Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cheesy Christmas wishes

Thys wrote a poem for school the other day for Remembrance Day. In Canada, this is a day where everyone remembers the soldiers who died protecting our country. It was a very sad day for us... rather, a sad day for us pretending to be sad with everyone else. 

Here you go:

Peace smells like cookies.
Peace looks like a kiss.
Peace sounds like a waterfall.
Peace tastes like pizza.
Peace feels like puppy’s fur.

Myles wrote one too. It was an acrostic. Remember those?
His “M” line: “Men and women fought for us to protect us.” 

And I confess: I am so proud that he is clearly already a feminist. 

And I can’t write anything better than that. 

But I haven’t done an acrostic in years, and I’m tempted... 

Oh... so... tempted.

OK! Here it is. An Acrostic Merry Christmas! 

My gift to you: Things I’ve learned the hard way this year that I share with you so that you don’t have to learn them the hard way, (as if this ever works).

Men need to be told exactly what we women are thinking. They really don’t have a clue, and it’s okay to tell them. Exactly.
Everyone has problems. Everyone. Even Jennifer Anniston and your minister and your grandmother.
Right when you think you may have arrived, enjoy it, it won’t last.
Remember the good. Forgive the bad.
You don’t have to be important to matter. (I haven’t actually learned this one yet. But I’m trying)
Change either strips us of our self-delusions or reinforces them.
Humility is invigorating, and sometimes embarrassing. And often both.
Rarely do people tell you if you’ve hurt their feelings. You must ask them, and then apologize. Even if you meant to hurt them. You can apologize for that too.
If your edges are harsh, like mine, allow them to be softened, even it requires painful sanding.
Sometimes when I say things out loud they get ruined from the way they were in my head... brilliance may be delusional.
Tears are okay.
Men need to be told exactly what women are thinking. They have no idea. And it’s okay to tell them. This is worth repeating.
Almost everything in life that is worth something, doesn’t cost real money. Everything except all of those things that you can buy at Nordstrom.
Sometimes love is simply cleaning up a mess.

Well, that was fun. For me. Really, an acrostic for adults is about as pathetic as me texting my husband from bed. When he's downstairs.

I hope you're all enjoying all the gimmicks that are supposed to make us feel cozy and heartfelt toward Jesus and our families! 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Me and Tina

I came home from work today (my two-hour-a-day gig) and went straight to my bedroom to take off my jeans and put on sweatpants. Then I lay down on my couch because I was so exhausted from my hard day of work, and read a bit of my latest favorite book: Tina Fey's “Bossy Pants.” I know, I’m always a few years behind on everything. For example: Today I learned what a hashtag was. It took a few seventeen year olds to explain it to me. But they did it with such excitement by providing so many examples and so many iterences of the exact same thing, I tried hard to understand... and then I tried hard to re-channel their excitement into Shakespeare’s Othello

Perhaps if it were written in hashtags they would like it better:


#Othello, #thebard

I am the bomb #moorofvenice #blackram
I think you’re sexy #whitegirlslikeemblack #whiteewe
Let’s get married #onlyinvenice  #thingsyoucantdointhesouth
Your daddy is real mad #grounded
But Daddy, I love him #poutysmile
Let’s go to war #realwomenfight
We won the war #celebrategoodtimestonight
Take me baby #beastwithtwobacks
Your wife is cheating on you #thegreeneyedmonster
I wish I never married #wishinevermarried
You are a strumpet #whoresrus
I am innocent #ididntdoit
Look at the evidence #handerchiefsbackinstyle
I will kill everyone now #bloodyswordplay
Even dead people talk #shakespearesuspensionofdisbelief
Othello, you’re wrong, she was innocent #fml
Why did you ensnare my soul, Iago? #demidevil
Now, I must kill myself too #waystocommitsuicide

I know, clearly I don’t get it yet. No doubt my students would tell me that I’m doing this entirely wrong. And then they’d get all excited about showing me how to do it wrong again. And they’d say the exact same thing.

My point was, I got home, took off my pants, and then opened Tina’s book (Tina and I are best friends, only she doesn’t know it yet). And I read the best and shortest chapter ever (I think she’d approve, since we’re best friends, of my reprinting it here):

Chapter Title: What Turning Forty Means to Me

“I need to take my pants off as soon as I get home. I didn’t used to have to do that. But now I do” *.


*Thanks Tina, for letting me print this, call me later, K? 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A writer's craft

Good Morning my fellow writers. Thanks for dropping by. I have some exciting news to share: One of my articles was selected to appear in The Adoption Magazine--A support group for families of adopted children. Pop over and pay them a visit, and please leave a comment there if you are inclined--share with friends of family members who have adopted children....put a bow on it and give it as a gift:)
I'm looking forward to popping around to read your latest word experiments.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Expired Password: A Eulogy

For the past 13 years, I have used my dog’s name as a password for all of my technological needs (it was original when I started it). And, yes, you too can now sign in to see the results of my latest pap smear or peak at the negative balance in my savings account. But now, our old lab is well past her expiration date. And like other things that we keep too long (milk, some clothes and decorations, and drawings that I created in 1978) she is getting stinky, difficult to watch, and oh so frail. 

The biggest clue was when a passerby in a vehicle pulled over and rolled down (yes, rolled, we live near a lot of elderly folk, don’t judge) his window to ask if she was alright. You know something is bad when people pull over to address it. Pull-overs usually only happen when you need some serious first aid (story for later) or child services (another story for later).

I mean, she’s just a measly dog. But. I have listened to her snoring, smelled her farts, and endured her loud barking since 1999. I remember listening to Prince with her 7 pound body curled on my lap (in my garage, smoking cigarettes... story for later) “I wanna party like...” Nevermind. If you can’t finish that, go change your diaper.

It was 14 years ago in San Diego, early in my teaching career, when a student of mine brought the runt of his latest litter to school one day. The tiny cutie stole my heart and the hubs didn’t stand a chance at talking me out of her. My student told me that they almost “drowned” her (which is farmer talk for something normal, though it surely can’t involve actually drowning?!?! PETA? Am I correct?) In fact, this “runt” outweighed her own mother at only a few years old, not something I think young ladies should necessarily aspire to, but in her case it was a cause of pride. 

She was a strong, steady presence in and staple of our lives for many years. 

And this is a tough one for me, I confess... I’ve had many changes in my life lately. I am not sure just how to weather this one. 

None of my the recent changes has involved disrupting the family unit; in fact, they’ve all worked toward strengthening it. But this silly dog was our first child. We have a freakin photo album of her, for God’s sake. Our Christmas cards used to have her as the focus (she was much cuter than we). I’m not sure I’m in a safe enough place yet to endure such a jolt.

CS Lewis once said that “animals that have enjoyed a positive personal relationship with a human have a better theological chance at immortality.” And I like to think that she’ll be in heaven to greet us. With a big lick and a jump. That jump she just can’t do anymore in this life.

We are all that she has known of life. She never even went to a kennel. We always took her with us or manipulated our neighbors and/or former friends into keeping her when we were away.

And even though I’ve only very recently re-connected with her after the tumultuous years of raising young children (those years when I really wanted her out of my way and out of the house) she did not harbor a grudge. In fact, it was like she never even noticed. She accepted my love in whatever way she could get it. The sadness for me is that she finally became my walking companion, now I don’t have a dog-excuse to justify my night-time meanderings.

There is something to be said about a loyalty that harbors no guilt. It’s a beautiful portrait of unconditional love. Julian of Norwich once said, “In God’s voice, I never hear a hint of blame.” Not that I’m comparing my dog to God. But I am. Sort of. They share the loyalty thing. And the blamelessness. I never had to worry what Daisy thought of me, or had to apologize for three hours about all the ways I let her down. She had so few expectations of me. She taught me how to lower my own expectations of other humans. 

In the end, dogs end up teaching us about our own capacity to love--they are willing receptacles (or dumping grounds) of all our leftover emotions. Sometimes they get the best of us, sometimes the worst. 

This morning, we had Daisy put down. 

She enjoyed a long, beautiful life. A life full of adventure: snow and ocean and lake and hills and dead bodies (story for later) and mountains and parks and lots and lots and lots of walks. We let her leave this life before her suffering became too unbearable to endure. She was always such a tough gal, I’m sure she’d have lasted even longer in her mind than her failing body would allow; however, it’s a strange choice to I’m about to compare myself to God. No, I won’t go there. 

I will always picture her running on a path just ahead, or snoring at my feet millimeters away or wagging her tail violently. For who now will tell me when someone is at the door? Or walking in front of our house? 

It will be eerily quiet here. 

RIP Daisy.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The whores of the Four Nations

As a student in Grade Three, my son Myles received the honor of reading at an all-school Mass that the Grade Three-ers were in charge of leading. My first response: nice. I confess, I gave myself the metaphorical “good mom” pat on the back.
(New readers: My boys go to the local Catholic school, but we’re not Catholic; it’s a good school and they talk about Jesus, whom we like. And here in Canada, it’s free like the public schools, which we like too.)

Then he came home with the two pages (not double-spaced) of lines he needed to memorize. Yes, memorize. In two weeks.

And they were from the book of Revelations. The scary one in the back of the Bible that I don’t even want to read at night. Or alone in a room. Or ever, really. And now my son needed to root them into his brain.

It’s okay, I thought. I can go with this. I’m a casual, non-dramatic, non-crazy, non-reactive parent (these are things I tell myself in order to fake it til I make it, which will hopefully happen by the time I have grandchildren).

We chanted Revelations in our house all day, every day, for two weeks. Sure did.

Even Thys (the six-year-old) was walking around singing things like, “In my vision, I saw another angel, coming down from heaven, who condemned the earth for its evil and rapturous ways.” It was just like the Nursery Rhyme songs that he usually sings, but with an Iron Maiden twist. It was catchy, sort of, in the same way tampon commercial songs are. I was thankful that our walls are well-insulated, and that the in-laws were not visiting.

Then. The Mass.

I went. To watch, of course. Not to see how good of a reader my son is. Not to listen to how clearly and crisply he enunciates his words. Not to notice if he remembered the inflection I taught him to use. Not to verify that the $300 we spent on speech therapy to get rid of his lisp was a good investment. Nooooo. Of course not! 

I went to kneel on those fold-out benches that Catholic Churches have (which I couldn’t do because I did an unintentional “Plank” on the pier recently which shaved two inches of skin off my knee, a story for later) and to see if I can cross my chest in the right direction when I did the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” thing*.

Myles approached the stage. And the two robed, elderly males in charge of the service were sitting in the giant chairs toward the back of the stage, smiling at him very sweetly, and looking very important. 

Myles stood behind the podium, looking at them. They looked back. For what seemed like hours. I couldn’t tell what he was whispering to them, but I wanted to run up to him and remind him that Catholics are very formal and you can’t just TALK to them in a service (but since his grandpa is a pastor and we’ve always gone to quite casual services, this was lost... I was that parent in the back of the room, trying to ESP my son, and trying not to scream or run or worse. It was that helpless, horrible feeling you get when you realize that you can’t control absolutely everything--a reality of parenting, I know, but it still catches me off guard at times). Finally, one of the robed giants got up and walked behind the huge statue of this desperate looking Virgin Mary and then reemerged with a small, plastic stool for Myles to stand on so that he could reach the microphone.

We have no self-esteem problems in our house. My boys know that they are important enough to be heard.

Myles began, “In my vision I saw...”

And if you can be fabulous at such a thing, he certainly was.

But then he got to this part that his teacher warned me about. Apparently, she tried to get this taken out of the reading, but after weeks of dispute, the Priests wouldn’t let her “alter scripture.”

Standing on the plastic stool, beside Catholic importance and underneath the yearning virgin, Myles proclaimed the Word of God: “For He judged the great whores who corrupted the earth with their four nations.”

With inflection.

But. The four nations that did all that corruption may or may not have originally been called “fornications.” 

But we’ll just save that word for at least Grade Five.

Who says we can’t alter Scripture, just a little bit? 

*No disrespect to Catholicism. I just don’t get it. I’m attempting to mock my own ignorance, not the Church itself. Sorry.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cheers to a few doozies!

To the 70-year old man whom I have never met who gave me the once- over after Church today and asked me in a befuddled voice: "What is that? Is that American?"... I say, “Yes, we’re all signed up to substitute for the circus and have to be prepared to go at any given moment. Oh, and we have more stores there than you have maple leaves.”

To my unnamed family member who scoffed when I declared that I possess the virtue of acceptance (it was a game, I wouldn’t just shout that out of nowhere) (okay, maybe I did) and then shot a chicken wing out of her nose and onto my dining room table, I say, “You married my brother who is just like me but with the boy parts, Sara.” Oh shit. I wasn’t going to say her name. Sorry.

To the crazy imbecile who decided to market the “charming tradition” of Elf on A Shelf, I say, "Family tradition my ass. $39 for a book and a tiny, stuffed, creepy looking little dude? You're a genius--this must be at least $37.90 in profit. My youngest talks to the freak all day long and has been shockingly well behaved. So well behaved for a stuffed 5 cent figurine someone constructed in China that I'm starting to think of marketing a January - November elf (can I have the name of your sweatshop?) But I'll have to make up a sappy family tradition story, like you did, to convince people that this is not a 'how to purchase a well-behaved child' gimmick, but rather a 'how to make me a millionaire' one."

And finally, to the gentleman who wagged his finger at me in the grocery store parking lot, I say... "Maybe I was cutting through the parking lanes, just a little bit, oh-so-slightly, but it was not affecting you one little bit. In fact, my slight error was no more offensive to others in the lot than your ugly head was to look at. Wagging a finger at someone is as bad as flipping them off or flashing them your ugly junk. And I'm going to send you a bill for my therapy session this week since you forced me to recall horrible events from my childhood. So please send me your address."

See Sara? I'm accepting as hell.

And since the one or two of you who read this probably want to know what I was wearing at Church this morning, it was my favorite patterned tights. Yes, they may look like they belong on a 4-year old, but I love them. And they have a lot of pink in them. There.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

generous attention

I don't have new insights into life to share.
In fact, lately I've had more questions than anything that may be remotely disguised as an insight.
But I suppose those must come first.
And then sometimes said questions might even lead me to an insight.
Though I often exist in a particular question for a while. Feel the tension of it.

What have you been paying attention to lately?

Is it your face?
Your Facebook?
Maybe... your successes?
Your worries?
Your kids, I suppose?
(The ones you have or the ones you wish you had?)
Your to do-list? Or your to-don't?
Your guilt? How to avoid future shame?
Your checkbook?
Your mid-section?
Your god? No... your goddess?

Are you all the way awake or only half?

Have you paid attention to another human recently?

And I mean fully paid attention to: locked eye contact, lost track of time, forgot about your long list of concerns and needs, and listened with your heart and not your mind: without responses from your ego, without judgment from your vast experience, without comparisons from your recent readings?
That kind.

Has anyone paid that kind to you lately?

(And by you, I mean me. And by me, I sometimes mean I, depending on each individual sentence, you know. Of course you do.)

Sometimes I have to sign out before I can sign in.

A long time ago, Simone Weil said that "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity."
(Thanks to a recent Canadian sermon for that one.)

Things rare and pure are usually expensive, yes?

What sort of expense does attention incur?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Proud of my "former" country

Yay for America!

I am going to refrain from gloating.

Instead, let me share what my dear friend Kiara has to say about it; she's much gentler than I.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

an un-story

I had the whole day off this past Friday. No work for me. Kids in school.

There were toilets to scrub, sheets to change, money to find, boogers to pick, headlines to ignore, OMG to watch, closets to organize, a fat butt to work off, etc.

Instead, I bagged it all and went for a hike.

Partly to enjoy some quality time with Mr. Sunshine before Sandy/Northern Front started taking away my tan and forcing me to shop for a Canadian Parka (we are not expected to see sun again for at least a week).

Partly because I wanted to avoid all aforementioned tasks.

But. Mostly because I wanted to see all of those crazy salmon again. They just befuddled me (see prior post if confused) and I was in love with their striving.

My instinct was to call a friend to come away with me (cue Norah Jones).

But I don't have any yet.

And instead of feeling sorry for myself, I just went anyway. Okay, yes, I did feel a little sorry for myself. I was all alone. Like a big girl.

Alone. With myself.

And that can be kinda scary sometimes.

Especially when I didn't even know where I was going. And I found myself in this:

And it was lovely and lonely and beautiful and silent. Which combined have a wicked way of forcing their own reflection.

And I made it all the way to the creek (off path, shhhh, don't tell the Mounties) after almost slipping several times (and who will save me, I thought, I am alone.)

If I had taken a friend with me, I would’ve been thinking: Can she MacGyver these hidden and treacherous and slippery ridges like I am? Does she think salmon are silly? Or gross? Or that I am? What was her motive in joining me? How do I make her like me? Should I try to impress her or pretend that I'm humble? When should I tell her about the time I... nevermind.

Likelihood: I would’ve been more concerned with my potential victim/friend’s thoughts than my own. 
No, I’m not trying to claim any Sainthood here. Rather the opposite. I am all too pre-occupied with what everyone else thinks/feels/wants/needs that I rarely take serious time to check in with myself and be kind to myself.

On my hike, I did not actually mind-fuck my imaginary friend-I-wish-I-had like I’m doing here in writing; instead, I concocted an audible voice that told me what I wanted to hear: Keep going. Don’t even look at your watch iphone and go as far up this stream as you want to.

And that vulnerability that I’ve been longing for in another human face, sorta tripped me on my own hike.

Tripped me in a good way.

And what happened then is sacred. 

I tried to describe it to a friend and I couldn't. And she said: (in a way that only a true friend can) "Don't tell. Keep it for yourself."

And that seems selfish to me too. But I'm going to try. Try to fold it between the flaps of my aging brain.

You should have seen it.

But you didn’t.

And that’s okay. I saw it for you too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When Love Comes Kicking.

I went on a field trip today with my boys' classes to a pumpkin patch.
After the talking scarecrow and the loud cow and the piles of squash and the muddy corn maze, my six-year-old and I were standing in line together for the hay-ride. I was taking pictures of him and his best friend and he looked at me and said, "I don't want you here. Go away."
I am not kidding.
We need therapy. I know.
But I tried to act calm while praying that no one nearby heard the comment. I smiled. You know, that lovely, patronizing smile we moms give to all other humans in vicinity when we want to scream, but we can't.
I went to find my other child.
He was happy to see me. Too happy for an eight-year-old.
Later that night, as I tucked him into bed, I asked: "Did anything happen today at the pumpkin patch? You seemed kinda sad, like you didn't want to be with your friends."
Nothing. No response.
A grunt.
Then: A kick.
I have learned the meaning of The Kick: It means this: I am upset. I don't have any idea how to articulate my anger and frustration. But somehow YOU are to blame for it all. Because you brought me into this world. And! You put me into these messes with other flawed human beings and left me alone for seven hours a day to figure it all out on my own. And I don't know how. And I want to cry. But I don't think I should. But I am mad. At you. But don't you dare leave my side right now.
It's a weird kick.
And you just have to grab the kicking leg. And squeeze it. And say as little as possible. Just be there in the pain. And not abandon it.
Eventually I got this from him: All of my new friends have other friends that they've had longer than me. And they leave me. Because I'm new.
And then you cry. Because you feel that pain. All too well.
And after you hug them and cry with them and suffer a few bruises from The Kick, you stand in the doorway of their room and you pray. You pray that they will survive the struggles and the pain and the heartbreak and the regrets and the shame they will find in this life. That they will find a few strong souls to walk with them in the mire. That they will be a good friend. That they won't stop trying. And you pray that you haven't made a bad choice in tearing them away from their familiar. That they will be better humans because of this choice. Eventually.
And that eventually, someday, soon, will come. Soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Battle Cries and Verbs of Spawners

I witnessed a phenomenon today. A miracle I have somehow missed for the past 30-odd years: Salmon swimming up stream to spawn. A Salmon Run.

Spawn is a fish-verb for pro-create. It is an event so contrary to anything else I've witnessed in nature, I am nonplussed.

We basically took the children to watch Fish Porn.

A perfectly crisp fall day.

We hiked to a stream and immediately saw large objects in vicious struggle. The closer we got, the more of these 15 - 30 pound creatures we spotted. Fins sticking out like Jaws. Angling for position. Rushing and splashing in panic. Then frozen. Hidden.

After we became accustomed, we realized these salmon were often in a resting position: facing upstream and letting their noses cut the water so that it smoothed by their doomed faces and filled up their lungs as they calmly waited. Gearing up for the next leg of their journey, I assume. 

It was as if I could hear their battle cries: C'mon, you can do it! We have to do it! We have no choice! Everything in us has prepared us for this! S-A-L ... M-O-N, no one can do it, like we cen! The future of our species depends entirely on our success! If we do not do this, humans will not be able to eat our meat for dinner--neither BBQ, teriyaki, or even with a sprig of lemon rind. With rice. Or potatoes!

Do we humans have an internal drive for something, anything, that we will kill ourselves to accomplish? 

All I can come up with is addiction.

As if these fish are completely addicted to the sex they will have at the top of the river they climb, literally, this river they were born in. Their natal river. This one they have somehow found after years spent in the ocean. Clearly, they are opposite humans: They become their horniest when they go back to their home. Most humans I know refrain from carnal pleasures while visiting the 'rents. 

That must be some orgasm.

Indeed a crux: When something is so vital, you are willing to kill yourself to accomplish it. In fact, you must. You. Your vessel is no longer your own. You are not the boss. Out of control. Everything is at the mercy of the one who created you. Your maker. As if you've completely submitted to the Lord of your Life. 

These muscled and viscous and desperate fish are without any bullshit to stop them from surrendering to their purpose; they are all on board to do exactly what they were created to do.

This is the opposite of selfishness. 

We started cheering them on. Yelling on the banks of this river. Jumping up and down while watching a precious few of them make it up a particularly challenging path. We watched them struggle, forcing their tales to bend back and forth on top of the water; motoring like a speed-boat for about 20 feet. How did they know when their struggle would end? Did one of their fellows tell them: This run ahead is about 20 feet. If you gear up at 4 feet, then draw back, then gear up to 5th for the last few feet, you'll make it?

But. Then we started to notice the Carnage. Huge, limp fish on the banks. Stuck on rocks.  Floating. Some underwater. Some being pecked at by wild geese. The more we looked, the more dead ones we saw, many looking like they incorrectly gambled on the wrong path up stream. Hundreds. More dead than alive. Especially at the top of "Alley of Death" as we named it.

Their particular efforts were in vain. Their purpose was denied. Unless it was to become food for others, nutrients for the earth they obey.

We discovered a beauty in their efforts. We congratulated them as we tried to offer some dignity to their decaying life-forms. We almost cried. Maybe a few of us did.

I'll leave the rest of the metaphors to you...

(Though, I have recently returned to the place of my birth, my natal river, the place I was created and delivered to this earth: Ontario, Canada ... hmmmmm... However, I am no longer "pro-creating" at this age, more like, re-enacting.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pundit practice

I have very few people no one to talk to about American Politics. But like I said earlier, I do watch the debates. And I need to vent. Which I will do here BEFORE I read the usual pundits.

And, I know, I just felt sorry for all my American friends who have to suffer through all the ads. Just skip this if you're a Republican.

Mitt Romney is a big, fat bully. An arrogant, selfish, sexist, racist, thief. And a rude and mean human being. Now I know Jesus must love him too, but I'm afraid that I am finding it difficult at the moment.

Romney still neglected in the debate last night to explain precisely how he plans to accomplish all of his grand plans, but he keeps mentioning "my five-point plan" which I haven't looked up yet, but I can only assume, must have all of these details:

1. Women: Somehow he plans to lure more women into the work place (not because he actually values them as equals, but as a political move) by offering them flexible work-hours (because clearly women are the ones who should accommodate their children). He never said that he would agree to push for legislation that would help fight for equal pay for women, I bet he doesn't even know any women who are competent: He confessed that he asked his staff to "find him women."

I bet he plans to offer all husbands a higher salary so that their "women" can stay home!

Sadly, he didn't mention how he plans to help same-sex couples raise their children (even though recent studies have shown that gays and lesbian may actually parent BETTER than heterosexual couples. Maybe because they make a conscious, deliberate choice to parent, unlike many non-controceptive using, horny heteros) but I suspect that his plan would... well, I fear his plan may ask for the same legislation many Republican men helped push in Uganda--make homosexuality punishable by death.

And. To help lower-income women with their health-care (instead of offering them access to free preventative care, like Planned Parenthood does) his plan must involve finding them husbands. Particularly Mormon husbands.

2. Immigration: Deport all "illegal immigrants" (yes, he really did use that dehumanizing word. Several times. As if he equates people who desperately want a better life for their children to thugs selling drugs on the streets. More on that word here. Or here: Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. And forgetting that most of the people whom he calls "illegal" are children of those who made the choice to cross a border. Being "illegal" in the US is the most irreparable crime one can commit... worse than murder. You can commit murder and get out in 20 -30 years, but if you're "illegal" you have a life-sentence, no repair available. Even the small step of repair for children that Obama was finally able to push through, the DREAM Act, will likely be cut off by Romney) But his plan for "self-deportation" will likely help his plan for jobs as well.

3. Jobs: Five million jobs he says he will create! He must plant to use the billions of jobs that will be freed up after the deportation of all of the "illegals." I'm sure all of the currently unemployed people in our country will be delighted to accomplish all of the jobs the "illegals" have been doing for two pennies an hour for decades. No doubt the sad, little Ivy league graduates who are out of work will love milking cows at 2 a.m. in Central California or scrubbing other people's shit out of gas-station washrooms (just a few of the jobs that are dominated by "illegal" immigrants).

4. Money: Let all of the rich people (the top 5 - 2%) of the population continue to make their millions and millions by continuing to let them enjoy tax breaks that middle class folks don't. The more you make, the more you keep! You make $100, you keep $90 (because then government just got $10!) You make $30, you keep $25, government only got $5:(  And no doubt the top 2 - 5 % are the ones funding his campaign.

5. Oil: And finally, he definitely said last night that he plans to make "North America" (not the USA) energy independent. Which, if you were listening carefully, he mentioned Canada. Because that's where all the oil is. But what if we don't want to share our damn oil with the US?

Na, I won't attempt to become a pundit... it brings out my bitter side.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Non-Political Ad

An absolute delight about no longer living in the US of A:

I am not bombarded by any political ads. No commercials! Not one (well, this could also be because we don't have cable yet, or a newspaper). But still. No phone calls. No door-to-door morons. No people tripping me as I try to leave Safeway to ask if I'm registered to vote. The only time I hear Romney's or Obama's name around here is when I happen to mention to someone that I'm from the States (which is usually when I am trying to avoid looking pathetic because I don't understand something: The other night, I was helping out with the dishes at a Church Supper ((I know, it's so 1985! But these are the only dinner-invites we get right now. And no, of course I didn't volunteer, I was chosen because of my birth-month)) and this ancient man yells: "Be careful, there's liajsodir;ijasrd-ax in that sink." I swear that is what it sounded like he said. And I was forced to apologize, and blame my new-Canadian status for my struggle to comprehend. He was actually warning me of bleach in the sink. Too late.)

I have, however, streamed in the Debates. Mostly to see what these puppets are all about. And to inform my Mother (who lives and votes in the US, but usually takes my advice:) I had no idea before the VP Debate that Paul Ryan looks like a used-car salesman or maybe a Children's Magician. Or a turtle. And also a lot like my brother. I swear. Almost identical.

But a delight of an absence rather than a presence is a rare celebration. Perhaps unless you're looking at an x-ray. Or a Catscan.

As in, last weekend we traveled to Detroit and it was only then that I realized that Canada does not use Billboards near the highways. And that Canada fixes its roads real purty and smooth. And that Canada doesn't have a large population of people in poverty. And angry drivers flipping us off. Okay, it was Detroit, but still. I saw more wood used to board up houses there than I've seen it used as floors here.

To delight in the absence of something is a step, I'm choosing to believe, in owning a new land. Or a new identity.

I'm moving past "things I miss" to "things I don't miss." And I think that's a healthy step. I think.

I am sorry for you advertisement-drenched US dwellers. Endure.

And vote! I am (absentee). And so is my mom.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Loonie innocence

At a local Artisan Fair this past weekend, my three boys and I chose an unfortunate route that traveled right next to The Children's Booth just before a Magic Act was starting.


Harv and I had to sit in the back as we cringed at how awful this "Magician" (a creepy looking man with a mustache, of course) was at both magic and jokes. As in: he was controlling a sweet young volunteer girl's arm to hit himself in the gut.

But. Then we looked up front where our boys were sitting and saw them laughing hysterically.

The failing magician's last magic trick: He gave each child a penny. And they had to follow his instructions: "Press it firmly between your hands, squeeze it tightly, and repeat my name three times... And then open your hands."

It was still a penny (though I confess, I did look).

He then instructed: "Yes, it is still only a penny. However, the magic will happen tonight while you're sleeping. When you wake up in the morning you will discover it will have changed into a loonie (a Canadian one-dollar coin). And if it doesn't work, have your parents call me tomorrow. Here's my card."

This marketing disaster was a total sell on my 6-year-old. He held tightly to his penny in his coppery hands all afternoon and couldn't wait to put it under his pillow when we got home.

Sure enough, as soon as he woke up the next morning, I heard him shriek: "Mom! Dad! Look! I have a loonie! It worked!"

Though I wonder how he would've reacted if the magic hadn't worked. I do believe that this child totally expected it to. The way he totally expects lunch in his lunchbox and me to cuss loudly when I spill something.

Myles, the 8-year-old, was a bit more skeptical. He came to my bed that same morning, loonie in hand, and asked, "Mom, you put the loonies there, didn't you?"

And mostly because this child already has trouble sleeping, I decided to alleviate any additional anxiety about a creeper's strange magic happening right underneath his pillow. I said, "Of course I did, but don't tell your brother."

He smiled.

But then he came back a few minutes later: "Mom, is it you that does the teeth too?"

I first asked him, "Do you really want to know?"


"Well, do you really think a strange little fairy creature comes into the house and flies into your room at night to steal your teeth?"

He seemed ready to give up his suspended logic, though I could tell he also wanted to hang on to the fantasy a bit longer. The same way I approach a scale. He was a little hesitant, but couldn't admit it.

Finally, "Of course not Mom, I've know that for years."

I reminded again, "Just please don't tell your brother yet."

"I won't Mom. It'll be our little secret."

A smirk, a nod, and a mother-son moment: I had welcomed him into the adult world where magic is only pretend and where we all tacitly agree to play along when we watch young people who think it's real.

Just a normal parenting moment. Ri-ight?

It was sweet and funny and horribly sad at the same time.

There is no re-entry stamp available for those who exit the land of innocence.

This is a loss that substantiates grief.

Someone told me while I was pregnant: "When you deliver that child, you'll deliver a part of your heart, and from then on your heart will live outside of your body."

My little hoarder came back once more and asked, "So what did you do with all of my teeth?"

And, today, a bonus. These Canadian authors aren't so bad:

"The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise."--Alden Nowlan,Canadian poet, novelist and playwright

When did you enter adolescence?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Leven is zo zoet

At this Church we've been attending here in Canada there is an Octagenarian who sometimes preaches. And I must confess: The first time I heard him, he put me right to sleep and I cozily recalled all those naps I used to take growing up in sleepy CRC Churches. Those Sunday mornings when I'd scrape out all of my eye boogers during the loud post-sermon hymns.

But. Lately this guy has been growing on me. In kind of a sneaky way, like my boys' fingernails.
He surprised me today (because today in Canada is Thanksgiving Day) when he sermoned about being Grateful. Somehow he weaved in how awful it is to use a credit card and how you need to say "no" to your kids sometimes, but his main point was how important it is to live a life of gratitude. Not a real shocker on Thanksgiving Day.

And I was cynical because his mandates sounded more like pull-up-your-bootstraps gratitude: Even if you've been dealt a raw deal and everyone around you has more, be grateful for what you do have, as in "at least you have a face." A very Dutch kind of gratitude.

And I wasn't buying it. It sounded to me like a cheap way of assuaging our own desires when we don't have what we want. Something my rents tried desperately to teach me and my three siblings because we really had barely more than nothing when we were growing up. They would say things like, "Look! We have brown sugar to put on our rice! They don't have that in Africa!" And then we'd scowl at them and they would call us ungrateful.

Somehow being grateful for things that suck seems like an attempt to play a trick on our own brains. Or something akin to what coaches did at Penn State: What shower scene?

Faking it. It reeks of deception. And I can deceive a lot of people, but I've always struggled with deceiving myself.

I could try it now; watch this little exercise: I'm so grateful that I live 1500 miles away from my mom and my sister and my baby nephews and so many of my best friends. I'm so grateful that I don't have a high-paying job and that I'm still paying off my student loans. I'm so grateful that my body is aging at the same rate as gas prices are hiking in California. I'm so grateful that no one is remotely interested in publishing any of my writing. I'm so grateful that my almost-dead dog keeps pissing on my new carpet.
This sounds ridiculous at best. Horribly fake at worst.

But then this pastor told a story about his father-in-law who had lived a tough life (poverty, wars, horrible illnesses, the deaths of two of his own children and then his spouse of 60 years, etc. etc.) and on his deathbed at 98 years old was asked if he was looking forward to heaven. And I was waiting for this ancient professor of God's truth to finish the story with "Yes! I can't wait to be with Jesus! And sing hymns with the angels and carry a harp and prance around on clouds like a Care Bear."

But instead the dying man responded, "Leven is zo zoet," in English: "Life is so sweet."

And in my soul, this comment resounded and banged on the edges of my heart in a way that only stories from my ancestors can.

Then I looked at this picture that I always have on my desk (though I don't recall the event). It captures me as a child being held by my Grandfather. This is a man who created a divot in a wooden bench in his Church with his wedding ring because he sat in the same place for 50 years.

And I believe that my pose captures the questions of youth, perhaps even the fear and insecurity and the displeasure of youth. And I see in his face, gratitude (and a big nose).

In this life I do not have all that I want. No, in this life I am not without trials and struggles and many things that suck ass. In this life I do not have people I love at my disposal. I do not have the dream house I desire, or the well-behaved children I desire or the flawless skin or LV bag or Hunter boots or kick-ass, perfectly healthy bod or peaceful sleep at night or a plethora of vacations ahead or a smaller nose...

But, still, I agree with the dying man: There is much sweetness in this life.

Life is so sweet.

And I wouldn't even recognize an ounce of all the sweetness if I hadn't tasted the sour.

And in this posture of gratitude I wish you all a joyous Thanksgiving Day.

May you find sweetness in the life-giving end of gratitude instead of the life-sucking realm of desiring more.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gangnam Style Yoga

Good Mooooooorning, fellow Insecure Writers! Welcome to my world of insecurities. Writing has recently topped that lovely list as I've submitted several essays to The Publishers, and I've not received any nibbles. It's like fishing in my bathtub; all I'm catching are hair and fake Army guys. Why the hell do I bother? There are so many good writers, great writers, out there...who needs me? The encouraging logic that sustains me: If every person who decided to commit an act of service didn't bother because they're just not Mother Theresa, we'd live in an even more hellish world than we already do... so, I still write. Mostly about the random, the mundane, and how I'm trying to be a Canadian. And I try to look for a little Jesus and humor in all of it.

You know when you hear a song that sounds like it was written just for you? The beat and the feel of it seem like they've been missing from your life? And now that you've heard it you're finally fulfilled? You've discovered the purpose of your existence? Where you belong?
That is precisely how I feel about Gangnam Style.

Even though I have no idea how the lyrics translate. Or understand remotely what the song is about.
But. The dance moves are like giddy-up square dance meeting hip-hopping gangstas. And when my three boys and I bust it in our kitchen, it feels like I've arrived.

But, I haven't. Instead I've become "that mom" who embarrasses her children because she says words like "bust it" and it doesn't work; even typing it feels and sounds so wrong. The same way I look when I put my hair in a "side-pony." Or wear makeup.

I am proud, however, of my 8 year-old who self-censored after showing me the music video to Gangnam Style:

Smug 8-year old: "I didn't think you'd approve of it, Mom, and you actually think it's funny."
Me: "I can laugh and dance but still not approve. Moms reserve the right to self-contradict."
(This likely came about after I held a large object in his view last week while we were walking by the Victoria's Secret Store in the mall. Good Lord. No child needs to see that.)

Then. I accepted an invitation to go to yoga a few nights ago. I accepted only because I am desperately trying to find a friend. After this woman texted me the Yoga Invitation, I thought: Shit. And then I thought, Shit again, this is going to hurt. But. I am not in a position to turn down any invitations right now.

I forgot what Hot Yoga was. It is a torture session with an excuse for well-figured folks to wear tight clothing. My only previous experience with this twisted torment, however, has always involved a kind, soft-spoken, earthy woman with a tender forgiveness for those of us in the crowd who struggle, as in: "If this pose is painful, listen to your body, do a pose that feels right, like Tadasana, Mountain Pose" (where you try to push the crown of your head toward the ceiling while standing up straight, with your arms at your side. It's my favorite. I'm really good at it.).

This demon teacher at Canadian Hot Yoga (seriously, it was 110 degrees 43 degrees in the room, Damn Celsius just doesn't add drama like good ole Fahrenheit did, but at least it's easier to spell) did not show this love to the not well-figured of us in the midst of the crowded room. It was hot, folks, hot, hot. At one point I was dripping sweat on the floor and creating a pond; I was worried that my neighbors might need life preservers. I hadn't even brought a towel. And I couldn't do Downward Dog because my mat was too slippery; I kept sliding on my face and thinking of the Bon Jovi album instead of "focusing on my practice" like the demon told me to. And then, during "Pigeon Pose" (which is like childbirth plus eyebrow waxing plus toe-stubbing) I so missed my nice teachers of the past. But no, Canadian yoga is Bitch Yoga. The Demon said: "If you're in pain, then you are RIGHT where you need to be. Don't give up! PUSH through it! And right at the moment when you think you can't take any more, and you want to get out of the pose, DON'T GIVE UP! Remain in the pain. And then, and only then, you are finally practicing [Canadian] yoga."

I am so sore I can barely reach the toilet paper.

But she was kinda right about the whole pain thing. These Canadian Bitches may know what's going on. It does suck to stay where it hurts. Enduring pain and not bailing is worthy of an award, or at least a cheap certificate that I could put on my fridge.

Which, my 6-year-old got the other day from his school for... "Displaying Wisdom." It is laminated. AND signed by the Principal. WTF? My guess is it was either a sympathy vote, a joke, or a random draw out of a hat. This child has about as much wisdom as a frog. But he told me that wisdom is "being nice to others." And he claims that he does that. At school.

So, MY fantasy laminated, signed certificate says:

Newly Relocated Endurance Award
Given to:
Kim R...
For exhibiting grace and patience and humor during a drastic life transition
(even though you drank too much Vodka)
Signed by your husband and Jesus.

On a side-note: I am tallying the hugs that I now receive (from people other than my family). In October thus far, I have received THREE. Yes, folks, three. Now, one or two of them may-or-may-not-have-been wimpy, awkward side-hugs, but we have to start somewhere. My goal is to creep out of my current hug deficit by 2013.

What award do you deserve lately?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fantasy Buttons

I upgraded my iphone the other day. Yes, I'm so fancy, I know (it was FREE). I'm incompetent. Today, a student of mine showed me how to turn my ringer on (oh ya, I'm recently out of retirement, I just can't stay out of the classroom, mainly for technology guidance, clearly).

So my most noticeable upgrade--my Sudoku (which is what justifies this ridiculous Smartphone cost, and takes up more of my time than I care to admit) has a new feature: Validation. Yes indeedy. At any point during a game of "put-the-#s-in-the-right-damn-spot" I can request to have my game "validated." Which means the God of the Game will descend upon It and tell me if I'm putting each number in the correct spot, or not. This is an insecure person's worst addiction. And a control-freak's best friend. And I am both, so I find myself fantasizing often about the potential joy of adding this button to other facets of my life:

My two best friends (Aby and Caby, I call them for short) and I hang out each night. Sometimes we walk together. Sometimes we go somewhere, though I would never drive. We make each other happy, and help ease each day's pain and frustration. Sometimes we even go to wineries and talk to random strangers.
Validate, please?

My sons are attending the Catholic school, yet I keep meeting fascinating, seemingly wonderful people that attend the public school. Even people who adopt Asian children. Asians in Grade One. Shit.
Validate, please?

I accepted this teaching position. A fantastic opportunity to teach Grade 12 in a private setting. All boys, all being recruited by D1 Universities (in football) in the states. They are awesome young men. But the pay is low.
Validate, please?

The last few meetings at my new Church, I've been thrown in with the older ladies. And not by choice, though I don't object. I usually meander to a lonesome chair and this particular population must feel the most sorry for me. Or perhaps the younger crowd truly thinks I belong with the elderly, with my grey hair and all. Sorry for the lack of updates on it. Here:

This is white hair, folks, not blond. Look at those freakin' forehead wrinkles! Awesome!

Anyway, I like it. And it has earned me a place at the old-lady table. Should I stay with this crowd? I mean, I have missed this population in my life; they're so wise and so confrontational. And all of my grandparents are dead. And I haven't hung out with many people over 40-ish in several years. True story:
Elerly woman, JoAnne, while eating dinner: Yum. So good. I'm going to get more. Are you?
Me: Well, maybe. I'm not quite done yet. But yes, it is good.
She: I'll wait for you. Eat up.
-one minute later-
She: Bottoms up. Let's go.
It was like I was 21 again in a bar. I am quite partial to JoAnne. You know she learned that lingo somewhere. I feel like we could connect.
Validate, please?

Oh, and I just moved to a new country. Validate, please? 
I believe the litmus test for validating my new citizenship is when I stop gasping over a possible exciting connection when I see someone with a CANADA shirt on. I have to stop myself from approaching with the words: "Oh! You're from Canada?!?! Me too! Well, I was born there, and then I married a Canadian... and, well, I go there every summer..." And OMFG I live here now.

What did you think Fantasy Buttons would be about?!?!