Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Flight

There are a lot of ways to die and this isn't in my top five (peacefully sleeping and death by chocolate being among the favorites) but I buckle in and lay my whole life into the hands of one dorky brother-in-law as we vibrate down the little country airstrip, headphones crackling and bodies bouncing in the cramped back seat.  And, like it's nothing, we're airborne.  We're flying.  The taillight perforates our little cabin with blinking red and ice rings the lake beneath us like cool frosting.

The world is smaller from the air.  Owen Sound and Mount Forest are neighbours meeting nightlight bloom in a sky that rocks and holds us on wings of nothing.  We bank tight and Walmart is a dollhouse and cars are just fireflies drifting along Highway 4 and for one small moment I am wildly free...

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Restless Eve

"Mommy?"  His pajamas are too small and his hair is too long and his bare feet wiggle against the kitchen floor and he twists his fingers together because he's sure that he's in trouble.  This is his third time up.

My hands are sticky with sweet marinade and the wrapping up of water chestnuts with bacon and I turn to him without lifting my hands from the cutting board.  "Liam, you have to sleep...Santa won't come."

He sniffles.  "I was dust heawing Zander banging his feet and screaming, 'Santa is here! Santa is here!' and I tan't sweep."

There are heavy bags beneath his eyes and he's so tuckered from the long day he spent with me at work and the long night with the magical candlelight service and his stellar 'O Come All Ye Faithful' lip syncing from the mezzanine and the picking of the choicest clementine for Rudolph because of course reindeer need Vitamin C as much as everyone else.  He crosses the kitchen and wraps his arms around my waist.

"Was Zander really doing that?" I ask, stabbing a toothpick through a chestnut and finally washing my hands.  He doesn't let go of me as I turn to the sink.

"Nooooo," he wails, burying his face in my sweater, tears in his voice. "It's dust all in my head and I tan't sweep."

I unwrap his arms from me like I'm opening a present and I bite against laughing at his overacting imagination.  "You have to sleep, Liam."

"I know," he whimpers.  Then he wipes his nose on my sleeve and stumbles back to bed after and quick kiss on the top of his head.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Love Letter For A Stranger

The day is ugly like the sun forgot us.  Grey rolls in heavy and dim and it still feels like night when the kids stumble - heat-starved - out to catch the bus.  Winds groan and there's no way it can be five days until Christmas because the grass still waves it's 'you-should-have-cut-me one-more-time' face and mud coats the car like armor and these snow tires are kicking up back-road filth instead of any snow-globe magic.  I think about carving BAH HUMBUG into the thick dust along the passenger door.  I'm trying.  Really, I am.  Trying to catch a moment to catch the season but it's all floating about like some demented dead leaf that doesn't realize it should be buried beneath a blanket of pallid beauty.  Where are you, Christmas?

Tires growl over all this dirt and I pull into a line too long but I can't face the cold so I take my place behind the white SUV with it's white custom family stickers and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  And we're a contamination train and we're puffing our hot exhaust breath out into this world that's dying all around us and I'm pretty sure Santa is crying and baby Jesus is crying and we're all crying because...UGH!

The line crawls.  I place my order.  The line crawls.  They're talking on the radio about some poor woman who is fighting for her right to wear a niqab on the witness stand and I think 'who is anybody to tell anybody what they can or can't wear?'

I come to the window and I'm right grim.  I hold out my coin that can't catch a gleam because the sun forgot to get up this morning.  The girl at the window holds up her hand in refusal, fingers peeking out the end of cut-off gloves - her face all merry and bright.  "The lady ahead of you paid for this.  She wanted me to say, 'Merry Christmas'."

And I take it like a punch in the chest and things are strangely brighter and I take the cup and the smell of sweetened cappuccino fills my filthy car and like the grinch I feel my heart grow three sizes.  I rush forward to catch the white SUV before it pulls in to traffic, sneak up beside her and try to catch her eye with a wave.  I don't think she saw me as she pulled away.  Just a normal woman.  Just a stranger who gave $1.94 to restore my faith.  I feel the prick of a tear and the warmth of a hope and the swallowing down of a lump of guilt.

Ah, Christmas...
        there you were there all the time, weren't you?...
                I just stopped looking.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Venture For Life

Therese was a hero in the same vein as my father: one who would lay down their own life for a time and take up the cross of another.  To my knowledge she was never in a position to wake with a prison rat on her chest but she did abandon her own daily trivialities to cross Canada on foot in order to raise awareness for the Pro-Life movement.  Fresh from the seventh grade and eager to be part of what I deemed a massive political movement I enthusiastically agreed to spend a few days with her as my father drove the crawling camper that followed her along the shoulder.

I had expected it to be a rather glamorous and shiny experience - truth is, I spent most of the time reading Cynthia Voigt and sucking on sugar cubes in the bunk over the cab.  I did walk with her for short distances - sometimes just the two of us, sometimes a small crowd as we journeyed through the little towns of southwestern Ontario.  Often, the mayor would greet us and offer us their town pin which I would proudly attach to my "Venture" t-shirt as a trophy of all this good I was helping to accomplish.  Television cameras came once and filmed us walking past a grave yard - a little band of save-the-children and acid-wash jeans marching with purpose. 

I was very proud and thick-banged and when I entered the eighth grade that fall I boasted of my "adventure" that surely saved a thousand unborn babies from abortion and a thousand elderly people from euthanasia.  I was a hero in my own brain - and who could argue the difference I made by riding in a groaning motor home with my bare feet propped on the dash, taking the biggest piece of Skor bar for myself while I saved two thousand souls from untimely demise.

Truth is, it's an experience I cherish.  Those times of listening to my father sing or whistle from behind the big wheel, Therese rubbing her aching feet at the end of the day but not even dreaming of stopping, the ancient priest who blessed me for being part of something big - who bent down on protesting joints to present his wrinkled cheek for a kiss, the pride I felt when kicking up dust along the edge of a big highway or a quiet road...I wouldn't trade those days.  Somehow they have shaped me, convicted me, moved me to always think beyond myself and that's a precious, precious thing.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Motion For Fun!

Zander is the grade six rep to Student's Council for his class.  This is an important role in which he gets to contribute to the discussion about important things.  And this is the inspired motion he brought before the council at their last meeting:

"An activity we could run is a tobogan day. On tobogan day the students could bring several tobogans and for the last block we could WOOSH down the hill. 1:50-3:10 and I think it would be a BLAST!  From Zander"

Now that's using politics for good!  My favorite part is the "WOOSH"  So proud!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sick of Sick

Even her hands are hot with fever.  She traces my eyebrows with warm fingers, following down along my jaw, my lips, my nose - touch tender and sweet.  She's memorizing the lines of my face, her eyes half-focused and glassy in their mission, making sure she can remember me if I get abducted in the night while she sleeps.  "You're sick and I'm sick," she says.

"We are," I agree.

"So, we have to take tare of each udder?"

And I tuck her up close against my chest and set my chin against her hair and squeeze with whatever strength the fever hasn't sapped from me.  "Yes, we have to take care of each other."

I don't really know how she does it - wrapping up this sickness in sweetness because all I want to do is sleep or cry.  She spends her time nestling against me, lacing her fingers through mine over and over again and whispering, "Are you feeling better yet, Mommy?"

And because this wretched cough has stolen my voice I can only whisper back while my eyes water and my throat burns, "No!"  And her hand will come up and find my hair and she'll tap my head affectionately until she falls asleep, sickness breathing out of her in what sounds like the strange purring of a feral cat.

Days and nights and they're all the same and children's television programing becomes increasingly obnoxious and I actually miss going to work and I can't be there to support my sister and her presentation and suffocating on a cough while I realize I've never taught my six-year-old about 911 and I have visions of myself lying dead on the bathroom floor but then it's over and he just says, "What was dat all about? Were you like chocking or sumting?" And sudoku and six movies and cough syrup that knocks me flat on my butt and Tina Fey wrote the funniest book I've ever read...

Please, God, let it be over.

Tonight I tuck her beneath her pink blankets and kiss her nose and whisper how sorry I am that I can't sing to her.  She just pats my face and says.  "Dat's okay.  Are you felling better yet, Mommy?"

"I think I am," I tell her.  "Are you feeling better yet, Noa?"

"A little bit," she says and her eyes fall closed before I can even leave the room.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mailbox Musings

It leans towards the west like it knows that's where we came from, pressure-treated wood scarred from a hundred storms and a thousand letters.  There is something right about it - about the way it stands guard, here at the end of our beginning - some stoic sentry of blue-grey and stick-on font, red flag worn by weather and after-school fingers.

We've lived here four months now and still this placed is named for Austin.  It is the final nod to it's history - that last piece yet to rend from it's past and shine up with our future.

And I am loathe to change it.  Cringing against the idea of ripping that name from this sign post and bragging my own - even though the old is still mine somewhere deep inside me.  Maybe I'm crazy, but somehow that name makes it feel more like home and I feel an overwhelming need to preserve it in some manner, I just haven't decided how.

So, for now, it waits - like a silver tomb stone marking for the what was and all the good that past stands for.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Wood Stove Learning Curve

"I'm duuuuuuunnnnn!" he hollers and the back door slams.  There's a wet shuffle along the hall and the dancing out of the snow pants and the bragging to his brother as he passes the craft room doorway - "Zander, I did da snowboawd down da staiws and I didn't even wipe out untiwl da end!"  And with his two front teeth missing his mispronouncing is more pronounced and I kind of hope those teeth take forever to grow in because he's just so cute and there's no way he could ever say "THE" right now.

He is rosy and breathless as he bounces downstairs to share that same story of taking the Ninja Turtle snowboard down the five steps by the retaining wall.  "Where are all your wet things, Liam?" I ask him.

"Upstayors.  On da floowr."

"Can you bring them down by the fire so they dry out before school tomorrow?"

He blows out an annoyed breath but stomps back up to get them, returning with a wet, lumpy pile and proceeds to drop the whole thing right on top of the stove.

Hissing and fizzling and smoke rising and me: "GET IT OFF!!!  GET IT OFF!!!"

So ends the life of one well-traveled jacket
And there's fear on his face and he pulls it from it's torture and drops it on the ground and his eyebrows come together and there's a black mess of goo bubbling on the cast iron and the whole house fills with the smell of burning mushrooms and now he is the not-so-proud owner of a backless winter coat.

He's thinking about crying.  Worrying on his lip over it.  Checking my face for anger.  But I'm not angry at all.  Maybe it's because I know we have another hand-me-down coat that will take the place of this liquified death-pile or maybe it's because that huge gap in his mouth that makes a "th" impossible is so ridiculously adorable.  Whatever it is, he was forgiven before he offended.   I find it kind of funny and lesson learned - the stove is hot; don't put stuff on it.  The end.

Monday, November 26, 2012

There's Only Up From Here

5 am is ugly and cruel.  Vampires have yet to take to ground and the ghosts still giggle on the stairs.  Thriving Ivory bursts through dreams reeking of anxiety - one-hit-wonder morning anthem to peel me from beneath this warmth - inviting only for the lack of teeth chatter for it promises nothing more than the same fitful rest.

Today is a first and I'm stupidly nervous as I make the shower nearly too hot to handle and slough this weary from my bones.  It's been years of my father pushing and pushing and "it would be so good for you."  Kind speak for "I think you're wasting your good by not investing."

Darkness still hangs heavy when he pulls in the driveway and suddenly it's winter and he hasn't put snow tires on the van yet and we skim the highway at 60km the whole way to Mount Forest before the road clears enough to let the needle climb beyond what makes our followers (better prepared with their own tires) angry.

I ask guarded questions even though he's told one hundred different stories about the one hundred different conferences he's already attended.

Long stretches of silence and the defrost fan roaring and the sky slowly greying to a pale uncolour and me cupping my silver mug of tea, finger worrying along it's rim - doubting my ability to be anything more than a wallflower.

We arrive.  We settle.  I write "Alanna Rusnak" in red ink and paste it to my chest.  I take my seat and poise my pen and I am a 'writer' amoung WRITERS!  A pigeon amoung peacocks.  A scuffed penny amoung silver dollars  Oh, what would I give for a good old Rowling Invisibility Cape?!

I write because I don't know how to speak.  I don't know how to sell myself.  I balk at dripping arrogance and when people ask me questions I feel like I gape at them awkwardly and deliver less than inspired dribble that means nothing and looses me in their graces.  I am not memorable.  I am not verbally eloquent.  I am not a bright shining star who can loquaciously advertise myself with persuasive argument.

No.  I am the mute shadow ducked in a corner, lips sewn shut, making extra trips to the ladies room just to get away from all those real shiny people.

And they really are lovely - those shiny aliens - those whole-package people who stink of confidence and share their life story face to face with strangers and who nonchalantly slip into our basically one-sided conversation what awards they've won or what they've been short-listed for.

"And what do you write?" After they've dumped on me this resume of grandiose accomplishment and I am sweating with embarrassment because what can I say without becoming that preening monster I don't want to be.

I feel insignificant and as ugly as 5 am.

I attend three workshops - two of which are highly insightful and one of which opens my eyes to possibilities that actually seem attainable though not without investment.  I'm better for it.  I am being pushed.  And for those few people out there who believe in me - please don't stop lest I fall.  My feet are shaky and my hands are sweaty and I think maybe I have some inherent fear of success.

So here's to breaking down walls.  To picking away at this shell so hard around me.  Or maybe to embracing it...?  I am who I was made to be - I shouldn't have to apologize for that.  So I won't.  I will just be.  I will write because somehow it completes me.  Maybe it will take me somewhere.  Maybe it won't.  I only know that I have things inside me that I need to say and say them I will - maybe just not to your face.

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained. - Marie Curie

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Twenty-one years old, holding tight against me this life to whom I was the whole world, scared to break him, thrilled to mold him, teach him, guide him, lead him.  Set him free.  See him blossom.

He burst forth and I learned I was tougher than I thought I was.  He cried for six months and I learned that I was stronger than I thought I was.  He stretched and pulled and softened me and I learned that my own mother was my hero and if I could achieve even half of what she had in his upbringing I would wear that parental success with pride.

What is eleven?  It can't be corralled into a sentence or assigned a colour.  It is messy floors and don't care about showering and peach fuzz on an upper lip - but this can't define it.  It's too grown up to be called Baby but young enough to be called Babe.  It is attitude and entitlement and annoyances and done with toys but not Lego.  It's all the sweetness of that first nestling infant tucked up hard into the heart of a boy with sights set on being a man.

Eleven is each white hair named for and from him.  It is those moments when he nurtures and cares with a tenderness beyond what I could have possibly bestowed.  It is those moments when he riles and stomps and lashes but still comes back with all apology because when he breaks my heart he breaks his own.

And his own is so soft and he stands so strong and sure and I am bursting with pride over his own self-worth and the way he remembers people gently and how he fools me into thinking he believes in magic and lets me tuck him in at night and still kisses me square on the lips because in our home our love is loud and true like that.

Eleven is taking his own dishes to the sink.  It is helping the little one turn on the bathroom tap.  It is homework.  It is actual competition in Boggle.  It is yelling back as he runs out the door for the bus, "Love you, too!" while all I hear is the echo of a three-years-old with that grin dripping joy, "I you much!"

Eleven.  And I am an old woman and I am still so young and he has so much growing to do and soon his daddy will teach him how to shave and then drive and then...and then...and then...

I hope only that in all things I can be proud of this little man I have made, sent out upon the world to make it that much better.

Eleven.  It just crept right up and kicked me in the shin but I'll kick it right back and say with confidence that I've done all right so far.  So far, he's turned out pretty darn good.

Monday, October 22, 2012


The air is crisp and damp and the chill tucks itself up beneath my thin denim jacket as we navigate the wet leaves on this place of death so rich in history.  Day is falling and across the way the sun streams happy against the edge of a rough-cut field, blazing warm yellow where leaves have shrunken and faded in their annual mortality -  a gleam of heaven beaming in the haze of this autumn twilight.

A whole year.  Gone in a blink but it's been forever since I heard him laugh.  He's so hard to hold on to - though we never really let go, do we?  And we stand, banded together at this memorial, children stepping on this resting as we think upon his name - our name - carved deep and forever into cold stone.  Our little flowers lay softness against his memory and we set them haphazard and random because any formality would seem presumptuous and plastic.

"But Grandma, how do you know when you're going to die?" Because they can't understand why Grandma's name stands there beside their grandpa when she stands there beside them.
"No, you see...?" she says, pointing to the dates, "this is when I was born.  This is so I can be buried here with Grandpa someday."  And they accept it because they've known now for a year that death is real.

It's hard not to remember the ending.  It's hard not to remember his face void of the him we all cherished.  That ending that stole from him all that made him the man we loved.  Those awful days when he was already gone but we stood by his side and urged him to let go because what he was hanging on to was no kind of life.

Erase it.  Every gasping breath.  Every glassy gaze.  Just erase it.  Remember, instead, the man who came before - that man of integrity and strength and humor.  That man who sang.  That man who made a mean roast beef.  That man who loved us all with a love that never quit.  That man who believed in us all with a faith that never faltered.  That man who welcomed me and called me daughter.  Remember that.

For that is the stuff that never passes away.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I run.  Summer chases me, her winds pushing back my hair, her dew dampening my pajama bottoms.  Bare feet in sneakers and night so black.  Just thirteen years old and oh, so clever.  Eleven pm is heavy and exciting and when headlights slip over the hill from Durham I jump and duck into wet ditches because I am a ninja and those lights are my nemesis.  All the way to the town sign.  Gravel in my shoes and panting because I'm not a runner and ripping the duct tape - great tears of thunder in this country black - and holding up the sign crafted from three connected pieces of dot matrix printing paper because it's 1993 and that's what people have, and taping it up over the Population 2,500.  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY MOM & DAD!  And I run all the way back home and I sneak back into bed and no one is the wiser and I might die because I can't breath and I'm pretty sure I've got to be the greatest daughter ever to ninja my way along the highway just to acknowledge them like that... 

My children do not make grand (or medium sized, or teeny tiny) gestures.  Maybe I didn't put enough crazy into them when I molded them out on my insides.  Maybe they got that from their father.  On this, our fourteenth anniversary, his great gesture was interrupting my staff meeting at work to give me some Advil Cold & Sinus.  Pretty flipping romantic!  Of course, I'm not asking for anything.  If he bought me a card I'd laugh at him.  Chocolates just make me fat.  Advil's last for four hours - now that's a beautiful gift of stamina! 

Here's to 14 more!

Saturday, October 13, 2012


The furnace kicks on and I listen to the synthetic heat tick through the ceiling above and I am so frustrated that it's already that cold outside.  My blankets are heavy and thick and I'm tucked up beneath them but I'm not warm and the thought of stepping on the concrete floor of the wood room to fetch a log for the fire is I lay here and I don't move so that this one spot warms with my body - because to move is to find new chill.  I think about movies.  I think about that coffee I had at eight o'clock.  I think about how Joan Rivers is probably the meanest person in the world. 

The verge of sleep is like a lip I hang over, feeling the drifting but not yet falling....

The furnace ticks.  The ghosts whisper.  The walls groan.  Vines tickle the basement windows.  Who would ever marry a musician when it means you have to share a cold Friday night bed with a vacant side?

I hear feet.  Shuffling.  Short-strided.  They're above me.  Cupboards open.  They slam shut.  A chair pulls out.  It is pushed back in.  Shuffling.  Another door.  Is that the fridge?  Lost wandering.  Into the living room.  Back up into the kitchen.  To the back door.  Back to the living room.  I can follow the map of this movement across the ceiling as this midnight nomad traipses across my midnight attempts at dreaming. 

Shuffling down to the piano.  Stillness.  Hush.  The furnace ticks.  AN AGGRESSIVE POUNDING OF WHITES AND BLACKS!!!  Full palms have fallen upon the keys, billowing through the house with powerful vibrato, from low to high and back again - harsh notes dissonant when all I want is a lullaby.

I escape from this self-made warmth and my bare feet recoil against a floor rude with cold.

I am braced for a spirit - a dark man in top hat at the ivories, hung there against my already dreaming eyelids.  But no.  It is only a Liam.  And I am awake.  He stands there, hands fallen to his side while his last notes disappear into darkness. 

He sways.  His head bobs.  He is a Liam zombie.  He turns towards me.  Whimpers.  "I am so cold." And his voice is hung with tears and sleep.

I gather him and he has forgotten how to embrace and I lead him gently to his bed and tuck his blanket tight and kiss his eyes, now tight closed, good night.

And when I crawl back into bed, all that warmth I poured out is sucked clean and I shiver and shake and the furnace ticks.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


"It's snowing!"  I am hollering from the back hallway.

He glances up from his spot on the couch.  "It is not!" Incredulous and as if you'd dare to drift a cloud over my lovely Sunday...

"It is!" I say again.

He gathers himself and stalks to the window and puffs up to prove me wrong but..."It is snowing!"

I stand beside him and we watch little white pellets dance off the porch swing.  "More like hail, I guess," I say, throwing him a bone so he doesn't have to be totally wrong (because I'm sweet like that).

I add more wood to the fire and the smell of cedar smoke fuses with the aroma of turkey and stuffing from the kitchen.  The sweet potatoes are whipped and mallowed and waiting for their turn in the oven.  Cinnamon wafts and burlap makes a tablecloth and leaf clad windows count our blessings.

When family arrives, noise blows in with them like a thundering wind and I wrap it all up and tuck it by my heart and raise my voice above them to say welcome and decide that for today, I will be a hugger!

We eat but it doesn't get any quieter.  I have never had a home big enough to share a meal in before.  We fit around the table.  The children around their own.  I am swollen with pride at this family space that has always been this family's space and now it is mine.  But it is also theirs and it always will be.

We are full but still we have pie and then take our uncomfortable bellies for a walk through crunching leaves and the children gather and throw them up up up in the air just to be rained down upon by those wet, dead beauties.

It is crisp and we can see our breath and our noses drip and our cheeks tint rosy.  There is laughing and running and picking weed bouquets and finding game trails and kicking pebbles with rubber boots and holding hands.

And for this.  All of this.  I am thankful.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pumpkin Patch Kids

They remember the planting.  The digging down and the covering.  The waiting for the seed death to bring life wild from the ground in twisting vines that trail all the way to the raspberries.  Now the grass cracks and our feet find purchase on the dirt beneath - fingers pulling frantic through the depths to be the one to cry out, "I found one!"  The air is crisp and rubber boots promise tracks of filth upon mudroom floors.  We aren't concerned with such petty things.  Our sights are set on orange.

"I fouwd anuver one!"

They have their names there, planted on stakes where their seed was laid, fruit tumbled far from the sowing.  But they claim their yield and holler across the field, "MINE!"

We use pruning shears to rend them from their stems, the proverbial cutting of the umbilical cord, and we line them along the cinder block wall.

Cheeks are rosy and leaves are turning and smoke billows from the chimney and fall is upon us and the garden dies slowly and we raise our faces like sunflowers, grasping at that last breath of summer that whispers over the dead corn stalks in a sudden moment when the sun peeks from beneath an autumn cloud.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

When I Want To Punch A Wall

I am still SO angry.  I hadn't realized.  It's easy to push something back when it's not in your face but it's been brewing there at the back of my living all this time and when I looked her in the eyes today I knew the truth...I am still bruised. 

She's so sweet and her eighty-nine years frolic along her aura and she gushes over the kids and she "Oh, time just flies by so fast, doesn't it?"  And when I hug her I want to cry because I hate her nearly as much as I love her and I can't make sense of myself being all kind and all "Oh, it really does!"  And I hate myself as much as she loves me.

She shows me the round pillow she crocheted and gifted to my mother like a child displaying school artwork.  "Must've taken me two weeks," she tells me.

I pull at a loose thread.  I imagine pulling it - yanking out from it's tight tucked stitching - pulling and pulling and knotting it up and curling it round into a right mess and dropping it at her feet and saying, "I made this for you.  This is my art.  I call it Grandpa."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Make It Monday: One Person's Junk

We take the back street on our work errand run because we've been told someone has set old furniture by the curb and who are we to pass up free stuff?  Turns out the old furniture is just a hexagonal side table.  Very 80's.  Very not me.  But...there are also two old, white-paint-pealing, three-paned windows.  Just sitting there like nobody wants them.  G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S.  So naturally, I grab them and run!  And because I just happen to have some vinyl lettering in my craft box, this is what became of them...

I sense a theme occurring.  Because only a couple weeks ago I found windows in the barn and came up with this one:

I am such a dork that the first time I ever read that quote I got all teary eyed and saved the clipping because I knew that someday I'd want it in my home.  And now I have it.  Bliss.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Theft Of Numbers

I suppose it has made me a criminal - this numeral thefting - this stealing of a tangible black and white memory, rent from the dismantled flower-boxes that once graced 212 Queen Street South.  I suppose I should feel guilty - that remorse should cause me to hung-headed hand it back.  I suppose I should be all apology and oh-so-sorry and begging forgiveness for this address robbing.

But I am not.  It will always be a part of me and now the Chicken House stands as a memorial to that first place we stamped our name upon.  A dusty door and whispered nodding to what once was and is no more but for the shiny moments that are tattooed upon our Rusnak hearts.

Make It Monday: This Little Light Of Mine

We don't follow any rules and I'm sure we don't do it right but we end with something beautiful and that's really what it's about, isn't it?  It's not the wax spilled on the cook top (and the counter and running down the drawer faces and on the chairs).  It's not the burned finger tips.  It's not the oven mitt that accidentally gets dropped right in the yellow.  It's having something to do together.  Something that doesn't involve a screen or whining.  It's the building and the layering and the laughing and the teasing and the choosing and the all together of it all.

We chose pretty glasses and colours at the dollar store
We melted the wax in foil muffin tins on a foil covered frying pan
We rescued a couple wicks from the melting wax and held them over our glasses with pencils
We added colour in layers - letting each layer set before the next was added. It took a long time but looks so pretty!
And done!  The boys are proud of their creations....

...and they look so pretty now on the bookshelf

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Some memories cling to the hemline of your consciousness.  Dark pieces that hang like an unwanted thread from the blouse of your existence and you can't get rid of them.  To pull is to unravel so you let it be, swaying there in the wind of your living - this little shadow that scared you to death for a moment and you can't ever really get away from it because it is ever lurking and as much a part of who you are as your iris or your baby toe.

Seven years ago...

Lights are brilliant and assaulting and I'm wildly aware that beneath this short blue gown I am naked.  There is a chill at my feet and I am just furniture, laying still on a gurney as they bustle and ready.  I count five bodies without lifting my head because I am afraid to move.  I am afraid to be under their power.  I am here to be made better.  To be entered and scoped and violated by machinery that will tell them of the gallstones I already know are there.  Fear sits like bricks - sweat on my upper lip, the unknown, the known (that I do not trust all these shiny things made to make better).

He approaches with a silver aerosol, glasses reflecting back the sterile light double, asks me to open my mouth.  He sprays.  To numb my throat.  I am already dying.  Like cotton is slowly being stuffed against my esophagus.  I feel it swell and I can't swallow any more and I feel like I am gasping and my eyes are frantic and huge and my tongue is rolled burlap and can't make sounds and no one cares.

I watch the needle slip into the catheter on my arm - this highway to deliver poison so they might own me.  Someone is over me and upside down and their chin is large, bulging beneath a mask and I try to let him know - SOS with my eyes but I can't keep them open.  I am being stolen from myself - sucked out and tucked in a lab somewhere until they're done with me.




And then I climb through a fog.  Those lights.  They burn against my living.  There is only black and white and white feels like dying.  I feel the possession of steel in my body, how it curls down my throat and I gag against it, fighting the hands suddenly frantic to hold me against the table.  My whole being is recoiling and there's chaos all around and I'll never see my son again because I'm going to choke to death - right here in the place for the mending.  There is noise and hollering and fingers grabbing against my own and I want my last vision to be something beautiful but instead it is this mess and my heart is broken and I could blacken an eye if they weren't clasping so tightly.

That face.  That chin.  Over me again and administering something again and I'm feeling the theft - the me being pulled away - the fight being knocked into sleep and this is how I'll get to heaven...last moments stilled against the will to live that heaven gave...




And then I climb through a fog.  But now I am in a bed and half-upright and lights are dim but still hurt like blades.  There is fire in my throat where I fought to end the damming.  I hear them whisper against the thin curtain that separates..."woken"..."an episode" I am some crazed mental they are not at all responsible for the "episode" that may forever haunt me now.  And I seal up my eyes and let them call me Love as they oh-so-gently coax me from my medicated coma and oh-so-sweetly help me stand and oh-so-kindly help me to the car...when all I really want to do was cry or punch something or stand on a cafeteria chair and holler out like a beacon, "RUN!"

But demure and silent I climb into the car to go home.  And ten minutes later I throw up into a Walmart bag and settle into the knowledge that the rest of my life will be spent in radiating fear of medical procedures that deem me helpless.

I am forever ruined by the mender.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Secret Magic

He holds on to an innocence that shines through his eyes even when he tries to act older than the decade he owns.  He calls me Mommy and still asks to be tucked in at night, "You Are My Sunshine" his favorite lullaby as I tickle his back and bid him love and our own silly See You Later, Alligator version that he thinks is funny even though it's five years old.  Maybe he outgrew it on his seventh birthday.  Maybe he allows it just for me.  Maybe he thinks this one moment when he's turned from a video game or distraction is the one moment that I live for - the moment that dresses him as exactly the boy I want him to be: gentle and needing me for more than clean socks and hot meals.

We celebrate magic.  We encourage the imagination and blind faith that believes in fairies and gold at the end of rainbows and jolly men that bring gifts down chimneys.  I promote it through their play which such joy-passion that I almost believe it too - that moment when Noa and I tiptoe through the field and watch the fireflies flit over the ragweed and she says, "Look, Mommy, night fairies!"

There is that little self-war over teaching what isn't real.  And I do mean little.  Magic was the medicine of my own childhood.  Didn't the world get at little duller that moment we learned it was really mommy who loaded our stockings?  And it was to hold on to the brightness that I fought against the telling - the breaking through that childish view and crashing it with the truth.  What if it robbed him of all that sweetness he is yet to shuck off?  That sweetness that flows over me when darkness falls and I say goodnight?  I couldn't be part of it.

"I'm going to break your heart, Zander."  This is how he begins the rending of innocence.  The father to the son.  And I can picture him, fretting boy, worried that some tragedy might spill out on him.  But when the truth falls and magic is stolen he says simply, "Daddy, I've known for like two years!"

Can my heart get any fuller?  Is it possible to love someone more whom you've loved unequivocally since the moment of their very conception?  That he would live in this charade, playing his belief and making it real to a brother and sister who have no cup runneth over!  Magic isn't dead - it's born anew in the way he sees my love of this merry-man-fable and allows it without a question.  The encouraged has become the encourager!

There is the great debate over fervently teaching your child a falsehood, over the mistrust it breeds and the hurt it causes.  I fervently disagree and I don't care what anyone's opinion is.  Magic is real.  But secret magic is...well - magical!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Leaving Baby Behind

Four.  How in the world?  She dresses herself in sunshine and brushes my hair with sticky fingers and asks with a suredness beyond her four, "so, I'm gwowed up now?"

My best friend blinks against tears that hang in the pockets of her eyes as we talk of first days of school and sending that little bundle off on a giant bus that coughs exhaust and country road dust - "But she's just a baby!"

I want to hold on to her a little longer.  Protect her from the world that waits with curled fingers ready to grab her sweetness.  From mean girls and leeching boys.

I want to shield her from brokenness - but that is what will make her strong - that is where she will find the woman in her to take on the world and make it better.

So there I'll stand, at the end of that long driveway, waving through the choking dust as the bus swirls away...

But this I know with all my heart: I will always call her baby.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


She glances my way, trying to catch some emotion but I am dry.  "I'd be bawling my eyes out if it were me," she says.  I look around at the barren walls and clean swept floor, at nails that held our stories and doors that creaked our whispered passings.  It is not but a shell.  It feels plastic and impersonal - mopped of any little bit of me or us.  I don't feel like we're leaving anything.  I feel like we're going home.

There is an eerie feeling of deja vous as we turn into a laneway labeled "Austin" on an old metal mailbox.  I remember being small.  The rusted swing set by the barn creaking as I sat one-sided on the double swing, watching as the grey moving van rumbled down towards me, my grandmother and baby sister peering out the windshield to where I waited to plant our roots - here where berries grew wild and apples fell like bombs upon the driveway.

And here we are again.

I am sad to watch my mother load her life into a trailer and disappear from this place she poured her heart into.  Her touch is in every moment of beauty here - in the herbs that grow tall in the garden, in the flowers that colour the beds, in the warmth that catches under the branches where I will sit and be inspired as often as I can.  I am sad but I am honored to be trusted with this piece of her heart - this history upon which my family can grow on the old.

Already the boys have begun their plans for a tree fort in the old walnut.  Already they bound around the field, exploring and rediscovering what it's like to be a child.  Already we've painted the walls and railing and windows with our fingerprints - laid our claim out strong and mighty with a nod to the forever of this place.

Noa, sweet and soft, looks over the west field as the sun sets and gushes, "It's soooo pwitty!  We awer soooo lucky!"

And we are.  So lucky.  We are home.

Garden, shed and fire pit

The barn

Picnic arbor - front yard

Back yard

Memorial garden - front yard