Day 25: Get out of jail free …

When I started this blog, er New Years Resolution, I promised that I would do it without stress, strain or guilt.  It is supposed to be about joy after all. Tonight, after yet another episode of Peach throwing up.  (Too many rich foods at Nonna’s – we’re hoping) I am simply spent! I am going to use my Get out of Jail Free Card! So here it is! What a relief!

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Day 24: 15 Reasons to Live

I watched a documentary on TVO tonight called 15 Reasons to Live.  For my American & UK counterparts I am not too sure you’ll be able to see this incredible documented list, but for others who have access to TVO, it is being repeated tomorrow night at 10pm.  It follows fifteen stories of love, death, triumph, sorrow, journey, health, and renewal. 

There was one common thread in each story; perseverance. When life throws us lemons it is so easy to want to just stop, jump off the ride and sleep until the lemons have been composted.

Once we have moved through the chaos, and crud, we can look back and appreciate the journey for what it really gave us. It may not have been joyful, happy, or any other positive feeling, but it made us who we are today.

I have witnessed so much in my life, one as a very special humour agent in hospitals, and just as an innocent bystander of life. And I am only thirty-four. I have watched a friend walk herself out of an abusive relationship. I have stood beside a mom while her son was diagnosed with renal cancer. Months later, the maps of their faces now altered permanently, they still smiled. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence, but when I asked, sincerely, how they were they both answered with the same ‘Okay.’

I realize that that is a perfectly acceptable state of being. Sometimes we bring our best, but sometimes our best is simply too exhausted. So instead we bring our okay. Okay can keep us moving forward.

Now you’re probably wondering how on earth a mom with a newly diagnosed cancer patient saw any amount of joy in that journey. The truth is, there was little, even close to say none. He was only eight years old. I was angry with the world. I had made a very close bond to this funny little guy. He was sweet, wasn’t a bullying type of kid, smart, and young. In my professionalism I never showed that anger, but mama did. To me, and only me. (I had a rather special role, that I will one day explain) She yelled and cried and was exasperated with the flood of overwhelming emotions. Then she stopped – suddenly. She spoke calmly, ‘we’ll be okay.’

And they were.

There were only two paths to possible recovery: One way, long treatment. Life-altering on him. Long journey. The other: High risk surgery. Short journey. Short treatment. They took the risk. Less than six weeks after his diagnosis he was packing his bags for a new school year.

That risky surgery is now the first method of treatment in that form of cancer. *

My friend has since moved ahead from that turmoil. She is now much better than okay. But Okay got her through. She had to sacrifice a lot for her own safety. Today she wears her story not with shame, but with pride. She takes other women under her wing and is an advocate for healthy relationships.

So where was this going? Yes, reasons to live. “Everything wants to live.” – Alan Zweig

* I am not, nor have ever been a Surgeon or Physician. Everything quoted here is anecdotal from my time with The Therapeutic Clown Program at Sick Kids, Toronto, Ontario.

Day 22: Kindness in strangers …

Williams QuoteWhen I was little my mom and I would travel around our small city on the city bus.  I would watch her as she navigated our way chatting with one person about a good restaurant, another about a new Dentist in the area.  I was mesmerized by the way she knew who to talk to, and who not to talk to. Somehow, without her knowing, she taught me. 

Even as a young teen I knew how to say hello to the bus driver who picked me up after school.  I knew how to go to my Orthodontist appointments on my own, and make a new appointment for the next month for more mouth torture.  She taught me to get to know the tellers at the bank, the grocer who packed the groceries – bread on top please! It’s a skill I had started to wonder if was going to go by the wayside.

We fear strangers, and we all come by that fear honestly. We hear news that only strengthens those fears.  But there are strangers we can still trust.  I hope I can teach my own children this valuable skill.

Which brings me to my joy of the day.  We made an excursion all the way to Costco today.  With two children, still on the mend, and myself, also not one hundred percent, this could have been a challenging trip.  We found our way through the aisles, stopping by a little sample table for some Iogo yogurt.  Little Pea scarfed his down in milliseconds.  When it was finished he started to whimper.  The kind lady handing out the samples asked if he was getting tired.  I told her about our bought with this stomach bug, and that this was one of the first foods he’s managed to eat in a few days.  She handed over three more samples, which the two children devoured happily. 

On our checkout the gent helping the cashier asked if we had found everything.  I usually just say a quick yes, but today I was a little flustered as I really wanted to buy another large bag of Veggie Straws (another favourite food, that was staying down).  I had searched high and low, asked a few other associates all of whom had not seen them, didn’t work in that area, or thought the shipment was coming in at night.  This kindly gent insisted that he helped unpack them last night.  He then ran all the way to the back of the store to fetch one bag of our beloved straws.  If you have ever shopped in a Costco you would understand the generosity in this gesture.

Finally on the way out the cart caddy helped me load the giant pack of water in to the trunk, and then took back the buggy (cart) for me! I thought I was in some sort of alternative universe!

As I was backing out there were two couples, one was jumping the battery of the others’ car.  I am sure they did not know one another, but they were willing to help one another.  There was kindness everywhere.  It’s refreshing to see in today’s busy age. 

 

 

Day 21: Woah! A Tough One …

I caught the flu that’s been lingering in our home.  Little Pea and Peach have both had it over the last four days.  I have been diligent cleaning up everything, doing the laundry in prompt time and hand washing to the extreme that my chapped hands cannot handle more soap.  I was still caught by the awful thing.  It’s late to me, as I am exhausted.  Yet it’s only ten o’clock.

Where’s joy in having the flu you ask? Um … it’s a tough one.  I feel horrible.  My stomach is churning and tossing, and my head aches because I haven’t been able to keep anything down.  Mommy must prevail though.  Then the sweetest thing intervened.  Peach came over, tucked in her froggie and me under the fluffy blanket on the couch, and patted me on the head (the same way I do to her).  She then took Little Pea away for about thirty minutes, just enough time to reset.  I heard them both coming back downstairs, it was time for something to eat.  I made a very small mini-meal, and we all cuddled and watched Toopy & Binoo.  They both went to bed calmly, and willingly. Peach brushed her own teeth and dressed herself for bed – saving my much needed energy to get Little Pea to sleep.  Bless her little heart.  One day my little girl will be the most loving and amazing mommy.  She’s growing up fast, but for now I am cherishing the moments.

She really is Dr. Princess.

Yes – this was a short post, but for how I am feeling … I am shocked I even wrote this much!

Day 20: Partners in joy …

I am going to go out on a very bold limb and state in semi-permanent text: In any long term relationship, be it married, common law or boyfriend & girlfriend, it is not up to our significant other to make us happy.  Gasp! I know … you’re all thinking she’s off her rocker! But please, hear me out.  Their job is to add to our joy.  Your lover (for a lack of better terms) should never subtract from your happiness either.  (that is an entirely different topic for a whole other day though) They are to be there with you in good times and bad, be supportive, appreciative, loving, loyal to your terms of fidelity, but I believe the most important is to be your partner.  Funny, this word partner. 

Let me take you back to a bit of my personal past.  Before meeting hubby I was in a very unique relationship.  It was built upon something so unexplainable.  You know when you have a crush on someone, and its not really supposed to turn into anything – well this one did.  We were together as playmates for nearly ten years.  Pretty much my entire 20-something decade.  In the final year of our relationship he started calling me his partner.  When we went to events where I was introduced the first time it was “This is my partner, Ella.” Let me say this with the utmost truth – I hated it! I was annoyed! I thought this was just another politically correct residence life non-label label.  I was proud to be his girlfriend, and this label, in my mind, was belittling.  Let’s fast forward six years.  I cannot believe it’s been that long already. 

Maybe six years ago I was not a mommy, and still called myself a girl.  Maybe I was naive, and young, and foolishly in love.  I wanted nothing more than the respect I so deserved.  But now here, sitting away upstairs from the loud blare of yet another hockey night in Canada, I truly understand what he meant by partner.  And I take it all back.  Strangely though, that label did not, and could not fit us.  We were not truly partners, as I said before, we were playmates.  We had a lot of fun, but it was time that it ended.  It ended on polite terms, and we still connect via facebook every so often.  I cannot believe it though – he’s actually marrying this coming summer. 

So marriage? How does this whole partnership fit into the joy and marriage? I want to reiterate a few points.  Happiness is not necessarily joy.  Joy is more contentment, where as happiness is more elation.  To me, joy is more important.  Joy is finding and appreciating love, ease, small moments, and much more attainable than constant happiness.  Happiness can be exhausting, especially if you’re constantly looking for it.  That’s why it is rather unfair to pin all the onus of “You have to make me happy!” on your lover.   We have to create our own happiness.  Sometimes that means letting go of something, or someone.  Everything we keep around us, be it company or article should bring us some sort of joy.  If it does not, it is time to let it go.  Holding on to it will only squander your energy.  Energy that should be focused on joys, not sorrows.

I cannot really remember the vows my hubby spoke to me on our wedding day, aside mentioning he wanted children. Frankly the whole day is one big blur until the ride in the Towncar to the Airport hotel.  I trust there was something about loving me for eternity and all the usual mumble jumble we utter to make the relationship legal.  We chose to write our own vows.  I remember spending endless nights trying to write exactly what I wanted to bring to this relationship.  We barely knew one another though, and it was difficult describing what I wanted this relationship to truly amount to.  I know there was nothing old fashioned about obeying and serving.  I am also pretty sure there was something about loving him for 64.5 years, leaving me just enough time to find someone else if I thought this wasn’t working out.  (that number would have brought me to 94.5 at the time.)  Although our relationship is short in comparison to my past, I would love to start fresh.  And this time,  I know exactly what I would write.

I was taught from a very young age never to make a promise I Photo of a photo.  Original by Jennie Stribling with Jade Imagery cannot keep.  I cannot promise perfection, but I will be with you through thick and thin.  I will support our dreams to the very end.  May we travel this path together, and endure all of life’s hardships, and joys with one another, hand in hand.  I want to be your partner in life, so let me take your hand in mine, and may they never drop out of anger, or cold feelings, for as long as we stand side by side, there is nothing we cannot conquer.  Will you be my partner? 

I have had the fortunate opportunities to stand in as a bridesmaid in a few weddings.  I am a crier, so I am usually a splotchy mess by the time we have to descend back down the aisle.  I think there is something so beautiful and pure and new about weddings.  It’s why the bride wears white, even though those strict morals of eras long passed are all but forgotten. 

My two “bestest” friends are getting married this year and next, and I am again fortunate to have been invited to stand up in their weddings.  Both ladies were in mine, so this is ever so special to be asked in return.  I can only hope for each of them that they have found a partner in which to share their life with.  Hmm … this may make a good speech. 
To all of you, whether you’re single and searching, heading to the alter, or already hitched, I hope you find, or have found someone who you can truly call your partner. 

Day 19: Loving your own joy …

Have you ever had your joy squashed by someone else? You mention your excitement about an upcoming concert, and your co-worker sort of questions why you would want to see that performer.  You order your favourite salad at a restaurant and your friend side-eyes you as the waiter writes it down.  You’re shopping for a new skirt and your mom continuously tries to veer you away from a beloved style.  Suddenly you feel self-conscious about your own joys.  You start thinking; are there any joys I have that are ‘normal’? Sure, what may be joyful to you, may not be to someone else, but it does not make enjoying it wrong, as long as it does no harm to others. Nor does it make it abnormal.  It’s what makes the world go ’round.  If we all chose the same joys, likes and passions, we would live in a rather flat world.  If we never ventured out of our comfort zone we would never grow, and never learn.  If we don’t take risks, there will never be progress.  If Magellan had not risked sailing over the edge of the world, we may never have believed we live on a sphere.

Most passions, or loves, come naturally to us.  We show our likes very soon in life.  My own children have kindly proved this to me.    Peach showed a love of colours and art from a very young age.  Little Pea on the other hand loves dirt and sand and water and our bean bin, but couldn’t be bothered to really colour, unless that included dumping the crayons on the ground, and then nibbling on them.   Now these things did not shock me, as I am the one who introduced these joys to my children.  I love to colour, and Peach picked that up.  The bean bin was an idea I had to make indoor fun, just that – more fun.  So it makes sense.  That’s the nurture … but here is where even I get stumped.

Nature.  Yes, I may have bought the little yellow truck for Little Pea, but only because he was launching himself at it! Personally I hide the loudest plastic toy once a week for a little peace and quiet! But Little Pea would push it for hours if I let him.  I wonder what would happen if we combined the beans and the truck? Then there is Peach.  Somewhere along the line she adopted this love of all things princess.  She loves to wear pretty dresses and struggles when I insist that she wear something warmer, and finally settles on the purple tutu over the warm pants.  I never introduced princesses to her.  I have no issue with them, but they’re not something I really enjoyed as a child, so I left that out as a mommy.  Peach also loves cars. Specifically Lightening McQueen.  She is currently on a Dusty the Plane kick.   I have been very careful to let her decide what she likes.  (Although I have forced owls on her, as that was her nursery theme, as I still have a lot of adorable owl paraphernalia. I think she knows she making me happy – mm sweetheart!) I did fetch a few comments and side way glances when Peach was obsessed with Cars.  I remember one lady in the Walmart saying to me “Too bad she’s going to be tomboy.” I didn’t respond, as I knew she was also in love with her froggie, and treated him like a baby.  She also loved the colour purple.  To me, this was her being well balanced.

Children don’t know the difference between what is meant to be ‘girl’s toy’ or a ‘boy’s sport’.  They just play.  Yet, it’s difficult to sit idly by as we watch them choose what is considered different.  We fear our children will be bullied for their joys and passions, or will be pigeon-holed into a certain role.  So to protect them we gently push them to make the right decision.  But who are we to decide what is right for them? Unless their joy is playing in traffic or something equally dangerous, shouldn’t we embrace and even encourage these joys? The one thing I try to keep in mind is, usually our likes change, or alter,  as we learn new things, adventure to new places and are introduced to different joys.  What may be today, may not be tomorrow.

I do think little girls have a slightly easier time than little boys though.  If a little girl loves cars, sports and all things deemed boy very few people will automatically place her in the ‘She’s going to be gay (Lesbian) category’.  She is usually called a tomboy, and believed that in time she will outgrow this, and embrace her femininity. For little boys though, we protect them from that label. We steer them away from picking a tea set instead of a dinosaur in fear that other people will judge him.  I want to say this now: If your little boy likes pink, or dolls, or any other girl joy, embrace it! If your son chooses in the far far future that he is Gay. Embrace him! As parents it is not our job to choose their joys or who they love. (well at least not in my culture)  I understand the ‘I want to protect his feelings’ statement.  No one wants to see their child bullied, or brought down by their peers.  And let’s face it, we can teach our own children kindness, and no judgement, but it does not mean everyone is teaching their children this.  What we need to teach on top of kindness, is conviction.  So when little Joey heads to kindergarten show and tell with his new pink tea set, because we all know tea sets usually come in pink (a  big shout out to Ikea for making their set pink, yellow, green and blue!) warn him that other children may ask why he’s playing with a ‘girl’s’ toy, and give him the conviction and intelligent responses he’s going to need.  He’ll probably ask why a tea set is a ‘girl’s toy’ and my answer would be: Because a long time ago, way back when Nanny and Papa were teeny, only daddies went to work, and mommies stayed home and served tea.  Now that everyone gets to go to work, or stay at home, people are still getting used to daddies serving tea.  And might I add, your Papa – he makes great tea! So when they ask, you just say, I am serving tea like my Nanny & Papa do! I like tea. Would you like a cup too?  Inviting the others to share in your joy will automatically make them reconsider their original ideas.  Of course, they could just say no too – but that’s their loss.  I have answers for a few other controversial toys, but I think it’s best to be creative.  You will know what to say to your child that will ring true enough to them.  If you’re stuck – feel free to ask!

Dr. Princess

Who says Princesses can’t be Doctors?

Finally – why are we so afraid of our daughters loving being feminine? I understand that no one wants their daughter to be Cinderella – literally. Unless that means they’re performing as Cinderella for Disney or something alike.  We want our daughters to have ambitions beyond finding a Prince.  I wonder how Kate Middleton’s parents feel about this? I am pretty sure though that the seven year old who is mildly obsessed with Belle, or Ariel, or Sophia is not focusing on the end product.  At that age most girls won’t even sit next to boy, let alone think about marrying him.  Boys have cooties.  So yes, little Leah may love to dress up, wear crowns, and twirl, but who wouldn’t? Have you ever twirled in a long gown? Exactly. It’s fun.  Fun! Joyful! Good.  One day that twirling blur of pink and sparkles will most likely trade in the princess look for preppy, grungy, mismatched, sporty or even just plain.  She may stick with the pink, but really, who says doctors can’t wear pink scrubs? If your little girl is fully embracing this whole princess obsession I have one trick that may ease your mind too.  I repeat this to myself frequently:

Your princess knows she’s beautiful. That’s a good thing.  Only she can build her own esteem.

Others may help it grow, but it’s up to her to maintain it.  In her princess get-up she feels she is able to conquer the world! *If I could have aced my exams because I was wearing a princess gown, super hero cape or clown nose, I would have!

It‘s a game.Yes. Just a game. She does not believe at the age of three, four, or five that Prince Charming is coming to rescue her.  *If her obsession continues into her teenage years, she should understand by now that those are fairy tales, but to help her face reality, simply ask her if any young man she goes to school with carries a sword and always smells great.  Chances of finding that combination is so slim, realty will kick in.  Also, most princesses endure a lot of hardship before their prince arrives.  Princes want to spend a lifetime with someone real, not just dressed pretty.  Which brings me to my last mantra.

It’s easy to teach respect, kindness and goodwill to a princess. It’s what even the real princesses do.  * Princess Diana was a kind, loving and dedicated woman.  She was an excellent mother, a loving wife, hard working, and always giving of her time.  She was also interesting and intelligent. 

As adults we can use these lessons for ourselves.  The next time you get the side-eye for ordering the Waldorf Salad, exclaim; “I can’t wait to eat my salad! If you’d like you can try a bite.” That passion and conviction will shut them up pretty fast.  It’s hard to argue with conviction and positivity.  When you’re feeling as though you cannot manage to get through a tough situation, throw on your favourite shoes, or dress and own your confidence.  Respect other people’s joys.  You may not share the same views, but it does not make those joys wrong.  Teaching this respect will surely change a bit of the world.  Lastly, be proud that your child is willing to risk stepping out of the norm – for when we reach out, we learn more, and experience more, and change the world. (that includes wearing a pink ball gown to the dentist)

I am going to step off my soap box now with one final point. If your son asks for one of those play kitchens, just remember 8 of the 10 top earning chefs are men!

Day 18: Following my own advice.

Sometimes to renew I find a slight change can make the biggest difference.  Yesterday I was talking about making a micro-movement.   So today I did.  Actually, I did two.

DSC_3448After a rather successful trip to the auto garage, we dodged in to Canadian Tire.  For my American, or other worldly pals, this place is the be-all-end-all of “MAN-STORE”.  They have everything for your car, tools, sporting goods, fishing, hunting .. and somewhere in the middle, I think to keep the significant other content they have paint, and some home decor items.  Well, we picked up the necessary item, and as I was perusing the aisles for the possibility to amend the problematic lack of tall shelves in our kitchen, Little Pea fell asleep in the car-cart. (one of those funny carts that has the car attached) He’s been feeling a little ill, so this impromptu nap didn’t really shock me.  Peach and I took advantage of this nap, and headed over to the paint department. Hundreds of paint chips awaited us.  We picked up about thirty or so.  One step down.  Okay, truthfully I picked thirty, she picked an atrocious collection of fuchsia, deep plum, chocolate, orange, and one white.  Peach loves paint chips as much as I do.  She’s a born decorator.

I am feeling a little less overwhelmed. More inspired to dig in and start stripping wallpaper than I was twenty-four hours ago.

Oh my other baby step … I finally moved the big chair to the corner beside the fireplace where it’s supposed to be.  It was moved because of the Christmas tree.  It helped that I found the perfect basket ottoman for half price.  So yes, I admit, I needed a little push – but the outcome was well worth it! Now only if little painting fairies would enter at night and paint the place.  Oh wouldn’t that be lovely.

Day 17: What Would SARK Do?

I am starting to really stall here.  I am hoping that my life will more adventuresome in the warmer seasons.  The only adventure today was cleaning up little boy vomit twice, cuddling said little boy all while making handmade pizza dough and sauce.  Not much to really write about.  I could give you the recipe for the pizza, but even that is rather, mundane.  Most of life is like this though.  A long string of straight-line kind of days.  Sure, there was the five second excitement when Little Pea lost his breakfast, but really, that’s not what you would call a thrill seeking day.

I am still recuperating from the turmoil of yesterday, so a slow day should have been just what a needed.  It wasn’t though.  I am not one of those sit around and rest out the bad moments type of gal.  I am one who loves to walk, and stop somewhere for a coffee, or an ice cream cone, and keep walking another five or so miles.  I find it difficult to do this in our new area.  One, there’s no where to walk to get something (until the summer, when the ice cream shoppe reopens) and two, it is so cold outside, a few minutes outdoors leaves you with chapped cheeks and lips.  So again we sat, cooped up indoors.  Little Pea needed a day like this, but my mind needed to get out.

I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I lived somewhere where it was warm all year round.  I would be very unproductive inside, that’s for sure.  Winter is usually the time I take on all sorts of projects inside the house.  I have plenty of those to do, and strangely not an iota of desire to start.  Truthfully, we live in a beautiful spot in a lovely house that I am struggling to make in to our own.  There’s a pressure to make it perfect and right, without error. (Yes I am really drilling in the ‘needs to be perfect point’ here)  The previous owner always hired professionals, so there are no drips, or accidental splotches on the ceilings.  It’s funny, the house has a lot of built in character, but no true character traits.  It’s become easier to just think and daydream about what I would do.  There’s also an immense amount of regular daily work that gets in the way of the ‘pretty projects’.   Somehow I need to shake up my mindset, and dig deeper to find that inner piece that wants to make this a home that says ‘us’.

Needless to say, it is difficult to write about joy when all you do is stay inside hibernating, reading books, watching movies and cuddling.  I need to devise a plan of action that does not require leaving, but invites joy inside.  I have no idea how to do this though.  I supposed that is part of this journey.

Eat Mangoes Naked by SARKI was talking to a good friend the other night, and we both thought it was funny how easy it is to give out advice, but how difficult it is following that same advice yourself.  He was stuck.  I get it.  I am stuck too.  My advice to him was to try a micro-movement.  I cannot take credit for this idea though.  For years I have been a big fan of SARK.  She is an Author, Artist and Innovator.  She mentors through her plenitude of journal-style books, and an online site.  SARK has been in my life for over a decade now.  I first met her in the book Eat Mangoes Naked: Finding Pleasure Everywhere and Dancing With the Pits.  I was living in a small Ontario city where very little excitement ever occurred, and I was quickly falling in to a pretty dark mood.  Then I read SARK’s book, which really helped my perception change.  I may have not been living my dream life, but there was still plenty of good, even great to be found, and a lot of it to give back.  I went on to read more of her books, including Make Your Creative Dreams Real.  One of her steps in this book is about embracing Mirco-Movements.   Baby steps.  Maybe the end goal is to have a whole house painted.  But that’s overwhelming.  Just thinking about it makes you come to a screeching halt.   So a mirco-movement might be, open the wallpaper steamer and read the how-to guide.  Then go from there.

How would I apply this to letting joy inside? One small step may be switching up one of the baskets of toys that have been around for the last six weeks.  Sometimes, even just that changes how the day plays out.  It’s worth a shot, at least until the world chooses to thaw a little.

Day 16: Every Little Things Gonna Be Alright

I started this tonight in a very artificial light.  But I want this to be real, raw, and uncensored, so deleted everything and rewrote this because it is exactly how I found joy today.

Positive?

Positive.

Gone?

What?

Why?

Pain.

Sorrow. Tears. Confusion.

“Mommy okay?”

“mmm …”

“It’s okay Mommy. You be alright. I you Mommy.” Kisses my head. Hugs me tight. Skips away.

Cuddles. Hugs.

Thank goodness I have you both.  I am so lucky.  I want more.  Just one more. But that feels so wrong, yet so very right.

There is hope.  I have love all around me.

Thank goodness. Every little things … gonna be alright.

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