Monday, September 12, 2016

Good--but hard. Hard--but good.

Recently I talked to an acquaintance-becoming-a-friend after church. She is so beautiful and joyful. We talked about getting together sometime, which made me happy because one thing I enjoy most about church is connecting with other women. 

There is a certain "chemistry" involved with this process that I've learned not to overthink or worry excessively about. I no longer look specifically for women who are close to me in age or at the same life stage, or involved in the same activities or ministries I'm involved in; I've come to realize that the circumstantial details don't matter as much as that desire (sometimes unspoken, but hopefully eventually spoken!) to connect.

First we talked about a really profound subject: her glasses.

Then, having seen some of her photos on Facebook, I said, "I hope you had a good summer; it looks like you did some nice traveling."

She said, "My summer was good -- but it was hard." She added, with a smile, "I don't share everything on Facebook, you know." I told her that I'm not always sure what or how much to share, either. 

Then she said it again, but differently: "Well, it was hard -- but it was good."

It was good -- but it was hard.

It was hard -- but it was good. 

That sounds a lot like my life, too.

In the last while I've posted about a lot of milestone events in our family: graduations, birthdays, new school adventures. It's great to share these moments and have others join in celebrating them.

But there have been challenges, as well. Our trip out east was good in many ways (we saw my dad and brother and other relatives; Jonathan attended a day camp that kept him busy for much of the time), but it was difficult, too. Jonathan didn't take well to some of the transitions from place to place and had many meltdowns and screaming sessions as a result. Even when he wasn't around I found it hard to relax: it's like my body was tensed up in fight-or-flight mode, anticipating an outburst. There were lots of people I *could* (and maybe *should*) have gotten in touch with, but it was hard to summon up much energy to organize and plan.

So I feel a bit envious when I see other people's photos of relaxing times sitting around campfires, walking on beaches, taking trips that do not (appear to) involve screaming and stress. 

But then I remind myself that there's probably a lot of "good but hard, hard but good" stuff in everybody's lives, stuff that doesn't always show in the pictures they post.

On any given day, either the hard or the good can predominate. Sometimes I fall into bed amazed that I've survived the day. Other times I'm overwhelmed by the sense of being blessed, cared-for, and carried by God and supported by other people -- like friends at church, wonderful family members, awesome neighbours, dedicated school staff, and so many more.

Life is good but hard, hard but good. Maybe it's best to admit and accept that that's true -- for me and for everybody else I meet today.


Thursday, September 08, 2016

Funny, friendly, feisty, fantastic - FOURTEEN!

This is a big week for Jonathan.

Not only did he start high school (including riding the bus to school for the first time ever!), but he also celebrates his 14th birthday today.

Jonathan continues to be a funny, feisty person who tests our patience yet truly makes us laugh every day. What can you say about a boy who, when a neighbour drives by, yells, "Blue box day!" (your friendly neighbourhood recycling reminder)...

... and who, when you yawn, says "Back to bed." 

... and who gets extremely excited when a seagull flies over, often shouting "Macaroni seagull!" (We haven't figured that one out yet.)

His new EA, who has only been working with him for a couple of days, said to me, "He's so lovely." And really, he is.

We have many of Jonathan's favourite things planned for today:

  • Balloons
  • A new ball
  • A new puzzle
  • A new Wiggles DVD
  • Quiche for supper
  • Chocolate cake for dessert

Have a happy birthday, Jonathan, and a great year. We love you.

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 2016 "Quick Lit"

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy again for her monthly Quick Lit linkup, where we share short reviews of what we've been reading. 

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. I've read two of Cleave's other novels -- Little Bee and Gold -- and loved them, so I was eager to read his latest. It didn't disappoint. (I run the risk of oversimplifying the plot here, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone.) Set in World War II England, the novel is about a young woman and man who have a fateful meeting near the start of the war but are forced apart by the circumstances of battle and other commitments. Cleave is so good at blending realistic detail with a true love of his characters -- as well as plenty of witty dialogue. The World War II setting has become such a common one for fiction that it risks being overdone, but Cleave gives it a fresh take as he plumbs the significance of small moments of friendship, sacrifice, and courage in the midst of world-changing events.

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold. This book by the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two teenage boys who killed 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999, is absolutely riveting. The contrast between Dylan's totally normal, healthy upbringing and the terrible events he perpetrated comes through starkly, showing how the stereotypical answers -- neglected, outcast kids and clueless parents -- don't always apply; sometimes there truly is no rational explanation. An amazing book by a woman whose life (like those of the people Dylan killed and wounded, and their families) was forever altered by her son's actions and who now works to bring attention to issues of depression, suicide, and violence.

On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light by Cordelia Strube. Don't let the lyrical title fool you the way it did me. This gritty novel is about Harriet, a precocious, foul-mouthed 11-year-old whose divorced parents are distracted by what she sees as their selfishness and immaturity as well as by her handicapped brother Irwin's needs. She dumpster-dives to find scraps for her art projects and makes money by running errands for the elderly residents of her building. I sympathized with the resourceful but lonely Harriet, but I quickly tired of her unrealistic language (really, what 11-year-old says "Beat it"??) and of the onslaught of interchangeable, eccentric old people with their odd last names (Mr. Shotlander! Mr. Pungartnik!). There are some humorous moments, and there's a somewhat redemptive thread running through the book -- but there's also a shocking plot twist that really disappointed me and made the second half of the book seem like a retread of the first. This novel got some great reviews, but though I was glad I pushed through and finished it, I can't say I recommend it.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Eighteen is excellent

Today is my daughter Allison's 18th birthday. It's hard to believe my little girl has grown up. She has become a kind and funny young woman who has many gifts to share with the world.

Last night we had a family party to celebrate her birthday, and I prepared a Mad Lib story of Allison's life to read aloud. Here is the finished product (words in blanks supplied by Allison's uncle Alan, aunt Genevieve, and cousin Sadie):


Allison was born at 5:41 p.m. on Tuesday, August 4, 1998 in Munich. When she was born, her parents Richard and Jeannie said, “What a beautiful unicorn!” The doctor thought she had a striking resemblance to Beyonce, and the nurses were amazed at the huge tuft of yellow hair on top of her larynx. Allison was a very horrifying baby who liked to ride around in her Porsche. Her favourite toy was her yellow stuffed gorilla named Oink. Allison could read before she was 3.14159 years old. One of her favourite books was Lovely George, about a funny little caterpillar who was always farting into trouble. Allison never got in trouble; she was very slowly-behaved and meanderingly followed the rules. When she went to school, the underwater welders always praised her smiling skills and her ability to laugh details. Allison is now 18 and is still just as curious and indestructible as she was when she was little. She enjoys smudging the Internet and going to the McMurdo Research Station, Antarctica, to take out Cheezies to read. She is kind and always sympathizes when Jonathan makes unhealthy noises. She is very intelligent, too: her average in school this past year was 573, and she passed all her courses with flying Cheetos. Now, on her eighteenth Christmas, we want to let her know that we patrol her with all our follicles, and we hope that she has a very hairy and friendly life.

Monday, July 18, 2016

My teenage fashion fail

Something I read on Twitter last week got me thinking about the clothes that were in fashion when I was a teen.

Lee overalls were a popular item, and I had a pair in navy-blue corduroy. Overalls are kind of impractical when you stop and think about it, but I didn't care about that: I was just extra cautious in the school washroom so that I didn't come back to class with my straps twisted -- or with one strap wet from falling in the toilet!

Levi's were also very much in style: the jeans and cords, of course (I had rust-coloured Levi's corduroys), and those gingham shirts with the all-important tag on the front pocket.

We wore hoodies back then, too, except we called them kangaroo jackets. (Did anyone outside Prince Edward Island call them that, I wonder?) I had a red pullover one that I wore constantly, often under a denim jacket. It strikes me now that many of the clothes that were trendy at that time were quite unisex -- not to mention timeless. I wish I still had all those items. Well, not the overalls, maybe...

And let's not forget Adidas sneakers. Some of them were white-with-blue-stripes, and some were blue-with-white-stripes. I had a pair that looked very much like the ones in this picture; I wore them till they fell apart. Actually, I think I ruined them when I was working as a flagger on a road construction crew and accidentally stepped on hot asphalt.

It might sound like I was always buying the latest styles or begging Mom and Dad to buy them for me, but I think these examples stand out because they were exceptions. A lot of the time, in fact, I wore hand-me-downs from my cousins or other relatives. I didn't mind, though; I thought it was fun to dig into a bag of clothes in the hope of finding some treasures. I still do!

Once when I was around 14, somebody gave us one of those bags of hand-me-downs. In it I found a pretty blue flowered shirt that buttoned up the front and had white trim at the collar and cuffs. It was loose and flowing and very striking. I thought it was beautiful, and I proudly put it on and wore it to school.

The second time I wore it, we had a substitute teacher, and she was wearing the very same shirt, only the flowered print was brown instead of blue. 

This could have been nothing more than a eyebrow-raising coincidence -- except she was pregnant.

It was -- no doubt about it -- a maternity top.

I'm sure the teacher never said a word (though she may have kept an eye on me for signs of morning sickness), and I don't remember if anyone else did either, but I know I endured a day of mortification. After school I came home, stuffed the blue flowered shirt at the bottom of a drawer and never wore it -- or even mentioned it -- again.

It doesn't take much for me to conjure up that teenage feeling of wanting to get it right, look right, be right -- and the shame of thinking I'd gotten it wrong. I didn't have a strong enough sense of self to say "I'll wear what I want and make my own statement, no matter what anybody thinks" -- but I wasn't mature enough to laugh it off and turn it into a funny story at the supper table, either. I guess I was a pretty typical teen in both respects.

If only we could believe, at age 14, that it really, truly doesn't matter what shoes we buy ... or whether we have the "right" tag on our pocket ... or whether we're wearing the "wrong" shirt.
If only we could believe, at age 14, that one day we really, truly will laugh at these moments of humiliation.