Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Poor Target

Photo: Christine Logel, The Canadian Press
Read the story in The Record here
Did you see this today? The photo shared and tagged around the world admonishing Target’s tactless disregard of gender neutrality and its’ shameless sexist exploitation of innocent babies across North America?  It’s a horrid day for consumerism. No longer are our retail outlets only responsible for draining our pocket books they have a new role; leaders of social context and gender coding. You had to know I would have an opinion, I always have an opinion, I’m seriously considering in fact that I should become an opinion columnist; you don’t have to be right you only have to have a passionate position—it’s a perfect fit really.

As for those cute little pjs--I’ll take one in pink, size 12 with a little extra give in the torso and one in black, 36 long. I hope they come in tall size; it’s really hard to find stuff to fit my 6’4” husband. My kids will all need one too. I’m up to five now, I could actually knock off my Christmas shopping with one stop to Target—sleepers for everyone! They are perfect!

Hold your fervor Associate Professor Aimee Morrison, if you’re reading. Let’s talk about where you jumped the track. I feel like I need to make an argument for the other side.

Damn straight I’m raising our daughters to only date superheroes. My husband and I have been married a long time, we know the trials and commitment it takes to raise a family and maintain a strong relationship while keeping the lights lit and the refrigerator filled. We need everybody, Superheroes, princesses, fire-breathing dragons, and dragon slayers. 

If we are, as we should be, raising our girls to be strong capable independent women should we not also be protecting them from the side effect of carrying the entire weight of the world squarely and solely on their own shoulders? Namely a partner whose greatest ambition in life is to beat Final Fantasy Four and submit the next winning suggestion in the ‘Lays Name the Flavour’ contest. I’m not sure if you are aware Aimee but this is becoming a disturbing norm. I’ve seen enough boy-men in my grown up life and their husband-wives to be perfectly fine with the notion of coaching my girls to do a little sexist fishing from the right bank to secure the type of future happiness they are hoping to achieve.  

I wouldn’t put it so bluntly but it’s a tool I use to remind myself to keep at the good fight of raising our son to be a Man of Steel when it would be so much easier to just let him eat Cheetos and play Minecraft all day. Hero is a good ambition to instil in a young man. I want him to be just like his Father, my husband and partner a definitive hero; a man of distinguished courage, devotion, and honor who puts the needs of others above his own (a dictionary definition not a personal one, although it fits perfectly). A man who compliments the strength of his partner doesn’t rely on it. If that’s sexist, I’m guilty.

All of nature is guilty; every partnership in the wild kingdom is built on complimentary roles. There is always a nurturer and always a provider. It just happens that biologically, human men are designed to be heroes. Why do we want to take that away from them? Let them be heroes! Teach them to be, encourage them to be, it is part of their biological foundation. Let women expect that a man should be a provider and a protector; let them settle for nothing less than a superhero they can rely and depend upon without skepticism, it frees us up to love more passionately and more patiently, to nurture guiltlessly . It’s a Ying-Yang. We are built to work together to form teams, partnerships that create passionate and productive families where children can grow and flourish and make positive impacts on the world they will inherit. I’m not making this up, Target didn’t make this up, nature built us this way to ensure we thrive as a species.  

Why can’t that be okay?

I’ve committed my entire adult life to raising and nurturing my family, everyone from my husband Mike to our dog with the slightly lower than average doggy IQ. Mike has been right alongside me the entire way, strong, dependable and fiercely protective of our life together. He is my bare-chested stallion (okay, my mother read Harlequin when I was a child. Should I have her arrested?).

The point is that we are partners, we compliment one another; strong individuals separately, but dynamically stronger together. A force actually that has created and protected an atmosphere of security, growth and exploration for three amazing children (I’m not going to be humble here, they are amazing; strong, compassionate, curious and happy). Together we keep the lights on and the cupboard full. The five individuals in our unit move together to support one another in our individual dreams and we take chances because there is no question that we belong in a safe place to land when things don’t go according to plan. Is this a bad thing? It’s our differences that make us stronger together. 

I’m so tired of the ‘Down with Disney’ bandwagon. I like fairy tales. I want heroes and princesses and love stories where the heroes swoop in and sweep people off their feet. I want there to be a place where these people can buy clothes! You go Target!

Now that I’ve gotten my gender bias rant out of the way, because let’s face it I really just needed an excuse to be opinionated, I would really like to point something out.

At Target, Aimee, you have the freedom to buy your clothes from any department you choose regardless of your gender. How awkward that you assumed so publicly that the “I only date Heroes” shirt was only for girls or that no one other than a boy could grow up to be a Man of Steel. But it's only your opinion right, it doesn't actually have to be...right.

Up with Disney!


Friday, September 26, 2014

500 Words day 17 – LaLaLaLaLa...So not my fault

Into every life a little bit of fault must fall. If you are a mother of any child over the age of 10 you are most likely at fault for more than your fair share of life. There seems to be this span of time between children gaining increased independence and them signing your nursing home admission papers where everything that can go wrong lands squarely on your shoulders—fairly or not. I’ve had a Friday full of it already and it’s not even 9am. I’ve been smiling politely since 7, hugging my coffee like a security blanket and trying desperately to keep my patience and a calm demeanour. 

In my mind there is little to be gained by an early morning throw-down with teenagers. 98% of their ranting and finger pointing has nothing to do with you anyway, you are just a tool; a simple familiar, comfortable, secure place to unleash a frustrating life. All the same it’s difficult to take the stance of patient listener with a filter for tuning in only what really needs your response when every fibre of your being wants desperately to launch into ‘defend and discipline’ mode.

I managed this morning, channelling by some divine miracle the patience of a lobotomized Chuck-e-Cheese party host. 

Having said this, everyone has left for the day and I have a few things to get off my chest:

  1. When you sleep through your alarm and my “hey are you up?” nudging, miss your window for showering and have to wear your hair in a ponytail, this is not my fault. Get used to getting up. I will not be driving to your house when you are thirty to make sure you are up for work. I also will not be texting, calling or sending your father.
  2. If you forget that I do not work on Fridays and will not be getting dressed until noon and that you will have to plan enough time into your morning for alternate transportation (aka the bus) this is not my fault. You can remember every word to every Ed Sheeran song ever recorded, you aren’t fooling me. Enjoy detention.
  3. When you arrive at the arena missing a neck guard and one sock you better find a way to MacGyver that extra jock and a roll of hockey-tape to fill the need because I am not driving back home to save your butt. Not when it sat on the couch for 90 minutes while I repeatedly asked that you double check your equipment. You, on the bench half-dressed—not my fault.
  4. If you are old enough to drive and you are out of clean underwear, this is not my fault. Like any good mother I’ve provided ample instruction on the use of the washer and dryer. Turn them inside out sweetheart.
  5. If your travel mug smells like arse because you left it on the counter and the dishwashing fairies didn’t get around to you last night, this is not my fault; all the heavy sighing in the world will not convince me otherwise. Maybe you can ask the bus driver to stop at Tim Hortons for you. You’re going to be late anyway.
  6. At eleven PM on Sunday night when you realize that you forgot to refill your birth control prescription, this is not my fault.
The dog peeing on your backpack, internet disruptions, lost bank cards, screwed up work schedules, buses that don’t run when you want them to, dumb boyfriends, math homework, book reports, foundations that don’t match your neck, lost power cords, flakey friends, cancelled plans, colds, rain, online shopping orders that don’t arrive, pimples—Not my fault, not my fault, not my fault! None of these things are my fault. I’m happy to bite my tongue and quietly endure you ranting though the process of solving your own problems but let’s be clear; none of these things are my fault. I love you and for that reason (with the exception of item #6) I am not going to rescue you from the things that clearly are your own fault.

Suck it up, sort it out and let me drink my coffee in peace!

That felt great! Happy Friday.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

500 Words - Day # I lost Count – Throwing Out of the Cold onto the Fire

I had this cute little 500 word blip all ready to go today. A piece of lightness surrounding the kamikaze nut hunters flinging themselves relentlessly into the path of death and slowing my morning commute. Black, grey and red squirrelly little buggers out in droves trying desperately to stuff their pantries with food for winter. Every morning I’m forced to a near screeching halt at least once to avoid the - back and forth, back and forth… go left, go right, wait for it……wait for it…! No not now, not NOW….go back! Go BACK! GO BACK! Which way is back? - Game of chicken that lunges out of the right shoulder and tugs at my human instinct to preserve life. These random encounters rarely attack me from the left which is odd and leads me to believe they are far less ‘random’ then the rodent populous wants us to believe.

Where was I going?

…The cute little piece about the cute little rodents da da da….so on and so forth. Like I was saying, it was going to be a cute little collection of words. Then I read D’Amato’s opinion piece in today’s Record about our local churches closing their doors to the Out of the Cold Program. One by one; facing the surmounting challenges of increased client participation, increasing mental health and substance addiction issues, decreasing legions in their armies of human kindness; many churches don’t have a choice. While I believe that the church in the very foundation of its’ doctrine has some moral obligation to perform the services of human kindness many homeless people in our city have come to rely upon, it is not difficult to see that physically, they simply can’t do it. Without people, without resources, without the proper training how can they?

I suspect that they have for a great number of years been pulling it off in a ‘silk purse from a sow’s ear’ fashion. Quietly, doing the best they can with the skills, resources and manpower they have had. I am sure too that the decision to close church shelters is as devastating for the volunteers as it is for the clients they service. The choice by Church officials could not have been taken lightly, made without contemplation or regret.  But I also believe that they’ve done the right thing, made the right decision. They have done what a Church should do and have acted in the best interest of the people they serve.

In this case, the homeless.

In many ways these shelter providing churches have been enabling the bureaucracy of homelessness. Taking care of the problem so it never really reveals its’ full magnitude to the public. They’ve been shouldering the burden for everyone. Mainly the local government who consciously or not has come to appreciate that caring for the homeless, or better yet preventing homelessness, is not a front burner issue for them, not while someone else is willingly stepping up to the plate. The results are proving themselves; mental illness and substance abuse that leads individuals to the street, poverty that leads individuals to the street, those issues haven’t been getting the attention from the bodies with the resources and the purse strings that they should; consequently the instances are growing exponentially. No problem—no worry—no programs—more problems.

By quitting, the Churches have just ripped off the Band-Aid and exposed the issue, the reality of it, the enormity of it and the inhumanity of it. It’s out there on public display. Closing the shelters has said “Here is the real magnitude of the problem, we need help. Help at the source, help to end homelessness not just care for it, help from the string pullers and decision makers.” They’ve said, “This is everyone’s problem—now what are we going to do about it?”

The timing is harsh, but I don’t think it could be timed with greater impact. The cold weather is approaching. And I agree with D’Amato on that point, we can’t let people freeze. Clearly we aren’t alone in our thinking that even one day a week is unacceptable to be out in the cold, let alone four. The government and agencies know it too. Otherwise everyone wouldn’t be scrambling for a solution, trying desperately like our squirrel population to get it together before the mercury falls. Right now there is the bureaucratic collection of data, focus groups, discussion, planning, and finger pointing. - back and forth, back and forth… go left, go right, wait for it……wait for it…! No not now, not NOW….go back! Go BACK! GO BACK! Which way is back? Everyone has a opinion and a solution, some people even have the means to effectively implement a plan but eventually the cold is going to come and when it does the problem will be people. People who need help and care and a warm place to spend the night. It won’t be an ‘issue’ anymore it will be a matter of humanity.

When bureaucracy yields to humanity eleventh hour solutions emerge; even if they are transitory and unsustainable long term—one will emerge this time as well. People will help people; it’s what we do.

And there is the concern. There are temporary solutions to every problem. You can stick a bucket under a leaky drain and that will work for a while to keep a puddle off the floor but eventually you have to fix the leak.

I feel the fear and the senselessness of the situation but I don’t think the Churches are out of line, I think they are far from abandoning the fundamentals of their religion or turning their backs on the needy. I think they have done the right thing. I applaud them for making a giant stand at solving a tremendous problem. I love that D’Amato asks (and I paraphrase) “what would Jesus do?”  If the ultimate solution to caring for homelessness is to find an end to homelessness, these Churches have done exactly what I believe Jesus would do; they’ve taken away the bucket and called a plumber.

1030 words plus....maybe I should avoid opinion columns.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

500 Words Day 6 - MyFitnessPal Understands Me

I’m not a fanatic about my waistline. I like to eat healthy, stay active and load up on good whole foods but I’m not a ‘dieter’—as a rule I don’t watch the scale or count calories. It’s a rule I break only a couple of times a year when I know I’ve been overindulgent and when I can feel my clothes hugging me with a little more affection than I appreciate. September is a guaranteed month of nutritional monitoring. Usually I have myself feeling like normal again by December, just in time for the holiday overload. Then I begin again in January.

Right now I’m monitoring, and I like a little help, some way to hold myself accountable. Fortunately I don’t have to have one of those little grocery story Calorie Counter Books or a journal or math degree to figure out how well I’m staying the course, there are so many great websites and apps to help these days.

My personal fav – It’s so easy, accessible everywhere and realistic. For example today I had raw cookie dough for lunch; it was on there.  I clicked the button to add it to my food list for the day. No judgy judgy red flags popped up, no warnings flashed that I was sabotaging my efforts, nobody asked why I decided cookie dough was acceptable. Nope the app just added the calories, tallied the carbs, figured out how far I had exceeded my sugar quota and it was over. I don’t have an appointment with a dietary counsellor next week to discuss my food issues. I just got to eat the dough and move on.

Right now I feel pretty good, better than I did a couple of hours ago while I was at work. In another 30 minutes I’m going to feel like crap because chocolate chip cookie dough (the good stuff) is not gluten free but I’m okay with the belly ache I’m in for. I’m hoping it will give me something else to think about besides the reason I’m home baking cookies on a Thursday afternoon in the first place.

I quit my job today. Okay, technically everyone is expecting me back Monday morning, so it’s not permanent; just desperately required for my own mental health. One of the least glamorous aspects of working in finance and insurance is that people die. Eight of them on my client list in the last eight days. Not all of those people were old, not all of them were sick, not all of the family members I met or spoke with were expecting the end any time soon. Ordinarily I pride myself on being a supportive and calming presence to those in crisis; I try to go the extra mile to make the process as painless as is possible under devastating circumstances. I feel good when someone says I made them feel at ease and cared for. But today, today I hit the wall. Too many in too many days, too much sadness, too many lives that shouldn’t be gone. I just needed to be somewhere where everything is right with the world, where people aren’t hurting and heartbroken.

So I quit, just for today.

I needed to be somewhere other than my office; somewhere where cookies can make everything right in the world. Raw or cooked, it doesn’t matter; the calories are the same.

And I love MyFitnessPal for understanding my shame.

Do me a big favour this one another like you mean it. 


Monday, September 15, 2014

500 Words - Day 5 - Shut-Up Already

Ordinarily when I talk about the power of silence I am usually referring to the quiet of meditation and the silence of inner peace. I’m talking about quieting your mind and giving yourself permission to examine your problems and listen for the creative solutions that reside within. I’m usually talking about being quiet so that we can contemplate and appreciate the many blessings in our lives, allowing ourselves the reverent time to appreciate how they enrich us; to gaze inwardly and allow ourselves the opportunity to be in awe.

There is however another type of silence that is vitally important to our own wellbeing, our relationships, our success and our happiness; the silence of shutting up.

I’m sorry was that rude?

Shall I rephrase that?—the silence of ‘say nothing’.  I like to say the silence of shutting up because when I fail that’s what I hear “shut-up.” Not in a mean hurtful tone, not in a strong voice or volume, usually it’s a long drawn out “ssshuuuuuut uuuup” followed by a frozen stare (cue visual of Bert over the tipping point with Ernie). Usually it’s one of my kids staring, usually I get the point. Usually it’s a really good reminder that I’m hindering their process, getting in the way of their ability to be ‘inside’ examining their problems and listening to their own soul for creative solutions.

We do this as parents, or at least I do as a mom. We are the perfect tool for our children! We have wisdom of age, tried a tested solutions, we can see consequences a mile away and know exactly the right page to reference in the ‘Been There, Done That’ field guide to predict the best course of action in any given circumstance. And it frustrates us that our children don’t utilize us more. It is agonizing to watch them try and fail, to make wrong choices, to set themselves back or head down a difficult path; especially when our experience could save them so much trouble and heartache. So we talk, we offer advice, we tell them how it is. We try, out of the love, to be helpful and supportive and we drive them crazy.

I am sure that children in fact must feel an awful lot like my husband trying to decide what he wants at the drive thru window while everyone else in the car is trying to give him their order—Crazy.

I was reflecting just yesterday on how grateful I am to have learned the value of ‘shutting-up’, the importance of trusting that my kids have the ability to make their own way in life.  I was reflecting  on the notion that personal failure is okay, that children have answers and that they will feel more confident in their decisions, solutions and efforts if they come to them from their own silence and reflection.

From my quiet little spot on the curb behind a hockey arena yesterday I reflected upon the knowledge that the only words my kids ever really need from me are “I’m here” and that my ears are of far greater value than my words.

There staring at an empty parking lot, listening to highway traffic whizzing by just beyond a thicket of brush, there with my legs crossed and the building to my back I felt a deep sense of gratitude that my son has the courage to tell me to “ssshuuuuuut uuuup.”

Because sometimes I forget.  

I forget that being silent can stop an argument before it starts, it can express disappointment, it says “I’m listening”. Silence lets someone follow their own thoughts, reveal their own opinions; it allows space for problem solving and preparation. Silence is a place for compassion, remorse and delight to emerge naturally. Silence, well placed and shared can express more pride, more joy, and more sorrow than a thousand well phrased words.

It was nice to be reminded. 

Shut-up and let your kids surprise you. I guarantee they will. 

...and when I went back inside I was just in time to see what Ethan did with the silence I gave him. and he did  in fact surprise us all.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

500 Words - Day 4 - Desperately Seeking a Decent Friday Night

Desperation breeds attempt. It makes people do things they usually avoid, it unearths latent talent, gets us off the couch, makes us find jobs and research health improvements. Desperation turns us into learners and seekers. Desperation is responsible for the achievement of more than a few of the world’s impossible dreams. Desperation is fuel.

Desperation has turned me into a mad scientist. Think Back to the Future, Emmett Brown ‘crazy mad’ not Jekyll and Hyde ‘stark raving mad’ mad. Catch me on the right day I even have the hair and smell like burning circuts. I’m trying to make pizza.

I’ve got the toppings just right, the cheese, the cured sausage, vegetables, sauce, spices, the ‘just the right amount of garlic’ creamy dipping sauce for the crispy on the outside chewy in the middle crust. It’s all perfect—except that crust, the most important aspect of the pizza, the part that makes great pizza great and average pizza a disappointing expenditure of calories.

The crust I can’t get. Not anymore, not since I had to remove wheat from my diet almost two years ago. Everyone else gets the same perfected homemade crust they’ve always enjoyed, puffy and delicate, golden brown with a perfectly chewy crust, dusted with corn meal and smelling like Weston’s Bread factory on a Tuesday morning. It’s the only thing I truly, truly miss and crave and weep over.

I’ve successfully managed to simply eliminate wheat bearing foods; I eat bun-less burgers, salads instead of sandwiches and eggs sans toast. I’ve managed to find some great alternatives like rice pasta and the not horrible PC Gluten Free burger bun. I’ve learned that some products are not worth their expense, their sugar content or their dry sponge texture and flavour.

I can live with it; have been living with it and much happier for the wellness that has come along with the dietary restriction. I like being well, love it actually. Only one thing ever makes me want to slip and suffer—Pizza.

It has been easily determined that store bought GF crusts suck, that the GF offerings of most pizza joints are frozen version of the same. Cauliflower crust is a tasty alternative but doesn’t live up to the real deal; every bite a sad desperate reminder that it’s not really pizza.

I could just give-up, it would be less disappointing but I just can’t endure the thought of all of those Friday nights to come; pizza-less with nothing but the chicken wings and accompanying glass of red wine to fill the void. That’s a tall order even for the best bottle of merlot! I’m certifiably desperate.

So I broke down, got off my butt, started researching, started testing, started collecting alternative flours and recipes, started learning the ins and outs of baking Gluten Free. I’ve started practicing with pancakes and banana bread, and tortilla wraps and nann bread. My hair smokes and the dog hides under the bed but there have been some great experimental successes! – pancakes in particular. And there have been some definite failures—Pizza in particular. It’s good, but not perfect…not yet—but it will be. I’m getting closer with every attempt.

There will be pizza! and many many happy Friday nights for me in the future. Victory is not an option for the truly desperate. 


Thursday, September 11, 2014

500 Words -Day 3 – Be a Responsible Grown Up Day

It’s Be a Responsible Grown-up Day at our house. Not for everyone, just for the actual grown-ups who pretend somewhat convincingly to be responsible on a semi-regular basis. And by this I mean just the people who pay the bills, fill the tummies, walk the dog and put the toilet paper on the roll.

Mike and I are trekking downtown to the lawyer’s office to sign updates to our Wills and Powers of Attorney, that sort of thing. There are many more then 500 words involved and while I can read 98.7% of them I only admit to comprehending the necessity of 1/3. My secret belief is that long ago some fancy pants directed that every sentence in the legal world contain a four to one preposition ratio and at least one set of parenthesis to maintain the Water-buffalo-esk secrecy of the bar. Fast forward a few hundred years and a hand scratched “I leave everything to Bo-bo” on a Sony’s Drive-In napkin is almost useful enough for a judge to polish his gavel with—A job security planning win.  If you want your words to stick you have to head to the office tower and get the prepositions and parenthesis put in.

So off we go.

I mentioned in passing to Rebecca that we would be late arriving home today because we had a lawyer’s appointment. After the “I’m an adult now” round of questions: “Do I need a lawyer Mom? When can I get a lawyer Mom? What about insurance, can I get that?”  We got to the “Why do you need a Lawyer, Mom?” question.  I explained we were updating our Wills. The abrupt response was “You don’t need a Will.”

I immediately understood for the first time in 19 years that my children think I’m going to live forever, that their Dad is going to live forever, that there will always be someone changing the toilet paper.

I laughed, trying to alleviate some of her rudimentary horror… “I hope you’re right!” Then I carefully explained that having a Will drafted isn’t a superstitious letter of resignation. It doesn’t send a bat-signal into the Universe alerting the Fates that you’re ready to leave. You aren’t going to die because you have a Will but life could be pretty messy for everyone left behind when the time arrives. I let her in on a little secret “I’m going to die, you are going to die, every person alive faces the same fate. It is the one thing we all have in common.  It is the downside of being born.”  …and you don’t want some Bo-bo to get everything when it happens. 


My mother’s voice whispered in the back of my head, “You talk too much.”  This one time, I thought, she might be right.

Children (even the ‘I’m an adult now’ kind) understand two things; One—they are never going to die, even if you say so, and Two—as long as they are alive somebody has to fill the refrigerator. The fear then is not ‘my parents are going die.’ The fear is ‘what’s going to happen to me?’

So I carefully switched tactics “I don’t need a Will because I’m going to die.” I explained, “I need a Will so that when I do; somebody will pay the bills, fill the fridge, and stock the house with toilet paper.”


That’s it—Okay? The entire fear of my death alleviated with the promise of uninterrupted internet, cheese stings and a lifetime supply of Charmin?

I better write my own eulogy.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

500 Words Day 2 - The Religious Green Pepper Rant

In 500 words today I want to talk about the sweet little black lady I saw at the grocery store on Friday. In ordinary circumstances whether she was black or white of rainbow striped wouldn’t matter to me, It doesn’t really in this circumstance either except the she herself made her ‘colour’ integral to the story and exposed something more intently disturbing to me than racial bias.

We were sharing space around the ‘big deal’ bins just inside the front entrance of the grocery. The ones you bash your cart into because there isn’t enough space to steer directly into the produce department. I was choosily scouring for perfect peppers (three bumps for eating, four bumps for cooking). Across from me the sweet little black lady was talking to a young couple (of like complexion) about her fabulous church. They, (and I because I love listening to people talk about things they love) listened intently as she extoled the virtues of her congregation and their pastor. She talked excitedly about their celebrations of faith, church picnics, and ladies lunches. I listened while she encouraged them to join her on Sunday. I eavesdropped as she explained that they may have to ask someone to find her because she was most often in the back busy working at some project or another for after service fellowship, but that everyone knew who she was and where she could be found. The sweet little black lady explained that her church was warm and welcoming like that and that they would feel right at home.

Then the sweet little black lady lowered her tone just barely above a whisper, donned her very best Christian voice and proceed to explain to her young prospects that the congregation ‘unfortunately’ was mixed, with the substantially pale contingent or ‘whites’ accounting for about half of the worshipers. “It’s not ideal of course.” She explained “but everyone is nice.” I didn’t drop my peppers but I truly wanted to chuck one at her head, and then at the heads of her audience who didn’t say “that doesn’t matter to us” who didn’t say “It sounds like a very welcoming place.” Who didn’t sideways glance at one another and bulge out their eyes in a “Can you believe she just said that?” fashion. No, they just all stood their discreetly nodding in unison their Christian acceptance of misfortune.

And I thought—This is what is fundamentally wrong with Christianity, they allow people to work in the back who in their heart fail to practice the very principles, doctrines and commandments that are being preached from the pulpit. And yes, I know that this is not a flaw specific to Christian ‘faithful’; perhaps I should have reworded my former statement to read ‘This is what is fundamentally wrong with religion.’ Because without a doubt and every single day we run into people who lower their outside voice to reveal their true nature, to contradict themselves, expose their 6 day a week selves to others who they confidently believe clearly hold the same core beliefs. What you can say about ‘Sunday Christians’ (as my cousin cleverly calls people who live differently Monday through Saturday then they practice in the pew) can just as easily be said about Saturday Jews, Ramadan Muslims, Watchtower Jehovah’s and virtually every other organized society of subscribed belief.

It makes me a little bit insane that we hold one another up, judge and condemn based on teachings and fail so miserably to live to the same standards. It is the reason I refuse to subscribe, to attach myself, label myself and belong to any one specific religious practice. I can’t find one where flockers are the same on the outside as they are in the middle. I can’t find one where what you believe is what you get and where it’s okay to be the same person in the grocery store that you are in the choir.

I can’t do it.

I want to worship in a place where people love people because that’s what they say they will do, where honesty is important all the time not just when it fits with the deal on the table. I want to worship in a place where it matters more how you behave everyday than how well you can recite the rules or beg for the forgiveness. I want to celebrate my blessings with people who I know are the same in their Sabbath suits as they are in their bathing suits. I want to worship in a place where we preach what we practice.

So until my kids choose their own religion and beliefs, they worship with us at the dining room table; over bowls of mashed potatoes and plates of green pepper, where we celebrate the many ways we are blessed, sing the praises of one another’s good acts, encourage one another to live happily and pray for the courage to always be the same on the outside as we are in the middle.

I screw-up sufficiently in our practice but it feels like the rightist approach for me. With a little luck if I’ve got it wrong Hell has Merlot.   


I think I broke the pump handle and over-shot the 500 target by about 360 words. Must have needed them to put out a fire. 

No peppers were actually hurled during the writing of this post.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Priming the Pump

We went on vacation this year. It was heaven! Ten days of resting in the bosom of Mother Nature; sipping spritzy drinks on the water, beside the water, and on more than one occasion in the water.  We played games, enjoyed one another’s company, ate great food and soaked up every single ray of sunshine from the single week that was summer 2014. I came back to work toasted golden! I feel a little like the potato chip in the bag that stayed in the fryer too long. Not many people picked the right week for holidays it seems. I’ve been spending a lot of time in my office, door closed, avoiding green-eyed pale people.

It’s sad that summer is over, that vacation is over. I love those days far removed from snow squalls and filled with social gatherings and late-night sunsets. I wish they could go on forever without, of course, the ramifications of kids never returning to school and my waistline never recovering from picnics and bbq’s and the latest fruity concoction of the LCBO.

On the flip-side I secretly love how the first week of September quietly reveals our desperate need for routine. The kids go back to school, dinners get eaten before 9pm, I realize that my hair and skin tone are competing with one another for a beach chair in Miami. Rather than contemplate what kind of dog I should get for my beach bag, September inspires me to opt for a corrective colour.  September is a blessing! Some routines transition back seamlessly. Those first cool weather crockpot stews, the invasion of hoodies and jackets upon the backdoor coat hooks, Thursday evening gatherings in the living room for season premieres—these things happen so naturally.  Other things require a gentle shove to get them going again; making lunches at night instead of franticly between showers and dressing in the morning, keeping bus tickets stocked and remembering how much time a teenager needs in front of the mirror—these things take a little more effort. For the record I am surprised by the amount of time the male child needs.

Something else that requires a little priming is my pen. It happens each year, my creative process needs a vacation, a time to rest, recharge and reset and I find myself traipsing barefoot, wordlessly though the warm summer days. It’s not unwelcome, this time to refill the creative well with face-time and memory making, the touching, smelling, giggling, crying, take your breath encounters with family and friends and strangers destined to join the ranks. I submerge myself completely. I don’t write a word! Not here, not in my private journals, not in my poetry files or short stories—nothing. Wordless and barefoot and by September feeling just a little out of step, as though I’ve stayed a few days too long on vacation.

Time to prime the pump! So, I’ve promised myself 500 words a day for the next 30 days. That should do it.

Some of those words are bound to land here and I certainly expect them to be a little mucky, the first few buckets drawn from the well always are.  

Happy Back to 'Normal' :) one 535+ words! did any of them make sense?


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Happy Little Non-Career Path

Rebecca has been looking for work for the past 10 days or so. Newly graduated, newly unemployed, uncertain of an educational track; I’ve been trying to help where I can and trying very hard not to ask “What do you want to do?” There is reluctance in me to push her to decide what she wants to be when she grows up. I’m not sure at 19 anybody truly knows the truth of what they want to be. They know what they could be, what they should want to be, they know what other people expect they will be but I certainly don’t want her to feel pressured into choosing something just to feel like she’s not wandering. In fact I think a little creative wandering is good for the soul and can lead you to some pretty fantastic places as long as your belly stays full.

Helping Rebecca over the past week has led me on a bit of an employment inventory of my own working life… I was 19 once too and didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I ended up being….

A waitress, a telemarketer (for a day –they paid me it counts—but I was bad….very bad) an office janitor and a lawn cutter.  I’ve worked in a deli, a bakery, a gas station, a convenience store and a video rental outlet—okay it was all the same place but I did all of the jobs at some point in my tenure. There was a time when I was a housekeeper—I kid you not. For a while I worked in home décor following my formal post-secondary schooling in interior design; I mixed paints and helped people create looks and co-ordinate colours. Technically I knew what to do but I lacked that certain natural flair or rather ‘care’ about posh-ness and trends. I was better at the conceptualization and understanding of building so I put in a few years as a draftsperson and morphed my way into administrating for construction sites/crews. I could have been good at it but the industry tanked and I needed to eat. So I worked in a coffee shop; I loved that job and I was very happy except for the affording only to eat peanut butter sandwiches part. I left to a series of odd and ordinary jobs in pursuit of better pay and a happier mortgage company. I’ve been a receptionist, a data entry clerk, a press scheduler and a proof-reader—(which gave me ulcers and a nervous twitch). I was much better at making cakes and catering, I still had ulcers but I could show up to my kitchen in a ponytail and shorts and drink wine while I worked.  It was slightly less messy than the years I put in doing home daycare but not as much fun as the short stint decorating for weddings. Along the way to here I’ve held down a job as a grocery cashier and a store administrator. I’ve been a burger flipper at McDonalds and tried my hand at a home marketing fad (or two) selling Avon, giftwrap, milkshakes and tea. Once, I swear, I worked in a little booth and sold not so precious gold chain jewellery by the inch—that was not the worst job I ever had. The worst job I ever held was in Human Resources management—the commute was so not worth the office window and the piles of paper. I’m pretty sure that I delivered newspapers once because I break out in a sweat every time my son suggests getting a route (but that may have been a dream). Most recently I’ve dipped into the water of insurance and investments, running administration, talking to the bereaved, tracking down payments and moving money around for people who spend what I earn on Sunday brunch and golf. Four years in and I’m getting itchy.

I’ve worked for good guys and bad guys, bozos and bimbos, flakes and the fabulous. I’ve done nights, days, evenings weekends, and weeks on end. I’ve been hired, fired, canned and laid-off, promoted and transferred and I’ve never stayed anywhere that didn’t make me happy.  I started making my list and it made me laugh, I am an employment gypsy!

It brought to mind a most wonderful J.R.R. Tolkien quote:

Some of us just like taking a little more time to discover our path. 

The trick is travelling with people patient enough to let you ramble. I've been lucky in this regard and I'm determined that Rebecca will be too. 

For the record I’m not so much wandering anymore as I am heading towards a destination…

When I grow up I want to spend my days in a little café serving great coffee and pastries to interesting souls. I want to listen to people share their stories and capture each day in words. I want to feed the hope of strangers with the stories I hear and serve up comfort alongside soup of the day and Grandma’s biscuits.

Let me know if you see this in the want ads would you please. 



"Support a wander"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Small World Away

We are so small, in reality, in comparison to the world that arrives on our doorsteps each morning captured in newsprint or the sensationalized visuals that flash from TV and computer screens. We are so much smaller than the world that rests in the palm of our hands, blips and beeps at the touch of a finger and disappears with a swipe, freeing us to go on about our beautiful days. Our world is so easy to share, observe, mourn and protest; we can see it all with a click, gather opinions, predictions and insight. But we have no more power as giants looking into a snow-globe on humanity than we had as ants when the world was massive and separated by the slow arrival of news and our vast detachment from conflict.

This devastated me this morning when I read of further abductions of women and children in Nigeria. How, I wonder, can this also be the same world I live in, the one I raise my children in, shop in, picnic, party and pray in? How can differences in safety, peace, opportunity and dignity be so immense? How can the suffering of another human being not impact my world, when it fills hearts with anger, desperation, chaos, grief and despair and adds suffering to humankind? If there is a folly in our making the world so small it is that we are better able to see the crimes and devastation beyond our reach and our individual capabilities are no greater than when we were blind to them. The shrinking of our world has expanded exponentially the hopelessness we feel and I found myself wondering this morning “what can I offer to a broken heart, a fearful child or a tortured nation across the world; beyond learning about their struggle and making whatever supportive choices I can, where I am, and when I can?”

It feels so ineffective.

My meditation prayer for today:

Take peace, hope and comfort from my own heart and send it to those who suffer. Send courage to the fearful and bravery to the hearts of leaders among common men.  If this request can save but one, let it be one who can save another and lessen more the suffering of our world.   



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nothing Beats a Hot Summer Breeze

Flicker Photo
I found myself yesterday afternoon lined up in an earthy furrow between a rolling lawn and a row of seedling cabbages. My bare feet burrowed in the dirt relishing the cool contrast to the hot June air. To an outside observer I would have looked awkwardly perched; my body pressing forward with the breeze and my elbows jutting steadfastly out to each side. Rivulets of sweet cool watermelon juice ran down my forearms and dripped from my funny bones creating tiny mud puddles at my feet. I had a good piece, thick and chilled just enough to refresh but not cold enough to slow me down. Most importantly—the spongy red flesh was teeming with seeds. ~Curious, that they don’t grow watermelons like this so much these days—that we’ve modified them to be neat and tidy with nothing but holes where seeds used to be. Society I think should be saddened that we worry so much about making life comfortable and clean for our children, that we find it troubling to plague their generation with a pleasure as mundane and sticky as spitting out seeds.

At the ready with an arsenal of slick black pips exposed I chanced a glance left and right measuring-up my competition, worrying little about the threat of anyone shorter than my waist. My two young brothers, beyond lacking threatening lung capacity, would be sufficiently distracted by grandma niggling on about spitting the seeds not swallowing them and mother vigilantly tracking how close they were eating to the rind.  ~Curious, I wonder, how old was I before I stopped fearing that a watermelon could sprout and grow in the dark acidic confines of my tummy and that eating to the green would kill me.  Nine, I surmise—most childhood mystical truths die around then, don’t you agree?

I caught the sideways warrior glare of my real competitors—the cousins; two, of which only one posed any arguable threat. Diane had the definite potential of a solid contender, with age and height to her advantage but suffered from situational giggles. Any advantage crumbled under her inability to maintain composure. Laughter is a serious handicap to carry on the watermelon circuit. So it came down to two, me and the champ; Sharon, small but mighty.  With good lungs and fierce determination cuz’ possesses the God given skills to hock a pip past the hollyhocks and into the neighbour’s corn field if she catches the wind just right. Looking at my adversary I drafted a small but mighty curse upon her seeds meant to render them heavy poor fliers. ~Curious that I believe too strongly in my mother’s lean to the dark arts when the odds of not believing could tip the scale against me.    

Lined up, rushing with adrenaline we did our best to psych one another out while we waited for the ‘go’ (Diane snickering already). It would come from the picnic table just a few yards away where Grandpa sat with his back to the driving shed, face to the field. Shirtless on account of the particularity warm day, revealing a large angry bypass scar polka-dotted on each side where they stapled him shut. Five degrees above rye drinking weather he was enjoying a tall glass of ale sprinkled with salt to cut the head.  He held us in the balance with his starter’s power, left us hanging, pensive and ready while he teased… “One, two, twelve...stop” One can’t help but marvel that a man with such life scars, seen and unseen, should delight so entirely in the taunting of children and laugh riotously with mischief at our protests. ~Curious, who delights in his mischief more, the sprite or the imps.

One……two…….three….and a half………………………………………………………………….Go! There was no stopping the sudden barrage of air launched seeds! The trick to speed is always keeping the seeds wet and slippy, reducing drag while they shoot past your lips. Distance comes from curling your tongue up like a cannon barrel and giving the pip some trajectory. My gaze was locked on the feathery mass of asparagus gone to seed on the far side of the garden. Beside me Diane’s snicker had morphed into fits of giggles simply by watching my little brothers; Rob with seeds dribbling down off his chin while tremendous bursts of successful noise sounded from his lips. Grant still plunked butt down from waiting for the ‘go’ hurling dirt clods in place of seeds and getting some pretty good distance in fact. The sidelines cheered “Go Diane go!” which effectively induced tears of laughter and rendered her un-spit-able.

The field narrowed considerably, Sharon and I were fiercely head to head. Setting records; past the pepper rows, the carrot rows and the beets and the chives. Spitting mercilessly and pointing in dramatic fashion to draw attention from the crowd for a brilliant sail. Jumping up and down and trying to exclaim our superiority through pursed lips. But the laughing, the way Grandpa carried on and tried to trip us up, and Mom tried to be an impartial judge, Diane rolling on the ground behind us and Grandma trying to curtail Grant’s hurling of dirt clods in between chuckles—we were no match.  Rob’s impressive fruitless sound effects increasing in volume to surmount the laughter….it was winning. Watermelon juice drying on your skin causes an itch that you can’t wriggle away while you swat at the flies it attracts. Sharon and I were losing ground, mouths drying out with every spit and falling into the giggling trap behind us.  Our launches flew shallower and shallower as our shoulders began to shutter and we gave-in to the revels cheering us on. ~Curious how infectious we can be.

There is always a moment when an inhale and exhale cross paths and a seed goes inward instead of out. In that moment in the heat of battle, in the face of onlookers you forget that you already know a watermelon can’t germinate in your stomach and you are paralyzed by the sudden heart stopping fear that you are in fact going to die. The look on your face in that paralysed moment stops your mother cold. When a mother stops laughing everyone stops laughing….until someone asks what’s wrong and you scream out that you swallowed a seed. Then the laughter explodes and you simply can’t spit anymore. Your opponent wins.

~Curious that a little seed can stop everything for you; the way a hot summer breeze that greets you as you depart the double doors of your very grown up life stops you where you are and transports you back in time to one of your favourite summer days. 

If you were there I hope you've gone back too.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Don't Miss Your Dover

Some opportunities present themselves once. The tradition of Canada’s largest single day rally of Motorcycles in quiet little Port Dover, Ontario is one such opportunity—for 2014 at least. If you missed the June event you will have to wait until February 2015 before the doomy date rolls around again.

The motorcycle descent on Dover is a tradition that was born on November 13, 1981 when Chris Simons and a couple dozen friends gathered at a local watering hole, had a great time and agreed to make it a ‘thing’ to do whenever a Friday the 13th rolled around. Fast-forward thirty-three years and Chris and his gathering of buddies has spilled over the confines of the Commercial Hotel into the streets, the parks, the pier and beyond, including a makeshift tent city that springs up in a Kinsmen sports park.  Estimates are that more than 100,000 soul moving machines of steel and chrome come together to carry on the tradition of Destination 13. Mike was among them arriving on his classic, a Honda CB750.

I arrived in my own vehicle and like thousands of other four-wheeled party crashers was stopped pleasantly at the edge of town by Provincial Police, redirected to a cornfield and bussed-in to join the event. The irony of all those black and white rebel leather clad biker movies was not lost on me in this moment. 

And just to clear up the fuzzy detail of why I was not on the bike with Mike—two very important factors: First, my ‘Motorcycle’ and my ‘Momma’ are not quite in sync yet. We’re not entirely finished raising the last of our children into adulthood and I’m just starting to nurture some long supressed reckless abandon back to life. A sustainable future of traversing the continent on two wheels with my husband depends on a good introduction of short successful rides; this was not the day for my ride. The second reason I drove myself is the very cognisant understanding that riding for Mike is therapy, meditation and how he gets his brain back; I have a theory that any trouble he has with me is not going to be escaped with my arms wrapped around his waist at 100km/hr. That’s a little like trying to run away from your own stink. Twenty-two years of marriage has taught me that a little space is some of the best affection I have to shower. 

I could feel the benefits of his solo ride along the winding roads to Dover when we met up in front of the Main street post office. I couldn’t help but acknowledge that the ‘something in the air’ that is Port Dover on Friday the 13th was also in my husband. A relaxed, no worry, no judgement demeanour that saunters down the middle of the road admiring the view and the sunlight glinting off candy apple paint and shined up chrome.
There is something I discovered to appreciate wholly about an event that draws a crowd as ‘walk-of-life-diverse’ as a biker’s rally, and places you so completely in the company of good people who are good with life.

This struck me right away and has remained; the amazing commonality in a crowd thousands. Beyond the obvious affection for riding was a distinct absence of striving, a peaceful ‘be here now’–ness which I’ve simply never encountered anywhere else in my everyday living outside of my own personal stillness practice. It was interesting that though Mike and I travel very different routes to inner peace, here in this place the two came together in a single subtly of mind.   

We lunched on the lawn of a beautiful Port Dover home with soft grass and stately trees. It was an ideal side-street retreat from the sun and the denser crowds. Gathered there with others resting we admired a steady stream of riders leaving and arriving to and from destinations unknown. 

I closed my eyes for a moment and absorbed as much with my other senses as I could, the sounds, the smells, the rumble of the motors and the songs of the birds. I memorized the feel of the warm sun breeze on my skin and Mike’s hand upon my back. This is what the world needs I thought, this right here and I wanted to take it with me, every ounce and nuance of it—back with me from these rally streets to everyday life. When they talk about how to change the world, I am convinced the answer can be found in the collective peace of 100,000 souls gathered together for no reason other than to be there.  

Some opportunities present themselves only once—like life. I’m very glad I didn’t let this one slip on by. seizing opportunities! 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sometimes You Have to Wrench on Life

There has been some very serious tinkering going on in our garage over the past couple of weeks. Apparently motorcycles, older ones like my husband’s particularly, have a personality; Mike’s is a bit of a prick with hypochondriac tendencies.  That’s a nice way of saying the damned thing doesn’t make caring for it easy and decided not to start this cycling season. (Story note: I’m going to use the phrase ‘the damn thing’ repeatedly throughout this piece as that is actually the name I have given Mike’s bike… mostly, except ‘damn’ has replaced a much ‘F’-ier 4 letter word—it’s a well-earned moniker)

Our goal is to have the damn thing running like a top before Friday 13th so that Mike can make his ride to Port Dover.

There is a chasm of uncertainty and repair that spans the distance between ‘the damn thing won’t run’ and ‘Dover’.

I offered to help, but I didn’t really know what I was doing or in for.  Trying, testing, cleaning, replacing, repairing and rebuilding. There have been numerous trips to dealerships, chain stores and motorcycle graveyards to collect parts, tools and fluids. Hours have been spent pouring over repair manuals and grease-monkey forums. I’ll be honest here and admit that I never actually picked up a tool. My ‘help’ was mostly moral support with a side of reading and eyelash batting encouragement.  The air in the garage has been thick with smoke, heady with fumes and on more than one occasion —blue.

Sometimes a change works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes fixing one issue sheds a bright white light on another problem. While I’ve hit the wall of ‘damn this’ more than a few times in the process I’m growing a deep affection for the iron beast; in comparison I am not fractionally as needy and temperamental—how can you not love a thing that makes you look like a dream to live with!

Slowly…hideously slowly, after painstaking hours of fiddling, Dover has come into sight.
We cracked a cold one, man cave style, last night in semi-celebration of our success in finally getting the engine running (if not purring). I stared at the damn thing and a wave of accomplishment washed over me. We did it—conquered the damn thing!

But the battle was a challenge. At first we stood around with our hands on our hips starring at the lifeless machine and surmised the many various possibilities why it wasn’t working. Next we tried a couple of quick fixes and proclaimed our frustration as each failed. We got a little indignant with not knowing why ‘the damned thing’ wouldn’t run. Then we walked away for a day or two ignoring the bike as though fixing it didn’t really matter. At some point however, reality set in and the acknowledgement that our days to Dover were dwindling took us back to the garage. It was time to do the hard work. We began digging, investigating, examining the parts, the systems, the problems, the potential failures. Little by little, the more we delved into the troubles and slowly repaired each kink in the chain things improved. First a spark, then a crank, then a choking, spitting, backfiring rumble followed by a stall, a return to hard starts and then back again to good ignition, a high idle and a stall. Eventually though, through determination we’ve made it to the miraculous stage of ‘tweaking’! Hallelujah, raise the roof and pass the gravy! (or in this instance degreasing hand cleaner)

Barring any further neurosis of the damn thing Mike will ride to Dover. This is a very good thing. Riding, Mike always claims, is how he gets his brain back. Blacktop therapy. We all need it—a way to find and feed our inner peace.

It seems to be the same with motorcycles as it is with people

The trick to finding inner peace is getting the bike to run.

You have to have work through the problems, investigate the source of emotional struggles, acknowledge and repair and be honest with your own short comings, take ownership for your part and ignite a desire to fix it. Through the problem not around it lays the path to achieving freedom and the goal. And yes sometimes it sucks, sometimes it sets you back, sometimes it has you doing and acknowledging things you wish you didn’t have to do or face. Sometimes you need help. But when you finally get through the process, when everything runs and the problem is not just behind you but repaired….—Man, life is a sweet ride!  

Take a chance...see where the road takes you.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Life is about...Emerging a Happy Camper

The call came in around 6:15 last night, a tired voice on the other end of the phone whispered “We’re back, can you please come pick me up?”

I was excited to have my girl home. I arrived to the school within a few short minutes and was greeted by a group of weary and trudging teens who, without exception, were zapped. The hands unloading the travel van of expedition gear were not moving quite as quickly and enthusiastically as the ones which had loaded it 3 days earlier at the crack of dawn. There were still smiles on some faces though; mostly the grown-up faces, the teachers and the chaperones who survived two separate 3 day expeditions to Algonquin Park and about 60 teenage charges. Thought bubbles floating above their heads I imagined said things like ‘beer’, ‘shower’, and ‘investigate permanent contraceptive options’.

A parent of teenagers understands one cardinal rule: Stay in the car. I decided however that this was the one exception to the rule, today Kate would be happy to see me sooner than later. Physically and emotional exhausted kids love their moms even in a sea of peers, parental rule #2 Seize your opportunity!  So I got out of the car and waited on the edge of the crowd.

I recognized many of the kids and welcomed them home—“Did you have fun?”  Every single one answered “Yah, it was great!” followed up with glazed over exhausted smiles. Then Kate came into view, bag in hand and moving just enough to propel her body forward.

I asked the same question—“Did you have fun?” half expecting the same “Yah, it was great!” answer and half expecting the “No, it was stupid.” answer I got.  (for the record everything is stupid right now, has been for about 3 weeks – I can’t wait until stupid is over)

Parental guideline #3 encourages parents to shut up when ‘stupid’ things happen and let the details emerge in their own time. I smiled (mostly quietly) and loaded bags into the car. All the while wondering how every kid I asked had fun except mine; was I the Debbie-Downer’s mom?

The details did, as I expected, begin to emerge. There was bad weather – rain, thunderstorms and strong winds. The bug populous outranked human representation 3 zillion to one and was impervious to every cocktail of repellents. There was drama of the Boyfriend/girlfriend variety among some of the campers. Kate was up the entire last night of their voyage nursing/comforting her tent-mate who was upchucking from dusk till dawn (without even a good ‘tied-one-on’ story to minimize the trial of this circumstance-it was the flu).There is little wonder she was cranky, exhausted and starving. Did you know that the diet of wilderness camping, to accommodate canoe loads and ease of portaging, consists primarily of dried fruit, nuts and seeds? Coincidently these are also the top three items a person with braces cannot eat with any success. Apparently wilderness campers do not get braces or people with braces do not wilderness camp for fear of starvation.

As I listened to her adventure unfold over the next several hours the ‘It was great’ bits began emerging, much to my relief. I was sad to think that all of Kate’s preparation, excitement and anticipation for the trip had been a waste; to hear that it wasn’t all bad warmed my heart. It warmed my heart a little too that her initial response to my “Did you have fun?” question was so honest and forthright. By all accounts her trip was miserable. No less miserable than it had been for the girl who said “Yah, it was great” but was actually throwing up for 90% of the excursion. No less miserable than it was for the girl who said “Yah, it was great.” but spent the days preoccupied in a lovers quarrel. No less miserable for that girl’s boyfriend either I would guess.  By Kate’s account those campers were miserable from start to finish and I felt bad for them that they felt compelled to disguise their discontent with a less than honest reply.

It’s funny that we do this; say what we think people want to hear rather than say how we actually feel even when there is no danger of hurting the question asker’s feelings. I wonder if it makes us feel better or worse about our experience. According to my recent read The Antidote –by Oliver Burkeman, our ability to honestly confront our less than ideal outcomes and failures actually helps improve our appreciation of them. I think this could very likely be accurate. As Kate relived all the ‘stupid-ness’ of her adventure it seemed to become less stupid and more adventure.

When my kids go away on one of these types of adventures I always wonder what their/our lesson will be. This has been a great one—it would have been so easy for Kate’s experience to remain a bad memory. There is a sticking point between acknowledging the misery and moving past it to identify the good bits. You can see people get trapped every day in this pit, clinging to miserable events and memories. It seems so much easier to recount our despair or pretend it doesn’t exist with a “Yah, it was great.” than to work our way through it to a place where our adventure can be appreciated from both ends of the spectrum, as a complete experience where the bad illuminates the good more intensely. I am very proud of Kate for completing the process—for learning something more important than how to make a fire in a thunderstorm, for learning how to make a memory if not great at least salvageable.

We’ll see what Ethan’s lesson is for us when he returns from his camping expedition on Friday night….I can hardly wait! 

Camp On! 


Monday, June 2, 2014


It’s a number—the number actually that has been swirling around in my head since yesterday morning’s shower. Don’t ask me why stupid insights hit me in the shower—but I always appreciate my brain’s attempt to detract attention from my mismanaged curves.

Did you know that 90 is the magic number? I learned this sitting behind my desk on the fringes of Insurance and Financial Advisor-ship. 90 is the industry standard. When clients want to know how long their retirement money will last or how long they can expect to need insurance coverage for, the industry guesses the most likely oldest you will live to be. That number is 90. An age no doubt calculated on averages, variables and statistics because that is how the insurance industry does everything. My short tenure experiencing their capability of prediction and accounting leads me to believe that it’s probably a very accurate number to support the average. Arguably 90 is a pretty good number.

Unless you are standing in the shower on the morning of the birthday hurling you into your 45th year of life, mid lather I realized that I am exactly halfway to my end-date. This came out the first time as “I’m Half-way dead.” I revised it to “I’ve lived half of my life.” which still didn’t sit perfectly well with me. I tried “I’ve lived more days than I probably have left” that almost worked except it got me thinking that I could have far less days even than that if I’m not on track to hit the magic average. I turned the water up a little hotter to sweat out some excess excess toxins and made a mental note to walk the dog and eat more kale.

I let a more troublesome thought than dying wash over me (which wasn’t difficult; dying doesn’t scare me like it used to—I learned this on the way up).  The scarier thought that hit me was…. “What am I going to do with the second half of my life?” If I am in the middle does this mean that I’m on the summit? that the proverbial ‘all downhill from here’ applies?  I’ve never thought about life in that pictorial sense (see illustration below…on account of I just thought of it like that).

Illustration Below

I have a really difficult time seeing it playing out this way, I’m more of a ‘half way up the climb’ kind of girl (refer to clever Pictionary rendering B below).

Clever Pictionary Rendering 'B'

But I can’t help but contemplate as I take a minute to look over what I’ve already traversed— “What does this mean? Life has been pretty incredible so far; filled with marriage and motherhood, learning, growing, losing, loving, triumphs and challenges. If it only gets better what am I in for?” question—exclamation—question mark. Looking down below I send my gaze skyward for a moment “Are you sure you can top that?”

I can almost hear God laughing in reply.

A couple of the things I’ve learned on the challenging climb; it’s okay to be a little fearless and that the worst almost always never  happens,  what you need never really leaves you and love is our only purpose—beyond these notes I’ve learned that the very best things always arrive wrapped in surprise and tied with faith.

Have a little.

Onward and upward with the journey! 


Thursday, April 3, 2014

UN-Do-Ing ...the Spring Review

Spring is in the air! It’s wonderful to point your face to the sun and jump over melting rivulets of snow. Birds are singing and celebrating and everywhere around us Nature seems to be waking up to a brand new beginning. It’s Blissful!

Or should be (especially after the winter just endured)...but it’s not. Not for everyone, for some of us there is something else in the air—Melancholy. I say it is in the air because so many seem to suffer at this time of year but to be more exact it is a low vibration of unease running in the ground beneath our feet. It makes us feel ‘unstable’. It is disconcerting and powerful and reaches into us the way the roots of a tree reach into the earth, seeking water and foundation. Melancholy reaches into us looking for a home, something to feed on and cling to. It asks questions we don’t know how to answer and exposes truths we’d rather ignore.

I’ve come to believe that each of us is subject to an annual review; a meeting with the spirit for some personal reflection. Our spirit wants to check-in, wants to know how we are progressing on our path of true nature, and demands an account of the difference we are making in the world. It wants openness and honest answers. It wants an action plan.

It’s your soul on the hot seat.

My time for a spirit review seems to arrive with the first robin. I can always feel it coming but it always takes a day or two to realize it’s here. There really is no better way to describe the feeling that to say it is a bit of an ‘UN-do-ing’ wherein everything feels to be un-ravelling. I become momentarily un-happy—with my work, my capacity to love, the level of devotion to people and things that bring me great joy. I question whether I am living passionately and wonder if I will ever uncover my purpose. The questions are tough; Am I loving enough?, forgiving enough?, sharing authentically with the world?, being true to my spirit?, am I making a dent?, a difference?, am I weaving joy or sorrow into the lives around me? Am I doing what I am meant to do with my life?

It’s UN-peace. And many years ago I would have let it take me in a spiral, but I have come to understand that it is UN-peace in the pursuit of growth, UN-rest on the path to authentic living, UN-happiness preluding greater joy. There is no way through but through.

Allowing yourself time to ponder the questions, giving yourself honest answers and forgiving yourself when you hear truths you’d rather deny. It is UN-comfortable and UN-nerving but it is the underside of growth.

It seems a very strange thing to share—my Spring Melancholy ‘UN-do-ing’ but I’ve noticed that Spring, with all of it’s new beginnings, promises of brighter days ahead and growth seems to be a time of UN-do-ing for many more than me. I just want to share that you are not alone.

Grab the hand of someone also in the woods and help each other through. It won't take long.