Friday, March 30, 2012

Life's Secrets, according to you...

Recently, Jack and I were driving in the van and I had some Johnny Cash music cranked up. Jack informed me that this song is his new favourite. Mine too. (Incidentally, I didn't have the heart to tell him we were actually listening to Joaquin Phoenix. Quite frankly, I'm not even entirely certain how one goes about pronouncing his name. At any rate, I don't think Johnny would is it again that Joaquin didn't win an Oscar for his portrayal of Johnny Cash? Still irks my craw. Moving on...)

The conversation went as follows:

Jack: Is Johnny Cash a real person?
Me: He is, honey. Except sadly he died so he's not alive anymore.
Jack: Is he in heaven?
Me: Yes, he is.
Jack: Will he see his family again?
Me: Absolutely.
Jack: Does he still sing in heaven?
Me: I suspect he does, yes.
Jack: I think that Johnny Cash is Jesus's favourite singer.
Me: I think you're right.
Jack: Are you going to die?
Me: We all will, Jack. But don't worry. It's not going to happen for a long time.
Jack: I don't want you to die, Mommy. Who will take care of me?
Me: Jack, I don't want you worrying about me dying. It's not going to happen for a long time. And when Daddy and I die, Auntie and Uncle will take care of you.

A few minutes passed...I could see him in the rear-view mirror.
Clearly he was contemplating a very deep thought.

Jack: Mommy?
Me: Yes, honey? (And yes, I was totally waiting for him to say something profound and endearing, like he simply couldn't imagine his life without me.)
Jack: When I go to live with Auntie when you die, can you give her the password for buying games on the iPad?

If that's not heartfelt grief right there, then I don't know what is.
This discussion about Johnny and Jesus and singing and life got me to thinking about all the things I want to share with my children before I die...
the knowledge I want to pass on to them one day.
There are so many things I want to tell them one day.
Like that I think you do what you were born to do when you go back to heaven. 
Whether or not you get around to doing it on earth is inconsequential.
This makes me sad, though...
because so many of us never get around to doing what we're meant to do. 
Fear stops us.
We're paralyzed by it.
Fear of what other people might think,
fear of failure, humiliation, scorn, adversity, loss, giving up what we know...
Completely letting go and trusting God that it'll work out as it should. 
We sometimes don't even bother trying.
We protect our hearts from hurt, which seems easier to do than risking failure.
It feels easier to breathe when you're comfortable.
Until that day arrives when it feels as though your soul has been sucked out of you.
You stare at yourself in the mirror and ask...
What happened to your dreams?
Why do you believe in others and not in yourself?
 I want to tell my children this...
You can do anything.
Be what you want to be.
But please, do what makes your soul sing.

Do I lead by example? Not always....

Writing makes my soul sing.
Holding (happy) babies makes my soul sing.
Playing with children (who aren't evil little monsters...) makes my soul sing.
Travelling the world makes my soul sing.
Helping people makes my soul sing.
Spending time with my parents (and most of) my siblings makes my soul sing.
Have I created a life that allows me to focus my energy on these things?
Sort of.
There's no question that my heart knows what I want to do.
My brain, however, tells me a different story.
It tells me to keep my job in the corporate world...
earn money, pay off the mortgage, stay connected, cool, driven.
Is that wrong?
I struggle with it all the time.
I don't hate what I do. That's too strong a word.
It's alright. I don't mind it. It doesn't put me in a bad mood. Hell, I sort of like it.
And the people? Oh, how I love those people.
It feels like a second family. Strike that. It is my second family.

But does it make my soul sing?
Be still my beating heart.
My brain hasn't caught up to you just yet.

I'll get there.
My brain and my heart will reach a peace agreement, an armistice of sorts, one day.
It's dawning on me that yes, we are the architects of our own life.
We can do just about anything.
But we can't do everything.
We can't do everything.
You can't do everything.
I can't do everything.
It's a hard pill for me to swallow.
Time is finite.
You have to decide who, or what, gets yours.
For now, I will make it work.
I will find a way to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together,
without going completely bat-shit.
Pursuing your dreams takes blood, sweat and tears.
But a soul that sings is worth the effort.
For now, real job will be during the day, doing what makes my soul sing will come after.
I know that it's a blessing to have a stable income to provide for my family.
I totally get that and feel blessed beyond measure.
My parents taught me to earn my keep, have fun doing it and play a good game;
learning the importance of a solid work ethic has served me well.
And yet it completely baffles me how many of us aren't answering our calling.
What gets in our way?
It sounds harsh, but perhaps it's greed.
My husband and I could likely live off one salary.
That would mean completely altering our spending habits.
I would have to become Scottish.
Not like dead-sexy-kilt-wearing-Scottish....even worse.
My husband informs me the appropriate descriptors are thrifty, prudent and frugal.
Such awful words.
I don't think I have to tell you this would not end well.
And yet maybe it's another sort of greed...that insatiable desire to be everything.

I've been sitting on this post for a while.
Not quite sure if I wanted to share it or not.
I don't know - parts of it feel too personal.
It doesn't portray me in the best of lights.
But then I remembered why I blog in the first place...
to have an honest account of my life.
To put stuff down that I don't want to ever forget.
To have something I can share with my kids one day...
stuff that isn't all made-up bullshit to make me look good.
Rather life, as I remember it.
I live by the code to always tell the truth.
My sister informs me that when it comes to being honest, there are varying degrees.
She compares it to a cough lozenge.
You can give someone the Vicks version, or a Fisherman's Friend.
Vicks, being slightly less invasive, tastes alright and is somewhat soothing.
Fisherman's Friend? It tastes like shit.
But it works much faster.
And it's likely better for you in the end.
I fear I'm shoving a Fisherman's Friend down your throat.

So the truth?
It goes like this...
My desire to earn a solid income to help pay off our mortgage drives my behaviour.
My desire to put away money for our children drives my behaviour.
My desire to buy really nice shoes, whenever I damn well feel like it, drives my behaviour.
My desire to have money to travel the world with my family drives my behaviour.
My desire to feel important, feel wanted, drives my behaviour.
And my fear, yes it's fear, of letting go of a big part of my life drives my behaviour.
I could also just call it fiscal sanity...the logical thing to do. That'd be the Vicks version.
I guess we call it what we have to call it, in the hopes of making it palatable.
After all, it takes a clever line to fool a yearning heart.
Maybe the real culprits are vanity and pride...
Is my ego attached to my title at work?
I don't think so.
But if I really scraped away at it, perhaps there is a tie that binds.
I'm going to make some changes.
One day.

As I blaze through my thirties, I'm attempting to line up my head with my heart.
I suspect therein lies the key to eternal happiness.
And it'll happen for me.
One day.
And yet, after thinking all of this through, it hit me, like a wooden bat upside the head.
What if I don't make it to that one day?
Why do I take for granted that I'll always have that one day?
We all hope for it.
That's a given.
We all hope that we make it through our thirties, forties, fifties and sixties in one piece.
Retire...punt our children from the nest.
Make it through to the other side with the same convictions, drive and determination.
Have the chance to pursue what we've always longed to do.
What if that day never comes?
And if you do arrive, what if your energy levels don't permit it?
Even worse, what if we don't get that one day to share everything we've always wanted to share with our children?
We know we won't be around forever; each day is a blessing, not a guarantee.
But I do hope I'm around long enough to share what I know.
What I think I know.
That is, when they're of an age that they care to hear about it.

If I don't make it to that one day, what would I want my children to know?
What about real life would interest them?
They're growing up in a world that has stripped away the need for any imagination.
It's all laid out for them.
Every conceivable story from vampires to wizards to werewolves and back.
Throw in technology and social networking, and everything is just one click away.
We had The Littlest Hobo, The Beachcombers and CBC Sports.
No offense to any of these fine programs.
However, even if you were allowed to watch all three, back-to-back,
yes, there used to be rules about how much TV you could watch,
you were left with some serious gaps to fill.
Filling these gaps required extremely vivid, fantastical imaginations.
Simply put, we had to use our own brains to figure shit out.
Pull out an encyclopedia and do some research.
How fun were those?
Ah, the smell of them.
I will never forget the smell of them.
And heaven forbid, we had to talk to people...
have deep conversations to learn from others.
Are we on the verge of losing that?
Will our children know what it's like to sit and chat with someone for hours?
To lay their souls bare in front of another human being?
Kids nowadays are laying other things bare.
On facebook.
I digress...I really just wanted to say kids nowadays.
F*ck. I'm getting old.
And may I just take a moment to thank the merciful Lord in heaven that facebook wasn't around when we were growing up.
A significant majority of us would still be in jail.

Considering we're up against wizards, werewolves, vampires and Happy Meals Hunger Games, how can we compete?
Save for growing a beard and biting my children, quite fiercely, on the neck,
I'm not entirely certain how to get their attention.
My best guess?
We must find a way to prove to them that real life is just as magical as make-believe.
Even more so.
We need to share the secrets of life, as we know it...the wisdom, the humour, the regrets, the longings, the moments that make it all worthwhile.

So when the werewolves lay sleeping and the spells have been cast,
what is it that I want my children to know about real life?

Here's where I need your help: I've come up with a list of questions down below. Things I think about a lot and topics that interest me to no end. My plan is to interview hundreds of people over the coming months - through my blog, email, face-to-face, in dark shadowy recesses of back alleys throughout the country - and compile everyone's answers to the following questions. By sharing your responses with me, you hereby to and furthermore with fore-here-to-with-and-in grant me permission to use them as part of my essays. (Incidentally no, I'm not a lawyer. However, I should likely get one.) I will never use your name; all responses will be kept anonymous. Your thoughts will be compiled as part of the overall response to each question. You can share your responses in the comment field at the end of this post, or send an email to Create an anonymous email account if you want; I don't need to know who it's from, I just want to hear from you. I will share the results this coming fall in my column for Grainews, and then share it on this blog. I likely won't have the opportunity to post for the next couple of weeks, so I'm going to leave this up for a bit to give you time to respond. Think about the questions, answer as honestly as you can and only answer the ones you feel like talking about. (Please number your responses, so I don't erroneously drop answers in beside the wrong questions...although that may provide some cheap entertainment.) Also, please let me know if there are any other questions you think should be added to this list, as I'll be refining it throughout the coming months.

Your responses are what I want to share with my children one day.
Your responses are what I want them to know about real life.


Because learning from each other is the magic of life.
Finding humour in our collective ridiculousness is the magic of life.
The ability to laugh at yourself is the magic of life.
Recognizing regrets, and doing something about them, is the magic of life.
Finding beauty in the unexpected is the magic of life.
Finding beauty in others is the magic of life.
Finding beauty in yourself, and sharing your gifts with the world, is the magic of life.

And who knows? It may even become part of a book one day. Now that'd be a book I'd want to leave for my children...seeing as I'll be spending a significant portion of my time explaining my first book to them. I imagine that conversation will go something like this: "No, I was not a raging alcoholic. We just used to drink a lot. Of course it's fiction! Who told you that? As if. Don't believe everything you hear. I suppose you'd jump off a cliff with that person, too? What do you think I am, a monster? Repeat after me, fiction. What? Me, smoke? Never you mind. If I ever catch you smoking, I'll make you chain-smoke Export A Green Death until you spew. If that doesn't kill you, I will. That's all you need to know. What's that? Go to your room."

So without further ado, here are my questions to you:
  1. Who (or what) is your greatest love?
  2. What (or who) is your worst fear?
  3. What is your biggest regret? Have you done something about it?
  4. Which of your nipples hurts more, the right or the left?
  5. What's the one topic we should talk about more openly? (Translation: something you wish you could bring up more often but just don't, for whatever reason...)
  6. What's the most useful lesson you've ever learned in school? (from Kindergarten to PhD...pick the most useful lesson.)
  7. What's the most embarrassing thing you've ever done? (For inspiration, click here to read one of my most embarrassing stories. It was tough choice. I only had 3,624 embarrassing incidents to choose from.)
  8. What's the best financial advice you've ever received?
  9. If you could go back and tell a younger version of yourself just one thing, what would it be?
  10. What's the one thing you wish you'd spend less time worrying about?
  11. What's one simple, magical thing that makes you smile every time you experience it? (Example: the sound of a child giggling, the smell of freshly-mowed grass...)
  12. What's the one thing you wish someone would have told you?
  13. If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
  14. What's the greatest lesson you've learned in life thus far?
  15. If given the opportunity to have a one-minute glance at your life 10 years from now, would you take it? Why or why not?
  16. Thinking back to your ideals and dreams for the future when you were younger, has your life turned out as you thought it would? Why or why not?
  17. At the end of each day, when you pause for a second to contemplate your life, what do you  say to yourself?
  18. What's your secret to leading a fulfilling life? Put another way, what's the motto you live by?
  19. If you could make just one wish for your children, what would it be?
And promise me something? Do what makes your soul sing. Even if you can only carve out a few hours a's up to you to make it happen. Learn how to play the piano, paint, volunteer, write, help out a family in your community, go back to school, watch a movie with your spouse, pack a picnic and take your kids to the park, donate to charity, pet cats at the Humane Society...whatever it is, just do it.

It doesn't matter what other people think. They're not the ones you have to answer to.

In the end, I don't know where your road will take you. But I do know that giving of yourself and following your dreams - even if at the moment they feel tiny and inconsequential - will make you feel better. That's a promise. A soul that sings is magical that way.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Our House Rocks...

No, sadly, not with wild sex. My husband and I barely have time for that anymore, never mind the kind that would rock a house. We occasionally cuddle in the closet, whilst hiding from our three children, but really, that's about all we have time for.

Recently, I found myself uttering the following sentence to my two-year-old: daughter “We, as a family, don’t sneak into the crib and slick our baby brother up like a seal with Daddy’s Old Spice deodorant.” Now this got me to thinking – I often find myself making reference to the collective “we”. We don’t do that or We really like this or We shouldn’t say that. This gave me an idea: I was going to create a set of house rules, paste them up on the fridge and be done with it. House rules – the rules all inhabitants of said household shall follow. Don’t like ‘em? Move out. Period. This way, no one’s the bad guy, that’s just the way this house rolls.

So my husband and I took a crack at creating the initial list. We then reviewed it with Jack, as we felt his input was important so he felt part of the solution. If they feel that it’s their plan all along, they shall lovingly embrace it and follow. (Rule of Directing, 101).

Now before I share what we came up with, I have a confession to make. I loved the overall concept of coming up with this list, but it got me to thinking: kids hate rules. Hell, for the most part, adults hate rules. Yes, they’re important and make sense (for the most part…that’s under the grand assumption that the person making them possesses a modicum of common sense), although no one likes being told what to do. So I thought on this and came up with a solution. Why not find a fun way to get the same message across in a way that might be a little more stimulating for the kids? Use something we have an abundance of here on the Prairies?

Here’s what I came up with. I’ve written each declaration on a rock and numbered the other side; not only can they play with the rocks (and in all likelihood, eventually throw at each other’s heads), but it’ll help them learn their numbers. Two birds, one stone. Oh, friends, my cleverness rears its ugly head from time-to-time, and there’s no taming the beast. And the kids? They LOVE them. They play with them, ask us to read them, line them up in order...occasionally, James tries to eat one; really, there’s no end to the fun. So without further ado, here they are – Our House Rocks:

ROCK #1 - We love each other. No matter what.

I firmly believe it’s our role as parents to teach our children how to love each other. No option. You don’t have to be the best of friends with all your family members (in my case, prescription drugs certainly help), but you do have to love them and have their backs when times get tough. Period. Love them for who they are, don’t hate them for who they’re not. DO NOT let your kids off the hook on this one. My parents taught me that you stick it out as a family, for better or for worse. It’s the first vow you learn to take and not break.

Now parents, be forewarned: the first time you put your child on the time-out chair after incorporating this particular rule, you’ll be admonished (quite fiercely): “What’s rule number one in this house, Mommy? Rule number one is that we love each other. And you’re not loving me right now by putting me on this chair!” Oh, sweetheart. It hurts me more than it hurts you. (Not really, but I’ve heard other parents say this. I want to appear equally charming and maternal.)

ROCK #2 - We are nice and thoughtful.

ROCK #3 - We hug after fights and say sorry. Gently. (Jack asked me to add the “gently” bit…when I asked him what he meant by this, he said you’re not allowed to shout it. It has to be gently. Wise little dude.)

ROCK #4 - We always use our manners.

ROCK #5 - We cover our mouth when sneezing.

ROCK #6 - We don’t pick our nose. Unless it’s stuck. (The last part was another addition from Jack. He makes a valid point; if God hadn’t intended for us to go on in there, he wouldn’t have made our fingers fit so beautifully.)

ROCK #7 - We take turns with toys and share.

ROCK #8 - We listen to each other, we don’t interrupt and we’re respectful when talking back. (We allow talking back, as most things we tell them lead to questions or comments, which we encourage. We just ask that it’s done gently.)

ROCK #9 - We always tell the truth. (We don’t ever want them to be afraid to tell us what happened. Shit happens. Let’s talk about it.)

ROCK #10 - We know that Mommy and Daddy are in charge. (As my mom so cleverly shared with me, kids come to live with you, not the other way around. They become part of your life, they don’t run it. Your choice.)

ROCK #11 - We all pitch in to help with chores. Even during play-offs. (The latter being added for my husband. It’s bound to sink in one day.)

ROCK #12 - We talk about our favourite things every day.

ROCK #13 - We read a story every day.

ROCK #14 - We say our prayers every day.

ROCK #15 - We stay in our own beds for a good night’s sleep. (Translation: we don’t wander the house during the night like an intruder, only to give our mother a heart attack when she opens her eyes to find us breathing on her face.)

ROCK #16 - We don’t push, hit, bite, punch or kick. (Addition from Jack; this is a very important rule in school and daycare and he insisted it be included. For the record, I refrain from doing any of said things to my children.)

ROCK #17 - We don’t jump from the roof because we will hurt our self and die. (Final addition from Jack; he was so serious when he said it that I had to add it. Better safe than sorry.)

ROCK #18 – Our House Rocks – with silliness, laughter, singing and dancing.

One of my favourite quotes is from the author Shauna Neiguist and it goes as follows: "I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don't want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”

Although the “stay up all night laughing” is in direct violation of ROCK #15, this quote is how I want to live my life, and in doing so, pass the gift on to my children. I want God to know that we love his gift…that our love for it is staggering. I want our house to rock with it.

I’m sure over the coming years, modifications will be made - some rocks will be changed out, some eaten, some will stay, some will go, new ones will be added. Take Turns might morph into Be Gracious and No Nose Picking may turn into Please talk to us before you make any big decisions about your body. But for now? They work. As for my rocks? They’re the people who live in this house – when things shift around me and I can’t see through the darkness, they’re my light. When I feel like I can’t go on, they’re my strength. They’re the rocks I pray are with me the rest of my days.

Our House Rocks...

Peanut acting all like, "Oh, damn. I didn't know that rule made the cut."

Totally unrelated photo, however walking in on this made me laugh...xo

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

There's a mouse about the house....

There's a mouse about the house is an adorable childhood book - my kids absolutely love it. Even I think it's cute. However, actually having a mouse about the house is f*cking horrifying. Like, I'd rather wake up with a huge seeping boil on my forehead sort-of-horrifying. I'm frightened. My husband is frightened. Of me. At any rate, the thing must be destroyed. I grew up on a farm, therefore the smell of a mouse is about as distinct to me as a bat to my head. Last week, I wandered into the garage and stopped dead in my tracks. There it was...the smell. Trust me, once you know it, you'll never forget it. It's like catching a whiff of your favourite perfume; you can recognize it anywhere. Except this is bad. This you wouldn't spray on your body. So I asked my husband to drop some traps. Preferably large bear ones.

We're waging war, friends. I liken it to an episode of Swamp People, albeit for the obvious differences. The big one being that rather than screeching out "Choot 'Em!", I'm cowering in a corner, openly weeping. Nor are we on on a boat, holding loaded shot-guns with cigarettes dangling from the hole(s) in our teeth. Other than that, the overall tension and excitement bear an uncanny resemblance. The conversation with my husband this past weekend went as follows:

Me: Holy f*ck, holy f*ck, holy f*ck! I found mouse droppings under the sink.
Husband: How do you know?
Me: Cause it's mouse shit. That's how I know. Tiny little rice-shaped droppings.
Husband: Are you sure those weren't sprinkles from those cupcakes? (He actually said this. I swear.) Because when I ripped that package open, those sprinkles went flying everywhere.
Me: News flash, city boy. Mice don't shit rainbow-coloured sprinkles. And let me guess, one of our children chewed holes in that plastic bag under the sink? Let me go find out which one of them did that. Cause that's definitely a time-out chair offence.
Husband: Well, farm girl, I think you're over-reacting. We'll set some traps and we'll get it. You don't need to freak out.
Me: Openly weeping (True. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I wept. Full-blown PMS, four hours of sleep, three small children and a mouse about the house was enough to reduce me to waste.)
Husband: Hey, it's OK! We'll get it. I promise. Why are you so scared? It's just a wee mouse. It's not like we have an alligator in the house.
Me: An alligator would be better. At least I would know where the alligator is. It would sit in the bathtub to cool off, I'd throw it some pork chops and keep my eye on it until the wildlife officials came and got it. This mouse? The terror comes from not knowing where the hell it is. It must be annihilated.

Well, we did catch one. Last night in the garage. Oh, the absolute horror of it all. It had caught its hind leg in the trap and was flapping about - thankfully I heard none of this and my husband found it when he got home from work. He came screeching into the house like a warrior, wielding his hockey stick (husband, not the mouse...), and bellowed: "I got the little f*cker!" (Not around the kids, of course. We never swear around the kids. Ahem...moving on...) Jack went racing outside because he wanted to pet it. Thankfully I grabbed his arm just in time to avoid that germ-fest of love. Did I mention my husband is my hero? He really is.

We've lived in this house for over ten years and have never had a problem with this before. My sister thinks it's from my husband living here in (unsupervised) squalor for the two weeks the kids and I were out in Manitoba. She likely has a point. Although after reading a few blog posts from local exterminators, it sounds like it's a real problem this spring. With the lack of snow, mice have been seeking out all sorts of new homes to take cover until it's a little warmer. I couldn't resist reading some comment threads on What to do when you have a mouse in your house. Some of the suggestions went as follows:

  • Move. (already packing up, babe, just in case...)
  • Get a cat (I sent an email to a friend this week, asking her if she had a semi-feral, slightly vicious barn cat that we could borrow from now until the fall. Not vicious, like drag-my-baby-into-a-corner-and-chew-on-him vicious, but I-will-destroy-anything-smaller-than-a-baby-type-vicious. My, oh my, did my wonderful friend deliver. She even sent a photo. Gracie. That's the cat's name. Sounds a little too posh and kind, so I'll likely rename it Sid Vicious for the next few months (Sid Vicious seemed more appropriate than Sex Pistol...although in reference to a barn cat, either would likely work). I don't think she'll mind the name change, as long as we feed her and stroke her hair (the cat, not my friend...). Sid Vicious is due to arrive after the exterminators take their shot.
  • For humane disposal of mice, try using sticky tape rather than a steel trap. Once you catch the mouse, you can then carry the tape and release the mouse into a nearby meadow by putting some vegetable oil on its feet to release it from the tape. That, or throw the tape along with the mouse into your deep-freezer. This will be a humane way for it to die, as its heart-beat will slow as it does during hibernation, and it will freeze to death. Nice and painless. Hey, Fairy Godmother, I ain't running no catch and release program here. This is called search and destroy. I have no problem with mice...if they stay the hell away from my dwelling. You cross this threshold, you shall be exterminated without guilt. Released into a meadow, my ass. As for throwing it into your deep-freezer, you have a serious mental health issue you need to deal with. Mercifully, I don't know you, so I don't have to dodge your invites to enjoy home-cooked crock pot meals for the next, oh, 500 years.
  • Put sheets of Bounce or Fleecy in every vent in your house. Mice can't stand it. (This from my Mom. My home now smells like the detergent and fabric softener aisle in Safeway. Nice, if not a little over-powering.)
  • Pray. (I'm on it. "Heavenly Father, please accept this mouse back into your loving fold. Jesus Christ, I'm scared shitless. Amen."  Truthfully, I highly doubt that Saint Peter is currently combing through Jesus's inbox and screeching: "Whoa, WHOA, W.H.O.A.! We need to hold the line on that famine in the horn of Africa. Our lost little lamb, Janita, has a mouse in her house. All hands on deck. Stat." You see, I do believe in a merciful and loving God, however at the same time, I do possess a modicum of perspective. Sort of.
  • Raise everything in your garage at least one foot off the ground. (Done. Well, my husband did it this past weekend. I directed traffic. That's a job, too.)
  • Get an exterminator to examine your home for potential entrance points. (Done. He was here this morning. Fell in love with him, simply because he has no fear of rodents. That, and he was nice. And funny.  He conducted a thorough sweep of the house, checking for any loose covers on ducts and vents, as well as potential entry points in the foundation of the house. He and my husband became fast-friends, and together they mocked me incessantly. He said our garage and home were very clean, so there was really nothing to entice the mice to stay, and he couldn't see any way in, other than our garage doors being open last weekend when we were cleaning it out. He suspects we caught the one culprit last night. I said the garage was clean because I made my husband raise everything at least one-foot off the floor, as per instructions obtained from my extensive Internet search. He screeched with laughter, turned to my husband and stated, "You poor bastard!" Whatever. I don't mind being teased. He also checked under the t-bar ceiling in our basement and informed me that if mice were a problem, he'd be able to find droppings somewhere, and mercifully, he couldn't find any. At any rate, I still didn't believe him so I told him to lay traps filled with poison EVERYWHERE. He said he felt bad charging me for said traps and poison that we clearly don't need. I said I'd gladly pay for peace of mind. To hammer home the point, I told him about my dream last night, in great detail, of being tapped on the forehead and assaulted by an angry mouse. At some point, this guy appeared to be more frightened of me than my husband is...and that's saying something. He  proceeded to lay down the traps filled with poison. EVERYWHERE. So now, if you come to my home and see me opening a little black box with a special key, and I hand you a pink block and tell you it's an appetizer, take the hint that I don't really like you and bid a hasty retreat. That would likely be best for both of us.
  • Buy some plug-in sensors that emit a high-pitched squeal that drives rodents away. (Sonars in place. If your dog, or pet dolphin, goes ballistic near the outskirts of our home, the poor thing's ear-drums are likely bursting. Retreat.)
Most appropriately, I stumbled across this e-card on the web today:

It's a hard pill to swallow, but likely a fair diagnosis...

So, the next time I'm over at your house for a visit, be forewarned that I may disappear for a short while. I'll be off rifling through your closets, examining baseboards, plugging in sonar devices, checking the seals on your ducts and depositing sheets of Bounce into all the vents in your home. Don't be alarmed - it's what I do now. And please, no gifts. Your friendship is enough.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Crazier than a shit-house rat...

Hell Cat!!! Where are you? Here kitty, kitty, kitty...see bottom of last post. I've left a warm bowl of milk out for you.

Sometimes, for very brief and fleeting moments, I suspect that perhaps my children are slightly touched. It's not their fault. Should you be brave enough to study the behavioural traits of both the MacLeod and Van de Velde families, much like one of those old Hinterland habitat vignettes, you would come to the conclusion that my childrens' collective outbursts of madness are an honest representation of their Scottish and Belgian, with a twist of Spanish, genes.

Simply put, the stuff that flies out of their mouths sometimes scares me. Not that it's a bad's just like, "Where do they get this shit?"  Obvious answer, The MacLeod side. But we won't go there today.

Here's a sampling of what I've been subjected to these past few weeks:
  1. We often tell our children to look at our mouths when we're helping them enunciate a word they're having a hard time pronouncing. Upon reflection, this is usually after watching an episode of Swamp People, at which point they all start talking like they have no teeth. It's a uphill battle. So about a month ago, Roddy was wandering into the kitchen to put the coffee on, when he sees a shadowy bandit stealing down the hallway. He hears a bedroom door click shut, and follows the perpetrator into the darkness of the room. What does he find? Isla. With two Oreo cookies tucked under her pillow, one in her mouth. She had tiptoed with stealth-like precision straight to the snack cupboard in the wee hours of the morning to get her chocolate fix on. After hearing this, I told her that she can't have Oreos for breakfast. She turns to me and declares: "Look at my lips, Mommy. I. WANT. AIR-E-O." Oh honey, I can read your lips just fine. It's the Type 2 diabetes looming in your future that frightens me.
  2. We were driving in the van the other day, and Jack asked me where I put the iPad. You see I got it as a gift from my husband, very un-Scottish like behaviour, until I realized it was his ruse to get me to spend less money buying books, and get them for much cheaper via electronic copy. I'm a bit old school in this respect, and like to hold an actual book, thank you very much. Not to worry though, as I haven't had my hands on the iPad for longer than 10 seconds at a time. Jack and Isla are now Angry Birds addicts. (Someone please explain to me how adults can spend hours playing this game...) Anyways, we're in the van, Jack's asking me where the iPad is, I'm like, "Dude, I have no idea where it is." To which Jack responded: "I know what must have happened." (cue me thinking he would say he misplaced it or something...) "Some people took your brain out. That's what happened. That's why you're not remembering where it is." Quite frankly, I think he may be onto something.
  3. Jack loves playing NFL football on the PlayStation. Occasionally, he will hand me the controller and ask me to kick a field goal. He knows full-well I don't know how to do it, and my resulting attempt always leaves him collapsed on the floor, breathless, giggling with hysterics. Even the announcer on the stupid PlayStation game is like, "What was that? Not sure what he was thinking there...he just drove that ball into the ground...blah blah blah" After that humiliating castigation, the game scans to a visual of one of the players on the sidelines, talking on the phone to a member of the coaching staff, getting instructions (translation: getting his ass ripped a new one) on how to proceed. In a very transparent attempt to get Jack to stop laughing at me, I said: "Hey, what's that guy doing on the phone?" To which Jack replied, ever so confidently: "He's talking to his kid, that he's winning." Uhm...yeah. If that were the case, it would make football much more entertaining. "Hey Champ! Did you see that play? Yes, Daddy's winning! Put your Mother on the phone for a second, will ya? Honey, I can't feel my left ass cheek. Yeah, that hit. Would you mind picking up some ice packs at the supermarket? Love you, too. Give the boy a hug for me. Yeah, ham and lettuce sandwiches would be great. Gotta go."
  4. Finding Jack performing CPR on pumping on his stomach. I'm not sure of the correct medical term, but I believe it's called resuscitation via destruction of all internal organs. All this being done while screaming: "He's unconscious! He's unconscious!" I need to monitor that boy's television programs. I suspect that when I think he's downstairs watching TreeHouse, he's really making his way through old reruns of CSI Miami. That Horatio's a naughty boy. Speed! Fetch me my kit. (cue move to remove sunglasses, but thinks better of it, as it's remarkably bright down there in the concrete, windowless basement.)
  5. Being told by Jack that we need to put orange slices in our mouth to lure out the leprechaun for Saint Patrick's Day, then freeze, so the leprechaun doesn't see us and get frightened. Jack, honey, you frighten me. However if anything's going to work, it's this. Yes, we're going to catch that cheeky little green bastard.
Part One: Wedging of orange slice into mouth...

Part Two: Teaching Daddy how to FREEZE...

Part Three: laughing at the ridiculousness of it all...

All told, my life as of late has me humming the lyrics of this song by James. The band James, not my son James. And I quote: "Those who feel the breath of sadness, sit down next to me. Those who feel they're touched by madness, sit down next to me. Those who find themselves ridiculous, sit down next to me...." It's one of my all-time favourite of those crank-up-the-volume-and-sing-until-you-can't-crank-and-you-can't-sing-no-more type of songs. It reminds me that we're all in this together, and we should never worry about what other people think. We're put on this planet to support one another, not judge, to flow with compassion, not criticism, to extend grace, not a finger. We're human beings, therefore by extension, I guess we're all a little ridiculous. We're all touched by madness. And yes, I suspect we've all felt the breath of sadness. And if you think you're hanging on by a f*cking claw, well then, sit your ass down next to me and I'll make you feel better about yourself because some days I feel crazier than a shit-house rat. (Lyrics of last sentence composed by Janita.)

I leave you with the following videos...the first one is Isla displaying her stellar yoga moves, with my Mom bellowing orders like a drill sergeant from the couch. Soothing as Enya music? Not so much. Highly effective? Hell, yeah. The girl's got moves. The other is of Jack performing CPR on James. My son. Not the band. But then again, what do I know; some people took my brain out.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Let me start by apologizing for being AWOL these past few weeks...I attempted to hit the Internet a few times out in Manitoba, however my parents' computer was suffering from the following message: "Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage. Diagnose connection problems". Whatever the hell that means. Here's the technical translation I gave my Mom: one of your 34 grand children was likely effing about with your wires so let me just pop down there under your desk, armed with only a flashlight and a prayer, and pretend to know how to reconnect it, shall I?

All told, I survived the 5-hour trip by myself with three children. Some of the highlights included:
  1. Beating my Mom and Dad in rummy. More than once. I seriously don't win at cards very often; I suspect I lack the required focus. I'm too busy snarfing back chips and dip to be watching the cards. Well, fate smiled down on my garbage-disposal body. More than once...sorry, did I mention that already? I now have my earnings (loonie per game) hidden randomly around my parents' house in anticipation of my next visit. And inevitable losses.
  2. My brother stopping by to scoop up Jack and Isla to go and witness a calf being born. I missed the whole thing, but it was recounted in great (if not a touch repetitive) detail by Isla. "Mama cow being very bad. She bad. Dada cow good. Mama cow being VERRRRRY bad." The poor heifer was only a few apples higher than the calf she dropped, so it had to be pulled. At some point during the process, Isla (who was being held by my brother), got a little too close and the Mama cow turned and BAWLED a big 'ole mooooooooooo-I'm-in-so-much-f*cking-pain-right-now-and-you-violating-my-personal-space-isn't-helping-matters-much right into her face. I can relate. At any rate, it scared the shit right out of her (both of them), prompting Isla to formally launch her "Mama cow being verrrrry bad" campaign, which incidentally lasted the remainder of the week.
  3. Jack learning how to pee in a water bottle. (This educational vignette was brought to us by the baby James, who had just fallen asleep after screaming for an entire hour on the return trip home, so there was no way in hell this cat was stopping the vehicle for any sort of urinary tract activity. Bowel perhaps, but definitely not urinary. After convincing him that no, his penis would not get stuck in the water bottle, he decided that he really didn't have to go that badly.)
I have to say this...there's something about going back home that grounds me. The significance of family. Parents who love you even when you don't deserve it. Especially when you don't deserve it. I believe it's called unconditional love, and I've been blessed by it. It's a gift I can never repay, only thank God for it, and share it with those I love. And yes, there are moments with my family where I want to pack up, run away, take a sibling out at the knees, have all my frustrations dissolve into the universe, but really, one needs the rocky moments, so we can fully appreciate and enjoy those moments when we're handed the diamonds.

Time moves on around us, but in the presence of family, it seems to warp and stand still, as if stepping through magic, invisible glass back to our childhood. We know each other's hurts and fears, the secrets we wouldn't dream of  sharing with another living soul, the pain, the pecking order, the perceived injustices, the heartache, those moments that made us screech with hysterical laughter, the hopes, the dreams...

And every so often, the sting of sadness brushes across my face, like the warm breath of a hushed whisper, reminding me to hold onto these moments with my family, to savour them, because they won't last forever. When I stop to consider mortality, and the thought of one of them not being here, it squeezes the air right out of me. But as a lovely, wise soul recently reminded me, Emily Dickinson said the fact that life will never come again is what makes it so sweet. 

In closing, here's a glimpse of some of my diamond moments over the past few weeks. They remind me of how grateful I am for my family. How grateful I am for these gifts God has given me. How grateful I am for my life. In the face of trials and frustrations, may I never forget to appreciate what He's given me. Amen.

This photo here? Makes my heart feel like it's going to explode.
James would follow Grandpa everywhere, and as soon as Dad would stop,
he'd grab onto Dad's wheelchair and tug until Dad would scoop him up.
He'd never squirm to get away either...he would just sit and be.
Almost like he knew it was the best place in the house.

James and his Daddy watching some NHL highlights...

A story about this little white crib...
This was the crib my Mom had for all eight of us kids.
So yours truly slept in this bad boy.
And yes, in all likelihood, it's the exact one I nearly perished in.

 I just had to take a group photo before giving it back to Mom...
Isla has on her teeth-grinding face which clearly indicates:
"I'm pretending to love you James, but really, what 
I desperately want to do is squeeze the shit out of you."

 Isla and her best buddy, Bobby...watching my children being loved
on by their cousins makes me wish we lived closer to home.

Getting in their cuddle time with Grandma and Grandpa...
be still my beating heart.

 Goes without saying the little guy gets the fun position
at the front. He's sure excited, if not a touch frightened,
to be included in the big kid bath!

 Jimmy Bean....

 The Peanut...

The Captain...
I'm blessed. And I know it.
    p.s. The winner of the hardcover edition of Postcards Never Written, as determined by random org generator, is Hell Cat! Congratulations, Hell Cat! Random Org threw out the # 47, and your friendly moniker was the corresponding grey stalker-like profile. (You're not related to me, are you Hell Cat? My apologies for not being certain...I need to confirm you're not one of my brothers. I may ask you to submit a blood sample, just to be certain. Don't be alarmed.) Please send your deets to so I can mail it out to you. (Once I get it. There's been a slight snag in production, however I should have my new books within a month.) 
    p.p.s. Dear Jenny V: the fact that your left nipple hurts did not warrant an automatic win, although it did make me laugh out loud at your discomfort. I'm a good friend like that.

    p.p.p.s. Happy birthday, Roddy. You're the best decision I've ever made. Let's grow old together, shall we?

Monday, March 5, 2012

The sea was angry that day, my friends...

It’s with shame and humiliation that I share this story.

Here’s some background for you. I’m a simple person. I like simple things. This mindset has served its purpose for the most part…that is, until I find myself in a foreign setting, where often I don’t think things through as much as I should. The day in question found us enjoying the last day of our holiday in Spain this past October. We had just finished packing up our bags and decided to head down to the beach for a final bask in the glorious sun. As we were heading out the door, I distinctly recall my sister stating (somewhat cruelly):

Sister: Are you really going to wear that laundry out of the house?
Me: Why, what’s wrong with it?
Sister: What’s not wrong with it?
Me: It’s a tank top and gitch set from Wal-Mart.
Sister: Yeah, and it looks like a tank top and gitch set from Wal-Mart. Which part of this aren’t you getting?
Me: I packed up my bathing suit.
Sister: Go unpack it. I’ll wait.
Me: It’s not that bad. Let’s go.
Sister: And Jesus wept.
I had no intention of leaving my lounge chair so no one was going to see this awful outfit anyway; other than the retinal trauma it was going to cause my sister, brother-in-law and husband, I wasn’t overly concerned.

As luck would have it, at some point in the afternoon, I got hot. Like hot-flash hot. Like that-time-of-the-month hot. I was panting like a dog. What to do? I was holding our four-month old son, James, and told my husband to come with us for a walk to the water to cool off. At some point during that conversation, I also asked my sister to come along to take a family photo to commemorate our last day in Spain (Clearly forgetting about what I was wearing, as that should never have been captured on film.).

It's important to note that up until this last day, all experiences on the beach and in the water had been spectacular. James and I would walk up and down the beach, enjoying the sound of the crashing waves, while my husband would hit the waves to body surf.
The sound of the waves scared James at first,
and I just loved how he snuggled up against me to feel safe.

The look on his face when he squished his toes
in the sand for the first time was priceless.
What's that cresting the wave?
Is it a whale? A seal? An endangered mammal?
No, friends. That's my husband. Talk about perfect timing.
My sister didn't even notice him there until looking at the photos afterwards...
she was like: "What the f*ck is that?"
Another thing - my husband never has both eyes open in a photo
and this is the one he manages to do it in. Mercy. 

Now, back to that fateful family walk to the water on the last day of our holiday. This next batch of photos requires few words as the sequence of events as they unfolded are captured rather magnificently through the following images.

If pressed, I’d be at a loss to identify the most disturbing aspect of the story, but it'd be a toss between the following:
  1. That my sister, albeit not a professional photographer, could not find it in her heart to warn us of the rogue wave that was rearing its ugly head behind us. Mercifully, I had handed James off to Roddy. (likely to adjust my “swim wear”)
  2. The sea was angry that day, my friends. It hurled itself upon us with such force, that it knocked me to the ground. The initial hit knocked me out flat. As my face was getting scrubbed by the ocean floor, I recall a feeling of such fright that my baby was getting washed out to sea, that I lunged forward, clawing and flailing at my husband like a wild person. I couldn’t see a thing, as my eyes were sealed shut from the salty water, not to mention my sunglasses provided about as much clearance as staring out a window in a carwash. I had no idea if he still had hold of James, as I was certain he had gotten knocked flat as well.
  3. That, as we were fighting for our lives, my sister continued to snap photos.
  4. That my husband, who held our son safely in his arms, can be seen turning to watch me drown. You can just make out my ponytail as I go down for the second time. Is that a smile on his face? Yes. I believe it is.
  5. The look of complete and utter horror on James’s face. Oh, that's sadness right there…it’s a real heartbreaker. If you’ll allow me to venture a guess as to what he was thinking, it’d go something like this: “This is f*cking awful, just terrible. I’m being cared for by a pair of lunatics. I pray there’s been a horrible mix-up at Regina General Hospital, and I’ll be demanding a DNA test upon our return. That is, if these nut-jobs can pull their shit together long enough to get me home in one piece. And at the moment, I consider that to be quite a stretch.”
  6. Most importantly (maybe not quite as important as almost drowning our son, but it’s right up there), my choice of “bathing suit” is an absolute disgrace. My sister was correct. There is absolutely no reason in the world to think it’s OK to wear a horizontal-striped tank top and gitch set on the beach, just sixteen weeks after giving birth. Check that. There’s no reason in the world to EVER wear it in public; whether you’ve given birth or not is completely inconsequential.
  7. Prior to sharing these photos, I was going to Photoshop the pictures; maybe remove the stripes or something in a feeble attempt to smooth out the lumps. The other alternative was to replace my head with my sister’s, but I don’t know how to do that, or I totally would have. It then dawned on me that I needed to share these with you. Consider it my gift to you, should you ever find yourself tempted to wear a striped gitch set from Wal-Mart to the beach (tell me I'm not the only one...) The title of my photo gift? Cotton breathes, Wet cotton cleaves. The end.
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