Monday, 21 September 2015

Things That Go Bump In The Night

The past few weeks have been a struggle at bedtime. Our one son in particular seems to have developed a paranoia about things that go bump in the night. Consequently, he often ends up on the couch, or worse yet, on the floor outside our bedroom door - ever vigilant for those evil spirits that lurk within our home.

Last night was no exception. After trying to lay in his bed for mere minutes, he was quickly downstairs and onto the couch. Ten minutes later he was sobbing at my door, certain that something had 'run up his arm' and demanding to sleep on the floor.  After countless attempts at reassurance, we relented and allowed him to take up residence at our door.

Flash forward to 2 a.m.  I slowly roused myself from my slumber, only to be confused by what I heard. While normally quite quiet at night, there was a whooshing noise that pervaded the silence - one that I struggled to identify. As I laid there, I suddenly had visions of our water system spewing out buckets of water everywhere (sadly not an uncommon event). I bolted out of bed and rushed down the stairs.

There I discovered our vacuum hose laying on the floor - running! WTH?!? I've heard of peoples' tv's or other appliances turning on suddenly in the night - but a vacuum?!? "This is some freaky shit" I thought to myself as I turned it off and retreated to my bed. I told my husband that clearly we have a ghost suggesting I could step it up when it comes to the cleaning department. Also, I could use a glass of wine to settle my nerves.

As for our son - thankfully he slept through everything. I can only imagine how long it would take to get him convinced there are no ghosts in the house if he had happened to wake up.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Too Busy

It's not about having time . . . 
It's about MAKING time . . .

I haven't blogged much lately, and to be honest, I've kind of felt guilty about it. I think it's because when I first started out with this project, I envisioned making time every day to write - to create - to challenge myself to maintain the energy and consistency I felt when I first began writing.

In my enthusiasm I foolishly forgot what I know to be true ... LIFE happens. Circumstances change, priorities shift, unexpected challenges emerge that inevitably impact the path we are taking as we move towards our goals. It doesn't necessarily render our goals unimportant or unachievable - it simply means that we may need to adjust what we choose to make time for. 

Over the past few months, I've had plenty of time to write, and there has certainly not been any lack of material - believe me. I've quite simply made the choice to focus my efforts elsewhere. Sometimes this is a conscious choice - other times it is more of a subconscious decision, typically manifesting itself as good old writers block. 

I've stepped away from spending time with friends - not because of a lack of desire or interest - but because I have had other things that require my full commitment and attention. 

For a long time, I've used the excuse of "I'm too busy to do _________ right now". I've noticed a lot of people do this. The 'busy' word seems to have become an acceptable adult response to anything we choose not to make time for. 

This isn't to say we aren't busy. Of course we are. We have children, jobs, marriages, health, households, activities, and responsibilities that fill almost every moment of our day. This is the reality of adulthood - we have to prioritize where we are going to choose to spend our time, where our efforts need to be, where our impact is needed most. Often, this is dictated by the circumstances in our lives. We may be going to school, staying at home with the kids, solo parenting while a spouse works away, moving, or working on a project that is near and dear to our hearts. We may be supporting a family member or friend while they experience challenges, or we may be looking within ourselves to determine how to be a better person - a better parent, a better spouse, to be more connected with those around us. 

The reality is, we make time for the things that are important in our lives right now. There is no shame in this. There is no need to make the "I'm too busy" excuse. Why can't we just be honest about what we are making time for? Is it because we are worried about hurting someone's feelings? Is it because we do not trust ourselves enough to determine what is important at any particular moment?  Or is it that much of the work we may do is hard to quantify and describe? After all, contemplating how to be a better person is not something that typically manifests itself in a concrete manner - rather, it requires a great deal of reflection and internal examination. When someone asks "what have you been up to?", it's much easier to say "I've been busy" than attempt to describe an often sedentary and extremely personal process.

The other day I was lamenting to my husband that I was finding it a real struggle to keep on top of maintaining our house, coordinating schedules, and ensuring the kids are entertained. I was feeling discouraged because I had previously been somewhat (and I use this term loosely) successful in keeping the house clean; however had a couple of really difficult weeks with some issues occurring in my life. My husband said to me "You have made a commitment to your health and you are able to make sure you get to bootcamp each week - even when you are struggling. If you put forth the same commitment to maintaining a cleaning schedule of the house, you would be able to do it". At the time, I definitely probably didn't respond in a way that suggested his comment was helpful.

My husband, however, is a very wise man. He was not criticizing my lack of cleaning prowess. He was not stating that my priorities were in the wrong place. He was simply stating the obvious - if having a clean house was very important to me, and I made a commitment to having a clean house, then the house would be clean. I would make the time to ensure it happened. Because he knows - he has seen me do this time and time again. I appreciate his faith and belief in me.

There will always be time for the things that are important to us - we will do everything in our power to make sure of this. However, it is equally important to recognize and accept that priorities shift depending on circumstances - not just in our own lives, but the lives of others. My lack of blog posts lately is most definitely not a reflection of how I feel about writing - to me, writing is still a very important part of my life; however there are more immediate responsibilities that take precedence right now. When those things are resolved, I will be back to writing more regularly - I know this to be true. There will be weeks when everything is falling into place, and the house will be clean. There will be other weeks where s$^# is hitting the fan and the house will look like a bomb went off. And that's ok.

In the meantime, I'm going to cut myself a bit of slack . . . and I'm going to be honest when I'm asked about what I've been up to or why I haven't done something. I'm going to accept responsibility for my choices and remember that things will not always be this way so there is no need to feel guilty. The people who love me will accept that I'm doing my best, and trust that I know where to best utilize my time.

How about you? Do you fall into the "I'm too busy" trap, yet struggle to describe what you have been doing in a way that seems to give your 'busy - ness' credibility? How do you handle these situations? Do you have a spouse, partner, parent, or friend who helps to remind you of your strengths and capabilities?

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

I'm Calling a Truce

Photo credit: someecards

Since I was in my late teens, I have been forced into a 'relationship' with someone incredibly condescending, rude, disrespectful, negative, and an all around asshole. She's frustrating, she's tiring, she's caused me to question everything in my life - especially when good things happen. When bad things happen - well, she's like a kid in a candy shop - touching every raw nerve, leaching all my negative emotions to the surface, saying nasty things that cause my belly to ache. Sometimes I am successful at maintaining some distance - some space from her. Sometimes I get brave and call her out on her bullshit. Most times I walk on eggshells and hope she isn't going to suddenly show up.

Why do I keep her around you might ask? Well, walking away isn't quite as simple as it seems. You see, this jerk lives inside me - she inhabits every small corner of my brain, monitoring my thoughts, my movements, my emotions.

For years - and I mean YEARS - I have fought tooth and nail with this b****, most times successfully, and many times unsuccessfully. I have lived in fear of her rearing her ugliness during times of great joy, and I have lived in dread of her know-it-all voice echoing through my head when times are tough. I have fought back when she scrambles all the thoughts in my brain, leaving me struggling to know where to start and feeling overwhelmed. I have tried not to give in when she attacks every muscle in my body to the point that all I can do is stay in bed and rest. There have been nights where she tries to convince me I have nothing to live for, that I am worthless, that no one loves me - and I get up exhausted the next day because I have been arguing with her ALL.NIGHT.LONG. My husband will tell me he loves me, and I struggle to believe and embrace this because - well, you get the picture.

It has been difficult living with this internal conflict all these years - it has taken a toll on my relationships with others, my ability to work, and my confidence. It has been frustrating doing all the right things (exercise, counselling, medication, etc.) yet still feeling like she can arise and bully me at any time she feels an opportunity.

So this year, I've decided to try something different. Instead of trying to push her away and drive her down, I'm going to embrace and love her.

When she's telling me I'm worthless, I will wrap her in a hug and tell her that it's ok to feel alone and unwanted, but I have a lot of worth and am willing to share it with her.

When she's telling me that I can't do it, I'll hold my head high and say "yes I can - we can do it together".

When she attacks my body creating an exhaustion that is difficult to understand, I will remind her that I will cuddle with her, but only for a little while because let's face it, we have things to do.

When she tells me the medication I'm taking isn't working, or I don't need it anymore, I'll advise her that she shouldn't feel scared of being happy - it's a great feeling. Then I'll bring her along to my psychiatrist appointment so she can feel reassured by a professional.

When she tries to muddle my thoughts, I'll surprise her with a pre-made list of things to do and suggest she needn't be anxious, I have things under control.

When she snarls that no one wants to spend time with me, I'll invite her along for lunch with my best friend who always knows just what to say to make me feel better. Maybe it will work for her too.

In the end, I might as well make peace with this person, because after 30 plus years, she's made it clear she isn't going anywhere - despite my best efforts. You know how the saying goes … If you can't beat them, might as well join them - except this time it will be on MY terms.

This post is written in honour of #BellLetsTalk day. While I believe we should be open to talking about mental health issues daily, I do appreciate the opportunity to bring it to the forefront on days such as these. The fact of the matter is mental illness is an invisible disease - there are no blood tests, no physical deformities, no genetic markers - just some screening tools that can suggest it does indeed exist. This makes it hard for people to understand. If you have never been so desperate that you've thought of harming yourself, it is incredibly difficult to understand and empathize with someone who has. It's hard to appreciate how asshole-y a brain can actually be. Sometimes there are triggers, many times there are not. Even once treated, the risk of what I call "a flare-up" is always present - and when this happens it can be discouraging. Not one person who has a mental illness actually WANTS to have it - just as someone with Diabetes does not actually want to be diabetic. Wishing it away, pretending it doesn't exist, blaming someone for a lack of a positive attitude will not.change.anything.

If you, or someone you know is struggling, PLEASE ask for help. Ask your family, friends, pastor, teacher, counsellor, Dr. - anyone you feel close to. You aren't alone. There are many resources available to you. Is the process easy? Not in the least - but don't get discouraged. You are worth it!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Hello, Tooth Fairy? It's Me, Ben.

When you live in a household with three children under the age of 10, tooth fairy visits are inevitable. Z had his first visit a couple of years ago and has entered into a rather profitable relationship with the little lady. E lost her first few teeth this past year (although she tends to like to just let them dangle from her gums, earning her the esteemed title of "Nanny McT"), and while she enjoys the monetary treats left behind, she doesn't particularly care for the flying pixie. This stems from her Dad asking her to say hi if she happens to wake up during the exchange - after all, he did used to date the Tooth Fairy you know.

And then there's B. Poor little B who was blessed with teeth that are firmly rooted and happy to be there. He has watched longingly as his brother and sister collect their bounty, and wept silently (ok, it's more like wailing like his arm has been cut off but whatever) as he learned that his younger cousin had lost yet another tooth.

In August, he was delighted to finally discover one wiggly tooth. It was barely moving, but still a sign that changes might be on the way. That night, his sister lost a tooth, and he left his own note for the tooth fairy …

He had been waiting (not so)patiently ever since, and slowly the days and weeks went by with no indication that the little tooth was going to give up on its current location.

The other night, while he was eating an apple, I tried to discourage him from eating the seeds. He replied "I've ALWAYS eaten the seeds - they are good!" to which I stated "well, no wonder you haven't lost any teeth yet then!" He looked at me with wide eyes, his bottom lip started to quiver and tears started to form before he realized I was joking.  I did feel a little a bit bad about teasing him like that - but only for a moment. After all, I hate loose teeth and these kids torment me endlessly by making sure I'm privy to every wiggly moment of the process.

Fast forward to last night. I walked in the door and was greeted by a tooth wedged between his lips. "Pull that thing out already" I exclaimed as I tried not to vomit. Thank goodness Mike was home and could do the yanking honors - and just like that, I had no more babies in my house :(

When I tucked B in last night, I found this:
Translation: I want 2 dollars in deer heads (quarters) please.

Rumor had it that the Tooth Fairy spent all her money on coffee yesterday - fortunately she hit up the bank machine before heading out on her rounds last night, and was able to secure some change to leave for the big boy. In her hurry, she forgot the tooth - and I had the distinct pleasure of hearing it rattling around in the tooth container while it was being shook by my ear at 5:15 a.m. Probably pay back for the apple seeds comment. Guess I deserved it.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Morning Trip Down Memory Lane

"But MOOOOOOOOOOOOM, I NEED to take my tablet to school - no one believes that I have one!!!!", "I promised so & so I would bring it today so we could play on it at lunch time", "It's my tablet - I can do WHATEVER I WANT!!!!".

Oh the sweet sounds of anarchy in the morning - I don't know how I would live without them.

I have a very strict 'no electronics at school' policy. My kids know this. It has been reinforced repeatedly. I'm not sure where clarification is needed. Yet once again, we were on the 'technology at school' train. A variety of other statements were spewed out incessantly when suddenly this gem was shouted:

"It's NOT FAIR! When YOU were my age YOU got to take electronics to school!!!!"

I will admit to feeling flattered that they thought I was young enough to have actually owned something electronic when I was that age, let alone an electronic that was small and portable enough to actually take to school. What was I going to do, load up the monster sized Atari with it's stellar graphics to stare at on the playground? If I wanted to do that I would have to lug along my 10 inch black and white TV and there ain't no way that thing was leaving my room after I had to beg and plead to get it in there in the first place!

Yeah, about the closest thing to an electronic that I could have taken to school was my Mom's super cool battery operated calculator. That thing was the best! The numbers were displayed in blue, the keys clicked, and it was only slightly bigger than your hand. Oh how I loved that calculator. I would play with it for hours, turning it upside down and making words like HELLO, EGGSHELL, and BOOBIES (admit it - you did this too!), multiplying 123456789 by 987654321 just for fun, and simply running my hands across the keys to see what popped up. I would enter a number in memory, fool around with calculations for a while, and then try to remember what number I had saved. The only downside was the thing sucked the juice out of 6 AA batteries like you wouldn't believe. Really, who needed a "Little Professor" or "Speak and Spell" when you had a calculator like that to play on?

Tonight I showed my kids the kinds of electronics that were around when I was young. They thought these things were lame, and in a world of compact, flashy, and ever changing technology I can totally understand their point of view. But in my world, they were - and still are - awesome. Man, I sure do miss that calculator (and I'm only slightly bitter that my younger sister was the recipient of a Spell and Math from Santa after years and years of my lobbying hard for a Speak and Spell).

Fun Fact: My amazing husband was born 5 years before The Little Professor calculator was introduced by Texas Instruments in 1976, and a full 7 years before the Speak and Spell was introduced in 1978.  Happy Birthday Mike!!!!

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Birds and The Bees

"Okay boys, it's time to sit down and read together for a while" I said one evening as I held the 'What's Happening to Me' book in my hands. After all, Z is getting older, and while I hope changes don't start happening anytime soon, I figure it is best to be proactive. Plus, this is the year they start talking about sexuality in school, so I'm hoping a pre-emptive strike might alleviate some red cheeks down the road. I invited B as well - mostly because I'm lazy and don't want to repeat this process several hundred times.

We made it to page 3 at which time I realized:

I should have read the book on my own and practiced in the mirror a few times before sitting down with the boys. After all, I'm the kind of person who giggles every time someone says 'Regina' - not sure why I thought I wouldn't fall into fits of snickering every time I had to say the word "sex". Who knew one word could turn me into a hot mess every time I had to say it? Just goes to show that maturity and age do not go hand in hand.

Apparently I say the word 'secs' a lot, because when I first said sex and burst into my fits of giggles, Z asked if I meant sex as in seconds. I didn't have the heart to tell him that his first time might really be only seconds, in which case he would be right - and why ruin that moment for him?

I had no idea that the issue of 'body hair' would be such a big one. Hey little man, you can wish all you want for smooth armpits and lack of a hairy bottom but the only way that's going to happen is through the tortuous process of waxing. Better to just come to terms with the fact you are going to be a hairy beast.

And finally, I really, really, really need to have a G & T (or six) before taking this 'educational process' further. 

On second thought, maybe I'll just have his Dad take the lead on this one while I drain the Gin and listen in. After all, it isn't fair that I get to do all the fun things, right?

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Lesson

A few days ago I had the opportunity to help out a stranger. It wasn't anything special - I believe most people in the same situation would respond in the same way.

There was no thank you. Instead, these words were spoken softly:

"I didn't know there were still good people in the world" with the hint of a sad smile. And then she was gone.

I wonder if she knows how powerful those words were - that hearing them once again in my mind causes my throat to ache as I try to contain the tears?

What world must this woman live in where goodness and kindness are the exception and not the rule? What experiences has she had that cause her to doubt the compassion and caring of others? What do her eyes see? And why are they hiding behind such dark sunglasses on a cloudy day?

I am so blessed to be surrounded by people who are good and kind - and while I am grateful for these people each and every day, I will admit that often times I take it for granted. It's hard to be reminded that not everyone shares those qualities - not everyone has access to people who are caring, supportive, and loving on a daily basis.

It's hard to believe that one action - even if I consider it to be insignificant, can in fact be so very significant. I didn't give her the gift of my service today - perhaps it was something much, much more.

Perhaps it was the gift of hope.