Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Love My Job [But I Have Dreams]

When you sit across from your boss at your annual performance review and he asks you about your goals and where you see yourself in five years you should probably answer with some profound intention of moving to full time and increased responsibility and expanding your knowledge of your field and bettering the workplace by your contribution of X, Y, and Z.

But I didn't.

I think I hesitated for a moment, a little tickle of fear...this could be a nail in my coffin...but honesty can set you free, right?

"In five years?  I want to write.  If we could afford it.  If I didn't have to work.  I just want to write."

So there it is.  Just like that.  And as I said it I knew it was my absolute truth.

I love my job.  I have amazing creative freedom, great opportunity for growth, and I'm part of a team that believes in me and values my influence.  We've fought our way back after a hell of a year and it didn't occur to me to walk away.  I am blessed.  I don't want to leave.  I mean, look at us...




...we're a bunch of dorks loving what we're doing!

He didn't shoot down my response.  He didn't label it a pipe dream and drop it like it was meaningless trash.  He invited me to live in it.  To shape my current position to better accommodate my passion for words.  To give a platform to practice my craft and hone my skills and actually do a better job at my actual job by doing it.  Creative Communications.  Writing should fit there like a pea in a pod.

Did I say I was blessed?

When I win the lottery I will tender my resignation.  Then I'll volunteer to do all the fun parts of my job for free on my own timetable: website, graphic design, social media management.  I'll sleep in until 8 and read until 10 and write until dinner which will be served to me in a rose covered pergola by my personal chef, Giles. 

I have never purchased a lottery ticket.  I suppose my chances are just slightly lower than one who does.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Face-Naked

Our hair was always clean and brushed, our clothes neat when other people would see us.  My favorite dress was one worn decades before by my aunt Glenda, a once white gauzy number that lent itself to wide round twirls in the summertime.  I wasn't raised by a mother who put much emphasis on physical appearance save for a lacy barrette on Sunday mornings.  She never wore makeup or high heels but she was still the prettiest lady I knew and would sit patiently while I tied her hair into a thousand knots and brushed baby blue dress-up eyeshadow across her lids.

I don't know where my make-up dependance came from.  Certainly not my mother's top drawer that held her secret treasures: perfume, her engagement ring, that little gold locket that never had a picture in it no matter how many times I opened it hoping for a new story to be birthed...

It was high school before I realized that it wasn't just Sears Catalogue models who used Maybelline.  Durham was small and simple and handmade jumpers and Chap Stick and brown bagged lunches.  The move to a Hanover school brought kids who shopped at the mall and cafeteria lines and lipstick.

Lori Summers was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen.  She was only two years older but I was pretty sure she was already a woman.  Her boyfriend looked like a Ken doll with tight blond curls and a tighter t-shirt and she had puffed up hair-sprayed bangs and lips so red and shiny that they looked perpetually wet.  I wanted to be her.  Even though she wasn't particularly friendly.  I wanted to be pretty.

And it mattered.  Because somehow mascara took me from invisible to visible and there was no going back.  It became part of my identity and now I sometimes struggle to find myself behind it.

It took YEARS before I even let Scott see me face-naked.  I wore waterproof mascara to bed.  Ugh.  How embarrassing is that?  Like I couldn't accept who I was beneath it all and didn't trust that he'd like me without it.

Stupid.

It has taken being in my 30's and sensing my mortality and being excruciatingly tired before I can actually embrace a fresh-faced version of myself.  And he looks at me exactly the same way.  Dressed up and fancy.  Sweat pants and pony tail.  He loves me.  Just me

And it's okay to be at home and not made up and barefoot and every freckle screaming freedom and somewhere Lori Summers probably has those huge bangs slicked back in an elastic band and I can be worth as much all Plain Jane as I am when I'm all Fancy Pants (not that I even own a pair of 'fancy pants').

What it really comes down to is he wants me as much in pajamas as he does in lingerie so I'll count that a big stinking win and greet him home from work tonight all face-naked and fancy free!

My prayer is that I can do my very best to instill in my daughter the beauty of her heart.  Kindness.  Sweetness.  Selflessness.  Grace.  Sure, I'll let her borrow my blush and eye liner but I'll also exalt her smile, the little dimple on her left cheek, the power of her hugs and the warmth of her spirit, the breadth of her dreams and the majesty of her giftings.
  
Because that is the pretty that matters. 
That is the pretty that changes the world!

Friday, June 21, 2013

10 Reasons I Don't Want To Be Pregnant

with Noa
I was really good at being pregnant.  I adored that belly and I loved my babies.

And I loved my plan.

And my plan was working.  Three.  Done by thirty.  Concise.  Succinct.  Beautiful.

But what if my plan wasn't the 'divine plan' and heaven thought I should add to my horde?
 
I have spent the last three weeks in a cloudy fear that I have become a statistic - one of the 1% - betrayed by bodies we thought were controlled by modern medicine.

(Please don't let me be pregnant...please don't let me be pregnant...oh, dear God, please don't let me be pregnant...)

As I was dropping him off for work this week he mumbled all melancholy and afraid, words dripping blue, "I sure hope you're not pregnant..."

AAAKKK!!!

This is my most selfish truth:

1. I want Noa to be my baby.  I want to end on the girl who dollops the world with her sweetness everywhere she steps.  I don't want to impose a crib in her bedroom or a crunch on her time with me.  She is my forever baby - I don't want anything taking that away.

2. I don't want to steal anything from Liam - not time or patience or grace...wouldn't a baby steal every bit of what I had left and leave him hanging like an unpaired sock in the laundry?  Wouldn't he snap somehow, anger boiling over into a jealous rage that leaves a Sharpie rebellion smeared across the bedroom wall I so lovingly painted?

3. I want to notice Zander making that transition into adolescence - I want to mold him and form him and grow him up right with my full attention.  I don't want to be distracted by diapers and breast feeding and Liam getting into trouble just to get me to notice him and Noa begging and crocodile tear'ing' just so I'll take five minutes for a tea party and cleaning toilets and laundry and onesies and crying my own snot-boiling tears because I just. can't. take. another. minute.  And suddenly he'll be this fumbling adult and I'll have missed the whole thing by the time I get that surprise baby on the school bus for his first day of kindergarten in five years.

4. Those jeans that finally fit me.

5. I want to shower every single day - not just because I have to do it to get the vomit smell out of my hair - for as long as I please without interruption, without guilt, without fear of what could happen in the measly five minutes I have the door closed.

6. I like peeing all by myself.

7. All the good names have been taken by Brangelina.

8. I want to write and garden and decorate and craft and play the piano and read awful vampire/zombie novels and rearrange my furniture and go for long walks on the beach and raise chickens and sleep in and travel to Italy and watch birds and bake pies and debate the merits of Jian Ghomeshi and solve homelessness and play shows in coffee houses and join a writer's group.

9. Hemorrhoids.

10. Giving birth is gross.  (Sure, it's beautiful and wonderful and blah, blah, blah - IT'S STILL DISGUSTING!!! - and it HURTS and after you've mentally accepted (vowed) to never do it again you just can't wrap your head around the very real possibility of having to do it again and so doing is a sure-fire ticket to the crazy floor.)


I am guilty.

I am an awful, terrible, SELFISH woman.

But I love my three and I don't want to love more than that.

And so the moment came to prove that indeed, I need only love three and I was the fool in the ladies room - arms raised to heaven in a victorious hallelujah - I'm high fiving a million angels!

I text him, all caps: NOT PREGNANT!!!!!

And his response says it all: Phew!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Place To Write - On A $0 Budget!

She's this great ball of fire and and when she laughs her head snaps back and her face cracks wide and she's just human and the academia of her resume matters less than the spirit glowing through as she talks wildly of goldfish crackers.

When I sat and listened to her story I felt a piece of my heart shift.  Words.  The life that mattered and shaped her.  Written on a 2x4 in the back of a closet.

And that 2x4 birthed a beautiful testimony.  And it's tale has spurred me to ensure that I will never leave myself without 'a place'.

So...


Paying the mortgage, taxes, groceries, Bell Canada leeches, hydro (and on and on and on) takes huge precedent over investing in anything pretty for my home.  But I am not one to turn away from a challenge.

There was an embarrassing little space in my bedroom - a built-in sewing table put there by Daddy Dearest so long ago.  Since we moved in it has served no purpose save for the piling of junk, thankfully hidden by the curtains hung by Mommy Dearest.  Hideous.  (I couldn't even stand to take more than one picture of it because it was just.so.awful.)

I found some old gift paper and stuck it to the wall like I was wrapping myself a present.  Of course, I could have gotten real wallpaper but that would have cost money and my goal was $0.00!

I pulled little accessories from around the house and dug out my old sewing machine - not because I have plans to get back into sewing - just because it's pretty (and a homage to the original intention of this little space).

click to see larger image

 Much can be done with very little.  SO MUCH can be done when you have more than a 2x4! 



I would love to tell you that right now as I type this I'm sitting at that pretty little desk feeling lovingly inspired but the truth is that the sun is shining and I'm feeling deficient in Vitamin D.  So I'm here instead - upon a table ironically constructed with, yes, 2x4's...

  

...but glowing with the knowledge that come a rainy day, I'll have a perfect little place to sit for a while and write.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Teaching Consequence

I watch him from the dining room window - there from my perch on the old steam trunk that holds our board games - as he shoves the smallest triplet to the ground.  And it is just a game, this shoving - but he's so much bigger and that third of the neighborhood litter is basically the runt, a year older but so much smaller than my middle one.  He does not pop up regular like a whack-a-mole; no, he lays sprawled and face in the grass and he's a possum on a stage and his sonnet is long.

Zander bends over this 'death' and I can see him prodding, poking like a child with a stick to a praying mantis.  Are you okay?  Are you okay?  

"I heard them say they're not allowed to come any closer to me than three feet," he tells me later.

"Why?"  But, of course I know.

"I was too rough.  They think I'm mean."

"You were too rough," I tell him, condoning the 'restraining order'.  "You need to apologize."

"I did!"

"To his parents."

"MOM!!!! Serious?"

I make him write a letter.  "Neatly, Zander...they have to be able to read it."  He writes slowly, just slightly neater than every day (which is like when he wears unripped jeans to church).

I make him deliver it.  I make him march to their door and blush embarrassed to the tip of his ears and know humility and understand that his actions have uncomfortable consequences.

He knows what it means to make poor choices.  And he knows that this Momma won't stand for it. 


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Quieting My Inner Doubt & Grabbing Life By The Horns [What I Learned at Write! Canada]

I approached the whole idea of a writer's conference with a kind of fear that made my heart pound and my digestive track revolt.  I thought myself a painfully shy, socially handicapped, positively uninteresting being who stumbled over being vocally eloquent or remotely intelligent.  I was actually ashamed to call myself a writer.  (Well, I mean, I kind of like to write, it doesn't really mean anything - like, I don't get paid or anything and I don't know if anybody reads it and I certainly know that you don't care and I'm just boring you with this so-far-from-witty-repartee that has nothing to do with anything you're interested in so I'll just tell you that I work in graphic design because that's much more acceptable in your eyes...)  And for what?  What gain is there in denying the very essence of my core?

So I entered this community.  

And I felt like I was home.  

And, at the risk of sounding like a sentimental cheese-ball, I have never felt more myself than when I stood with this crowd of people who were so closely JUST.LIKE.I.WAS. and who allowed me to be wholly, without apology, one hundred percent, wearing my dreams on my sleeve, ME.

I was empowered and affirmed and felt like I was suddenly surrounded by a tribe of people who wished me every single success I have always wished for. 

When I took my seat across from an honest-to-goodness literary agent (who happened to be an honest-to-goodness cowboy!) - after shaking his hand with a strong, non-sweaty grip, introducing myself like I owned who I was - I asked him my most pressing question: how can I make myself most appealing to an agent or publisher?  "Well, Ma'am," he said, southern drawl warming up the air, his grey handlebar mustache hanging over his upper lip, hair flattened by the cowboy hat that rested politely beside him, "I must say, you've already made yourself quite attractive!"  Of course, it went on from there into practicalities and realities and how to write a query that mattered but I spent the whole time marveling that I, socially handicapped little me, could actually make a good impression.  "It's like a dance.  It's like a marriage.  If I like you and you like me, we're a match made in heaven and I'll work hard for you."

People were actually seeking me out to praise my work and encourage me into a successful future.  One woman - a published author, thin fingers resting on my shoulder as we stood in a doorway, told me in a gentle voice how moved she was by the piece I read - how my truth had stirred her - how humbling is that???

My body aches after hours of sitting in classes and workshops, after hours of little activity beyond the frantic scribbling over page after page of notes, after little sleep and so much laughing.  I believe I have started friendships that will span across years and provinces.  I believe that I have purpose.  I believe that it is not all for not.

I am a strong & confident woman.  
I am a writer!  
May my keyboard ever roar!


Friday, June 14, 2013

A 'Reading' [@ Write! Canada]

It’s about the choice to be a diver or a side-liner.  I feel it inside like a storm.  And it’s stupid.  Because all these people are here to cheer me on.  I need no preamble, no self-selling or self-glorification.  It’s...easy? 

Reality is that I would hate myself if I didn’t dive.

My throat is dry and my hands are sweaty and all these eyes on me and who am I? and WHAT WILL THEY THINK???

And it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I’m doing it.  I hold those papers and I read those words aloud and I own them with as much dignity as I can.

And my father sits beside me in the squeaky chair and he’s sniffling and hitching back some kind of sob and I pretend not to notice because, really, that’s kind of weird.

Look at me.  Doing a reading.  In front of ‘real writers’.

Sometimes I amaze myself.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hair - Part II

hours before...
I was afraid.  Afraid like it might change him.  Afraid like I'd married his hair and it mattered like a soul.

And if it hadn't been for a good cause I would have talked him out of it.

Because my first memory of him is how his hair fell in long waves along a fret board and how I was only a child and he was already a man.  And that hair.  Oh, that hair was a thing to see.

Liam plays his part
Of course, it didn't last.  By the time we started dating it was just growing back after a rash decision to let dear old Albert the Barber shave it off - just beginning that ugly stage of don't-make-sense and that's-a-nice-cowlick.  But it came back.  And it was oh, so lovely.

We worried over it.  Poured over pictures of potential cuts.  "I don't want a bob or anything," he'd say.

And I stood at the edge of the stage, watching my six-year-old son saw through that glory, praying that he'd still be he, ashamed at how superficial I was.

And then it was gone.  Just gone.  Like all those years of growing were erased.  And he pulled on his jacket and moved to pull his hair out from under the collar and his hands were empty.

"It's like a time warp," I tell him.  Like he's suddenly that twenty-one-year-old again, swinging by the high school to pick me up in the old Dodge Omni.  (And I'm almost giddy because that means I'm seventeen again, right?)

And I like it.  Hallelujah, Glory Be, I like it!  And I like him.  And so it continues...

A miracle worker


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hair

I remember when he was born and when he was fat and how I'd gaze into those eyes-too-big and wonder how I might define one colour that was really three.  I remember how I cried when he cried because he just.wouldn't.stop. and how I prayed for reprieve and for peace and how all this new-momma war was surely going to break me into a million pieces.

And I remember how he did stop.  And how he smiled.  And how I thought, if I can only do this right - just this - someday, he will change the world.

I remember how he'd fall asleep, face tucked against my neck, dream bubbles blowing against my collar bone, little fist tight and long lashes curled, me - there drifting in his warmth - pushed back into the green cushion of the chair Aunt Carol almost threw away.

Eleven years.  No.  Near twelve now.  And I'm not sure who I am if I couldn't-wouldn't-wasn't his mother.  This sweet boy who terrorizes his little brother and is annoyed by his little sister and still hugs and kisses his momma even if people are watching.

And he wants to change the world.  He wants to be a hero.  Not with a cape.  Not with super powers.  Just with love.

When he announced his intentions I felt it heavy in my belly - heavy in the womb that birthed him - who am I to make a child who would sacrifice his crown to better the life of a stranger?

Down to his waist.  This glory that spills from a head set on giving.  And I am as proud of his hair as I am of him.  And I am so stupidly afraid that the loss of that hair will mean the loss of him.  And it's completely illogical but my heart hurts for it the same way it hurt when the little brother cut the mane of the little sister.

But my heart is also full.  And maybe it's the full that hurts - like panic and joy and fear and love and all this mixed up in a heart-burst stew.

And the day came.  And I stood with him in the school hallway and brushed it for the last time and braided it for easy travel and students filed passed us, their footfalls echoing and their hands raised to high-five this son of mine.  And they passed him coins - nickles and quarters and toonies.  And they were hooting and 'good job' ing and 'way to go' ing.

I think if I hadn't needed to focus on the job of the video camera I couldn't have gotten through without tears.  There was a moment when I felt it hitch up and that caught breath in my throat and that telling burn - just as he left to climb the stage stairs - but I swallowed it down and pretended strength as he sat so still upon the chair and waited as scissors broke through seven years of his living.

He seemed a little afraid.  A little unsure of who he might be now that it was gone.  But what I am realizing is that it wasn't his special.  His special was not that cascade of gold.  His special is the heart that would give up the cascade.

And when the cheers erupted from the crowd of his peers, from the family that came to watch, from the people who believed in him, he stood clutching that braid that was no longer a part of him and beamed embarrassed and pleased, standing by the father who took the same journey with him.  (That's a whole different story.)

At the end of it all his efforts have raised in excess of $1700.  And he is still he.  I have lost nothing.  Nothing but clogged drains.

I don't have words for how proud I am - how pleased I am that my wee, ever-crying, tri-coloured-eye baby has become a generous, selfless, the-world-is bigger-than-what's-for-dinner?, near man.  And I like to imagine, that somewhere out there, a struggling eleven-year-old boy is going to have his life made better by the blessing of my son's hair, fashioned into a wig to ease the suffering of a cancerous battle.

Hair is not definitive.  It is merely an accessory.