Monday, 28 April 2014


When I was in university, I wanted to carry out something great, heroic even. Like all young people, I wanted to make a difference in the world. After spending 18 years pregnant and/or nursing, I have done nothing noteworthy. Yet I intuitively understand that by mothering, by doing simple things, I have changed the world.  Even though I do not always feel that I serve with love or bring light into the world, even though I feel like a failure, I know that the light of one candle, pushes back the deepest darkness because darkness is simply a lack of light, not a force.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Me: One Part Guts,Two Parts Gift

How to create Melanie from scratch: A layer cake, tart, not too sweet.
I have dredged a few ingredients up from my core, as the result of dire circumstances and sheer necessity, others have been pure gift and a delight to embrace and incorporate into my life.
Baking Tin
Must be constructed from a shiny, iridescent hot metal called love which shines and reflects warmth even in a dark, cold room.
Bottom Crust
5 pounds of sheer determination ( guts), layered, alternately, with 5 pounds of sinew and true grit. Make sure the crust is firm yet still flexible so that it does not crack under pressure but rather bends when needed.
Sprinkle with pounds of humour and laughter. Both must be shaken on top of the crust and in each subsequent layer because laughter is essential to my survival. Do not omit this life-sustaining ingredient or my life will collapse.
First Layer
Add liberal amounts of creativity and intuition combined with circular thinking. DO NOT MEASURE. Large quantities of these three ingredients are vital. Do not substitute with logic nor linear thinking. Completely vital to my sanity and to the insanity of my husband. This layer is the thickest and most lively; it springs back into shape even when neglected for long periods of time.
Second Layer
Delight in children. Since I had nine kids, nine shakes of delight will suffice. The whole cake will fall into depression without delight.
Top Layer
Gratitude and thankfulness make up this layer, the more the better. This is a clear, gelatinous layer that receives light which permeates all the other layers.
Joy. This ingredient cannot be purchased and is pure gift.
Drink with a strong cup of tea, steeped at least five minutes. A must.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

What Makes a “Good” Parent?

What makes a good parent? In one word? Humility. In two words? A sense of humour and humility.

Lately, I have spent more time with my five grandchildren, all age 2 and under. I am struck with the fact that most adults are not natural baby whisperers and that our society really does not spend time preparing hapless adults to parent.
Children, especially babies are well…little , little and vulnerable, vulnerable to the large, often clueless adults, who care for them. Put yourself in a baby’s situation. Preverbal for years it must be frustrating to be tired or in pain, only to have a bottle thrust into your mouth or have a tense, upset mother try to nurse you when your stomach is bloated with burps.
This disconnect does not end once children can communicate. Nope, our adult reasoning simply does not always compute in little brains. Why, I have been told that human beings do not get their adult brain till they are 25 years old! Apparently, the frontal lobe that makes sane, rational decisions is not fully developed till the mid-twenties.
That means for almost a quarter of a century, humans need a special kind of love and nurturing that will not only meet them and connect with them right where they are but guide them gently without controlling them and stunting their own growth intellectually, emotionally and spiritually,
That means that the best parents are willing to learn, from their offspring, from books, from experience and from others. Good parents need a wonderful sense of humour to laugh at their own blunders, to laugh at their kid’s blunders. Openness to try new tactics helps as does creativity but most of all ( well, after humility) they need to be intuitive, listening to their little ones’ body language and tone of voice and their own gut feelings and instincts. If you are spiritual, listen to the voice of God within because those kids are His and He knew them before they were born. He knows how they tick better than you or I.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Invisible Becomes Visible

I finally understood why Sandy cut herself.

I was confused as well as repulsed; Sandy, a pretty young woman cut herself. It seemed completely inexplicable to me. Of course I recoiled from her. Interestingly soon after this encounter, one of my daughters broke her foot. Suddenly she attracted people who were eager to help her. I was struck by the contrasting reactions. Two women, both hurting, yet only one garnered sympathy.
Picture these two separate scenes.
In the first vignette, a smiling young woman with a cumbersome backpack, leans with both hands on a walker as she edges towards heavy doors leading to a lecture hall. Before she can even touch the handle, two young men sprint up, open the door and solicitously offer to carry her bag till she is sitting comfortably at her desk. She is an accepted part of the young men’s social group. Her disability, although permanent, does not repulse the other students but elicits empathy.
A diametrically opposed scene focuses on another young, pretty woman but she slouches with her head down. As she struggles weakly with the same heavy doors, an impatient young man sighs, shakes his head at her and roughly yanks the door open . He steps quickly past her after glancing at her sideways because her hands are trembling. She refuses eye contact because she is ill at ease and self-conscious.
The first woman’s physical disability is clearly understood by the male students; they confidently offer the kind of help that she needs. The second woman makes the young guy uncomfortable because it is obvious that she is emotionally or mentally ill but he really does not exactly know why she is ill or how to help her.
Ironically physical illness often has the power to bring people together by calling forth virtues from both the one in pain and those around them. On the other hand, mental pain is harder to bear, even more difficult to help.
I finally understood why a pretty woman like Sandy, in tremendous emotional pain,
cut her arms because those visible wounds
took her mind off her mental pain.
A cut became the visible symbol
not only to herself but to society
of her inner illness that until then
had been invisible.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Life is Fragile

I could have lost a daughter in childbirth on Saturday.

She almost bled out when she lost a litre of blood in seconds. Of course, in a modern hospital, an emergency team of no less than ten people, descended on her, whipped off all sheets, nightgown and the screen in place for her emergency C- section which upset her husband. HE had to be dragged out and told why she was treated like a piece of meat, naked with doors left wide open to the public corridor.
Life comes before propriety
My daughter felt herself slip away
and even thought for a moment that she was dying.
Actually, she was dying.
Years ago she would have died.
In the third world, she would have died as the result of a series of complications that no one could have foreseen.
Life IS precarious.
Life is fragile.
Life is precious.
I treasure my new grandson.
I treasure my daughter.
I treasure life.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

How To Survive Teenage Drama Without Loosing Your Sanity

I am living proof that it is possible to actual enjoy those annoying, hormonal, child/adult hybrids who have taken your phone, tv., computer and fridge hostage.
One of my sons, in his early teens, had just announced that he could not stand living under our roof another minute,
"I'm out of here!", he bellowed, "and don't expect me to come back!"
The door slammed and he tore off on his ten speed bike. Of course my father was visiting and witnessed this dramatic episode. After a few minutes, Dad turned to my husband and wondered,
" Aren't you going to go after him?"
Michael calmly kept reading, then looked up and explained,
"Oh, I'm not worried. The only place near enough to bike to is one of his buddy's and they don't feed kids over there. He'll be back when he is hungry enough."
Sure enough, hunger brought my son home late that night. We did not need to pronounce any ultimatums because the recognition that he still needed to live at home and attempt to get along with our rules and his family
was humbling enough. No need to rub his face in the facts.
Teenagers are often humiliated by their mistakes in judgment so they relish the opportunity to catch us in the wrong.
For example, Michael's usual response to swearing, disrespect or a poor attitude was,
"Leave that sort of stuff at school!"
One evening at the dinner table on a Sunday, Michael yelled in anger at the dog.
David had just filled his plate and was coming back to the table. He leaned over, looked at his dad and with a twinkle in his eye and a huge grin on his face said ,
"Leave that sort of stuff at church, eh Dad!"
Michael snapped out of his bad mood and had to smile. The kid was right. David's humour diffused the situation and Michael was the one who had to apologize this time.
Teenagers have a deep inner compusion to rile their parents and flaunt rules in a blind attempt to figure out who they are in and of themselves. If I remember this fact, I don't overreact to obnoxious behaviour. I like to compare teenagers to two-year olds because the very same dynamic is unfolding, only this time it is a stressful transition from childhood to adulthood that requires many years to complete. I read somewhere that 25 is the age that young adults finally get an adult brain! In our family, we actually celebrate that birthday and welcome our offspring into full adulthood.
Sometimes teenagers, boys especially like to prove their new-found strength. David loved to come behind me in the kitchen and with a huge grin on his face pick me up and swing me around or even turn me upside down!
"Oh well", I'd think to myself, "This too will pass, this too will pass."

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Opposite of Love is Not Hate

 Sometimes as a parent I think that I am doing what is right
Instead I damage my kids
despite the best of intentions.
Love really has blinded m
 try to protect instead control,
betraying trust.                                                                      
Control, an ugly word,
worse that hate;  
it steals another's sense of self, undermines confidence, 
stunts growth, kills the individual's spirit and creativity
forgive me

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Real Life Joke

.My maiden name is Myers. 

Question: How many Myers Women does it take to drive a car in my mum’s retirement town?

Answer: Three

"Three?", you gasp, "But how is that possible!"
Ah, well, quite possible when all three women either refuse to drive, are reluctant drivers or simply cannot drive a car at all. This is not some anti-female slur. I am simply relaying the facts.
The most important person in this triad was my sister, Elizabeth, the chauffeur by default, driving the intimidatingly large, luxury machine. Incidentally, the car's owner was bed-ridden, suffering more over concern for his beloved vehicle than over any leg pain following major surgery.
Clutching the wheel, Elizabeth drove in circles in the parking lot until she could find a spot where she could drive straight through to the next row because she refused to back out when she left. Also, she could not seem to turn right into a narrow spot, reasoning that it was much simpler when she turned left; she was least able to see directly out her side window without relying on mirrors.
However the situation which caused most anxiety was the fact that Elizabeth was not familiar with my parent's small retirement town in the midst of the Rocky Mountains. She constantly asked,
"But, Mum, I need the street name where I need to turn or at least an idea of how far up this main highway I have to go."
The second most important person was my eighty- one year old mother who was not exactly sure how to answer that crucial question.
"Well, let's see. When I walk there, I cut across the back parking lot, kitty-corner, walk for about thirty minutes, turning right and then left on a side street and there it is!"
"But Mum, is it east or west?"
"Well, I turn right at first, the street is east of here, I think. Yes, east, I am sure of it."
"Okay. Now, do you at least remember the first letter of the street name?"
However, my mother was suddenly distracted, since her main concern was watching for on coming traffic or indeed any vehicle within blocks of us,
"Elizabeth, watch out! A car is coming!"
"Mum. Focus. Please. Is it beside any large stores like The Bay?"
" I'm not sure."
"Okay. Try to remember the first letter of the street name."
Now this was where I came into play as I perched on the edge of the back seat with a map, calling out suggestions,
"Perhaps it is Lancaster Avenue. Does that sound familiar, mum?"
Then I started to laugh, long and hard because this really could be a scene in a poorly written situation comedy. However this was real life and that transformed this ludicrous scene into a situation that seemed even more hilarious.
When Elizabeth started to chuckle as well, we pulled over and stopped the car. Swallowing our mirth, the three of us studied the map till my mother's memory seemed to click back into place. We set out once again, a bit more confident of success this time

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Thinking Man’s Winnie-the-Pooh

The bear without a brain was actually quite profound.He tells adult readers to stop, look, listen, and learn from nature, animals and little children. Intellect isn't as important as heart and intuition.

Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you. 

“I am a bear of very little brain and long words bother me.”

"Yes," said Piglet,

"Rabbit's clever." 

"And he has Brain." 

"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."

There was a long silence. "I suppose," said Pooh, "that that's why he never understands anything.”

“Something feels funny. I must be thinking too har

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem.”


Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”

Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best — ” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”



Saturday, 5 April 2014

A Preschooler’s Theological Debate

 A theological debate between two preschoolers
It was early evening We often played musical beds at bedtime because the younger children liked the security of a sibling or two falling asleep with them, especially when older brothers and sisters were still up and having fun. So it happened that I was laying down on Emily’s bed nursing an infant while she played with my hair and sucked her thumb. Five-year-old David was almost asleep across the room. His breathing was slow and deep. The only other sound in the peaceful room came from a fan that created just enough white noise to drown out the other kid’s voices.
David suddenly sat straight up in bed, popped his eyes open and yelled excitedly,
“Someone just called my name. I think it was God!”
Emily took her thumb out of her mouth and lisped,
“Who is God?”
I turned my head to look at her and smiled, “You know, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Emily was still puzzled,
“You mean the priest at church?”
“No”, I responded, “The God that fills the whole universe.”
Emily took her thumb out of her mouth and said very dismissively,
“Oh, Himmm. I know Himmm.”
Then she closed her eyes and stuck her thumb back in her mouth.
Discussion closed.
I barely held in my laughter. This little squirt took for granted her close relationship with the Living God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. God is close to babies and little children. His relationship with them is not complicated, as natural as breathing. They are simply His children; He loves them and they reflect love back.
David interrupted and added joyfully,
“Well, He called my name!”
Emily opened her eyes and stated very authoritatively but in a nasal, little girl voice,
“It was just your imagination, Daaave.”
Then she closed her eyes and started sucking her thumb again.
David was upset. I countered her statement,
“It could be God, Emily. The Holy Spirit lives in our hearts and does communicate with us.”
David was satisfied and he lay back down to sleep.
But Emily, with her eyes still closed whispered to me,
“It was just his imagination!”
Then she popped her thumb back into her mouth.
Discussion closed.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Comic Drama: Shopping with Teenage Girls

Her older sister rolled her eyes and sputtered,” Do you want to know what kind of dress she wanted me to buy?!”
It was and still is an educational experience for one of my adult daughters to shop with a younger sister. After a particular stressful shopping trip, they would stumble through the door, complaining about their hard to please sibling. Typically,they’d roll their eyes and sputter,
” Do you want to know what kind of dress she wanted me to buy?!”
In response to their tirade I’d laugh,
“Oh, we understand what you just went through ! Now you know what your dad and I went through with YOU.”
I remember scores of tragic-comic dramas as we shopped with our daughters. One example is particularly telling. One of my daughters was just thirteen and about to graduate from our country elementary school to high school. Since I was still surrounded by little people and laundry, Dad volunteered, quite innocently, for the shopping expedition into the city.
Four hours later, she barged through the kitchen door, glared at me and announced very dramatically,
“I am never shopping with him again!”
She stomped through the kitchen and slammed the solid wood door to the hall behind her with a dramatic flourish.
A few minutes later, her father slipped through the front door, shoulders slumped and silently communicated his exhaustion and defeat.
“So”, I queried tentatively, “How did it go?”
Michael sighed and began to describe one scene in a dress shop.

 He had picked out a few pretty dresses which he felt were appropriate. Holding up a flowered print dress with a high, round collar, he called out to his daughter,
” This one is very pretty.”
Our daughter responded by rolling her eyes dramatically,
“Daaad…that’s way too childish.”
The sailor style dress that Michael thought was perfect was similarly dismissed.
Then, our thirteen-year pulled out a black, spaghetti strapped, slinky, black dress and squealed,
“Dad, this is exactly what I am looking for!”
Poor dad sighed but allowed her to try the dress on.
She emerged from the dressing room complaining,
“It makes me look fat.”
Right then and there, my poor husband’s only desire was to sink into a deep hole because the store attendant and her customer both weighed about 300 lbs. each.
Both women chimed in and exclaimed to our 115 lbs. teen.
“Oh no dear, I don’t think you look fat at all!”
Somehow,everything always seemed to worked out. On this occasion, it was Melissa, an older sister , to the rescue. She borrowed a cream coloured dress from a friend, embossed with swirls and a Chinese styled collar that was decent but not childish. The dress delighted our daughter and calmed my husband’s nerves.
“Do you want to know what kind of dress she wanted me to buy?!”
Oh, we know, sweetie,we know.