Friday, 27 July 2012

MY Obstetrician: A Knight In SHINING Armour

Our family doctor, who was also my obstetrician, had warned us to come into town immediately with my first labour pains. My eighth child was going to be born quickly. Dr. H met me outside the hospital, helped me out of our old mini-bus, into a wheelchair and literally ran past admitting with a huge grin on his face yelling,
 “Sorry. No time to admit her. I’ll do the paperwork for her after the delivery. See you later!”
He was still chuckling in the elevator over the shocked expression on the admitting clerk’s face. We moved slowly out of the elevator onto the obstetrical floor and Dr. H peered around the corner to check the nursing station. My doctor sighed happily,
“Good. The head nurse is on coffee break and no one is in the natural birthing room. Olga is going to have a fit when she sees your stats on the board and that you are in here!”
He laughed loudly this time as we darted into the softly lit room. Michael walked in a little later, holding 18- month old Katie with her sunsuit on backwards, straps crossed across her chest. A nurse turned to me and said,
“Let me guess. Daddy dressed her.”
I smiled weakly in between labour pains because the nurse barely had time to check my vital signs before Anthony was born. Michael had pulled the curtain around my bed partly closed to block Katie’s view of the labour and delivery. Since she refused the cookie bribe offered by a nurse outside at the station, Katie was still with Michael. As soon as Anthony was born, my husband whipped the curtain open and passed Katie to a nurse so he could cut his son’s umbilical cord.
Michael turned to Dr. H and me as we beamed at each other over the birth of our beautiful baby and yet another successful, humane delivery despite the hospital’s regulations.
When I was pregnant with my sixth child, I went to my first appointment with our new family doctor and now my new obstetrician. He asked me why I was changing doctors and I sighed,
“I just can’t face my old obstetrician with a sixth pregnancy.”
“And who IS this doctor?” He questioned.
“Actually it was Dr. E.”
Well, my new doctor threw his head back and started to laugh,
“She’s a good obstetrician. Her only problem is that she owns a parrot, tropical fish and an expensive horse but doesn’t have any kids. I can understand your problem with her.”
That was the beginning of a wonderful 24 year friendship with our dedicated health care provider. Two of the next four pregnancies high risk. That meant weekly ultra-sounds and check-ups with the high risk doctor in the hospital. My doctor waited, often after office hours, for me to stop in after hospital appointments to get his weekly update. Dr. H explained,
“They would LOVE to get their hands on you. Don’t let them TOUCH you without checking in with me first!”
From my first visit with Dr. H, I no longer had to don protective armour for my emotions before each obstetrical appointment. HE protected my unborn child, my growing children, Michael but most especially me.
This doctor does not follow common procedure mindlessly but uses commonsense (learned from Newfoundland midwives), intelligence (he is an associate professor at the university, an old-fashioned sense of service (he mentors countless med students and residents and is ALWAYS on call for his obstetrical patients) and compassion (he has an uncanny ability to listen and understand each patient).
Best of all, this medical knight in shining armour celebrates each birth with incredible joy.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Fashion Sense? She was BORN with it

Tiny, adorable, clever and independent Emily was also strong-willed, high maintenance and high strung.  My fifth child, Emily was a beautiful little package of contradictions who gave me strife and hilarious joy, sometimes at the very same time.  Most arguments were about clothes. Although her fashion sense has developed into a wonderful gift now that she is in her mid twenties, at three and four-years old this “gift” was a pain.
Emily changed her clothes frequently throughout  the day, from the age of two. Watching one of the few videos of our family, one of my older daughters pointed at the screen and laughed,
“Look at Emily. That is the third time she has changed clothes during this video!”
 Sure enough, the pip squeak had another outfit on.
Emily is on the left
 Emily was always aware of what she was wearing as well as those around her, which often led to disagreements about what she could and could not wear. Although she was a mature, articulate, fashion conscious three-year old, I was still concerned that Emily was too young to start four-year old kindergarten. When she stomped into the house after the first morning, ranting about a little girl who had worn a “jean skirt with a MATCHING jean jacket”, I realized that it was the school which was not quite ready for EMILY
Alas, Emily’s attention soon turned to her busy mother.  I sometimes pulled on stockings, brushed my hair and applied a touch of make-up once I had climbed into our huge 13 seat mini-bus.  I barely had enough time to make sure my dress was clean and my teeth were brushed before I hustled everyone out the door. This changed when my daughters were in their late teens because they organized an all out assault to bring me into the 21st century. They took me to a hair salon for a cut and dye make-over, plucked my eyebrows, bought me clothes and make-up and forced me to throw out decade old comfy clothes. Emily has been the most persistent fashion advisor, however.
One evening as I tried to rush out of the house, Emily looked up from her homework and asked,                                 
“Are you going out?”
I answered in the affirmative.
Emily continued, “And you’re wearing THAT?”
I nodded slowly.  I knew the direction that this conversation was headed.
“I don’t think so”, she added, “Remember the navy pants that Melissa bought you for Christmas and the top that Rachel gave you on Mother’s Day? That would look really sharp with my light blue scarf and my little black belt. Could you PLEASE try it on?”
I sighed and trudged back upstairs because it was easier just to comply. I must admit that she was right. Of course, once I came down, Emily had to jump up to adjust the belt and re-tie the scarf but as a result of listening to my daughter’s fashion advice, she was pleased and Michael, my husband, was pleasantly surprised.
 Really though, Emily is an expert at changing outfits. She has been practicing since she was two-years old.




Wednesday, 25 July 2012

"BUT Cecil is still up!"

Everyone else had left the funeral home as Cecil’s family and mine shared another amusing memory and laughed together.  I had broken the ice with the first story but soon everyone spoke up and added their favourite memory of Cecil and the Juneau’s. The atmosphere was reminiscent of a traditional Irish wake.
I looked around the circle at our former neighbour’s smiles and I was surprised, surprised that the antics of our large family had been so entertaining and memorable to Cecil and his clan.  I had simply done whatever came to my mind to keep a lot of little people busy, safe and happy.  Now teenagers, Cecil’s grand-daughters were still delighted with my summer tradition of filling a baby bathtub with ice and snow from my old-fashioned freezer. They played for more than an hour with spoons, cups, bowls and food colouring as I kept the tub filled with frosty snow.
Cecil’s widow especially enjoyed the memory of our “walks” down our short, dead-end country lane. It was a virtual parade that consisted of children all under 12 vying for the opportunity to push the baby in a buggy, a toddler riding on a wagon, dutifully pulled by one of the older kids, a pre-school child sitting on bright yellow duck with wheels, bikes and tricycles ridden in circles around younger siblings and me, usually pregnant, sipping a nice hot cup of tea and walking as slowly as possible.

I think that Cecil’s kindness was symbolized best by the image of my two-year old son sitting on his knee “helping “ cut grass with Cecil’s lawn tractor. Matthew was thrilled with the chance to sit on the small tractor, even when it was parked.  This excitement never dimmed.  As Matthew grew, he  had to stand on the back of the tractor and finally by seven-years old, he could no longer hitch a ride but could only WALK behind the tractor. My son was still out there with Cecil, walking up and down the rows of grass for countless hours because Cecil was Matthews’s best friend in those days with the foundation of their friendship rooted in their mutual love of tractors.
One evening, around 7:30, after Matthew’s bath, I called him for a bedtime story. Matthew had been peering out the window, watching Cecil work in his garden. This three year-old turned to me and wondered why HE had to go to bed,
“BUT Cecil is still up!”

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Vacuum Cleaner Syndrome

I am wired to be an emotion vacuum cleaner that sucks up all my children's pain. My children are all
compassionate vacuum cleaners as well, who attract other people's negative emotions. They are all aware that they were conditioned not only from observing Michael and I  in action but also because they have inherited this trait from both of us.

This problem, The Vacuum Cleaner Syndrome, is a difficult disease to cure. 

 As my daughter and  fellow vacuum cleaner, Katie, asked during a family discussion,
" How can one vacuum cleaner  help another vacuum cleaner?" 
Four of us around the circle smiled and laughed at the image.
Then I blurted out, "Why, show the other vacuum  cleaner how to reverse the hose and blow out the dirt, rather than suck it in and collect it."
That comment released  waves of uncontrollable laughter that actually did blast clean air through all of us.

Compassion and empathy are vital but my tendency is to try to fix my husband and kids by hoarding their pain within my own heart.
 Does my tendency to absorb my children's emotions help them?
Do my seemingly selfless reactions weigh me down?
Is anyone fixed or set free as I sacrifice my own peace and happiness to try to help my family?
Does this Vacuum Cleaner Syndrome destroy everyone's peace and joy?

The good news is that  a silly image that pictures mum as a vacuum cleaner does reverse this self- defeating, addictive pattern because it makes it easier for everyone to understand how ludicrous I have been .  The laughter that follows releases the tension used to keep emotional pain locked up inside. 
Jesus is the only vacuum cleaner who  has  the ability to literally sucked in everyone's emotional pain, sin etc. and then blow in joy, peace and new life back in to every person who allows Him do His job.

The great exchange; surrender dirt and receive the bright, clean breathe of God and then laugh at how long it took you to let it happen.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Prayer means never having to say good-bye

Whether we are cognizant of the fact or not, we are connected to God    and each other

Our whispered hello to God and each other is called prayer.

I am not just reciting theology when I remind you that there is neither time nor distance when we live and move and breath in the Spirit. When someone dies or moves far away, I don't have to say good-bye just whisper hello, a different kind of hello that moves with the speed of light to brighten each heart when I think of them.

God is the great "I AM" who exists in yesterday, today and tomorrow. His Spirit mysteriously unites all of us, intimately present to each soul, all at the same time. Our whispered hello to God and each other is called prayer.
One night, while struggling to centre myself in The Lord's Presence, a crazy, impulsive thought popped into my mind. Without analysing or questioning theological implications, I asked the Agnes Sanford, a wonderful, Anglican author (pray for me. Immediately I experienced a warm, emotional embrace of love and sheer joy as I heard interiorly,
"My dear, you have my undivided attention. No one asks me to pray for them because I was a Protestant, you know!"

I laughed and laughed, in fact I am grinning like a fool now.
I don't want to argue theology, I just want to encourage other people with the thought that there are tens, hundreds, why maybe thousands of sisters and brothers, most of whom we will never meet, who pray for us. As Saint Paul said there is a cloud of witnesses, both living and dead, cheering us on as we journey towards the Lord. The Holy Spirit is my companion but in His Body He has gifted me with many fellow travellers.
The wonderful thing is that prayer means never having to say good-bye.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Humour Helps: Quotes On My Fridge That Help Keep Me Sane

our children
The Joy of Mothering

I want to share three quotes that are on my fridge. All three are key to my sanity, each for a different reason.

When I feel at my wit's end. This one makes me laugh and cuts through my stress.

One in four people are mentally unbalanced.
Think of three friends.
If they seem fine,
You're the one.

Laughter is the best way to snap out of a funk Also the reassurance that nothing is as catastrophic as it seems when we are in the middle of it. Through difficult times I have discovered these words to be true.

And lastly some gentle consolation from a woman who suffered through the Black Plague during the middle ages. She nursed the sick.

"All shall be well, all shall be well... For there is a Force of love moving through the universe That holds us fast and will never let us go."
lady julian of norwich ( c.a. 1342-1416)

Last one. A funny word my family coined for crazy thinking that leads to stress. Repeat this word and laughter will banish that intellectual fanatic in the attic of your mind.


Monday, 9 July 2012

Iggy , The Fearless Cat Chasing Rabbit.


 Iggy , Rachel's fearless Rabbit.

Iggy was full of joy when we first brought her home and let her out of her cage. She ran laps around the entire house jumping and twisting in the air every few minutes. Apparently rabbits twist in the air when they are extremely happy.

Unbelievable as it sounds, Iggy was in charge of the
household pets and not the cat or dog. Kitty would carefully peak around the staircase to see if the coast was clear and then sneak into the kitchen to eat.
 If Iggy caught a glimpse of Kitty, she would scramble as fast as she could down the hallway and chase  the poor cat right back upstairs. Afterwards that bold bunny would slowly hop back into the kitchen.

If the dog started to chase Iggy, she would outrun him and was soon running behind Shadow as they ran their laps. The rabbit chased the dog!If the fridge door was opened, she was there in a flash, standing up to get a better view of the veggies and if Rachel tried to sleep in, Iggy would hop on the bed and wake her up.

 Iggy was definitely not a cowering rabbit. I think that our animals benefited psychologically from our kid filled home. Perhaps animals can sense love and joy and they were free to become more animated and fearless

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Kids Are Like Sponges

People say that children are like sponges; they absorb values, attitudes, culture and spirituality simply through osmosis.  It is not simply a question of  parent's actions speaking louder than  their words; it goes much deeper than that . Both my husband and I were often unaware of the deep spirituality that flowed from our children  to us as well as from us as parents to our offspring.

 For example, I was rocking newborn Mara, one afternoon, while eighteen month -old Melissa sat on her Dad's knee, slowly waking up from a long nap. The topic of discussion for the last hour had been, ''How on earth can we manage to get to church as a family with three little ones, all on different schedules?"  Every choice of service or church had  some complication or difficulty that seemed insurmountable. It seemed an impossible situation and I resigned myself to simply staying at home on Sundays for the time being.

Suddenly, we were both startled as a flushed and distraught  three year old Matthew came running into the kitchen.

He was still groggy from his nap but was able to yell in very loud voice, "Jesus says come, Jesus says come!!!

We were both stunned into silence. The deep discussion was over.

This episode really seems to be a mystery at first glance but perhaps but this was a simple demonstration of the power of God living in us as we lived, moved, breathed and had our very being in Him.  He took charge of our dilemma by using the most open, articulate member of our family, a three year old. Most of the time, though, God works on our behalf without any awareness on our part because we are oblivious to spiritual reality. It is probably better that way because  we tend to get in His way.

 One day at mass I distinctly heard  the inner voice of God speaking to me. I thought the words were for the church in general; it took years for me to realize that they were aimed directly at ME.

" You think that you are building my church with all your business, but you are hindering my Spirit and my plans. All I need, all I want, is for you to stand before the Cross and allow the fire of my Son's love to pierce your heart, mind, soul and spirit. Then, He can transform you and the fire of His love will pour out from your entire being , transforming the world. around you."

Of course, twenty years later and years of inner work and healing I am just beginning  to allow His love to sink in deeply. I always feel that I am just a beginner.

.For example after the birth of Lucy, my ninth child, I was growing weary of  church people's praise and awe. They'd gush, "Oh, you must have so much grace!"

 I was aware of my egocentric position and I wanted to shout, "No, it's just tea and me!" Meaning that ,in my opinion, it was caffeine and self drive that kept me going.

Out of the blue, as I was rocking my newborn I heard crystal clear,"You don't have a clue how much grace you have."

I used to try so hard  to be a good  Christian parent but as I give up my earnest striving, let go of control and allowed God  to save me through His presence in  in my children, I experience His mercy and JOY.

My three or four oldest children bore the brunt of my earnest mission to raise my children in the faith. I over explained everything. For example, as Matthew was preparing for first communion, I outlined the different kinds of prayer to him- petition, thanksgiving, adoration, praise... In frustration this seven year old sighed, slumped his shoulders and stated, "Mum, I do all that; I just don't use all those words."

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Fabulous Blog Ribbon

I just received an award from a fellow blogger- Joan at Thank-you. I am duly honoured.

This award has rules I need to post and follow.  Rules to the Fabulous Blog Award:

1. Thank the blogger who gave it to you and share the link back to the awarding blog.
2. Name 5 fabulous moments in your life.
3. Name 5 things that you love.
4. Name 5 things you hate.
5. Pass the award to 5 deserving bloggers.

Name 5 fabulous moments in your life.

This list is quite "sappy", so quickly skim read if you have a low tolerance for sappy. I apologize but this is an uncensored, spontaneous list.

1.When I was 10, I was struck by a sense of "I", that my spirit was in this body, viewing the world through my eyes and that nobody else saw, felt or touched the world from my viewpoint. The image of myself as a little girl, laying on the grass and staring up at the huge sky above her has never left .

2. The birth of my children was miraculous. It is true - the moment you hold your new baby, all pain and suffering is forgotten in a wave of sheer joy and unconditional love and devotion.

3. One night when I had barely turned 17, I felt like a fool talking to the wall and asking God to take over my life and the next morning I was bursting with an inexplicable joy, a sense of awe and an unshakable conviction that the Spirit was in residence within my heart.

4. Two years ago, we bought our first house. A beautiful 1886 home on 7 acres with trees, gardens and a creek. The feeling of being rooted to the land, of permanence is surprising and comforting

5. The day I married my soul-mate was the most fabulous moment of my life because it was the beginning   of  a whole new way of living. It was a step into the unknown.

Name 5 things that you love.

This list will seem like a repeat of a recent post but in my defence I must say, "Really, did you expect the loves of my life to change in a week. I am not THAT fickle."

1. Strong tea and red wine.

2. Cilantro by the cup full on anything and in anything.

3. Play dough, crayons, dollhouses- Our dog ripped the roof off of a hand-made, three story beautiful, Victorian doll house. I have a lot of furniture and I am waiting patiently for another doll house to decorate.

4.Gardening, flowers and renovating our 1886 home. I am stripping off rug, foam, glue, 8 layers of paint and varnish with a toothbrush .

5. My kids, my husband, animals, God (especially the Holy Spirit- I like smuggling Him into the world, hidden within me.)

Name 5 things you hate.

1. I Love seafood but I HATE anything with tentacles that people have the audacity to call food. Also dried squid with the little black eyes staring at me. However this is superior brain food and I am doing my best to swallow them. Chewing is extremely objectionable.

2. There are disagreeable people, wounded, mentally ill, angry and ignorant people who all garner my sympathy even though they are hard to take. However 1% of human beings are evil and I hate evil.

3. Bullies of all ages, especially those with too much power and/or money.

4. Uncomfortable clothes or any attire that makes me feel self-concious. This obviously needs no explanation.

5.Most machines. I won't even TRY to justify this one.

Pass the award to 5 deserving bloggers.