Monday, August 30, 2010

Worth It

It's been a day.
This morning I asked God to direct my thoughts and my actions.Youngest son left for a city far, far, away before I left for work.I waited until he was gone to cry.

Work was crazy busy.
I am glad I like my work.
There were many interruptions and work left undone.
Which means tomorrow is a work day not a day off.
I could have been done except I chose to take some extra time to truly listen to someone who had a heavy heart. We are just not meant to carry burdens alone.

I used my litebook this morning in hopes of it helping me feel more rested in the mornings. We'll see. Last winter it helped my mood considerably.
I've been grumpy for a week now.
I haven't been grumpy much in the past three years and it feels uncomfortable.
I'm trying to be gentle with myself while being proactive about it, too.

This video gave me instant perspective.
Perspective is a great antidote to self pity.
Sometimes it makes you cry, too.

Photo Credit

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Diddly Squat

I didn't feel like going
to my meeting today.
I wanted to stay home.
A place I have yet to be for more than a night's sleep,
and sometimes not even that,
in nearly 2 weeks.
But you know what?
I went.

I went because I could and this is my home group
and I made a commitment when it became my home group
that I would show up when possible.
And today it was possible.
I just didn't want to.
There are some times when what I want doesn't matter diddly squat.

All this to say that I had an unexpected epiphany
while listening during the meeting.
It wasn't something anyone said.
I was simply sitting there, opening myself up to
whatever God had for me,
when into my head came an answer to something I wasn't even looking for.
I had to gulp so I wouldn't start sobbing.
It felt like that much of a gift.

Later dearest one and I stopped in to visit a fried who most likely does not have a whole lot of time left to live. We don't know for sure but we wonder.
And we visited with him and his spouse and had a lot of laughs.
Belly laughter.
A gift.

I marvelled at our friend's merry face in the midst of pain and suffering.
It was as if his face was lit up from the inside.
Part of me wanted to take his arm, matchstick that it has become,
and shake him while asking why the laughter, why the light when
death seems to be creeping in? How is it possible?
But today was not a day for those kind of questions.
At least not of him.

Photo Credit

Friday, August 27, 2010


It is good to be home.
It is cold and rainy and the perfect weather for lying on the couch under a blanket and watching TV or reading a book.
Tomorrow we'll go buy groceries and replenish the cupboards.
I try not to take that privilege for granted.
Because it is a privilege.

One of the Puglies didn't recognize me when I came home and it took several seconds of talking to him before he did. I think that means I've been gone a bit much lately.

Today one of my coworkers said that getting older sucks.
I may feel 80 today, exhaustion still hanging around,
but I have to say that getting older is a gift.
It means we are alive.
I told her that.
Normally I wouldn't.
I'd just think it.
But whatever life brings, it's still life, ya know?
As my Dad would say, "It's better than the alternative."

Photo Credit

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It Is What It Is

How many days can I write about exhaustion
before you get exhausted reading about it?
C'est la vie.
I am going out of town for work this morning.
Which meant I could sleep in.
I managed a whole 11 minutes worth.
My body, once it gets on a schedule, really wants me to stick to it.

My heart rate has been elevated all week plus doing flip flops.
It does that every so often and I'm sure it adds to the tiredness.
After being thoroughly checked out regularly by cardiologists
over the years it is what it is.

Yesterday I had an opportunity to be actively compassionate towards a coworker. I took it. I can't come up with those ideas on my own. On my own it's all about me, me, me. So I am grateful for the grace to follow through, on the days when I actually hear a nudge. I'm sure I am given many more opportunities a day that don't even register on my consciousness.

My coworker is grieving a very difficult loss. Sometimes you just need to hash out the details again and again because they are really too horrifying to let roll around in your brain unspoken. I made a commitment to her yesterday to listen for as long as it takes. I managed to zip my lip and not say one pithy statement either.

I doubt there is a thing you can say to a grieving person that helps. There are lots of things that get said that are damaging. Someone once told me after I miscarried that I was never meant to have babies anyway. I never really grieved that loss (not because of what the person said, it wasn't their fault) until years later when my body was threatening to miscarry again and the ultrasound technician showed me the tiny heartbeat of my 7 week old son. Who is now youngest son.

Well, it is time to eat breakfast and pack.
I have a great group of people to travel with today even though I much prefer to drive by myself. That isn't an option so I am going to make the best of what is today.

Photo Credit

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Goal

I should be asleep. I am beyond tired. I know that sounds dramatic. Overly so. Everything sounds that way when I am sleep deprived. I don't know why sleep won't come tonight but so far it hasn't. It will. In good time. Maybe in time to go to work tomorrow. Sarcasm is not my friend anymore so when it pops up in my writing or talking it's not good. I do not miss sarcasm being my friend. I spent far too much energy over my lifetime being proud of my sarcastic, cynical mindset. I thought being that way meant I was enlightened. You know, grounded in reality, instead of being airy fairy like those positive people were. It's been such a shock to realize what I once thought was THE TRUTH wasn't. Very humbling. Makes me wonder what else I'm wrong about although I'm alternating open to finding out and not. That's better than not all by itself.

I touched base with my sponsor tonight. Maybe if I think about that conversation it will help. Sometimes I am astounded by what people have to go through, living life on life's terms. It is not for the faint of heart.

Today I thought alot about a close family member on her way to a funeral on the other side of her family by marriage. Second one this year. I wouldn't blame the remaining family member one bit if they are cursing God because they've lost their spouse and a child within 6 months of each other, both in tragic circumstances. Who wouldn't? I doubt God blames them one little bit either. I just hope they are given the grace to not stay there and the grace to stay there as long as necessary to really scrape the bottom of the pain. Imagining what they are going through could make me feel a little crazy.

I used to cringe when I heard the Lord's name taken in vain, whether out of someone else's mouth or my own. Then I read somewhere that every profanity is in itself a prayer, even if the person saying it doesn't see it that way. Why else would they say that phrase instead of something benign? We all cry out to God in different ways.

Man, there is so much pain in this world.
My goal tomorrow is not to add to it.

PS: Remember in my last post how I'd hoped I hadn't hung up on my supervisor? Yep, I did. We were all standing around discussing that incident today when we both put the pieces together. I looked at her and said, "I bet you just thought you had crappy cell phone reception." And she looked at me and laughed and said that was exactly what she'd thought. God bless bosses with their humanity intact.
Photo Credit

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Little Sleep Helps

It's just past 7:30 in the evening and I am in my flannel nightgown ready for sleep.
My plane was delayed so long last night that it didn't land at my home airport until after midnight. An opportunity to offer a ride to a stranger in order to save her a forty dollar cab fare presented itself.

After the initial internal balking, because I was nearly too tired to drive myself anywhere let alone someone else, I offered and she accepted. There aren't too many strangers who will offer nor others who will take one up on a ride like that but we both did and I met a lovely woman out of the deal.

Afterwards, when I arrived at a friend's house (to save myself an hour's further drive yet), it was wonderful to crawl into the guest bed's clean sheets and heavy blankets. I share that good deed to remind myself that I am capable of being a little less self centered some days. It is always a relief to find that out. I have to work at it because it doesn't come naturally. Dearest one thinks of others naturally. His generous nature is a really beautiful thing to learn from.

The alarm clock went way too early this morning, my first day back at work after 7 weeks off. I did not plan on working all day because I was so tired but I made it through and made it home. There was a point in the day, though, where a coworker and I had an attack of the giggles. You know the kind where you are laughing so hard you aren't making any noise? Ya. That kind. It happened just as I picked up the phone. I have never intentionally hung up the phone at work but all I could do was place it gently back on its rest. It seemed the kindest thing to do. I hope I didn't hang up on my supervisor. Not very professional. It was then that I knew I really needed some sleep.


Photo Credit

Walking Blindly

Memories are such a weird thing.
The other day I was folding laundry.
A harmless task, right?
Just as I brought the edges of a towel together
into my mind popped a conversation I'd had
with a married couple many years ago.
In it I was as graceless as can be
while trying to point out a flaw in their religion.
I was so proud of myself at the time
for putting them in their place.
Dearest one and I were never invited to their house again.

I stood there with the towel in my hands, full of remorse.
Because it wasn't until that moment I realized how unkind I had been.
Often that little bit in the Big Book that talks about being quick to see where religious people are right pops into my head.
Sometimes I want to beat people over the head with that sentence
because I am one of those religious people.
It's okay, I don't see that term as a swear word.
But I understand that many people do.
Probably because they encountered someone like me
behaving like I did on that day many years ago.

But what struck me most about that memory
was how right I felt in the moment.
Shouldn't they thank me for enlightening them?
I truly thought they should.
Totally blind I was.
Totally blind.

I have a little sticky note I sometimes
paste to my computer screen at work.
It says, impulse ------- action.
When I see it I hope to remember
the gap between the two,
especially when it comes to opening my mouth.

Photo Credit

Saturday, August 21, 2010

She Is A Keeper

"We should be home early."

That's part of a text message my mother-in-law sent dearest one a few days ago. I laugh every time she sends one. Not laugh at her but laugh out of pure joy. My mother-in-law. She is a keeper. She tried to talk dearest one out of marrying me the night before we got married. The day after the wedding (we eloped, sort of. no family present) she welcomed me as a daughter even though her heart was breaking at the choice her son made. She showed me what grace looked like and I will be forever grateful to her for that.

I was an atheist. I hated Christians. I mocked them mercilessly. To their face. Especially these ones. No radio. No TV. Women wore dresses. No makeup. It was almost like living on a different planet. Archaic. We lived down the road in a little bunk shack with no running water. People still did that then and considered it normal.

Fast forward to 2010. We have a great relationship (thanks be to God. seriously.) A few years ago I was giving her a hug goodbye before she left on a trip. When I whispered in her ear that I hoped she got to at least one book store she whispered back that I knew her better than some of her own children did. We gave each other a squeeze like it was our little secret.

My mother-in-law still has no radio or TV. She'd get kicked out of her church if she did. But she got a cell phone so that she could send text messages to her children and especially her grandchildren. She loves keeping in touch with them this way.

I laugh every time at the idea of my mother-in-law typing out a text message. This is the way her grandchildren communicate and be darned if she is going to miss out. How can you tell relationship is first and foremost in her heart? How can you not love her? She is a keeper. Her birthday is this week. She'll be eighty-one.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Making A Difference

When you read this I'll be on a plane, going to visit my family. My dad is having a milestone birthday and my sisters and I decided we needed to celebrate it. My poor mother is not in control of the gathering but we promised we'd do all the work so that all she has to do is show up.

Not too much has happened in my home of origin that was not my mom's idea. Excluding the stuff we snuck around behind her back to do. I was so convinced that she knew my every move that when I moved clear across the country once I turned 18, I sometimes thought she knew the shenanigans I was up to and semi consciously braced myself for the shit storm that never came. Turns out she really did not have eyes in the back of her head nor telepathy nor could she see all the way across the country. It took me many years to realize that.

My older sister and I had a comedy of communication errors and so my dad's celebration is two afternoons in a row, depending on which paper you read the announcement in.

I volunteered to be the one to tell my mom we had planned a party at their house, weather permitting, and were inviting the whole community. It was easiest to volunteer because I'm the daughter who lives far away.

The land my dad lives on has been in the family for nearly 100 years. Chances are there are not too many people in the surrounding communities who do not know of him, if they don't know him personally. We want to honour our dad because well, you only live once. And we don't want to wait to gather the community in his honour until after he's dead.

We want him to know he made a difference.

That probably pisses my mom off. I told her we wouldn't throw her a milestone party unless she wants one. She won't. That's okay. People are different. I just wish she could be happy for my dad. I need to let go of that expectation. People can only do what they are capable of doing/being. Myself, included.

One of my sisters came up with the idea that all the grand kids could write a note to their grandpa about what he means to them. My older brother wanted to be in on it, too. That lead to all of us being invited to contribute.

My dad was the nice parent. We used to talk as kids that if they got divorced (and could they please do it so we wouldn't have to wake up at 2 AM listening to their fights anymore?) we'd all want to live with him. They are still together. Had they divorced and had we gone to live with him he would have let us do whatever we wanted while he buried his head behind the newspaper. I doubt that any kid really wants that kind of nice. It's great in daydreams but not in real life.

And so when I got the email inviting me to contribute a note I came face to face with a whole whack of resentment towards him that I didn't even know was there. It just about convinced me not to write a note at all. As if the resentments cancelled out all the good memories.

They don't.

My earliest memories are of my dad. I was two years old and was coming home from the hospital after a serious surgery and my mom took me to his shop. I remember being happy to see my dad. All the men were really kind to me because I'd just about died.

When I was five I was in the hospital and my dad came to see me on his lunch hour. My room was several stories up and we pulled two chairs over to the window and my dad read me a book. I wanted to be on his lap but was too shy to ask. My dad was not cuddly and all that. But he showed up. That counts.

When I was six I broke my arm. It's really hard to change your shirt, (have to have a clean shirt on to go to the hospital you know), when you've broken your arm right near the shoulder. But change it I did because I was told to. I changed into a red shirt. At the hospital a nurse put me in a change room to get into a gown. I got locked in. To this day I still get a little panicky in change rooms that lock. My dad took me for ice cream after I was all fixed up. He bought a green ice cream cone and a pink one and I got to pick which one I wanted. I didn't have many choices as a kid so maybe that's why that one sticks out in my mind.

When I was learning to drive I once took a corner way too fast, so fast that my dad slammed up against the door on the passenger's side. He was brave enough to continue to let me drive after that even though he turned very pale as I careened around that corner. It's hard to keep a vehicle on the road once you turn a corner at 40 mph. We fishtailed for quite a ways and he never even raised his voice. Did you know my dad was prematurely grey?

Some of these things I will write down for him.

Fifteen years ago when he was having a different milestone birthday I wrote him a letter to tell him I wanted a relationship with him. That if he died tomorrow I've have to tell my friends I didn't know him; didn't know who he was as a person. I enclosed a little book with questions for him to answer that would help me get to know what goes around in that head of his. I was crushed when he didn't answer my letter and put the book on the shelf where it still gathers dust.

It took me many years to realize that I was asking something of him that he didn't have the tools to do. He had no tools to navigate the intimacies of below the surface relationships although my sister said once, when they were having an in depth conversation about how things were for us as kids, that she could tell by his face that he wanted to, he just didn't know how.

I thought realizing all that took care of the resentment but I can see now that it didn't. I am grateful to have the tools to know what to do about that.

I wrote this post over a week ago. I debated not posting it because of my obvious issues surrounding my parents. I alternated between wanting to pretty up the post and leaving it as is. Today I decided it is what it is. I am where I am on the journey. They are where they are, too. Lord have mercy on us all.

Photo Credit

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lightening Up

"Shut the lights off!"

My mother hollered that down the hallway more times than I can remember when I was a kid. I was 11 years old during the Energy Crisis. She also turned down the thermostat and the only way to truly feel warm in our house was to sit on a blaring heat register. I was always disappointed when the furnace shut off and my flannel nightgown went cold instantly.I still hear her voice going round in my head if I leave a room without switching off the lights.

Dearest one and I often think we are oddities because if you come to our house and we are in the livingroom, well, that's the only room that is has light. If we go to someone's house and all the lights are on we can get critical lickety split. Dearest one grew up without electricity for much of his childhood. He still loves the light and smell of a coal oil lamp. I have no reference point for them so I don't. They stink. And make me squint if I'm trying to read.

All this to say it is a grey, cloudy day outside. I hope it brings rain. We need it. The cows will be going home in a few weeks because they are eating our pasture faster than it can grow. Dearest one says they should be able to be on pasture until the snow flies. Okay, so the snow could fly in two weeks here, that is not unheard of. But usually it holds off to stay until the end of October.

This morning I went past the kitchen on the way to the living room and realized just how grey and dismal it is outside. On a whim I turned on the lights in the kitchen and dining room just to brighten things up. Light is a hopeful thing. Maybe that's why people have lots of lights on in their houses. I've been critical of something that most likely brightens their mood. I would have never even considered that had I not flipped on a switch unnecessarily this morning.

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Monday, August 16, 2010


(written two weeks ago)

The silence is hard. I've been on self imposed silence since yesterday when dearest one left on a trip. I don't consider myself much of a tv watcher but reached for the remote many times today until I remembered my vow. No music.
No radio news. No tv.
Just me and the puglies.

The only exception I made was to listen to this album while I work on my novel. Many of its lyrics lend themselves to my work, evoking emotions in me that in turn trickle down to my characters. I just finished writing for the day and realized I'd forgotten to turn the music on while I typed.

This morning I had to push down the pile of paper to see the bottom of my computer screen. Tonight my desk is shiny clean. So is the floor. It feels good.

The silence was both disturbing and soothing.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Do I Know You?

He sat across from me, the cannula in his nose snaking its way to the oxygen bottle that rested against his leg. He had puffy patches under his eyes and looked a bit frail. I wondered for a moment if I knew him but dismissed it. I've asked strangers before, "Do I know you?" and only occasionally have I been right.

Instead I picked up a magazine and waited. A few minutes later someone hailed him from across the room and made a beeline in our direction. An old friend. A good, old friend. They gabbed back and forth in the comfortable way that showed they had a lot of history together. Bantered about which golf courses were their favourites. Compared notes on committees they had both served on. Spoke to each other with a gentle air of knowing that life is really just a pouf of time and then it's over. A warmth between two (not even grumpy) old men.

I half listened and half looked at my doctor's office magazine. After a time his friend bid goodbye and then it was just the two of us sitting across from one another, the chairs so close our knees almost touched. When he looked up and smiled my confidence increased. Even at that I had an argument inside myself.

Eventually I won.

"Are you Karen's dad?"

His face broke into her smile, removing all doubt.

"Yes, I am."

Instant tears for both of us at her name. Then we talked. Kindness in his questions. Kindness in his responses. I kept studying his face as if I could pull Karen right out of it. Talking to him made me feel like I could almost reach out and touch her. In his smile I saw her so fully that I just kept wanting to keep him smiling.

"I think about her every day." He welled up as he said it. I did, too. We were quiet then, no segue into a place that knows no sorrow. We just looked at each other with tears and said nothing.

Eventually I asked him about his oxygen use. Sometimes when you are sick it is so nice to have someone understand the ins and outs of what you are dealing with. We talked about how many liters he needed when he sat and when he walked. I knew Karen would have grilled him about this. She would have been worried at the high number he needed to walk.

I'd been thinking of her just a few days ago. Out riding the lawn mower I'd remembered her tale of being so weak that she fell off hers while trying to cut grass in a ditch. She never got on a lawn mower again.

She would be so happy for me that my health took a turn for the better. That I am in a remission of sorts. At least that's what I call it. The geneticist says this is a syndrome of peaks and valleys and I've been mostly on the peaks for several years now. Karen was my main support group while I struggled through many years of debilitating health issues.

Grief feels like an awkward friend to me. Yes, I know it but I don't know what to do with it. Several few years ago when I was in a grief and loss workshop I stood up to present my collage of losses to the group. Other people got all teary explaining theirs but I pointed out this baby lost, that baby lost, plus that baby lost, this brother, that friend like I was reading statistics from a Mathematics manual. Since then I've read that when you cry over one death you are also crying over every death you haven't fully grieved.

I'm getting better at crying although I still haven't wrapped my head around that Karen really is gone. A few days ago was the second anniversary of her passing.

Postscript: I asked him that day about his wife. Tentavively, unsure of whether it would be okay. She had been going through cancer treatments at the time of Karen's death. Although I tried to keep an eye on the obits I didn't know if she was still alive. I didn't want to add to his pain.

"Oh, she was having a few issues," he said.
Was in seeing the doctor right now as a matter of fact about biopsy results.

She was in there a long, long time.

I wondered at the dynamics of their relationship that he was in the waiting room and she was in the doctor's office. As if reading my mind he told me that one of Karen's siblings was in there with her. In the midst of our warm conversation crept the strain of the unknown.

At one point I debated excusing myself and going to the bathroom because of my rising anxiety at the reality of being there when she came out of the doctor's office. What if it wasn't good news? I didn't want to be there to witness it.

But instead of running away from what might be, I stayed.
The longer we waited the more our conversation dwindled and the tension increased.
But he kept asking me questions, turning the conversation my way. Karen did the exact same thing. She might have had to gasp between words but still she would ask how I was. No matter how many times I tried to turn it her way she never forgot she was in relationship right in this moment. She taught me much.

Forty five minutes after I first sat down across from him my eyes became glued to her face as she came down the hallway. She smiled at him immediately. Not the smile of the triumphant. But nevertheless, a smile. I felt myself relax. Good news then. She called out to him to say the results weren't back yet. Arrangements were made for the nurse to phone her when the results came in.

Karen didn't talk about dying very often. But once, a few months before she died she said, "What will my husband do when my parents and I are all dead in x amount of time?"

I wonder if her mom ever got the phone call about the test results.
Not that it matters in the end.
When I opened up the obits today there she was.
A week and a day after I saw her in the doctor's office.

I am sitting here feeling stunned.
That poor, kind man.
Lord, have mercy.