Friday, February 25, 2011

A Whine And A Prayer

All I want to do is gripe about the weather. Wouldn't you if it was -50F at your house. That's what it was here last weekend and it's gone up and down all week. Bah Humbug.

Other than that not much is happening. Well, that's not entirely true but nothing bloggable. The brightest spot in my week has been the discovery on a bookshelf of a book I bought for Lent last year and never even opened its covers. I picked it up this week and have felt nourished by its contents. Here is a snippet:
A Blessing Prayer

What is a blessing but a rain of grace
falling generously into the lives of those in need;
and who among us is without need?

May the Spirit touch your spirit in this midmorning pause.
May this day be a pathway strewn with blessings.
May your work this day be your love made visible.
May you breathe upon the wounds of those with whom you work.
May you open yourself to God's breathing.
May you honor the flame of love that burns inside you.
May your voice this day be a voice of encouragement.
May your life be an answer to someone's prayer.
May you own a grateful heart.
May you have enough joy to give you hope,
enough pain to make you wise.
May there be no room in your heart for hatred.
May you be free from violent thoughts.

When you look into the window of your soul may you see the face of God.
May the lamp of your life shine upon all you meet this day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

At What Age?

"What age were they when they became so matter of fact about what their children were doing?

I used to wonder about that when I gathered with a group of elderly grandmas for Bible Study when my kids were all pre teens. I'd listen to them share the latest news about what this daughter or that son was doing and be unable to identify at all with their matter of factness. I know now they had the ability to see themselves as separate beings from their children and I could not. Every action of my kids was always about me in my mind. I really believed that. They were a reflection of me. It was a painful and thank God, necessary, process for me to learn to detach and see my kids as separate from me. I cannot imagine being in relationship with them today had I not been given that gift. They'd want nothing to do with me, I'm sure.

The other day I was observing my mother-in-law walk across her kitchen floor. Her movements seemed a little stiff like she was the Tin Man getting her joints oiled with every step. For the first time I realized she's frail. Not uncommon for someone who is over 80 years old.

So it seems like an oxymoron to be 80 something and still wishing you could lose those last 10 pounds. I've heard my MIL talk about it my whole married life. Dearest one heard her kvetching with one of her daughters about it not too long ago.

Later that day I wondered what age a woman has to get to before she stops talking about the need to lose weight, to reach that magical number in her head that will never be hers again except by default of getting an insidious disease.

There's a scene in one of Anne Lamott's books that has stuck with me:
When my best friend Pammy was dying, I asked her if I looked fat in a certain dress, and she—from a wheelchair—said, “Annie, you really don’t have that kind of time.” I live by that.
I look at pictures of me when I am the mother of a one year old and remember how proud I was to come home eight days after having gall bladder surgery and the number, THE NUMBER! on the scale, I hadn't seen since before pregnancy.

In those photos I dont' look like I have any extra skin on me at all. A few years and another baby later I went on a weight loss binge and in those pictures I look anorexic. I remember the powerful feeling of losing weight and telling dearest one to please keep an eye on me because I didn't think I could stop losing weight, it felt so good. THAT NUMBER on the scale I hadn't seen since 9th grade. I only came to my senses after I slipped on a pair of 28 inch waist jeans and realized that size of jeans and fat couldn`t belong in the same sentence. I`m embarrassed at how much of a jolt it was when that realization hit me.

Twenty five years later I`m about being at home in my skin. It's taken that long to reach this place. I could write reams about the journey to get here. Being at home in my skin has nothing to do with the number on a scale. My younger self would never have believed that. A few years ago my cardiologist was raggin on me to lose weight. She wanted 20 pounds gone before she saw me again in a few months.

I looked at her and the part of me that is competitive, that has the I'll show you mantra threw down a glove and said, "Game on." The other part of me, the side I've worked harder to nurture, looked at her and thought to myself, "I will never do that crazy making dance again. Not even for you."

The other day, as part of my job, I had to weigh someone and record their weight for a contest. She can't be any older than I was when I was in my near anorexic days. She was excited for the contest and was off to the gym to exercise. I encouraged her in her desire to be healthier but I felt a real sadness as I watched her walk away, pining for a number on the scale. Wondering what age she will be when that pining goes away.

Photo Credit

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Gambling On The Life Span of A Motor

"Have you heard the expression the truth will set you free?" The elderly man thinks a bit and says, yes, it does sound familiar.
The mechanic wipes his hands clean and replies, "Well that's what we believe around here." He said this in response to the man's comment on his good work, not charging more than was necessary for mechanical work.

Dearest one overheard this conversation yesterday at our mechanic's shop. My car had lost its heater and there's no driving a car here without a heater. Last night it was -33C and I can't imagine trying to go anywhere without heat, let alone having to then scrape the windshield from the inside just to see where I'd be going!

Dearest one has always done all the mechanic work on our vehicles for the past nearly 30 years. From rebuilding motors and transmissions to changing tires and oil he's done it all. Last year we decided that the bigger stuff could be handed over to someone else now. We'd heard about this mechanic through word of mouth, from a single friend who told me the guy didn't try to take advantage of her lack of mechanical knowledge by charging her for stuff that didn't need fixing.

A quick phone call to the shop from the grocery store parking lot was answered with a "bring it right down and we'll take a look at it." And that sweet, honest, upright man who looked under the hood, diagnosed a broken heater motor. He pulled it out, thumped it a good one and oiled it then put it back in and it worked.

He ducked his head out from under the hood and told dearest one that it might last a month or a year, who knew. At least we could be on our way. Then he checked around for prices on a new motor and left the decision up to us. If we didn't live so far north we might have gambled on the life span of the heater motor.

When dearest one went to pay for the thump and oil trick, the man said there was no paperwork, it was free. Dearest one asked him to order in a new heater motor and told him to call when it came in so we could bring my car back and get it fixed. The guy doesn't know us from Adam. It's only the second time we've been to his shop. This was no reward for being long time customers, it was just his way.

Which gave me a lot to think about.

Photo Credit

Sunday, February 06, 2011


"I think these things happen as a way for God to prepare us to be willing to leave this world."

He sighs as he says it and turns his hands palms up in a "what are you going to do?" kind of way. He's referring to his loss of hearing, his unsteadiness on his feet, the headaches that sometimes last for days. Even though I'm sitting a few feet across from him his voice is so loud that the people in the next unit probably hear his commentary on life as well.

Bit by bit his faculties are dimming. It's a miracle he's still with us after 3 open heart surgeries and many mini strokes. As he talks I am reminded of his own father who longed to go "home" many years before he did. I feel a little taken aback by his statement though. I don't think I agree with his belief, almost certain it would take a punitive God to believe it.

The last time we were together he had uncharacteristically taken my face in both his hands as he said goodbye and dished out some good natured ribbing his eyes sparkling all the while. It was one of those moments I will treasure forever because it came from the heart.

I've long thought growing old was a privilege. Maybe that's easier to think because I'm not there yet. Sometimes I wonder if the litany of ill health that sometimes peppers the conversations of older folks is really a way of grieving what was and never will be again. I wonder what it would look like if we could honour that process instead of getting irritated by those in the midst of it. Dearest one's Pa has the same litany day in and day out. I wonder if he felt like he had been heard his conversation could expand to other things. Or if it's me who needs expanding.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Colour of Humility

"I want a medal for today."
I'm standing at the photocopier trying to fix a paper jam
when I say this to someone waiting
to see one of my coworkers.
It's been one of those days.
Brutal. Well, not really.
It just feels that way.

The person looks at me and says,
"Just go home and have a drink."
When I tell her I don't drink she says,
"Then go home and have some chocolate."
I don't eat chocolate either but I don't tell her that.
Which is a funny commentary if you think about it.
It's easier to tell people you don't drink than
that you don't eat chocolate.
I could just imagine her face contorting as she says,
"You don't eat chocolate?!"

Instead I finish fixing the photocopier in silence,
wipe the black spots of ink off my finger and go back to my desk.
Where I turn up my Christian music a little louder.
If you only knew my motives for that some days
you would puke.

Funnily enough. Or not as it turns out, one of my bigger frustrations today concerned someone who I was absolutely convinced thought was pulling a get-me-to- the-front-of-the-line sob story. So convinced was I that I let someone higher up the food chain know that I was on to that person in a who does she think she is kind of way.

Which led me to a getting a proverbial smack up the side of the head by reality. Yep, that happened when higher up the food chain person shut my office door and told me little miss front of the line's rest of the story. The real one. Not the ego driven, motive certain one I had made up all in my own little mind. The story I would have bet money on. And lost. She told me the one I could have only known if I had been God.

Humility. I can always use more of it.

When my oldest son was a toddler I used to wake up to him sitting under the kitchen table with the ketchup bottle in one hand and an arc of little red splotches holding court around him. Today it felt like God made the beginning of yet another arc right where I could see it. The red matches the colour of my face rather well.

Pretty soon I'm going to be surrounded by a sea of ketchup as all those arcs of humility/slaps up the side of the head that have been given to me over the years become one big blob.

Photo Credit

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

No Matching Required

I was in bed by 8:30 last night. I was ready to drift off to sleep when dearest one came in to get his work clothes ready for today. I watched in the shadowy lamp light as he opened the drawer of his childhood dresser and pulled out socks and underwear and a clean white t shirt. I had one of those moments of overwhelming gratitude for the simple things in life. The stuff we take for granted. Like a drawer full of matching socks.

As I watched I was taken back to a moment when I was six years old. I remember swinging my feet under the breakfast table on the kind of warm June morning that called for a dress or shorts. I had on a pair of knee high mismatched socks because that's what had been in my sock drawer that morning. Who knows what other stresses my mother was under that morning. It must have been something because she got really mad when she noticed I had on two not so white socks with mismatched patterns. She angrily sent me back to my room to get a matched pair. I didn't feel safe to tell her there weren't any. So I obediently went back to my room and stayed there a while feeling utter panic.

And there my memory ends. Sometimes I think if I squint hard enough I can see in my mind what happened after that. I doubt I missed the bus. I doubt I had on a pair of matching socks.

My mom bought groceries every Thursday of my growing up years. When I was a teenager sometimes I'd come home on a Thursday after school to find a new pair of white tube socks on the stair railing for me along with a pack of gum.

Compassion runs both ways today for me. Most likely my mom felt shame at sending me to school in a pair of mismatched socks. She couldn't do anything about it, either. There probably wasn't any money for new socks. I wish she'd had the tools to handle the situation differently but she didn't. When we know better, we do better.

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