Thursday, February 28, 2013

What Would I Say?

      What would I say if you asked me how I feel about Bill 18?
      Do you really want to know?
      I'm glad you asked, because it's been on my mind a lot this week.

I would say that everyone has the right to feel and be safe.
We are all the same - all looking for someone to validate who we are.
I would say that where there is intolerance and unacceptance it usually comes from fear.
I would remind us all that perfect love casts fear out.

I would tell people who are against Bill 18 that having a Gay-Straight Alliance in your child's school is not going to turn anyone into someone who will identify as LGBTQ.
Those beautiful creatures are in your child's school already.
They're just silent and waiting and probably afraid.
Trust me, they're there and they're waiting for the nod that says, "you were perfectly and wonderfully made as you are".

I would tell you how desperately I wish there was room for all of us at the table.
That maybe I've made plenty of space on the bench that I sit on, but that the bench on the opposing side of the table appears full.

I've spent the past month working on a Heritage Fair project with Ellie on the Indian Residential School System.  I still shudder when I read the words in the official government documents refering to "the Indian Problem".   (Like being Indian was something to be ashamed of, obliterate, and erase.)

Cultural genocide - right here in our home and native land.  

How could they have been so wrong?   I ask myself.  
I remember asking myself that same question as a young girl when I first learned about the Holocaust.
I also recall wondering why so few people ever spoke up and did something to stop it.

I don't want to be one of those "ones".  (God save me from it.)
Save me from ever living my life so that my girls have to look at me one day and ask why I didn't say something.

As my dear friend Joyce has pointed out over the course of our friendship, "if I'm going to be wrong and get things messed up, let me always mess up on the side of love, not judgement".

I would say that I'm afraid that the way that I feel about this is going to force me to make difficult choices.

I would tell you how grateful I am for the friends in my life from the LGBTQ community.  
How their stories have shown me what courage looks like.
That I don't think I would have ever had the courage or strength to be true to myself in the face of the fear and the hate that other people have looked upon them with.

Make room on your bench at the table.
We can learn a lot by sitting side by side.
There is nothing to fear.

         That's what I'd say.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Parking Lot Parable

He's in grade four.  Short for his age, with deep telling eyes and warm brown skin.  He hasn't lived here long - this isn't home.  Life in Burma feels like a world away, and in most ways, it is.

He's on the transit bus by 7 to make his way to the suburban private school he goes to every day.  That place isn't home either.   The west-end is.  And in most ways, it is a world away too.

One transfer, and over an hour later, he makes his way across the parking lot in the frigid cold.   The winds whip around him as he walks around the huge building. Mostly he's surrounded by moms driving mini-vans, though he might also dodge a a high end SUV as he trudges through the snow.  Whatever "container" they've arrived in, the kids inside those vehicles are warm and were only thinking about getting up when he got on the bus.  

They've got their homework neatly placed in their backpacks by a parent who helped them the night before.  "It was easy", the say.  It always is when your mom and dad have always spoken English and can understand everything on the paper forwards and backwards.  Would it be easy, he wonders, if those kids lived with only one parent who is only learning to make the letters and the words make sense?  Of course it's easy, he thinks.  How could it not be when you have everything at your disposal.  

And he's right.

Computers, books, sharpened pencils, reams of paper and rides to the library.  Grandparents to carry the load.  Language skills and University degrees.  Dads with a 9-5 and six figures behind their names.   When your greatest problem is how you're going to fit your hockey game in between the birthday parties and Sunday School you know you've got it made.

And he knows that they really don't know much...

...about his world and how he got here.

They'll never know what it takes for him to get to this expansive building in suburbia every day.   What it feels like to translate the forms she's supposed to sign after explaining something he's not sure he even understands.   How it feels to look at the overflowing lunch kits filled with food as he takes out his solitary package of ramen noodles and crunches away.  Funny thing is, those kids ask him for some of his noodles.  (Their turkey and cheese cut into four perfect little squares just doesn't cut it, I guess.)  In amongst the choir that unravels tales of acquisitions and gifts, gadgets and devices, name brand clothes and hundred-dollar shoes he knows his story is different.

And he's reminded of it every single day... he walks past the luxury cars in the parking lot picking up their kids at 3:30.

They're on their way to dance class
and he's on his way to the bus stop.

More than an hour, one transfer, and a -40 windchill walk later he's home.

And he wonders where he belongs.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Simple Things

It's the simple things, isn't it?

More and more I know this to be true.

Our bodies and minds are still a bit tired from our holiday.  This afternoon Sasha discovered that the little gift she thought she bought at a cheesy souvenir shop in Orlando didn't make it back with us.  It was for her most special friend at school.  There were big juicy tears on her cheeks as she muddled over her predicament.  All of my ideas and suggestions were met with sadness and some anger.  (Her only verbal response was wondering if we could just order another sand castle "sand globe" online.  Ah - if only all of life's mishaps were solved with such simplicity.) We ate lunch but the sadness remained.

I was tired.  I knew Sasha was too.  I invited her to my bed with our "magic blankie" (that's our name for it anyway - it's soft and warm and you instantly want to nap when you're snuggled beneath it).  We covered ourselves up and chatted about the lost gift, and what we could do or give her friend instead.  She said, "I feel so tired".  It was music to my ears.  I rubbed her back and curled up against her and soon her breathing was soft and slow and her body was still.  I let my breathing match hers and before I knew it, it was 2 hours later with me and my little girl still snuggled together under that magic blankie.  We lulled and dozed a little more until it was time to throw the blankie off and rejoin the land of the living.

It didn't seem quite so dark or sad on the other side of those two hours curled up together.

The moral of the story is this:  there aren't many things that back rubs, warm blankets and long afternoon sleeps on cold winter days don't make a little better.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rambling Round-Up (Florida Edition, Vol. 2)

The sun has been shining since we got here.  

The temperature has been unseasonably hot.  That's been a very good thing!  For the past few days, it's been in the low to mid 80's.  Right after we leave, it's supposed to go back down to normal, which is the mid to high 60's.  The timing is perfect.

I think I may want to be buried on a bed of PF Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps and covered up with Mongolian Beef.

We said goodbye to the Reimer's last night.  It was bitter sweet.  Sweet, because we had the most amazing week together.  I am so thankful for the gift of that time together.  Bitter, because it's always sad to say goodbye.  We don't know when we'll see each other again, and it's hard to know that their kids will grow up a little more and we'll miss it.

I convinced Pierce to kiss me on the cheek yesterday.  It was pretty awesome.

I love going to bed at night now thinking about the crazy schedule that usually awaits me.

We spent the day and evening at Cocoa Beach.  It was hot, sunny, and beautiful.  Cocoa Beach is a crazy retro-like beach town.  A multitude of Tiki Bars abound.  The girls played in the waves and the sand.  I was serious about my job of people watching.

I should have paid more attention to the girl's sizzling skin than to all of the people I was watching.

There was a group of Amish people on the beach today.  At least I assume they were Amish.  It was really interesting to watch the women of the group in their long dresses, aprons, shoes,  and white bonnets wandering around the sand picking up shells and looking out to the sea.  Alongside them were their husbands or fathers in their swimming trunks and bare backs getting into the water.  I could write about that for pages.

I wonder if there is a double standard in the world of obesity between men and women.

A local suggested a Tiki Bar and grill called, "Grills" for supper tonight.  Fish Tacos and my first Miami Vice of the trip.  Ridiculous.

Against my better judgement I went on "Expedition Everest" at Animal Kingdom.  Ellie and I both didn't really want to go on it.  We're cut from the same cloth.  We were convinced it would be fine.  I hated every single minute of it.  But I did it, and damn, I'm proud.  After a day of recovery, Ellie and I both went on "Big Thunder Mountain" at Magic Kingdom.  I didn't like that one either.  But it wasn't nearly as traumatic as Everest.  I know, I know.... there are way more hard-core coasters than Everest.  But if you know me, you know the fact that I went on that one is nothing short of a miracle.

The fireworks at Disney really are pretty spectacular.

We had one meal at Disney at the Japanese steakhouse at Disney.  The kids all loved watching the food be prepared.  Cohen loved watching it so much that he tumbled off of his chair and smashed his forehead on the granite table requiring an ice pack.  The adventures at Disney abound.

Our days by the pool were the absolute best days here.

Ping Pong.  I need to come clean.   After Shawn went out and bought professional grade racquet's, the game changed.  The Reimer's may have beat us at Doubles quite a few times.  It was both shocking and humbling. But Singles is a different story.   Tan could not beat me.  I stand victorious.

We're on the home stretch.  Real life is waiting in the wings.   We need to make the most out of our last two remaining days.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Random Round-Up (Florida Edition Vol. 1)

Feeling the warm sun on my face is like therapy.

It's been warmer here than it's supposed to be in February.  We've had temperatures from the mid 70's to the mid 80's.  The evenings and mornings are very cool.

We rented a time-share condo at a Mariott Resort through a connection our friend Kent has.  Best decision ever.  I'm so thankful we didn't decide to stay at Disney.  I need space!!  This condo has space in abundance!  It's also got great pools, kid's activities, and lots of other good stuff.  By the end of the day I am "Disney'd out".

We flew out of Grand Forks.  That decision saved us nearly $1500.00.

Judging from all of the Winnipeg Jets gear on our flight, over half of the passengers were from Winnipeg too.

The resort area of Orlando is kind of like Pleasantville.  It doesn't even look real.  It's too perfect.  Does that make sense?

The day after we arrived one of my oldest and dearest friends and her family joined us from Vineland Ontario.  That's been the best for many reasons.
      - Our kids are having a blast together
      -Shawn and Mike have always been great friends and they don't need me and Tan around
      -It's fun having boys around for a change
      -If one of your kids is driving you nuts in your car on your way home from Disney, you can swap      said kid out for one of their kids.
      -Our rooms are right beside each other,  and we just leave our doors open so the kids come and go as they please so it actually feels like our place is twice the size
      -I never get a chance to really know Tan's boys.  I finally feel like I'm able to.  I've always known I loved them, but now I know I like them.  I also know their teacher's names, their favorite games and what makes them laugh.
       -Dutch Blitz is way more fun with more people
       -I never get uninterupted time with Tan.
       -Even grocery shopping with Tan is a good time.

I'm not a big theme park kind of girl.  Never really have been.  But we wanted to do the Disney thing once with our girls and I'm glad we have.  We've broken up the days really well and go home when we feel "done".  You know what I mean.  "Done" is done.  It's always best to abandon ship at that point.

We have full kitchens in our condo's, so we eat breakfast here and then pack a cooler bag with lunch and snacks for the day.  This has worked out really well.    I can only stomach watching my kids eat fries so many times in a row before I can't take it anymore.

Do people actually aspire to grow up to be Disney characters?

I asked Tan's 5 year old son, Pierce, the other day if he knew I that I loved him.  He looked up with his eyelashes that likely weigh 1 pound per eye and said, "obviously".  That's been the best answer of this holiday.

Tan and Shawn treat my kids like they are important, worth their time, and valuable.  My kids love them.

If you really know me, you'll know that I love playing ping-pong.  Not only do I love playing it, but I'm damn good at it too.  For reals.  We've been playing some doubles matches this week and Mike and I are up on the Reimer's and I'm up on Tan in singles.  I'm that good.

Tan and I both agreed that we have more fun playing ping-pong with each other than being at Disney.  Simple pleasures.

The ride, "Soarin'" at Epcot is out of this world.

What would it feel like to live in Florida year round?

Living how you live when you're on holidays feels so good.

I dread returning to the cold.

I've been scouting out Winnipeg Jets shirts and hoodies at Disney.  So far I've spotted 5.

Our kids have just as much fun hanging out at the pool as they do at Disney.

How did people do Disney before the "Fast Pass" came in to play?

Did anyone else ever have the cereal "Cookie Crisp" when they were kids?  I remember my mom buying it for my brother and me in the States when we were kids.  It is essentially little chocolate chip cookies.  Worst health benefits ever.  I bought a box for my kids to try because we're on holidays and that's the time to eat sugary refined flour cereal with no nutritional value whatsoever.  They like it.

I'm going to P.F. Chang's for lettuce wraps tomorrow night.  They are my most favorite food in the world.

A large part of holiday happiness revolves around food.

I wish we were just starting instead of at the mid-way point.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Random Round-up (Deep Freeze Edition)

Let's get this over with.  It's cold here.  Bloody cold.  I'm trying to make peace with the fact that the two summers we were gone to the West Coast were the two mildest winters in Winnipeg in recent history.   Yes, I know the sun shines here in the midst of the cold.  But I will tell you the truth:  give me rain any day of the week.  Who cares if the sun is shining if going outside is dangerous?  What are you going to do, enjoy the sunshine from your window?   Mike takes the cold in stride - biking and going for runs in the evening  even when the windchill dips below minus 40. I don't take the same approach.  I feel like curling up in the fetal position in my bed and staying there until April.  Before I drive the girls to school in the morning I've started heating up my Magic Bag in the microwave and then sitting on it in the van.  I then heat it up when I get home and put my feet on it while I eat breakfast and read the paper.  I heat it up again before bed and put it where my feet will go while I brush my teeth so that by the time I'm done, my space is toasty warm.

Middle school teachers are Super Heroes.  No kidding.  They all deserve a raise.  Toughest job in the school for sure.  It also appears to be a pretty entertaining job.  Lots of drama.  Lots of shenanigans.  Lots of heartbreak.  It's a tough gig.

Mike discovered an amazing musician on PBS last night.  Blew us away.  Sarah Jarosz is her name.  If you like roots, bluegrass and Americana, you'll love her.  She's only 21 years old and already being lauded as a master.

Speaking of music, Mike and I were able to go to the Tragically Hip show at the MTS Centre last weekend.  I first fell in love with The Hip back in grade 9 or 10 when my brother played me their album Fully Completely and I heard the song "Wheat Kings".    I was an odd teenager and was obsessed with the David Milgaard story.  The song gave me chills.  When I hear the lines, "Late breaking story on the CBC.  A nation whispers we always knew he'd go free" I still do.  That song was the highlight of the show for me.   We had awesome seats and great entertainment in the row behind us.  There were a few times during the show when I just looked around the stands and was interested to note the demographics at the show.  Lots of men - some grey hair, lots of middle aged guys, and even some hipsters.  There were people who brought their elementary school aged kids.   Hip fans are an interesting bunch.  Passionate and loyal.  I got a huge kick out of this story on CBC this week - where else will you hear a tale about the Tragically Hip, Vegas, and Schmauntfat in the same place?

It's true, we're going to Florida tomorrow.  12 whole days of glorious sunshine, free time, and family time.  But wait, there's more.  We're meeting up with one of my oldest and dearest friends from Ontario and her family.  We only get to see Tan and Shawn and their kids once a year at the most, and it's usually for very short visits when they come to Manitoba to visit family, so this is a huge deal.  I'm looking forward to laughing my ass off with Tan, driving Shawn crazy, and falling in love with her boys all over again.    Oh yes, we're doing Disney too.  First time for our girls.

Of course, in order to be ready to go away there is a lot to do.  If you're taking courses in a Master's program and missing two weeks of classes, there's even more to do.  I had to work ahead like crazy this week to finish a paper that's due during the time we're away.   It's times like these that I revert right back to University mode.  Dreading the process.... abstaining from the process.... putting off the paper.... filling my time with ANYTHING but the paper.... feeling sick about the fact that I haven't started writing the paper...... and then, and only then I sit down and actually WRITE the paper.  And that is what I did yesterday.  I really didn't move from the dining room table until it was finished.  That feeling you get when you're finished?  It's just as good as it ever was.

I'm taking a course called "Couple Therapy" this semester.  Tonnes to think about and read about and wonder about.  I love the feeling of walking into class and actually knowing most of the people sitting in the chairs around me.  We can laugh at things now, give knowing glances, and invite feedback from each other in ways we couldn't when we just met.  I'm meeting some great new people too.  Our program is full of people a wide range of age groups and career paths.  Again, this semester, there is one lonely guy in the class surrounded by a great throng of women.    He's kind of become the mascot of the program.

If you're a Costco shopper and love Thai food, you should definitely check out the "Happy Planet" Thai Coconut Soup.  It's in the refrigerated section near the produce and comes in a two-pack.  So crazy delicious.

I could eat crunchy peanut butter and jam on toast every single day of my life.

I hate packing for trips.   Mike is a packing genius.  In fact, he's so assured in his role, that he doesn't allow me to pack.  I just make piles and he packs them in.   I guess we're a good team?

When we're going away on a trip I become kind of obsessive on checking the weather at the destination.  So far, the forecast for Orlando is looking dry and hot, so I'm feeling good!   I also get a little obsessive about wondering and worrying that someone in our family is going to get sick on the holiday.  I've reminded our girls one million times over the past week to wash their hands.  The more time I spend in school, the more I realize what a vile, cess-pool of germs they are.  You see kids picking their noses, picking their ears, spewing, coughing, sneezing and dripping all over the place and on all kinds of things.   I should hose my kid's off when they walk in the door.  But I don't.  I just tell them to wash their hands.

I'm keeping track of all of the books I'm reading this year.  The list so far is:
     -Anne Lamott's   Operating Instructions
     -Dora Dueck's    What You Get At Home
     -David Bergen's  See the Child
I'm currently reading Anne Lamott's Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers  and Sarah Poutney's novel,  Sweet Jesus.  You could say it's been a great year of reading so far.  How could it not be?  Anne Lamott is my all-time favourite writer, hands down.   Her book on prayer is so good, you don't want to rush it because you don't want it to be over too soon.  I heard about Poutney's book on Shelagh Roger's "The Last Chapter" on CBC Radio and knew I had to read it.  I'm devouring it.  It's the kind of book you wish you had all day to loose yourself in.  I'm hoping to escape in it on our flite tomorrow.

Making appointments, getting to appointments, cancelling appointments, remembering appointments and thinking about doing all of the above is nearly a full-time job when you have 3 kids.

Sasha read for 955 minutes last month.  That's her new record.

I would choose sleep over nearly any other activity any day of the week.

I went with Ellie's class on a field trip last week.  We spent the morning at the Legislature.  I'd never been there before and really enjoyed our time there.  Next stop was the Planetarium for a session on light.  2 minutes in to the session and I was zoned out and getting set up for a nap.  And nap I did.  The whole time.  That place is a sedative.

Hannah's doing a Science Fair project on fonts and memory.  She came up with the idea herself and is learning a bunch.  Personally, I hate Science Fair projects.  It's not because of the work involved.  It's because of the way I feel when I see how many kids get no support at all from their parents, but are expected to produce something at the same calibre as kids who get all kinds of support.  It's heartbreaking.  I can hardly stand to think about it.

I always bring sour wine gums along on the plane when we're flying.  (And Ativan.)