Friday, 31 May 2013

Stop soliciting?

It happens more and more. An inconvenient knock at your door. A nagging phone call. A poignant appeal on television. A pitiful add on the computer screen. A puppy-dog-face request from a friend's child. They all want your money. They all want you to support their cause.

I hate canvassing. I hate asking people to donate. But I believe it has to be done so every year I flip back and forth between wanting to continue to volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay For Life or let it go. Who wants to hear me ask for money or prizes any more?

But what if I didn't? Someone else would. But what if they didn't? What if many communities decided they were tired and wanted to move onto something else? What if the money stopped coming from donations?

According to The Canadian Cancer Society, in 2012 they invested $46 million in 336 research projects. As well, $71 million helped meet the needs of people living with cancer and their caregivers, and $9 million went to advocating for important cancer issues. That is a lot of money!!

In 2001 a new medication was approved to treat Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia. This pill stopped the need for radiation and harsh chemo for many people (though its side effects can be harsh). It increased the life span from only 3-6 years to 68% of people still alive after 10 years (After Gleevec: In Search Of The Next Wonder Drug). That is pretty substantial to me. Three years after diagnoses I got married. Six years later was when I started trying to have a baby. Next year will be my ten years. And I am going strong. Healthier than I have ever been. More athletic than I have ever been. Competing in a 10 mile obstacle course challenge next month. All possible because of that miraculous pill.

And that pill was made possible because of research. Discovering what was present in my cancer cells that was different and then looking for what would stop the reaction. Research that was funded in great majority by cancer societies. Cancer societies that get money from us.

Every time I go to the Cancer Center I see volunteers and the Society at work. Every morning when I take my pill I am grateful for the people who brought it about. Someone's generosity has given me life.

Someone's generosity will fund Grad for a youth that would otherwise not be able to afford to participate.

Someone's generosity will fund more up to date equipment for the hospital.

Someone's generosity will fund different clubs for children.

Someone's generosity will fund renovations needed to help update a home for the disabled.

Someone's generosity will provide food and necessities to the poor.

Someone's generosity will help a million different things. Which means many different groups need to put in the time and effort to raise funds. Which means you will get asked.

You can't contribute to everything. But philanthropy is required in this world. Something touches your heart. For me, my motivation is the fact that I am alive and since being diagnosed have attended two funerals for loved ones who died from leukaemia. A wake up call reminding me that even though I hate the appointments and the side effects, I am truly blessed. And I hope to help pass that on.

What legacy will you be part of?

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

What Was I Doing?

Sometimes I would lose my hefty head if it was not attached. Even a bigger problem than inadvertently losing things, I often forget what I was doing. I suppose I will blame thinking too much. I will be on my way, over-analyzing, over-listing, over-contemplating, then whoops, what am I doing? I will drive to work when I was on the way to the post office. I will go down the hall for something and come back after completing many tasks but not the one that had been the sole purpose for my excursion.

After having a baby this problem was tremendously exacerbated (to put it lightly). Sometimes I wondered how I took care of a baby. I was so tired and agonizingly foggy. It would slip my mind when she had eaten or slept. I had lost my marbles! It turned out that my thyroid had gone way out. Once I had that back on track I thankfully felt so much better.

My poor dogs are used to my diversions, and I think my daughter is learning the routine as well. Let's go... Oh wait, I forgot something. Give me a minute. There have been times I told my grateful pooch we would go for a hike or swim and two hours later I get a pleasant reminder nudge. I have ruefully missed get togethers that I fully intended on attending. I've killed many plants neglecting to water them. I have even forget to feed myself sometimes. The other day I went for a nine kilometer run and the betraying ache in my belly told me I had not eaten anything yet.

I live with a man who tends to be even worse in this area. So between the two of us, sometimes something important can be missed. If I focus and prioritize I am not too bad. I have to list what I need to do. I have to remind myself of what is important. Though I struggle with deciding what important is because I honestly want everything to be important--diet, home cooked meals, positive parenting, exercise, faith, relationships, reading, being creative, writing, growing, learning, saving, cleaning, organizing... I can get a little stressed, and very distracted, if I do not decide what is the most pressing. I have to ask God to help me see what matters most in the moment.

Tonight I misplaced my intentions again. I had a long, stressful day. I got up at six and traveled out of town with my toddler for an appointment. Followed by a business meeting that began right as I returned. Followed by putting my exhausted daughter to bed. Followed by a work out. It was ten o'clock at night. Time for sleep. I decided to have a quick shower but I was not going to wash my hair because it was too late to dry it thoroughly. Part way through my shower I ineptly realized I was washing my hair.

So here I sit, having to decide whether to attempt fully drying it now with a blow dryer in my tired state, or leave it until morning and have the lengthy process of fixing my medusa hair with a straightener.

Or, get distracted until it dries... Yup. Probably. Yawn.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

No Two Are Alike

I'm a people watcher. They are so intriguing. I'd love to be one of those scientists (or TV show personalities) who does experiments on the kaleidoscope of reactions people have to different stimuli. Maybe I could make my own. Stand on the corner and secretly video tape the distinctive reaction hundreds of people would have if I told them it looked like they had a bleeding nose.

Not really. But the reactions would by diverse. Some would initially recoil in embarrassment (I saw someone cry once when told they had food on their face). Others would instantly feel gratitude for the help. Some would stop and talk. Others would run away. Our reaction to anything is unmatchably interpreted through innumerable filters. From learned filters to the basic I had no sleep filter (oh, the reactions I have suffered from that one!).

All of these life filters have been long and complex in the making. Pieced together bit by bit since birth by our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, TV shows... Formed and then chipped away again until they are smaller. Or reinforced and grown larger by the unique betides of day to day life. Two people can live in the same home and be part of identical major events but their perception of each will greatly differ because of each and every little morsel of uniqueness and all the incongruities in their lives.

My brother and I differ in so many ways. Where one of us took an I'll-never-do-that reaction to an aspect of our childhood, the other had a this-is-the-way-it-should-be take. What one is drawn to the other runs from. Where one sees appreciation for something, the other sees frustration. Where one learned a lesson, the other was oblivious to the contributing factors. Here we are living different lives, and even more amazing, remembering a completely different world than the other!

Does he remember the same people? Like Michael with the long hair who took us in the train? Does he remember the same frustrations? Like being made to bundle up in winter and then taking it off and hiding it before we got to school? Does he recall the same food? Like the broccoli grown in our own garden that was covered with green worms? Talking about our past is like reminiscing of different worlds. Some very unfortunate similarities of course, but more differences than you would expect.

There are more disparities between people than you would speculate at first examination. What one person finds offensive another may see as a blessing. What is a want to someone is a need to their neighbor (Satellite TV? I don't think you need it). What is a humongous feat to one is a walk in the park to someone else (I think you must roll your eyes when I tell you of my pride over my great 'accomplishments'). What would be rude to this person may be necessary to that person. What makes a particular individual outright uncomfortable may warmly welcome another. Some have few words while others ramble (hmmm, how long is this blog post getting?).

Another intriguing difference in people is their honesty in their reaction. Some people say it is okay when it definitely is a problem. They first and foremost don't want to offend (my biggest developing pet peeve right now is the response "I'll be fine"). Some people exhibit nervousness in all their reactions which might give the situation a different light than they intended. Some people are quiet when excited, and in contrast others are loud even in normal conversation. Some people appear sad every day while others are so flipping happy no matter what is tormenting them inside.

I remember going to school with a girl who always appeared to have quite a blithe spirit. I was jealous of her ability to keep positive, something I could not grasp for even a single moment. Years later I had the pleasure of working with her. To my surprise, her comments and actions, even with her unrelenting grin, made it clear she always worried. I realized that you can't assume how someone is reacting as you don't hear their inner voice. My negative thoughts, unfortunately, were plastered all over my face in plain sight. And I think my face got stuck like that.

But I am thankfully learning peace and joy. And appreciating my uniques. I think chocolate and books are necessities. Company stresses me. Paper money is dirty and gross. I play with and exercise my dogs but like to wash my hands after petting them (therefore they aren't lap dogs). I don't talk well on the phone unless I have to. I would rather read than watch television. I am horrible at finishing a chore. I am a master procrastinator. I am creative. I could never find someone else just like me. And even if I thought I did, I would be wrong.

No two are alike.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Tick Tock

Time is so stinking limited. Every day, every moment, is a choice of how to spend that allotment that will flit away and then be gone. Forever. Oh my, I think I could receive a medal for wasted occasions. Unfortunately, I could also receive a medal for frustration felt when time I don't want to waste gets unavoidably frittered away. Not that you would ever receive a medal for that. But I am very proficient at wasting time when I choose (too many options for boredom!) and getting angry at squandering time when it wasn't my choice.

Actually--combine those two. I think I frequently misuse time because of frustration over some other wasted time. I hate having to take an extra moment because someone else didn't do their part. Then it leads to me losing my own focus. My viscous circle. Sounds absurd. I know. But I am working on it. (My sincere apologies to those who deal with this progression. This slow progression.)

I have heard it said a few times that you can tell a lot about a person in how they handle tangled Christmas lights. Hmmm. This doesn't make me feel good. Please don't come over when I decorate. I hate tangled Christmas lights. But what does this mean? I lack character? I am unreliable? My frustration grows with tangents about storing them improperly and if the time was taken to put them away nicely this wouldn't happen in the first place!! Ahem. I'm okay.

But in reality, there are some aggravations that occur even when we are being diligent. Like this afternoon. I attempted three times to load pictures onto Facebook. Each failed attempt was another tick-tick on the clock that could have been used to do something else in my long list of post-company chores. While my daughter naps my time is so much more productive. Unless there are these unavoidable glitches. Who can I blame for this crushed block of time?

I have always hated wasted time. Looking for lost items. Misunderstandings that lead to failed meet-ups. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I think it falls into my fear of failure. Failure to get to my big list of things I could do instead. Failure to please... someone? Who am I trying to please?

That's a question I need to ask myself a lot lately. If I am trying to please everyone then I am guaranteed to be burning daylight because that just isn't possible. Someone will have a different opinion about what should have been the priority. My husband sure wouldn't agree that me writing would be a priority. Or looking up recipes. Or organizing and sending photos. Likewise, I sure don't agree with some of his time choices.

I wish I was better with the clock. I had a list of things I wanted to do with my family this weekend that didn't happen. We were going to try glow stick juice in our bubbles. We were going to play board games. But the biggest thing about time is that you can't change it once it is passed. So I must be grateful for what I did get. When I don't focus on the things I missed, the things I received or achieved sure look better.

I have that album half posted on Facebook. But now for some reason it shuffled the order. And it isn't cooperating in the organizing process at all. I could start grumbling that the staff should try to use the program themselves and see if it even works. Or I could appreciate technology. I have this wonderful opportunity to easily share with family (eventually if it works as I try again tonight...). And a failed networking attempt resulted in time to blog. Good, I guess. Opportunities not available years ago. Something I paid no money to do. Only my time.

I should be grateful for what I could accomplish. My daughter will be up any minute...

Monday, 20 May 2013

Day at the Beach

Today we went for a family excursion to the beach. We had taken our daughter there last year but events lived a year ago are faded memories to a toddler. Every bit of the experience was brand new for her. Even walking through the grass in her bare feet, which she started with caution but she thoroughly enjoyed in no time.

She tried to keep her feet off the sand. When we sat her by the water she made every attempt to hold her feet up away from the ground. I imagine the effort would eventually strain her muscles! She didn't want to play in the sand so I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk and we strolled along the beach until she was more relaxed.

Then her and her dad scooped up water bugs. She approached them with curiosity. Her fear of bugs has definitely lessoned, as long as they don't touch her skin. She calls them bee-bugs. This got her comfortable in the soft, wet sand. She attempted to shovel some into a truck.

I got her to walk into the cold water and she exclaimed, "Yay, water!" She is a little fish, just like I was as a child. Swimming, especially in a lake, was one of my favorite things to do growing up. I could spend the whole day frolicking in the water. Then I would be burnt red and so they called me a lobster. As my girl entered the water her smile was huge and infectious. She splashed around with her dad until her teeth chattered. But when she saw another child attempt to play in the water with her dad she asked to go back in again. After another bout I dried her off.

Sitting on the blanket, her eyes lit up as she stared at something. Gophers! She gleefully chased them. They let her get quite close, hoping she was bringing food. She would bend over them and say hello. Then they would disappear in the hole and one would pop up elsewhere. She would run over to see them. All the while saying "mouse" even though we repeatedly said they were gophers.

She had quite the eventful day with family. She went to the park. She chased bubbles. She ate watermelon. She had a full day to end an exciting, eventful, full weekend with her cousins. A little too full. With too many late nights and not enough napping.

Now she is having a very late nap. There was no avoiding it. She had a breakdown when we got home and it refused to let up. Overtired! I finally snuggled her to me and she went to sleep at 5:30 as dinner was being made. An hour and a half later she is deep asleep and snoring loudly. I don't want to wake her from such a solid sleep. She did wake briefly but she was still quite emotional. Back to sleep she went. (I should have napped as well!)

Usually she is awake from her afternoon nap by three or four. It may be difficulty to get her to go to sleep tonight. But it is the last night her cousins are here so it will be a late night anyway. And the next week will be an attempt to restore her schedule.

But there is no schedule today. Just fun with the family and a day at the beach.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


Yesterday was my birthday. A reminder of how many years have passed and how drastically my world has changed and how many dreams are still longing to be filled. But birthdays mean hearing from all levels of friends and family. Celebrating another year of growth and accomplishments. And being spoiled.

I woke up to a text from my far away dad and a call from my dear grandmother, as well as many warm birthday greetings on Facebook. My husband tried really hard to get our daughter to wish me a happy birthday. She only responded with her cute little squint that represents a hug with her eyes. Good enough, sweet heart. You spoil me with your love. By the end of the day she did say "good day".

Unbeknownst to her, she did grant me a very special gift. When I picked her up after work I noticed that her day outside was starting her very first freckles. So adorable! Since she has been born she has been daddy's mini-me with her orange hair and long torso and expressions. Everyone points out her likeness. If people see me with her and have never met her dad they claim we look alike. But if they know her dad they would never have to guess who she belongs to! Now, happy birthday mommy, she is getting your freckles (never mind the fact that daddy does have some too).

We had started my birthday with a playful walk with the dogs. It included the typical, "Buddy, come here!" Each walk is either training him to heal on leash or training him to stay with me off leash. I took some beautiful pictures as the sun magically shone through the forest trees. Such a glorious morning, in spite of my lingering grumpiness. It was a pleasant walk until my daughter and her female canine companion fought over a stick, a common occurrence for the two of them. When the dog won, as she always does, I told my girl to just grab another. We were surrounded by them. But they weren't the one she wanted.

As for the rest of the day, I worked. Tired and not feeling the best. Then a family dinner with my step-daughter who thankfully returned safely from a long drive. Then clean up. Birthdays don't stop laundry and dishes from needing to be done.

If I were to ask for anything else for my birthday it wouldn't be anything material. Not that I couldn't think of a few ideas. But I won't share them. This isn't a hinting blog.

What I could use is a fairy. Maybe a cleaning fairy eager to thoroughly wash my always dirty floor each night while I walk the dogs or cuddle with my girl. Or an organizing fairy to get the garage cleaned up and find an easy to access place for seasonal items. Or, maybe I just need a kick-in-the-ass fairy to remind me to stay on task. It seems I always have an interminable list until opportunity arises and then I no longer see anything as pressing enough to get to. It's funny how priorities change moment to moment.

Realistically, I wont get a fairy and I don't think telling me to smarten up would be an adequate gift for this special occasion. I would love a family (and friend) gathering. Grandmas and grandpas, uncles and aunts, cousins and brothers and sisters. Sitting around and talking with no pressing agenda. Playing some board games. Looking through photos and taking new ones. Reminiscing and laughing. That would be a great day. If money was unlimited I would fly everyone out here for a weekend. Or maybe rent a few cabins on a lake. Do a little boating and barbecuing.

I somewhat get my wish as in two days I have some family company with their five year old and 3 1/2 month old. We will get together at grandma and grandpa's house. It will be loud with all the children running around. My daughter will have so much fun. We have walked by grandpa's a few times and she has requested, "Papa, papa". But they have been away.

In preparation I should probably treat myself to a longer night's sleep. I never get as much as I should and yesterday I really felt the heaviness. I'm getting older. I should take better care of myself. My concentration would greatly improve. And so would my appreciation for things like birthdays.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Becoming Obedient?

My female dog has always been typically obedient. She knows when she is in trouble with just a reprimanding look. I can point my finger and she'll compliantly leave the room. She is used to the fact that sometimes she has to wait and so she is very patient. Even if I leave her in the front porch for hours to dry because she is all stinky and wet. She knows I'm the boss.

So when our baby was born, it didn't require much effort to train the dog to live with the changes. She quickly learned not to touch baby's toys or try to eat baby's food. Because she adjusted so well, my daughter was able to concentrate on being her best friend.

Then, along came the male dog. Not only did he have to adapt to living with my daughter and my four-legged girl, he also had to learn my rules. I'll admit, that is a tall order. But my aunt says that the bigger the dog, the better the manners have to be! And I have high expectations because I want to be able to have people over. I don't want him to beg. I want to take him places. I want him to be part of the family.

His adjusting is a process still very much being worked on almost two, sometimes frustrating, weeks later. Stop barking. Don't chew that. Don't lick me. Get out of the kitchen while I cook. He is a smart dog and he is swiftly getting the gist of things. I can almost get him to leave the room on command. He will stop what he's about to do, like take food, when I speak up. He will sit when told and often stay. He is getting better at healing and knows not to yank the leash. If I didn't have a three foot tall parrot watching me train, I really would think I was doing quite well. But my toddler's actions make me question my success.

Now, no has become her new favourite word. No, no, no! She continuously declares it as the dogs innocently try to play. She tells them to get out with such a serious look on her face. And if they dare sniff any of her belongings, or even walk by them for that matter, she resolutely instructs them not to touch. When we eat she periodically checks the entrance to the dining room so she can take any chance to yell at them to stay out. And when we walk the dogs she constantly pats her leg and calls out come here.

Of course, the dogs listen to not a word she says. Even when she politely asks them to move out of her way. Excuse me, Doggy. She has to deal with them waltzing around her, oblivious to her commands. Sometimes she gets frustrated but usually she doesn't mind.

She's happy they let her hug them and sit with them. Today she sat so close to him and when he sniffed her she laughed with great joy. She tried the activity again later but he'd already checked her out and found no reason to sniff her again, and so she had to accept the tickling wasn't going to be repeated. She enjoys teasing them with her toys. She thinks it's fun to watch them ride in the back of the truck. And she likes to make these little games to play with them.

Today her game was to push a chair around and chase the male dog. He ran away, a little cautious of the strange noise the chair made as it dragged across the laminate. He seemed afraid but not enough to evacuate. Possibly a little curious, or maybe appreciating her delight, he would only move out of the way slightly. So to her enjoyment, there they went back and forth, back and forth. She laughed hysterically each time he moved out of the way. It was all fun and games until he gave her their first doggy inflicted injury.

It was totally an accident. She had blocked him in a corner and when he went to escape with a pounce he stepped on her foot. Quite high up on her foot, actually. So he scratched her skin a little with a touch of a bruise. Of course, it hurt.

I remember growing up with two large dogs. Accidents tend to happen with all those teeth and claws. I recall once when my dog was playing tag with a group of us. He was 180 pounds and the kind of dog you loved but you never forgot about his power. We would randomly run around until someone would smack him on the back and yell, "You're it!" At that instant, everyone would excitedly run away, screaming in both glee and fear. As we ran in all directions, the dog would chase someone and try to stop them. He would push or grab the pant leg. Then he would be proud that he won and we would do it again. We loved this game. And so did he. One day I ran, my heart racing as I knew he was behind me. I jumped up on the picnic table just as he went to stop me. He ended up grabbing my bare foot (or I could say I kicked him in the mouth). His tooth penetrated the skin between my toes. Ouch. I lost that one!

I am hoping that my daughter will make smart choices when it comes to playing with the dogs. But I know accidents will happen. She has already been pushed over soooo many times. They like to fight over the view out the front door. All three of them want to be the one who stands front and centre of the window. I tell her that they are done growing and soon she will get bigger than them. For now, I just keep a good watch. Readjust their play. Get them to move. And she continues to call out commands that they ignore.

If I could get her to hold a dog cookie for a minute I could help her to train them to listen. But she throws it at them as soon as I put one in her hand, giving them no time to obey, let alone even hear a command. And then she cries when I won't allow her to give them any more.

Oh, what fun it is to train (and clean up after) a one year old dog and a year and a half toddler. Good thing my nine year old girl can usually be left to do her thing. I sure love that dog.

I sure love my family.

Friday, 10 May 2013


Before I conceived I was slightly misconceived. I say slightly because I realized quite well that I had no idea. I was aware that things wouldn't be as expected. I never judged anyone as a bad parent because I knew I didn't know the whole story. Nevertheless, I confidently had ideas about how to avoid many common situations that I saw mothers face. Temper tantrums. Hitting. Screeching. Throwing. I've read all about it.

One shortsighted notion that was busted early in the parenting game was that of obedience. I figured with love and consistency my child would be confident and secure enough to obey. Then it hit me that the appearance of obedience would be required way before it would even be cognitively possible. A child can't obey a command until they understand what they are being told. She understands hot quite well after touching a light bulb. She'll jump back or drop at that word with no objection.

Something has to click in their immature developing brain. Stop means nothing until repeated many times. Quite, frankly, it may even be misunderstood, as they run away laughing. Don't yell might as well be blah, blah, blah. Add in a toddlers frustration with not being able to communicate and issues will most definitely rise. So in comes the evacuate-the-screaming-child technique. No matter how good the parent.

Realizing her lack of attention and her curiosity have no virulent motives, I have pretty much been able to keep my patience. When she gave a sustained protest at church because I removed the choking hazard from her mouth, I knew I did nothing wrong and I understood her frustration because I took something away. I know I frustrate her continuously. But her communicating about her situation improves in leaps and bounds. Especially her use of no. That has remarkably multiplied since training a new dog. She loves to say "don't touch" now as well.

Recently, we have started another area that I thought I could avoid with planning and attention and diligence. Whining. It is not a very pleasant sound. Especially when I can't figure out what the issue is that is causing the annoying request.

I had my arsenal ready. Use your words. Really? She doesn't have them yet! Ask nicely. Hmmm, it appears with repeated attempts that she has no idea she is whining. What would you like, Sweetie? I find myself saying that so much. But it never gets me an answer. Either she is failing at trying to tell me, or she has no idea. Like bed time. She protests as she pulls and kicks at her blanket. Take it off? Nope. Pull it up? Nope. I have no idea.

So here I am. Just trying to be patient and loving. Attempting to take every opportunity to teach. And accepting every opportunity to learn. I might mess up. We could have a situation occur that doesn't look great. (Like tomorrow. We'll be at an event for at least five hours, on a hot day, on not quite enough sleep.) But I'm plugging through. Enjoying her developments. Adoring her cuteness. And loving her personality.

One day I'll miss her whining and all the attention she wants to give me. I'll miss the call of Mommeeeee. That is, if it doesn't get worse. I hear it can get much worse...

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Financial Diet

I just bought a mocha and a treat around the corner from work. I used to do that once or twice a week. As well as a meal out a few times a week with my mom or a friend or my husband. And, before motherhood, a routine pig out session at the theatre. I would consume an embarrassing amount with a large popcorn and a family size m&ms. Yes, I, not we. Always accompanied by water to make me feel better. But now we haven't had a movie date in over a year and a half (my arteries thank me). I only eat out once or twice a month, if that. And these beverages worth their weight in gold have stopped. It started as a money-saving necessity and has grown into a learning experience in financial stewardship and prioritization, as well as treating myself better.

What began as no choice has morphed into looking at things differently. That money I just spent on something very temporary could have become a bunch of new songs on iTunes that I could listen to repeatedly. Or a couple dozen photos printed to lovingly send to family. Or maybe a new, cute sun hat for my fair skinned girl. But instead it is gone, other than the sugar flowing through my veins. And the jitters because I haven't had much caffeine lately. Whew, is it hot in here?

I cut out buying fancy drinks that cost too much money. Those six dollar blended mochas made with truffle-chocolate gelato are heavenly. I'll say it again--heavenly. But if I did twice a week (worse case yes, but in an array if other exorbitant splurges), it adds up to fifty dollars in a month. That is enough to support my running shoe turnover. Or to pay for diapers. Or to contribute a hefty chunk to the gas budget to visit family. All to savor a momentary pleasure.

So I replaced those extravagant splurges with something cheaper. Now I have a home made hot cocoa addiction. Over winter I loved to start and end the day with a nice, warm, creamy cup of chocolatey goodness. And my daughter copies my stirring quite frequently. Hot cocoas became a habit I noticeably missed if I tried to evade the watering of my taste buds as the thought entered my mind. "Tonight I wont. Tonight I wont..." Ten o'clock rolls along... "Honey, can you make me a drink?"

It isn't that unhealthy, as it is not a processed package I am consuming and I don't even need to add sugar. Plain old milk and cocoa powder. I worried about my milk consumption but I sifted through all the conflicting evidence and I think I'll stick with it for now, without going overboard. Though I probably down seventy dollars worth of milk a month. Seriously. (I do use higher priced lactose free as I am lactose intolerant. Probably the first hint to not consume so much.) So yes, I am trying to replace one of those cups with a tea.

Is the hormones in milk bad? Am I getting antibiotics the cow consumed? Am I eating too much sugar? Sometimes it is difficult to determine priorities because I want to do the right thing but right isn't always obvious. I'll avoid the unquestionable poor choices, like MacDonald's, gas station slushies, and hydrogenated margarine. And I will try to make educated decisions without being persuaded by propaganda and marketing claims and fads.

Sometimes a fad comes along and I want to eagerly jump aboard because it seems like a fad that is finally a discovery of truth. Like coconut oil. I see it everywhere. Apparently it is used for everything. Is it really that amazing? Will people still think so in twenty years? Maybe I should try it.

Looking back I have seen many different trends. Many different health claims. Many opposite swings of the pendulum. Eggs are bad for your cholesterol. No, eggs are fine. Fat is bad for you so eat all the fat-free you want. Wait--sugar is the bad guy. Fiber from grains is very important. And now, the question of whether grains are even good for us?

No wonder people give up on healthy eating. I worry about my milk consumption when the next person doesn't worry and had a can of pop, a large slush, and a candy bar.

I want my daughter to see me eat healthy and to learn to cook good meals. Maybe this time of financial difficulty is a push to teach me to make more conscious decisions. Instead of just going out and eating whatever I choose off the menu, I am more accountable in making meals with ingredients that I would want to eat.

Yes, I am trying to take a rough time and turn it for good. I am growing and learning from the choices I am forced to make and that will help me have a better future. It will help me give my daughter a better future. Hopefully. At this rate I won't be saving for her college. Surely things will turn around soon, before I try to learn how to sew. From past experience, I know that could be quite tragic.

Sing Me A Song

When I was little my favorite pastime was to sing. I enjoyed it so much I would have loved to pursue it as a career. I wrote songs and imagined creating music videos. Unfortunately, though, I was dreadfully shy. I could barely talk, let alone hold a tune in someone's presence.

I finally sang in front of people at 15 when I courageously participated in the Ambassador Program. It was a tormenting experience that burned my cheeks and it felt like there was an Alien trying to burst out of my chest. I sat like a zombie without moving and most definitely didn't portray my potential. I am sure that the committee would have loved to help me step out of my comfort zone more, but I barely even sang in front of them.

My daughter has indubitably inherited this love. And fortunately she has more freedom. She can often be heard mumbling a tune. Today I picked her up after work and walked home with two errand stops. She contently cuddled in her sling and sang the ABCs and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star over and over again. There is nothing in the world like the ambrosial sound of her sweet little voice. I assist her with the alphabet more times than I can count without getting annoyed as she says, "Again, again". (Though, excursions on my own get a little vexatious when a children's tune faithfully repeats in my head without end.)

Last year my daughter and I had the pleasure of attending a young woman's performance in a coffee shop. When I was amazed that she had no trouble remembering words, even on a song she had just learned, her mother said that she always remembered because she was so passionate about singing. She said that she had been singing opera songs by two years old. I thought about my daughter's budding love for music and whether or not I was helping it develop.

Most likely not. I love quiet. I could go all day with no television or radio. I have to remind myself to put on something that my daughter could learn. I used to play some oldies and sing to her or practice my choir songs. She loved when we would sing and dance around the kitchen. Often, when we do have a tune, it is a radio channel. I've discovered that she loves a variety of sounds. She will "la la la" to classical and imitate the words on a rock song. She really enjoys the rhythm of country music.

I recall sitting in my room late at night as a child, flipping through the radio channels looking for something to accompany with my voice. Hoping that I would get the beginning of a good song and not the end. We didn't have Internet back then so I couldn't just search for a favorite or pull up a popular item. I didn't have money and only had a few of my mom's tape cassettes which were old country and not something I had appreciated. She also had Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Cougar Mellencamp.

I got a Madonna cassette from somewhere and so I would sing that but I never really liked her voice too much. Later I discovered Sarah McLachlan and she became a favorite. I also ended up with an INXS and Phil Collins. Not much more. So different now, when everything is so easily accessible. Today it is easy to listen to a genre and find a preferred band. Internet radio is teeming with artists and when a favorite comes up it is simple to purchase it right there on a whim.

I wonder what kind of music my daughter will choose? Will she continue to like the twang of country? Will she favor the music introduced to her in church? Will she be enchanted by someone like tenor Andrea Bocelli? Will she get lost in the oldies that mom loves, like Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole? Will she fall for pop culture (Oh, please no!)? Or will she want something with a beat or something more hardcore? Her options are so open now. This is the time to love music, that's for sure.

I pray my daughter will grow confident in her singing. Not because it is an opportunity I missed, but because it is something we can share. Her mom and dad have both been in a musical. Her mom sings in choir. Her sister used to sing the anthem at hockey games. Singing is in her blood. I hope she will share it with me. It was a dream to sing alongside my husband's amazing voice, which I got to do at our wedding. I would love to perform with him again, along with our little mini-me.

But for starters we will just serenade the dogs, the kitchen sink, and the mirrors that look back at us. Maybe tomorrow I'll break out the dusty Hairspray CD.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Creation's Longing

Rivers of tears continuous flow from creation, mourning all the souls who never believed their potential. The wind persistently whispers words of encouragement to ears that won't accept the truth. Those failing to be inspired don't hear the consolation over their own incessant self talk. They focus on the lies that bring their own detriment.

A multitude of animals proclaim the mercy of renewal every glorious spring, reminding us to forgive ourselves and start afresh. The flowers bloom from nothing, attesting to the beauty sprouting inside everything, just waiting to come forth. The tree tops gallantly reach to the skies, praising the one who has given each of us a purpose. The dreaming stars twinkle each night in awe of what could be.

What could be. What is inside each and every one. Their own unique course longing for the opportunity to genuinely unfold. Begging for the chains to finally be broken, the walls to fall, the hearts to soften. Serendipity longs to creatively play without hindrance. Anticipation aspires to confidently toss trepidation to the side. Destiny begs for freedom to lead the way down exciting new paths without fighting the forceful, stealthy crush of self-reproach.

Time continually ticks on and on and on, watching wasted moments quickly accumulate. Opportunity keeps intently knocking over and over, crossing fingers that this time the knock will be heard over interminable distractions. The angels sigh as their magical touches falter. Their shimmering charm falls to the dust on the floor. A miracle brushed off as coincidence.

The earth explodes in frustration, letting off the steam of generation after generation of heartache and pain. The ground rumbles with exhaustion from the pressure. But life insists, hold on. Another kind soul will act. Another honorable heart will beat. The world continues to swell with abundant potential.

Keep whispering, cosmos. Keep creating. Keep praising. And keep your awe. What could be is not lost. Deep inside each one of them is a longing to be someone. A craving for more revelations, whether or not it is only subconscious. Keep encouraging the spirit inside them to overtake their existence. To liberally reconcile their hurt, their shame, their loneliness. To believe their potential.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

What You Put In

As the benefits of my training for Tough Mudder become apparent, I recognize one very important, and obvious, factor. You get out what you put in. This is a very elementary fact that encompasses many areas of life. But one of which I really struggle with following through.

I can recall many times in my life where selfishness and laziness determined my course of action and got me absolutely nowhere. Frustration but no follow through. Aggravation but no problem solving. Discomfort but no taking responsibility. Goals but no plan of action. Needs but no prioritizing. Then I'm left with regrets and too often not even a second chance. In my fear to move forward I often went backward instead.

Blame my perfectionism that gives me a huge list of things to accomplish with the struggle to let one thing go enough to properly focus on another. Blame living years with depression and not taking responsibility for my own growth and life path. Blame my tendency to put the onus of my own consequences on to other people. Blame fear of failure that hates putting the effort in when it may not produce the desired outcome.

But blame isn't an excuse. I can't blame these things and get a free ride. A crappy childhood isn't going to earn me any favors now. A painful distant past isn't going to earn me any free-to-treat-people-like-shit cards today. I need to focus. Even when it is difficult. I spent too many years letting things go and not making priorities and not pushing myself because of dread and excuses. (And by the way--I'm sorry.)

My muscles are now significantly stronger because I decisively pushed them past their comfort level. I can physically do things I absolutely could not do no matter how hard I tried at the start of my training. Certain exercises no longer give me cramps and others no longer make me nauseous. This didn't come by stopping when it became uncomfortable. It came by putting a future goal before my present comfort. It came by letting my fellow team members accompany me on a challenging journey.

I know, being more productive at home or improving my memory or trying to change the persistent and annoying frustrations of life is not the same as trying to build up my push-up count or burpee count. But when it comes to the work I am willing to put in verses the results I want to see, it really is the same. Having this Tough Mudder event is motivation. I got up at 6:30 to work out even though my daughter had woken me a few times and I had less than 6 hours sleep (which, as of lately, is actually a good amount). I did it because I feel I have to at this point.

There are many areas that I need to apply this diligence. Doing it when I don't feel like it. I look at my daughter and my dreams for her and I know I should be farther ahead. By now I should have had the yard set up for her to play in easily. I should have spent my money more wisely in the time that led up to her birth as I knew I wouldn't be working full time and there would be needs. I should have put more time into her relationships. And diet. I really want to improve our diet and need to push through being a better cook. I can't expect my family to choose home made over processed when I keep burning things, missing ingredients, or adding too much of something so it overpowers.

I know, I know. I am being a little hard on myself. But that is where I need to forgive myself from my past self-centeredness and negligence and move forward. Every day I need to get up and remind myself that the work is required to get the results. I know my husband is very busy. There are some things I need to stop waiting for from him.

Especially if it is an area that I solely want to change. If I put my heart into it, then he will follow. If I just complain and express my desire for improvement but refuse to lift a finger then why should anyone else? I should stop whining to myself about how someone else's weaknesses can make it harder on me and instead use that energy to do my part.

Life is too short to just wish without action. More can be accomplished than we realized. Like many areas of my life, I know that once I do it I will look back and wish I had just got the gumption earlier. I always whined about everyday aches and pains and tension in my neck and I frequently longed to be able to do more. After getting fit I realized that, even though it was difficult, it is truly worth the effort.

I need to remember that as I face other areas so that my determination can't be crushed. Breakthrough happens because there was something to break through. There are no breakthroughs on easy street. They say no pain, no gain and there are always people trying to dodge that certainty. They seek the quick fix. The miracle solution. But to truly have gain, there is some sort of pain. The fear of stepping into new territory. The risk of failure. The letting go. The stretching of muscles, whether they be physical, mental, spiritual, emotional.

I don't know if anyone can relate. Maybe I had put myself in such a closed little box that it took this tremendous work to get out. But I did it. And it is a new standard for me, reminding me to be accountable for my future (well, two steps forward and one step back). Hopefully, you can push passed whatever your walls are and see the big picture. It's a pretty amazing picture. More elaborate and awesome than you could imagine.

You get out what you put in. What are you willing to invest in yourself?