Sunday, May 23, 2010

Why I Blog...

Because I wish my mum had written down the inner workings of her heart...
Because my mum DID keep a journal but journals aren't the same -- they're where we empty our angst and that's hard for a daughter to read!!
Because I suck at keeping journals for my kids...
Because writing about stuff keeps me real and is a genuine need deep in my soul...
And because if I had 37 days, I wouldn't have time to write down all the things I'd want my kids to know...
When I took that long break in Autumn, I wasn't sure if I'd come back to writing my blog... I really wanted to spend more time being present in the moment and less time thinking about it... but this bit from Patty Digh has always stayed in my mind, and it's what keeps bringing me back here:

What emerged was a renewed commitment to ask myself this question every morning: 'what would I be doing today if I only had 37 days to live?' It's a hard question some days. But here's how I answered it: Write like hell, leave as much of myself behind for my two daughters as I could, let them know me and see me as a real person, not just a mother, leave with them for safe-keeping my thoughts and memories, fears and dreams, the histories of what I am and who my people are. Leave behind my thoughts about living the life, that "one wild and precious life" that poet Mary Oliver speaks of. That's what I'd do with my 37 days." - Patty Digh

And with that, I encourage you to start your own blog (if you haven't already) and "write like hell"!!! love that!! Keep it real. Let us see you as a real person, the depths of your heart! The world needs more of that. Which reminds me of one of my favourite quotes ever (thanks Sal):
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Howard Thurman

On My Mind...

Our general family policy is that when we're sick, we do our best to stay away from other people. Not that we've never shared germs, unfortunately, but we really do try to contain them. I believe there's enough misery, sickness, stress, difficulty in the world without us consciously spreading more. I think there are too many mothers (myself included all too often) who can only just manage what's on her plate -- adding something so simple as a cold, which translates to even less sleep, to the mix due to a child not being able to breathe through her nose adds stress that she doesn't need. How often I've experienced feeling like I'm managing quite well when someone gets sick and our level of peace/joy/serenity decreases in the household. I think eventually colds and flus and such will not seem like such a big deal (hoping?! ha!) but I also think that people with olders forget what it's like to have littles -- the lack of sleep, the constant giving every ounce of ourselves, that feeling that an illness could just be the last straw... And to be clear! I do not believe sickness is inherently a bad thing: to the contrary! I believe sickness can often be a gift to force us to slow down in a too-busy week, land us in bed together reading instead of running to yet another thing. I believe minor sicknesses in children primes their immune system and helps ensure health later in life. But I also believe that there are enough germs in the world that we will all get our share of minor colds and flus without consciously sharing ours with our friends and family. The most contagious time in an illness is that day or two before the symptoms manifest, when we're just not quite feeling ourselves, but often haven't given in to the need to rest. We all have to BE in the world, and so the germs from those contagious times are everywhere. And that's the argument of many people in my life -- if you're going to get sick, you're going to get sick, so why should I change my plans just to prevent you from getting MY germs???
Okay, but then why is it that we can usually trace an illness we get to a friend or relative who was symptomatic the last we saw them? Is it because our minds are conscious of the sickness and thus manifest the illness? I don't think so. I really don't. Biology degree talking now: my child sits in a grocery cart that no doubt has had a child or 5 in it that day with sniffles. But the cart has been sitting out, germs getting cold, dying by the thousands before my kid gets in and licks the handle. Viral load is pretty low, but still my child can (and does, occasionally) get sick if her immune system is focusing on something else or she was just run down that day we went out. Drastic difference from being in the same room with someone, sneezing, coughing, generating thousands of germs everytime they breathe. Viral load is VERY high, fresh, and persistent. It's like being in a grocery cart SURROUNDED with a fresh germ machine attached right to the handle.
I want to model respect and consideration to my children. It's way high on my list of who I want my children to be as adults. And not just for other mothers and other children... definitely not just my child or managing what I can handle that I'm thinking of. I'm thinking of the grandmothers and grandfathers who are battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy and really really NEED TO NOT get sick. I take my snotty child to the grocery store, their grandchild gets in next, and now that grandparent can't see their own grandchild. All because I didn't stay home when my child was sick. I'm thinking of people recovering from heart surgery, same deal. I'm thinking of the parents we know who have multiple sclerosis and other immune-suppressing diseases, where a sickness is a real blow, not just an inconvenience, and does NOT ever feel like a gift.
And so...
We try our best not to go out, not to spread the germs we KNOW we have.
It feels like modeling this to my children is helping model respect and consideration. Am I successful at my goal 100% of the time? Nope. Sometimes, like just this last round, miss Heidi got a bad cold that lasted 3 weeks. The first week, we stayed away from everyone, thinking we were all going to get it. But none of us did. We assumed it was a cold that only small children get (must be a very common one) and did attend a few of our activities, but stayed away from gener l public or anyone who had small children. Perfect? nope. Doing our best? yep.
And SO!
Recently it's become apparent that I need to find a way to voice this family policy in a way that inspires others to show some consideration to my family in the same way. Do we have any immune-suppressing diseases? No. But in the words of my wise daughter, "should we have to be the only ones who cancel all our activities for a couple of weeks just because they {sick people} don't want to cancel theirs?"
Here's why this has come to a head...
Recently a mother knowingly sent her child to my house with headlice. Yep.
Whose head she combed out 3 dead lice (killed by the chemical treatment she'd just applied) that very morning. That wasn't the worst part, because she actually told me about it so I could at least manage the fall-out. That said, told me AFTER my children had already been exposed... The worst part was that our kids had played together 5 days earlier and she hadn't told me anything about it. Timeline: She discovered the headlice on Tuesday, our kids played together on Sunday (with nothing said of lice), we arranged that day for a playdate on following Friday, picked child up and was told then. When pressed, as to why she wouldn't have given me the option of exposing ourselves, she said she felt she was managing the risk for me. She was "treating" the child, so felt that was enough. (Biology: no way to tell when knits are going to hatch, no way to tell when lice are present as they are rarely seen alive, absolutely no way to manage risk of passing along the little buggers (!) until all knits are absent from said head, which usually takes 3 aggressive weeks of treatment) She felt no need to give me a heads-up, so to speak. Interesting enough, this same mother was absolutely FURIOUS that her school hadn't told her that lice was going around the school, even though it wasn't actually in her child's classroom (yet). When I voiced concern about wanting to manage my own risks for my children, she said she thought lice was something everyone had to go through anyway...
This is the same person who sent her boy with a bad cold out with us trick or treating the year we were leaving for Maui 3 days later. We didn't know he was sick and shared our water with him as he was very thirsty (and only 2 years old at the time!) And sure enough, Pedar ended up with a bad cold, a terrible ear infection (which always accompanied colds for wee P in those days) and had to stay in the condo for the first 3 days of our holiday. Since then, we've been "gifted" with probably 90% of our illnesses from said family.

"When people show you who they are, believe them," says Maya Angelou.

But when it's family, and you believe that cousins playing together is a beautiful thing, what to do? Do you think it's offensive to start each conversation about spending time together with "Do your kids have colds? Do they have flus? Do they have lice? Do they have anything contagious that I haven't asked about?" Because of swine flu swirling around our community this past Autumn, I did leave a voicemail to that effect on Halloween day. We have a tradition of meeting after trick-or-treating at grandparents house to watch the fireworks together (they can see 3 sets, Lavington, BX and Coldstream from their huge living room windows). I got a call back saying "that was a pretty ridiculous message that you left. I don't take my kids out when they're sick!!!" Um. Actually you do. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
So how do you move, touch or inspire someone to act differently when they don't see how they really are?
And what is your family policy when it comes to sickness?

Friday, May 07, 2010

jimmy cliff

I can see clearly now the rain is gone...

Hi mum. Hi dad.
It's been awhile.
Ten years.
Ten long years.
You haven't called. You haven't written. You haven't stopped by. Would love for you to just show up at my door one day. ding dong... and there'd you'd be. Big smiles, tears in your eyes, "We haven't got long," you'd say "but we just wanted to stop by and give you a hug." And I'd fly into your arms and sob.
So, where are you, anyway? My kids keep asking. I used to think I knew for sure, but I don't know anything for sure anymore. Are you with us always? resting with your FatherGod? Reborn? Are you waiting somewhere?
I wish I knew. It would be great comfort to know for sure.
I know you didn't just disappear, because there were those 5 white doves on the lawn that night... and there were those two times I woke up and saw you there watching me...

I'm doing good. Everything's changed since you left, though. Everything.
I chose Brent after you left. For real. To be my everything, just like you said. I learned what real love is, and also what it isn't. I thought I knew all those years. But to be honest, 10 years ago I had no idea. I've learned just how precious little I truly knew. and still know. about anything. But you knew that. You tried to tell me, but I couldn't hear it then. But really, thank you for all the things you tried to teach me. So many things you said have come to me in powerful ways over the last 10 years and grabbed on in my soul, somehow. I'm so grateful for everything you were, everything you shared, everything... Everything. I wish I knew then so I could've told you, shown you, but ... well, I'm telling you now.
I've learned how powerful fear is. 10 years ago I don't think I'd ever been truly afraid. That night I fell to the ground when I heard you'd gone... My first thought was that I would die too, that I couldn't possibly go on without you... Fear nearly swallowed me whole that night... But somehow those last words from my big brother "Tyler and Silka are gone too..." saved me. I learned that night the power of perspective -- it felt like I'd lost everything, but those last words put it all into perspective for me, and I knew that if he could go on with what he'd lost, I could surely find some strength too... and I did. But that dark fear definitely seeded in my soul that night and it feels like I'm only just now climbing out past the tipping point away from the side of always choosing fear first, closer closer to the side of love. Over the years every time I was challenged, my baby had a convulsion or had crooked legs or I had unexplained pains, I'd choose fear first. Fear would nearly swallow me all over again, just like that night so long ago... But somehow love would wiggle its way in, just like those white doves on the lawn that night, and the fear would disappear, and joy would return.
I do think fear is lessening its hold on me as time goes on.
It's all about balance, isn't it? I didn't know about balance then. I thought I just knew things. Now I know I didn't. and don't. Surely I've learned how precious and tenuous life is. And happiness too. I've learned how completely fear wrecks all of that and how completely gratitude fixes it. Each time I'd reach for fear, in that same instant I'd lose all of my joy. I could see myself doing it... but slowly slowly slowly I'm learning to take a deep breath, ground myself, and choose love instead. Slowly but surely. If nothing else I've learned how entwined love and fear are and how completely devoid of joy the side of fear is.
I'm learning what brings me joy, what fills my cup, what grounds me, what keeps me on the side of love. I'm learning how powerful connection is for me and how lonely disconnection is. I don't know much about that yet, but enough to know that I want and need to stay connected with myself, and Brent, and the children if I want to hold onto my authenticity. And I've learned the power of authenticity and that it's the only way I want to live. Looking good, being right, being admired... it all pales to the power of being authentic, being my word, keeping enough of my energy to nurture us first, being grounded in my own power... I'm learning.
It feels like I've lived my whole life in the ten years since I last heard your voices, since I last hugged and was hugged by you, since I last felt your hand around mine... The girl who travelled the world, sipped tea with the orangutans in Singapore, dove for conch shells and rode elephants in Malaysia, rode the trains and bartered for yards of silk in Thailand, hiked the Himilayas and rode camels in the Cholistan, studied giraffes in Africa, strode around buying cheese in Amsterdam, discovered her strength in Florida, fished the rivers in Alaska and all that... feels like someone else. I see photos of her, with you two usually close by, big grins on all your faces, and I think she still lives that life somewhere, with the both of you. I wonder what adventures you're all having now? Yes, that wild-hearted girl is forever young, forever daughter to the most amazing parents there ever was...
Meanwhile I am 41 years old!! The child of yours seems completely separate from this 40 something me that has emerged... The me that embraces my role as wife to an amazing man who adores me, is grateful for me, admires me for the me I truly am... while the me that is juggles three incredible children, learning, laughing, loving, living, growing up together... while I plant my garden and decorate my soul and build my soil, searching for ways to make more more more compost and cutting flowers to bring sunshine inside our hearts and home... while I struggle with finding time to keep my body healthy and moving and strong... while I search for ways to hang onto the woman that I am, nurturing her along with the mother and wife and friend that I'm more familiar with...
I don't know. Would you know me now? Would you still see the girl from then in the me that is now? I wonder...
Well, wherever you are, whatever you're doing, I hope you know that I love you, that you are a big part of our lives, that my children know you and adore you and miss you too...
And hey, if you're ever in these parts, do drop by! We'd love to see you.
xoxoxo, your d.d.