Sunday, 29 June 2014

A Gory Mummy Warning Comes True

Even modern mums sometimes resort to gory warnings:
“Come down this instant; you are going to fall and break your neck!”
“Careful with that knife; you don’t want to cut your finger off.”
“Don’t come crying to me if you fall and break your leg.
“Pay attention; you’ll poke out your eye.”
That last warning about the eyes? .
Suddenly the dramatic over statement became a reality one Sunday evening.
All the kids had simply flopped down on the Chesterfield, chairs, pillows and rug after supper. This was Walt Disney Night if you were young or Sports Night if you were a teenage boy.
The problem was that we had only one T.V. for eleven people. Half asleep, lounging on the couch, with a grin on his face, my oldest son, Matthew, had just switched the channel back to basketball yet again. In utter frustration, three-year old Lucy, who was standing up, flung a charcoal pencil down towards the floor. Anthony was laying on the rug. Lucy’s flying pencil pierced Anthony’s eye.
At first I thought that Anthony had a piece of the chocolate pencil laying underneath his iris; in my ignorance, I tried to flush it out. Anthony resisted my attempts and my husband rushed over to stop me,
” Better leave the eye alone. I ‘m taking him straight to the Children’s Hospital.”
We handed Anthony a huge freezie to hold and to keep his mind off his injury. Michael instinctively reached over, as he drove a stick shift, to keep our little guy’s hands away from his eye.
Had I been successful, in rinsing out my son’s eye, Anthony would definitely have lost it to infection. What I was seeing was not a piece of brown artist’s pencil, I was actually seeing the iris muscle leaking out from the puncture wound.
Later, just before surgery, a resident doctor asked my husband to sign a waiver which stated that, as Anthony’s parent, he was aware that Anthony could lose his eye during the operation. My young son didn’t even sigh during the interview but after the doctor left, he stared sobbing, petrified that he would lose his eye. Michael calmed him down and after he prayed over him, draining fear, trauma and pain, Anthony fell asleep until the surgery. Anthony’s indignant father informed the head eye specialist that a certain resident needed instructions on bedside manners.
Outside the operating room, Michael held six-year old Anthony’s hand as he lay on a stretcher surrounded by the seven member team. Down the hall, white coat flying behind him rushed the brilliant head surgeon. He was a wiry, French-Canadian with a charming accent, curly hair that stuck straight out and wire-rimmed glasses. He looked like a typical genius as he started shouting,
“I want 22, 26,28 silks”, long before he reached his team. Those silks were invisible to the naked eye. Using high-powered microscopes, the team stuffed the iris back in place, stitched the puncture wound, drilled three holes into Anthony’s eyeball and pumped fluid back in to restore the exact curvature to his eye! In post-op, while two other little fellows struggle and fought the staff by trying to rip out tubes, Anthony was so calm and pleasant that the surgical team gave him a bear for being the best patient ever. The team even remembered guilty little Lucy with an adorable bear sporting fairy wings and a tutu.

Although Anthony sported a metal eye patch and was pumped full of an anti-inflammatory, anti- infection medicine and pain killers, he felt like a prince. He had sole possession of a remote, play station and t.v. That simply never happened in our large family where every kid watched the clock as their time to play the game approached. During his Princely holiday, he picked his own meals and received visiting siblings and their friends who all came bearing gifts and candy.
Anthony’s badge of distinction, to this day, is a pie shaped area in his iris that is more green than brown and 20/20 vision.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Tearful, Joyful Gratitude

I pause,
stopping the tense business, the gardening, chores, the typing  to think of what I am grateful for.
 As soon as the word gratitude rises up, tears spring to my eyes,  for I am aware of mercy and forgiveness
 in my spirituality with God,  my husband, kids and kid’s kids.
 I am acutely aware of the fragility of life after almost loosing a daughter in childbirth and now a younger brother-in-law soon to cancer

 The last two weeks I have
  • attended a daughter’s university graduation
  • celebrated 3 birthdays and Father’s day by making gifts and food for large gatherings
  • helped install  wood flooring in ANOTHER daughter’s new house
  • then helped her move and clean her old and new house.
  •  went to a land/lord tenant mediation meeting for a crazy, mean, illegal landlord for my youngest…and won
  • spent 6 hours house hunting in town for next term’s housing for this youngest daughter
  •  helped with a colicky newborn for a fourth daughter..
  •  plus dealt with learning that one of my husband’s younger brothers has months to live with cancer..
yet, I am aware of beauty surrounding me,

pressing in on all sides.
a plethora of flowers, trees and birds

   the joy of creating with words
the joy of crafting  with my crochet hook and yarn

In short, I am tearfully grateful.

I a

Sunday, 22 June 2014

“Don’t Worry Sir; My Boyfriend is Like my Trampoline.”

One of the disadvantages of a large family is that the younger children are exposed to pop culture via  their older siblings.
A prime demonstration of this phenomena was during ’circle time’ in kindergarten. Sometimes the teacher encouraged the children to sing a song, expecting to hear something like “Twinkle, twinkle little star”. She did not get that sort of song from my youngest two.children . This teacher laughed with amusement as she told me what my offspring sang for the other five-year olds.
Daniel sang “Go Grease Lightning” from the movie musical “Grease”.
Rebecca sang some pop song about not dating a scruffy looking guy “who sits in the passenger side of his best friend’s car”!
However, there is usually a positive side to everything . My oldest daughters also taught the younger ones a valuable life lesson through the lyrics to this song,
“Don’t settle for the first boy who gives you attention.”
The lesson must have been absorbed because all my girls are very selective when it comes to boyfriends. In high school, if my daughters date, it only lasts a couple of weeks because they find that the boys are typically  “idiots”. Rebecca’s English teacher was just teasing her, last month, that she was high maintenance and he pitied her boyfriend.  WITHOUT MISSING A BEAT,Rebecca shot back,
“Don’t worry sir; my boyfriend is like my trampoline.”
Her teacher was puzzled, so Rebecca explained,
“I don’t have one!” `

Friday, 20 June 2014

Shopping For a Modest Outfit

Since humour has more satirical punch than a long-winded rant , I will simply let this short quote and image from Pinterest stand alone. I giggle every time I see this meme.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Learning to Take off My Dung Coloured Glasses

Happiness: the fleeting dream that eludes most of us.  I am often miserable, pressed for time, running around  in my insular little world, only catching glimpses of the world around me as I peer  through dung coloured glasses. Yet the solution to my dilemma is remarkably easy.
Take off my dung coloured lenses.
Look and really see all the blessings around me.
Appreciate and allow gratitude to come to life within me once again.
A therapist would charge you hundreds of dollars to teach you how to do this, calling this method cognitive therapy.
I will give you this key to happiness for free.
I discovered this secret after years of mothering my tiny children. They taught me to take my eyes off my exhaustion and to take delight in the plethora of tiny details all around me. Little kids are born with a sense of wonder and the ability to enjoy little things. My daughter’s retain an appreciation for detail; they all remember the little things.
  • A friend of mine, Martha, once asked one of my daughters, when she was about six, what she liked most about Christmas. She replied immediately,
           “The pineapple in the fruit bowl"

My daughter’s answer astounded Martha.
  • Similarly, one evening before dinner Claire, now a young adult, said,
           “I always remember the fresh smell of clean sheets every week.”

           Such a small thing, yet a child, with a heart full of gratitude, takes great pleasure from it.

  • A few months back,  Claire was recounting how pleased she was with a plant in her garden. Realizing that she was enjoying such a small thing she laughed,
           “Oh my god, I sound just like Mum.”

  • The things that raise my spirits are usually small and most people would not consider them significant. For example, one Christmas I was very tired and only one gift brought me genuine joy. It was hand crocheted dish clothes from my friend Cathy. clothes, beautifully made, colourful, something I used a hundred times a day.
  • .
Perhaps this is one of the blessings of a large family; free cognitive therapy from a crew of little people who greeted each morning with wonder and awe.
What am I thankful for now, at this moment? I am grateful to be alive, breathing and healthy with a husband of 35 years, nine healthy, kids,. four kid-in-laws and 5 grandchildren who turned out so well that I am speechless and teary eyed with relief and gratitude.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Just Turn the Key and Open the Door

I am slowly, changing..
We all want to change. However if we want to change simply to please someone else or to fit in to society out of our own vanity, that is a false wish for a change.  I am not talking about the kind of exterior adaptation  which involves switching masks or, changing clothes, learning new tricks. No, the kind of change I long for is deep-seated and involves shedding phony masks and removing costumes, not putting on more layers.
To make drastic changes in my life means I must first deal with my interior issues. It means turning the key, and opening a door. Sometimes I open the door and darkness rushes out.  All those negative emotions were never meant to be stored in me in the first place. Yet they seemed so overwhelming that I kept the door shut and locked., Finally fed up, desperate to change and grow, I turn the key with foreboding.
Then surprise and relief.
A process larger than myself takes over
because I took the first step and
said yes to change and growth.
I now watch in amazement as
Light and Love
begin the transformation of bringing this part of my being back to life.
The result is a drastic change in my exterior life
but it is  really not  a violent wrenching.
I do not  force this change
because it happens automatically
and rises up from deep within me.
My true inner spirit,
slowly emerging from layers of mud
to rise up and take centre stage in my being.
I am at peace.

Friday, 13 June 2014

An Invisible Illness 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, 11 June 2014

So, How IS Your Mental Health? Eh?

How is my mental health… ummmm.
Most people go to their G.P. for a physical once a year, make an appointment with a dentist to check for tooth decay but who ever thinks to have someone check up on their mental health?
by darin hammond
Reading this some people might laugh off the implication that there is anything wrong with them, others might nervously skim the rest of this post.This question is far from ridiculous,though. Have you taken a good look around lately? What do you see and hear?
The whole atmosphere of modern society is stressful because people are anxious about the economy and their job security. They have problems sleeping or self medicate with alcohol, drugs and cigarettes to help ‘take the edge off’. More and more sick days are the result of depression and other mental health issues.
However it never enters most people’s minds to seek professional help until they are in a crisis or even must be committed. There still is s stigma attached to mental illness. Most of us who do seek help, gloss over our issues saying we go for counselling or self-growth because the labels are so damning.”Post traumatic stress disorder, restless leg syndrome, depression, anxiety, sleep disorder, paranoia, panic attacks…. the labels are a terrible stigma.
Often people become ashamed and it is no wonder that they do. People usually cannot understand these unseen illnesses. So they simply fall back on age-old admonishments,
“Pull your self up by the boot straps.
Just push yourself.
Don’t be lazy.
What’s wrong with you, anyway? You seem fine to me!”
Well I want to yell from the roof tops that just like a person with poor eyesight needs glasses and a diabetic needs insulin, some very ordinary people have a chemical imbalance and need prescription drugs.
It is that simple.
No shame.
No guilt.
A simple matter of serotonin levels. Anxiety and/or depression is merely a wake-up call for us to seek counselling and open our mental closets, setting  shadows free

Sunday, 8 June 2014

There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza

understanding mental illness
If you ever went to camp as a child, singing delightfully annoying songs around a campfire, perhaps you can remember an especially irritating song with the ever repeating phrase “there’s a whole in my bucket dear Liza, dear Liza, dear Liza, a hole”. Of course, the even more annoying answer follows unerringly,”well fix it dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, fix it”. What the Lizas of the world don’t know, is that in order to maintain good mental health, the buckets of our lives need many holes in them.
The stress vulnerability bucket image is a way to explain why some people experience anxiety, depression, paranoia or a psychotic episode, while other people seem to handle life with ease. I heard this illustration explained at a conference more than 10 years ago and I find that it is still the easiest way to explain why some people slip into mental illness.
Think of each person’s ability to handle stress as a bucket with holes in the bottom. Some people, from stable home backgrounds with relaxed, cheerful temperaments, might have a large bucket to handle stress while others, who are high-strung or perhaps wounded from child abuse or an unstable home life as children, might have a smaller bucket.

Now, imagine stress as water filling up each bucket. If a lot of water comes into a bucket, in other words, if a person experiences a great deal of stress, then the bucket can overflow. People with big buckets, or a low-level of vulnerability, can cope with more stress while people with smaller buckets can cope with less stress. Many situations in life stress us all out, like relationship problems, money worries or family problems.
If you manage stress by using helpful ways of coping, then this gets rid of the stress in the bucket by punching holes in the bottom of the bucket. Helpful coping would be activity such as talking through your problems with someone or getting a good nights sleep, going for a walk or taking a long  hot bath to relax your muscles. The best way for me to de-stress physically, mentally and emotionally, is to relax in prayer or meditation, the kind that leads me into deep rest.
If a person attempts to cope unwisely, that could make the stress worse because it is just like blocking the holes in the bucket. Unhelpful ways of coping are things like taking drugs, drinking too much alcohol, keeping your problems to yourself and not getting enough sleep.
Really, it is not important if your bucket is large or small. The key to living a balanced, ‘sane’ life is to keep the holes in the bottom of your bucket open, so stress can flow out. Everyone would benefit from some kind of therapy to understand how they unconciously plug up the holes in their buckets. Sometimes people also need medication, especially if they need help sleeping. Some people need eyeglasses to read, diabetics need insulin. Some people need help with their serotonin levels to open up the plugged holes in the bucket of their life.It is simple as that. Now, if somehow we could dispense with any feelings of guilt and silence the condemnation that still rains down on those society judges as weak, lazy or just plain crazy, the world would be a much better place to live in.
Does  this topic seem completely irrelevant to you? I will leave you with a thought.
One in four people suffer from mental illness sometime in their life.
Think of three friends.
If they all seem fine, looks like you’re the one.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Angry Comments

At BlogHer, a site I have been posting on daily since last November, NaBloPoMo is focusing on commenting for June. I usually ignore writing prompts but this month the topic is challenging, prodding me to think and write about stuff I usually snuff off. I was to formulate some sort of commenting guidelines today, however, my only guideline is to encourage comments that are interactive and positive. People are free to disagree with me; in fact, I am grateful to have people point out a fallacy in my facts or in my thinking because it helps me learn and grow as a person and as a writer.
As for negative or angry comments, I have finally become smart enough to understand that the best response to angry comments is silence.
I can repeat or clarify a misunderstanding. I can attempt to reconcile opposing viewpoints but usually someone who is closed to any other opinion is the person to write a negative response. If they refuse to engage in positive dialogue, I don’t bother bashing my head against the wall.
Often an angry person wants to engage in a verbal fight. In fact he is purposefully antagonizing me. After living with teenagers, my husband and I quickly learned how to diffuse angry confrontations because they were unproductive. Angry feedback always reminds me of teenage outbursts. Here is a typical encounter at our house a few years ago.
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, my 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 buddies houses and they don’t feed kids over there. He’ll be back when he is hungry enough.”
No need to over-react. No need to lecture or argue. Just let nature take its course.
Most importantly. Do not take angry reactions personally. I would be in a mental health hospital if I took to heart every insult my teenagers hurled at meMost negative feedback says more about the person commenting and his own emotions and reactions than it does about me or my opinions.
I ask myself, “Why is the respondent angry?”
He is not really critiquing my writing style, content or conclusions, especially if a vehement response attacks me the writer. That is just the release valve which is handy at the moment. My words triggered a dramatic attack because the commentator has issues. Issues that lay buried until some unsuspecting scapegoat like me pushes his buttons. I refuse to play those games.
Silence is often a better teacher than any ‘wisdom’ I could spout.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Don’t Think; Just Write

I write to engage with other people, to contribute my voice to issues in our society or to share an insight that might help a fellow human being. I write because no one has the same experiences or the same opinions as I do. I write because I have discovered a voice that is unique, a voice that simply must communicate.
I have discovered that just like I create a story as I tell it, now, I can create as I type. When an episode or opinion pops into my brain, I do not consciously choose to write about that topic or person. It is an eureka moment, that surprises me. I wonder,
“Where did that thought or memory come from? I haven’t thought about him for years!”
Thomas Pollock Anshutz (1851 – 1912)
Suddenly an entire story rises up from that one thought because I have assimilated emotions, reflections, connected quotes, philosophy and integrated it all with my faith. Initially my right brain takes over, creativity flows like a river of words. The entire process is largely subconscious. I unwittingly combine a spirit of creativity with a gift to craft words together. Writers in past centuries called it the muse. Left logical brain editing follows afterwards. However, if I attempt to write the first draft with my logical left brain, the article is stilted, boring and painful to read.
Jan Vermeer

I suppose I am not ready to write a masterpiece but I have tasted what it is like to connect to the powerful creative force that flows through all of us. Creativity is addictive. Nothing surpasses the thrill of sitting in front of a blank page or screen with an equally blank mind when a spark deep with me flares up and a story emerges in the middle of the flames. I simply start writing naturally, almost without effort. The words flow as fast as I can type. I do not think; I just type. As Ray Bradbury says,
Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.
“I do not plan my fiction any more than I normally plan woodland walks; I follow the path that seems most promising at any given point, not some itinerary decided before entry.”~John Fowles

“Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. ~Sharon O’Brien”
My point is that when anyone begins writing, resist the temptation to imitate other writer’s style. Find your own voice. Write from your heart and soul. Write what you are passionate about and your enthusiasm and joy will open the door to words which connect with your readers. In other words, you will begin the journey to become a great writer