Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Grateful. For Every Breath I Take

There is a haze of smoke covering our city and much of our province this morning. Even though we are far removed from the immediate vicinity of a raging forest fire, our air quality rating is 10+ (very high risk). All I can think is how fortunate we are to be this far removed. A "little" smoke in the air is a pretty minor inconvenience.

As I scrolled through some of the advisories this morning, the one that caught my eye was "If you can't breathe, nothing else matters."

For those of us in good health, simply staying indoors and keeping outdoor activity to a minimum will probably be enough for us to ride this out.

For those who live closer to the fires, not only do they have a much higher concentration of smoke to endure, but there must be a great number of those who have their bags packed and need to be ready to evacuate.

I kept my small children indoors yesterday (and will do the same today) which was a bit of a novelty because we have been able to spend hours upon hours breathing in the fresh air and taking advantage of our sunny days.

It is yet another little reminder of just how fortunate we are when we wake up to air that is safe to breathe and a respiratory system that works as it we expect. Each and every day.

Because, "If you can't breathe, nothing else matters."

Just feeling grateful this morning. That is all.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sundowning

I have had a long time affection for the time of the day when I can close the blinds, climb into my pajamas and turn off my brain.

Although I have the ability to stay dressed and complete menial tasks after supper, lately I have had a feeling where I think I shouldn't make important decisions at the day's end because I feel slightly impaired. And believe me, this has absolutely nothing to do with alcohol.

Due to an upcoming trip, followed by a reunion and holiday time a few weeks after that, I have had the need to tend to several details and make commitments that involve paying for things online.

One night it hit me. "I cannot hit the 'I Agree' button until the morning. I feel mentally impaired this late at night." This was immediately followed by the realization that this was not the first time I have felt this way lately.

The ability to form cohesive sentences, if I haven't been talking with adults for an extended period of time, is more noticable after 6:00.

The desire to pick up the phone and call someone after supper is nil. Okay, nothing has changed there. Knock that off the list of symptoms.

Any type of bookwork becomes onerous after I start shutting down. But it can be done (just watch what I can do when the power goes off and the battery on my computer keeps going long after the Internet connection has been severed).

Housecleaning at the end of a day? Forget it.

Yard work? I do it before I eat supper and start shutting down.

Phone calls? Inbound, I can do. Outbound? Hurts.

Mental math? Very slow and labor intensive.

Coping skills? Excellent, as long as the blinds are drawn, I am in my pj's and no one is asking me to do anything.

What is causing this?

Is it dealing with 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 year old children ten hours a day, five days a week? Or, and this is the million dollar question, is it because I am addicted to all of my "connections".

The Internet connection distracts me constantly.

The ability to look up the answer to any question, any time of day is addictive. It can be as simple as wondering how old a contestant is, on Dancing With the Stars. Back in the old days, one could only guess or rely on whatever information that star was willing to reveal.

Facebook. I don't spend an excess amount of energy updating my own status but I do spend an extraordinary amount of time "lurking". Granted, I find a lot of inspiration and encouragement within my friend's status updates and positive thinking messages. But it is a time waster. I know this. Yet, during my days of speaking at a two year old level, I crave adult input.

Netflix. Oh dear. I was afraid this could happen to me and I am not too addicted (yet), but the ability to watch ten seasons of a favorite television show back-to-back, all weekend? It is a childhood dream come true. Thankfully I can't stay awake that long.

Texting and the cell phone addiction? I never thought this would be me. But it is. I use my cell phone as my watch, my camera, my Internet connection when I am away from the computer, my alarm and timer and the ability to record or jot down notes throughout the day when a pen and piece of paper are out of reach. Not to mention the need I feel to answer a text message immediately upon receipt.

I am addicted to all of these connections. I know I must do something. I need to sever the connection. If not all day then, at a minimum, part of the day. After supper would be a good place to start.

At the moment, if I don't get something done in the morning, it (often) doesn't get done. These little things start to pile up.

By the weekend, I have several little piles of paperwork, atop the computer desk and in the kitchen, to tend to and make disappear. This past Saturday morning, I had to send two emails, pay a bill and commit to (hit that "I Agree" button) and pay for something else. It took me two hours to do "all of the above".

Two hours? On a morning brain?!

It is taking too long to process information. Writing is becoming work. I used to send emails to friends just to keep in touch. Now? I reply. And bookwork?! Not fun. I am so incredibly grateful I don't "do numbers" all day, every day.

All in all, I know this balance is exactly right.

I need human interaction and contact with adults on a regular basis. My daycare business provides that.

I need a creative outlet. Writing provides that.

I need to challenge myself and grow. Bookkeeping does that for me.

I need downtime and my "sundowning period" after supper gives that to me.

I need friendship and to socialize and, when I don't frighten my friends away by my "need for alone time", I do have friends who convince me to come out and play.

Life is a delicate balance of all of the above and so much more. I think this "sundowning period" is providing me what I need to keep the rest of life in balance.

My only concern? Is the days are slowly but surely getting shorter. I am not looking forward to the days when darkness exceeds the light. I need to make the most of the daylight hours while the light is shining.

It isn't all darkness and gloom yet. I think I need to find a piece of sunlight to carry me past supper time and through the winter.

The twilight hours are beautiful and necessary. But I wouldn't want to live there.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Right in Our Own Back Yard

This is how I ended my last post:

"Set yourself free today. Don't follow the rules (or mow your lawn or pick your weeds). Let the day flow in and through you just the way it wants to. Don't fight the flow. And see how it goes.

There is beauty in letting the day wash through you. I think I need to take a piece of my own advice. If I'm still standing at the end of the day, I'll try and update you."

Then? I proceeded to follow my own advice and had a most excellent day.

We rolled with the punches. All day. And the day went amazingly well.

We followed where the day took us and even though it didn't take us any further than our own back yard, we had a completely different view and the day took on a glow.

Some clouds rolled in and shaded our deck in the morning so we played in the shade, watched a hydrovac truck pull out our fence post and then the kids got the best gift of all. The guy who pulled out our post invited them to come have a look at the hole he made, a tour of his truck and [insert drum roll here] they got to go "rock picking" in the back alley while we were there.


They brought their rocks back onto the deck with them and they provided no end of entertainment. Peace, contentment and joy were all wrapped up into our morning and I didn't even have to apply sunscreen!

After nap time, my son rigged up a sprinkler hose atop the deck railing and we endured the heatwave in an imaginative and interactive way.


I didn't fight the flow and the day provided exactly what we needed. 

Add a big, noisy truck, a few clouds when needed, some rocks and some water and it equalled contentment in my little world. 

As an added bonus, our fence is finally fixed, so next week we have full run of the back yard again.

Everything we needed was right in our own back yard. Isn't that often the case?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Angst

Angst -  a feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity

Yes, "angst" is a good word for the way I woke up this morning.

I haven't been rolling with this week very well.  I think I need a holiday. Kid-chatter is grating on my last nerve.

Scene from my two days ago:

Child: Colleen, do you like my dress?
Me: Uh-huh.
Child: Colleen, do you like my dress?
Me: Yes I do.
Child: Colleen, do you like my dress?
Me: Yes, I like your dress.
Child: Colleen, do you like my dress?
Me: Yes. I like your pretty dress.
Child: Colleen, do you like my dress?
Me: YES, AND I HEARD YOU THE FIRST FOUR TIMES YOU TOLD ME! [fail, I know]

Scene from yesterday:

Me: Who has an idea what to have for snack today?
Child 1: I do.
Child 2: No, I do!
Child 3: NO! I DO!!
Me: Okay, what is your idea?
Child 1, 2 and 3: Silence

Yesterday morning started out with a large, suspicious wet spot on the couch. My Little Guy, who had just arrived and didn't want to eat breakfast with us and sat on the couch, had an overfilled diaper that leaked onto the couch.

The cleaning-of-the-couch process drew children to me, like bees to honey. And I wasn't feeling too terribly sweet. So I turned on the "Bubble Guppies" and begged them to watch it and sit on the love seat, where they always sit, not on the couch. You would have thought I was asking for the moon.

So ... we finally made it out the door and we had walked fifteen minutes towards a spray park to find a cool way to beat the heat when this conversation took place:

Little Boy #2: [indeterminable mumbling preceded the words] ... poopin'.
Me: [immediately remembering I had failed to take him to the bathroom just before we left, although he had gone immediately after breakfast and we would have been out the door shortly thereafter, if it wasn't for the Wet Couch Incident] You have to go poop?
Little Boy #2: Yup

I couldn't be frustrated. It was my fault. We turned on a dime, headed home, took him to the bathroom. And by then, he didn't have to go.

So we headed back towards the park and all went well. We got home, had a quick lunch, watched a little bit of a movie and everyone headed towards those minutes of the day I love the best. Quiet time.

I usually get twenty minutes to myself during that time. Then I get the older ones up so they can watch a movie and I have an added half hour of them watching a movie while I start to update our daycare blog. Those quiet minutes get me through the day. When I don't get them? I am depleted.

Yesterday? I didn't get them.

Little Boy #1 woke up an hour ahead of schedule. He is a dynamo. He bounces off the couches. Literally. He needs to climb, be active, diversity and he really thrives in a no-rules-zone. I need this little boy to sleep. He didn't.

It was hot, hot, hot outside yesterday. So I brought the water table out onto the shaded deck. This new activity brought no end of fun and bliss and contentment to our world last year. I was ready for some blissful, cool water fun. It would save the day.

Little Boy #1 was not here last year. He LOVED the water. But no one else could enjoy the water play because he saturated everything and everybody in sight. It was a "two part" table, so I moved him over to the other half so he could play any which way he wanted to play and not soak everyone else. He didn't like that idea. He wanted to be where everyone else was. Then he climbed onto/into the water table. Not once. Not twice. Three times. The water table is not meant to be sat in.

Little Boy #2 saw LB #1 climbing in the table so he thought it would be just fine to sit on it as well. Not once. Not twice. But three times.

I dumped the water and hid the table in the garage.

Little Boy #2 was angry with me for taking away the only fun thing there was to do. I begged my son to come outside with me. I desperately needed to communicate with someone over the age of three. He didn't want to be there and when he saw my exasperation levels he simply said, "I don't know why you didn't just take them downstairs".

"Because I am being a good, creative and fun babysitter, That is why! I'm doing the right things but the wrong things are happening!! THAT'S why!"

Well, I didn't really say that. But I did think it.

Why do the wrong things happen when you do what you do for all the right reasons? Could it be because nothing I offered the kids came from a place of joy? It was all guilt and trying to do the right thing.

Thus, I woke this morning [is it just me, or is this not the longest week in the history of man???], feeling very apprehensive about the day ahead of me. I am anxious because I really don't know what to do with my little energizer bunny who is sick to death of the confines of our house and yard. And I am feeling insecure because I should be better than this.

I know better but I'm not doing better.

Angst. Yes, that is me today. It can only get better. Right?

Good things do not come from a place of guilt and obligation. Good things come out of the smallest intentions, coming from a place of giving and joy.

I think we are going to go find bugs and stones today. Life is simpler that way.

One other quote from yesterday:

As we were walking to the waterpark (the first time), my three-year-old little girl saw a yard overgrown with a wild flower garden, unkempt and unmowed grass, filled with dandelions and clover in full bloom and she said in wonder, "Colleen! Look at the beautiful garden!!"

And do you know what? It was beautiful. It was unabandoned, unrestricted wild beauty. Mother Nature set free to do as she pleased. And it looked good.

Set yourself free today. Don't follow the rules (or mow your lawn or pick your weeds). Let the day flow in and through you just the way it wants to. Don't fight the flow. And see how it goes.

There is beauty in letting the day wash through you. I think I need to take a piece of my own advice. If I'm still standing at the end of the day, I'll try and update you.

"Colleen! What a beautiful garden!!"

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Finding His Place

Our New Kitty has lived with us little over 3-1/2 days and he acts and feels like he has been waiting his whole life to find us.

My son tells me this little black furball found him by putting his paw up to the clear, plastic window in his accommodations at the S.P.C.A. and he pawed at the window steadily. First, with one paw; then he alternated with the other.

This gesture caught my son's eye and he had to bring him out and hold him. I walked up just as this was happening and I was witness to the instant and natural loving personality of this little guy.

I scratched his ears and leaned in to listen to his purr. "He has to pass the purr test," I told my son. I love when a cat purrs like a motor. It makes my knees go weak when I can hear that purr across a room (Senior Cat had that awesome purring talent).

His purr wasn't loud, but it was steady and came easily.

I reached out to take a turn holding him and it was as if this little kitty reached his arms out to me at the same time and climbed into my arms like a toddler alternating from one parent's arms into the other. It took my breath away.

I held him for a while then moved him a little to shift my hold on him. Then he hugged me. It was unmistakeable. He clasped his little arm around my neck and held on in a way I've never been held by a cat.

He has hugged us time and time again. You can see the way he clasps onto the neck of the one who is adoring him.

I don't know if he treated everyone the same as he treated us. Most likely. I think he would have went home with anyone who cared to adopt him. But he found us.

And so he came into our home with the attitude, "I'm home, at last!!"

He wandered through the house and explored the nooks and crannies (and apparently the ceiling in the laundry room as well) with great curiosity.


He met our Only Cat and each of them gave the other the nose-to-nose greeting without a hiss or a howl or anything other than just plain old curiosity (the low grade meowl from our pre-existing cat in residence came later, as they worked out the status among felines between themselves).

King Cat in Residence to the left; New Kitty to the right.
We introduced him to the litter box to ensure he knew its location, then the food and water dishes. He ate. And ate and ate. Then ate some more. It was as if he was used to food rationing and he had to eat while the eating was good. Or he simply liked our Gold Nugget (gastrointestinal special diet) cat food.

My son then showed him his room. I unofficially call my son's room The Cat Room because it is where all in-house cats go to rest. His room speaks to our cats. It seems to be where they are drawn to when they need some time away from the busyness within our home.

Then he came back upstairs and discovered our cat fountain. "Ooooo! What is this? This house really comes fully equipped" is what it seemed like he was thinking as he explored and tasted the water from this fountain.

Our New Kitty loves to lay down beside the cat water fountain - a little white noise calms his little kitty soul
His first night with us started with a yowl (probably from King Cat) as they started working out the hierarchy between themselves. So I convinced New Cat to sleep with me for a while, while my son took King Cat into his room to reaffirm he had not lost any status in our home. By the morning, this was their status:

Still some work to be done

It's all been gravy since then. New Cat has endeared himself with my little daycare family and is all about playing and being part of the crowd.


This process of getting to know "Jet", our New Kitty, has been enjoyable thus far. I like watching what he brings out within our little family. My son and I have found more to talk about (after feeling like I had lost him to computer games, YouTube and the Internet). He is bringing the kitten out of "Ray", our resident King Cat. I love losing myself to the great wonders of cats. Together and apart. I love when he wraps his little kitty arm around my neck and chooses to come and snuggle up beside or on top of me.


Most of all, I am so very happy and grateful that this mutual adoration and contentment seems to be a two way street. He looks pretty happy here within our heart and home.

Jet may not be the King Cat, but he is most definitely the King of the Kid's Castle

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Overwhelmed by Procrastination

The words are not flowing well these days. I must have them bottlenecked up somewhere in between my head and my fingertips and I have no idea what is being held captive, as I really don't know where this post is going to go. I just know I have to write, in the hope of finding out what I'm thinking.

I am disgusted at my laziness lately. I have so many housekeeping items I should be tending, yet I seem to be ignoring everything.

Bookwork, writing, repairs, papers, notes and uncompleted tasks are every which way I look and they are haunting me.

Am I busy? Far from it. Is there any excuse for feeling this way? Not a one. I am simply overwhelmed because I am sitting smack dab in the middle of a whole pile of little jobs left undone.

I feel depleted. The question is why?

I think a lot of it has to do with procrastinating. It takes far more energy not to do something, than it does to start chiselling away at the mountain.

I know this, yet I do nothing about it.

I feel like I'm not following through on anything I start. I think I'm wasting time and energy sitting here writing about where I am "at" and why.

I would be better off if I took the next fifteen minutes before my daycare day begins and see how many things I can do.

That is exactly what I shall do. Something.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A New Chapter - Another Cat Story

It was ten weeks, almost to the hour, after losing Andre (our Senior Cat) when we walked up to the counter at the S.P.C.A. and said, "One of your cats has adopted us..."

And so a new chapter begins.

Andre will never be replaced. I wouldn't even want to try. No other cat could hold a candle to who he was and how he grew into our family with each purr, each adventure, each cuddle and each endearing story he created during fifteen years of loving him.

My Youngest Son suggested we consider getting a dog. I agreed. A different species. A loving little critter who would draw us out of ourselves, our home and old habits.

We aren't "dog people". Dogs require so much attention and exercise and one-on-one loving. They are so needy. Could we do this?

My son and I considered the idea separate and apart and talked of the responsibilities of dog ownership. We decided if we adopted a dog, it would have full reign of the house. Our last dog was sorely neglected and we found him a new family because he deserved so much more than we had to offer.

Have we changed? Do we have what it takes to love a dog the way he/she deserves? Can we wholeheartedly commit to a dog?

We thought it over. I had been reading dog bios written by the foster families of a few different dog rescue groups. I thought if we were going to follow through on the idea of adopting a dog, I really wanted to know as much as we could about the dog and making sure we were a good "fit" before we brought a dog into our lives.

I think we missed the boat on a dog who could have been the one for us. But if I wasn't ready to commit, it was good we missed that opportunity. 

What I did want to see was exactly how it felt to meet and greet some dogs and see if the right feelings came to the surface when we spent some one-on-one time with a dog. Thus, our trip to the S.P.C.A.

There were only four dogs available to be adopted. Two of the four seemed like possible contenders. My son had his eye on one in particular, so we took her into the socialization room. And she ignored us. She just wanted out! She cried and whined and had her eye on everything besides us. Clearly, we weren't her dream family either.

I think the dog interview added more doubts than reassurances. I wasn't ready to adopt a dog without knowing more about their personality and whether or not they were good with children. The only thing I felt after we met "Stella" was that we had to be more certain than I felt in that moment.

Then I asked my son, "So do you want to check out the cats?"

Well, as they say, the rest is history. We wandered into the first cat room and there was no more room at the inn. They were filled to capacity and we had no idea there was an incentive to clear out as many cats as possible before our New Cat adopted us and made it impossible to leave without him.

There were so many cats. My immediate thought was to get a cat who did not resemble Andre in any way. Andre was one of a kind. I did not want to look for any cat to walk in the paw prints he left in our hearts. 

Orange cats, tabbies, tortoiseshell and every color of cat you could hope to find. And who saw us and immediately started beckoning us to let us out and love him? Another little black kitty.

He was the only cat who came to the window and tried to find his way out of his confined space and into our hearts. He "knew" we were his family. He called to us.

My son opened the door and this little black kitty immediately started loving him. Then me. He snuggled. He purred a quiet but steady little purr. And he drooled. There was no going back. "Jet" had found the family he wanted to go home with.

We brought him into our home and introduced him to "Ray", aka "Junior Cat" and recently delegated to our "Only Cat". 

There wasn't one hiss. I would have loved to know what Ray thought when Jet walked out of the cat carrier and into our lives. It seems to me that for a millisecond he may have wondered if Andre had finally come home again, before he picked up his scent and realized this little black furball was an imposter.

There has been a little cat "posturing" going on around here to determine who falls where, in the hierarchy of cats. 

Ray is a beta cat, through and through, and the last thing we want is a bossy little cat taking over his well deserved designation of "King Cat". From every interaction we saw between them, it didn't appear that was going to happen. It was sort of sad to see Ray, our passive, beta cat, fighting to hold onto his title. He made a few aggressive moves (only in voice and stature - I never saw him lift a paw to his new little buddy) to ensure this New Cat knew where he fell in the cat ranks within our home.

But a mere twenty four hours later, the lines in the sand seem to have been drawn. I sat back and enjoyed a little "cat chase" around the house. Jet has brought the kitten back out of Ray and it appears that each of them are falling into a comfortable spot within this two cat family home.

Andre, we could never in a million years replace you. Never.

But when this little cat started speaking to us, from the confines of his cage at the S.P.C.A., it was almost as if a little bit of your spirit came back into our home with this tiny young one-year-old cat. We have missed your snuggling nature ever-so-much. And a cat who loves to curl up on top of, beside and even jumps from one set of arms into another has found his way home to us.

I like to think we saved a life when we adopted our young, new cat. It feels like he has breathed life back into this quiet, one-cat-home. We are so grateful he found us.

Meet "Jet" - a little cat, with a big, fluffy tail
Ray meets Jet
Jet loves this new forest within his new home. Ray supervises
A whole new chapter has begun.
We are ready.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Stop Thinking So Much!

I love to dance. I look back on my years of ballroom dancing fondly and don't regret a moment, nor a dollar, I spent on my most favorite sport in the world. The world of dance.

I learned to follow and I was shown how to lead but I am a follower at heart. So that is when I danced my "best".

When you invest that much time and money in something, your teacher will try to help you improve your skills by continuing to introduce new steps and technique into the mix. When learning a dance routine, the follower should know their part inside and out, with or without their partner. So you have to start concentrating. That is when I ran into trouble.

Some dance lessons were better than others. The lessons where I relaxed, had fun and just followed the lead of my instructor were filled with laughter and good hearted fun.

Then there were the ones where I was frustrated with myself because I couldn't learn or remember my part. I stopped running on autopilot and started thinking.

"You are thinking too much!" was my instructor's light hearted comment as he nudged me out of my head and into the moment and just let his lead, muscle memory and the beat of the music wash over me and let the dance flow.

Every time I started thinking too much, nothing came easy, it showed in my shoulders. They would inch up, I would stop breathing and everything tensed.

"Remember to breath" was another tip my instructor continued to tell me when he could feel my concentration levels take me out of the dance zone and into my head.

Breathe.

Keep your shoulders down.

Stop thinking so much.

Three simple lessons I learned from dancing. Three simple tips which work off the dance floor just as well.

I have been over thinking things an awful lot lately. Too much alone-time can do that to a person. Add that to the flaw in my personality that believes I am personally responsible for all that goes wrong for all those whose lives abut mine and it is a toxic mixture.

I am having a hard time making decisions that involve a second party at the moment.

Ask me to commit to something a week in advance and I shut down. Call me up and ask me to meet for coffee and I'm there. Setting up an appointment that requires two willing parties and me as mediator and I start sweating buckets. Suggest an elusive "maybe sometime next month" message and I'm all over that.

Commitments that fall on the days I normally mow the grass and wash my hair send me into a frenzy. Close all access by road to our home, so my Fence Guy cannot come fix my fence, and block me in so I can't make it to my blood donation appointment, and I am over the moon because I "have" to stay home and not share my evening with anyone else.

Tell me I have to make muffins and bring them, and a family photo to a reunion and I forget how to look up a recipe and think I need to get my family together to update our last family picture (from 2009). "This is too much work!!" my loud inner voice screams in my ear. And I shut down.

I do well when I don't have time to over-think. Set a date, a place and a time and I'll be there. Give me a day to make a batch of muffins and I'll have the job done within the hour.

"You are thinking too much!"

Yesterday morning, I woke up full of doubts over an upcoming trip. I checked into various options. Should I cancel or revise or find a substitute traveller? I polled the masses. Then I called the one who instilled the doubt in my mind to start with. And what was I told? "I think we should just go with 'Plan A' ".

What? It is that simple? Just do what we had planned all along?!

Yes, I am thinking too much. I will try to lower my shoulders, breathe deeply and just dance in the moment.

I'll let you know how it goes...

Friday, June 19, 2015

To Plan or Not to Plan

I am feeling like "planning ahead" is simply not working for me these days.

My frivolous trip to Las Vegas, to see "Dancing With the Stars - Live" in the dead of winter, felt like the most ill-timed trip ever, as Mom's appointment at the cancer clinic was the day before our date of our departure.

It all turned out well. Mom's appointment was light and easy and breezy and she sent us on our way with the best possible news we could have hoped for on that leg of her journey.

I came home and had little on my agenda for the year ahead other than a family reunion. As soon as I got the green light from Mom, I booked us a "room at the inn" (actually a suite at a school which has been converted to rooms) and that was all I could do for sure.

Then Mom hinted she wouldn't mind going out to see my uncle.

I took that cue and ran with it. I found out all the information and all Mom had to do was say "yes". And she did.

We are booked to leave in a week and a half.

Suddenly, my "plan" doesn't sound so good. Mom seems to be having reservations about the flight, with good reason. She has had a long time issue with a "funny feeling" head which doctors have been unable to resolve. Add that existing condition to a 3.5 hour plane ride and I can see Mom's reason for questioning if this is a good idea.

Add to that, the fact that my uncle will be moving into his new apartment the very day we are scheduled to arrive and that just seems like an awful lot of "stuff" for him to be dealing with in one day.

My cousin assured me that she thought it was still a good idea. She said the company would probably be a good diversion for him throughout his transition.

Then I talked with my uncle and I heard the hesitation in his voice. My immediate reaction was "hold your horses". This is too much, all at once.

He is planning on coming out here for a family reunion the weekend following our visit, so our pending visit feels ill timed all around.

If he was the kind of uncle who would be content with just a few quiet visits and maybe a shared meal or three, it would still seem okay to go and visit at this busy juncture of his life. But he is the "host with the most" and he seems to feel he has to gad about and entertain Mom & I while we are out there.

I am seriously considering backing out of everything at the moment. Or make some revisions to "Plan A". But most of all, I am feeling like "planning" is something I just can't/shouldn't be doing right now. It is impossible to know what tomorrow brings, let alone two months ahead of time.

I feel suffocated at times, when I plan too much yet I thrive on the "dream state" of looking ahead and making headway towards a goal.

Maybe I have found my own answer. Maybe I should redirect my plans should be inward or at least close to home.

Maybe I should paint a bedroom or a hallway. Maybe I should finish cleaning the garage or kitchen cupboards. Maybe I should return an email or two and plan to go out for supper or a movie.

Short term planning, close to home may be where it's at for me.

Why are those plans the ones I am shunning most of all? Is it because they are too close to home when I am dreaming outside of that particular box? Or is it because I am in a state of "running away" from what needs the most work.

I think I just may need to plan to be still and complete just one small project. Perhaps if I started taking better care of my home, I wouldn't feel the need to run away from it ...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Running Out of Storylines

When my life is very still and quiet and a tad on the boring side, I sometimes get the feeling like this life I am living is all something that I have made up as I have went along.

All the drama, the thrills and chills or the lack of them. Made up. A figment of my imagination.

Then I recoil inside of myself and think of what a self absorbed soul I am. How dare I believe that the world revolves around me?!

As I walked through the quietness this past little while, I am beginning to wonder if I have been right all along.

Just think of it. When you are a child, you are the centre of your universe. I remember feeling responsible for every action and reaction of those who touched my world. I didn't see (or look) any further than my own reactions and feelings to understand others were a complete and totally separate entity from myself.

Fleeting moments of my childhood flash before my eyes as I write those words. Embarrassing moments that caused me no end of worry. Tears I didn't understand but felt personally responsible for.

Perhaps the first real memory I have that is completely separate and apart from me being the central character within my own story is when my brother lost the tip of his finger due to a lawnmower mishap.

I had nothing to do with the accident and all I remember is mom and dad rushing out of the house with my brother and I believe I called a friend in their absence. I remember feeling empathy for my brother as he healed and came to terms with his loss afterwards.

Then I went about my merry little life, creating drama out of nothing, worrying over things that never happened, thinking ever-so-much-more than I ever spoke and getting all wrapped up in my self absorbed world.

As I made my way through my sheltered and very safe life, I tiptoed into places I had never seen or felt before.

My marriage was filled with honeymoon periods, tension and explosions. It had thrills and chills at every turn, not to mention a baby and a whole new adult world of responsibilities to contend with.

My life was anything but boring. Any time things did get a little tedious, I seemed to reconcile with the current love-of-my-life and that spiced things up a notch. Eventually, my teenage children provided new, yet familiar, challenges ...

I wrote that sentence and suddenly I was back in the thick of raising my oldest son. I am embarrassed to admit that I had not yet evolved out of the "everything revolves around me" stage of my life. I didn't see beyond my own point of view and it was (again) another very self involved state, filled with drama and it didn't go smoothly.

Once again, another turning point comes clearly into focus. It is when I started walking through those teen years with my second son, when I finally started seeing the world through his vantage point a little more. There was still a fair bit of excitement but I didn't take everything personally.

Life got very calm sometime in and around this phase. Is it surprising that I reconciled (again) with my third son's father? Is it a surprise that did not end with a "happily ever after"? Is it a shock that I decided to change things up a bit and go back to school and change careers at age 50? Then reel with the reality of how tough life in the trenches can be?

I found my way back to solid ground again and once my feet were firmly planted, I completed "part two" of the biggest projects (outside of raising my family) of my life. I finished compiling the stories of my dad's family.

That was eight months ago.

Life has become very quiet once again. I don't seem to have the energy it takes to interact with the world and be a vital part of a friendship or conversation or project of any sort. I have become an island.

I have been walking around in my little self absorbed state for a little while again. Then it hit me. It is like I am tired of writing my own story. I've run out of storylines that I want to pursue. "New" is not some place I want to go right now. I want to sit here in my comfortable little life, dust it off (literally), fix it up and just sit here and see how it ends.

I don't have the imagination to start the next chapter.

I believe this is the phase of my life where I should start to play a supporting role instead of the lead.

Perhaps this is part of the reason I have had clips of my past, with old "co-stars" wafting through my head. I cannot imagine a new co-star at this point in my story so I have brushed up old memories and focused on the good parts. Thankfully "life" is very good at providing me with the information I require, just when I need it the most, to remind me there is a reason those partnerships did not endure the test of time.

Perhaps this is why I have been thinking of "grandchildren". I am very grateful my own children did not become parents prematurely, but I sort of thought a mature fatherhood role would be cast one day. Just because I think I am ready for the supportive grandmother role, does not mean that will happen on cue.

Perhaps the role of "supporting person" is that of "mother", "daughter", "sister", "friend" and "daycare provider" to name a few.

Supporting roles take a bit of energy that ebbs and flows with the tides. I believe "the more you give, the more you have to give" rings true to me as I sit here and write these words. I have been too selfish lately.

My pen seems to have run dry. I don't have a new storyline in me and I'm not quite prepared to hop into someone else's "story" and take on a leading role.

Maybe I'm just lazy. Maybe my imagination ran dry. Maybe it's time to get a new pen and start writing again.

Or maybe I should just adopt a dog ....

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Life at the Playground

Every now and again, I think everyone should walk a few steps in my shoes and see what I see in a day. 

Perhaps someone else's perspective on those very days are exactly what I need to hear just as much. 

But lately, many times throughout my day, I take a step back and look at my little world in "panoramic view". And this is what I see.


I see four (or five, depending on the day) little individual humans making their way throughout their days here at daycare.

Some days are tougher than others. The days when they are tired or not feeling well or missing being at home with their parents don't usually start out all sunshine and roses.

But most days are a version of yesterday.

I sat still in the living room and just listened to the banter. The girls were immersed in their make believe world and creating yet another new storyline to their never-ending soap opera. The boys bounce in and out and through those imaginative games and become the "monster" or "dragon" or "daddy", depending on the moment. They wear a box on their head (then the girls will notice and follow suit) and each of them investigate the very same world in their own unique ways.

We walked over to the park and that same little group played different versions of the same games as they honed their climbing skills, collected rocks and other assorted "treasures"  and sifted through the fresh, new sand that was added to the playground. 

We came home, dumped the sand out of their shoes and clothes and washed it out from between their toes and moved ourselves back indoors.

The banter throughout the day sounded a little like this:

A moment at the breakfast table:
I can't remember how or exactly what happened but my little 2-1/2 year old by must have bumped his elbow
Me: "What did you hurt?"
My Little Man: "My Elmo"

Moment at the lunch table:
I can't remember who was doing what to whom or what party was taking offence to it, as we sat and ate our lunch. But it was a minor little thing and I didn't want it to get blown out of proportion, so I just told (whoever seemed to be having issue with it) "Just let it go ..." Then my little 2 year old girl & I exchanged glances and I started to sing a phrase or two from the "Frozen" sound track: 
♪♫ Let it go, let it go ...♪♫
and she just smiled the biggest smile (like she "got" my humor) and 
her four-year-old partner in play said, "See, Colleen? I told you that you knew how to sing "Let it Go"!"

Moment after snack time:
The same little four-year-old, shouted with glee: "[Our new little one-year-old] knows how to 'high five'!"
Sure enough, I watched and there was our New Guy, "high fiving" everyone, saying "Ha fave!" and just as pleased as punch with himself.
Somehow, I have a feeling he has a whole bunch of tricks up his sleeve that he has been waiting to pull out and show us.

Sure enough, there are little blips in the day that offset the fairy tale quality of some moments.

One such moment was an argument of epic proportions between my two girls. Over "rocks".

These guys have a huge fascination with collecting little stones. My Little Guy found a little stone and my Little Man wanted it. Lucky for Little Man, he had brought two "rocks" with him at the onset of our day and I had put them up (we don't play with rocks in the house). So I retrieved his rocks for him. 

This did not go over well with the girls, so I went outside the yard and came back with a pebble for each of them. End of story. Right? Wrong.

Within minutes my Little Girl was screaming like a banshee. I investigated and my Bigger Girl had three rocks in her hand and her Little Friend had none.

I just didn't have the patience to do it by the books of New Age Parenting. 

I took all three rocks and tossed them out of the play area. There was extreme screaming by my Little Girl and (apparently) some extreme pouting by her Older Friend.

Soon enough, we moved out of that moment and brought out the bikes and cars and tools and within no time, everyone was playing happily once again.

I thought the "Rockgate" issue was behind us.

Then my Oldest Girl went home and as her mom was buckling her into her car seat and asked about her day, her daughter burst into tears over the story where her and her Daycare Buddy "had a big fight".

Oh dear.

Life is tough.

You can go through the day, singing and playing and imagining all kinds of scenarios. And it can all go to pieces in a New York Minute, over the smallest of things.

Life at the playground isn't so different than Real Life, is it?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Quilt in the Making

My thoughts are as scattered as the individual pieces of a quilt strewn across the floor before they are sewn together to create something unique and personal and beautiful.

I have hoarded too many quiet Sundays to myself. I feel there is purpose behind this solitude. Different thoughts are wafting through my mind due to the quiet. That is something, isn't it?

I know it is time to reach out and share my down-time with friends. It is one thing to think it, another to say (or write) it. It is a whole different thing altogether to do it. Why does it feel so hard?

I'm feeling like a mother-failure in many ways. Maybe it is because I have felt so greedy with my time but in reality that has little to do with it. My boys are all spreading their wings in different ways and this is good. Our family seems to have an "elastic" quality to it. We can pull away from one another but the elasticity of our relationships bring us back to one another in good times and in bad.

I have been looking back and romanticizing my past. I am grateful for that but I don't want to get stuck here. I am happy that I can look back and remember the good stuff, while keeping my feet on solid ground in the present, at the same time. The secret is to look back fondly, have no regrets and move forward.

I have been beating myself up on a rather regular basis lately and I'm tired of that nagging little voice inside my head. I recognize the truth within and know I have to listen to some of what that voice is saying, otherwise I could easily get stuck here.

I've been sitting in "this place" for quite some time now and I have run  out of excuses. It is up to me, and no one else, to start shifting the tides.

I stumbled across this on my Facebook page:


I think "Facebook" is trying to steer me in a better direction.

I have lost my focus. I don't have a dream to push and drive me. I think I need to open up the gates to the possibilities that are out there.

I think I need to sit down with all the pieces of this "quilt" and see what kind of design I can come up with.

I think it's time for a little Friend Therapy. A good dose of conversation intermixed with laughter and shared history will guide us to where we most need to be.

I say "we" because as I sit and write this, I just received an email from a very good sister-friend of mine and I hear she is sitting in a place very similar to me. Different "pieces" to assemble but feeling a little lost just the same.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Give Them "The World" (and they are happy with bugs and boxes)

Some days I sit still and all I see is all I need to do and fix within our house. The chips in the paint, the wear and tear on the baseboards, doors, walls, carpets and floors. Then I go outside and think of what I would like to do with our prior "dog pen" area and the fact that I should do something about the eaves troughs and windows on the garage.

Then I shake my head and think "Just take care of what you have!" and my focus becomes cleaning, decluttering, sorting, organizing and the multitude of tasks I have put off for far too long.

Then comes a day like yesterday. A day when I sat still, listened to the happy little voices of my daycare family as they played and got along and just made the most of what we had sitting right before us on the deck.


I blurred the edges of my vision and zoomed in on what we have, more specifically I concentrated on the "world" I have created for my little daycare family.

I listened to their banter as they all nestled in the playhouse sitting on the deck, with a little picnic table off to the side and a mat of foam puzzle pieces to create a "carpet" underneath their feet (or soon, a bed and a blanket and eventually a patterned set of "stepping stones" as they ripped apart the mats and created their own version of how they could be best utilized).

I gazed out into the yard and focused on the playground which has paid for itself time and time and time again over the past sixteen years.

Sure enough, the grass is greener on the other side of our fence (a fence which needs to be repaired due do an accident in the alley the other day). But suddenly my gaze was redirected towards what "works" and what is pretty much a dream-come-true for the child version of myself.

I remember playing in the basement of my friend's home and creating a world of make believe with boxes. I remember creating a pretend "house" out of a place in a barn at the bottom of the hill with a childhood friend. I remember wishing for child-sized furniture for this land of make believe.

Then I thought of the little kitchen, indoor picnic table, doll tending centre, dolls and all the accessories I could have ever wished for, that I have accumulated for my imaginative young daycare family.

We have Fisher Price toys bursting out the seams here. Castles, princes and princesses, houses, farms, circuses, a zoo, fences, accessories and all the Little Animals and People one could ever hope for.

We have cars, plains, boats, helicopters, an airport, car mats and a plethora of car ramps. We have trikes, scooters, wagons and little "Fred Flintstone" cars. Yes. Plural. There is more than one of almost every little thing we have.

I have created my own childhood dream within our home.

I would have given anything to live in this "world" when I was a young girl.

I grew up watching "Bewitched" and wishing that I could watch episode after episode of my most favorite show. I also wished I could twitch my nose and make my wishes come true.

And that is almost exactly what has happened.

Children can watch episode after episode after episode of their favorite TV show and not even have to wait for its once-per-week arrival on a television that receives only two channels, three at best.

Saturday morning cartoons? Our kids have cartoons-on-demand at the flick of a few buttons.

Special outings to the beach and visiting the playground that had the "twirly slide" were rare treats in my day. Now we have a minimum of six parks within walking distance of our home; two of which have a paddling pool; two others have spray parks. And every park is new and different and exciting. Heavens, we even have a "park" right in our own back yard!


I dreamed of being able to walk to school (we lived on the farm until I was halfway through Grade 4); now I can see the school from our living room window. I remember having a basketball hoop in behind the garage and thinking we were in heaven. Now, there are two paved basketball courts in the school ground that we can see from here.

Kids these days can entertain themselves by turning on the TV, watching a movie of their choice, electronic gadgets geared from ages "zero" to a "hundred" and tune into the world wide web at a keystroke. And kids know how to do this! 

I take care of an 18 month old who entertains himself by watching videos of himself on an iPad they bring to daycare. Movies?!! Wow!! Home movies were unheard of in "my day". In fact we had to take our pictures on a roll of film which held twelve pictures and you had to send them out in the mail to be developed. And you had NO idea whether those pictures would turn out or not. Now-a-days? Kids expect to see the pictures I take immediately.

All of this. Kids are living in a dream state and they don't even know it.

But the most amazing part of all of this? Do you know what captivates their interest every time? Lady bugs, ants, butterflies and caterpillars. Boxes, margarine containers, rocks and dandelions. 

Give a child "the world" and that is exactly what they expect. Open up the doors and let them explore the world and there is no end to what they can find to amuse themselves.

Here I am, sitting and believing I am living the dream in my dilapidated, neglected house which is filled to the brim with "daycare supplies". I have created the world I have always wanted and opened my doors to share it with my young little daycare family.

And they would have been content with boxes and bugs. Go figure...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Little Problems, Big World = No Big Deal (sort of)

We were on the driveway, almost ready to go for a walk yesterday morning when I heard the sound of an engine and then the thunderous sound of wood crack, snapping and popping in our back yard. 

I was certain I would open the gate to find half the fence toppled over and laying on the grass. But this is all I found.


This monstrosity hit our fence. And this is where it still sits.


Unfortunately, it looks much worse from the alley because they hit the post that is holding up the gate and it took the brunt of the blow.


I guess that says a lot for the structural integrity of the fence, doesn't it? To be hit with a machine the that size and still be standing?!

My next question is: "Who do I trust to fix this?" Somehow the consolation I received from the guy who ran into the fence, "I will fix it within the next few days" seems to be "not enough" for me. I want an experienced fence-builder to do the job. Not the guy who knocked it down.

It is a little thing, but it was my biggest problem within my insulated little world yesterday.

I'm pretty lucky, aren't I??

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Still Colleen

I titled this post almost a month ago but the words didn't follow.

This morning, a few shared posts on the importance of recognizing the signs of a stroke on my Facebook feed reminded me of one of my greatest worries. Brain injury.

I had no understanding of the words "brain damage" until Dad survived a heart attack, but his brain did not. He stopped breathing and his heart stopped. He was revived after fifteen minutes. But fifteen minutes was too long. The damage was irreversible. We lost the essence of our dad that night even though his body mightily fought on and survived.

You hear of miraculous survival stories. You hear less about those who survived but never lived again.

One of my biggest fears is being held hostage in a body without a fully functional brain.

A head injury caused due to an accident could happen in the blink of an eye. There are illnesses of the brain - Alzeimer's disease, cancer, tumors, stroke and inherited conditions. Not to mention the myriad of other diseases that hold a healthy and vital brain captive inside of a body that gives out.

I don't obsess about my fears but every time my life is touched in some way by someone who is faced with a condition of the brain which is out of their control, my fears seep to the brim of my consciousness again.

My mind wanders as I think of those who are walking that very walk as I type. I simply cannot comprehend what it must feel like to be in their shoes right now. Nor the shoes of the family and friends who are their support system.

I watched "Still Alice" almost a month ago and it was a movie that struck a chord deep inside of myself.

"Alice" knew she had early stage Alzeimer's disease and while she was able, she devised many ways to feel like she had a sense of control over a disease which encroaches on its victim without mercy.

I watched her make a video, talking to herself in the future, at a time when she no longer held onto her own sense of self or memories or ability to function in a fashion she was accustomed to functioning.

I have often joked that I write everything down in case the day comes when I don't know who I am any more. I will be able to sit down and read about who I used to be ...

I have sat on the sidelines of my life, watching and empathizing with those who are waging a war against a brain disorder. Whether it is physical or psychological or a trauma to the brain, it is all so very delicate.

I cannot imagine how it feels when life as you know it spins out of control and you feel powerless to change where you are at.

If I ever become a stranger to myself and lose my way, what would I tell myself?

I would hope I would be kinder to that stranger than I am to the person who I wake up with each morning and live with all day.

Presently I tell the-person-within, that she doesn't do enough, isn't kind enough, doesn't reach out enough, doesn't care enough, doesn't work enough, and simply isn't as good as she is capable of being. She beats herself up over not keeping up appearances - whether it is a spotless and well maintained home or tending to maintaining the body she is presently living in.

In the future, I would like to forgive that person and remind her that she tried enough. She made the effort to be enough and reach out and touch those around her. She did her best and was the best mom she could be at the time, to each one of her children.

I would like to applaud that person for caring less about clean windows and fresh paint and cared more about spending her energy on taking what she needed to give to herself so she had a little bit left over to share with others.

I do not write to prove that I existed. My dirty little secret is that I write just in case I need to remind myself of who I once was.

I need to know that I did my best while I was at my best and that I forgave myself for all the rest.

What I need to tell myself at this very moment in time, is that the parts of your body that need your time and attention are not your hair, nails and feet. It is your overall body. Get out there and move and stretch and flex those muscles.

Sitting here in my computer chair has become my most comfortable place to be. I know I need to get out and use the rest of my muscles so I don't lose what I already have.

I am "Still Colleen" in this very moment and I should be paying more attention to the present than worrying over that which is out of my control.

Colleen, just wake up in the morning and do your best. Your best will change from day to day. But don't neglect your body, mind and soul. Nourish those and the rest will come.

Forgive yourself just a little bit more and talk to your present self the way you would talk to a future "you" who has no idea who you used to be.

My heart aches for those who are walking down a tough and challenging and twisty path right now. I have no idea what are the right things to say or do. I just want to walk beside you and be your friend when you need one.

Our health is everything when we have it. Be kind to yourself today.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Quietest Weekend

As I sit here and look around the house, forty five minutes before my work week is scheduled to begin, everything looks exactly the same as it did the moment my work week ended Friday afternoon.

Nothing has been vacuumed or cleaned or picked up or rearranged in the house. The lawn has not been mowed. Groceries have not been bought.

It is like the weekend did not exist. Except it did.

Since 5:30 Friday night, I have not poked my head out the door, excluding a twelve hour "Saturday" which included work, travel time and a trek out to my son's farm for an "egg pick-up" errand (and supper).

As I drove home on the last leg of Saturday evening, getting home 12-1/2 hours after I left it that morning, I felt as empty as my gas tank.

It was as if two hours of conversation took all that I had and it disappeared into thin air with little to show for it except for bugs splattered all over my freshly washed car.

What I should have done with that empty tank Sunday morning, was go out and fill it up again.

But I didn't.

I parked myself on the couch and read a book. And slept. And read. And ate. And read. And slept. I was on a continual loop. All day.

By 7:00 p.m., I had finished reading my book and we had not yet had supper. The lawn was not mowed. Groceries had not been bought.

I looked in the fridge and thought "good enough". We have milk to get us through today. We have enough food in the house to get us through a few months.

I found my "budget spreadsheet" open on the computer this morning and when I went to update this past weekend's spending onto it, I realized the only money I had spent all weekend was $5.05. It was a very frugal weekend in more ways than one.

I was "cheap" with my money, my words and my outbound letters/emails/phone calls. I have retreated "within" a lot lately and that is not an entirely good thing.

A person needs to expend a little energy to refuel their own resources. Just as I need to spend some money to fill that half empty gas tank and scrub some bugs off the windshield, I need to spend some energy and surround myself with friendship to refill my own personal "tank".

I use every excuse in the book to justify these "lost weekends". I have every "Saturday" accounted for until August 8th and I think that is what is dragging me down. I seem to be hoarding my "Sundays" in an attempt to regain that lost weekend day. Except my strategy is not working.

I'm waking up on "empty" this morning. It is time to find a strategy to reorganize my resources and fill up on what needs to be filled.

I hear my day on the doorstep right now. It is time for my work week to begin.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Do I Expect Too Much?

I read something on Facebook and now I can't find it for the life of me. Maybe I dreamt it. It spoke to the guilt complex that drives me, whispers in my ear and taunts me all day, every day as I "rule my daycare world".

This little memo on Facebook (or my guilty imagination) went something like this: "Two year olds don't sit still; two year olds don't share; two year olds don't do about a million (okay, maybe only five) other things that I try to teach my two year olds to do and say each and every daycare day."

It went on to say that two year olds need to explore and climb and touch everything and basically all of the things I let my two year olds (and younger and older) do in a very controlled environment.

I read this and was consumed with something akin to guilt but it came off more as an accusing rebuttal to each and every point I read on the original post.

Do I really expect too much of my little people?

I tell them almost each and every day. "Your job is to be kind to each other and to be happy", it is as simple (and as hard) as that. I guess I should add "And don't break my house or my toys while you are being kind and happy".

I have limits and guidelines and no-kid-zones. I discourage running, screaming and rough housing in the house. Even outside, I like a "hands off" rule when it comes to kids man handling each other.

Do I micromanage my days? Possibly so. Do I make myself crazy while doing so? Probably. Do I have to do what I do and how I do it, to ensure we are all still standing at the end of the day? I believe this is my truth.

I've had parents question little bumps, bruises and scratches. I like to see with my own eyes what is happening throughout the day so I can explain any imperfection a parent may notice.

I have turned my back and had children "go wild" and climb toys that were never meant to be climbed and throw things that I have found in places where no toy should be found and someone ends up crying and I don't know the whole story and about a million other things.

So yes, I do my best to be 100% accountable but it is impossible to see all, know all and do all when you have five little people running about the house, so I have rules and expectations. I have a lot of rules.

I have another little motto when it comes to sharing "Just because you are bigger and stronger, doesn't mean you always win". I don't think a two year old should grab a toy from a four year old any more than I think the reverse is acceptable (when I am not watching, of course).

I miss so very many of these indiscretions that I'm sure it would make my head spin. Almost-four-year-olds seem to be notorious for being sneaky and I simply don't trust what I do not see.

The best I can do is have the same rules in place for all. Whether you are "one" or "two" or "four", you must be kind and try to be happy (aka: save crying for emergencies, not as a manipulative ploy). I don't want anyone to put toys in their mouth or standing/jumping on or off the furniture or bullying another or walking around the house with food or drink or a vast number of other house rules.

I need to keep all of my little people safe and contained within my reach. And I need to know my furniture and belongings will still be standing at the end of a daycare year.

Then there is the "sitting still" part.

Even I feel very odd if all of my kids are too still and too quiet. It is not natural. But it is necessary and a very good way to wind down into nap time, to be still and quiet as a part of our routine to lull their little brains and bodies into a restful state.

The same goes at meal time. Meals are a time when I insist on a calm and regulated atmosphere. There is a "no choking allowed" rule here and it is one I enforce within ounce of my control. Small bites. Chew and chew and chew and swallow before you take the next. No goofing around while you are eating. Manners, manners, manners. Yes, I do expect my little people to adhere to those rules too. Whether they are a year or twelve years. Meal time is not a time to be monkeying around.

I am such a grinch. I have such high expectations of my little daycare family. I am so busy supervising and monitoring and guiding that I forget to smile some days.

I have a little tape which rewinds and replays each and every daycare day. Be kind, be happy. Not just the kids. Me too!

Do better, be better, do as much as you can. Keep these children safe and happy and fed and rested and (relatively) clean.

I do what I do, so my parents can pick up their children intact at the end of the day. I just hope these guys are happy too.

Do I expect too much?

When the parent of my new one-year-old gazed at amazement when he saw his little guy sitting still at a little picnic table, with a (plastic) glass of water at the day's end he said, "He never sits like that! In fact, we've noticed a real difference in him since he started coming here. He sits and eats breakfast too ..."

I think this little guy was raised in a no "NO" zone before. They placed snacks in a place where he could graze and eat all day. He fell asleep on the couch when he was tired. Just by watching his mom with him (when he was trying to play with an electrical cord which I have securely attached to a table leg to keep it out harm's way), letting him explore and gently telling him "don't do that", but watching him do it anyway ... I am thinking that my way is so very different than their way.

Is that a bad thing?

Any time I feel a parent look at me in a manner which makes me question myself, I tell them I have to be strict. Because if I wasn't and had five kids "doing what they want to do", it would not be good for anyone.

I agree. Two year olds do not want to share or sit still and they do grab toys and like to climb on everything.

But isn't it our job to guide them into learning to share and sitting still at appropriate times and steering them towards places where they are allowed to climb, and encouraging appropriate behaviours so we can take them out in public?

I berate myself so much throughout my daycare days, that I do not appreciate these little "words of wisdom" to come and taunt me into believing I'm even worse than I thought I was. The truth of the matter, is that the reason these words struck such a chord within me is because I feel like I'm expecting too much of these guys. Or am I?

That is the question. Facebook, would you like to answer that one for me as well?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Encouraging Words

I've been thinking of backing down from this "writing out loud" gig for a little while. Again.

Each and every time I have to submit articles for the publications I write for, there is this whiny, nagging and just a little bit witchy (maybe replace the "w" with a "b" and it is a better descriptive word) voice inside my head that says "Just who do you think you are??!"

Then one  morning, I will roll over and wake up with a renewed state of confidence  and fire off my words and buff my nails against my chest and after reading something I have written, I will think "That was good. That was really good."

The morning after that one, I reread those very same articles and realize I was just a little delusional to think my writing was anything more than mediocre honesty, at best.

Then I carry on with living my merry little life and just write about things that really don't matter. Sometimes, little things come to the surface as I make my way through my quiet, predictable life I lead and I think I make a good point now and again. Certainly not always.

This week has been a little bit of a "Who in the world do you think you are???" kind of week. But I just keep on writing. A little here and there and sometimes not at all. 

Then, two days in a row, I received a little feedback on some words I put out into this great big world. People I have never met gave me the gift of telling me how they integrated some of my little metaphors-for-living into their own universe. They told me a little piece of their story and how it fit into what I wrote.

Wow.

I write an awful lot of nonsense. This I know. Some days I will start out writing about one thing and then get derailed before I get back to my point. My fingers have a mind of their own and if I don't censor them, sometimes they have something more important to say than the rational side of my brain is trying to write. 

It was one such day, when I thought "Why in the world am I writing this?", that evoked a comment from a friend I have not yet met in person (we have been penpals for twenty years - I wrote a little about our friendship at a distance here).

It was the part of my tale where I let myself get sidetracked from the moral of my story that spoke to her. 

The day after my penpal friend wrote such encouraging and touching words, I received an email from an editor who has become a "virtual friend" who quoted my words and cited an example of how they applied to life as she knew it.

This week has been sprinkled with encouragement. Family and friends have written &/or called just when I needed it the most. 

My cousin called me yesterday and told me of the reaction my uncle had as he "lapped up" the last letter I wrote to him. She asked me if I remembered what I had written (I didn't). She told me I had said something to the effect of "feeling like I was sitting down and having a cup of coffee with him"and this was a part of the letter he shared with her. She asked him, "What would you think of sitting down and having that cup of coffee with her?" He replied, "I think that would be great!" Little did he know that my mom and I are planning on being there, sipping on a cup of java with him in less than four weeks from now.

Simply hearing my cousin describe the way my uncle felt as he touched and read my letter was such a gift. I can't remember what I wrote about. I just put pen to paper and let the words tumble onto the page. They seem to be words that touched a chord with him. 

I think I could have written anything. Sometimes it is the mere act of seeing a person's handwriting that brings them right into your world and touches you. 

Some people write. Some people call. Some people act in giving ways. 

If you feel you have something to say to someone, please say it. Write it. Communicate it in whatever form that feels most comfortable to you. What you are holding onto is a gift. Share it with the one who has inspired you.

I feel like I've been touched by angels this week. Simple words have come to me from so very many different directions. Each set of them have been a gift.

Thank you, Universe! You have been incredibly generous!! I appreciate it more than you will ever know.

Sprinkle kindness generously throughout your day. If someone touches you in some way, let them know it. You will never know the difference a few simple words can make to someone who is having "a day" that they aren't wearing on their face. 

A little kindness goes a long way.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Missing Andre

It has been seven and a half weeks since our senior partner in cathood purred his last purr and drifted quietly out of our lives.

The reality of losing him was devastating. Before, during and after the realization that he was failing quickly and he had lost the battle within, was sadness personified.

Walking through life in the days that followed left an empty hole in my heart.

Then life went on.

Junior Cat became our Only Cat and he didn't show any signs of missing his furry, purry buddy. There was one mournful meow he let out for no reason whatsoever, but that was the only indication that his life had changed.

My broken heart started mending and I started missing the fact that I missed Andre so much. It wasn't right. I sort of wanted to hold onto the "sad" because I felt closer to him that way.

It didn't happen.

My son and I went through the collection of pet photos we have amassed over the years and reminisced. We replayed memories, videos, we talked and we laughed. We were beyond the tears.

This week, I have been missing Andre again.

His close up is the screen saver on my cell phone and his entire face fills the screen. I just gazed into his closed eyes and thought of his purr, his snuggle and his ability to love each of us for who we were.


I have been spending endless hours outside with the kids and I miss my little black kitty. He loved, loved, loved the outdoors and if he was still with us, he would have been soaking up the sun or hiding in the lilac bush or snuggled up on the lawn swing or ...

I miss him.

Andre's junior partner in cathood is not a snuggly, purry cat and he is terrified of the world outside of our doors. He's unique and different from Andre in every way. Except his black fur coat.

It was like he read my mind. I missed seeing my little black kitty enjoying the great outdoors. Yesterday, our Junior (and Only) Cat took a few tentative steps outside.

At first, he needed to know he could come and go as he pleased. There was much going inside. Then outside. Then back in. Then back out. He needed inside. Then he meowed to get back outside. 

He explored the deck area. Then had to touch carpet to regain his composure. 

Back outside, he rechecked the boundaries and eventually allowed his feet to touch the sidewalk. Then ... he placed his two front feet on soil (it should be grass but it is packed dirt) and he stayed there.

Two paws on brand new territory. Two paws placed firmly on solid cement. He came to terms with that arrangement. Then he took two more forward steps and started exploring the grassy area of the back yard.

He made a half-lap around the yard. He stuck close to the garage but the fenced area frightened him. He hustled back inside again. Then came right back out.

He made another half lap, going the opposite direction. Then he stopped at the fence line. It was as if he had an inner state of knowing the fence was all that was saving him from losing us and his home. He wasn't taking any chances.

Back inside.

He did this for a while, expanding his horizons with every step outside his comfort zone. He was focused. He saw nothing but safety verses the unknown for the first long while.

Then there was a change in his posture. It seemed to happen all of a sudden. His chest started bursting with pride and if he had a voice I think it may sound a little like my little two year old daycare daughter who mastered climbing a ladder onto a new platform at the playground a little while ago. "I knew I could do it!!", as she bursted with pride as she overcame her fear and hit new heights. I think our Only Cat would have sounded very much like her.

Once he overcame his greatest fears and actually didn't need to check in with the house to see if he was still welcome there, he started noticing the great big world around him. In small ways.

He started attacking the little almost invisible flying "gnats" that came to life with each step he made in the grass. His expression changed in that moment to reflect his senior partner in cathood. He looked like a curious little kitten, instead of an overgrown lion cub who was let outside for the first time in his life.

He started hearing the birds singing in stereo sound around our back yard. It was as if he fully appreciated the view outside of our living room window coming to him live and in color. And he was an active participant instead of a quiet observer in this thing called "life".

I sat on the swing and just watched our big, black kitty coming to life right in front of my eyes. My heart swelled as I thought of our little black kitty and how much I have been missing him. It felt so right to have his best buddy outside chasing bugs and eating grass and starting to notice the birds.

Andre was an outside cat with a quest for adventure. We couldn't tame that, as much as we tried. He had a zest for life which I now marvel. It was hard to keep that little kitty tucked inside of our home where we could protect him from the dangers outside of our doors. In the end, we couldn't protect him from the illness that consumed him. He was so wise to live hard and push limits while he was here with us.

Our Only Cat is so different. He is afraid of everything. He has lived with us and known us for two years and he still jumps at shadows and acts like he can't trust us. His eyes are so full of fear of the unknown and that-which-lies-outside-our-door.

It felt good to sit still with my son and watch this brand new side of our big, black cat emerge. It was like opening the living room window and inviting the world into his realm of safety. 


Life isn't all about sitting back and watching it pass by. It is about taking those tentative steps into something new and rediscovering it. Day after day.

Welcome to the big, scary world, Kitty Cat. We'll do our best to keep you safe. I promise.