands erupted with a final break in tension! How there are not more heart events in spectator stands is beyond comprehension, I think I actually saw one dad's throbbing temple vein collapse.With that goal I thought to myself it took 20 minutes for someone to get one in the net, with only 10 minutes left could we get it back? We did, within minutes E popped one in off a well played team passing rally; Tied! Six minutes left in play and our team is dealt a devastating call by refs, even the opposing team questioned it; a penalty shot for pulling down a breakaway. Whatever, it was a bad call, everyone knew it, even the ref I'm sure. What a horrible way to lose a game two teams worked so hard for. The penalty shot found it's hole and Kitchener was up 2-1. It deflated everyone. One final empty net goal at 30 second left in play and defeat was confirmed.

Emerging from the dressing room after the game were tired disappointed kids from our team. The source of their disappointment not the loss, but the unsportsman like conduct demonstrated in the closing handshake line where a member of the opposing team called each boy a 'Bitch' or an 'Asshole' as he bumped their glove. *sigh* and I am reminded again how hard parents and coaches need to work to teach, demonstrate and hold their kids up to high moral standards in sport. It was an incredibly unfortunate end to a game 30 kids can be proud of. I'm not even sure what the answer is to this behaviour, it seems impervious to eradication.

Except by acts of the opposite, like the father from the winning team who stopped us with his son in the hallway on our way out of the building and said to E "Awesome game! your team really gave us a hard fight, it could have gone either way, anybody's game to win really, well played, you guys can be very proud!"

Gratitude to you Hockey Dad...for showing two boys what good sportsmanship looks like!

On to game three and four today, new day, new games, new picnic new chances to play our best again. I think I like hockey tournaments even if I shout cluelessly.

Enjoy your Saturday, encourage good conduct and share some smiles.
Michelle

Thursday, July 5, 2012

You're Going to Miss This

In the midst of the Terrible Twos I never envisioned missing them. It never occurred to me that I would want back the piggy tailed banshees and their displays of public humiliation. I couldn't imagine pining for the days when my children melted to the grocery store linoleum like limp noodles to writhe and cry in protest over cookies, cart pushing and gummy bears. I never stood over my toddlers as they filled the air with whaling tears and thought 'these are good times'. Until I land on one of those raising teenager days that makes the Terrible Twos look like a trip to Disney.

My Gran used to say 'little kids, little troubles'.

Gratitude today that children reach full size somewhere between fourteen and eighteen and that the grocery store is inherently void of Slinkys. One can retreat there for some solitude and a trip down memory lane watching young moms struggle with their 'good times'.

Grateful Thursday...it's your turn @ the table. What's on your list of Gratitude today?

Michelle

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Picture Perfect...Perfectly Pictured


There are days that determine your destiny, days that change who you are and what you want out of life. The defining days are few; most people can count them on one hand and identify them without a moment of retrospect. Most assume to find these moments in their ‘celebration days’. As I listen to my teenage daughters dream, I know they are anticipating that their wedding day will be one and the arrival of their children will be others. For my son, the day he hoists the Stanley cup over his head centre rink he envisions, will be one. I do not have the heart to tell them that those days while monumental and significant might not be the days they anticipate them to be. I’m not sure how to break it to them that a defining day mostly likely will start out just like any other day with sleeping in and burnt coffee, traffic jams and leftovers for dinner. Should I tell them the day they get a tooth crowned could be the same day that alters their life forever?

Looking into the future it is impossible to see what your defining days will be, looking into the past however is a different story. Looking backwards it is easy to recognise that it is not the wedding day that changes your life, it is the day you realize you are truly, completely and devotedly in love with the person you are going to marry. It is not the day a person dies; it is the very first moment you reach out for them and realize they are not there. It is not the day your first child is born, it is the day you discover you are going to be a parent.  Or it was for me, that moment changed my life forever. That day I saw my family in a mental picture that burned into my soul, that moment altered my path forever.

I’m sure it was a Sunday, we did most things on Sunday back in those years, it was the day we had together. I suspected we might be pregnant; at least that was our plan. I remember the anticipation of peeing on the stick, the instructions were committed to memory, this was one thing I wanted to be sure I was doing right. I wet the stick and waited for the hormones to seep across the test window; I held my breath and prayed. I did not blink, did not move from my seat or pull up my pants to look respectable if and when I could bound out of the bathroom and into the hallway to announce our news to Michael. I did not take my eyes off that home pregnancy test. We wanted a baby and I wasn’t going to miss the exact moment of finding out we were getting what we wanted. A three minute pregnancy test takes a lot longer than three minutes but when those two thin pink lines were finally staring me in the face my world froze. We were getting what we wanted. Except suddenly; I didn’t want a baby.

What I wanted was grown adults, a fabulous, well rounded, successful, compassionate family of grown adults. In that instant my mind had skipped right over diapers and 3am feedings to a long rustic parsons table in our home over-looking the lake. The table was surrounded by our grown children and their spouses. I could see some of them playing cards with Michael and laughing with his same easy sense of humor; that original charm that had drawn me into his world like a moth to a flame and made me fall in love with him. Some of us were perched around the large counter space peeling potatoes and hauling strawberries, working together to prepare dinner for the clan, sampling along the way. I could hear our grandchildren giggling and taunting one another as they ran in the halls and weaved through their parents’ legs and into the kitchen. I could see myself scooping one of them up as they darted past, plopping them on to the counter to snap the tips and tails off the green beans. The stereo in the back ground was muted useless by the drone of happy voices. This space was the embodiment of love and acceptance. I could see it in the gentle looks and the passing touches of familiarity. I could smell the home in our home, a reminiscent mingling of cinnamon, vanilla and smoke; it filled my heart to tears. I saw myself walking over to open the window allowing our laughter and love to bounce out beyond our walls, to dance across the water and infect the world beyond us. This was our family; I did not want to hide it from the world. I saw myself catching Mike’s knowing gaze and contented grin on my way back to my counter task. I felt the corners of my mouth turn up and mirror his, our hearts swollen with pride for what we were so very very blessed to enjoy. How could two young kids have gotten so lucky?

That was my picture, my picture was love. I could hear it, see it, smell it, taste it breath it in and let that breath back out again without fear of the vision disappearing. That is what I saw in my mind the moment I found out we were going to be parents.  We were going to raise an amazing family! That was my defining moment, the instant I understood my life was not about me it was about that vision and every action from that very moment would be in pursuit of attainment.

I’ve neglected to ever ask Mike what his vision was the moment I bounced squealing out of the bathroom with tears in my eyes and waving that urine coated lab test. I guess I just always assumed his vision was exactly like mine. He could very well have been envisioning knitted blankets and booties, the 3am feedings and over-my-dead-body names to scratch off the list before I could contemplate them. Perhaps he had a vision of university tuition and loaning his car to teenagers. In that case I suspect he also had a mental map to the liquor store and a private place picked out to shed some tears. Maybe he had a greater mental picture of the future than I did. I suspect this to be true as proven through our adventure; he has taken more than his fair share of turns shining the light beyond the struggles at hand and onto the bigger picture.

What I did not know at the time of being frozen by my mental picture of parenthood was the significance of such a vivid visual representation of our goal.  Only in the last ten years of our journey have I come to understand that tangible vision is how successful people get things done. If you truly want to be successful at anything, business, arts, music, sports any great endeavour, yes even parenting, you have to envision what that success ultimately looks like. What are you wearing? What are you eating? Who is by your side? Are you rich or are you poor? Are you healthy or are you sick? Do you have parrot on your shoulder or a dog on your lap?  What do you smell? Where are you? What can you see if you look out of the window? What conversations are you having over diner? If you can’t imagine how it looks, smells, tastes and sounds how will you know when you’ve gotten there? How will you know that you have successfully reached your goal? You won’t, and what happens for a lot of people is that we allow ourselves to stop short of our heart’s desire because we are content enough and don’t know where our finish line is. People rarely ever think about over shooting their mark. So I understand now that the mental picture that burned into my brain the moment I confirmed that yes, there were indeed two lines in the window, is the major contributing factor to my ability to keep all the be-bees in the holes.
Gratitude, for imaginations, pictured perfection and their power that forces me to dig deeper, try harder, be more accepting, love greater and be more patient when I would much rather share my feelings.

Gratitude as well for the understanding that what we might end up with instead of gazing together into a future of family togetherness and harmony, could be therapy retreats where our grown-up children can pummel us with sponge batons and hate on us constructively for bungling up their childhoods and leaving them bitter and neglected souls. That will be fun too!

Gratitude, Hope and Smiles are meant to be shared...enjoy your Monday Tuesday!
Michelle