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Love Hurts

On the first day of grade eleven, my daughter came home and told me about a new girl who sat behind her in one of her classes. She’s from Denmark. She’s living here for one year. She doesn’t know anybody.

Alice needed a friend. And I knew Abi was the right girl for the job.

“You’ve been there. You’ve had that exact same need,” I told Abi. “You’ve lived in a different country and needed deep friendships even though you knew you would be leaving. You know how hard it was to get people to invest deeply in a temporary relationship. And you know how hard it was to say good-bye at the other end. You need to grab Alice and immerse her in your circle of friends tomorrow. Treat her as if she’s always been there and as if she’ll always be there. Don’t wait for a slow-developing, organic friendship. Make it deep immediately.”

And that’s what she did.

Now, if you know Abi at all, you know that she has big feelings about everything. Every feeling that she has is big. BIG. She is emotionally invested in ALL THE THINGS. Every relationship. Every activity. Every place she’s ever been. Everything she owns. Every bite of food. She is ALL IN.

So to tell her to invest in a relationship was probably redundant advice.

But to recall that conversation with her this week was helpful. This week brings Alice’s year here to an end. There have been a lot of tears. (Not just at the final good-bye last night, but on random days leading up to the inevitable. I think those random days started a couple of months ago. “Honey, why are you so upset?” “Because Alice is leeeeeeeaving!!!!!” Jesus, take the wheel.) And we looked back at that first day of school when Abi made the choice to love Alice – knowing how deeply she was going to love, because that’s just who she is, and knowing how much it was going to hurt saying good-bye.

I am so proud of my Abi Mae and her example of Christ-like love. Relationships don’t always end in heartbreak, and when they do, we don’t usually know at the onset that that’s how it’s going to work out. But choosing to love deeply for the sake of what might end sadly, that’s no small thing.

Today we said good-bye to Abi for the next nine weeks. She is off to camp for the summer to be a counselor to dozens of kids. We talked again about loving deeply. About investing emotionally, even though it’s an even shorter timeframe. It is her best gift to give, and the hardest.

And she’s the right girl for the job.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2016 in Family, parenting

 

So Messed Up

“What is the most broken and messed up thing in the world?” This conversation-starter was posted on Facebook today, and the answers have kept me interested all afternoon. Poverty, sexual abuse against women and children, the inaccessibility of plentiful resources like food and clean water, greed for power and money, the value of money outweighing the value of human life, the pandemic of broken families, terrorism.

I can’t argue against any of those. Nor can I argue that one is more messed up than the rest.

The answer I would contribute is that the sacredness of sexual purity is broken. That’s almost the same answer as sexual abuse, but it’s broader than that. Abuse happens because individuals lose (or never had) a sense of the sacredness of sexuality, and their selfishness drives them to inflict their perversion on other people. That trajectory is manifested in so many ways: pornography and child pornography, prostitution and sex slavery, adultery, rape and other forms of assault… The list goes on and on, and I believe it all stems from purity not being cherished and protected.

So much brokenness. It is so heavy. And it is so close. There’s no point in deluding ourselves into thinking the mess doesn’t touch our own yard. It’s here. It’s everywhere. And it sucks.

My heart is often heavy in prayer for broken loved ones. Abusive relationships, devastating illnesses, financial blows that keep on coming. I pray for them and I pray with them. And then, so often it feels like the next wave of trauma just sweeps right over us all. And sometimes bitterness creeps into my prayers. “Really, God? This is what You thought was a good answer? Because this is kind of the exact opposite of what we were praying for.” Sometimes I’m tempted to decline praying for someone lest they be sucked into the vortex of my run of bad “luck”.

The last couple of weeks have been especially overwhelming, with waves coming from every direction. Talking about brokenness on Facebook is too heavy, too close.

But it is timely.

As Easter approaches, I think it is worthwhile to consider the brokenness. The loss. The seemingly unmet expectations of our prayers and hopes. I’m sure that’s how Christ’s followers felt 2000 years ago as they watched Jesus being arrested, tossed back and forth between governing bodies in a sham of a trial, beaten and then condemned. Hour by hour, they must have felt like “This is as bad as it can get. He’s going to show Himself strong any moment now. He’s about to do the big miracle that we’ve been waiting for.” And then, no. Crucified.

The brokenness and the desperation of such loss – it’s unbearable. Where is the hope when it feels like God is playing a sick joke? How can we continue to cry out to Him for help when we can see how He’s answered all our prayers leading up to this point? How do we trust Him when it looks like He failed?

The answer lies in Sunday morning.  We find our hope in the resurrection, the triumph over death. We cling to that reality from centuries past, but it is also a picture of a coming final victory. The mess will be eradicated, the brokenness will be fully healed.

Today, we wait in the pause of Saturday, wallowing in brokenness and pain. We may question the purpose of the pause: why is He waiting? But let us not give up entirely. He is big enough to handle our doubts and bitterness and even accusations. He is patient enough to wait out our tears. He is purposeful enough to make use of the pause. And He is already victorious in the coming dawn.

Sunday is almost here.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2016 in God, Personal Growth

 

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Single At Night

We’ve been parenting together for 16+ years now, but when it is nighttime, I often feel like a single parent.

In the beginning, there was a very logical reason. I was nursing the babies. There wasn’t a lot my husband could do to help. Sure, I could have woken him up to change a diaper after I’d finished the feeding, but that just seemed mean. I was already up.

Once the nursing was no longer an issue, he reasoned that it still made more sense for me to get up. I could fall asleep so much faster than he could after the random midnight crises were tended to. I didn’t argue. I was too tired.

There were, of course, a few times that I insisted he be the one to respond to a child’s cries, only to have the child desperately want Mommy anyway.

He did get up that one night a mouse bit our daughter’s finger. Blood-curdling screams tend to jolt a person out of bed.

And there was another long, long night with multiple near-death experiences (as portrayed by our offspring). When there was yet another call from a far-off bedroom, I just couldn’t do it. I started crying. Eventually, my sobs compelled him to get up and see to the child’s needs. He returned  shortly thereafter…to ask me where we keep the clean bedsheets.

(Just one mom on the jury. That’s all I need…)

Our kids are mostly old enough now that nighttime emergencies are few and far between. But our youngest still has the occasional accident or night terror. Or itchy nose (for the love!). Recently, I was up with him four nights in a row (and more than once each night). By myself. Every night. I did not have lovely, tender thoughts towards anyone in those moments.

I recall being awakened the morning after the fourth night by some outside noise. A scratching, scraping noise, over and over again. It took several moments of fighting towards consciousness to identify the sound (and at the same time, trying desperately to stay asleep for just a few more minutes. I was So Blasted Tired!).  It was a shovel. My husband was shovelling the driveway.

Just then, the clock radio clicked on. Time to get up. I stayed where I was for a few minutes, realizing that he had been up for more than an hour already. Reading his Bible, bringing in a bin of firewood, getting the woodstove burning for the day, making my coffee, and shovelling our long driveway. All before my alarm went off.

I may be single at night, but praise God from whom all blessings flow, I am married in the morning!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Family, Marriage, parenting

 

More Treadmill Anger

The treadmill and I have a love/hate relationship. No wait, I said that wrong. The treadmill and I have a hate/hate relationship. There is no love at all. There is barely any like, and the squidgeon of like that sometimes pops up is only there for the first minute and the last minute of any workout.

When people say, “I love working out”, I have a carnal urge to correct them. It’s like saying, “Me and Joe seen a gooder movie than you’s guys.” All the words are wrong!

I do not like working out. I don’t like having difficulty breathing. I don’t like muscles that hurt for days. I don’t like having to change into workout clothes and then change again into normal clothes. I don’t like having to drink so much water. I don’t like sweat that stings my eyes (Why is my sweat saltier than my tears? Is that normal? I think it’s dumb.). And I don’t like all of the minutes when the treadmill is making me go faster or go uphill.

One of my children (for the sake of anonymity, I’ll call her Schmabi) is athletic and often says the words that don’t make sense. Also, when she sees me on the treadmill, she does not say the things that an encouraging person would say (like, “You’re doing great. Keep going. You can do it.”) She says, “Stop leaning on the handles.”

When I have enough breath (and/or enough exercise-induced anger), I answer, “You’re not the boss of me.” But most of the time I keep it simple with “Shut.” Breath. “Up.” Breath.

If I had more breath, I would be able to say, “This is not leaning. This is hanging on lest I die.”

Friends, the result of letting go of those handles is two-fold. First, I will lose my balance. Truly, that moving floor messes me up. The faster it moves, the more I look like Bambi and Phoebe competing in a three-legged roller derby. I am remarkably stable on solid ground and even on a balance beam, but once that tread starts milling, I lose all capability of putting one foot in front of the other in a reliable pattern. The handles do not move, therefore I must remain connected to them in order to remain verticle.

Second, I might just fly off the back of the Contraption of Imminent Death through the window that is forever behind me (deepest apologies for that unfortunate view, oh random passers-by). As that tread keeps milling faster and my legs keep trying to slow down, it is only my vice-grip on the handles that keeps me on this side of the Pearly Gates. My vice-grip does, in fact, add upper-body resistance training as well , so let’s call it multi-tasking and check all the exercise things off the to-do list.

So why am I working so hard at maintaining the insanity? After all, I’m not so overweight that my triumphant and inspirational journey to health will be the stuff of viral videos. The answer is simple: I need to change the trajectory. That is all.

And why am I blogging about it and making fun of myself on the global interwebbings? Because, unlike Schmabi, I want to be an encouragement to other people. If my ineptitude makes you feel more capable, great! If my whiny anger makes you feel less alone, perfect! If my eventual weight loss and forthcoming enviable physique inspire you to be healthier, win-win!

In the meantime, I do not expect to start liking the process…which means there will probably be more blog and Twitter rants coming. Consider yourself forewarned.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2016 in Humour, Personal Growth

 

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My Treadmill Inner Dialogue

“This isn’t so bad. I can do this for 30 minutes. No wait….I’ve changed my mind. I hate this. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!”

“Please. You’re not even running yet. You’re still warming up. You can’t hate it already.”

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t hate. I hate this. This is not fun. People who claim to enjoy exercising are psychopaths.”

“Zip it and run. You only have 24 minutes left to go.”

“Only? You can’t just put ‘only’ in front of a number and make it sound good. 24 minutes is not ‘only’.”

“Whatever. Just keep going.”

“My back is chafing. I want to stop.”

“It’s not chafing. Keep going.”

“It IS chafing. My fat rolls are rubbing together with every jiggly step. It’s annoying and I want to stop.”

“That is pretty much the universal sign that you actually need to KEEP GOING.”

“The universe is stupid. I hate it.”

“Mutual, I’m sure. Pick up the pace, Jabba.”

“One does not pick up one’s pace when one is on death’s precipice.”

“Speaking all uppity like that is not going to intimidate me. You know we’re the same person, right?”

“Then stop being so mean to us!”

“I am helping us. This is good for us. We want this!”

“Please. Stop. Making. Words.”

“Look, you’ve been running for 5 minutes now. 5 minutes! Last week you couldn’t keep up this pace for even 2 minutes. Look at all those calories you’re burning. The faster you go and the longer you keep your heart rate up, the sooner you’ll meet your calorie goal.”

“Calories…Great. Now I’m thinking about ice cream. I need ice cream.”

“You do not need ice cream. You don’t even really like ice cream.”

“I do so like ice cream! It’s not my favourite go-to snack, but I like it. And right now I’m hot. I’m so hot and my mouth is all dry. I need ice cream!”

“No, you need water.”

“…to wash down my ice cream?”

“You can MAYBE have ice cream later IF you meet your calorie goal now. (And by the way, I’m going to talk you out of the ice cream later).”

“What was that? A whisper? An aside? You can’t do that inside my own brain.”

“I just did. You can stop me…if you catch me first.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense. Wearethesameperson!”

“But you’re still running, so it’s working. And now you’ve been running for 9 minutes!”

“9 minutes? Consecutively? Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.”

“I know, right? If you keep it up for 3 more minutes, then you can drop to a fast walk for the rest of the time.”

“Oh, if I can keep this up for 3 more minutes, then maybe I’ll just keep it up for an EXTRA 2 minutes!”

“Maybe. But not likely. Let’s just be honest, okay?”

“Listen. You didn’t even think I could keep going for 9 minutes. And you were wrong.”

“I knew you could do 9 minutes. And I know you can get to 12 minutes. But after that, I’m pretty sure you will want to drop to a fast walk. Especially because then you can pick up your book and I will stop ‘making words’.”

“Yes. Books are better. Your words make me angry.”

“My words make you motivated.”

“Same thing. Anger is motivation.”

“Exactly. Oh look. 12 minutes of running. You may slow down and read now. But tomorrow you’re doing 14 minutes.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“No, no. Thank YOU.”

.

In order to get the full effect, you should read this repeatedly for 30 minutes. Use increasingly angry voices.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2016 in Beauty, Humour, Personal Growth

 

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Things I Learned in 2015

My husband can still surprise me. We’ve been married 19 years. By now he is well-versed in the little things that make me happy. All the examples I used in my previous post are ideas that he has used many times over the years. I am delighted that he takes the time to get me things that he knows I’ll love, but I am not usually surprised by gifts from him.  Well, this Christmas, he knocked my socks off with a gift card for a new tattoo. That’s not something I had hinted about or was secretly hoping for. It had never crossed my mind that he would get that for me, as he’s not interested in ink at all. But I love it and I’m so excited for my appointment next week!

Old dogs can learn new tricks. It’s hard work; old brains don’t absorb and retain information like young brains do. But it can be done! In 2015, I finished my aromatherapy certification, did my aroma-massage certification, and almost completed my reflexology certification (my final exam will be early in 2016, but I did all the book-work and most of my case studies in 2015). Old brains that have worked hard deserve a rest.

I can’t go back to the previous version of me. I realized that I’ve been functioning in crisis-mode for the seven years that we’ve been struggling with our son’s toxicity. Many of the people who are in my life now have only known the crisis-mode me. All this time, I kind of had it in my head that this isn’t the real me, and therefore most people don’t really know me. I expected that once the crisis was over, I could get back to being me again. It’s been six months since we instigated some healthy distance in the toxic relationship, and it’s been six months of healing. Somewhere along the way, it dawned on me that I don’t get to revert back to pre-crisis me. Seven years of crisis have changed me. They have changed my relationship with my husband and my relationship with my other kids. They have changed who I am. And who I am right now is the real, current me.

The new me is pretty great. Surprise, surprise! My mourning over the previous me didn’t last very long. I quickly discovered that I don’t really want to go back. I can have sadness over how things transpired with our son, but at the same time, it’s okay for me to be joyful about how I have grown because of it. When God promises to bring beauty out of ashes, He really means it! It’s not a cliché. It’s deep and profound and humbling and awe-inspiring. He is so good. All the time. He is working. All the time. And He has done good work in me!

I still have a ways to go. I don’t mean to say that the new me is perfect. I’m still a work in progress. Long-term crisis-mode bent me a bit out of shape, and some of those kinks still need to be worked out. I am more cynical and more short-tempered. But I am also more relaxed about being changed. I don’t need to be in a constant, panicky, fix-me-now state of mind. One day at a time is okay. One step at a time is okay. Temporary derailments aren’t the end of the world. I will press on towards the prize.

“Fappy” is better than “hangry” – but only for a little while. The battery in my scale died in late October. Good-bye, accountability! Hello, fudge and Doritos and white bread and shortbread and gingerbread (basically ALL THE BREADS) and cheesecake and bacon-wrapped ribs and egg nog. It’s been fun. But now it’s time to act like a grown-up again. A grown-up who can wear the jeans that she already owns. Okay, maybe “now” is not the exact time. Tomorrow is the exact time. Or whenever tonight’s leftovers run out. So, you know…soon. Ish.

Happy New Year, friends!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

How to Buy Gifts for Someone Whose Love Language is Gifts

Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas… You know you need to buy something “meaningful”, but…

desperate-man

What does “meaningful” mean???

The pressure is on. And it makes you wish for an alien invasion, the second coming, Armageddon and the zombie apocalypse all at once, just to get you off the hook.

Well, Muffin, I am here to help you out. Take a deep breath. You can do this. And it won’t be nearly as hard as you think.

When buying a gift for someone whose love language is Gifts, the gift needs to say one of three things:

  1. “You are worth listening to.”
  2. “You are worth thinking about.”
  3. “You are worth spending time/effort/money on.”

Pick one; it does not need to say all of those things together. (Although on those ultra-special occasions when you know it is absolutely imperative that you hit a home run, then yes, these are the three bases you need to hit.)

No need to panic, Pumpkin. I will explain further. Please note that I will use feminine pronouns because I’m speaking from my own perspective on this and I am a girl. But I’m pretty sure the same logic could be applied to guys, so don’t let the “she/her” vernacular confuse you.

  1. “You are worth listening to.”

Your loved one wants to know that you listen to her. She probably says very obvious things in everyday life that will help you know what kinds of things she loves and hates. If she says, “Sweet Chili Heat Doritos are my favourite junk food”, make a mental note of that (or a physical note. It shows you care.) Now you know that you can pick up a bag of Sweet Chili Heat Doritos and make her day anytime!  If you know you need more than that for a bigger occasion, then a compilation gift of several of her mentioned favourite things will score big points. (IE. A bag of Sweet Chili Heat Doritos, a pound of maple fudge, a bottle of Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling, and a pair of fuzzy socks.) These are easy-to-find, inexpensive gifts. You don’t need to overthink it. Just pay attention when she talks.

Caveat: don’t pay half-attention. If she says how much she hates wasabi and all you hear is “blah blah blah wasabi” and then buy her wasabi everything…You have to know that this is just about the most hurtful thing you can do to a Gifts Love Language Person.

  1. “You are worth thinking about.”

Gas station gifts that you grab on the way home from work on December 24 send the message that you weren’t thinking about her at all. And THAT sends the message that you don’t love her, not even a tiny little bit. That will not make for a merry Christmas. You can pick up something completely dorky and inexpensive and if you tell her you bought it in October because it reminded you of her and you’ve been looking forward to giving it to her all this time, that says you think about her.

Ordering something online in the wee hours of Christmas Day and wrapping up the order confirmation will make her think you hate her. Telling her on December 2 not to open any of your emails that say “order confirmation” will prove to her that you were thinking ahead. And thinking of her means you love her.

Bonus information: In one brief shopping trip, you can buy an assortment of inexpensive token gifts and keep them hidden somewhere so that on any given day through the year, you can just hand her something and say, “I was thinking of you” and she will melt like coconut oil.

  1. “You are worth spending time/effort/money on.”

This is probably the one that is the most daunting for gift-buyers, especially if you assume that spending more means more. Relax, Cream Puff. That is a myth that I can dispel for you right here, right now.

Your goal here is to take resources that you have and show her that she is worth spending those resources on her. If you have some spare time and you choose to spend that time working on a gift for her instead of doing something you want to do, that sacrifice of time says she is worth more than your hobbies or bros. And her expressed gratitude will likely outweigh the joy gleaned from hobbies and bros anyway.

If you have a special skill set or craft that you use for everyone else’s benefit, and she expresses interest in that particular thing, but then you’re tired/bored/annoyed after expending all that effort for other people and so you don’t really want to do more of the same for her…that tells her that she is the least important person you know. Do not expect special expressions of gratitude. Duck and run, my friend.

If your general MO is to save/budget/skimp/reduce/do without, and you actually do have financial resources to spare, then the occasional extravagant gift is a good thing. Hopefully, if this relationship is of a marital nature, then you’re on the same page with the whole saving/spending thing – so frequent overspending will cause stress and turmoil. But once in a while, you would do well to knock her socks off. Just make sure it’s something she actually wants (Back to that whole listening thing. An Alaskan trekking adventure for someone who hates being cold and wishes all snow would die…bad idea.).

In conclusion, dear reader, how you present your gift can make a world of difference in how it is received. If you can show that you were thinking of her and that you were listening to her, it really doesn’t matter how much you spend. At all costs – put duct tape over your mouth if you have to – resist the urge to make excuses for a crappy, after-thought gift. Laughing off your forgetfulness says, “Not only did I forget to buy you something because I hate you, but I think it’s hilarious how much I hate you. Come on, that’s funny, right?”

Post-script: I have one more point to make. There is a right way and a wrong way to do a gift that’s something you share.

Right way: A glass of wine for her while you make dinner for both of you.

Wrong way: “Hey, this thing I got you was in the super-reduced clear-out bin so it only cost me a buck. And with the money I saved on your present, I went out for lunch. Win-win, right?”

Merry Christmas everyone!

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Family, Humour, Marriage

 

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