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?