Monday, June 28, 2010

A Word With Liam

Mommy: Who's your best friend?
Liam - without hesitation: Dohn Whennon, Waven and Denerwol Dweavis.
Mommy: Isn't General Grievous a bad guy?
Liam: Yeah, but he's dust wearwing a mask.
Mommy: Why are they your friends?
Liam: 'Cause they got guns dat shoot out awigaders!
Mommy: What about Zander?  Isn't he one of your best friends?
Liam: What's da word I'm tinking, no!
Mommy: Why not?
Liam: Awigaters, Mommy, wemembar??!!

To Do...

It is 10:24 am.  I am still in my pajamas.  I am claiming this morning to rise slowly, enjoy a steaming cup of coffee, blog, relax before I tackle my growing list for the week all the while hoping and praying that no unannounced visitor shows up at my door while I am in this pink cotton drawstring pant, tank top, greasy haired get-up.

First of all, if you've been following my blogging life I presented a rather spirited rant last week over a too big, too overwhelming, too maddening project.  I am over it.  I am proud of the finished product and yes, sweet Heidi, the DVD worked (after 4 tries).  I reclaimed my sanity by loosing myself in the church grand piano.  There is no better therapy than making great music with a bunch of great musicians.

This is Zander's second last day of school.  He's very excited.  Today is report card day for which he is also excited - "I hope I have nothing lower than a B," he said as I kissed him goodbye on the porch this morning.  This is not wishful thinking.  The only C he ever got was in first term grade one gym - so he's not an athlete - so what!  His head's full of dreams of summer: sleep-over's with his BF Simon, camping out in the back yard, a whole week of sleep-away camp (gulp!), hours and hours with his DSi (that's what he thinks!), bike rides and swimming lessons in the river.  Oh how I wish for the summer dreams of my youth, before they were stolen by unending loads of laundry and being the one setting up and tearing down the tent.

Here is my list for the next few days:

1. Waste away a morning in pj's, worrying about all I have to do but not worrying enough to shower, get dressed and do it.
2. Shower, get dressed and do it.
3. Start laundry load one.
4. Wash dishes.
5. Walk to Tim Hortons to purchase $10 gift card for Ms. Love because we forgot to get her something better last time we were in Hanover.
6. L&M for milk, cream and snacks for Wednesday.
7. Hang laundry load one on clothes line.
8. Start laundry load two.
9. Read report card.  Hug Zander.  Tell him how proud I am and can you even believe it that grade 3 is almost over?
10. Direct the creation of a thanks to teacher card: Dear Ms. Love, thanks for being a really good teacher.  Love Zander.
11. Hang laundry load two on clothes line.
12. Make supper.
13. Serve supper.
14. Convince Zander to help with supper dishes because he needs to make another $8.50 for camp tuck money.
15. Start laundry load three.
16. Go for a walk or a bike ride as a family.
17. Pajamas, teeth, pee, a chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, another plague in Egypt (we're reading about Moses - "Why doesn't he just let them go?" Zander asks.  "Pharoah's pretty dumb!"), back rubs, songs, dream angels, kisses, see you later alligators.
18. Put laundry load three in drier because there's no room left on the clothes line.
19. Consider a bath but bike 10k on the stationary instead while I watch a rerun of House.
20. Bed.

1. Make last school lunch of grade 3.
2. Start laundry load four.
3. Take down and fold laundry loads one and two from clothes line.
4. Remove laundry load three from drier.  Fold.
5. Put clean laundry away - either in drawers, closets or the suitcase.
6. Hang laundry load four on clothes line.
7. Find Zander's Harry Potter cape and glasses for Wednesday.
8. Charge camera battery.
9. Wash floors.
10. Clean bathrooms.
11. Meet sisters at Coffee Culture (sans children!!!!!!!).
12. Shop for and buy a dress for Ben and Amy's wedding.
13. Take Zander out for a congratulations on finishing grade 3 ice cream cone.
14. Make supper.
15. Serve supper.
16. Convince Zander to help with supper dishes because he needs to make another $8.00 for camp tuck money.
17. Ask Zander to pick up all the toys in the yard (50¢).  Tidy shoes in porch (50¢).  Clean his room ($2).  Tidy deck (50¢).
18. Baths.
19. Pajamas, teeth, pee, another chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, another plague in Egypt ("Pharoah's pretty dumb!"), back rubs, songs, dream angels, kisses, see you later alligators.
20. Take down and fold laundry load four.
21. Finish packing suitcase.
22. Mindless television. (Catch Scott up with OnDemand True Blood and Entourage. - yeah, I watch them both and no, you can't judge me!)
23. Bed.

1. Pack way more snacks and drinking boxes than we need.
2. Load up car with stuff and kids.
3. Don't forget GPS or stroller.
4. Tim Hortons.  Two extra large double-doubles, double cupped please.
5. Drive to Toronto after this speech:  There will be no fighting.  You will keep your hands to yourself.  You will respect each other's space and keep out of each other's faces.  You do not want to know what will happen if we have to pull over!  Be good!  Today is going to be a good day!
6.  Check in to hotel and pick up our Harry Potter Exhibit tickets. ($169 for a hotel room, four tickets to HP @ the Science Centre, $10 gas card and free breakfast!)
7. Go to exhibit.  Try not to cry over Zander's excitement.  Take a million pictures of him in his costume outside the exhibit.  Get mad that I'm not allowed to take pictures inside the exhibit.  Like it anyway.
8. Do the rest of the Science Centre.
9. Back to Hotel.
10. Swimming.  Hot tub.
11. Bed.

1. Eat the free breakfast.
2. Pack up and check out.
3. Use the $10 gas card.
4. Drive to Owensound to meet Scott's family for a Canada Day lunch.
5. Visit.
6. Fireworks somewhere.
7. Back rubs, songs, dream angels, kisses, see you later alligators.
8. Start laundry load five.
9. Bed.

1. Hang laundry load five on clothes line.
2. Start laundry load six.
3. Begin wondering why I was so happy school is over.
4. Throw out the mangy, broken-zipper back pack.
5. Shopping for camp: sunscreen, bug spray, beach towel, running shoes, hat, iron-on name labels.
6. Hang laundry load six on clothes line.
7. Pack for camp - No, Zander, you can't take your DSi!
8. Realize that I don't have a babysitter for Saturday's wedding yet and scramble to find one.
9. Ask Zander to sweep the carport (50¢).  Tidy living room again (50¢).  Clean his bathroom sink (50¢).
10. Sit on the deck swing with my new James Rollins book and ignore the cobwebs around the kitchen moulding.
11. Order in a pizza.
12. Convince Zander to help with dishes because he still needs $3.25 for camp tuck money.
13. Pajamas, teeth, pee, another chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, more Moses, back rubs, songs, dream angels, kisses, see you later alligators.
14. Upload our Wednesday pictures to my facebook page.
15. Write a letter to Zander that I will leave at the camp office for them to deliver to him on Wednesday.
16. Mindless television.
17. Bed.

Ben and Amy's wedding.

Drop Zander off at camp, giving him the full $10 for tuck money even though he didn't earn it.  Say goodbye and see you on Saturday without crying.  Pretend not to cry in the car...

(And I thought making that DVD was overwhelming.)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Defining Aidan

I started writing Defining Aidan when Zander was a baby and had regular naps.  I would escape into the world of Adelaine McCarthy, feeling like she was my dearest friend with whom I shared many secrets.  My fingers flew over the keys, the story coming easily and comfortably.  It was an organic creation riddled with memories of my own childhood that I adopted unto her until she slowly morphed into a near reflection of myself.  I chose Oklahoma because I wanted her to speak with a southern drawl.  I chose to widow her because I wanted to follow her journey of forced self-discovery while her son, Aidan, approaches the world with a precociousness, optimism and an interpretation of God that Adelaine struggles to comprehend.

And then it stopped.  I had nothing more.  The story left me, the little icon on my computer desktop standing as a tombstone to what might have been had I found an ending.

I have revisited it over the past six years, thinking that by re-reading it the rest of the story would suddenly drop into my head.  I never did.  This broke my heart.  Poor Adie was left suspended in time, shelved indefinitely...

Then yesterday, when inspiration seemed so far removed from my existence that I thought I may never create again, when frustration threatened the last thread of my patience, when exhaustion tugged weary eyelids and the digital clock read 2:03 am it fell on me like a warm quilt.  Inspiration.  A slide projector.  The old Drive-In Theatre.  Curdling milk.  Perfect.  It won't make sense to you now but someday it will, when I sign your beautifully bound copy of Defining Aidan and you're reading and remembering the day I told you I was resurrected from my offensive writers block.

Watch out Broken Bow, Oklahoma - I'm coming back!  Let's get this story told!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Minute is a Minute

This has not been a week of joy.  This has not been a week of inspiration.  This has been a pull out my hair, scream at the sky, curse the water-pressure, want to abandon all modern technology, somebody peed on the toilet seat kind of week.  And it's not even over yet.

I am good at saying no.  I am good at time management.  I am not good at managing time that doesn't go my way over something, in retrospect, that maybe I should have said no to.

"Will you make the Farewell DVD for the retiring pastor and his wife?" they asked ever so gently.
"Yes, I would be happy to," I replied sweetly (as I am known to do) still naïve and trusting in the beautiful simplicity of iMovie.

I like making movies.  I like the process of filming and editing and finding the perfect soundtrack and presenting something that I'm proud of in the end.  And it should have been that easy.

It wasn't.

So begins my rant against technology.

I'm given files in four different formats.  I am working on a mac.  My home mac runs an older operating system than my work mac.  The two do not see eye to eye.  The new $1500 camera wont import.  I have to borrow the pastor's laptop because it's the only one that understands the camera.  Ridiculous.  Now I'm sitting in my office, 30 hours already invested, ranting at my desk computer while video imports to the pastors and then transfers to my own.  Three computers running on my desk.  Surely this is in the fine-print description of hell.

It was supposed to be easy.

I set Monday aside.  It should have been done.  Instead my eyes are buggy from staring at screens and my children are buggy from the television babysitter.

Liam: Mommy, ten I have a dwink?
Mommy: In a minute, Liam. (not looking away from the screen)
---twelve minutes later---
Liam: Mommy, a minute is a minute!

Liam: Mommy, ten I have a fweeeezeee?
Mommy:  In a minute, Liam. (not looking away from the screen)
---eight minutes later---

Liam: Mommeeeeee - WIPE MY BUM!!!!
Mommy: I'm Coming!
Some things just can't wait.

Now it's Thursday.  I can see the end and the end is beautiful.  My hours of sweat and frustration will bring somebody joy.  I guess that makes it worth it.

Here is what I have learned:
1. It's never as easy as it should be.
2. Always insist on being given everything in the same format.
3. Technology is for the birds.
4. Michael W. Smith's "Friends Are Friends Forever" is old and cheesy but will still probably make them cry.
5. It's okay to be frustrated.
6. It's okay to have second thoughts.
7. It's good to power through because I'll come out the other end with a huge sense of accomplishment, observe my neglected house and my mangy children and say, "Mommy's back!" reclaiming in a moment what is supposed to be my summer holidays.
8. Reject all proposed projects with a sweet smile and a no thank-you until September.

As the computer grinds out the finished DVD I breath a satisfied sigh and commit myself to seeking out all the joy and inspiration I can find in what is left of this despicable (soon to be redeemed) week.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Market Tuesday: Ode To Keady

"To market, to market, to buy a fat pig; Home again, home again, dancing a jig."  

He sat on his little stool in front of a strawberry stand playing an old, beat-up, steel-string guitar, right foot tapping out a bass rhythm with piano hammers hitting the strings of a sawed off cello, left foot hitting a cracked symbol, a voice that belonged on a Texan front porch warbling some ho-down country relic that was popular before he was born, sounding like an honest-to-goodness Soggy Bottom Boy.  I could have stood there all morning, bouncing Noa on my hip and giving Liam nickels to throw in the open case in front of him.

There's magic in the culture of a farmer's market; poetry catching waves of breeze laden with fresh produce and manure and perennials and I feel like I've stepped within the pages of a southern Country Living magazine.

"Berries!  Get your berries here!  Going fast!  Don't wait!"
"Salami!  Pastrami!  We got meat!"
"Organic Soap Berries!"
Sign in the kilted, dreadlocked, Rastafarian fiddlers case: "Thank you for supporting my musical education."

After taking Liam through the small animal barn ("Whoa - dat's a weally big wooster!") we began to weave through grassy aisles adorned in tented tables boasting treasure that nobody needs but everybody wants.  Action figures for a dollar.  Gorgeous hand-made jewelry.  George Harrision records.  Hand-painted signs.  Tea cups.  Wooden Thomas the Tank Engine trains.  Books and books and books.
The cows made Noa cry.  A "no, you can't have a pony ride," made Liam cry.  But they both liked the native man and his flute and all the free strawberries different vendors put in their hands to convince us that theirs were the best berries on the block.

Antique Alley was awash in beautiful things of aged patina and extravagant price tags, old toys, old tires, a box of old Barbies that I wanted so much it hurt to leave them behind.

We left with the undercarriage of our stroller comfortably stocked (books, trains, candy, father's day gift, ninja turtle...) and our tummies full of fresh berries and me wishing I had the space and gumption for a beautiful garden.

"To market, to market, to buy a fat hog; Home again, home again, jiggity-jog."

Check out KEADY MARKET here

Friday, June 18, 2010

Perfection & Grace (or not)

Sitting in grace - this woman in her pearls and perfection lifts her tea to rose-stained lips.  Front page make-up and carefully pressed suit against newborn skin and a handsome husband...I eat my oatmeal with extra brown sugar and know better than to envy that beauty (demanding my attention like a pretty fog horn) because I know that up close her skin is pasty from Maybelline and her pearls are glass and her teeth cost her four thousand dollars and her breasts even more and her stockings have a run up by her thigh and she hides her left hand behind her cup because she bites the baby nail on that side and her suit is from WalMart and the handsome husband isn't even her's - she just borrows him from time to time when she needs to feel something other than all her perfection and grace.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stolen Moment

I went to see a movie about the end of the world but watched them instead.

Her feet had been dressed in pink Bart Simpson slippers all day; campy and unwashed, but he brushed his fingers across her naked sole like a kiss.

"Gross," someone whispered behind me but I thought it was more romantic than a dozen roses or a heart-shaped box of chocolates and I know she thought so too by the way she looked at him.

He nuzzled his nose against her hair and breathed her in.  It was innocent and sexless and beautiful.

She settled against him and laced her fingers through the same hand that had touched her feet and I felt him smile in the darkness.

I hope they hold onto that moment forever.
And I hope you keep searching for yours.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Along These Old Halls

It's brick exterior is simple but proud and stands in memorial to a million memories that are dear to me and have helped shape me into the woman I am today.  I have seen it through evolutions of ministry and evolutions of structure.  People have come and gone but it has remained strong in both it's foundation and it's doctrine.

We came in 1983.  Everything was orange.  Carpet.  Curtains.  Everything.  Pastor and elders sat across the stage, gazing out at us like some monarchical superiors.  We sang only from the hymnal and only with the accompaniment of Alice, the organ lady.  Pastor Bill boomed from the heavy oak pulpit.  Pastor Chris was young and quiet and my first crush and I would fight with Megan Penfold over who got to hold his hand when they called the children to the stage for prayer.  The nursery had a wall of cages that they called cribs.  The library had orange metal shelves and a fireplace.  The wheelchair ramp was a jungle gym.  The Sunday School classrooms smelled like mould.  Bible stories were told using felt boards and little people cut-outs.  The front stoop was a perfect cement stage for twirling favorite dresses.  Linus Wark always had a story about talking birds and George Simpson always had gum.

So much has changed.  Green has replaced orange.  (If they'd only done that sooner I would have had my wedding there instead of the big Lutheran down the street.)  The oak pulpit was retired to storage and replaced by plexiglas.  Matt Gingrich brought drums on the stage in 1995 and some people are still complaining.  The hymnals haven't been cracked open in ages and serve only as hard surfaces on which children doodle upon offering envelopes.  Walls have been removed to expand the basement space for youth ministry; my purple graffiti name on the slated ceiling that once stood above the youth kitchen standing as one of the only remaining testaments to how it used to be.  The original chapel which was beautiful and sacred (though hardly used) was destroyed to make room for the new children's nursery space.  Gymnasium built.  Parking lot expanded.

So little remains.  But so much change has bred amazing things.

Last week I walked along the basement corridor, letting my finger trace the groove in the yellow cinderblock wall just as I did when I was a child.  It still smells of mould.  Each classroom door holds a different memory.  Being awarded a Bible for perfect attendance during first grade.  Singing Jonah and the Whale and I've Got The Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down In My Heart and Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.  Practicing for my year on the Bible Quiz team.  Hide and Seek beneath low tables.  Waiting in full costume for the cue to make my way upstairs for the annual children's Christmas play.  Gold stars when I knew the answer.  All these memories seem wrapped in the smell.

The carpet is being replaced this summer and I felt like somehow it was the final nail in the coffin of my youth.  Stupid, I know, but I was feeling a bit sentimental and old.

But then, on Sunday, I watched my daughter on that old cement stoop spinning in her pretty blue dress just like I used to do and suddenly I felt okay about the changes.  Good riddance mould and mildew and ugly old carpet.  Let's make some new memories!

And some things never change.  George Simpson still always has gum.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Love Letter

There are few things I've kept since we've been married.  You are one of them.  I like you like a favorite pair of jeans.  Soft.  Thighs faded to felt.  Comfortable.  I may pick at a thread or fray the knee or re-hem with my handicapped sewing machine but scars are bred of history and it is our history that founds our strength.

My first memory of you is hazy at best.  You were already a man.  I was a timid ninth grader who didn't believe she was pretty enough to warrant attention.  I remember the way your fingers danced along the frets, your long hair falling across the strings but never getting tangled.  I remember the way you seemed consumed by the music and oblivious to everything around you.  You were interesting.  But so was the drummer.  And I was invisible.

You popped up over the next few years.  Degrees of separation were minimal.  You knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew me.  My best friend had a crush.  I told her to get over it - you were too old.  You started dating my friend's sister.  I was jealous and couldn't figure it out.  I started dating a boy who was a beautiful liar and he broke my heart.  You started driving me home on Friday nights.  I remember waiting in the car on Halloween night while you ran into Tim Hortons, praying silently that God smite the crush from me.  You came back with your coffee and said, "I broke up with Cathy tonight."  We listened to Mr. Big's Hold On Little Girl and I took it as a green light to fall in love.  You called me that same night to tell me I was beautiful.  You told me to look up Phillipians 1:3: "I thank God every time I think of you."  I'd never been hit on with the Bible before.  It was our you-had-me-at-hello moment.

That was 1996.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  I have loved you now for more than half of my life. I'll write it all sometime because I think it's worth saying but for now I will give you Phillipians and our first kiss beside the Christmas tree and our last kiss, which I imagine will be soft and sweet and anciently arthritic.

< that's us in 1997

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


She died on a Monday but they didn't unplug her until early Thursday morning.  Her son was out of the country and they wanted his permission.  He told them to do it even though he couldn't be there.  He knew it would be better (and easier) that way.  So they just turned her off and that was that.  Alive.  Alive.  Alive.  Dead.  Just like that.

We saw her on her last good day.  It made me sad to see the way she lay so still, her body shrinking in on itself, suffocating amid machines that bipped and beeped.  It was the first time I'd seen her without her makeup and she was ancient.  She'd always been old.  There were pictures - dusty photographs in old albums - where she is bright eyed and young and elegant in silk headscarfs but this is not how I knew her.  She was already old and widowed and petulant when I was born.  I bent over her and kissed her dry cheek and touched the coarse white hair that stood against her satin pillowcase like a regimental soldier.  She moaned and I could see the veins beneath her skin - so thin, like paper.  She smelled of talcum powder.  I told her she looked gorgeous and she coughed up a laugh (a lung?).  "Yeah, right," she mumbled from her stroke-crippled mouth.  But I meant it because there was something in her eyes that was so beautiful.  So pure.  So unlike her character (which was bitter and lonely and forever jealous of her more glamorous sister, Rhena).

Life.  Life in it's purest, most natural form.  I could see it loving and hating my youth all at once.  I would have offered her some if she could have stomached it but she couldn't even take the pureed white fish or the melting orange ice cream that lay abandoned on the hospital tray.  That was her last good day.  Before we left I told her to ask them to shampoo her hair.  That was on Sunday.  She died the next day and it breaks my heart that she passed on with a dirty coif.

I found my dad's note as I rushed out the door: "Aunt Carol died this morning.  Funeral on Saturday."  I wiped a few tears as I drove down Highway 6 to find a gas station, hating myself for donating the desk she gave us to a special needs charity in Flesherton.   I hadn't even realized I loved her until she was gone.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Candy Man

His name was Wilfred but we called him The Candy Man.  He was already old when we moved in beside his yellow-brick-broken-screen farm house.  He smelled of unfiltered cigarettes and always wore green Dickies work pants held up by suspenders that dug into the shoulders of his plaid shirt.  He shod his feet in worn old-man slippers that never seemed to leave the ground as he shuffled across the faded linoleum to welcome us through the squeaky screen door and into his hazy home.  Ashtrays sat upon the formica table top, spilling their contents in an ugly display while a swirly cloud rested just below the ceiling tiles, threatening a purge of acid rain right there in the kitchen.  He would speak around that smoking coffin nail - asking how we were and wasn't it a nice day - as he shuffled to the sink, straining with one hand against the countertop while he reached for the gumdrop bag in the upper right cabinet.  One jubjube a day each.  We tried to fool him once or twice but he would have none of it.  We would wait patiently by the door, trying hard not to look at the bed in the living room to our left because that was where his wife had died, and he would labor across the little room, wheezing and coughing and sucking in fresh cancer with each pull on that cigarette.  We would choose our colour and pop it in our mouth, sweetly saying thank you and see you tomorrow.  He would show his broken, yellow teeth in what, fifty years earlier, had been a smile - when he was young and handsome and James Dean made smoking sexy.  On warm Saturdays he would sit just outside the door in a fraying lawn chair, slippers exchanged for velcro sneakers, chain-smoking and counting cars on the highway just east of us.  Sometimes he wouldn't leave his house for days at a time.

He was kind.  He was lonely and sad.  I wonder if maybe our little visits - despite their selfish intentions - were his only joy.  I expect we entertained him through dirty windows as he watched us pumping our legs on his rusty swing set, pushing ourselves so high that we would lift one of the support poles in and out of the ground with shaky thumps.  We took turns in his plastic hammock, strung between two fir trees in the front yard, rope fringe along each side that we would braid when there was no one to swing us.  We rode our bikes around his circular driveway and dug tunnels in the banks along his winter snow fence.  He made the best orange popsicles I have ever tasted.  We played fetch with Tex, his stupid, gentle, ancient Dalmation who learned quickly, after a couple shots in the backside from my dad's beebee gun, to keep his business on his own property.

He's been gone for years now, nicotine and t.v. dinners finally getting the best of him.  The house has seen new owners, fresh paint and renovations but it will forever be The Candy Man's house.  The house that allowed Trick or Treating every day.  The home that housed heart-ache and loneliness and boredom and a million dead flies but still made room for three little girls on their quest for brightly-coloured gelatin-based confection.  Maybe he found a some contentment in placing the truncated cones in our eager little hands.  Our exchanges were minimal but they may have been his only sunshine and for that I am happy I enjoyed his offerings.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"What you do unto the least of these..."

The memories are more feelings than images, like a dream that leaves you shaking and sweating and trying to slow your racing heart but, no matter how hard you strain your memory, you can't grasp what it was that scared you so much.  I don't remember being scared.  I don't remember being told that he wouldn't be coming home.  I don't remember saying goodbye.

I remember pride.  I believed in what he was doing with as much passion as a nine year old could muster.  I had been to the rallies.  I had done the walk-a-thons and the street picketing.  I preached pro-life from a big stone in front of the Saugeen Valley Elementary School library.  I saw the devastating pictures of mutilated fetus' even though he tried to shelter me from them.  I studied "The Miracle of Life," at first shocked by the real-life photos of a woman giving birth - until then I'd believed the doctor coaxed it gently from the belly-button - and then amazed at what confirmed that which I'd secretly known all along: my mother was SuperWoman!

He felt it was God's calling.  He felt it was God's will that he publicly and unapologetically trespass upon Dr. Morgentaler's clinic property.  "What you do unto the least of these..."  I don't have a true picture of what actually happened.  I have read his journal but it's been years.  I like to picture him quietly sitting on cement steps, lips moving in a desperate prayer, or lock-armed with the people beside him, singing "Jesus Loves The Little Children," like some eccentric peace-rally hippies, or like Su-Chin Qah from Juno, bravely fighting the flow and saying beautiful things like, "your baby has fingernails."  I know he was passive during the arrest; not fighting the officers tagged with the task of removing the band of praying pro-lifers that blocked the clinic door from women seeking freedom from their mistakes - not helping either, forcing the police to drag him to the cruiser.

The first two times it was only a few days.  The third and last he refused to let himself be released until every person he'd been arrested along side of was home.  Noble?  I don't know.  I do know that my pride in him never wavered.  I think if I had been any older I would have been angry, fighting against fears of abandonment or the fear that he'd never come home.  If I had been any older I would have seen how much it hurt my mother.  I would have been able to support her as she single-parented, as she warded off advice from Christian friends to leave him, as she fought loneliness and anger and worry and fear.

I remember spending an entire recess at the top of the monkey bars with my friend Nancy giving her all the reasons why it was okay that my dad was in jail.  Never once did it occur to me to be embarrassed or ashamed.  If anything, I thought it moved me into a whole new category of cool - in a my dad's better than your dad kind of way.

We visited him once.  I can't imagine what was going through my mother's head, marching into that high security institution, three little girls - hair done pretty for daddy - tagging behind her, wide-eyed at armed guards and metal detectors, visiting her criminal husband.  I remember how tired and sad he looked through that thick, wavy glass that wouldn't let me hug him.  I remember an orange jumpsuit but that memory may be influenced by too many movies - he may have been wearing blue.  I remember dirt along the baseboards and a guard standing against the wall to our left, legs shoulder-width apart, arms crossed behind his back.  I remember how wet my dad's eyes seemed and I think we broke his heart by being there.

We had made a big sign, decorated with markers and crayons: "WE LOVE YOU, DADDY!" and we stood in the parking lot holding it up towards the jail windows.  A head bobbed and we were sure it was him and we yelled and waved goodbye.  It wasn't him.

I was over at a friend's house.  He'd been gone just over a month.  I called home to ask if I could stay a little longer to go swimming.  Dad answered.  I didn't know what to say so I just asked about the swimming.  There were tears in his voice as he said that was fine.  I hung up and told my friends mother that I needed to go home.

He was still sitting in the chair beside the phone when I got there.  I don't remember saying anything, I just remember crawling onto his lap and clinging, fighting a pain in my chest that was trying to leak out my eyes, not recognizing until that moment how much I'd really missed him.

I am still proud of him.  I am proud of my mother for sticking by him despite the position of the church.  I am happy that he has now decided to pour his passion into things of a less criminal nature.  No child should ever have the experience of visiting their father in prison (though it made for some fun boyfriend scaring along the way) but I don't think I'd change it.  If one baby was saved as a result of my father's sacrifice then I think it was all worth it in the end.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Shift

It was supposed to be a day-trip to the city with meager hopes for the purchase of a new car.  Upon the death of the Grand-Am and the minimal insurance pay-off we had low hopes and pathetic ambitions.

Scott was resisting the pull of the mini-van despite our hope for more space.  We've spent two years with three kids, a car seat and a booster, squeezed into a back seat that was not designed for children.  I was fantasizing about a third row where Zander could be out of punching, pinching, flicking, hair-pulling range.  I was dreaming of a vehicle that was good looking and amazing on gas - a "Swagger Wagon" for a fraction of the price.  Scott wanted a sexy SUV.  Zander wanted a built-in DVD player.  Liam wanted something red.  Noa just said, "Yeah!"

Scott's best friend's sister's baby-daddy is a salesman at the same dealership where we bought our last two cars and he worked us a deal.  The Passat was within our price-range and it was immaculate.  Zander's hair blew across his face, his head stuck through the sun roof as they pulled in from the test drive, disheveled and goofy-grinned like a kid on prom night.  "It's awesome!" he declared.  "Let's get it!"  And we did.  Papers signed.  SOLD!  It looks good in the driveway.  I'd like to keep the new car smell and the new car clean but I'll settle for something that won't embarrass me to be seen in.

A stop-in at our best friend's house before treking home resulted in a 2 a.m. escape for an hour and-a-half drive home.  I had full intentions to sleep but we spent the time marveling our situation.  For the first time ever we're really feeling financially mature and secure.  Our dreams have switched from if-only to when. When we go to Disney World.  ("You know, I'll probably cry the whole time," I told him.  "It'll be so fun," he said.  "I know, but I'll cry.")  When we go to Italy.  ("I'll be standing in the middle of Venice, crying," I told him.  "I know," he said.  "I'll be crying in the Roman Coliseum," I told him.  "I know," he said.  "I'll cry when I see the Sistine Chapel," I told him.  "I know," he said.)

Our kids are clothed.  Our cupboards are full.  Today I just paid off two credit cards.  Life is good.  My "Swagger Wagon" is a 2004 Volkswagon Passat and I plan to drive it until it's limping and ugly.  I am counting my blessings and they are many.

My resolution: take nothing for granted and appreciate things beyond their worth and from this will I draw patience and happiness and peace.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Favorite Daughter

I had steeled myself to the idea of being the mother of three boys.  I had imagined more blue, more trucks, more trains, more dinosaurs.  I had hated myself for that sinking disappointment that smothered me for about two minutes when I'd been sure Liam was a girl.  When his anatomy was visible on that swirly screen all I'd said was, "Oh," and was immediately convinced that the baby I'd lost between the boys had been my only chance at a daughter.  I love my boys.  I couldn't imagine them any other way.  And I would have loved a third one unequivocally.  I abandoned dreams of  Easter dresses and prom dresses and wedding dresses and french braids and tears over boys and tea parties and princesses and searching the house for the makeup that she stole from my case but said she didn't.  I gave it all up for eighteen more years of Toy Story and skateboards and never having enough snacks in the snack cupboard.

When the ultrasound technician whispered conspiratorially that it was a girl I struggled to understand - like she'd spoken in some language I couldn't comprehend.  I leaned up on my elbows, slimy stomach protruding over the blue sheet she'd tucked into the top of my favorite maternity jeans, looking for her mistake on the screen not sure why she would be so cruel.  "Are you sure?" I asked, daring her to admit her joke and face my wrath.  She was sure.  "See the hamburger?"  Apparently, they know it's a girl when the what-what looks like a burger.  So, my baby's a Happy Meal and now I get to request a girl toy when I go to the drive-through at McDonalds.  I suddenly didn't care how fat I got.  I was going to have a daughter!

I was beyond thrilled.  There's some magic in the mother/daughter relationship that can't be duplicated anywhere else.  Pink was suddenly coming into our home in little outfits and blankets and greeting cards.  The boys, especially Zander, were excited that a sister would be joining them and I was suddenly not so outnumbered by men.

She arrived, slower than Liam, faster than Zander, to the chant of my best friends, "Push, Alanna, PUSH!" and Scott's steady hand on my shoulder.  "It's a girl!" the doctor announced in a but-we-already-knew-that voice and she handed me my slimy, perfect baby.  "I'm NEVER doing that again!"  I was done.  I am complete.

She was gorgeous from the start.  Beautiful skin.  Swollen Jolie lips.  Perfect wee toes.

She will turn 2 this August.  She is still the most beautiful thing I've seen and her personality amazes me.  Her gentle spirit and sprouting sense of humor inspire me.  Zander adores her.  So does Liam, even though he says almost weekly, "Mommy, I don't think we should have had a baby."  She doesn't like princesses but she loves her plastic tea pot.  She won't watch Sleeping Beauty or the Little Mermaid - I'm stuck with Toy Story every day.  Again.  She carries around a Woody doll and asks for "Bzzzz" dreams at bedtime.  She grabs the back of my neck and pulls me in for a kiss.  She leans her head on my shoulder and pats my back and says, "Ahhhhh."  She holds the Rockband mic against her mouth and sings, "LaLaLa."  She shakes her hands in the air and bounces when I put on music.  She LOVES Dora the Explorer and answers, "Yeah," to every question they ask.  She picks her nose and her toes.  She calls me Momma and likes to make sure my belly button is still there.  She wants to snack all day but won't eat her supper.  I adore her.  She is my favorite daughter.