Monday, December 30, 2013

A Phrase That Has Changed My World

One of the most empowering, life-changing statements that I have ever made is "I would like to write a story about your life ... " Never, in a million years would I have guessed how those words would change me, my life and sense of belonging and purpose within my little world.

I have been 'collecting memories' for about six years.

I assembled my mom's family's memories into a small book in a very short space of time. I think that I knew that I needed that fast forward momentum to carry me through until the end.

I assisted a friend with her family memories. She was the motivation behind that little project. I had lost my momentum and my friend had what it took to get the job done.  

I started collecting my dad's family memories five years ago. I am still working on it. I'm not proud of the fact that it has taken this long but I have a sense of knowing (after all is said and done) that I will be grateful that I didn't rush the process.

The gift of collecting memories has been overwhelming.

I have come to know my parent's families in ways that I could have never imagined or ever dared to hope for. I have forged connections to my cousins that have become one of my most cherished gifts. I have been drawn into my friend's family in a way that is unshakeable and unmistakeable. 

When you hear people share the gift of their memories, you are walking on sacred ground.

Within those memories lie the essence of the person who has grown up and is sitting before you. To hear the childhood memories that are an intricate part of the person who sits before you helps you hear more and better than ever before. 

When people talk about their memories, the years have a tendency to vanish. Eyes twinkle and sparkle. Voices change and the language of their body becomes youthful again.

Being young is not all sunshine and roses. Within those youthful stories I have heard insecurities within the story or sometimes the story is about those lonely, anxious years. 

I think that it is very brave to tell the world that growing up can be hard and sometimes a very lonely place. Growing up in today's world is all of that and perhaps even feels more so.

When I recall the memories that have made me who I am, I try not to omit the hard parts. It is the challenges that we have overcome that make us into who we are. Sharing that-which-is-hard makes us feel vulnerable but I think that others interpret that vulnerability into feeling that a person is more approachable. 

We are all living our own drama. When you tell the story-that-is-your life, sit tall and be proud of where you are and the obstacles you have overcome to get there. It is the bumps and bruises, the hills and valleys, the detours and dead ends that make life interesting and make you the individual that you have become. Just think how boring our story would be if it was a straight path to the end goal.

Remember that which has brought you joy and your eyes will twinkle. Recall the innocence of your youth and feel the years fade away. Recite an old poem or recall and old memory and hear your voice tell the story of your life with fond remembrance. Wear your scars like medals. You have earned them.

And when you see someone looking a little lost and forlorn ... ask them the questions that make it easy for them to tell you their story. We all have a story. The more we listen to the world around us, the more connected we become.

If there has been one thing that I have found with each and every person that I have listened to, it is that there is a common thread between us. There is a connection. Always. Sometimes you have to listen a little harder. Sometimes you must share a little piece of yourself. But when we open ourselves up and tell our stories, our world becomes very small and cozy. 

"Tell me the story of you ..." This small phrase has opened my eyes, my heart and the doors to my life like no other. 

Those six words have not only impacted my life ... they have changed me. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Perpetuating the Good

I just scrolled through the names on our phone's call display and it is predominantly 'family' ...

It feels incredibly warm and wonderful to scan the list of names and see our family's surname repeated time and time and time again.

The flurry of family activity will abate soon and I know that I will miss this intense connection.

In the mean time, I have had such meaningful conversations with so many family members that something stronger than a phone connection has been forged.

As I sit here and absorb the conversations, the interactions, the community and support that is 'family', I am overwhelmed. We are so very, very fortunate to have what we have. Each and every person that I mention this to, whole heartedly agrees with me. We know what we have is a gift.

It was very important to my grandpa that his sons stayed connected, worked together and forged partnerships that would forever intertwine their family's lives. I cannot help but think of how he would feel if he could look down upon his family and see that this connection has gone beyond his seven sons. His grandchildren have been enveloped in this community of family.

My grandpa's wish for his family has gone forth and multiplied. I just hope that I can pass this gift down to my own children ...

Something this good must keep going.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Their Little Home on the Prairie

Their dream began over four years ago. My Son bought a quarter section of land about 45 minutes away from Our Fair City and The Dream was ignited.

So began the long, arduous process of culling through the remnants of the previous owner. Perhaps he was a bit of a pack rat. Maybe a garbage collector. Mostly ... it was simply a case of neglect. Garbage was everywhere. My Son found even more when he gazed upward towards the sky and spotted junk hanging from the branch of a tree.

Leaning buildings were demolished. The barn was re-shingled. The shop was insulated, shingled, re-sided and doors were replaced. The excessive garbage was dragged out of buildings, the surrounding area and bushes. Bit by bit, hour by hour, year by year ... little things started to add up and there became a look that someone cared about the property.

The Dream was and always has been to turn this piece of land into a home. That is much easier said than done.

What do you do when the house that is on the property needs to be replaced from the bottom, up? And from the inside, out. The structural integrity was shaky at best. Every which way they looked at it there was no choice but to tear apart and rebuild that-which-was-standing. So the house was demolished and they opted to go for a do-over.

A small house was bought. A foundation was built. The existing house was moved onto the foundation. It sounds easy, doesn't it?


In two words? It wasn't.

My Son and His Girlfriend have logged more time and energy into their (eventual) new home than they can even begin to count (though they probably have a pretty accurate idea on the $$'s that have added up). It has to have been a labor of love because their level of commitment to the task has been unshakeable.

I cannot even begin to put into words the effort that each of them have devoted into this project called The Dream. There are times that they will not even speak of because the challenges were so unspeakable. There were challenges within the challenges within the challenge. Yet they persevered.


Fast forward to this Christmas. It has been over four years in the making, but My Son and His Girlfriend have finally 'come home' for Christmas. They have spent their Christmas holiday in their little home on the prairie.

They still have a quite a way to go before it becomes their permanent home but they do have everything except running water at the moment. It is getting close enough so that they can taste and experience the 'new life' that is awaiting them.

My Son invited me and his Younger Brother out for Christmas Dinner (on Boxing Day). His Girlfriend was spending Christmas with her out-of-province relatives and My Son was on his own. With their dogs. He worked on their house by day and when it came time to wrap things up ... he was already where he most wanted to be. He didn't have to travel anywhere to find his next meal, his bed or his home. He was already there.

I spoke to My Son a few times in the days that preceded our trek out to accept his supper invitation on Boxing Day. I have not heard 'happy' in his voice like this for a very long time.

We walked into their new home and we were enveloped in the aura of hopes and dreams. It is all coming together. The aroma of a roast chicken filled the air. Christmas lights adorned the banister on their brand new staircase from their porch into the kitchen...


Their home was decked out for Christmas and the necessities of life have found their way into their little home on the prairie ...


We savored our Christmas meal and breathed in the moments. We were a part of a momentous occasion. The First Christmas Dinner...


It is so close, they can quite literally 'taste' it right now. Their future, their hopes and their dreams are within reach. Would they appreciate it if they had not worked so hard for it? Possibly ... but I would think that each struggle and every challenge has made this illusive dream become even more precious. There is a shared commitment to this dream that goes far beyond a financial investment. I simply cannot imagine a price tag that could be placed upon this Dream that is becoming Reality.

They looked out onto the horizon together and they have found this ... an appreciation for having to work for their accomplishments in life. Today it is a home. Tomorrow ... their 'world'.


Congratulations on a Home Well Built. The sky is the limit when you put your heart and soul into what you believe in. Never stop believing ...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It All Matters

I cannot help but remember the small, insignificant things that led me to 'exactly where I was meant to be' yesterday ...

I remember one phone call that quite possibly changed my destiny.
Saying "yes" opened a door that will never be closed.
Making a friend that felt like family gave me the courage to do the next right thing.
Using that courage, I became an active member of the family that I have always belonged to.
Taking a chance, I asked one person "What do you think of this idea ...?"
Jumping into that project that has opened more doors than I could ever imagine.
Making memories, while collecting memories.
Getting to know my family, like my friends ...

All of this grew together and gave me the courage to 'just show up'. By showing up, I have learned ...

If you feel like you should call someone, don't talk yourself out of it. Just CALL.
If you feel like you should be there, just GO.
If your heart is telling you to do something, follow where it takes you.

Sometimes, all you need to 'be' ... is there.

Listen with your heart.
Reach out and touch someone. A hand. A shoulder. A hug.
Speak in whatever language they are speaking. Sometimes silence is golden.
Through laughter and tears, let yourself feel your way through the moment.

When you feel that whisper in your consciousness telling you to reach out to your world and extend yourself ... follow your own lead. You will never be sorry that you did.

Every small deed matters. It may seem insignificant at the time but it all comes together and puts you in a place where you are most meant to be.

"Do not take lightly small good deeds, believing they can hardly help.  For drops of water, one by one, in time can fill a giant pot." ~ Patrul Rinpoche

In loving memory of my uncle, who lived a good, long, full life. Surrounded by his family who held his hand, held him up and followed his lead ... who were all with him when he took his last breath yesterday afternoon. It has been an honor and a blessing to know you. I will never forget ...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Most Untraditional Christmas

This may be the most different Christmas of all time.

I woke up this morning and (kept this year's new tradition alive) wrapped up/created some gifts for my Youngest Son. He mentioned two things that he wanted for Christmas. One of them is a chair. He expects so little ... but I know in his heart of hearts, that he must want to be surprised with something.

My Youngest realized late in the afternoon yesterday, that he hadn't done any Christmas shopping. As luck would have it, my last daycare charge was picked up with just enough time for us to run out to do a little shopping. Unfortunately My Son didn't pick a store where I could find some last minute item for him (thus my creativity this morning).

I had to run and pick something up at another store and went back to find My Son a while later. He was walking up and down the aisles empty handed. I suggested we go to another store but he was fine with sticking with where we were. So we wandered together.

I am a natterer. I suggested this, that and the other thing. Nothing. Finally I suggested starting out by finding a basket or container of some sort and then just fill it up. We looked at containers. Nothing. He suggested finding 'stuff' then coming back to the containers when we knew what size we needed. And we were off.

What he came up with was unique, special and 99% practical. He shopped for his Middle Brother's family (we are going out to his new Little House on the Prairie for a Boxing Day meal tomorrow). There is a little something for everyone within the wire garbage container that he found.

We picked up some supper, came home and watched "The Life of Pi" together. My Son assembled his gifts and wrapped them up and that was (pretty much) our Christmas Eve.

I was moments away from going to bed when My Oldest called from his vacation destination (he is in the Philippines). He was enjoying his Christmas morning, just as we were winding down our Christmas Eve.

I had talked to my Middle Son in the middle of the day, as I checked in on him (I realized that he was completely isolated out on his farm because his girlfriend was taking their truck to go and visit her family for four days). I offered him a car if he wanted it but he declined. He said that he was very much enjoying the idea of not being able to 'leave their ranch' and was sitting back and watching a movie when I called.

Three children. One is halfway across the world enjoying his annual Christmas/New Year vacation. The second has sequestered himself on his farm and is isolated from the world (as isolated as one can be these days - he does still have a cell phone and somewhat reliable reception). My third son is still snoozing this Christmas morning away. We really don't have any festive Christmas plans ... so why not sleep and go where the day takes him?

Mom was going to come here for Christmas but was much more content to stay close to home with winter weather driving conditions being so variable. She had invitations for a Christmas Eve/Christmas morning sleepover at My Brother's. Another invitation for Christmas supper at My Nephew's home.

Christmas at My Brother's family's home is idyllic in my books. It feels so very tranquil, yet festive and happy within their home at any time of the year. But Christmas time is extra special. Mom will be wrapped up in Christmas-my-brother's-family's-style, and it will be good. She will then be chauffeured to My Nephew's home where she will eat like a King Queen. Or have the opportunity to do so (Mom eats more like a bird). She will not go home hungry (or lacking of stories to tell) ...

Everyone is exactly where they want to be this year ... with one sad exception.

My uncle was admitted into palliative care yesterday. I woke up in the middle of the night and my thoughts were with his family. They will all be together this Christmas ... but I am sure that they would trade that in a heart beat if it meant that their dad/husband/grandpa was healthy and at home.

Christmas happens no matter where in the world you may be. If we are were we want to be by choice, there is no better place. As quiet and untraditional as this Christmas may be for me, there is absolutely no where else in the world that I would rather be. And I am so very grateful for that.

Happy Christmas to You. No matter where you may be ...


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's Been a Little Too Serious Around Here Lately ...

A light and easy moment that made me laugh out loud this morning:

My Youngest Son woke up early this morning with a dream nightmare fresh on his mind ...

Him: "I was mad at you (for some reason ...) while we were driving. I undid my seat belt and started getting out of the car. You stopped and let me out ... and I'm not quite sure what happened next but you ended up getting arrested for something (I'm not sure what)."

Me: (thinking) He is frustrated and angry with me under his cool, calm exterior after all. This is all going to blow one of these days ...

Him: (a few minutes later, as the dream started flashing back a little clearer) "Oh ya, now I remember why I was so mad at you. We needed a wheelchair for my younger sibling ... and you bought a vacuum cleaner instead!"

He never did remember why I was arrested. A vacuuming and driving incident perhaps?


Monday, December 23, 2013

Bubbles of Joy, Balloons of Sorrow

This moment in time will never be mine again.

As much as one struggles to hold onto the happy moments, they burst like a bubble ... though some last longer than others.

The awful moments seem to feel more like a balloon. Some balloons burst suddenly and with great flourish and they are nothing more than the withered shell that once held air.

Then there are the balloons that simply grow old and shrivel up very, very slowly. So slowly that you don't even realize that it is happening. Over time, they become quite small but there is still that pocket of air encased in a protective shell that becomes harder to burst, the longer it lasts. The air within the balloon can shift and move about ... yet the outer shell becomes more dense and the air will never burst out with a flourish unless it is trapped into a 'corner' and forced.

Grief and sorrow are like that unpopped balloon. There is always that little pocket of sorrow that moves and shifts about in our life and catches us when we least expect it. It withers up but never bursts in its entirety.

We simply don't realize how fortunate we are when life's sorrows burst open suddenly and unexpectedly and leave nothing but a shell in their wake.

We strive to hold those moments of joy tightly yet the best we can do is take pictures of those moments with our hearts and cherish the memory. Those moments are but a bubble and don't last forever.

At times of sorrow, we collect all of the memories of those 'bubbles' within our lives and hold them close to our hearts ... cherishing all of those 'bubbles' that we have collected in our collective memory banks.

To a dear, dear family that has touched my heart in ways that you will never fully know ... "may you be bathing in a bubble bath as your balloon of sorrow has been filling up with air that has yet to be released".


Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's Not Only Kids That Wish For Christmas Every Day ...

I'm beginning to see why I don't make plans. 'Life' has a way of happening when you aren't looking and it is simply more important to be able to go with the flow of things and see where it takes you.

The whole 'Christmas' thing has not been sitting well with me this year. There is simply so much sadness, illness and 'life' happening to those that touch my world. I can't help but internalize some of the emotions and simply want to be quiet this season.

My gifts are quite literally being made and wrapped up as I am running out the door (or someone is knocking on it). I have never, ever procrastinated to this extent. On the flip side, doing 'what feels right' in the moment is still working for me. I am simply missing out on the pleasure of having time to breathe, in between the time of conception-of-an-idea, to the actual 'gifting' of said idea.

I am writing cards on the run. I still have a list of cards that I had hoped to send. Things aren't getting done until they get done.

Yet ... I simply don't care.

An illness in the family trumps everything. Illness that touches a friend is a very close runner up. I simply don't want to be acting 'busy' with trivial matters when real-life issues step up to the plate.

My heart is hurting.

It is last Christmas all over again. A different family. But the pain of loss is in the air. I asked what I could do and no one had any answers. So ... I simply showed up. And listened.

By listening, I knew what I could do. It is nothing. But it is something. And it is ever-so-much more important than finishing off the trivial Christmas-list-of-things-to-do.

It is no wonder these details-that-are-Christmas weren't taking priority this year. It isn't important. Kind gestures, gifts of giving, writing and goodwill are important twelve months of the year. To me, 'Christmas' should not be different than any other time.

My heart aches for those whose pain, sorrow and suffering is amplified at this time of year. The Christmas season should not make people's emotions feel amplified. Good or bad.

Live like it is Christmas time 365 days of the year and you will have no regrets. Give when the spirit moves you. Send a card for no reason what so ever. Pick up the phone and call someone you are thinking about. Make plans to celebrate absolutely nothing. Gather family and friends when the opportunity arises. Live out loud. Love generously. Live a life that makes Christmas feel like just another day ... because you celebrate the gift of life, family, friends, giving, sharing and caring every month of the year.

If you get some extra time off because of all of the holidays at this time of year? Follow where your heart takes you. Give yourself the gift of happiness whenever the door opens to you.

'Life' happens 365 days of the year. It doesn't care what date it is. "Life is what happens when you are making other plans." Don't get so wrapped up in the planning that you forget to enjoy the small moments that you find each and every day.

Ask any child and they will tell you that they wish it was Christmas every day. Perhaps they are the ones who have got this thing figured out.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Simple Wish ~ A Complicated Season

As I wander through my morning and lose track of time following links and quotes from the blogs that I read ... I wonder if I am simply being lazy and unmotivated or if I am following the path that was laid out before me and truly going where I need to go before another day begins.

I'm getting a little crusty around the edges these days. I wrote (and deleted) an entire whiny little rant about not liking the person that I am at this very moment in time. I wrote it last night. I reread it this morning. It is as true this morning as it was last night. But the question is "Why?" Why am I feeling this way?

I am doing the right things for the wrong reasons (my fingers just typed those words - that is not what I planned on writing).

I am going through the paces of Christmas. In doing the 'right things' (more specifically 'write things', in my case), I can usually push my way through my disdain of the material expectations that this season tends to illicit. I don't usually settle on giving 'material' gifts ... I give my time instead. It feels better. It feels right. For me.

This year, I didn't feel the inspiration to do the write things. In a panic, I ran out and bought five gifts for my Daycare Family. I thought 'if I have nothing else to give, I can give this'. But it is not enough. Not even for the families that started coming here only a few months ago. I need to give just a small piece of myself within my gift otherwise it feels shallow. That is me. That is the way I roll.

I give 'words' at Christmas. My letters and handwritten messages are 'my gift'. I have laughed it off in Christmases past "They say talk is cheap and they are right ~ this letter is the only thing that I can afford!" The joke was on me. The more that I gave of myself, the better I felt. It was a win-win situation. I learned to like this season-of-giving again, by giving what came naturally to me.

This year, my biggest 'gift' is a gift that is consuming me a little more than the rest. It is a 'gift of words' to my family. A promise. A promise that no one in the world is badgering me to keep (in fact, the mere lack of pressure has made this project become my longest, most drawn out writing project to date).

I have been puttering with my dad's family's memories. One chapter at a time. Each morning I work with one chapter of 'The Book' and try to tidy it up a bit. Then I place it out into a space where the family has access to watch over this work-in-progress.

I tease myself each and every morning by dipping my toes into this project, then I must pull myself back into the Real World and take care of my Daycare Family and putter with other Christmas Projects. It is like pulling teeth, to work on 'the trivia' that is Christmas ... when my heart is elsewhere.

I think that I just stumbled across the dilemma that I am feeling inside of me. Each and every time I think of working on my Family Project, I feel the desire to run away to a remote location where it is only 'Me and Our Book'. I want to shut out the world and immerse myself in memories. I want to feel them. I want no other distractions. Sometimes I think that I feel 'those who no longer walk this earth' whispering in my ear "Please be careful with these memories ... ".

It is a privilege to work with the memories of our family and I don't treat it lightly. Perhaps that is why I am struggling with the other Gifts of the Season this year. They feel so trivial in comparison (and they are taking me away from what I would rather be working on).

The truth is, that if it wasn't for the Season of Giving, I would not even have pushed myself out of my state-of-idling to start working on our family book project. The gift that I have given to others has (in the end) truly been a gift to myself.

I have almost two weeks of holidays over the Christmas season. Twelve days. If it was any other time of year, I could sequester myself into my quiet little corner of the house and immerse myself in all-things-book-related. But 'this season' is pushing me where I don't (really) want to be.

First and foremost, I am a mother. I need to be a part of my own little family's Christmas memories. I need to forget everything else in the world and simply exist within my own family unit.

Secondly, I am a daughter and a sister. There are places I want to go and people I want to see. Mom has cancelled her plans to come here for Christmas so I could/should go out to see her. And I will. Dependent on travelling conditions.

Third (this is the one that hurts), I have a second-job commitment. I had planned on working this upcoming Sunday and making myself unavailable during my vacation-from-daycare. When I last spoke to my boss, that was not going to work for her and she needed me to work one day of my vacation. This one wild card has put the rest of my holiday plans completely out of kilter.

I feel that I can plan nothing because travelling is dependent on weather conditions. My work availability will cut up the flow of my holiday no matter when I squeeze it in. I needed to work this weekend and put 'work' out of the equation.

And all I really want to do ... is stay at home. I want to enjoy the quiet moments with my family. When they wander off into their own lives, I want go into my room-with-a-door and lose myself in our family book project.

It is a simple wish. Oh. And I would also like oven mitts. Please.

If the Westjet Christmas Miracle would have happened to me, I would be standing along beside the guy who asked for socks and underwear...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'Twas a Week Before Christmas

'Twas a week before Christmas
when I looked through the house
Nary a gift has been bought
and I feel like a louse.

The stockings were all stuffed 
in a box by my bed
If they notice I'll tell them, 
"We'll wear them instead!"

My children have wrestled 
with the loss of their dreams
"Our mother's The Grinch"
they agree, so it seems.

When out in the kitchen 
I heard such a clatter
I ran in to ask my son
"What is the matter?"

"You won't cook a turkey,
Grandma's coming, you know!
It's all up to me now
You've sunk mighty low."

I squirmed and I stewed 
and I felt kind of bad
But that bird is so life-like
it's all kind of sad.

"I'll cook the potatoes!
I'll whip up some dressing!!
We'll fix it all up
and we'll count all our blessings!"

My son shook his head
and turned with a jerk.
"Mom's not only a Grinch ...
she's a real piece of work!"

I went to my room 
and hid under the covers
"Don't call 'til it's over
and please feed your brothers."

He cooked and he puttered
and it smelled kind of tasty
So I peeked out my head 
and said, "I was hasty".

"I can still help you out -
I will wash all the dishes"
He said that would be fine
if I gave him three wishes.

I nodded my head
and I quivered in fear.
"What do you ask for?"
(what would I hear?).

"I wish you were happy
in spite of yourself.
Take your lead from the big guy
Santa, himself. 

He helps and he smiles,
his work makes him happy.
Now get over yourself
Stop being so sappy!"

Wish number two 
is to simply take part -
just do what I do
and cook from your heart.

Picture it now - 
we are all at the table.
It is not fiction, 
a tale or a fable.

This is our family - 
we are in this together.
For better or worse
Wherever, whenever.

Wish number three
is to get up and get moving.
You still have a week left
Now get up and get grooving.

All hope is not lost
There's a little time left
There's no need 
to just sit here and act all bereft.

It isn't over yet
I'm wasting my time
Sitting here thinking of
words that will rhyme.

I better get busy now
there is no time to waste
One more sentence to go
I will write it in haste.

I shouted with glee
as I wrote off this night,
"Happy Christmas to All ...
and to all a Good Night".

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Special Angel

On December 13, 2009 I wrote the words "Last night, I spent an evening with two of my earthly angels ..."

I reflected on 'my favorite story of the year' being one of hearing how an angel unaware touched the life of another. A brief exchange made such an effect, that small act of kindness was remembered and recounted decades later.

Last night I went back into the archives of this blog to find the words unconsciously came to my fingertips as I wrote about a man who unknowingly touched my life and made a profound difference.

His niece is a dear friend of mine and she has talked of 'the story beyond the story' that I know (I helped this family assemble their family memories so I had the honor and privilege to hear their stories first hand, from those that lived the memories).

Her uncle is a kind and gentle man. He opened up his heart and told stories that touched me. I related to his highly sensitive sensitivity gene and I felt that our lives were meant to collide.

Anita Moorjani's words came to mind ~ "The Universe is like a beautiful tapestry and we are all threads in that tapestry. We can't see each individual thread but together it creates a work of beauty. Our lives are our own little tapestry that is part of the One, the Universe."

Sometimes we struggle to know if we have made a difference ... what imprint have we have made on this earth we will one day leave behind. As I heard my friend speak of her uncle's need to know that his life made a difference, I could not help but think of the thread that is 'him' that is woven into my life so very intricately. The individual thread that is his life is woven into the tapestry all of the lives he has touched.

As I continued to search my blog for stories that I wrote about 'angels unaware', I found these words that I wrote in August, 2012. Long before I heard Anita Moorjani speak of this exact same phenomenon:

When little coincidences bring me together with someone that my dad could be 'co-existing' with in a world that is not my own ... I often wonder if he could be watching over me and guiding me to a place I need to be. When I end up in a place where someone else's parent could be watching over them in the same manner ... I wonder. Are these little miracles are bigger than they appear?

When you feel an overwhelming urge to reach out to someone ... do it. You never know, you may have an angel on your shoulder guiding you to exactly where you need to be. For yourself and for the other party ...

I picked up the phone yesterday morning and that conversation led me to 'exactly where I needed to be' last night.

I visited my friend as she visited with her uncle (my own personal Angel Unaware) last night. I woke up this morning knowing that I had to acknowledge this most special evening and write of the man that will never fully understand the impact he has made in my life.

Last night, I spent an evening with two of my earthly angels ...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Alone Time

I spent the weekend in relative solitude. I recall talking with my Youngest Son. I exchanged instructions with my Bookkeeping Boss. A few words here and there to those I passed by. But for the most part, I was alone all weekend. And I didn't even realize it.

I am a solitary soul at the best of times. If I am pushed out of my comfort zone too often and for too long, I get kind of squirmish inside. I like my space. I need it.

As I recall the events of the weekend, it feels like every moment was consumed with something. From the mundane (house cleaning and snow shovelling) to the necessary (grocery shopping and bookkeeping) to tending to 'Christmas' in the very low key way in which I celebrate ...

Writing. For a person who does not enjoy the pressures that the Christmas season brings, I seem to reap a lot of benefits from that-which-I-do. Christmas cards and letters. Christmas projects of the wordy kind. Writing, writing, writing. I never feel alone when I release 'words' into the universe.

I entertain myself so completely and fully and have complete conversations with myself as I write. So at the end of a very busy weekend, I was actually quite surprised that I was alone 99% of the time. Who knew?

May you live a life where your own company is good enough to keep you going as one day unfolds into the next. Really (as my friend so succinctly phrased it), "... we really are all alone in this world no matter how many people surround us ...", so it is important to enjoy your own company.

"Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own." ~ Oprah

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Longest Year

I just stumbled upon someone commenting on 'A Year Ago Today...' and I had no idea what they were referring to. As the clues slowly revealed that they were speaking of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut I could not believe that was only a year ago.

December 14, 2012 ...

I heard the news on the radio as I made my way over to my friend's home. She was dealing with the loss of her mother. I stood at her side as she released balloons into the sky and felt her mother's reluctance (yet relief) to join her husband and son. As the world mourned for the unspeakable losses of innocent young children and educators, my friend's loss was up close and personal. That was only one year ago...

Ten days later, my aunt was admitted into the hospital. When my uncle walked through the doors of that hospital on December 24th, it was beyond his comprehension that he would not bring her home again. One week. One week of fighting the good fight. One week of family coming from near and far. One week to come to the slow realization that things were not getting better. A mother of nine, a wife, a sister, an aunt, a friend ... didn't come home again. Time stood still yet the calendar pages kept turning. Almost one year ago?

My friend that was dealing with terminal cancer passed away in October. One year ago, her prognosis was sounding brighter. She was planning on seeing her yet unborn grandchild start kindergarten. She was looking toward a five year goal. One year ago? She would have not predicted that she had barely over ten more months to reach for the goals within her grasp.

My uncle's cancer has returned. I do not know all of the details. They are making plans for the entire family to celebrate Christmas on Boxing Day this year. I cannot help but think that they are not expecting the same opportunity a year from now ...

On the flip side, my friend that was laid off at this time last year has found a better job and has never felt so happy and valued as an employee.

Another friend who's broken heart was so raw that she could not even speak of it ... is moving on and is rebuilding herself and starting over. New and improved.

A year can feel like a very long time. I often look back at 'a year ago today' to celebrate that which I have overcome and appreciate the present tense of my life. The years that mark loss, heart break and devastation are tough. One cannot help but look back and feel the anguish all over again. Yet life goes on. One day rolls into the next. The calendar pages turn and eventually we have to bring out a new calendar full of empty boxes.

It has been a very long year, yet it has sped by all too fast. I do not even want to guess what the next year has in store. Sometimes a person is better off being surprised.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Inhaling

Yesterday was a day of 'high output'. I spent a lot of my words talking. To adults. Throughout the 'quiet time' of our Daycare Morning and all evening. I talked.

This morning ... I read. Quietly. Alone. I found inspiration at every turn.

Glennon at Momastery.com wrote of the lesson she learned at the end of a very hard year (click here: "The Music is Louder Than the Crying").

Chrissy at "Life With Greyson and Parker" reminded me that the lessons we have to about perspective (click here: "Great Unexpectations").

Anna over at "An Inch of Gray" sent me over to read this post about the Christmas Story as you have never heard it.

I can't top that. I can't even comment because these writers say it so eloquently and tie it all up at the end with a neat little bow.

I'm just breathing in the morning. Follow the links on this page to take you on the journey that I have travelled this morning.

Tomorrow ... I am going to 'exhale'.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm in Love ... (a little about the Favorite Men in my life)

I turned on my most favorite music first thing yesterday morning and it set the tone for the day. I highly recommend clicking on this link and pressing 'play' - Jeffery Straker is my second newest Favorite Man (after my New Hairstylist, of course).

My Daycare Family was not quite as enamored with my choice of music (we are a little bit hooked on Patty Shukla at the moment) but it made me happy and I don't think that they had a problem with a Happy Me.

'Birchbark Canoe' is a dreamy waltz and the song seeped deep into my soul and my heart started beating to the beat of the music. I picked up my little one-year-old (who am I kidding? I was probably holding him anyway) and we danced...

We danced around the toys in the living room. We danced up and down the hallway. We pivoted and swirled. I taught him 'dance position' and we rose and fell to the heartbeat of the music that enveloped my soul. It was heavenly ...

The other kids noticed what was going on and my girls started moving and swaying to the music along with us. I noticed my little two-year-old mimicking the 'rise and fall' (that apparently I did without thinking) of the waltz.

Music changes the mood within a room. When it seeps into the soul of who you are, music has the ability to transform you. I was very much in need of a transformation. Thank you, Jeffery Straker!

I picked up the phone before I had a chance to talk myself out of it (or simply forget) and I booked myself a dance lesson. As luck would have it, there was an opening last night. Perfect! Hot on the tail of a new hair style and at the end of a Daycare Day that did not have me pulling said hair out of my head.

Immediately after making that call, I went to Jeffrey's website and bought/downloaded his newest CD and Christmas single. Ahhh!! If I wasn't in heaven before, I was reaching new heights. I burnt a CD and would bring a little piece of heaven with me as I drove to my lesson (and perhaps bring it into the studio with me so we could dance to the soundtrack that was the backdrop to my day).

Best laid plans sometimes go awry. Especially when tending to about nine other things at the same time. The burning process did not happen and I had nothing but a virgin CD to accompany me on my way to my lesson.

Have no fear, the dance studio's owner has also discovered this amazing talent so we could still dance to the beat of Jeffery Straker. But really ... with the amazing talent, personality and charisma of my Dance Instructor, we could probably dance to 'The Wheels on the Bus' (my exposure to music is highly affected by my one to four year old crowd) and have just as much fun. Yes. Another Favorite Man in my life ...

It has felt a small bit wonderful to pull my thoughts out of the challenges of my Daycare Day  and tend to that-which-fuels-my soul.

A Hair Stylist that made me laugh like I have not laughed in a very long time ... led to a haircut that (I believe) I can live with. A day with Jeffery Straker filled my heart and soul ... led to an evening of dance and movement with my Dance Instructor that filled up the remaining nooks and crannies.

"There is an Indian Belief that everyone is in a house of four rooms: A physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but unless we go into every room everyday, even if only to keep it aired, we are not complete."
~ Rumer Godden

I spent time in each of my four rooms within the past 24 hour period and I feel fulfilled, happy and content. I wish you a day of good housekeeping. Turn on some music that makes you 'feel'. Sing, dance and go where the music takes you. I think you will be glad that you did. 

Here is a suggestion from my little bag of tricks. It is a rerun of an earlier recommendation but it is a music video that brings me a little bit of happy into the Christmas season:


P.S. Side note to the other 'three favorite' men in my life (ahem ... My Three Sons). Nothing personal. But just for today, you have been upstaged. Perhaps each of you could change your career aspirations to include Hair Stylist; Singer/songwriter/piano player; and Dance Instructor, and this blog could be about you!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Facing Fears - The Haircut

Sometimes ... it feels good to simply indulge yourself in a purely indulgent whim. It feels even better when you stumble upon a person who emanates a love-of-their-profession. You sit back and trust them because they exude a sense of pride and perfection that make you feel safe.

Yes. I am talking about getting my hair cut. Again.

I had no idea what I wanted done with my hair. I simply knew that I didn't want 'short'. It took four months for my bangs to reach my eyebrows. I wasn't going back there.

I simply said that I was trying to grow my hair out. I didn't want my hair to resemble that-which-I-was-sporting at that moment in time. I simply wanted a style that made it appear that I looked this way on purpose.

He talked and felt his way through the mop on my head. He made me laugh as we made our way through the next few hours. I felt safe and secure in his hands because I felt that he heard me. He really heard me.

I did not tell him the horror story of my last haircuts-in-quick-succession. As one hour turned into two, I eventually told him that my hair had been growing for close to four and a half months and he expressed sheer horror at the shortness-that-my-hair had seen. He made me feel justified in my hairdresser phobia.

As he worked on my hair, I heard a voice behind me. I was turned away from the mirror so I couldn't see a face. But that voice. I knew that voice.

The voice kept talking and I thought 'she reminds me of my niece'. That is why I thought the voice was familiar. Until ...

... she started talking about 'hair school'. Then it hit me. She was the girl that was responsible for Part One of the Two Part bad-haircut of the Summer of 2013!!

I was relieved that I did not go into a rant-about-my-previous-haircuts the moment I sat down. I had a talk with myself before I went in for my appointment and reminded myself that when I put down one hairdresser's skill, I am also speaking to another hairdresser who knows what it is like to be on the opposite end of the scissors. "Be gentle" was my mantra ... do not insult the one-with-the-scissors.

I was careful not to give myself away. Do hairdressers-in-training never forget a head of hair? They are working on so many different people, with so much new information coursing through their brains ... do they have room to remember a set of hair follicles?

I was quiet. I was very quiet. Until the end. "How does it feel?" the current-love-of-my-life asked me. I started to rake through my hair and stopped myself. Oh no! This hairdresser-in-training was watching me. What if she remembered my mannerisms? My New Hairdresser (yes! I am keeping him!!) saw me hesitate and urged me to indulge myself and see how it felt. How it really felt.

It feels fine. I woke up this morning and it still feels good. My reflection didn't laugh back at me or mock me in any way.

I got my hair cut. And I think I like it!

Back view only because the front view comes with a face. This guy was great, but he could only work miracles with my hair...

As our time together wound down to a close, my New Hairdresser started talking about our future together. We will keep trimming the bottom until the top and the sides catch up. I told him that I had no idea what I wanted the end result to be and he assured me that we will aim for shoulder length and see where to go from there. He gave me his card. He wants me to call him. Our first 'date' instilled a sense of trust that I have not know for quite some time ...

To my Hairdresser-in-Training: "Listen and watch this master ... he can teach you many things that they don't cover in hair school. Do not be afraid to let down your guard and absorb the wisdom that those have walked before you can teach you. You are in good hands. Trust them ..."

I felt like a victorious Arnold Schwarzenegger as I walked out of the salon last night saying, "I'll be back ..."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fifteen Days

It's getting just a little too close to Christmas...

I went through the motions and put up decorations and lights. Then I retreat to the far corner of the house when the house is still at the end of a long day and I don't absorb the goodness of the 'light'.

I am trying very hard to fulfil a Christmas promise and work on one-chapter-per-day for my dad's family's collection of memories. I am (sort of) succeeding. I still need to go back and fix up some chapters but I am taking baby steps. I am approximately one quarter of the way through ... there is a long way yet to go, but I am further ahead than when I started.

I have been puttering away with my Christmas cards. The Christmas correspondence is the one aspect of this season that fuels me. I love this time of year because I correspond with people all over the continent and I don't have to leave my home to do so. I  had such great fun when I started my cards. I played my most favorite music, I sipped on a beverage that went perfect with the season and I wrote. It was a most perfect beginning ...

'All of the above' transpired on a weekend. A weekend that I didn't have to work. At all.

I got the hard work (lights and decorating) done on the Friday night. I dove into the Book Project all guns blazing on the Saturday that followed. It felt good. Then Sunday, it was all wrapped up in a bow when my cards started coming together.

Then the world intruded.

I went out for coffee with a friend and it hasn't been the same since. I'm not blaming the coffee. Nor the friend. It is simply the fact that 'life happens'. A person must pull their head out of what is all-consuming and live life in the moment you are in. That moment will never present itself again.

It started with coffee. It ended with work.

I savored every moment of my most-ideal-weekend. Then I walked smack dab into 'last week' and I was blind sided.

It was challenging on every level. Then I worked all weekend. This new week got off to a better start but there are underlying issues that I have not dealt with. I have a choice to make here. I must either take a stand or else learn to find a way to live with the situation-at-hand. I'm mulling ...

I have two days off before Christmas. I have plans for one of those days. I have one day to do-all-I-need-to-do before Christmas. I have fourteen evenings at my disposal. Do the math, girl. Do the math!

I have done a little calculating and I have come up with one formula. For tonight and tonight only. I made myself an appointment. I am going to indulge myself in tending to my inner Cinderella. I may not have the pretty wardrobe to go with it at the end of the evening ... but I hope to have a little bit of that false sense of self esteem by not cringing when I look at my reflection in the mirror.

I know that this has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. It is vanity at its worst. But the part of Christmas that I have been dreading the most? Leaving the house. Socializing. Getting together with family and friends.

I have let myself go. It is a slippery slope because I could very easily slide into a place where I just don't care. When a person doesn't care any more, it becomes very easy to want to curl up under a blanket and not come out until the metamorphosis into a butterfly is complete.

I am in a cocoon stage and I need to be a butterfly.

A butterfly has wings to soar and discover the world in a way it never could as a caterpillar. I need to find my wings. I am going to go and look for them in a beauty salon.

And when I find them? I will soar. I will do this 'Christmas Thing' in my own unique way. Don't expect much, people. I am who I am and I can't be more than that. But I'll work with what I have and see where it takes me.

This butterfly-in-waiting has fifteen days to fly to new heights. Ready, set, GO!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Happy Monday ... I Survived Another Weekend

I made it through my working weekend.

I was sleeping soundly by 8:00 p.m. both nights and had absolutely no extra-curricular life whatsoever. No Christmas cards written, no phone calls made or received and I barely spoke to My Youngest (but I did stay up past 7:30 last night to complete a conversation that we started).

I was aided and abetted through this Arctic Winter Weekend with the assistance of my Second Son. Lucky for me (not so lucky for him perhaps?), he (and his girlfriend) had planned on working on their farm all weekend (which is about a half hour past my place-of-work). So rather than starting up two vehicles, headed in the same direction in near -50 weather, I hitched a ride with them. It worked like a charm (at least for me it did).

It meant that my work hours were defined by someone other than myself or my boss. Seven hours on Saturday. Eight hours on Sunday. Pretty close to full-time employment. I should be rich ... (trust me, money is not everything!!).

It was a successful weekend for My Son & His Girlfriend. They were eager to share pictures of their accomplishments with me on the way home. I knew it was a mistake. I looked down. In the back seat of a moving vehicle. For no more than five minutes. But it was a bad decision...

I thought I was okay. Until we got  home. I just wanted to go to bed.

No matter what is going on, I always tend to my two basic needs. Food and sleep. I am not deprived in either of these. I had to smile when I read these words "Remember, when you are hungry and sleep-deprived, it is a meltdown waiting to happen" in a Mountain Wings issue entitled "Your Tantrums". Unbeknownst to the reader, he was writing about how to deal with a toddler's behaviour. But it speaks to many.

Life is busy. It is a fact of life. At a bare minimum, ensure you are adequately fed and rested. And I really liked this advice too: "It helps to take a nap during the day".

The older I get, the more child-like I become. Every day when I lay my Little People down for a nap, I tell them "You don't know how lucky you are ...". Oh, to have someone dictate my needs and schedule time for a nap into my day. It is little wonder that I am having a tough time with the "NO nap" ruling from one of my parents. She has destroyed my life with those two words. The fact that I have not heeded her orders is of little consolation because the 'joy factor' of un-guilty pleasure has been stolen from me.

Five more working days until the weekend. A one-day weekend. But I will take it.

Happy Monday to All! (and to all ... a good nap).

Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's a Bit Brisk, Eh?

Our Canadian Deep Freeze is working well. We are a full 15 degrees (or so) warmer than we were this time yesterday morning but it still feels like -32 with the wind chill factored in. I think all of us can relate to this ...


Weeks like these make me grateful for small things ...
  • Insulation
  • Indoor plumbing
  • The ability to warm up the house by turning up the thermostat
  • A furnace that co-operates with the command sent via that tiny gadget (thermostat) in the hallway
  • Block heaters
  • A car that starts
  • A car heater that works
  • A system of roads that take us where we need to go
  • An infrastructure system that takes care of those roads for us
All of this makes me think of the stories that my mom and her sisters told of the winters in their childhood in the early 1930's in their 'little house on the Saskatchewan prairie'...

Winter!!! What can I say about those months of freezing cold, snow and blizzards. Of which, we experienced all.

If it wasn't for us four kids in bed together we would have froze. It was cold everywhere – in fact the barn was far warmer than the house, from the heat of the animals. There was really very little heat until summer arrived.

The winters were very severe, with no roads – only those made by the teams of horses driven in winter to schools, town and anywhere you went.

Homes and schools were heated by wood and coal, with no such thing as insulation heard of yet. It made for very uncomfortable living at times, not to mention our cold trips to school (by sleigh, with heated stones to keep our feet from freezing).

The one incident that I will never forget – our dad was bringing us home from school in a blizzard. Our team of horses got bogged down in deep snow and couldn’t go any further. Fortunately, we were right near a neighbor’s driveway. We walked there, us three kids and our dad. Our horses were put in their barn and us kids were taken straight to the house, where we were made very welcome. We had to sleep upstairs, all three of us in one bed, in a dark, strange room. How scary! I can’t remember, but there were probably more tears, but it was a very happy ending to a very worried day. My dad and a friend of theirs took a fresh team of horses and a bob sleigh and both went on home and got there safely. You can imagine what an enormous relief that was to our mother. There were other incidents like this, involving other families in the district. It was a time where there wasn’t the convenience of a phone in the home, to put a person’s mind at rest. The only thing a person could do was wait it out and hope for the best.

The winters were really hard. Very cold and the housing was poor. When it was 35 to 40° (Fahrenheit) below zero, with any wind it was just about impossible to keep the house warm. We all sat as close to the stove as we could. In the morning, we would jump out of bed, run downstairs into the kitchen and stand on the oven door. All four girls, but alas, one day the oven door broke. ‘Poor Mom.’ I don’t remember how long it was before it was fixed. Yes, we ‘all’ did stand on the oven door at the same time. We were all very small, skinny kids at that time.


Winter of 1947 or 48 ... snow banks as tall as 8 feet by the shed
Bundle up and enjoy the conveniences of our time. It is never so bad that it couldn't be worse.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I am What I am

If a flame from my past were to run into me at the mall, they would be completely justified in thinking that they 'dodged a bullet' as they would most likely think to themselves, "Gee ... she has sure let herself go!"

I'm going through a phase right now. I hate to say it, but I'm kind of liking it. It is akin to the six week recovery period that I had after my hernia surgery. I didn't have to leave the house to go to my Saturday job and I cancelled all of my dance classes during that period. I didn't have to go anywhere so I took advantage of that time and went through the growing pains of letting my hair grow out (I must have been in dire need of a hair cut before the surgery).

At the end of that metamorphosis, I came out with a new hair style and a completely different look on life. I felt ... happy.

Since that time, I spent three years 'out in the public eye'. I went to school. I worked outside of my home. I kept my foot in the door at the dance studio. I took part in a dance competition and went on the Vacation of a Lifetime. I had to keep up appearances.

My last dance lesson was June 27 of this year. My last (failed) attempt at 'hair and nail' maintenance was July 27.

My hair was nothing short of a disaster (made worse by a follow up hair cut which has taken four months for my bangs to finally reach my eyebrows again). My pedicure was a waste of time (my feet felt like sandpaper within days and the nail polish started peeling off almost immediately).

It was some time in and around that point that I was completely and totally relieved that I didn't dance any more. It took such great energy to maintain that 'dance look'. The one where it looked like I actually took some time to look in a mirror before I walked out the door.

I shed that image with such flair. I couldn't help but compare this freedom with the pains that I went to, to take on a completely fake persona to attend a dance competition. Fake nails, eyelash extensions, spray tan, bold cherry-red hair, a high maintenance hair cut, with excessive bling and dance costumes to complete the look. When a friend-from-another-lifetime-ago commented on my pictures from this competition, I replied that "The only thing genuine about me in those pictures was the smile ..."

I am not a high maintenance kind of girl. I think it is loads of fun to dress up and I miss those 'Cinderella days' of dance showcases just a little bit. I'm glad I did it. I am grateful that I have proof (pictures) that I lived that life of glitz and glam. But most of all ... it is that smile within those pictures that I am happiest to see.

I gave up hair and make-up a little while ago. The growing out process of a bad hair cut is not fun. I have utilized bobby pins and have had 'hair days' that would make my mother shudder. I can't help but think of the comments that she has made about her 85+ year old sisters' hair at times (something to the effect of) "Doesn't she look in a mirror?" and the comment that they should do something to flatter their appearance.

I totally agree on one level. A person's hair is one of the first things that you notice. It doesn't have to be glamorous but I think that having hair that doesn't stand out in a negative way is probably a direction that I want to take. But I couldn't help but defend my aunts "Who goes out and gets their hair done to attend a funeral?" and "Maybe you saw them just before an upcoming hair appointment ..." or maybe they were simply growing out a bad hair cut!

I have to leave the house today.

I added some eye liner, eyebrow pencil and bronzer to my morning look. I looked at my hair and shuddered. I placed a few unruly pieces of hair where I wanted them to be and bobby-pinned them in place. And I thought "Good enough" (my hair has finally grown out of one bad phase and the next is probably due around the next time I wash my hair).

My question is: Do I care ... enough?

I had a dream that My Sister quietly whispered in my ear that I should 'suck in my gut' (those weren't her words but it is the most succinct way that I can retell what my sister told me in my post-dream state) because it looked like my stomach was protruding and my rear was sticking out. Yes. I weigh a lot more than I did in those 'dance pictures' in addition to the bad hair and no make up.

I wish that I had a more flattering wardrobe. I need to touch up my roots. My nails need to be filed down. I should treat myself to a do-it-yourself pedicure. I need to maintain 'what I have' but all in all? I am quite content to go with the "I am what I am".

"I am what I am 
I don't want praise I don't want pity 
I bang my own drum 
Some think it's noise I think it's pretty 
And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle 
Why not see things from a different angle 
Your life is a sham 
Till you can shout out I am what I am"
Lyrics (in part) "I am What I am" ~ Gloria Gaynor


The one accessory that needs work is my smile. It has been the one item missing from my current look that I know I need to find again. I think it is here some where ... 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Depleted

The week has drained me to the very core of my existence. 'Quiet Time' during my daycare day has been infringed upon. Taking with it, a little piece of my sanity.

Honestly, it isn't that awful. It is just hard. Really hard.

Instead of putting my little Nixon (my private nickname for the leader-in-play-whom-I-wish-to-impeach) down for a nap in a bed, I make a cozy spot for him on the couch and make it very, very easy for him to drift off to sleep. And he does (but not without a fight ... yesterday, he was literally pulling Senior Cat's whiskers one second and two seconds later, he was sawing logs).


I have two napping children in the living room and I pussy foot around the house and cannot let my guard down (aka: have a little snooze on one of those couches myself).

Nap time is the time I gather up what I need to get through the remainder of the day and now when I do manage to find those moments I cannot even enjoy them.

My reward for enduring this week? I get to work all weekend.

It is -40 outside once again this morning. The benefit of my daycare job that no one can take away from me, is the fact that I do not have to brave the elements to make my way to work. Not this weekend. I get to experience reality like the rest of the population.

The flip side of this trying week is that I have fit Christmas cards and my dad's family's Book of Memories in between the cracks. Perhaps not 'quality' workmanship in either case (I apologize in advance for Christmas cards written between the dates of Dec 3 to Dec 6) ... but steps in a forward direction.

As much as this week has felt like trudging through two foot snow banks (hard, exhausting, futile and destinations feeling so-out-of-reach at times), I have kept putting one foot in front of the other, taking a pit stop to 'warm up and refuel' each night and continued on my journey the next day.

I was talking with a friend yesterday (who also runs a daycare from her home) and we both agreed that 'this' is where it is at for us. To be able to say that (and mean it) during a week-such-as-this-one says a lot.

I'm in this. I'm all in. For better, for worse. For the good, the bad and the ugly. In sickness and in health (though I may need a few new couches after last week's stomach flu...). For as long as it remains 'in the best interests of the children'.

I may be depleted. But my energy is a renewable resource. I will keep coming back to this. It is exactly where I am meant to be right now.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Daycare - Our Microcosm of the World Outside Our Doors

This may have to be a 'blog about nothing'. I have many thoughts and emotions running through my mind at the moment. All daycare related. There have been far too many daycare-related-stories here lately. I am tiring of them. But it is my life. It is what I think about when I lock the door, close the blinds and turn off the lights at the end of a (very long) day.

Last night I asked my Youngest Son (who has witnessed that-which-I-write-about) if it is me. Am I doing something wrong? Do you see something I don't see? I am speaking English ... aren't I?

Amazingly, his answer is that I need to be firmer. There is no respect. They simply don't care what I say. They literally and figuratively do what ever they want the moment I turn my back.

*** So much for me not writing about my Daycare Day ... (sorry) ***

I need a plan. I so need a plan. We need to get out of this rut. Not being outside is not helping us (this morning feels like -36 with the wind chill). My plan was to have the downstairs playroom up and running to get us through these frigid temperatures.

Our house is full-to-capacity and there is far too much stuff downstairs to make this a free reign, no rules kind of zone. So ... we did the next best thing. We (not so much we as he - my Youngest Son) utilized the gating system that I purchased to teach my new one-year-old boundaries (it sort of worked).

We went straight to work after our supper (once again thanks to My Youngest ... I was fully prepared to lose myself to chocolate bars and reruns of the Gilmore Girls). We came up with this:



It is not exactly what I hoped for. I really wanted the kids to have free reign to run, play, make noise with minimal 'rules'. Our gating system is more a boundary than a deterrent. One push and it would capsize. Boxes of toys have been covered with a sheet so that kids don't look at all-they-don't-have and want what is out of reach instead of what is readily accessible. There is a large pile of 'stuff' that belongs to my Middle Son which is tucked away but taking up valuable real estate. But at least it is ... different.

My Youngest Son has the patience of Job. He kept persevering even when I talked on the phone and motioned for him to go ahead and quit since I was not being of any assistance. He kept on going. Our gating system threatened not to work. If I had been working on this on my own, I would have walked away and come back to it another day. My Youngest assessed the problem and realized that we had a faulty panel. Something was bent and contorted in a way that made impossible to connect it to the wall. We exchanged panels (thankfully we had a spare one from the matching set upstairs) and voila! It worked.

I vacuumed. He puttered. We created a little haven that our cats were discovering with joy. 

Senior Cat was like a dirty shirt. He was in and around and watching over us every step of the way. It was like he couldn't wait for us to finish so he could go and explore.

Junior Cat was wary. He saw a 'cage'. He has issues with being held against his will. He looked at our rickety gating system and I could almost hear him breathing faster and his heart rate going up. He walked straight into a corner and started acting like he was caged. All he had to do was back up and he was a free cat but he kept swiping at the netting as if to say "Let me out of here!!" He walked into the other corner and Senior Cat (who was perched atop a small end table assessing the situation) swiped at Junior in a playful "I'm the King of the Castle" sort of way. 

Eventually both of them relaxed at the same time and simply started to explore. Senior was elated to find all of the hiding places and hidden 'tunnels' (he found his way under the piano bench and popped up like a little gopher, in behind my Middle Son's filing cabinet which was adjacent to the piano). We laughed and we laughed. It was like watching two innocent children discover a new playground.

The cats were thrilled to find familiar belongings rearranged in different ways and a new 'room' to play in. The gating system means different things to different cats. Senior knew that he was fully in control of where he wanted to be so the barricade held no significance to him. Junior had a completely different association with the same scenario. He immediately panicked. But once he realized that this small fence was surmountable, he was on his way to checking out the new playground.

Something tells me that this same line of thinking is going to run through my various children as we discover a new area-of-play within the house. I predict that my little one-year-old will immediately test the boundaries. I suspect that my three-year-old will be the first to want to play-with-that-which-he-cannot-see. My four-year-old will be wary of the newness initially, but will be the first to settle in and really play. And my two-year-old? She will copy what she sees.

It is like I have a representation of the human population within my little daycare world. Leaders, followers, trail blazers and those that simply go with the flow. It is all fine and good if you have a good leader. If you don't? Watch out world ... you are in trouble. 

We simply have to impeach our leader.

** Microcosm (noun)
1. a community, place, or situation regarded as encapsulating in miniature the characteristics of something much larger.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Keeping Thoughts Positive

First and foremost, I apologize for yesterday's rant. I almost went back and deleted the post in its entirety. But ... I didn't. Sometimes small truths (that I can't hear within the clutter of my mind) seep out of my fingertips and I see things more clearly once I've allowed my brain to fingertip connection to run freely. So I left it.

I do believe that a person sees what they need to see, when they see it. Yesterday, this found its way into my line of vision:


From that moment on, I consciously tried to monitor my thoughts. I am transparent. I know that I wear my thoughts on my face as clear as day. So I tried to think better thoughts (then I let my Wild Child fall into a natural state of slumber before my very eyes and I felt oh-so-much calmer) ...

I played music yesterday. All day. Music calms me. Jeffery Straker makes me happy from the inside, out. Patty Shukla is my favorite for the kids. We sing. We dance. We jump. We even scream (only when directed by the music!!). We release our inner selves as we lose ourselves in the music. 

By the day's end, I was at peace. I sat on the floor as my three little people (my little dancing one-year-old package of joy had already gone home) sat on the couch with their various babies, blankets and the LeapPad. Three sets of feet sat before me. I tickled feet. The kids smiled genuinely happy smiles. We tittered. We laughed. We ended our day on a (musical) note of happy.

Little ideas are coming to the forefront of my mind. Christmas stuff. Creative little morsels of 'maybe this will work'. 

December is not my favorite month. It forces me to do what I endeavor to do all year. To give of myself. I like when the sense of giving trickles out of me like a good mood. I do not like it when I let the expectations of the Christmas season make me feel inadequate and empty.

In the end, I am always grateful for that little push to go beyond what is expected. It is not a bad idea to feel that 'push' from time to time. It helps us become more of who we are to begin with. 

We are four days into the month of December. The world is providing me what I need to see to get through this season that has the power to deplete me. 

It is a little bit like my Daycare Family. They push me to places that I need to be. I see more and feel more because I am surrounded with fun-loving, innocent bundles of joy and happiness. These (sometimes) sleep deprived little parcels of energy also have the power to deplete me. 

The key (for me) is getting a good night's sleep and waking up with the attitude that I can do it all over again. Only better. Life always seems to give me an opportunity for a re-do. It is up to me to make the most of it. 

I will try it all over again today. And the day after that. And the day after that ...

We are very fortunate that life is full of second chances. We are very wise indeed, when we make the most of what we are given.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Loud

What do you do when you can't turn down the volume in your day? Really. I truly want to know your answer.

I run a daycare. I must have known that I would have 'days like this'. Why am I so shell shocked by yesterday?

Because I was told, "NO MORE NAPS" for my Wild Child. I have no idea what expression my face contorted to when this mother told me this mere seconds after she walked in the door. But it couldn't have been pretty.

This child is a wild one. The more tired he gets, the wilder he gets. He will stand up and simply scream a mixture of consonants and vowels that nowhere nearly resemble any word within our language. Then bursts of energy explode within him. I swear that he does these things uncontrollably in an effort to keep himself awake.

And I have an epidemic of children-copying-each-other going on here. Need I say more?

Our Monday usually starts off like a picture postcard. Kids come in and slowly discover the new toys I have brought out for the new week. There is a gentle segue into the week ahead of us. I sit back. I take pictures. I breathe deeply knowing the moment won't last. But I savor those moments for as long as I have them.

Yesterday?

There was NO peace. Not from the moment go. Wild Child started running and screaming the moment he walked in the door and started leading the others down a terribly steep and slippery slope. And it was not yet 8:00 a.m.

I gathered them for breakfast. That helped. But not much. And not for long.

I sat down on the floor with them and I 'led them in play' with a new educational toy about letters. I lost them after ... no. I didn't lose them. I never really had them to begin with. But we sat down and sang about six letters.

I have been working on an alphabet book for them and had several pictures with things that begin with the letter "A" for them to cut out. The scissors held great fascination. I lost the two-year-old at 'hello'. The four-year-old was intrigued and had the attitude of never giving up. The three-year-old Wild Child cut his paper into tiny smithereens (I guess I should have warned his mother about this at the day's end but the ringing in my ears had not yet stopped from his incessant screams so I forgot. I hope he didn't cut his mom's hair last night).

Then we read "The A Book". They were so far gone by this time that I knew I was singing to the choir.

So we went outside. I thought that it was warmer than it actually was. The wind chill was c-c-c-cold! I accidentally froze them into submission for as long as our walk lasted. I enjoyed this in a frigid and cold sort of way ...

We came back inside and I turned on "Max and Ruby". Ahhh. The combination of thawing out and the mesmerizing effect of the TV was a winner. I had exactly ... ten minutes or less to savor this first voluntary moment of calmness within our day.

And it was only 10:30.

It was the longest day in my history of babysitting. I survived. The children survived. But I was such a wreck at the day's end, that I turned off all of the lights (including the Christmas lights) upstairs and retreated into the quietest, most secluded corner in the house.

The only reason we all made it through the day intact is because I laid the Wild Child down for a nap. I didn't let him sleep long. He woke up in the same agitated over-the-top obnoxious mood that he was in before he went to sleep (still tired, obviously). But I had one and a half hours of complete quiet. I couldn't even enjoy it because I knew that it was not what this mother had instructed me to do.

I may have to 'quit' this child. He is beyond my reach. I have taken care of him for fifteen months of his forty one months of living. One third of his life. And I have made no headway with this situation that I recognized long ago. It has gone from bad to worse.

I have no choice but to try this all over again today. I will see how it goes. But you can be certain that a conversation with the mother is formulating in my mind. I can't go on like this (to make matters worse, this is the same mom that is habitually a half hour to one and a half hours late - with no phone call). My solution is sounding easier by the moment.

Sorry about the rant. Sometimes my answers come to me when I write. So I wrote. I still don't know my answer because I don't like to give up on children. But I have to be working together on this, with the parent. Therein lies my answer ...

We are in on this together or you are on your own. When it comes to relationships of any kind, this has been my final answer. I am a three strikes, you are out kind-of-girl.

Strrrrike one!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cat Update

I am sure that reading about my Daycare World is becoming repetitive, boring and tedious (welcome to my world??) so I have decided to take a break from my young dependants and talk for a little while about my furry ones instead.

As I have mentioned, both of our kitties have been doctoring for quite some time. Junior Cat (who adopted us at the end of May) has had chronic diarrhea since we met and Senior cat developed pneumonia in August.

Spoiler Alert - Don't they look hale and hearty? Junior Cat is waiting for his turn at the water dish. He wasn't so patient in the days there was soft cat food in the dish.
 Dare I say it ... but things are looking oh-so-much-better for both of our furry felines. 

Senior Cat was my biggest concern. He wasn't able to bounce back from his pneumonia and his vet (after several doses of antibiotic didn't work for the long term) suggested steroids. If he had asthma, steroids would help. If he had cancer, steroids would prevent her from diagnosing and treating it ... but they would make him feel better. We opted for steroids.

The steroids finally got rid of Senior Cat's cough. This was a start. We then doubled the dosage and he (finally) started to gain some weight. The dosage was halved two weeks ago and (drum roll please) ... he hasn't looked this good since before all of this began.

He is still not quite back to his kitten-like ways. Wrestling and cat chases are short lived and sporadic. But they do happen on occasion. He has gained almost a pound (he was down to seven pounds) and although you can still feel the bones in his spine when you pet his back, they are now cushioned with a small layer of fat. His coat is lustrous and healthy, he is socializing ever-so-much-more and he is purring much more often (not the monster purr that was his signature ... but his purr is so much less 'rusty'). 

His eyes are soft and loving when he looks at me. I wish I knew what he was thinking. Is he faking it? Is he grateful that we helped him back to where he is? He just looks ... good. And happy. And grateful.

Andre hasn't slept on the back of this couch for a while (he used to 'live' here).
Meanwhile, our Junior Cat is flourishing in every way. His diarrhea never did appear to bother him (it did bother the rest of the household however). We tried everything. Strong and powerful antibiotics, intensive deworming absolutely no food besides the cat food that his previous owner insisted was 'best'. Last month, I talked to the dietician at our vet's office. She recommended a gastro intestinal cat food that they stock. It was guaranteed to work (even a money back guarantee).

Well, it took a few weeks longer than they guaranteed ... but I do believe it is now safe to say (I have been cautiously hopeful for a while now) ... but I believe it worked!! The side benefit is that our Senior Cat's turn around in health coincided with the introduction of this new cat food as well. His coat has never looked shinier. Shedding is down to a minimum. They eat this food like it is candy. I may have referred to this food a time or two as 'gold nuggets' ... it is expensive. But I think that it has been the turn around point for both of our kitties! I simply could not be happier. Or more grateful.

"I am healthy! Hear me ROAR!!" says Junior Kitty
 My gratitude is overwhelming. But it is tinged with sadness. Our vet diagnosed and treated Senior Cat with minimal tests. She went by instinct, previous experience and knowledge and offered her best guess. The dietician talked to me on the phone and knew exactly what to suggest. Junior Cat's symptoms were not life threatening but they were chronic. No one prior had been able to steer me in the right direction.

A life threatening and a chronic health situation were all but cured. Six months later, we are coming out the other side of this little mini drama of the cat-kind. I would be so much happier ... if only the same cures and diagnoses were working as well for many others of the non-cat-kind. 

Life is funny. Sometimes we get what we hope for. Sometimes ... we don't.

As happy as I am for my cats, I am saddened even moreso for those who have not been so lucky. If we can fix what ails us, we are very fortunate indeed ...