Tuesday, June 29, 2010


When my kids were little I worked hard not show fear of any spiders, bugs and all things creepy crawly, including hamsters. That came about because of a memory of a neighbour when I was a kid, who had to come to our house until her husband got home, because Barn Swallows had built a nest above her front door and she was terrified of them when they came swooping down at her. She had three kids who took in her every fear.

So when I had my own kids, I took a deep breath and pretended that that Daddy Long Legs crawling on my hand was my new best friend. Lord knows I was screaming my head off inside myself. Did you ever hear that urban legend as a kid about the woman who never brushed her hair and a spider laid eggs in it and all those baby spiders came crawling out of her head? That story didn't help me get any less fearful. Are you scratching your hair right now? I am. But honestly? The little pitter patter of hamsters feet across my skin made me want to crawl out of my skin. I'm getting freaked out just thinking about it.

One day, when my kids were all teenagers and had proven fearless when it came to every living thing (well, except maybe for their mother) I told my daughter that no, actually I had no desire to hold her hamster and that I actually didn't like them. This after having cages of hamsters that I took great interest in. I think she still feels like I was a traitor, lier, what have you. (Do you daughter?)

Between last night and this morning we have caught 5 mice in traps on the counter. Sometimes they are still alive. Makes me shiver just thinking about it. Dearest one went on a road trip this morning to a family member's funeral so either I wait until he gets back to deal with the traps/mice or I will have to deal with them myself. I bet any one of my kids could do it without getting freaked out at all. Is this one of those things they'll thank me for later?

Photo credit

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Worthwhile 10 Minutes

I found this video link through clicking links on another blog. My thoughts today have been on those who have died recently and those who are fighting to live. I love the mother's countenance especially.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sleep Tight

It's been a long day.
I write that as a starting sentence to most of my posts
and then I delete it because I think it sounds whiny.
Tonight I don't care because I am bushed.

Last night I made myself up a list of things
to accomplish today.
Every third item was "write."
I had grand plans to get many words written today
on the second draft of my novel.
Tomorrow is the deadline for another 2500 word rewrite.

But you know, I couldn't get rid of the nagging thought
that I needed to phone my sponsor and offer to help
her with her garden today.
She has been away in city far away as her husband
gets radiation treatments for his inoperable cancer.
She stopped in last night on her way home
and it was so good to connect again.

So there I was weeding in her garden when I said to God,
"My back and dearest one's knee are going to hurt like hell
tonight because of this. Could you like, you know, make the pain go away because we're doing a good deed here."

And into my head came the thought that um, sacrifice isn't really sacrifice
if it doesn't cost you something.

Oh, right. And I chuckled to myself.
Tonight I feel a good weariness.
The kind that comes when you've done
fulfilling physical work.

I sat at the computer tonight without the foggiest idea what the next sentence in my book was going to be. I just about decided not to write at all because I was too tired to think straight. I had no idea how I was going to solve a dilemna in the story when I closed my eyes and put myself into the scene. And what should happen but one of the characters said something to another character and the dilemna was solved. I know that sounds weird. It sounds weird to me, too.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Close To His Heart

It's been a long day.
I made a three hour round trip
to see my spiritual director.
From the first time I saw him
nearly 5 years ago, he has talked
about putting together the
pieces of my puzzle, my story.

Today another piece slipped into place.
It caught me totally offguard.
Snot nosed tears gushed.
I've worked hard to keep my tears to myself
most of my life although these past 3 years
I have become more willing to honour them.

Sometimes tears catch me unaware with
the force of vomit.
Today was one of those days.

Then this evening came the news
of a suicide of one
of dearest one's relatives.
Caught us offguard.
The fourth suicide affecting
us or people we know in
the past few weeks.
This week is the anniversary
of this friend's suicide.

I am so grateful that even in this there is no need to drink.
The only way I've been able to come to terms with the suicides over the years that have affected me directly, from my granny's at age 90, to my friend Ron, to this latest suicide, is that there is no understanding the why of it. It just is.

As I was in my spiritual director's office today I happened to glance at a paper on the floor beside my chair whose title stated something to the effect that God holds the souls of those who commit suicide close to his heart.


Twelve years already.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hello World

I've been listening to this song on the way to work every day these past few weeks. I get like that sometimes. A song gets stuck in my head and it's on repeat for a very long time. I can hear my family groan at the familiarity of that habit of mine. This morning I had a moment when I was overcome with awe at creation and how we are both created by the Creator. I had to swallow back the tears as I was pulling into my parking spot at work.

I'm on the home stretch as far as work goes. Another day in the office and then I'm done for the summer. I am ready for a break. I've been reflecting on my attitudes/actions at work this week as I drive. So much room for improvement. I sure can have an attitude in a heart beat. I'm trying to remember that a bad attitude does not make me a bad person. I am grateful for the grace to look inward and upward.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Crazy Shit

I was driving to town yesterday feeling incredible gratitude for this beautiful summer convinced I've never appreciated it like I do this year. The thought flitted through my head that such gratitude and awareness must mean this will be my last summer. That's how my brain works.

I know.
Crazy shit.

This morning as I was watering my flowers (aren't they pretty?) I was thinking about that again and realized it was just a different take on that belief which drives me crazy ~ that life is so good, too good, so it must surely come crashing down soon. Whenever I hear other people talk like that I run around in circles in my head screeching NO at the top of my lungs. It's shitty theology to believe that God will surely heap misery on their heads because they're enjoying life as it is. It was a good come uppance to realize I still think like that, too. It had just shape shifted a bit so I couldn't recognize it as easily.

So I'm going to enjoy my flowers and the summer and leave it at that. There are people close to me fighting for their lives this summer that I am hyper aware of the gift of life and shitty theology. I am so grateful that AA teaches God is a loving God.

I chaired a business meeting yesterday and watched as it triggered my need-to-keep-everyone-happy button. I didn't realize it was still so present and willing to take front and center stage. Someone seemed offended at a group decision and shut down instantly. So instantly that they never said another word all meeting nor in the meeting after that. When they left as soon as we were done saying the Lord's prayer I had to stifle the urge to run after them and try to make it okay. I wanted to take responsibility for their shutting down. The anxiety I felt at not making it all better escalated somewhat and I had to really work at letting go of it and keeping to my side of the street. Chairing business meetings is not my favourite thing to do. I realized yesterday that I consider I've done a good job only if there is no conflict.

I know.
Crazy Shit.

It is a gift that we keep getting opportunities to recognize crazy shit. And hopefully the pile of it gets smaller every time the same shit appears on my radar screen. Once I told Fr. Charlie that it seemed like I kept dealing with the same shit different pile and he told me that I was further along on the journey and seeing it from a different perspective now. At that time I thought the goal was to eliminate crazy shit altogether.

I sat here this morning and enjoyed my breakfast while listening to a chorus of song birds greet the day. When I went to sleep last night after midnight there were still remnants of the setting sun filtering through the trees. Now that is not crazy shit. To me it's a piece of heaven.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


"Is having a drink going to change anything or will it all still be the same tomorrow when I wake up?"
That was the question I asked myself in a dream last night.

I can't remember the last time I had a drinking dream but in this one I had 20 containers that looked like miniature oil lamp vials you see in restaurant center pieces. They were filled with vodka which I have no idea how it tastes. Once my sister and I found my mom's vodka stash under her bathroom sink and poured most of it down the drain and filled the bottle back up with water. I bet that pissed her off the next time she took a drink. It may be why vodka held no interest for me.

There was no one in my dream who cared I was going to blow my sobriety except me.
And once that question at the top of this post went through my head I put the vodka down without taking a sip, and shoved the tray away that held all the rest, too.

Dreams are so weird.


It is beautiful and sunny here today.
I am looking forward to mowing grass and doing some writing.
My instructor says my novel has great potential to be saleable.
I am loving and hating writing it
as it has taken on a life of its own
that I feel I have no control over.
It's totally pointless to tell a character
"Hey, get back over here right now and do as I say!"
My main character may be living in 1912
but she still knows how to flip me the bird.


By the end of the summer all my adult children will most likely
be living in towns far away. I feel sad about that although I
am happy they are making their own lives and are functioning
as fully independent adults. I never realized that was the goal
while I was raising them. Not kidding. It didn't occur to me.

I am grateful that I have learned that life after kids means
living my own life to the fullest.
I didn't manage to learn that until after they were grown.
Bafore that I was too busy telling them
to get back over here right now and do as I say.

There was a point when it would have served us both well
if they would have flipped me the bird.
It took me until I was 38 years old
to individuate from my mother.
I am grateful they have started that journey
far sooner than I did.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Little Things

Some days I think there is just too much sadness in this world.
I feel like bad news is piling up,
bad news of all kinds of people's lives.
Unexpected illnesses and deaths especially.
I feel like ripping off the grip of death
and it makes me feel so powerless to not
be able to do a thing to change the outcome.

That kind of thing puts life into perspective for me instantly.
Like a jolt of caffeine it makes me wake up and take notice of the little things.

There is one flower in bloom on my Evening Scented Stocks. I pick up the container every time I walk by it and inhale as deeply as I can. It smells heavenly. In short order there will be dozens of blooms as you come up my walkway. Smelling its perfume is like having your senses serenaded. That one little bloom makes me feel like all is right in the world even when it isn't.

At The Crack Of Dawn

It looks like morning at 4 AM here now.
We've had two yearling deer meandering around the yard in the early morning.
They step tentatively, ready to flee at any moment.
It must take a lot of energy to live in such a state.

I am not at all ready for work this morning.
We're into the home stretch before summer holidays start.
It's difficult to get motivated
when you're counting the days to an 8 week break.
I know, oh poor me.
Suck it up already.
What a gift to get such a long time off.
Even without a paycheck.
I know that.

I've been plugging along at my novel,
rewriting it in First Person.
Every time I submit an assignment I receive
increasing hope that I really can do this.
I've let go of having a manuscript ready for
the end of August to send to a publishing house
that still takes complete manuscripts.
I have hopes that mine won't end up in the slush pile.
I have a 35 year old bet with my younger brother
to have a book published by the time I hit the
big 5-0. I have two years to see my name on the cover of a book.
I have mulled over big time how I will feel
if I lose the bet.
Dearest one tells me it will be an exercise
in wishing I had started earlier.

I have spent much of my life stepping tentatively
just like those yearling deer do in my yard every morning.
Somewhere along the way I lost my need to do that
and I am grateful.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Summer seems like such a miracle.
I can't remember being so thankful
for sunshine and warm weather.
Chances are I was last year
but it seems impossible.

I wrote the above this morning
and then got on with my day.
Today was my birthday.
It didn't feel like it
which is weird
but it didn't.

I went to my home group meeting this morning.
I very clearly heard, or at least think I did,
from my HP this past week,
"You need to listen more (in meetings)."
For all I know I imagined I heard that
but it did come out of the blue when I was talking to God
about me in meetings and some troubling things
about myself that I see in relation to all that.
So I didn't call attention to the fact that it was my birthday
although someone in my home group gave me a birthday card
which was nice.

I spent the afternoon at a graduation.
As the sole support staff for this little school
I sat with all the teachers.
When I saw they were going to give out thank you gifts
I was confronted once again with my feelings of insecurity
around stuff like this. That I will be forgotten. It's an
insecurity that has its roots in my toddlerhood,
an incident that obviously still affects me.
One Christmas at my grandparents.
My older brother and my cousin are
running around the livingroom with new cowboy hats
and shiny new toy guns complete with holsters.
I tug on my brother's pant leg and ask where my gift is.
He stops firing off his gun long enough to tell me
I'm too small to get a gift.
I feel invisible.

This afternoon I worked through in a few minutes,
how I would feel if the students
had only bought gifts for the teachers.
I decided I wouldn't take it personally.
I asked myself if I would be okay and the answer was yes.
And before the teachers went up to receive their gifts
I reframed the whole situation as a gift from my HP
to work through this issue again.
I'm grateful I didn't freeze with panic.
That I was able to separate out today
from that day long ago despite the old feelings surfacing.

I wanted to tell one of my coworkers
that today was my birthday
but I recognized that this day,
the reason we were all gathered,
was for the graduates.
That if I mentioned it
she would get the whole crowd
to sing happy birthday to me
and I knew instinctively
that I needed to let this day
have its proper focus.

That was hard to do.
But, by the grace of God, I did it.

Those two things, the gift issue and the birthday one
might seem like little things
to some people.
But to me,
it's huge growth for me to sort and filter
and not let my ego run the show.
I know I'm not alone in this.
That most likely all of you struggle with ego, too.

I stopped at my sponsor's house on the way home.
Her partner is seriously ill with inoperable cancer
so I hadn't said anything to her about my birthday.
When she noticed my new silver crucifix necklace
I did tell her it was a birthday gift.
Stopping by to see her was my gift to myself today.
I usually do that every year. Do something for myself
that is a gift. We spent an hour together in a comforting
conversation. There is part of me that doesn't
want to walk with her through this time of her life.
It's too hard.
I also recognize it for the sacredness that it holds.

As we walked to my car she took my hand and
we walked hand in hand for a while.
I felt like a little girl
holding hands with one of my best friends.
It was very precious to me.
I know of no other woman I could be okay
to do that with.
Sometimes those little gestures
say so much.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

I Could Be Wrong

"I'm sorry."
She said it three times within a few minutes as I asked for papers that not two minutes before I'd given back to her and said I was finished with. It was me who needed to apologize. Three separate pages, three separate "I'm sorry's".

The paperwork got sorted out and she went on her way. I sat there and thought about our reputation as Canadians to apologize for things that aren't ours to own. If I accidentally bump into someone in a store they are most likely to apologize and I've found myself doing the same thing many times. Apologizing for being in the way of someone who isn't watching where they are going is ridiculous.

While other people might need to learn to stop apologizing and realize when they are right, I have most needed to learn how to say, "I could be wrong." At first it was really hard to get those words out of my mouth as I had prized myself on being right about most everything. Even when I was wrong I was still right in my mind. Dearest one and I would be talking about the most mundane things and I had to learn that my opinion was not necessarily fact.

It took a while for me to believe I could be wrong. Every so often now when it rolls off my tongue (not that it only rolls off my tongue every so often, more like daily) but, once in a while when I hear myself using that phrase, I am amazed that I came to own it and believe it; that I came to be at peace about being wrong. And there are times when I don't want to say it, don't believe it possible. Of course there are. But that it's not my default setting is nothing short of miraculous. Really.

These are the kind of changes that make me teary. The kind of changes that are impossible to make on my own strength. I didn't learn this in church. During most of the last 20 years of being in faith communities I learned to stand firm in my rightness. No, I learned to accept that I could be wrong, am often wrong, through the fellowship of AA. Through working the 12 steps. Through watching people who I admire in the fellowship conduct themselves with a humility that is impossible to possess if they are expending all their energy in being right. I wanted what they had. I still do.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Carrying The Message

"Your phone system is a piece of shit."

I'm standing in the grocery store
returning a phone call to a stranger.
I listen as she tells me how no one answered
their phone when she'd called for help the other night.
She spits out words in rapid stacatto
like high heels echoing on a wooden floor.

I take a few deep breaths.
I'm not good at reading between the lines but I try.
I hear fear and anger and more fear as she talks.
I know I'm not really the target of her feelings
and while I won't take shit from her
I also won't take her anger personally.
This might be the first time she has ever reached out for help.
I hope it's not the last.

I offer to pick her up and take her to her first meeting tonight.
She says no thanks.
We chat some more and as she goes to say goodbye
I tell her to call again if need be.

I feel inadequate even though I know I have no control over her decisions. That it's truly not about me at all. This is the fourth phone call from a stranger in a short period of time. I'm new at doing this. I still find it unnerving. It always reminds me that I'm not God.

As I put the phone back in my purse and pick up my
grocery basket, I remember what a good friend of mine says,
"You carry the message, not the person."
Even though I know it is insanity to think it, sometimes I wish one could do both.
Just a little ways.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Where We Are Headed

"If you go this way you only have to turn right, if you go the other way you have to make two lefts."
I pause and then realize what I'm doing.
"Oops, sorry I was telling you how to drive."

He makes his way to the highway and I ask him if he had been impressed earlier in the day, when we were in big city far away, without a map and on an unfamiliar street, that I hadn't gotten bossy and tried to tell him how to drive.

He replies that he was although there had been a bit of snarkiness in my voice when I'd told him he had lucked out when we blindly turned onto a familiar street, the same street that would get us out of the city of a million people without making another turn for 60 blocks. He said it calmly and I calmly admitted that yep, I had had a bit of snarkiness in there. I apologized.

We talked about how he processed what was going on within him at my snarkiness and how I processed my fear that we were in a big city without my meticulous, turn right on 11th Ave. and then left on 23rd st. directions that I normally write. The directions that make me feel safe and secure to know where we are headed and how to get there. My snarkiness was part relief of recognizing a familiar street and part plain bitchiness that he hadn't seemed in the least fazed when it appeared that we didn't know how to get where we were going. Misery likes company and all that jazz.

If you only knew how these kind of situations used to turn into ugly fights that racheted up the stress level until it crowded the roof of the car and seeped out of the windows. It is amazing to me that we can have a matter of fact conversation about my shit and his shit without getting the lines blurred and with both of us coming out of it with a new awareness of ourselves, encouraging each other in that awareness and having not taken one iota of the conversation personally.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


It's ridiculously late but I need to unwind before I go to sleep.
Somehow it escaped my rational mind that we would drive 600 miles to spend 6 hours with family and then turn around and drive home.

Tonight as I hugged my parents and sisters and various children goodbye
it all seemed surreal.
"I'll be there in 5 minutes." I call to dearest one.
Five more minutes with my sister.

There is something about the prairies that calls to me and fills me with longing.
I really believe the landscape itself sears itself into ones' very being.
At one point today we stopped on a little side road that had wild roses and prairie sage. I took a deep breath and for some reason decided right then and there that when I go on a private retreat it needs to be on the prairies, surrounded by stubby trees and sparse grass. The wind needs to blow through my hair, too. A random thought out of the blue but one that settled within instantly.

Anyway it is way past bedtime and as luck will have it I will wake up in a few hours to begin the long trek home.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Across The Prairies

You know you're sick when
you book an appointment for a student
and when they come back an hour later
to discuss another issue you offer
to make them an appointment again
and they hold up the appointment card
with your own handwriting on it
that you wrote an hour ago
and you have no memory of it.
That was way too long of a sentence.

I puked my way to town this morning.
It's hard to drive and puke at the same time.
I stayed home yesterday
and would have stayed home today
except all other staff were out of town
and we had students coming in for a
weekly teleconferencing class.

So I stayed until they were done
and went home right on their heels.

Tonight we planted the garden.
It was my idea.
It's late getting into the ground.
I bitched and moaned my way through
dropping seeds into rows.
I'd forgotten that I am a whiny sick person.
It's supposed to rain tonight
and I wanted those seeds in the ground
to take advantage of the moisture.

Tomorrow we are headed on a trip
to see family 600 miles away.
I am hoping I don't puke my way
across the prairies.
I am trusting that tomorrow will
be better than today.
I am grateful to be sober
and to be welcomed at a family event.
That could so totally be a different story.

My writing instructor commented today
that I seemed a little intense.
I laughed out loud at his statement.
Ya think?
A few of us talked outside the meeting
last weekend about how intense we each were.
I wonder if that is a common trait among alcoholics.

I wish I didn't think of it as a negative trait
but I do.
My boss is not an intense person at all.
I began to get an inkling that I could be
when she would hold up her hand
like a stop sign,
and preface what she wanted me to do
with, You don`t have to do it this minute.
Which made me realize I`d been jumping up from my desk
to do whatever task was required.
Funny how other people can show us who we are
without directly pointing it out.
Now I try to stay glued to my seat when she talks.

I`ll be offline until Sunday.
Have a great weekend.