What the World Needs Now

The house is as clean as it is ever going to be. The extra table and chairs have been brought into the house. Lights are shining on the decorated tree, and colourfully wrapped gifts are spread under the branches. Empty stockings are waiting to be filled, and the scent of frosted cranberries is wafting through the air. It is Christmas Eve.

Yesterday’s message at church was about the spirit of Christmas and what that means to us. Think about that for a second. What does Christmas spirit mean to you? What does it look like?

The giving of gifts. The giving of time and service to help the less fortunate. Spending time with family and friends. Connecting with old friends or distant family through phone calls or Christmas cards and letters. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Sharing baking or lavish meals. The excitement and wonder. And when you take all of those aspects of the season and reduce them to one simple word, you get love. 

It isn’t just love as a feeling though; it is love with flesh on it. Love in action. We give. We share. We celebrate together or give our time. We do these things out of love. (Did you catch the verb in that sentence?)

Of course, the nature of our North American society has turned Christmas, and many other special occasions, into monstrous money machines, but I think our hearts’ desire is to rebel against that mindset. It isn’t always easy to do that though. Life can be heavy, and the holiday season can often be the heaviest time of the year for some, which is all the more reason why we need love in action. In my own life, this year has been very long, expensive, and full of rough patches, and medication has messed with my mood and mental space. For most of December, it felt like I was a chicken scratching drought-hardened ground in search of insects, or in my case, Christmas spirit.

And then I did a thing. A thing most out of character for me. I invited a co-worker to come for Christmas dinner, and I am so excited that she said yes. Sure, I am a little worried that the flaws in my house will be glaring, but the invitation just felt like the right thing to do. It is love in action. Love with flesh on it. While I haven’t yet given much thought to my goals for the coming year, I do believe that loving in action will be in that list.


The Spotlight

To borrow part of a line from a movie…I’m just a girl standing in front of a mirror, trying to love herself.

I have come a long way on this journey of becoming, and I am happy to be comfortable in my skin and loving myself. And yet, I can still find myself having fallen into the trap of negative self-talk which in turn leads to a distorted sense of who I am and what that looks like to others.

A few days ago on Facebook, a friend shared some odd facts about himself and welcomed others to share their own facts, and I did. Someone I do not know saw my facts and inquired after my fact of holding a World record, which led to further discussion and comments between the three of us. My friend called me a warrior and amazing and told this other person that she would really like me. Reading my friend’s comment was heart-warming but also rather made me feel the uncomfortable glare of a spotlight. It was high praise that I instantly felt was grossly exaggerated and unwarranted, and I pretty much said so.

Being a curator of thoughts, I have been dwelling on that Facebook conversation. The words written about me don’t quite seem to resemble me, not when I look at myself or when I look at others. This warrior, this amazing person worth knowing sounds like someone I would love to meet, but it doesn’t sound like me. However, in thinking about the comment and the source from which it came, I have had to pause and reconsider my position. The person who made this claim about me is not the sort of person who would throw out artificial praise. In fact, given what I know about this friend’s values and integrity, if he told me that Jane Doe was someone amazing and worth knowing, then I would believe him and want to know her. So why do I doubt his sincerity when I’m put in the spotlight?

Am I a warrior? Am I amazing? As much as I’d like to think so at times, the truth is that I am no better than anyone else and my struggles are no worse than anyone else’s. Everyone has a story that is uniquely their own. There will always be someone with a story either happier or uglier than the next person, and I dare say that a person’s story can be both happy and ugly, even at the same time. We are all stories. I think the lesson here, at least for me, is that stories draw people in. In the same way that I will always return to those books I love, people with interesting stories will always capture my attention and work their into my heart. And if I can look at others this way, then it shouldn’t be so surprising if others take interest in my story.

Half Empty Cups

Our extended long weekend is coming to an end. We left home early Saturday morning, drove for approximately four hours, spent about two hours in Ikea, checked into our hotel room in Abbotsford, picked up some last minute essentials at Wal-Mart, and found somewhere to eat dinner before crashing into our beds. Our Sunday morning started gently with breakfast and a local church service. Sunday afternoon was spent unloading and unpacking, moving our daughter into her dorm, a parent information meeting and BBQ, and saying good-bye. My husband and I checked out of the hotel early Monday morning, ate breakfast, and drove up the road a bit. Our plan had been to take an extra day to spend the night at Harrison. We honeymooned in Harrison and thoroughly enjoyed returning last year to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Since we were only staying one night, we checked into the fancy Harrison Hot Springs resort and took advantage of their multiple pools.

Harrison is simply a delightful little place. All of the action takes place along the lake shore, with hotels, restaurants, and shops all within easy walking distance. In fact, we parked our car in the hotel lot and walked anywhere we needed to go. We sat on a bench along the walkway overlooking the beach and watched children playing in the sand, boats coming and going from the docks, people walking, the mountains, and the clouds, the waves gently lapping. Time slowed down while we were in Harrison, and it was very good.

I have had many cups of coffee over the course of the weekend, at least twelve, I think. For some, this might not seem like a lot of coffee when spread over four days, but the average is higher than my normal consumption of 1-2 cups per day. And yet, I haven’t actually had as much coffee as the numbers would indicate! Close to half of those cups of coffee were never finished. In fact, I don’t believe I even drank half of the cup for all of those unfinished drinks.

As I was making a bit of dinner around 5:00 tonight, I decided to make myself a cup of coffee. This was my FOURTH cup of coffee today but the only one I finished. I had barely half a cup from the hotel room Keurig…it tasted like subtly flavoured water. For a light breakfast, I had a muffin and Americano from the hotel coffee shop. I ate the entire muffin but only drank half of the coffee before we headed down to the hot springs pools. After lunch, we grabbed coffees for the drive home. I got myself an iced latte, knowing that I would be sipping it slowly, because I didn’t want to make too many pit stops along the way. I sipped it slowly! Too slowly, I guess, because it wasn’t even half empty by the time we got home and Kane tossed it in the garbage. I have to say that my evening cup of coffee was delicious to the very last drop!

So we have been home for only a few hours, and life is still slow and quiet before we return to regular activities tomorrow. I have a very short work week with two little closing shifts Wednesday and Thursday, and I am thankful for it. As enjoyable as the weekend has been, my legs have been angry for all of it. Oh hey! Today is the 10 month anniversary of herniating my disc. The legs have been unhappy and upset for ten months, but all of the necessary and unavoidable sitting this weekend has only made them more cranky, more pained, more tingly, more numb. It is still an improvement compared to months ago, and yet I greedily want more and more. Because even though I can walk normally most of the time now, walking this weekend was painful more often than not.

It was nice to be away for the weekend, to settle Abby into her dorm as she begins this new adventure, and it was even nicer to spend 24 hours or so in Harrison. As good as all that was though, being back home and on the brink of routine is just as good!

No Tears Today

Today has been an incredibly long day but a good one. We ate breakfast, then drove around Abbotsford to explore a bit before registration began at Columbia Bible College. Between arriving at the college and saying our good-byes, time seemed to drag by ever so slowly and yet still much too fast. One line to check in. Another line to sign her life away. A third line to get keys for her dorm and mailbox.

Then the real fun began…unloading the car and bringing all of her possessions up to her third floor dorm room! Let me tell you how fun that was! It wouldn’t have been so bad if I didn’t have these ongoing pains and issues with my legs. The back itself held up fine, but the nerve pains in my legs have been strong since the drive down yesterday. Far too much sitting! I cannot even sit for a couple of minutes now without strong pains running from my buttocks to the back of my knees or without numbness and strong ‘pins & needles’ in both feet. So, trekking up and down stairs really put my poor legs through the wringer. During one trip upstairs, I actually thought back to some of the questions the neurosurgeon asked me, especially the one about my ability to use stairs. By the time I got to see the neurosurgeon my mobility was greatly improved, so naturally I indicated that I had no trouble walking or using stairs. I still don’t have any real trouble with either; however, today is a reminder that I am not nearly as back to normal as I want to be. But anyway…

I had thought that Abby was packing way too much stuff for the school, and the car was definitely packed as full as it could possibly be. And yet, I was somewhat amazed to see how much stuff was being carried into the dorms by other students and parents. Abby is sharing a room with two other girls. I think she was a little disappointed to not be in a two-person room, but I think the extra body will be a good thing in the long run. At least I hope so…we didn’t get to meet the other student before we left. We did have the opportunity to meet one of her roommates and her parents though, and we even shared a table over the BBQ dinner. They seem like good people, and I feel confident that Abby will have no problem getting along with this roommate.

After helping Abby unpack and organize all of her worldly possessions into four drawers, half of a wardrobe closet, and a couple of shelves, we took a quick tour through The Metzger Collection. We only had enough time to scan the exhibits, but it was a place I’d like to spend more time. Then it was time for the parent meeting, which was both reassuring, informative, and extremely painful…for me. Following the parent meeting was the BBQ for parents and students. The food was delicious and more substantial than anticipated. Parents were also welcome to attend a worship/concert time between 6:30 and 8:00, but I could not tolerate anymore sitting or even standing. Abby understood and was okay with us leaving after dinner. We hugged and said our good-byes, and I didn’t even cry!

Now Kane and I are back at the hotel. Obviously I’m on my laptop, blogging, and we’re watching an X-Men movie on the TV. I am also finding my thoughts frequently turning back to my daughter and tears threaten. So far, so good though! But I know they will come eventually. If not tonight, then maybe tomorrow. Or Tuesday when we get back home. Or next week. Or next month when she comes home for Thanksgiving. Maybe all of the above. I know it will happen, because I am the sort of person who leaks. There will be tears because I miss her, but the tears won’t necessarily be sad ones. I can miss her and still be extremely proud of her. I can miss her and still know that this is going to be an amazing experience for her. Oh, but I am going to miss my girl!

Family Night

Weeks of smoky haze has given way to cool temperatures and rain. Beautiful rain! This pluviophile is especially happy for this rainy day.

As my days off are drawing to an end, the gentle pitter-patter of rain through the open windows has been effective in slowing the passing of time. Or at least that’s how it feels to me. Time is precious this week. Aside from the busyness of the week with work, a medical appointment, a car appointment, and training sessions, I am operating on a deadline of sorts. On Saturday, we are leaving to take our daughter to college in a city a few hours away, which means there is a lot to get done before then.

It was my daughter’s request for a family game night one last time before her departure, and so, that was what we did today. I made her favourites for dinner: scalloped potatoes, ham, and green beans. Our middle child came over early this afternoon to hang out with us on his day off. Since his short-term rental has just been extended for another year, I was also able to pass along some kitchen items I had in excess, which made both of us happy as he’s glad to have the items and I’m glad to free up some clutter.

The afternoon and early evening was wonderful. Laughter and joking and gentle teasing. Winners and losers. Good food. Family. This is unlikely to happen again before Thanksgiving, and that is the reality I have not given much thought to yet. Now it is staring me in the face. In one week, my husband and I will be saying good-bye to our baby girl as we leave her at college. With two out of three children out of the house, the coming months are going to be something entirely new to us. I think it will be okay, more than okay actually, but it is still going to be different.

Who is going to nag me to go shopping for clothes? Who is going to go for a coffee run with me? Who is going to stumble down the hall in the morning asking for covfefe when I am thinking the exact same thing? Who is going to watch Star Wars or one of my favourite chick flicks with me? Who am I going to harass while brushing my teeth and share random weird people rants with? My introvert buddy is going to be gone!

Life is going to look a lot different around here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mamma Mia!

My daughter is going away to college in a few weeks, and I ran straight into that reality last night as we watched the local production of Mamma Mia!

Abby has been dreaming and planning for this year of college for quite a while now, and she has been driving me crazy lately with all of her dorm room shopping and talk about dorm room shopping. It makes me a little crazy, because I don’t like shopping and I didn’t see the need to obsess over it months in advance. Aside from the shopping annoyance, I’ve been pragmatic about her leaving in the fall. I’ve made sure that I have the weekend free to take her to school, and I’ve booked the hotel room for that weekend. Time has kept its steady pace, and I haven’t been oblivious to the speed with which September is approaching, but I haven’t been emotional about it yet. Well, until last night.

There we were at our community theatre to watch the absolutely amazing performance of Mamma Mia! Abby had placed herself between her father and I for the night, which meant she and I shared many glances, nudges, and bits of conversation. We shuddered together over some fashion choices in the crowd. We nudged each other when someone from a middle seat had to get out in the middle of the performance, because we had talked about the tightness of the rows, our preference for sitting on the aisle, and the fact that it always seems to be a person in the middle who needs to get up during a show. During the song Knowing Me, Knowing You, I leaned over to hit her with the “a-ha” of the chorus, and that’s when reality smacked me in the face.

My girl is going away in a few short weeks, and I am going to miss her. The house won’t be empty, but there will be a void. Abby and I have a good relationship, and it is going to be strange to not have her here to speak sarcasm with and to disagree over Captain America and the Winter Soldier. I won’t have someone blessing me for having a pot of coffee on in the morning or understanding the need for chocolate. Instead I will need to make sure the cat gets fed and the litter box cleaned out, but I refuse to FaceTime the cat for Abby. Maybe towels won’t get lost in her bedroom once she’s gone, and maybe my chocolate will last longer.

Because I am who I am, my eyes leaked during the performance from start to finish. The waterworks were especially strong during the song Slipping Through My Fingers. Abby told me after that she had looked over during the song and seen the tears on my face. That made her laugh a bit, at least enough to stop her from getting too emotional. Typical.

My emotional balance has been restored with the light of day. For now. Abby tried to make me cry this morning by playing Slipping Through My Fingers again, but I’m okay. She’s determined to make me emotional about her leaving, and she will likely succeed at some point. That can’t be helped or avoided, but I am not at all sad for her to go. I am excited for her to go and learn and spread her wings.

Weekend Warrior

Between yesterday and today, I am completely exhausted and wiped out. And sore. It’s been a busy week for me, although my current state means an appointment or outing every day of the week is busy. My energy comes in little bursts and evaporates just as quickly. I can actually accomplish a fair bit in the course of a day, but I require frequent periods of rest. These last two days of the week have pushed my body and endurance further than they’ve been pushed since my injury.

My youngest son moved out yesterday. Whether this is a short-term or long-term thing remains to be seen, but he is excited to be out on his own for a while. Since everyone else was working, I was asked to help him move most of his stuff after I was finished at the gym. So, I worked out at the gym, bench pressing the heaviest weight I’ve pressed in 7 months and worked my arms and upper back. Then I came home to help load a night stand, a fan, and numerous boxes into my car and my son’s. Most of the boxes were a manageable size and light enough being filled with clothing and such. My son was mindful of my back and handled anything too big, heavy or awkward. Still, there was an awful lot of squatting down, safely lifting, carrying, walking down stairs, loading, and walking upstairs again. Of course, the entire process was repeated once we arrived at his apartment. My “work” day wasn’t done yet! Then I had to take him to Superstore to buy some groceries.

My back held up pretty well until we got to the grocery store, and then it began to hurt and ache. The good news, at least in my opinion, is that the back soreness was broader than normal. It wasn’t just in my low back, which leads me to believe that part of the pain was simply from the excessive physical activity and being on my feet for roughly 6 hours straight. Once I was finally finished all of the necessary activity and was able to do some rehab exercises and lie down, the back pain settled down significantly. The low back felt cranky, but I think that was to be expected. The pains in my legs were still present and accounted for, but they were no worse than usual. And I was physically wiped out. I was so exhausted, mentally and physically, that I have barely even given thought to the fact that my baby boy has left the nest.

Today’s busyness revolved around my daughter, as she graduated from college with an Associate Degree in Arts. She needed to be at the college by 9:30 this morning, and we were not able to leave until about 12:45. I was happy to watch my daughter’s convocation, but my body was in pain from all of the sitting. Even standing or walking was bothersome. I could feel tightness in my left foot and calf, as I tried to alleviate the tingling and numbness in my legs. The ceremony was outside. In the sun. It was quite warm. I’m sure the sun and heat only exacerbated the fatigue I feel throughout the day, and I am still too wiped out to dwell on the fact my daughter will be moving out in September to attend Columbia Bible College.

By the time we got home this afternoon, I was desperate to lie down and rest. Due to the length of the ceremonies, we ate a very late lunch and I was feeling bloated and gross, hot and tired, limping and hurting.  I wish I could nap, but I can’t. I reclined in my zero-gravity chair, impersonating a slug. The nice thing about lying down is that it takes away the strain and stress in the back; it’s hard work holding everything upright and together! The not so nice thing about lying down is the leg symptoms: burning, tingling, numbness, electric currents of pain from buttocks to calves. Late this afternoon as I laid down, the extra back aches disappeared, leaving only the low back aches and discomfort from all of the activity and sitting. Once I no longer felt quite so gross, I got onto the floor to go through my rehab exercise routine, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it felt to do them.

I am still wiped out. I will miss my boy. I am proud of my girl, and I don’t need to think about September yet, even if she’s been thinking of it for a year! Tomorrow, I think, will be a quieter, slower-paced day, and that is just fine by me.