Monday, 29 April 2013

New Addition

My devoted dog was my best friend before I had a baby. I have an absurd amount of photos of my photogenic pooch. We spent many hours hiking and swimming and camping. When I went on maternity leave she was spoiled with even more of my time. Many long walks before and after baby. She grew to expect more than a simple walk. She came on a camping trip with us when I was about 25 weeks and enjoyed our company 24 hours a day for over a week.

I always had a dog and wanted that for my daughter. They fill my memories. Though not all pleasant. Like when our 180 pound dog decided to chase something and dragged me, about 10 years old, down the street. Or the time my dog didn't want me on the swing and ripped my pants and panties off pulling me down. Or the many accidental injuries where tooth met skin. But he would go down the slide with us. He would ride the merry-go-round. And the silly guy would pick all the ripe cherry tomatoes off the vine, leaving the green ones.

When pregnant I considered getting another dog. My dog is now nine years old. So she is only expected to live for a few more years. (Why can't they live longer??) Apparently, she is like a 60 year old! Well, she is a very healthy, vibrant senior. The other day she ran 11 kilometres with me.

I wanted a second dog while the first was still around to help train (except for the overprotective of momma part). I decided I did not want a puppy. The chewing and biting would drive me crazy. I considered a few opportunities for a one year old but wanted to wait for the perfect one that was used to other dogs and to children. I am very glad I had waited. With postpartum depression it would have been very difficult to deal with another responsibility. In addition, my dog, who is my child's best friend, had to get used to having an attention-monopolising baby around. With a k-9 addition, she has to get used to sharing the pats and treats, too.

Today I finally brought home a one year old mix who grew up with two children. He is half shepherd. This is the breed that I grew up with. My family dogs had been very, very smart and easy to train. They played tag, ballon volleyball, and hide-and-go seek without sniffing. They were a substantial part of my life growing up. And I look forward to watching these two interact with my girl.

I was a little worried about my older dog. She is extremely well behaved but she is very protective and she likes to be the boss dog. We live around many dogs and we do not have a fence. She probably thinks of the whole street as her territory. Like a referee, she stops other dogs from playing. She chases certain ones away religiously but let's others come by whenever.

Growing up, my male dog dominated the female. We didn't quite grasp to what extent. She didn't swim or fetch or bark. But when he passed she suddenly did all these things. She had been happy when he was alive. But she didn't seem to miss him when he was gone.

Hopefully my two pooches will enjoy each other. The new addition is eight years younger and therefore has much more energy. He tried to play with a ball at ten o'clock last night and my old girl told him not to. It took some time before he would cautiously try to play again. But today, to my surprise, the dogs excitedly jumped and chased outside like two exuberant puppies. Until my old girl was done. Poor Buddy is confused why it was okay only for a few minutes. He'll learn, though.

Right now they peacefully sleep next to each other in the living room as their human sibling naps in her room. Oh wait, they woke up and want to play. Shhhh! No barking! When munchkin wakes up we will try some off leash play somewhere. After I vacuum this hairy living room carpet.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Don't Bug Me

My daughter's capacity to be around bugs has recently been drastically lowered by a six year old. The older girl impulsively screamed at a beetle. When my toddler saw another, she let out a fake scream that was an impassioned impression of what she'd recently heard, just like it was the right thing to do. Using her little sponge brain and basing her reaction on what had been demonstrated, she gave that beetle as much attention as she thought was required. But then, not knowing how to deal with the little critter, it turned to real tears.

Hopefully I can convince my girl that they (bugs) are most often harmless. We will spend much time outdoors and explore. Possibly set out on scavenger hunts looking for different kinds. We will read about them and learn their benefits. (What is the benefit to a mosquito? They only seem to accomplish annoyance and, to drastic extreme, spread disease.)

Yesterday, I made a futile attempt to curtail her fears. She has always enjoyed pointing out bees in books, but she was a little apprehensive about the one randomly flitting about our bathroom the day before, hiding and reappearing. I had told her it was just trying to find the door, but she kept contact with me and repeatedly checked. Unfortunately, when she asked about it on day two and I confidently told her that it was no longer around (I hadn't seen or heard it in 24 hours), it conveniently fell out of its hiding spot in the skylight and landed right next to her in the tub, still alive enough to be squirming. By her intense reaction I at first thought it had stung her, but it was just her overwhelming fear telling her to evacuate. My instinct to hold her close in her anguish (and my guilt for reassuring her falsely) is a response that may not have only comforted her but confirmed her worry.

Bugs don't really scare me but they are just one of those things that give a sense of peril. It's amazing what such a small arachnoid can do. They torment millions with their eensy-weensy grandeur. Even when we know it isn't poisonous we seem to fear its impending attack. For me it's their sneakiness. They can suddenly appear.

Like the time I found myself standing on an ant hill. Or when I tried to ignore the hounding wasps and one flew up my nose. Or once in line at the clinic when I found a beetle on my neck (first thinking, "I don't have a necklace with a pendant this big"). In my sudden panic I let out a scream and threw the Coleoptera. People turned and looked at me strangely.

I have often kept my reactions in check and accepted bugs as part of the environment. But I have had a few little startles.

Then there are those big, black, hairy spiders that lurk in basements. I once dropped a book on one and left it there for days, not wanting to look upon that gloomy, eight legged mini-monster. Okay, I did claim I am not afraid of bugs. Those big scary creatures don't count, right? I remember once as a child sleeping on the stairs after finding one in my bed.

Good thing it's the middle of the day. I might not sleep well if I tried immediately following this discussion.

Maybe, even though I don't generally scream, I need to work on my own discomfort with mini-large things with eight legs if I am going to help my girl not have any trepidation. Or, maybe we'll just be amicable to all other creatures, including the harmless daddy long-legs. Whatever the case, bugs aren't going to stop us from enjoying the outdoors. A hiking we will go.

Saturday, 27 April 2013


The other day I was sadly informed of my grand father's peaceful passing. My ache was intensified by the fact that my daughter and I had not been to see him since summer. It was a span of about eight months, I think. He didn't live overly far away. A five hour drive. In my daughter's 17 months she had only visited him two times. And boy, did he adore her and her smile and her red hair. I won't even bother trying to list my excuses. The fact is, we wanted to go but we did not. Now, I can never make up for something I had intended to do with all my heart.

I have many sentimental memories of my "Opa". Like the time when we camped and I befriended someone who didn't speak english and he was our rough translator. Or the time he had a few drinks at our house and he walked down the street belting out dutch songs.

He and my Oma were very close. I saw hand holding, kisses, hugs. They were a solid relationship in a world of broken hearts and struggling ties. Married for 66 years! And still in love. Even if they didn't communicate as well in their 80s. Throughout his sickness they refused to put him in a home and he insisted on my Oma's home cooking. They were dedicated to each other.

We would go camping and go to the hot springs. We would go to his Dutch club. We would drive around and look at the scenery. We would feed the birds. We would play cards and dice. He would tell me about things he built, especially when I married a construction worker. He would purposely spit out his false teeth.

As I reminisced about our time together I realized that often my mom was not there. I recall some trips with her but many times she was not present. And in a short span when they lived in the same area we would often walk straight to Oma and Opa's house after school.

We enjoyed a close relationship with our grandparents. This is something I would really like my daughter to have with all of her grandparents. But I have already received comments that no one is sure if I'll let her spend any extended time without me. This June, she will be staying with her cousins while I attend an event. I know she will have a blast. But it will be a nerve wracking first for me. Hmmm, I definitely have a problem.

I treasure my little girl very much. I want to be there for all of her victorious firsts. I want her to know that I am genuinely interested and that I care. Time is flying by and I want to hold on to any moment that I can get. I know I will have trouble eventually letting her go but, in my view, that is still very far away.

In many areas of my life I have learned that insecurity or worry will impede opportunities. I don't want my longing to not miss anything to create a lack of relationship that will result in others missing out. I have tried to create the atmosphere with me present. I watched her laugh heartily for the first time with my mother. I heard her say "love" for the first time ever in response to her paternal grand mother's "love, love, love you" (previously her expression was always, "I you"). She already has her traditions. Crackers and Grandma and Grandpa's. Playing with her Oma's cane.

More memories to be made and traditions to develop. When we go over there for dinner. Take walks downtown in the summer and meet family. Go to the beach. Maybe go camping together. I'll tell her about my camping trips with my Oma and Opa. Like the time that I was so sunburnt that I spent the whole day lounging in the bug tent.

And just maybe, maybe, my little girl will go on a camping trip without me.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Sex Culture

There is a constant bombardment of choices when it comes to parenting. Many decisions need to be made about where we will stand and why. Balance is sought, but we have to figure out where that balance even is, as there will always be someone who finds the decision too strict and someone else who finds it too lenient.

I have had to make many choices. Some came natural and others required research. Some felt like the solid, right choice while others brought up conflicting thoughts. Some went with the flow and others were definitely against the grain.

One issue that will be a fight against our surroundings is sexuality. I want my child, my only baby, to enjoy her childhood as long as possible. Before having her I had more concrete, straight-laced ideas. No Disney, with the man always saving the helpless woman. No sexy music videos. No toy catalogues. No magazines with half dressed women in the ads. I was planning on sheltering her.

After having her I questioned my puritanical motives. I know that, in this area and others like junk food and tv, making the boundaries too rigid will just result in her not developing adequate self control as well as producing in her the desire to rebel. I have witnessed this happen. So I must give my convictions some cogitation.

I am glad that many areas have improved for men and women and their rights. I know that trends come out of a pendulum swing of trying to break free of the bonds of the past. I do appreciate that the topic of sex is no longer taboo. My daughter won't go into a relationship (waaaay down the road) terrified with no idea. But hopefully I can help her develop a healthy attitude about her body and when she will allow someone else to share it with her.

Today, my mind was reopened to its battle with what is acceptable in such a market-based society. I watched the movie Sext Up Kids on CBC. I won't go in to the many points that confirmed my desire to keep my daughter from having to deal with sexuality at such a young age. But unfortunately, the video confirmed how difficult that is going to be.

I hate commercial marketing. Money comes before anything else. (Check out some of the other issues in advertising to children here). Sex sells. Musicians can sell more music with sexy. And so that is what they do. Clothes are marketed to make a person look hot. And it makes its way off the shelf, so this feature is being offered to a lower and lower age. Everywhere we look, it's all about being sensual, seductive, flirtatious.

Porn used to be hard to find. Now it is available without entering the corner store. Just the click of a mouse. Or the phone. Society is accepting it and, as the video says, pop culture is becoming what would be considered soft porn a few years ago.

And we let it filter into our children's lives thinking it is harmless and cute. Because, we figure, they don't understand, and it doesn't mean that to them. Dance away like that. Wear what you want. Watch whatever. I may sound like a prude. But, then they become teenagers and they are already in the flow of sexuality. They are experienced and now they hunger to get noticed by the opposite sex and they'll use it. Being a teenager is an insecure period. Now, there are more methods to get noticed.

The problem is that the younger these opportunities to realize the meaning and use of sexuality arise, the less the brain is developed to handle it. Risky actions are taken that will effect self confidence, and even how they are viewed by others, for a long time to come. It only takes one time to get an STD. It only takes one picture to go viral online.

We live in a high tech, easy to share, easy to find information society. I am very grateful that I didn't have email until about graduation, Facebook until I was 30, a cell phone until I was married. My party scene is just in the forgotten (hopefully) memories of some and not plastered all over cyberspace. A place more public than young people believe.

The Internet is great in its plethora of information. But some of that information doesn't need to be accessed by children. There are topics in parenting I haven't quite set myself on yet, but I will help monitor what my daughter looks upon online, on tv, on paper. And I hope her family would love her enough to do that as well.

I accept that some people wouldn't agree it is an issue. I know that my faith and my belief that sex is a wonderful thing in a monogamous relationship will close me down to some things that others will feel is okay, like teenagers experimenting with sex. I know some people will continue to believe "sexy" as a theme for children is harmless. But I truly believe things are going to get worse and one day matters will start to change. We will realize the effects and we will choose to take action instead of ignoring and saying, "It will be okay".

I encourage you to watch the video. I watched it with some other mothers and I was glad to hear their hope that there will be other families out there who don't want to follow the mainstream culture. They want to ask themselves, "What is right for my child and his or her development and his or her future?"

Genuine Laughter

My daughter laughed so hard today that she could barely stand. It filled her lungs and practically cascaded out of every pore in a celestial song. Her face lit up. Her rosy cheeks formed pleasant apples that must have ached in their exaggerated position as her mouth opened wide. Her head tipped back. Her legs teetered.

My daughter's laughter is like a refreshing breeze carrying away stress. It is like a fountain of youth splashing our spirits with the nectar of vitality and bliss. Her laughter is rich because it is an honest, indulgent laugh. Not something provoked by insecure feelings of what she should do, or something forced in order to get attention. It is a genuine, spontaneous impulse that bursts forth with great delight. Delight to her and to her enthralled audience.

A toddler's merriment is so simple and sincere. It isn't clouded by fear and judgement. It isn't as hard to pull out, as it isn't trying to break through entrenched walls and fortified chains. Most of us lose the ability at some point. We lose that penchant for elation. We deem it as unnecessary or inappropriate. Or even inconvenient. And we shut it down. The more we ignore it, the less it is willing to step out and brandish its exuberant expression. Laughter frequently rejected does not come forth.

It is so true that laughter is the best medicine. It brings with it a salve for the wounded heart. A hug for the overwrought mind. A caress for the tensed psyche. But medicine does nothing if not applied or consumed. The laugh will heal more completely the deeper it reaches into our marrow.

My daughter's laughter reminds me that relationships are important. It reminds me to let go of what is inconsequential (this applies to more than we believe it does in the moment). It reminds me to forgive what I cannot change. It reminds me to part with sorrow and its stifling grasp. It reminds me that we were created for wonder and festivity and curiosity and love.

Get in touch with your inner child. Let him or her remind you of the days you felt truly free. Let that freedom encompass all of you in a way that will prolong your peace instead of just a momentary blink into its restoration. Give yourself permission to be there. To live there. Regardless of your pains and sorrows. In spite of your anguish or frustration. A peaceful, happy person doesn't have it better than one who negatively ruminates and holds bitterness. They may even have identical setbacks, but they deal with it better. They can laugh at the face if adversity. They can access our hard-wired, easily acceptable, free antidote. Laughter.

It is most definitely possible. It is natural. Just look at the children. And pray that they won't forget.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Company's Coming

In a month we will be having family come and stay with us. Right now I hunger for family time as my grandfather just passed. I feel guilty that he hadn't seen his great granddaughter since summer. Finances got in the way. I don't want other things to get in the way of family relationships. Other things... Yes, there are always too many other things.

I am really looking forward to the hugs and laughter and to watching our children play. We don't get to see each other often enough. With growing children, though, even a few months apart encompasses many milestones and transitions. If during the visit we simply just sit around and have a barbecue with family, it will be special. I welcome them to stay with us as it provides a personal opportunity for a little more visiting. But even though I can't wait for that weekend, I still find the idea of company rather stressful.

I am sure the blood pressure of many housewives rises proceeding a full house. Or, to the least extent, their to-do list somewhat lengthens. All the regular housework that needs to be done and presentable on the day of arrival. (Don't ever decorate with black cabinets. Especially under a skylight that accentuates the dust that forms in just half a day from toilet paper. Who knew?) Then a few extras, like cleaning up a accumulated clutter. But, indubitably, it does result in more checks off the list than regular day to day, no-one-is-coming over living. Nothing cleans the house better than the anticipation of a dynamic dinner party or of curious company visiting.

I should really encourage more "drop in" socializing. Then, for my own sanity, I would have to up-keep a little more effectively. And let a little more go. I don't mind a mess once in a while but it sure is humbling when a tornado blows through the kitchen right before the door bell rings. Or the dog molts a whole new puppy worth of hair onto the freshly vacuumed carpet.

Our church held a conference last month and people came from other cities to attend. Instead of paying to stay in hotels they were graciously offered billeting. Time was spent together and the value of the weekend was immensely increased by getting to know each other.

I have an unused queen bed. I have the room to accommodate someone. I even have an extra bathroom. We love to have people over for meals. My daughter treasures having company. We should be opening up our home. But I didn't. Though my husband suggested it, he did not push it. Why not? Because his wife is a little crazy.

Perfection was my goal once. But it was such a lofty, unattainable goal that filled me with anger and discouragement. It made it hard to prioritize because everything was something that needed to be done. So often, nothing got done. When we were trying to adopt, the social worker came to check our home and said if I wanted to keep the interior as tidy as I had it I would be cleaning for over an hour a day. At the time I didn't really see how that time allotment would be unachievable.

Now I know better. I clean up toys and a high chair and books and dirty diapers all day. Then I can try to do the routine duties like dusting and laundry. And with a baby there is definitely more laundry. Sure, I could prioritize housework every day. But I'd rather enjoy my family. Which is all fine and dandy. Until company comes. Then the deep cleaning is a little behind (ugh, that fridge!) and the papers are piled up and the guest shower still needs to be caulked.

I tell myself they don't care. As long as they are safe and it doesn't smell (time to scrub the diaper pail). But those perfectionist roots are still lurking and whispering accusations into my ear. Cobwebs, fingerprints, dirty windows, stains. No matter how much you clean, dirt remains! The cupboards, the shelves, the closets, the stuff. Keep it or toss it, decisions are tough! I don't just fret over the clean-up, but also the organization and the presentation.

I still worry about what people think. And about how honest they are about what they think. I have many dear friends, even a husband, who I have seen say, "Don't worry, it's okay" about something when I know it isn't. So deep down I don't want to give them any room to judge. Which is just silly. We all judge on different levels. Even I have felt uncomfortable in a home because I was afraid to use the untouched soap and towel.

Some people like cozy, fabric-laden, fluffy and home made. Others like sleek and tidy and sanitary. Some like gadgets and doodads and gizmos. Others like natural and simple and plain. Some like noisy and some like serene. Some like dim and some like bright.

But they'd all probably like their host to be positive, sociable, kind. They definitely wouldn't want to feel their presence is a burden. That's why I am glad I have this great family coming to stay. They know I am growing. And they know that no matter what, I want them here. I can't wait!!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

All Day, Baby

I could talk about my daughter all day, every day. I just can't get enough of her. When I am around family I feel they would want to be captivated by her accomplishments and cuteness as well. If I am around others who I know have small children, I strongly want to share stories of our munchkins' antics and where they are in their development, as well as any parenting tips (how do I stop her throwing?).

Sometimes I have to let it go, though. I catch myself and think I am going overboard. I know we all love our children, but many don't share the intensity of my 24/7 infatuation. They either are better at hiding it or, conversely, they enjoy a break (ask me in a few years).

It reminds me of how I knew my husband was falling in love with me. He could think of nothing else. He couldn't stop talking about me. Apparently at that juncture, "Did you know that Lindy..." was on his lips frequently in my absence. He was smitten. And now I am smitten with his sprightly, spitting-image spawn.

Maybe it's from finally having my baby at 34, when I had ached to be a mom for so very long. Maybe it's how shockingly she resembles her father--his long torso, his face, his expressions, his posture--when I was unsure if we would be able to create our child ourselves. Maybe it is just my love for children and my fascination with their development. She's my little science experiment. Maybe it's how motherhood uses my strengths and interests--creativity, exploring, cooking (okay, the repeated burnt meals attest that cooking is not a strength, but I really enjoy it). Maybe it is just simply I love to talk but I am horribly awkward when it comes to keeping conversation going (or believing anyone would want to chat with me in the first place) and so this is an easy topic.

My little girl is 17 months and amazes me. Of course she copies everything, but it is astonishing how quickly words transfer from parrot status into her very own broadening vocabulary. Yesterday she said excuse me to the dog. Two different times she identified the colour yellow. She is so close to counting to ten. She has a list of songs or rhymes she can almost do herself. Like "Tick Tock, Tick Tock, I'm a Little Cuckoo Clock" or "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star".

We were in the grocery store at the checkout. Pink's song Try was on the radio. As the chorus played through, my daughter listened and then joined. She chimed, in a beautiful tone, "Try, try, try". The cashier asked if she was going to be a rocker. I wondered if she'd ever even heard the song before. She definitely enjoys her music.

Last night she danced to a live band at a fundraiser (apparently she's a fan of the steel drums). I took her with me even though many mom friends left their children at home to enjoy a night out. It definitely took away from my ability to have a conversation. My daughter was so very busy. But I really delighted in the evening and the food and the bit she let me spend with the company (every time we went back to the table she would say "nooo!"). We finally left at 10:15pm, after dancing until her eyes would need toothpicks to hold them open. Tired, sore momma. Very tired baby.

One day she is going to roll her eyes and say, "No mom, we want to go without you." So until then I'll enjoy her company. One day I am going to hound her to get just a few measly details of her day's happenings. So until then I will contentedly drown myself in her exhilarating yet exhausting presence. One day I am going to miss her being right there. So until then I will hold her very close.

Of course, I pray our relationship will remain strong, but "our" life will eventually split as she finds "her" life. Like her big sister did. I only met her when she was 15 but it was still difficult to give her the keys to the car. To watch her graduate. To let her pick her mate and get married. To release her as she moved away. We'd love to tell her what to do and protect her and be there for everything, but she is her own, individual person. And her little sister is her own developing person, too.

I'll relish each and every moment I get.

And if you ever want to hear about her, just ask.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Little Big Voice

Why are some people confident while others are indecisive and insecure? Why are some people respectful while others just can't seem to acknowledge the feelings of another? There are so many contributing factors that lead to our temperament and our reaction to our surroundings. Our genetics, our upbringing, our health, our attention span, our relationships.

Especially while our brain is developing. Everything around a child teaches that child about what life is, about how people treat each other, about what priorities we should have, and about what is wrong and what is right. We all have a little voice in our head. This voice was developed long, long ago.

More than once I have come across the statement that the way we speak to little children as they develop becomes the voice in their head. This totally makes sense. And makes me cringe at the old adage "children must be seen and not heard". Or the idea of "toughening them up". I see a resulting society full of angry, lonely, insecure adults. Our childhood is never an excuse to not achieve things, but it can sure make the process much more difficult. Especially when you realize how deep into our psych it goes.

My default is to worry about what people think and criticize myself for not doing better. I remember my mom offering suggestions for how I could do things better. "Good job. Next time..." Her intentions were for my growth. Like most parents. Our intention is to help our children be their best. But it is filtered through our stresses, altering the message delivery, and their underdeveloped cognition, altering the message perception.

I have kept this thought at the forefront of my mind when I am stressed or tired or mad at someone and it has nothing to do with my daughter. She reads my expression, my tone, my attention span, my time. No matter what excuse I have for how I am responding. She believes the world revolves around her. Everything is for her and because of her.

I want her to have good "default" thought processes. I want her to believe in herself. To tell herself to give it her best. To have patience with herself. To be able to forgive herself for her faults. To get back up when she falls. To believe she is loved.

Of course I will love her and support her and forgive her and believe in her. But how will she know that? She can't read my mind. I have to cheer for her. Listen to her. Embrace her. Be excited for her. Tell her I love her.

It shouldn't be difficult when she is so amazing. But I am human and will have to make that conscious decision day by day and moment by moment. When she's kept me up too much at night. When she's made me run late. When she's really loud or throws things. When my to do list is a mile long. When other people upset me. When I am stressed about money.

It isn't just her current mood or the making of a good or bad day for her. It is her future. Her life.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Go Mudder Girls!

Like many people all over the world
These obstacles we will conquer
Tough Mudder Whistler here we come
Oh, what the heck are we in for?

Full on training and finding muscles
We some how never felt before
Ice and massage and long hot baths
And carefully stretching what is sore

Get up early or stay up late
Prioritize the time to train
Increasing muscles and endurance
The saying is "no pain, no gain"

But oh, the joy when at the juncture
Of doing what we previously could not
The boost in confidence when we see
The strengthening we have so sought

Don't over do it--listen to your body
Tenacity that knows the limit
Don't compare yourself to anyone else
We will each individually "win" it

Get together and know your team
For each other we will loyally support
Push and cheer and give a helping hand
And don't let any comrade abort!

I think I can! I think I can!
I truly believe you can too
All of us will rejoice together
When we discover what we really can do

We will scale walls that tower above
Crawl through closed and cramped spaces
We will jump from heights and over trenches
And manoeuvre through muddy places

We will be one with biting snow and slush
And mud and dirt and rocks
We will experience nature like never before
It'll be in our ears and underwear and socks

And in that discomfort we will try
To traverse the unnerving monkey bars
Trying not to slip and fall
Oh my word, I think I see stars!

Use your balance, use your strength
Beams and logs to traverse
Over and under and swinging on rope
Which obstacle will be the worst?

Maybe the ice cold bath to cross
Will our limbs be able to function?
Or, possibly the ten thousand volts
Do these organisers have no compunction?

Can you do a pull up--lift up to your chin?
Can you run for a couple of miles?
Are you afraid of heights--can you jump?
Will your face be frowning or all smiles?

Keep up the good work, this'll be great
It will actually be so much fun
Some of us pray for a cool, breezy day
While others really need that sun

There are people think it's way too much macho
And they can't understand why we'd do it
Some think we are absolutely crazy
(Maybe we are but we won't regret it)

So glad to be doing this with you girls
So proud of each and every feat
Mind over matter and "Hoorah, hoorah"
We will soon have TOUGH MUDDER beat!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Dream Home

My husband is watching extreme homes. Well, not now as I started this blog forever ago and forgot to finish. Anyway, the one house was complete with a personal bowling lane and a high tech shooting range. The next house had a water slide into a beautiful pool surrounded by jungle. A little out of my league.

My dream home would not be to that extravagant level. I don't need a colossal abode. That would be more to clean anyway. More spots for clutter to fill. I don't want more than two toilets in my routine. Some of those homes have a shocking number of them! Like anyone, though, I have a list of things that I would love to included in our future home.

I would love a laundry room. Then my unfolded laundry that is still in the basket wouldn't be on display in our bedrooms. My partially folded laundry wouldn't sit out in the open, taunting me with its ever present reminder that I didn't fully execute the task. Again. I am sure some people do the laundry start to finish and end up with a completed chore. Me--not so much. Unfortunately, though, having its own room to let it amass may mean more frantic moments trying to locate a matching pair of socks while scrambling to finishing getting ready for work. Or pulling out a pair of pants and regrettably needing to steam out the wrinkles last minute.

In my ideal home this laundry room would be off the back door and contain a sink. Then, when my husband is fixing the vehicles or something else filthy and he comes in he can wash there. Without getting fingerprints on the front door. Without making the kitchen smell like heavy duty cleaner (I'd love for the kitchen counter and sink to be food prep only). Or without making a mess of the bathroom. I have issues there. (Issues? Me? Who would have guessed?) I like everything put away. I am annoyed that my husband likes his mouthwash and toothpaste and toothbrush out. But, he does use it daily so, sigh, there it can stay...

My second wish would be a guest room. Somewhere relatives could slumber when they come visit. My daughter does have enough room in her suite, complete with a bathroom and shower, but it must be shared with her large collection of books and stuffed animals (the bedroom, that is, not the shower). Separate guest accommodations would contain enough room for their luggage and bags. Somewhere private and tidy. Hopefully. It could end up as another place to store things. Then there would be the stress of temporarily relocating the conglomeration of stuff in order to welcome the visitors.

My third request would be a yard. Big enough to put a swing set. To play tag. To set up a tent and camp. To have a barbecue. To make snowmen. To maybe even build a playhouse. We have a playhouse on the front porch now. I love how my girl says "howse" while sticking her lips out in a pucker.

My daughter loves to be outside, as do I. The opportunity to easily exit for a few minutes or a few hours without packing up and going somewhere else would be marvelous. For now, we play in the street (car!!). We go to the park. We walk the dog or go for hikes. We head over to visit friends or relatives. We go for a bike ride. And soon we will go to the lake and go camping.

I don't really have much that I need. I want to move but I am actually more concerned about losing the things I love where we currently live. I am a little spoiled. I really appreciate having a dishwasher. It makes busy days and having company much easier. Though we'd probably keep track of our glasses better if we had to wash them by hand.

I am blessed to have a large bath tub. My daughter is basically playing in her little swimming pool every day. Before I had her I thought it was such a waste. Well, I still think it is but now it is being put to good use with an assortment of rubber duckies and boats and bath books. Her favorite activity is pouring water from one container to another. When her dad bathes her I think their favorite activity is to make a huge mess.

I love the vaulted ceilings and having two bathrooms and having all the doors protected by a covered deck (we can experience large amounts of snow here). I love having a built in book shelf off of the ground and farther away from little fingers. I love having a boot-room front entrance and a walk-in closet in my room. Someday we may relocate to something better but I won't know until then if everything will be suitable. Change is always good and bad. It always requires some adjustments.

So, I don't think I'll have a pool. I don't need a wine cellar. I have no use for a theatre room. Though a men's room would be great. His own tv spot where he could eat on the couch as much as he wants and lounge in smelly work clothes. And for me, a splurge would be a nice, cozy little reading nook with a roomy window to let in the sun. Not that it would change my reading habits. I can read anywhere. In the bath or bed. Lounging on the couch. Sitting on the step. Or down by the river.

Another blessing of my home. It isn't too far from the river and some beautiful trails with many spots where I love to read or stretch. My future home should have that accessibility as well. Oh, if we could have just what we want! Hmmm, I don't know how that works when there is more than one person involved. What would my husband want? That would be a whole different story.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

No More Giving In To This Thief

I read a quote the other day and as I go about my routine it keeps coming to mind. It was a quote by Joyce Meyer, a Christian author and speaker. I had only lackadaisically agreed with her post on Facebook and continued on my way. The quote stated, "Procrastination is a thief. It steals our time, our potential, our self-esteem, our peace of mind." I knew procrastination stole my time, but this was an exhortation that I needed to hear. A reminder of what it really misappropriates.

It takes a lot from my life. Sure, there are times that I forgo what I should do for something better, but often it is a justifiable reason. Leaving the messy fridge to play with my daughter. Delaying cleaning the kitchen until after she goes to sleep. But other times I tarry when it is clear I shouldn't. Things get deferred so long that they just don't happen. The skipped workout. The meal that seems to be incomplete. The purchase that is no longer available. Procrastination is a thief.

It steals our time. My schedule is always busy. Each day requires choosing moment to moment what I will do and what I'll let go. I could rush from dawn until dusk and still not complete every possibility. I have heard people say they get bored. I am not familiar with this sentiment. I have books sitting on the shelf patiently waiting for their turn. I have craft ideas wondering if they will ever get to shine. I have organization to do. A fridge to clean. More, more, more. And I am completely aware that each time I procrastinate it takes from something else that could be getting done.

It steals our potential. If I took time to do things I would obviously discover what I can actually accomplish. I want to paint. It has been so long. But only with time will I discover what my hands can create. I procrastinate with my eyes. I let them longingly gaze over creations and never give my hands an opportunity to fabricate something new for my eyes to enjoy. I know from experience that ability increases with practice. I feel more comfortable cooking than I used to feel. I enjoy writing more. All by getting experience. Practice is curtailed with procrastination.

It steals our self esteem. I think procrastination is perpetuated by our self esteem and our fears. Have you ever been anxious about doing something and used other things to distract you from stepping out, only to find that when you finally got to the task it was not as difficult or scary as you had anticipated? I don't know about you, but I have experienced this numerous times. Dreading a phone call that turned out alright. Going over a conversation repeatedly and finally having it for real and it goes no where that all the extensive ruminating had anticipated it might. Then I cut my time shirt and lower my productivity which depresses my self esteem. Unfortunately, the halting increases my fears and makes me feel smaller as my view of the issue aggrandizes. They say time heals all wounds, but in this case it deepens the trauma. And takes our confidence with it.

It steals our peace of mind. I think I can wholeheartedly agree with that comment. I worry about not getting things done. Losing myself in something else may momentarily be a release but it only exacerbates the issue. If I could get more done I would be more at ease.

This thief has stolen enough from me. But truthfully, I have willingly handed over way too much of my time and my potential. Procrastination only takes what we will give it. I need to remind myself to be more diligent with how I choose to spend the hours, minutes, and seconds appropriated to me.

A little less day dreaming, a little more action.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Inevitable Break

It's happened. It was inevitable, in spite of my sundry attempts to push through and write. I initiated but didn't finish. Ideas freely flowed and then haltingly splashed into a dead end over and over. Leaving me with an unused, muddy puddle of spent inspiration. Life got in the way.

I have been upping my training for Tough Mudder. I have buried myself in a new novel. I have come into the busy season with Relay For Life preparation. I am trying to spend more time with family. My dog is shedding her winter coat--vacuum again?! And my daughter is growing and expanding in her abilities and keeping me entertained and acutely on my toes.

So every time I start writing I find my eyes drooping. I re-read the same line a few times over due to an aversion to being misunderstood (oh, that unavoidable rogue). I second guess myself at an increasing rate. And so any effort doesn't seem to suffice...

Oh! Oops, I just fell asleep...

Maybe my apprehension is because I don't want to judge. I want to be positive. There are enough people criticizing and complaining in this world. I could think of a million topics floating around in my mind, from money frustrations to diet to marriage to dealing with crazy, selfish, lazy people. Complain, vent, stir up the pot.

I know there are many reasons I didn't start writing sooner in life. One was my disobliged attitude. I used to fret too much and it inexorably (or so I thought) became the sole focus of my attention. I needed to complain about all that wasn't fair. I needed change, and awareness was my sole route.

But being the squeaky wheel doesn't always mean you'll get the grease. Many people will just get a new wheel and leave the squeaky one to cry out to someone else instead of them. We live in a society that isn't used to putting in the effort to fix things when they could simply just get something new.

Or, they'll try to fix the squeak unsuccessfully. It'll remain in its noisy state. As a result, they'll begrudgingly just put up with it because they don't know what else to try. They'll accept it as is.

I didn't want people to be fed up with me. Though I'm sure that they were. I don't want them to just put-up with me either. Even though I always felt I had a valid reason to be a grievance ignitor. I was feeding the wrong fire. Kindling strife like a blaze-hungry firebrand. Conversely, nothing warms the soul like fanning the flames of gratitude, kindness, and love.

And the warmth is a catalyst for more beneficial conversation (out with the gossip, in with the appreciation). The warmth is an atmosphere relaxer that creates stronger relationships. The warmth is a forgiveness blanket that engenders second (third and forth) chances. The warmth is a comforting place to truly create positive memories.

I wish I was better at overlooking faults. I long to be more organized and somehow pleasantly assertive. But I know that isn't going to happen if my attention is zoned in on the problems. So I need to pull the constructive observations from the timeline of my day. There will always be something positively pragmatic to write about when I look at my growth, my beautiful family, my devoted husband, my Lord's forgiveness, my dreams, my silly moments.

There are a million good natured topics floating around my head. From people-watching insights to successful recipes to marital bliss to interactions with amazing people. They'll come out only if I give them my attention.

But for tonight, you just get this ramble about how they haven't come out this last week.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

All The People There

What makes an idea turn into an action? We all have things we contemplate perusing. Why do some people have dreams and do nothing with them, while others push through obstacles and failures to make their dream happen?

I reckon there are many different catalysts. One of them, though, is seeing the possibility come to fruit in those close to you. If the people in your life consistently aren't following their dreams or pushing themselves then you may see opportunities as too unattainable. They will remain earmarked as ventures only for the super-strong, the rich, the privileged.

Likewise, seeing your loved ones and dear friends break through boundaries, risk failure, and reach heights they had once only longingly dreamed of really opens up possibilities. It brings things closer to achievable. If they can, then just maybe little ol' me.

I love being part of a church for a span of over a decade and a half because I have been able to witness some great men and women grow up and follow their destinies. Often there are discouraging setbacks. There are redirected routes. There are the critics and disbelievers. But I have had the privilege of seeing talents and opportunities develop and intangible thoughts turn into concrete undertakings.

And with all the different people in my sphere of being influenced I have made it to where I am. I am happily married because people in my life modeled relationships that worked through the rough spots to come out stronger. I write publicly only because of perusing blogs written by my own family and friends. I am physically active because of so many random people. A room mate I had once who had painfully tried to start jogging. A friend who joined the navy which mercilessly forced her to learn what physical levels she could reach. A coworker who accomplished considerable feats even after injury.

There are many more people who have formed my opinion of what is or is not possible. Much of it is subconscious. Little wavelengths going from them to me saying, "Look at it being done... There's a novel idea... There's another take." Every time you say "I can" you are not only benefitting yourself but you are increasing the faith, the imagination-capacity, the range of possibilities for another person.

Travel, writing, and trying new past-times have really increased in our era because we see it being done. We don't just hear about so-and-so's cousin's best friend's wife's brother traveling to Africa or seeing someone famous in concert. Seriously, there was a time your world was just the town you were in and a few people you knew and whatever small amount of experience each of those brought.

Then the world grew with easier transportation. Then the Internet opened the door for someone who wouldn't have, and seeing them opened the door for another, and hearing about them opened the door for another, and it just compounds. I have friends on Facebook who are now in Utrecht, Hamburg, Thailand. Then I have a friend who has tried giving pie making workshops. Another is an awe inspiring little balloon animal expert.

Not because they each got up one day and decided to give it a try. But because they saw other people do something new. The seeds were planted in them. They talked to people or watched videos or read blogs. (I got the balloon animal twister started and she quickly surpassed my ability.) We all grow in our connections, the little ones and the big ones.

Whenever I see an artist friend confidently contribute to a gallery show I am reminded that I promised my husband that I would create a painting to display in our house. When I see photo albums from those who scrupulously saved for a faraway trip it increases my faith that one day we can pull off an overseas holiday. When I see old longstanding friends enjoying time together I want to call up a buddy that I miss. Without people I just wouldn't.

Now too bad proper financial stewardship and efficient housekeeping and de-cluttering weren't discussed more openly amongst the people in my life. I really need some inspiration there. Nevertheless, I could easily google it.

Monday, 8 April 2013

What's in Your Closet?

The other day I was cleaning out my closet shelves and I had a thought. If someone were to purposefully pick me an outfit out of my own closet--my own undergarments, my own pants, my own shirts, and my own socks--what is the likelihood that I would be comfortable enough to go out in public? Even worse, would it fit at all? (And even more asinine a thought, would they even find an outfit they'd be willing to choose?)

I tend to fluctuate weight too much. I know, this can't be healthy. I seem to lose and gain effortlessly. Well, relatively. I go through a holiday like Christmas and pig out. Which is followed by season and season of Chocolate. Then in the spring I enjoy the sunshine and get out more and feel great and get fit. I give it all I've got when I have a motivation like a trip or stage appearance or race. Then I have no catalyst anymore and, even though I declare healthy feels amazing and I'll never go back, I always wake up one day and say what happened?

So I have clothes of different sizes. And I can't seem to let go of a few items that don't fit. In case one day they do fit. I keep telling myself to get rid of anything that is too small and if I lose that much weight I can just buy new stuff. Out with the old, in with the new.

I could probably do away with a large portion of my clothing. I am obviously not fanatical about being with the current fashion trends. Of course, I don't want to look too outdated or like I don't care, but it is the opinion of average folk that I would take, not someone always up-to-date on the latest thing. Because really, I don't even like some of the current must-haves.

Even though I am not trapped in following the vogue of pointy shoes or square, large headpieces or loose headbands, I do find that my preferences are somewhat subconsciously swayed. I'll see something that looks good on someone else and want to try a similar item. I remember I once bought a dress in Vegas and saw the exact dress worn by two supporting actresses in not one but two different blockbuster movies. I was ecstatic and still love that dress! (I know. Silly. And, I'll guarantee, its spotlight is over.) I will absolutely adore one shirt one year but not feel right it in the next. Sometimes I'll look at it and even say, "Really? You thought that was one of your best pieces?"

Today I was trying to find a running top that had long sleeves as it was cool and I was going for a hike. I had a few but they were all too short. Apparently, back when they originally made their way into my drawer, shirts didn't have the length. There is a fashion stage I do not miss! Sure some fads are temporary (or cyclic), like high waists or ankle legs or flowing tops. But, whether they are in or not, these styles still compliment, to an extent, a large assortment of figures.

The low pants with the short shirt, on the other hand, is only made for some people. And society tried to get by that by declaring, "Do it anyway! Show off what you've got!" I am not saying the rest of us had nothing good to show. But a different style of clothing would highlight the positives much, much better. Therefore now, I surmise, there are millions of photographs in existence that will be despised more and more as time goes on. And there's my critical statement for the day!

Back to my own closet. I am disliking its contents increasingly each season. I am pretty sure this is typical female behavior. "I have nothing to wear (in my walk in closet)!" But also, akin to plenty of mothers like myself, I don't have the budget to refresh my options. I work 16 hours a week and a third of that goes to childcare.

But I've decided that nothing is going to change if I just pout and leave it alone. Like really, as I said, I will probably never wear some of it. I need to take a large bag, go in there and remove anything I haven't worn in the last year. Even as it protests you once felt beautiful in me at a wedding or you got me for less than half price or I was previously worn by someone very affluent in the community. So what! Your day is done!

Maybe I'll have a clothing exchange with friends. Who knows, with the right accessories and pieces to partner with them, someone might like some of my no-longer-wanted items. (I'll make sure to regale their interesting travels. Like the workout top that left a crisscross scar on my back for years--is it still there?--when I hiked to the top of a mountain and forgot my sunscreen at camp.)

I can't make myself accept the need for new if I don't get rid of the old. I can't be more positive if I refuse to stop thinking the negative. I can't grow into my potential if I hold out on forgiving myself. I can't make room for healthy meals if I keep bringing crappy options into the house to fall back onto. I can't appreciate my husband's growth if I focus on past failures. I can't watch my mom's relationship blossom with her grand daughter if I focus on my childhood hurts.

People change. Styles change. Paths change. Life is always changing. And it is supposed to have vicissitudes. It forces us to adapt and grow. And if we let that happen we can experience the unimaginable, fresh new trails in store for us to unearth.

I wonder what fresh, newfangled items garage sales will have in store for my closet this year?

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Great Cereal Debate

There is a saying that what you don't know won't hurt you. This is so not true. Our body is constantly bombarded with chemicals and free radicals and whatever else you would call them. The damage happens whether we are aware of the science of nutrition or not. Whether we are busy or have an open schedule. Whether we are low budget or rich. Whether mom taught us well or we fended for ourselves. Whether we savour our food or subconsciously shovel it in.

We live in a marketing society. We are surrounded with products that companies make in order to bring in a profit. They may advertise safety or health or taste. But the main goal is to have an income from sales. To get you with the packaging. They will tailor their product to whatever will result in the highest income for them. Carefully worded claims. Following current trends. Adding chemical additives for taste. Using genetically modified seed. Employing harvesting processes that don't favour keeping the natural goodness. Failing to share the whole picture.

When we make purchases we all have different motivating factors. But sometimes we simply just want something to eat. How do we choose what we will consume? As a cancer survivor, one goal I have for my daughter is teaching her healthy living. I have tried to make things home made and limited the processed products (though I don't know if I'll even learn to make bread). But I am not the only one in her life.

Here comes the battle. Like many of you, my husband sees nothing wrong with processed cereal. Everyone eats it and the commercials say it is good. He loves it. He eats it every morning. And he shares with his daughter. She doesn't really give him a choice. In her day she consumes many things that, before I had children, I never would have allowed. I'm not big on crackers that have no nutritional value. Jam that is loaded with sugar when we could just eat fruit. Extra sauces and dressings that aren't necessary. I'd like to season with spices and natural flavours.

They say to pick your battles. I try to remember this even though her future health is at stake. Once in a while I appreciate daddy's differences. If I hadn't had to give in to someone else's way of doing things, my way would have remained very closed minded. As a result, I probably would have fed the fear that I was not teaching her well enough or nourishing her properly. (Who am I kidding? Probably? I most definitely would have tried to create a bubble around her if daddy hadn't popped it.) I think if given that option I would have had a lot of stress seeking perfection in her diet. (And there's another negative habit for the body's complex systems. Worry.)

But I have had to let go. I feel guilty saying that. Like someone health conscious is going to read this and judge me for going against what I know is right. But life is full of compromise. And trust. (So thankful I believe I can cover her with prayer too.) And learning and growing.

She enjoys her Goldfish crackers. She loves her Cheerios. And sometimes she has something processed. Like today. Dad made an amazing meal for his older daughter consisting of mashed potatoes and breaded chicken and corn on the cob. The meal included packaged stove top stuffing. Not that our munchkin ate any. She attacked the corn on the cob like it was a contest. Even her second helping. When hers was done she wanted what was on my plate.

She always wants what is on my plate. So I try to keep my plate healthy (though she still doesn't want any of the raw veggies). And I would love to get her dad's plate healthy as well. But changing the diet is very difficult. For anyone (pass the chocolate, please). There are the comforting, remind you of home foods. There are the easy, make in a pinch options. There are the wallet friendly budget purchases. And there is habit, habit, habit. I truly think everything right in front of us is against us. But what matters is the long term effects. The feeling good after consistent whole and fresh choices. The lasting health ramifications way into our later years. And that is harder to live for because we can't see it.

Everyone is born with a different chance of each cancer, each ailment. We don't know if we will get something sooner, later, or never. Our actions may not cause or prevent those ailments. But they will definitely alter the time line. Maybe my Luekemia was always going to be, but if I had eaten more veggies and less processed meats, eaten more consistently, never smoked, and exercised more, it would have occurred later instead of in my 20s. I couldn't foresee that I would have cancer. But I never lived in a way to prevent it. Because I lived for the now. My body needs me to live for its future. If I had taken care of myself and still got sick I would have had the opportunity to pronounce that healthy is pointless. But I probably would have bided myself more time.

It takes will power. It takes research. It takes budgeting. It takes prioritizing. It takes retraining the taste buds to need less salt and sugar. But it can be done. Healthier eating doesn't mean eating what you hate. You don't need to have oatmeal for breakfast of you don't like oatmeal. But there must be a satisfying healthy option that you can decide to eat. You don't need to consume salmon if it makes you gag. But what other ways can you get some healthy oils? You don't have to eat Brussels sprouts if you can't get them down. But you do need a variety of vegetables.

Variety is the best arsenal against the confusion over optimal diet. Sure, a cracker here or there. But then a piece of fruit. A vegetable. A nut. Some cheese. All things in moderation. (I know, I know-- no more making cookies and eating them all. I need willpower.) We can't know everything about diet, especially with propaganda and scientific research constantly being "updated". But instead of pulling the its-all-harmful card or the healthy-people-get-sick card and not caring, we can fuel ourselves with a mishmash of different foods, slowly make positive changes, and accept when we know something is wrong. My daughter doesn't need aspartame, hot dogs, high fructose corn syrup, pop, white bread. There are things that I will stay away from.

And there are other things we will keep to small amounts. Like cereal. Cheerios, Daddy?

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Set Your Sights High

I wanted to take a moment to encourage you. Are there goals you want to set but they feel impossible? Are you wanting to change for the better but don't know how? I implore you to push through. I truly believe that the victory isn't to those who are the strongest or smartest or most popular. It is to those who persevere. It is to those who get up when they are knocked down. It is to the who keep tackling the undertakings.

Right now I am on an achievement high. I am in awe of something over which I have triumphed. It almost seems surreal, like it wasn't even me. It is an amazing feeling to do something that was once inconceivable. And it wouldn't have happened without pushing through.

I used to battle fibromyalgia. My body couldn't handle any exertion. Pushing my muscles would cause pain. One area where I always had agony was the neck and shoulders. When I started my job as a pharmacy technician 7 years ago I hated having to compound creams. The manual mixing would be excruciating. I would try to relax. To shift to using different muscles so I wasn't fatiguing any.

At that time I regularly saw the chiropractor and my husband would daily give me a massage just so that I could function. I had improved from when I was younger, in that I could hold a job and responsibilities, but it was torture. My post-cancer effort at building my health was making me stronger and able to do a little more. Therefore, the benefits of stretching and exercising were unmistakable. So I put more effort in strengthening each individual area of my body.

I haven't seen a chiropractor or massage therapist regularly for a long time and haven't needed to since I was pregnant. I made every effort to keep active during pregnancy so as to not lose ground in my quest for health. I ran as far along as I could, which was up until 34.5 weeks. Then, which may be too much information, she was bouncing on my bowels too much for me to keep running. I can pee in the bushes mid run but there will be no doing number two out there.

When I signed up for Tough Mudder I was the healthiest I had ever been but still could not do one pull up and could only do a few push-ups. And something like a burpee was just nauseating. I knew there would be some walls to break through. What I didn't know was what I would be capable of doing once I smashing those walls.

I gave myself a minimum workout and told myself to follow it unless I was physically hurt. I know that my improvements so far in life have been from pushing myself. I had to work through aches and cramps everywhere. I remember someone commenting that if it hurt so much, why not stop?

Because I now know what healthy feels like. The enhanced strength. The more comfortable posture. The better sleep. The increased patience. The improved digestion. The bolstered confidence. The heightened concentration... And most of all, the ability to do more. To perform daily tasks without resulting discomfort. To be more likely to be able to accept invitations to go do something new. And, like today, to reach new heights.

I could have given up. But I wouldn't have enjoyed all the snowshoeing with various people while carrying a baby on my back. I wouldn't have been able to play as exuberantly with my niece and other little relatives. I wouldn't have conquered riding a bike up a hill. So much of my life wouldn't be if I had given up. If I had accepted my labels. Exercise induced migraines. Fibromyalgia. Irritable Bowel. Week muscles.

Today I was training on hills with some team mates. Then it was decided we would go do some monkey bars. My heart sank. My arms weren't very strong. The last I tried I could barely cross five or six rungs. And not very gracefully. I felt like I did well on the hills and now my pride would be squashed as I attempted a feat on a child's playground. Poor, poor, pitiful me.

I was a little apprehensive when we started. My first effort was feeble as my mind flooded my body with negative, discouraging messages. Oh, the power of the words we tell ourselves! I pep talked myself and continued, and the improvement was instant. Then I tried the inclined monkey bars. I had never intended to do these. My goal was to be able to do some basic, straight across bars and say I could and move on. The inclined bars I was going to save for those who were more athletic. Not someone like me just trying to do the basic. Just trying to feel able-bodied and sound.

I was in for a surprise. I did it! My work out routine had paid off. My improvements were quite obvious. In hindsight it is a little silly that I thought training would make me feel and look stronger but I never speculated on the possibility of what I could do.

What else could I manage if I removed the limitations I have put on myself? What else could I accomplish if I aimed higher? What could happen in my life if I had the goal of greater and not just good enough?

I pray that you will set your sights high. Tell yourself not I can't do it, but instead how can I do it? Sure, it might require more stretch breaks or more gradual progression than the next person. But you aren't competing with them. You are challenging yourself. Because inside of you is someone created to do wonderful things. Really. I know this. And that person inside is just waiting for you to believe in him or her.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Empowered Through Childbirth

I want another baby. I want to make a baby (tee hee), and carry a baby, and give birth to a baby. Women are terrified of labor. But I found it empowering. Amazed at my triumph, I came out feeling indestructible and focused and able to conquer the world. I was high on the discovery of the power of the mind.

That feeling didn't last long as I struggled with adjustments and pain and exhaustion and learning to be a mom. Add mastitis and thyroid problems and changed cancer meds and I developed postpartum depression. The first few months were way rougher than labor. I'd welcome the opportunity to give birth to another. And now that I am healthy and in the swing of parenting, I am sure my euphoria would last a little longer this time. But alas, I must appreciate my current gift and remember the process that brought her here.

I was awoken with contractions about 10 minutes to 3 on a Friday morning. I had them the two mornings prior but they went away when I rolled out of bed. These ones stayed. I told my husband to get sleep and I would come get him when I needed him. I did some tidying up. At 5:30 in the morning I had eggs and toast, as I didn’t know when I would eat again (so grateful that I did that).

The contractions really, really hurt my back. I expected more pain in my stomach. I couldn't sit. Early labor I mostly knelt on the floor leaning over the ball. I finally woke my labor assistant up at 7 am to ease the back pain with pressure and massage, as it was getting unbearable.

We went outside and walked the dog, but the shivering cold made the contractions insufferably worse. I called the hospital to let them know and they said to come up when I wanted. I was reluctant to go in and be told I wasn’t dilated at all. It was insane not knowing if this was just the beginning or if my daughter wasn't even going to be born that day.

My step daughter, 21, texted me from work and left as soon as I told her I was in labor. Finally, at 9:30 am, the three of us went to the hospital. I had a contraction first as I was adamant that I would not have one sitting in the car. My husband had only missed pushing on my back for one contraction in the previous 2 hours because he had to use the bathroom and that one contraction was way worse. From that point on he wasn't evading his pressure-applying task.

The drive was only 2 minutes and I had my next contraction on the hospital steps.
We went to the labor room and at 10 in the morning, seven hours after feeling this all start, I was at 3 cm. My step daughter got our bag and cooler from the car and brought her dad breakfast. He was not allowed to leave my side. Around 1 in the afternoon they checked again and I had progressed to 5 cm. I was already so exhausted. I had only had three hours sleep.

I paced the room listening to a noise machine with waves. I would focus on the sound of the crashing water, which was swelling at the perfect pace to deeply breathe in and out. Swoosh. Breath in. Listen to the birds. Swoosh. Breath out. I would picture when my husband played with the dog in the ocean for hours on our last camping trip to the ocean. I would imagine doing that with our little girl. Running from the waves. Looking for see shells and miniature creatures in the sand. Tempting the salty water to splash higher and higher. I would deep breathe and envision the joy and peace, while back in reality my husband pushed my back and reminded me to relax my shoulders.

I remember a nurse asking me if I wanted anything for pain and I said no. The plan had been to stay away from using drugs because I didn't want to end up feeling worse. I'd had that happen before with migraine medication and pain medication when I had a bone marrow biopsy and watched that happen to my dad after he had surgery. What other women longed for I was terrified of resorting to in an emergency. Call me a chicken, but I wanted to feel myself and alert.

I continued to experience it all in my back with a lot of pressure that made me feel like I needed to have a bowel movement. If I lost focus at all on the waves I would find it hard to breathe deeply enough and it would bubble up anxiously and greatly exacerbate the pain. Even though it felt necessary, my back started to bruise from the 6 or so hours of intermittent pressure. Eventually my back hurt so much I suddenly wouldn’t let anyone touch it anymore.

I paced continuously, even through contractions. No one knew if I was having one unless they watched my breathing. I internally suffered as everyone talked about waves in gorgeous tropical places, and whatever other topics the waves invoked. I wasn't really paying attention. My husband had to guide my walking as I wasn’t really watching for obstacles. He would walk with me and massage my arms and neck while guiding me. At 4:45 I was checked and I was 8.5 cm and the doctor said it wouldn't be much longer. As I was checked my water broke. This momentarily relieved a lot of pressure. I couldn’t sit still so I went back to pacing, making quite a mess on the floor. Unfortunately after an extremely brief hiatus, the pressure returned. Just before 5 o'clock I whined to the doctor, “You said it wouldn’t be long!” He replied that compared to the 14 hours so far, 15 minutes wasn’t long at all!

I was concerned that maybe I wouldn’t actually feel an urge to push. Who wants to feel more contractions when it is actually time to progress to the next step and get over it? So he checked and I was 10 cm. It was time. I had planned to push with gravity's help in a crouching position. But I resorted to lying on my side as I was drastically tired. My man held my leg up with one hand and wrapped his arm around me and held my hand in his other hand. Poor guy was in a crouched, difficult position for quite a while.

I pushed with the back pain and pressure and relaxed when it passed. I never felt an urge to push at all. The doctor checked her progress and he felt no hair and informed us she was bald. But it turned out the back pain was because she was posterior, and he was feeling her bare forehead.

I pushed for two hours, keeping calm and not tensing because I was too tired and didn't want to waste energy. We really struggled getting her head and shoulders to come out. They kept saying one more push. One more push. After, I commented that they must say that all the time and they admitted they do.

Finally, she came out at 7:03pm after 16 hours. They placed her on my chest. I remember thinking she was so big!! She didn't look new born. Three days earlier the doctor had assured me she wasn’t really big. She was 9 pounds 4 ounces and 22 inches long. And she had a full head of beautiful red hair. She was healthy and very strong. Our perfect baby was finally in my arms.

They couldn’t get the placenta out. (I had prayed it would stay as my husband's last child suffered a placenta torn from the whom, but this wasn't what I meant.) They pushed on my belly and pulled. A surgeon was called to help. My doctor finally got the placenta out right before the surgeon got there. But then I was bleeding so much. Daddy held baby and watched as they put a needle in each arm. They were prepping me for a blood transfusion. The nurse commented that as I had three people operating on me I was very relaxed and my heart was only beating 50 beats per minute. Thankfully, after stitching my cervix, the bleeding stopped and they cancelled the transfusion.

My doctor, who is very experienced, said I was the quietest labor he has ever seen and he was proud of how focused I remained. I had successfully given birth to my baby drug free. Good thing I didn't know she was large and that she was posterior. Awareness could have been discouraging.

I was so very tired and couldn’t stand for a few days as my body regenerated my blood supply. I had to use a wheelchair to go to the bathroom. And I had never been so famished in my life. As each hospital meal came I inhaled it without having time to consider its quality. Even the processed meat and cheese sandwich, something I don't like, disappeared as soon as the lid came off the tray.

As I recuperated, all I did was cuddle and breast feed (and eat and sleep). Her devoted daddy did all the diaper changing and pacing. He walked the halls and stairways. He dealt with the first poop. I admired her beauty and stared at her in disbelief for hours and handed her to her equally spellbound father when she wouldn't be consoled sitting in bed.

We left the hospital after two nights. For the first time, I was changing her. Dad looked at his 2 day old newborn miracle, who now at 17 months says, "I you, Daddy", and he said, “I have changed your diaper your whole life! This is mom’s first time!”

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Travel Withdrawal

I am going through acute travel withdrawal. My mom and I did a day trip yesterday but it has been awhile since I've had to pack, plan, and diagram a trip. my husband and I used to travel four hours one way to see relatives at least once a year. Or six hours the other way to visit other family twice a year. We, sometimes with his older daughter, usually took a yearly sightseeing-packed tropic vacation (not very relaxing, though, as my husband likes to go go go). In addition we would have camping trips and the random church conference.

Things have compulsorily changed. Financial commitments (I never thought I would actually get braces but I should have completed the process before baby). Car troubles (I want my Jeep back). The fact that I am not working full time (and part of my wage goes to daycare). My husband also doesn't work as long hours now that we have a baby. They usually have their morning walk with the dog before he heads to work. My husband, that is. Not the dog.

I don't miss most things. I am okay with eating out less and cutting out the movie theatre (but now, to my disdain, the local video store is shut down). I am alright without clothes shopping (I think). I can learn to be thrifty (garage sales!). But I really miss travel.

We have had three big trips with our baby (thank you for family billeting). The first trip was when she was three months. For my husband's birthday we first had a relaxing stay in a hotel that had an ice carving competition. We toured the sculptures. We took a horse drawn carriage ride along the sun kissed frosty lake to a frozen waterfall. We enjoyed introducing the pool to our baby. Then off we continued to the city to introduce our daughter to aunts and uncles and grandparents. She did amazingly well. She let all these new people hold her and she captured their hearts with her cuteness (as dad captured their breath with his antics).

The second trip was just me and baby when she was seven months old. We travelled a little farther for a ten day trip and met even more family. I took her to a wildlife park to show her bears and ostriches and wild cats, where she instead thoroughly enjoyed the birds and squirrels. I could have sat in the parking lot and waved at the birds flying by and it would have been just as impressive. She enjoyed the llamas though. For some reason she laughed at them. It was a nice trip and she was a great traveller, even with an hour or two or three (or more!) every day. Due to medical and dental visits 2.5 hours from home she is accustomed to being stuck in the car.

Our third trip was for a wedding in which I was a bridesmaid. Again, we stayed with family and had a great weekend. Nine months at the time, she did phenomenally well with all the busy days and late nights. For the first time I left her with dad into the night and I went out with the ladies, as I worried incessantly that she was crying for me and my milk. Of course, she was just fine. During the ceremony she was a considerably quiescent audience member with dad while mom was up front with the bridal party. She didn't realize it was me, though, until I passed her for our exit.

We also did one night away for two other weddings when she was ten months old. She first stood on her own, solidly with no support, her bare toes gripping the grass. She crawled around the dance floor with the other children. She slept in the carrier into the night as I rocked her back and forth dancing.

We have had a few of these one night trips. Once or twice it wasn't the intention but for some reason our seasoned, content traveller reaches her limit at bedtime. She doesn't want to spend the night in that cramped car seat. She wants her bed (I mean, our bed). I don't blame her.

Now that I've reviewed the last year and a half I guess I am fortunate. We have travelled and quite enjoyed time together and time with extended family. As I reminisce I conceive that I should appreciate the blessings. Be grateful for each opportunity and memory God has given me. But it has been about nine months since we have had a vacation or time to really spend with distant family.

Nine months in the life of a baby is a big difference. Crawling right through walking into running. Cooing right through first words into singing. I know what it feels like to not directly watch a loved one develop. When my niece was a baby we were amazed at her progress each visit, as we only saw her three or four times a year. To my compunction, even though we intended a visit last month, we still haven't met our nephew who is two months old.

So many intentions! I would love to take my daughter to see two sets of great grandparents at opposite ends of our road travel spectrum. Both sets she has only seen twice. And oh if we had time to visit everyone in between! Lovely!

I don't need salty, tropical sands or fancy, all inclusive resorts. Just give me warm, welcoming hugs and fun family meals. I don't need an expensive plane ride to distant paradise. Just give me ample gas money and a reliable vehicle to get to the outer reaches of our tribe. I don't need exciting pictures with exotic animals or popular landmarks. Just give me laughing, smiling faces and lasting ancestral memories.

Come on family, bring on the weddings, family reunions, and big birthday bashes. Hmmm, I guess I have missed a few of those in the last year (boo hoo). I think I need to crack down on my saving and prioritize this important venture! Here's to a few road trips this summer! (Don't worry Mexico-- we'll be back some day.)

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Busy Shopper

Today my mother and I went out of town shopping. Nothing special, as we were low budget. Just some grocery shopping. We took along our keen little helper, who turns 17 months in 2 days. She has been walking since November and so she has cruised the grocery store many times. But today was different. Today I got a workout that was run by a 2 1/2 foot tall, laughing, climbing ball of energy. In one store I even asked the cashier if it was really hot or if it was just the exertion I was experiencing.

Pick her up. Turn it into a ride to keep her distracted. Put her down. Run! Try to persuade. Pick her up. Turn around and go back where her Oma is with the cart. Try to read ingredients. To her insisting, let her "read" the ingredients instead while I try to nonchalantly read another package. Put her down. Get her to put it in the cart. Run! Tell her not to try to get garbage from under the shelves. (A bead! How did you see that?) Run. Pry the ball out of her hands. Distract! Weee, this is fun! Redirect. Take her off the pile of large flour bags. Distract. Redirect. Distract.

Yes, it would have been easier if she stayed in the cart. But she did her time on her bottom as we drove an hour and a half to get to the mall. And we would be doing the same to return. We had no agenda. How often does she get the pleasure of unimpeded time? No getting home to dinner. No trying to flit from one place to the next in a slotted amount of time (and forgoing tasks because it just isn't going to ensue as stated on the to-do list). Just a few items we had to get. Like diapers, wipes, socks. Oops. I didn't buy socks.

Her self control was impressive but unpredictable. Often she would leave the shelves alone and just run around. Stop and stare at an item, reflecting on what it would be like to hold it in her little hands. A few items were understandably too irresistible. Balls. Balloons. Bird yard ornaments.

She admired the bird ornaments and we continued on to the other side of the store. When I put her down the search was on. She knew what she was looking for. She was distracted by balloons on the way but soon back to her objective. Her eyes fervently scanned the shelves as she peered around every corner. And to my surprise she made it all the way to the other corner and found the birds. After all that hard work she was not going to assent to any don't touch. Distract. Distract. Distract.

I once distracted her with a lovely book I knew she would love. It partnered one at home that she had recently acquired. Unfortunately, I misread the sign and even though I told her that she could have it I changed my mind when the price tripled. Good thing she doesn't understand, or she has such a short attention span, and she didn't notice the book vanish. Or the whirligig, the stuffed bear, or the septic tank cleaner.

Soon, she will remember promises I've made. She'll know that it's a drive-thru window we are stopping at and they supply food and we are not sharing. She'll notice what I keep and what I discard. And she'll want me to buy things so she can keep them instead of just saying "Hi!" to them in the store.

For now I'll just enjoy letting her run around. For now, she loves the grocery store. Plain and simple. No expectations.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Impatiently Patient

Patience, patience, patience. I am generally patient with others. Not so much with myself (Hmmm, not so much with my husband either, but by the exigencies of marriage I am improving). Oh, but would I have grasped the magnitude! Nothing tests the holding power of ones composure better than the expanding mind of a toddler. What happens if I throw this at mommy? ...Repeatedly?

Right now she is just starting to try to find her limits. Or, should I say, to find my limits. I had mentioned a week ago that we were definitely entering the realm of Toddlerhood. Some of it is just when she is tired. Like her lunch time meltdown today which was a little drawn out. Other things are happening more frequently. Like her insurgent increase in volume. I walked away from her and my mom in a bakery and was a little disarmed by the realization of the carrying power of her demanding "Ta. TA. TAAA!" I am working on please. Really.

She's louder. She's more opinionated. She has a powerful arm and impeccable aim. And she's assessing my reaction to everything. I sincerely know she is not being bad. She is supposed to be doing what she is doing. She is learning about boundaries, reactions, communication. So I try to calmly repeat myself. Redirect her. Stay positive.

Right now I am exhausted. I found that my tolerance for unrelated little things, like the hanger not coming out of the closet easily, has lessened. And after I washed my hair tonight I stared blankly in the mirror. What side of my head do I always part my hair? No idea! The little things are hastily escaping my mind. I definitely need adequate sleep to keep my serenity-tank full and my thought-processor somewhat operational. I will never judge the deficient actions of other mothers. They deserve a pat on the back.

I have heard many mothers talk about their buttons being pushed. Their composure being chipped away. Their educated game plan dejectedly floundering. Before, I would have thought about how hard I would work on manners and respect to keep it smooth, but I learned early on that you can't train someone whose brain is still so primitive. Like I have said before, I give growing tots credit for how amazingly fast their mind stretches. They can't learn it all at once!

So as she grows I have no choice but to augment my capacity as well so that I can work with her. When someone goes to the gym and pushes the limits their muscles grow stronger. So my patience muscle will improve over this time spent alongside this fascinating but emotionally overwhelmed, neanderthalic scientist, whom I love so intensely. Won't it?