Monday, December 17, 2012

I Don't Understand

Dear USA
I'm one of your neighbours in Canada. I've been sitting here with tears pouring down my face about the events in Connecticut. I don't know anyone there. I don't know anyone who knows anyone there. That doesn't matter. Children should be safe in their homes and their schools, and little kids shouldn't have to hide in a cupboard so they aren't shot in the Kindergarten class. It is not only the USA who is in shock and grieving-it is the whole world. I hope it comforts you to know that people all over the world are sending love and sympathy your way. We are united by this senseless tragedy.

 I will readily admit my bias. I don't like guns. I don't want to be around guns, I don't want to learn how to shoot a gun, I don't want to own a gun. My uncles and cousins were hunters and there were shotguns at my uncle's farm when I was a child. I've handled an unloaded gun, but only because I worked in Customs and I had to and even then, I passed the task to another officer if I was able to. I've never shot a gun and I don't want to. I don't even like BB guns or paintball guns.

I live in Canada, where you can own a handgun legally but we have permits to carry, permits to convey, permits to own, permits to store and lots of police checks and identification requirements. While the people who want to commit crimes with a handgun still manage to find them, it's more challenging. They can't just walk into Walmart and come out with an assault rifle. In fact, unless you are police or military, you aren't allowed to own automatic or semi-automatic weapons.

I'm trying to understand why your nation is gun crazy. Why would a Kindergarten teacher need 2 hand guns and an assault rifle? Why would ANYONE other than military and law enforcement need an assault rifle? I don't understand. What makes you so afraid that you need to arm yourselves with so much firepower?

I understand that your independence was purchased at a high cost of life. I understand that the fight between North and South was resolved at a high cost of life as well...but those wars were a long time ago. I know that 9-11 made you feel unsafe again, and the world cried with you then, too. But you can put down your guns now. It's okay.

How does having more guns solve anything? People who want to hurt other people will always find a way, but why make it easier? I don't understand this thinking that more guns somehow make you safer. Doesn't it make you feel less safe?  If you truly felt safe, why would you need a gun in the first place? Why don't you feel safe, USA?

How many more innocent people will have to die before you figure out that the "Right to bear arms" is highly overrated these days, even if it's a constitutional right. Look at the historical context of that amendment; you've all grown up since then. Why look how far you've come as a nation.

I don't think I'll ever understand your stance on gun ownership. I just wonder how many more innocent people have to die before you figure out why you feel so unsafe that you need to have hand guns and rifles and shotguns and assault rifles in your homes. I know you won't be able to change overnight, but maybe a good first step is to change a law to prohibit just any random person from owning an assault rifle. I hope you figure it out soon, USA. I'll pray that this horrendous event becomes the catalyst for positive change, and I'll pray that you find a way to feel safe so you can put the guns down. And I'll pray that you take comfort that strangers all over the world deeply care about what happened in Connecticut. My heartfelt, prayerful condolences on your losses.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Anxiety and Hair Bling

Photo: The Kid's new hair bling. It's really pretty

My daughter just got a feather and some tinsely bling in her hair. Most of the little girls in her class were sporting some hair bling, and my daughter's received short shift of mommy time lately while I frantically cleared my mother's apartment. Last weekend, my husband went out to play cards, and the Kid and I had girls' night. We went to the mall, she got her hair bling, we looked in the stores, debated which boy in One Direction is cutest. (I've given up pointing out that for me to even have a preference is kind of creepy since I'm old enough to be a mother (or in some parts of the nation, a grandmother) to any of them) We had ice cream. And I thought we had a great evening of girl things.

Until the anxiety started. My daughter has severe anxiety and it touches every aspect of her life. Combined with OCD, if things aren't exactly so in her world, things don't go well. As I was tucking her in to bed a couple of hours after getting the hair bling, the worry line on her forehead appeared.

"Mommy, what if I get the feather wet?"

"Then we'll dry it."

"What if the bling falls out?"

"I watched the lady put them in. I'll just put the bling back in and if it's the feather, keep it and we'll go and get them to put it back in."

"The lady said we had to be careful in the swimming pool or the colour will come out of the feather? What if it gets wet? Will it happen right away?"

"No honey, it won't happen right away. We'll just put your swim cap on, and then rinse it out really quickly after swimming."

"But what if..But what if... The questions went on for another 10 minutes, all variations on the same theme. What if the cat tried to get the feather? What if the bling fell out and she didn't notice it? What if only half the feather fell out...I finally calmed her down by thinking up silly ways the feather could fall out-what if a moose snuck in the door and gave her a moose kiss and slimed her feather? What if daddy wanted to steal her feather? She went off to sleep thinking up outrageous ways to lose the feather and what we would do.

A couple of days later, one of the tinsel did fall out, and I replaced it in her hair in under 2 minutes. Her anxiety is less now, especially since the pink feather survived swimming lessons unscathed and unfaded.

What started out as an innocent girly girl thing turned into an anxiety producing event. It's easy to minimize the fears until you realize that in the Kid's mind, they aren't minimal at all. If she gets this worked up over a couple of strands of tinsel and a feather, what about the big stuff like what high school to go to, what career to choose or who to date? It made me regret the hair bling, which then made me angry at this mental challenge my innocent little daughter will deal with the rest of her life. I'll have to adapt, and then teach her how to deal with it. Humour and hugs will help. And maybe some backup hair bling...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Finding my Brave at the CNE

I love the CNE. I love the sights, the sounds, the Belgian strawberry waffle with ice cream and strawberries-I love to people watch, to snoop in the buildings, watch silly people scare themselves witless on rides while I sit and watch. I love the CNE.

When I lived in Toronto, I would take myself down to the fair in town every year. I hopped the King streetcar and got off at the Dufferin Gate. I'd spend the day wandering the fairgrounds and I would visit the Arts and Crafts building and the international pavilion, indulge in my strawberry waffle, visit the Hershey booth, the Billy Bee Honey booth and the Tetley tea booth, get my tarot cards read by a grizzled old gypsy in the horse building, pet a couple of velvety horse noses and head for home happy and broke. When I started dating my husband, I introduced him to my CNE ritual, and we've extended it to our daughter.

The first year we took the Kid to the CNE, she was around 18 months old. We stayed until the lights came on on the midway and she was hooked. Her head swivelled so fast from left to right I was afraid of whiplash. "Oh, pretty. oh pretty..." was all she kept saying. When she was little, rides were easy. Now that she's older, fearless and taller, going to the CNE or any midway requires the negotiation skills of a UN envoy. She loves rides. I don't.

I was the person who held the bags and purses at Canada's Wonderland while everyone else hit the roller coasters. I was the person who stayed in the lobby of the Empire State Building when everyone else rode to to the top. I used to be able to do any ride that spins, as long as it stays relatively on the ground. I don't do roller coasters, I don't do heights, and I don't do 3-D or IMAX.  After a couple of sessions of whiplash, I can no longer do spinny rides too well. My husband doesn't do spin, but doesn't mind heights or roller coasters. We have a kid who loves rides. Trade offs and negotiating are now a huge part of our day and I have been known to exercise the Mom Veto on rides that will take 20 years off my life if my kid goes on them. Drop Zone at Marineland received the "over my dead, bleeding body" Mom Veto.

Imagine my Kid's surprise and delight, then, when I agreed to take her on the Polar Express. I used to LOVE the Polar Express, or Music Express or any other variation of the ride where you sit and go backwards in a hilly circle while they play music that muffles the screams. "Do you want to go faster?" "YES" "Do you want to go FASTER?" "YES"... I agreed to take my kid on the ride. "Really, mommy? REALLY We can go on the ride? REALLY? Let's GO!"

A car accident in 2002 resulted in a misdiagnosed cracked hip and lower leg. I walked on it for months before a bone scan revealed the then-healed cracks. It's left me with osteo-arthritis in my hip that causes some mobility challenges. I'm also significantly heavier than previous years. But my kid was already running up the ramp to find a seat in a ride I wasn't sure how I was going to get into. Onward.

The ride started and I tried my best not to squish my kid as centrifuge tried to send me to the other side of the cart. We both laughed our heads off on the ride and it was just as I remembered. I felt a bit queasy, but it was manageable. The music really hadn't changed much in 30 years. It was pulsing and loud and mercifully, over quickly.

When the ride stopped, I was leaning backwards low to the ground and my knees were higher than my head. And I was stuck. I couldn't slide forward enough to use my good leg to stand up. I couldn't swivel around to use both legs to stand, and I couldn't stand from the angle I was sitting in because of my gimpy hip and my weight. I was stuck. I tried various combinations to disembark before flagging down one of the buff young carnies, swallowing my pride and asking for help. He grabbed my outstretched hand, heaved me out and I waddled off the ride, my dignity cowering behind me, tail between her legs.

I vetoed a second trip on the ride, but the Kid was still happy. Mommy had kept her promise and took her on the Polar Express. I soothed my dignity with a deluxe strawberry waffle with chocolate, ice cream AND whipped cream. And we all went home happy and broke.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cross post from the Sandwich Chronicles

I'm a blogging machine's my post on The Sandwich Chronicles.

The Wisdom of Solomon.

On Camping

My husband and daughter tried camping in the backyard last night in a tent. A number of her school chums have campers, so camping was on my kid's wish list since last summer. We did try to  pitch the tent one day last year, and the tent pole broke in the process, aborting that attempt. New year, new tent, my husband was intent on keeping his promise this year.

The Kid was practically levitating with excitement. She'd planned which stuffies were coming camping, which blanket she was bringing, which pyjamas she was going to wear...she was dancing all over the deck, unable to sit still as we tried to put up a tent.

We have both camped before. My husband went camping with  his close friends a few years ago, and his friends were a bit concerned when they saw the amount of stuff Mr. Overpack was bringing. I think they were afraid I'd actually thrown him out and the camping trip was a front. I haven't camped since I was a young teenager and spent a couple of nights in my aunt and uncle's camper. I haven't camped in a tent since "Rock me Gently" and "Rock the Boat" were at the top of the charts. (oh, go and google, I'll wait.) A week at Girl Guide camp finished my tent camping days for good. Not sure if it was the cow that looked in through the flap someone forgot to secure or the chipmunk that ran across my face in the early morning, but I was done with the tent camping thing after that experience.

I'm just not an outdoors person. I'm not a gardener. It's a necessity, not an enjoyment.  I spent 6 months in physiotherapy after an afternoon of weeding. I'm not making this up. I screwed my shoulder so badly it took 6 months of physio to fix it. I'm a container gardener. Were it not for the worms, toads, wasps, bees, hornets, mosquitoes and dirt, I'd probably quite enjoy actual gardening.

When the idea of camping first came up, I was clear in my opinion. Have fun, you two. Mommy doesn't do camp, and mommy certainly doesn't do tent. The Kid is trying to figure out the boundaries for mommy to camp, and so far she has received a confirmation that I would, in fact, camp in a Winnebago.(Since we currently do not own stock in oil companies, and couldn't afford the gas for that sucker, it's a safe assertion on my part.)  I would consider a camper, but only if it has indoor plumbing.  My personal purgatory will see me stuck in a plain where I have to walk in the dark with a flashlight to use the bathroom at night. It will no doubt also include a shower I could only access a couple of times a week. I need my daily shower. It has to have a real bed. Air mattress and sleeping bag?

The tent went up, the air mattresses went in, and the Kid then spent 30 minutes arranging everything to her satisfaction. OCD means even in a tent things must be in a certain place.  She had snacks (dunkaroos, juice box and granola bars) She had her slippers. She had her blanket. She had her bears. Time for bed. She and hubby crawled into the tent and I went in the house and locked the doors. I could hear her talking a blue streak, and the fact that there were fireworks in the neighbourhood last night didn't help the process of sleep. I was just getting ready to call it a night when a stream of curses caused me to look out the window. The tent was down. Experienced outdoor people that my husband and I are, we hadn't tightened something or fastened something, and the pop-up tent...didn't.

After a few minutes of debate and a few tears (from the Kid and blinked back from me since my night to myself was gone) they abandoned the project and came back inside. It took until 1am for the Kid to unwind and fall asleep.

Still, the promise was at least partially kept. The Kid spent a few hours in the tent (although the magic was wearing thin because there's not much to DO in a tent. I think her friends have been blowing smoke up her butt about the glamours of camping. That, or they never had to sit in the rain and NOT touch the sides of the tent.) and my husband kept his word. Best of all, I had the house and the remote to myself. Wins all around.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A day in the life of OCD/Anxiety

In honour of National Children's Mental Health Week, I bring you a snapshot of my life with my amazing 7 year old child, who happens to have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Anxiety Disorder. She may also have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; we're still in the investigative process with that. (FASD) Although she rates 6 out of 8 characteristics for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD) she isn't "bad" enough to be considered ADHD. FASD and ADHD manifest in similar ways anyway. Potato-Potahto.

My little girl's birth mom admitted to crack cocaine use and drinking alcohol while pregnant. We knew before we adopted the Kid that we could have some challenges, researched it and decided to adopt the Kid anyway. She is the child God wanted us to have. I know that in my heart and my soul, and she is the reason that the first adoption fell through. God wanted us to have the Kid instead.

The Kid's OCD and Anxiety are twins that operate in tandem. When her anxiety gets worse, so does her OCD. Things need to be calm and consistent at home, and mom has to be calm and unstressed or things go off the rails fast. The Kid is an empath, and she feeds off stress and tension in the house. The last few months in our lives have been uncertain and chaotic, and I have learned the hard way that I need to keep my stress under control for the Kid's well-being as well as my own.

So what does OCD look like? A million little routines that HAVE to take place in a set order in a set way, or the Kid can't cope. For example, food cannot touch, it cannot be broken, and she can't use the same utensil for two different things. If I send pudding and soup in her lunch, she needs two spoons. Washing the spoon out isn't good enough-she needs two separate spoons. If there is even one corner broken on a cracker, she won't eat it. If the granola bar breaks in half in transit, she won't eat it. She fixates on certain things, so for the last 3 months, it was pasta with butter and cheese every single day in her lunch, except the day that she has a hot lunch. Monday-Thursday for most of this school year, she ate pasta with butter and cheese. Some days, I'd sneak in a sandwich or alphaghetti, but for the most part, it was pasta with butter and cheese. Sometime last week, we were done with pasta and cheese. It can happen that fast. The obsession starts, has to run its course and then it's done.

The special ed teacher last year told me I was enabling her obsession by packing her lunch that way. If enabling that piece of OCD means my child eats lunch every day, I can own that. She has never been able to cope or function if she was hungry. She WILL NOT EAT if her lunch is messed with-found that out in Kindergarten when the school was punishing her every day for talking instead of eating. Turns out a kid was trashing her lunch every day, so she couldn't eat, so she talked instead. Move the kid, problem fixed, she started eating. It was my first clue that we had a challenge to deal with.

Hair must be brushed before teeth. I found that out the hard way when I tried to hurry things along one morning and tried brushing her hair while she brushed her teeth. She freaked and locked herself in the bathroom for 20 minutes. In the winter, the order is coat, boots, hat, mitts, scarf and all must be on before we open the door. She will never be able to put her hat and mitts on in the car. Stuffies need to be in a certain place on her bed, things need to be in a certain place in her room. There are a myriad of rules that help the Kid cope with life, and some of them drive me batty, but I've learned to accept them.

The more worrisome aspect of her OCD, though, is her fixation on people. She will zero in on one person to the exclusion of everyone else. In Senior Kindergarten, one of her friends moved on to Grade 1. The Kid fixated on her to the exclusion of everyone else. It made for a tough school year start until it ran its course. She has also fixated on an older boy who used to be a lunch helper. He encouraged a game of chase with her which eventually had most of the school helping her find him, trying to stop him etc. It was innocent fun, except for a kid with OCD it became her lunch routine. the older boy got tired of being chased every day and put a halt to it, except for the OCD kid, it was still a fixation. Christmas break intervened and she didn't see him for a couple of weeks. The teacher thought I was overreacting about the OCD at first, and downplayed my concern about the chase game-but came to understand that in the Kid's mind, it wasn't a game.

Anxiety makes her check on her possessions. Anxiety makes her so upset that she's awake at 0230 hrs the night before a presentation. Anxiety had her in full-blown hysteria because she was afraid she'd left a favorite stuffy in the car, and was terrified that someone would steal it. I had to take her out to the car to reassure her. Anxiety brought that same stuffy in a zippered carry-all to ride on rides at the fall fair because it couldn't be left at home or in the car. Bunny came on the rides. Anxiety almost got her killed last summer when she left Bunny on a table at summer camp, and nearly bolted straight into 4 lanes of rush hour traffic to go back and get him. Anxiety can increase the OCD reactions. She's only 7-what happens when puberty hits?

OCD and Anxiety are not something she can snap out of. They are as much a part of her as her blue eyes and long legs. They do not define who she is, but they do explain how she reacts. I educate people about her characteristics, and I will help the Kid understand. As a family, we will learn and understand how her mind works. They are part of who she is, granted, but it doesn't change anything. My kid is still amazing and I love her. People will need to understand that, or they will have to answer to me, and you don't mess with mama bear.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Baking Bread

Edna Staebler changed my life. After we moved to Kitchener from Montreal, I had a really hard time fitting in. It was a complete culture shock to go from French to German cultural background, from a small private girls' school where the focus was academic excellence (we wrote an entrance exam and only the top 50 were accepted. 75 was failing.) to a separate, much larger Catholic girls' school that seemed to applaud athletics and student council more than academics. I skipped Grade 9 and started in Grade 10 and had a tough time dealing with the very different atmosphere.

I discovered baking sometime around then. My mom didn't bake much-chocolate chip cookies, muffins, Sheriff lemon pie and boston creme pie out of a box. My mom's claim to fame, though, are her butter tarts. I tried to make them this year and murdered them. What mom made, she made well-I still remember coming home from school to vanilla cupcakes with leftover lemon pie filling in them, but she didn't take joy in the process.

 I'm not sure how "Food that Really Schmecks" made it into our house. My mom owns about 3 cookbooks-an old 5 Roses Flour one, an ancient Joy of Cooking and one that my dad picked up in the Maritimes full of squares and cookies.  Mom is strictly utilitarian in her approach and only has what she needs, so someone must have gifted her the cookbook.

I started reading it one day when I was home sick (and homesick). Edna Staebler's description of how to cook good, simple food resonated with me, and I started trying some of the recipes.  My aunt makes the most amazing buns on the face of the planet, and the recipe in the book was similar, so one day when I was alone in the house I baked bread. I had no idea baking could be therapy until I baked bread for the first time.

Edna Staebler turned me into a bit of a baking snob. I only bake from scratch now, and when I need reassurance or comfort, I bake. When I was an insecure teen and young adult seeking approval, I discovered the ability to bake pie and cookies was a sought after quality. I would make dozens of different kinds of cookies to seek approval from others and feel that I was adequate at something. I once wrote Ms. Staebler a fan letter, and she responded. I still have the note.

My standing mixer has made bread making much faster and simpler, but baking is still therapeutic. I collect cookbooks and I still enjoy baking more than cooking. I still use baking as therapy, although not so much for approval any more. My birth name, I discovered a couple of years ago, was Sara-Lee-coincidence? I don't think so.

My daughter stayed home today with what seems to be a migraine. She certainly gave a very good description of a migraine for someone who has never had one. I dug out my mixer and giant tub of flour. She wandered into the kitchen to see what I was doing, and was very happy to hear I was baking. She knows mommy likes to bake, and was amazed to learn that icing can come out of a can and cakes can come out of a box (not in mommy's kitchen, honey.) She's helped me make cinnamon buns before, and of course, the best part of any baking process is licking the beaters, a job she takes very seriously. She assisted the process by punching down the risen dough and is peeking under the towel periodically to give me status updates on the 2nd rising. Baking is imminent and then the house will smell wonderful.

Sometimes, you just have to bake bread.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Footprints in the snow

When I left to take my daughter to school this morning, I noticed a few shoots poking out of the ground beside the front door. Spring is starting to waken in Ontario, although winter has been more or less non-existent this year. While I will be keeping an eagle eye on the Dairy Queen near my mother's apartment, waiting for it to open to herald spring, my father always watched for the flowers.

Around this time of year, footprints would start appearing in the front garden. My father would start checking for the first sign of crocuses and snowdrops poking their noses out of the ground. My father was a complex man, as I have come to realize with adult insight, but he could be quite childlike in his delight in things like Christmas carols or spring flowers. He would practically dance a Snoopy dance when he spied the first shoots pushing out of the ground. He wanted to be the one to see the first flowers of spring, and then announce it to my mom and I. Footprints in the garden proved his dedication.

I had an interesting discussion on Facebook a few days ago with a bunch of people. An acquaintance and fellow writer lost her husband suddenly, and said she started seeing robins that she felt were sent by her husband to comfort her in this surreal time. That led to admissions from many of us about seeing animals or butterflies or finding pennies after a loved one had died. I always think of my dad when the mourning doves arrive in our backyard, because it was only after his death that I started noticing them. The morning after his sister died, two mourning doves appeared on our deck, and sat on the railing, looking in at my then not quite 2 year old daughter who was having breakfast in her high chair, which looked out on the deck. Birds and kid observed each other for quite awhile, and I'm sure my aunt was telling her brother all about his granddaughter, since she had met the Kid. It was not random.

A couple of years ago, a patch of snowdrops turned up in the lawn. I didn't plant them in the middle of the lawn. I certainly didn't plant them on the slope beside the driveway so they could be lawnmower food. I think they were a gift from my dad to me, since they were his favorite spring flower, and they bloom right beside the spot where the passenger door is located when my husband's car is parked. It's the spot I get in and out of the car.

There may not be any footprints in the snow any more, but there are snowdrops in the lawn and they stir happy memories. While the logical adult in me knows it was probably a random act of squirrel, I choose to believe they were a gift from my dad.

Miss you dad.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


When did rude become the new normal?

Lately I've been struck by how impatient and rude people are. Is it a by-product of the tech world we now live in, where if things aren't delivered instantly it's cause for rude behaviour?

I've spent a lot of time sitting in ER lately with my mother's health crises. Ontario's health care system is broken, and there are certainly people who shouldn't be in the ER. When you go to ER now, you should expect to wait. You should expect to wait hours. Why then, do some people think they are more important than everyone else? It's been my experience that the people who complain the loudest are probably the people who shouldn't be there, and could have waited until the next day. The last time my mom and I went to ER, she was admitted 27 hours later. 27 HOURS. We waited 8 hours in the waiting room, another 2 hours to see a doctor, and then a further 17 before she was admitted. I knew she needed care, and I wasn't leaving until she got it. I could see there was going to be a delay, and I also knew that she would get stellar care when it was her turn. No point in carrying on and raising a fuss, it doesn't make the really sick people any less sick.

The school buses were cancelled today, but the school was open. That meant that there were extra cars dropping off kids this morning on a blustery and slick day. We have a drop-off area where we can pull up, kids jump out and we move on. My daughter was protesting about me parking the car and waiting for her to go into the school every morning because she "wasn't a baby." I now drop her off at the drive-through, but I wait for her to enter the school. She's easily distracted, my little girl, and she's only 7. This morning, people were honking, they were dropping their kids off on the wrong side, and a little girl was almost hit because she was crossing the drive-through traffic because her parent couldn't wait the extra 2 minutes to drop her off properly.

Are we really in such a hurry that those extra two minutes make all the difference? You can honk until the cows come home-I will put my child's safety first and foremost every time, and if that means I wait for an extra minute, I'm going to wait. If it means that I wait for the car in front of me to exit before I let my daughter out of the car, I will wait. When the risk of my falling is gone in the spring, we'll probably walk again. I can't risk falling and hurting myself right now-too many people depend on me.

I think we need a refresher course on manners and common courtesy.  We, as a society, seem to have forgotten the "do unto others" rule. Otherwise, why would we need a Random Act of Kindness Day to remind us to be nice?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snow Day

"Is the school closed, mommy? Did we get lots of snow?" My daughter bounded down the stairs this morning, still in her pyjamas, optimism and hope oozing from every pore. Winter in southern Ontario has been MIA this year. Environment Canada had issued a winter storm warning for overnight, and teachers, children and the school custodian were all praying for a snow day. The snow came, but not in sufficient quantity to merit closing the school. School was business as usual.

I grew up in Montreal, and snow days were a part of life in a city where 3 feet of snow could fall over night. I can still remember sitting at the kitchen table to listen for school closures when I was a kid. "Baldwin-Cartier school board" was all I had to hear and I was set for the day. School was closed-time to play outside with my friends.

I remember one winter, either 1972 or 1973, that had so many snow storms that the snowbanks were almost to the roof-line. We were snowed in for 3 days because they couldn't get the plows out. Snow was up to my waist (now granted I was 9-10 but anyway) and people were skiing to get provisions. Now THAT was a snow event. I was surprised when I moved to Kitchener and they closed the schools for a couple of inches of snow. We could still walk, what was the problem?

 In  Montreal, there were machines that came around to cut back the snowbanks so people could see. We had a little sapling in the front yard, and my mother was a gardener. The force of the snow broke a branch, and I remember her standing in the snowbank with electrical tape, reinforcing the branch before allowing my dad to take her to the hospital with her asthma.

Our school had winter carnival every year, and there was a snow sculpture contest by classroom. Our class beat the whole school one year when we did Snoopy on his dog house, complete with Woodstock. Kids here don't usually have enough snow to do that.

My kid went to school today under protest. She will come home with sopping wet snowpants, mitts and tales of sliding down the hill at recess. It's all good.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

New Blog "The Sandwich Chronicles"

I've started a new blog to help me deal with my added responsibilities as my mother battles dementia.
Come on over to The Sandwich Chronicles and visit.
I'll still be blogging here as well. I need to vent somewhere!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Talking about Teen Suicide

In the Jan-Feb 2012 edition of Backpack Magazine, I have an article about talking to your teens about suicide. It's on p. 25. This article was one of the hardest things I ever wrote, and I'm really proud of it. One of my friends had the courage to tell her story. We were friends when she attempted suicide, and I had no idea she was considering it until she did.

Secondly, when I was 17. I was suicidal myself. I tried swallowing a bunch of pills, but my stomach rebelled. It gets better. It's hard to see that when you're mired in despair, but it gets better.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy New Year!

It's a new year, and time to take stock. Since I just finished reading Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project" (a book I highly recommend), my stock-taking has been inspired by some of the suggestions from Rubin.

Many of Rubin's points resonated with me, but one in particular was implemented at once. "Do anything that takes less than a minute to do." You know, things like file the paper, hang the coat in the closet, put something away in the cupboard instead of leaving it on the counter-all those niggling little jobs that can add up to a big pile of stuff on the kitchen table, the stairs or the counter. It has also proved to be a way of dealing with little annoyances-instead of complaining about leaving something on the counter, we now  "Request the 1 minute rule." Recycling now gets placed directly into the blue bin rather than left on the counter, Keurig pods are no longer left on the counter in front of the machine, and junk mail is dealt with immediately. Coats are hung up, mitts are put in the cupboard and cupboard doors and drawers are closed.

I've been taking care of everyone else lately, to the detriment of my own health and well-being. I have now started to fit in joy-writing every day, I'm finding time for things that rejuvenate my spirit, even if it's 10 minutes of knitting and watching junk television while my sub-conscious works away on the next task. I need to read at the end of the day-it turns off my head and relaxes me. If I need to go to bed 20 minutes early to accomplish that, so be it.  I'm also going to make sure my Playbook is always fully charged so that I can access Kobo when I'm waiting. My daughter may have to make do with Angry Birds on the iPod. Mommy is reading.

I've started running a laundry list of things I'm grateful for at the end of the day as I'm preparing for bed. Instead of thinking about everything that didn't get done, or needs to be done the next day, I spend a few moments reflecting on the good things in my life, even if it's for something as mundane as books, flannel jammies and a purring cat in a warm house with food and water. Reflecting on the positive helps keep the negative goonies at bay.

Here are some other things I want to be better at in 2012, in no particular order:

Don't be afraid to ask for help.  I will help anyone who asks, but I've always taken care of my own problems, thank you. A wise friend of mine once pointed out that by refusing to ask for help, I was depriving people of the opportunity to return the favour. I need to be more aware of that this year.

Sometimes it's okay to be selfish. Moms will get this. Sometimes, you just need to run away and do something completely selfish that is just for you. Earlier this year, I ran away to Stratford for an entire, glorious day and evening. I went to two of my favorite musicals by nyself, took myself out for dinner and came back restored, having fed my soul for a day.  

Cut myself the same slack I give others. I'm really demanding of myself. I'm much more forgiving of others' mistakes. I need to cut myself some slack.

The world will not end if I say no to commitments.  I juggle a lot of hats and a lot of responsibilities. This year, I need to be more judicious about choosing what I add on to an already full plate. The world will not end if I make rice krispies squares instead of sugar cookies to send with the kid for school. (I am not willing to push the limit so far that I actually BUY something rather than bake something. Not this year, anyway. )

So what are your promises to yourself for 2012?