Monday, November 24, 2014

A Bear of Very Little Brain

"You sir, are stuck. A wedged bear in a Great Tightness. In a word, irrrremovable!"
So says Owl to Pooh Bear, who has become a more or less permanent part of Rabbit's domicile entry. 

Much like our poor bear-of-very-little-brain, my words are stuck. In a word, they are irremovable. I want to write, but there's nothing. Not that ideas don't cross my mind, but they don't want to be written. It's a curious state of mind freeze.

The curious part is I'm not totally sure why. Now usually, in such cases, I know. I do have a theory or two duking it out for supremacy in the back. Let's parade them out --

1) I have three jobs.
One is new and starts tomorrow morning. Not much more to say.

2) This is a latent, or fallow, phase. Stewing. Like stew, so much better when it has sat for awhile and blended flavours. 

3) It's winter, I'm cold, and the creative parts of my brain are actually and literally frozen. 

4) Too much on the mind. Like Pooh Bear, all that extra weight has made movement a challenge. 

5) In my sleep, aliens came and took my brain. (Yes. Dumb...but aliens come up a lot in queries about odd circumstances; I had to give them their due.)

I'm inclined to go with number 3, at the moment, as my fingers are too cold to type properly. POrpreyl. PrORylpy. Whetvevar!

At any rate, no one cares, except if anyone has noticed the space of days between this blog and the last one and it's keeping them up nights. Which I doubt. So I decided, in the meantime (while the aliens are experimenting) to just give a brief update on what life is like at the moment for us. 

An Average Day

6:30 Dylan wakes up. This is my cue to sprawl and sigh and hog all of the covers and pillows for a blissful 20 minutes. I like to rush when I get ready. 

8:00 I leave for work at the dining hall, or starting tomorrow, continue getting beautiful for my new job as an EA in the preschool, which commences at 8:30. 

8:15  The possibility of yelling goes up exponentially, as all family members are scrambling to find things that were "RIGHT THERE" last night, things that Someone Had to Have Taken, essential elements like pants, or socks, or lunches or musical instruments. 

8:25 Somehow we have all left. Keegan is at his school, Lauren is walking up the steps in the high school, and Dylan is looking for his favorite seat near the exit of a college classroom. I am in my fabulously classy uniform, black pants/brown shirt/white or black apron/black cap, making dollars where there were none before. 

12:30  If it's Thursday, I am heading to my downstairs music room at the Arts Academy, lugging books and bag and purse and a large tea. I will emerge at 5:20 and pray that That Guy I live with remembered to pick up the kids from school and get them to their various after school events. (To his credit, he remembers 4 times out of 5, which is not bad.)

3:30 One of us adults picks up the kids from school. In warmer weather walking and biking were involved, but now we cower behind frosty windshields and crank the tunes to bolster our strength.
Both schools let out at the same time. 
I hold my peace.

5:30 - 6:30  Supper happens. I have no recollection of how, or what we ate, or who made it, but the endless ritual takes place. Sometimes all four of us are present. And often we even have a good time!

7:00  Dylan generally disappears after supper to be scholarly, and I dissolve into a sort-of coma. Yes, I do things, but they are too random to explain. Also there is a taxi service that I provide, about every half hour, for scandalously little pay. 

8:30  Either Keegan is being coerced into having a shower, threats and all, or we are trying to gather for family devotions. Both have a similar cadence, I must admit. We are well aware that the family is always being pulled apart. Rather than just sigh and chock it up to modern life, we have to fight the tide. Make ourselves put down whatever screen we are looking at, and sit together, talk, pray, read the Bible, argue a bit, and try somehow to keep the raft from drifting over the falls. It's sink or swim, or float; if we stick together hopefully no one will be lost overboard. 

10:30  Drag my weary self to bed. Did I exercise today? Perhaps. Most likely I felt about 100 years old and after tripping on the elliptical and cracking my chin I decide to just let nature have its way. We are all dying off - why prolong it? Do I really need to fit into those old jeans? They are so last century anyway. Sleep, now that's what this body needs. 

11:30 This is more likely the correct time that I go to sleep. Or start trying to sleep. (It's a process!)

An average day. I've left out all the good parts, the important parts, like chatting with a new friend, meeting a student, hugging my beautiful daughter. Dancing to some song when no one is looking, being a goof. Speaking truth, learning Life. Thinking. 
My heart keeps beating, though broken and cracked in places, raw from overuse, like the sore, strong hands of a carpenter at the end of a long workday. Still beating. And breaking. And healing. 

Though so much has changed for us this year, I'm guessing my day isn't that different from yours in a lot of ways. 

Simply carrying on like the old hymn, "I'm pressing on the upward way/new heights I'm gaining every day/ goal, my aim is higher ground." 

Pooh and Piglet walked home thoughtfully together in the golden evening, and for a long time they were silent. 
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what's the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What's for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting to-day?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It's the same thing,” he said.

From Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Know Myself Already, Thanks

I've noticed something. 
People who have gone through a tough experience, a major life change, or a difficult challenge tend to respond to queries with some version of this sentence: 
"I sure learned a lot about myself."

Well that's good, isn't it? Self-awareness? Improvement? Greater humility, greater understanding, greater effectiveness? What's not to love?

I'll tell you what's not to love. 

Learning about yourself is a depressing experience. It's like the sponge I was using to clean something very grungy at work yesterday. It looked fine, but when squeezed all kinds of gunk came to the surface. 

Our family is not that far along this new road, and already I've learned things I wish weren't true. Like the fact that I'm a whiny complainer a great deal of the time. Seriously (or maybe you don't need convincing), I can find something wrong with any and every situation. And all these years describing myself as an optimist! Not quite. Is there such thing as a cynical optimist? No? Alright then. 

I also seem to be angry often. If I'm not Angry, I'm Anxious, or Aggravated: a real "type-A" personality. If I was one of the 7 Dwarves my name would be Angst. I'd have bloodshot eyes and a perpetually pensive expression, and wear ripped jeans and 90's plaid shirts. 
(Insert sad-clown laugh track)

I actually used to think I was pretty balanced and cool-headed, with only short spurts of frustration to mar the blissful mindscape. But no. It's the opposite, truth be told. I'm just one long spurt of frustration with isolated patches of calm. It's like seeing the other side of a rug or tapestry and realizing you've had it backwards the whole time. 

Rather than continue to explore these fascinating wonders that unfold with every bright new day, shall we turn our attention to the Why.

You no doubt know the answer already, but humor me and let's hash it out a bit. 

In the thick of new experiences, a person reacts more from the heart. Or the gut, if that suits. We don't have our defences organized yet. The involuntary ways we learn to deal with situations are not programmed in; the "system" is adapting and therefore in a vulnerable state. 

I could describe my feelings as fragile, my mind as unstable, my thoughts as fragmented. The mind jumps from thread to thread and it's harder to follow one strand or focus for any length of time.
Granted, this description isn't exactly new....maybe I'm noticing it more. 

Metacognition. Thinking about thinking. It's what crazy people do

Q. Why am I learning things about myself that I don't like?
A. I'm being squeezed by situations I don't quite understand and can't control.
Safe in our comfort zones, surrounded by the same people, the same routines day after day (generally speaking), we learn how to deal. We have coping mechanisms. We may even have vices or habits that mask our true feelings and keep the ugly down. We convince ourselves that the reflection we have learned to paint and craft is the real us. 
The mirror is showing only what we've allowed. There are big blind spots we've learned to see around. 

Case in point- has anyone ever said something about you that caused instant scoffing because, obviously, they just don't understand you?

"You're cheap."
"Whaaaat? No! I'm simply a good steward of our provisions."
"You're jealous."
"Pphhttt!! Whatever. I just think it's a bit excessive."
"You complain a lot."
"I'm not complaining, I'm stating facts."
"Maybe you need some help."
"Ha! You're so wrong. I enjoy banging my head against this wall. It's kind of fun."
(I can only be serious for so long.)

I suppose I've just admitted to being a bit of a mess. 
Well, I am a mess right now. I'm in the middle of trying to learn new coping mechanisms while desperately not wanting any coping mechanisms. 
I want to be real and honest with myself, but oh I was so much more comfortable before!! I Had It Handled, at least on the outside.
I'm in the middle of learning things about myself while wishing earnestly that I could just be whole, just get it right, for once! Why haven't I grown up? Why are all the answers I had in my twenties not working?

I'm really tired of writing blog posts about ME. Very ready to be done with this personal journaling phase and get on with some Deeper Thoughts about say, someone else's life.

My parents had two plaques that I can still see in my mind's eye and that impacted my life growing up. 

One read, "Please be patient, God isn't finished with me yet." I must have pondered that saying and the picture that went with it a thousand times growing up. Maybe you did too.

The other was a lovely etching on a small mirror quoting a piece of Isaiah 30:15, "in quietness and confidence shall be your strength." 
Oh I read that so many times! Before I had any idea what the long words meant, it brought me peace. 

Well, I think I've still got a long ways to go in "learning about myself". One day, years hence, someone will ask me about this time and I'll say it. "We learned so much about ourselves. It was great. No, actually it sucked."

I'm on the ground running, but I can't make it with all the blind spots. I have to see clearly. If that means dealing with some ugly truths then bring it on. I'm tired of tripping over life because I refuse to open my eyes.

All the changes - moving, trying to sort out jobs, new schools and schedules, second-hand stress from exams, papers, homework, cash flow issues, a body that hurts and just being really really tired - are squeezing and it's not pretty.
Kind of disillusioning, because what do I think I have to offer the world? 
To be honest, before these past few months I had kind of given up on life. At my having any significant role in it. I was hoping to just fade...away...become part of the wallpaper. 
And yet here I am. Uncovering, exposing, learning stuff...ouch.

I'm not that nice of a person. I really want to be...whole. 
I guess the word I'm missing here is grace? Maybe I have been through a lot lately and maybe I need to stop struggling and accept some grace. I suppose I don't have to get it all together by tomorrow. 

Thanks for listening. I wish I was in a cafe with you, hands wrapped around mugs of coffee, and you could give me your napkin because, well, mascara seems to be running down my face. 

Next post, I promise, will be about something else. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Got Me Some Trees

If you've been following a bit of our journey from padding our wallets in Edson to padding Dylan's brain in Three Hills (illustration courtesy of Lauren Graham), you will know that chief among things mourned are my beautiful trees. The tall stately giants of my former yard brought peace and beauty to my life.

(I realize I've been yammering on about my childhood whimsy fairly often - here's one more - I used to name the trees in our yard where I grew up...imagine the scene when trees needed to be cleared...ah yes)

So the other day I had a window of time. Supper was miraculously on the stove, kids were busy, hubby I took off on a bike armed with my iPhone camera. Every day this glorious Fall I passed the trees of Three Hills with a sigh and a smile. Too fast to take in. Tottering on the bike seat, fumbling to pull my phone from a jean jacket pocket, standing still - 'click' - 'click'. 

There are some beauties here. I rode up the tree-lined old streets, past the picture perfect houses with quaint front doors and colourful trim, sniffing the crisp autumn air. All shades of yellow leaves on the sidewalk, all blues in the sky above. 
Up Main Street a ways, looking for a better angle. Maybe some drivers confused, "what's that woman doing in the middle of the she going to dear I think she's looking at something in that tree. How odd..."

I didn't ride that far. Just a few blocks from home really, and up and down an interesting street or two. 

Also I was a trifle unsteady at times, balancing one hand on the handle bars, one hand on the phone. So we're not looking at photography here, simply snapshots. 

Capturing autumn's glory, or trying to anyway. Sometimes it's important to do a thing even if you don't have time to do it proper justice. Like when you are fairly sure the chili is burning black on the stove. 

Birches...oh I could launch into poetic crazy. But Robert Frost did so well; read his poem "Birches" (it's long-ish but wonderful):
 When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

This one, up through the branches, reminds me of a poem I posted once:
September 30, 2011
A Walk in September

Yellow-brown leaves lie gently on 
the hardening ground
and wet grass
A mouldering fence reclines, at ease
amid the poplar stands
Tall white queens 
through sun-yellow crowns
filter cerulean sky
Regal and silent 
the owl swoops low
gray-black on a cinder snag
Berries in red translucent glory
glisten unbitten
Hidden in damp sprigs 
the embroidered
early morning frost.

There are trees in my new town. Sure, maybe not out my window, but I've got a whole town in my backyard and places for exploring. 

Thankful for October, for burnt-yellow leaves, amber harvest fields, and new trees to get to know. 

Yes I like people too, even better actually. 
But right now is a time to notice the last Herculean push of color and glory before the shedding, before the black-and-white arms of winter stand still over sparkling drifts of snow. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Writers Galore


       When I was a girl, yesterday, I had this tendency for great expectations. Greater, higher, loftier than humanly possible expectations about birthdays, holidays, and Sunday School picnics.
There would be magic on my birthday. Fairies must fly in, gifts wrapped in gold-leaf and music from a pan flute as I danced with the young birches over the lawn. Holidays would be perfect - restful, fun, with merry-go-rounds, endless marshmallow campfires, and family laughter.
The Sunday School picnic would be just like Anne of Green Gables, with flowers, ice cream, a best friend, and beating boys at the three-legged race. I really believed all this.

 Now, having explored my aged personality, I know all about the boring facts related to Idealism and the Limits of Reality. I've also learned small lessons regarding mosquitos, the stationary nature of trees, and long rainy road trips with young siblings. As time went on I discovered the colour leaching out of all the glorious expectations, and learned that fantasy, though fantastic, is fantasy. I looked in the Wardrobe. I felt all the way back - reached for tree branches and the shock of snow - always, always the flat wall. Not even when I closed my eyes. Perhaps my parents wondered why their clothes were often askew on the hangers, or they simply rolled their eyes at each other's apparent carelessness. They didn't remember about Wardrobes, at least not in the cold light of day.

Growing up some, I settled in, realizing that presents were simply things bought at stores and that holidays and picnics were best anticipated. New experiences, however, were still surrounded in wonder and softly falling glitter. My cynicism surely could not extend to boyfriends, first dates, new jobs, college. Alas, the glitter showed itself to be simple dust, turning slowly in the glare of street lamps. It wasn't that life was so awful, it was that the expectations were so HIGH. And so, disappointment. Disappointment multiplied can lead to a generally cynical attitude toward everything. The protective callus forms over the raw flesh, does it not?

This past weekend was an exception. I went, finally and with trepidations and anticipations, to a Christian writer's conference in Edmonton. Oh, there were the usual realizations that workshop speakers are, in fact, mere mortals. And that not everyone who is a good writer is an effective teacher. And it was crowded; we were sitting mostly in each other's laps and if you happened to leave your purse sticking out under your arm there was likely a human domino situation. Yes, we were tired and yawning, brains stuffed and overflowing.  Ah, but we were learning about writing! And there were BOOKS! Stacks, plethoras, mounds even of books, written by the mere mortals that paced the conference halls and rode in elevators with me, ME, of all people! And there was food! And the food was good! And free coffee!

Picture the crowning moment. I'm alone, sprawled over one of two queen beds in a clean white hotel room, surrounded by pens and notebooks and new books, pillows behind me, reading and writing and revelling. I was just inspired by a day of listening to seasoned writers pour out their hearts. I've been encouraged and cheered on by spiritual advisors I respect and admire. Of course, they don't actually know if I can write a note on a napkin, but I know I can.
Alas and alack, it was glorious. Expectations firmly grounded in reality, this time, anticipation was free to soar. I soaked it all in like a kid on the last sunny day at the beach. I listened, talked to interesting people from all over Canada, I took notes, I laughed. I may have insulted a Rider's fan from Saskatchewan. I had breakfast with a perfect stranger. I re-warmed ideas that had been left to congeal far too long on the back burner.
Life at the moment is hectic and I may never have that perfect time to write. I may never be published, and honestly that is alright. I have been to the top of the lookout and I saw the ships in the harbour, white sails unfurled.

As I walked away from the hotel, across the parking lot to my car and thence home, I didn't have to turn around to know there was glitter, real and sparkling, in the air.

  *   .    .      *  .  +   *       .     . .. . *     *     .   . * . . *   +  ..   .  * +   ..  .   .    . * . * 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

It Was the Best of Times...

"...It was the worst of times."  A Tale of Two Cities. And the only line I (or anyone else for that matter) can recall - that first, great, quotable line before the entire class of high school English students nods off.
But it does sum things up.
It's been a great time, moving. Exciting, inspiring, fresh, mind-boggling by turns.
It's been a horrid time, moving. Exhausting, lonely, sad, and overwhelming by turns.

Due to sparking synapses I've been simply jotting down thoughts as they drift by these last weeks. Like catching butterflies. Snagged, netted, and pinned on a board. None too pretty, but necessary for cataloguing.

Living in Town
This is so odd. I can see my neighbours out on their driveways, doing Saturday things. They are so close. I could holler a greeting, but some instinct warns me this is not how Town operates. I lower my head and pull a few weeds from the lawn edges. I am thoughtful. Everyone is working hard to keep their spot looking nice. Earlier this summer I was cutting a lawn that would encompass at least 6 or 7 of these neighbouring yards. I mowed around 20 plus lilac trees, 12 ash trees, and large evergreens, two mayday trees, two apple trees, and a small cherry.  And playground equipment. Do I miss it? Who wouldn't? 

 I miss the freedom. I used to sing the same songs over and over at the top of my lungs and laugh out loud about funny stuff going through my brain, pausing to yell at the dog or the kids to pick up odd hidden things I was about to run over.
Cinder would obediently pick up sticks in front of the ride-on to my cry of, "Cinder! Stick! Stick!!!" and then drop them back in front of me the next round. She acted the innocent but I'm quite sure she thought it was hilarious.

"What? (bark) Oh, you didn't want that there? (bark) I thought...(bark) never mind, I'll get it, ha (bark) ha!"

 There are no enormous ant hills to run over and then watch the ants go crazy. Yes, there are these things that I miss. And I realize, turning my back on the neighbours and trudging back into my new digs, that I can't shout across the street because it all only makes sense if we continue the illusion of our own spaces. There are no convenient (inconvenient?) barbed wire fences marking the property lines. Reminds me of Robert Frost's Mending Wall. "He is all pine and I am apple orchard. 
My apple trees will never get across 
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'".

Joy of Unpacking

      It's the oddest feeling, unpacking boxes in the new place. You remember just what you were feeling and thinking, the slant of sun through the window, maybe some music that was on, while you packed that same box in the old place. Unwrapping the plates from their newspaper, you feel yourself in the old kitchen. You can smell the cupboards, see the paint on the walls. In some ways it's lovely unpacking. All the bits of home wafting out, like leftover ribbons from last year's party. 

Sermon Notes

"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs."  Jonah 2:8

I read this in church, during the sermon (that actually was on the book of Jonah, though I admit to reading randomly during sermons at times when I simply can't focus anymore, after about 10 minutes ...) I love this verse. I cling to worthless things. Idols, like iPhones and my best furniture and the length of my resume. "Forfeit" is a word that coaches use when the other team doesn't show up. They forfeit the game - they could have played, they could have won perhaps, but now they'll never know. When I cling to my idols I am too busy with them to show up to the game. The incredible grace that was for me, that I could have called mine is no longer there, not because God doesn't have rich stores of grace, not because he's given up on me, but because I was busy holding on to my worthless idols and I didn't even get to the game.

Jobless in Three Hills
 "I am the only member of the family who doesn't have a day plan, who doesn't know what she's supposed to be doing. I'm cooking, cleaning, organizing, shopping, paying bills and setting things up for school etc, so my days are busy. Unfocused though. It's rather unsettling, because how am I supposed to get a job and still keep everything running ...seems like it would be the monkey wrench thrown in the clock...nothing but springs and screws flying everywhere and not a clue as to time! Still, a job must be had. I suppose writing poetry all day, sighing blissfully and chugging mugs of coffee won't pay the bills. If only."

Spiritually Speaking

          The thing about packing up your family and going off to Bible college is that people expect you to have a higher sort of spirituality. I've had acquaintances approach me on the street asking if I could bless their baby, or pray for their cat to live through it's vet checkup. (No, I haven't had this. But I did walk down the street in some trepidation for awhile after letting people know of our decision. See, now I can't even lie.)

         It's true, the plans to go to Bible college have been the result of much prayer. We believe in God, we have seen his hand in our lives, and we have come to this point because of a strong desire to make our lives count for God's purposes in the world. He is leading and we are following. It's not crystal clear and at times we can't see the next stone to step on, or we lose each other in the mist. But still we know the path is there.

       So in this sense we need to be close to God, and stay close. We need help and direction and strength - all these God has in abundance. I know it is sink or swim time, rubber-meets-the-road time, and I can't do this on my own. That's the whole point really!
I couldn't do it on my own before either, but now there is no pretending I am.
And I'm glad of this

      On the other hand, I'm still the same quirky, faulty person, who swears a little too much and who wakes up in cold sweats imagining what my kids will be saying to their psychologists in years to come. I am not any more spiritual than I was before. However, I'm hoping I will be more faithful, more real, more sold out than ever before. And that my life and words and blog ramblings will reflect that. 

There is no faking it with God. I'm not going to pretend I have it all figured out, and I'm not going to pretend I'm not growing in my walk with Him.  It's tougher to mime walking on water when you're actually out of the boat.

*      *      *

There is more.
Other flighty thoughts I have netted include:
New Friends, The Noisy Disappointing Dryer, Fear of Shopping, and My-Husband-Is-Often-Home-What-On-Earth!!
These and other stories we can discuss over coffee if the mood strikes.

Thanks for reading and listening to my thoughts. If you want me I will probably be at the Macs down the block, getting brain freeze from a Slurpee. Feel free to holler; it makes me feel right at home.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Old Books, Donkeys, and Living with Parents

Journal Entry #4

So let us pretend the last post never happened; I put it back in Drafts. I'm thinking it was a bit raw. Perhaps in want of more time under the old broiler, so to speak. Janet Malcolm, in her controversial book The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes wrote, "Poets and novelists and playwrights make themselves, against terrible resistances, give over what the rest of us keep safely locked in our hearts." It wasn't such a fight - it simply spilled over. The angst of not knowing how to draw my own lines spilled over. Now we are moving on.

Nearing the end of our sixth week living at my parents, I have to say, it's not all fun and games, not all coming up roses, not ...whatever. Many people have said, glancing at me under their eyebrows, "So how is it living at your parents??" Blinking and smiling, always blinking, innocently. And smiling.

There have been a few tense moments. But in all honesty I have discovered so many treasures along the way, like a kid with shells on a seaside vacation. And I thought I would mention a few.

Old books that I poured over as a girl, dog-eared and loved into softness. I flip a few pages, read a line or two, and the words sing in my heart. Mistress Pat by L.M. Montgomery - I noticed it leaning inconspicuously against a rather serious brown commentary at the bottom of a bookshelf. It smells like my youth, eyes wide, sensing all the emotions in the universe through the pen of one writer or another.

Sweet Little Kids that belong to brothers and sisters of mine, cupping my chin with their chubby warm hands and saying, "Auntie Pam, Auntie Pam!..." with earnest, heart-melting brown eyes. How can I resist? I enjoyed hearing their bare feet patter over the floor, knowing they were searching for food, or Grandma, or food....or Grandma who must have treats somewhere...or marshmallows...
Or perhaps a little respite in the bathroom, just, and Auntie Pam, you wait out there, and I will call you (exactly three seconds later, "AUNTIE PAMMMM!!!"). Ah, such sweetness. Even at ungodly hours of the morning (such as 8 or 9am), so wonderfully adorable. I gush.

Lovely Vistas of green rolling fields, and the smell of farm and bales of  hay, and clover honey-wafting over the fence. The gathering storm seen from the windows. Early morning pink-lavender skies and late summer evening orange-magenta sunsets. Peas from the garden. The thunder of hoof beats across the ground as the horses run for no reason other than they taste freedom on the wind.
The insanely raucous hee-haw of Brownie the miniature three in the morning, braying as if he was the first animal created....whoops, I'm puncturing the dreamy atmosphere completely. As did he.
Back to the lovely vistas...  

Evening Chats over tea in beautiful mugs. Tired and thoughtful, mulling over the day and the days to come. Conversation and company.

All treasures, and treasured. Of course I could go on. There was a mysterious supply of DQ ice cream treats that seemed to appear and disappear like mists on the moors. Nothing left but smacking lips and wooden sticks. Quad rides. Walks along the road. Swinging. So, when people ask me with that gleam in their eye, "How is it living with your parents?" with their Mister Bean smiles; tea, beauty and memories are all I have to say. And Thank-you, to the most wonderful parents. I love you. Please shoot that donkey. No, it's ok. I'll do it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Train Wreck that is my Mind

Journal Entry 3 - Train Wreck

It’s been too long, again, but I’m not really apologizing because as you can imagine, things have been less than stellar lately in relation to a Blog-Friendly Environment. Moving, packing, living out of a suitcase and/or various baskets strewn here and there on top of each other – not entirely conducive to the creative process. But I digress.

Part of the reason for the delay and the nonsense is the smoking train wreck that is my brain. I’ve been spending time... picking through the thought processes that have imploded into other thoughts, like carefully pulling out trains derailed in a glorious, upturned disaster zone. Caution tape dangles from unrecognizable metal parts.
There are tracks for old house, new house, vacation, family, mortgages, bills, current demands, future worries, future hopes. Kids, dog, not my lawn anymore, where is my mail, computer isn’t working, what should I be doing, laundry, new job? new schools. I feel perhaps like Alice in the maze. I don’t sleep much, not sure why – life has calmed down considerably in the waiting phase - but I can't sleep. Wah. I confess I've been coping with things by living in a fantasy world in my head, half the time. An internal escape hatch, if that makes sense. Of course it's not the first time. Imagination is a gift.

The trick, I'm learning, is to live in the moment. Sounds easy. Not so much for this planner-type, yours truly. If I take each day as it comes, do what I can, take care of my own, don’t try to squeeze too much out of myself – things are fine. I have had several moments of simply enjoying summer. We went to Whistler for a little holiday, and I can't say enough good things about the amazingness of that place! I don't want to say too much because I don't want all 7 of you going there and crowding up the place. So I'll just paint a picture...
a chair lift moves through vistas of mountain cliffs and far-away peaks, swinging gently as cool air lifts off the snow bringing the scent of pine and balsam. At the top, you stare. You turn half-way, all the way around...all is beautiful, snow-covered mountains, some black with old basalt peaks or holding glaciers over their shoulders, like elegant ladies with white fur stoles. Clambering around little goat-paths, sitting on rocks looking out, and out...there are people, but most are silent. It's a place to balance your camera, to breathe. And wish you could stay forever. 

 Onwards and Upwards! To Narnia and the North!

 - C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy

Except we aren't going North. We are heading south, to Three Hills AB.
        We move to the new place in Three Hills around the middle of August, so another month of this limbo. It's a bit confusing. We are very, very blessed to be able to stay at my parents home. As I type this, we are sitting companionably around the kitchen table. (I'm being terribly anti-social but I do look up from time to time and offer my valuable opinion on the issue at hand...hurray for me)
But it is a bit confusing. I think we all feel fragmented. I can't seem to remember what I'm supposed to be doing, and there are so many small things to take care of. I know I'm whining and it's annoying. I have a new perspective, a tiny slice of what it might be like to be a refugee, or someone permanently displaced. We all need our own little holes to crawl into. That reminds me of a verse... "And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.'" Matthew 8:20
Hmm. Interesting. I'm not saying in the least that I now relate to how Jesus felt on earth; it's just something I never really thought of before. He was homeless, by choice. He was intentional with everything in His life. He chose a lot of things I would not have chosen.
Midnight, and I had better at least go through the motions of going to bed, opening a window, laying my head on the pillow, closing my eyes. This blog post is seriously disjointed, but I guess that's ok, kind-of fits with the theme. I have no idea what I'm doing tomorrow. Which is alright, for now. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

In Oceans Deep

Moving Journal Entry #2

June 19, 2014

One thing about moving that I find hard is "the last times". There's the last drive to school, the last sleep in your room, the last walk down the driveway, the last smell of the lilacs, the last stroll with the dog, last look around at the place you've called Home.

Because I'm of the sensitive-soul type (who isn't, though, really), I think about these things and I have a sharp-knife-point awareness of them as we go along. I try not to think too much or move too fast, to keep the point on the outside of the skin, to keep the hurt out. I'm too aware of the stress my children are feeling. We all are under the weight of loss and the relentless time-keeping the days impose. My husband's voice is a bit sharp as we drive away and leave his old red truck in someone else's driveway.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior                            
 "Oceans"      -HILLSONG

Keep our eyes above the waves, Lord.

The only way through is to keep walking, keep one foot stepping in front of the other. Every other day we ask ourselves and each other -
 'What are we doing, again? This is a good thing, right? Are you sure we've got this right?'
This is where the exercising of the faith comes in. I must confess the muscle is weak and flabby and tires easily.

One moment I'm packing, fast and efficient, cleaning almost frantically - tripping, phoning, getting things done. The next, I'm slowed to a crawl. I stare at the cupboards, wonder what to do with the food (What did we do last time? Why can't I remember anything?) and then turn away from the cupboards and go outside. I'm worried the piano won't take one more move. We need that piano, it's a family heirloom now, and Lauren plays it constantly - but the legs have become weak. I'm afraid to move it even one inch. What if it breaks? I might break.

Because I'm sentimental but also ridiculous and sarcastic, there's a bit of Jekyll and Hyde going on. A tear rolls down for some reason. Two minutes later I'm rolling my own eyes at my own tears. Cue exaggerated eye-rolling. (It's not that big of a deal! Come on, people move every day. Get over it.) Much of the time I'm just fine and logical and perfectly calm, a paragon of rationality, one might say. Mmm.

I am more than Thankful for these days when I've had a few hours to myself, where I can think and sit in the quiet of an empty house and plan. I realize it's a huge privilege and I don't take it for granted, and I also know it's pretty much over. This afternoon is sports day at the school, then tomorrow is a short day, the last day. Today I'm going to be mowing the lawn, packing every box and thing I'm able to lift into a container, selling the mower, dealing with stuff. Looking for more boxes. I thought I had PLENTY of boxes, but I thought wrong.

The thing with Last Things, what gives them a knife-edge of sadness, is the word regret. Regret is one of the saddest words in the English language, me-thinks.

Because whenever you say good bye to something, there's always a what if. What if we had spent more time in the yard? What if the kids had finished the fort? Why didn't I have more family and friends over? Why didn't I finish that project? Why didn't we take more family photos? Ahh, regret. It permeates life. We never have enough time. We always make mistakes, that's just the way it is. We do our best with what we have in each moment, and sometimes we don't have anything left in that moment and our best is pitiful and sad.
But I believe it's ok. I believe this is NOT the END. How can we step out with confidence? How to set our hearts and eyes straight forward? How to let the sad and regret shake off like water drops, to only absorb what we can handle? How?
Because this isn't the end.
Eternity stretches out - and I believe we will have all of heaven to get the moments back. All is not lost! It's never lost, as long as we are breathing. I can do all these hard things, yes sometimes with tears, when I am holding the Hand of my God. Everything else I can let go, because when we leave this brief earth-sojourn it is only His Hand we will be holding.

...and there I find You in the mystery, in oceans deep my faith will stand


Friday, June 13, 2014

I Don't Have Time to Blog

I really shouldn't be doing this.

I have imminent packing responsibilities, crazy-too-much work, I'm on the phone with a mortgage specialist RIGHT NOW (well, holding...cue uplifting piano elevator music) and yeah. Stuff.

But I want to have a bit of a record of this move process. So it dawned on me that I could enter blog posts like a journal, just a few lines here and there, and not have to say everything all at once. Here goes...

Friday, June 13  9:15 am

Horrors. It's Friday the 13th! Nah. Never bothered me.
I'm sure everything will be FINE. (nail biting ensues)
House is officially sold, signed and sealed, so now the packing begins in earnest.
Not just packing, but sorting - the agonizing sorting know as "Organizing". They even have specialists who do this. I'm wondering if it will be an Olympic sport. Now, I should be good at organizing, because I was the Go-To organizer in our household growing up. The cupboards, the bookshelves, the closets, the junk drawer...all these I was recruited regularly to sort out. And so developed the myth that Pam is a good organizer. I say myth, because it's not true!! Under duress I can indeed organize, but it's not really natural. I don't care if things are haphazard, as long as I can stuff them in a drawer when company comes over. So I suppose I excel at the appearance of organization. Hmm.

Back to today.  Typically, I have 3 or 4 things I'm working on at once. And about 34 threads of thought streaking like night-traffic seen from space. (cue sound effects - "piyooo! piyooo!")
 - Should we keep the red bucket that I ran over 5 years ago? Or throw it out? What if we don't have the money for a new bucket? Better keep it.
- The garage was clean, now it's a new disaster. We are going to have to bring in the army to help us get out of this place, I just know it!
- The lawn needs to be mowed ALREADY?!?!? AGAIN??!!
- The cat's pregnant. Should we try and give her away this minute or keep her and enjoy the kittens?
 - Groceries. Need groceries. Somehow that annoying "food is essential for life" thing keeps cropping up. No pun intended.
 - My clothes are horrible. I hate them, every single item. Except for those new socks. Should I give away all my clothes? I don't feel like packing these ugly clothes!

So yeah. It goes on like that. All at once, and once again I've had way too much coffee already today. I'm tping way fastr tha I cann spell. !! Gaaa!!

Better run. ttfn.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Treasures, Trees, and Trust

This morning I finally picked up my Bible for the first time in a long time.
No, it wasn't because I was feeling extra spiritual, and no, it was definitely not because my husband is planning to go to Bible school in the fall and I better get my act together.
It was simply that I was waiting for something to load on the computer, and I thought, "Well, it's as good a time as any." I think I was trying to answer the subconscious conviction in my heart, because I know without the water of the Word the life dries up and all things wither. But it has been a slow process of dawning obedience and I can't say I will pick up my Bible tomorrow, though sincerely I hope I do.

So I read Isaiah 45, on this the closing day of the sale of our home of 8 years (still waiting for confirmation on said sale). Here are a few treasures...

"I am the Lord and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of it's setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord and there is no other."

AWESOME. How many 'others' have I tried to follow and find God in....

'I will strengthen you.....though you have not acknowledged me...'

Yes, and yes. The staggering thing is the faithfulness he has in the face of our disdain, our misunderstanding, our godlessness.

When the equations of life are not to our liking, we take the God part out. So be it, if all we have now is the Question, the Unsolvable Equation; at least we are free of the God Problem.

I don't agree with many other Christians. Christians are dumb.
                            Take the God-part out.
I find church annoying and limiting and judgemental.
                             Take the God-part out.
I think the world and society have some good points that I can't reconcile with faith.
                             Just, take out the God-part.
These questions I have are too big. I need answers and I can't find them.
                             Take out the GOD PART ALREADY.

One thing I know, as people, we have a very high opinion of our own ideas and intellect. And now with information streaming high-speed over the internet we are even smarter. So smart, that all the ridiculous answers that we've been given by God are just - laughable. Infected, pus-oozing with our own pride, we have become so sick we are immune to the cure.

It's very lonely outside of the friendship of God.

With it, peace.

"They will say of me, 'In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.'"
Am I still wrestling with several unsolvable questions?
Do I still feel angry over the injustices upon the earth?
Do I still think, "truly you are a God who hides himself..."?  (vs 15)

Oh yes.
However, I am sobered by the Words.

"Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, What are you making? Does your work say, He has no hands?"
                 *                              *                            *
"I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'Seek me in vain."

The hand of God on your heart is heavy, and sweet. It comes as He wills, and not as I will. How we want to be in control of our own lives!! Master of our ships, commanders of destiny. The desire to surrender does not come from inside us, it comes from Outside and brings freedom with it. You see? Unsolvable equations.
Surrender = Freedom.

Life is in mind-blowing transition for me right now. The sun bathes the white-blossomed apple trees in front and back of the house, and I don't want to leave. The closet wall has the heights and ages of the kids etched in from the last 8 years. The road outside is the same one I walked as a girl, kicking stones, dancing alone under the sky, and considering how the baked-brown earth looked like chocolate. Through each new window is a beautiful, large tree that shelters and strengthens at the same time. On the grass the dog lies soaked in sunlight on the same spot where we first played with her as a puppy...and I don't want to leave. It's hard right now, but don't feel sorry for me, don't be swept away by my tide of sentimentality; it's all working out my trust. The trust is a little shaky. Each step forward takes a lot of courage. This is the inside of my life right now, looking out.

I hope to update more often.

If conditions are removed today, our house sold in 5 days.
This week we go again to Three Hills to look for a place to live.
In the meantime, everyday life still happens, and the weight of everything that needs to be done is actually crushing, all the responsibilities needing to be shouldered.
And so I'm really thankful for this time I took to write my thoughts out. It should serve as a record and a reminder for the future, the future that right now stretches out like shimmering mirage-like waves that rise off the burning highway, unclear.

Grateful for the friendship of God today. He is huge, and he will be my shelter and strength; I pray it is so.