Friday, November 30, 2007


I once did extensive career / skill testing (IDAK) that included 40 hours of counseling and critique. In the end, one of the clarifications is that to be happy I must make freedom and flexibility a higher priority in choosing a position than to have a high salary. Freedom, for me, is a higher value than money, and routine is the ultimate killer.

The sad thing is that the experience of most people working lower paying jobs is that they have little freedom. Unless the work is philanthropic, it is likely that the low paying position is a 'slave' job ... something controlled by another person. And sadly, supervisors tend to need to wield control over others - maybe it is the only place in their lives that they feel important. And so the hired hand gets pushed down.

Personally, I have quite a lot of freedom, and I also have people working for / under me. So one of my goals is to make this one office that accomplishes good work in an atmosphere of freedom. Freedom is soil for creativity and energy.

That being decided, it is Friday and we are not working until five.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

celebrating Rachel Heather

Rachel Heather, so named for the star of the daytime TV show, Rachel the vamp on All My Children, and Heather, the chosen name given by her father, was born at twenty to seven on the morning of the twenty seventh of November in the same hospital where her father was born, Henderson General, Hamilton, Ontario. She and I both cried when she was born and her crying continued loudly and painfully until she was four months old.

I was remarkably unprepared to be her mother, even though I longed to be a good mother. I did not know how to care for her, and her endless crying made me crazy. The day we brought her home from the hospital we stopped on the way to buy a Christmas tree from the tree lot. She was peaceful through the whole Christmas tree purchase, but it was the last time she was peaceful for four months. In the middle of that very night I made Steve take me back to the hospital ... we walked in with our screaming baby and I said, "I don't know what to do!" The nurses grimaced. A woman should need to get a license before she is allowed to be a mother.

She cried all the next day and all the next night and so on - sleeping for twenty minute stretches. Steve would walk her for hours ... day or night, whenever he was home. In my weariness I began to despair. I got so I couldn't handle her crying - during the afternoons I would sit on the toilet in the bathroom with the radio plugged in beside me, drinking vodka, crying myself, and running water in the tub and sink to block out the screaming. Now I've learned that this amount of pain in a baby is not normal - at that time the doctor pooh poohed me saying, "It is just cholic." Yah right.

She was beautiful though. The biggest eyes in the world. Skin of alabaster. I loved her more than life itself. And she continued to cry. I breast fed her for six weeks. It was the worst six weeks of my life.

One night I went to bed and Steve stayed up, as usual, walking her, watching Saturday Night Live back when it was genius and fresh. Rachel fell asleep on his sholder and just before he left to play his midnight game of hockey he gently laid her in her quilt filled crib. When he came back at four a.m. he shook me - "Didn't Rachel wake up?" Both of us were terrified! She was certainly dead, we thought. I raced over and grabbed her up ... but she was all warm and soft and soggy, curled up like a kitten, and sound asleep. That was the day the universe shifted. She was four months old. I don't think she cried again for weeks.

That was when we started to have fun. We were shameless in showing her off ... teaching her tricks like a little puppy and making strangers stop to admire her with us. Steve would buy her expensive clothes - I remember a little green coat he bought that cost more than our week's grocery allowance - I argued that it was excessive but he didn't care! She made us laugh and she made us cry.

I remember once when she was quite sick we did everything we could for her ... and she still coughed and choked and felt miserable. I found Steve sitting on the top step of our stairway in the middle of the night, quietly sobbing. He was so tender when the kids were feeling sick - he sat up with her all that night. He would sing the Beatles' song, "Now's the time to say goodnight - good-night, sleep tight." I didn't actually know it was a Beatles' song until I heard it played at Mark's - it is from the White Album which I had owned, but it passed my memory by.

Rachel was a fearless kid. She was always climbing and running and making adventures. If you couldn't find her you simply had to look up a tree, or on the roof of the garage, or on her bicycle. She wore a wonder woman bathing suit all summer, every summer for about five years - along with blue knee high rubber boots - until long (and I do mean long - it is a wonder she can have children) after it ceased to fit her. She was a natural leader, and talked the neighborhood kids into all kinds of schinanigans. "Trust me. It will be fun." And they did. She came home with treasures every day - a butterfly, a worm cut into pieces, a beautiful rock.

Rachel came home from school every day desperate for the bathroom. I would hear her yelling about a block away, "Off the can! Off the can!" (A one bathroom house has certain limitations.) She would streak in the house one hand in the front and one in the back, past the living room, the kitchen and into the bathroom and just make it, every time. More than once she had her pants to her knees as she hit the front door - oblivious to various gatherings of adults on the couches. She didn't care. I asked her why she didn't go at school and she told me she didn't like to go to the bathroom in case something fun or interesting happened while she was in the bathroom. That sums up her attitude toward life, I think.

One day I got a letter from a neighborhood mother telling me that Rachel had thrown a rock at her son and needed to be disciplined. Because the mother didn't sign the note, I threw it out and didn't even tell Rachel. Only recently, in recalling that story, did she fill me in, immediately remembering the circumstances. Apparently the boy had decided to show Rachel his penis, big mistake. He picked the wrong girl and she did what she thought best, and beaned him with a rock. What a girl. Wonder woman indeed.

She built walkways from the garage roof to the play house roof - and fell through them. She built forts in the family room with every pillow and blanket in the house and had a whole world to herself. She slept every night with her beloved cat. She talked her little brother Ben into peeing on the newspaper downstairs to convince us that the new puppy was actually learning to pee on the paper ... which he wasn't. She learned to read by the time she was about four and from that time to this one of our favorite sounds is Rachel, laying on the couch, lost in a book and laughing uproariously.

Rachel swore she would never wear a dress. She used to say she was going to wear running shoes to be married in. Maybe she did - I have the worst memory. She had a boyfriend named Nittan whose dad was an acrobat in the Russian circus. Nittan had a motorcycle and he would kiss her on the porch ...while I peaked out through the living room blinds and flash the lights on and off. (I can't believe I actually did this ... but I was so mad at them.) She liked him - even though he was a good eight inches shorter than her. Did I mention he had a motorcycle? - maybe that was the attraction, or maybe it was his bizarely interesting family circle.

She had other suitors - I remember a couple boys we had to send away - they were like dump dogs who found a meat shop and wouldn't leave. Rachel looked fabulous on her high school grad night. It was fun to see her revel in making certain boys gawk at her twice ... she just sauntered past them, like a good vintage movie star. All she needed was a cigarette.

I used to tell her not to pick a guy who drove a car that was too fabulous. I told her that he would love himself more than he would love her.

One day she met Curtis, who drove an old rusty white K car, and she morphed into a woman. I remember the day they went on a date and she told us this story when she got home. She said that over dinner she told Curtis that she knew her dad loved her because when they ate out together and she drank all her drink or water he would pour his water into her glass. She told me that later in the meal Curtis poured his water into her empty glass. He won her heart. And Curtis has become to Rachel what Steve is to me - an umbrella that has no sides to hem us in, but keeps off the rain when the weather is inclement and lets in all the sun possible when the clouds are gone.

I think Rachel is one of the best people inhabiting this earth. She cares and loves and sees and is not afraid to be needy. My best days start and end with her. My best conversations happen beside her. My dreams seem more noble when I tell them to her. My sorrows are softened.

Happy Birthday kid. You are worth more than many sparrows. Mum

reckless love

I heard someone use those two words this morning: "reckless love."

Reckless love is the woman who stuck around for ten years with her firefighter husband who was in a coma, and having him wake for one day before he died. (saw her on Good Morning America today - wow)

Reckless love is Steve quoting a poem from JV's book in his sermon, just because he is so proud of his kid that he can't think of anything better to say.

Reckless love is Rachel having big adventures at her old age. (just kidding - happy birthday kid!)

Reckless love is Steve getting up at 4:35 every morning to let the cat in, or let the cat out, because he knows the cat is my friend. And I don't hear her whine.

Reckless love is Steve (with a bad back) on a ladder outside in the rain putting up Christmas lights because it would be too dark and lonely for me on our deserted little street to not have them up.

Reckless love is sharing a bathroom with a middle aged and very space selfish woman who tends to expansive clutter.

Reckless love is answering the question, "Will you love me when I am old?" with "I do."

Reckless love is hugging a very angry seven year old.

Reckless love is driving eight hours to your sister's party for your brother.

Reckless love is telling your story with truth, even though it makes you vulnerable.

Reckless love is mailing a stuffed angel to a lost friend who hasn't talked to you for ten years.

Reckless love is the way humans are meant to live.

Monday, November 26, 2007


I heard on the news this morning of the Saudi ruling that a woman who had been pulled from her car by a gang of thugs, raped with violence, was charged with being out of the house with a man other than her husband and was given the penalty of 95 lashes and 6 months in prison. Appealing, she was given double the lashes - 200 and the prison time.

What will it take for women and children to be safe in this wounded world? It is one thing to have violence imposed upon you - quite another to be held culpable for it.

As a woman I am grieving and angry. Where can I burn my bra?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

why i am okay not going to the party

Time, as I have always thought of it, has cracked open and broken like a shell off a boiled egg. I have seen that even when I am doing nothing a lot is still happening in my life and in my story. And when I am striving and manipulating and worrying myself sick, maybe I am no more than a cat playing with a ball of yarn. Control is mostly illusion. Probably it is bad for the skin.

So, while I am neither stoic (alas, Henry, what will be will be) nor nihilist (whaaa! my life doesn't even matter so why should I even try) I do not feel at the mercy of times and seasons. In fact, I find tremendous meaning in most of life, and count my contribution as valuable - no matter what the people say. But I no longer think of myself as the one responsible to keep the universe (even my universe) going. (And this, for a mother of four, is quite a step of growth!)

Thirty five years ago a chain of events began that quickly spun beyond my control, a chain of events that still careens against and with the forces of life and nature, now involving dozens of people and a constellation of chaos, possibility and joy. I couldn't have orchestrated the beauty of all these things.

When I grab onto and manage my own and other's time, things tend toward simplistic solutions and results, which is the best my mind can design. Less molested, life seems to unfold in a complex strata of dynamic collisions and cohesions.

All that being said, I still wish I could come to the party.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

making time go slow

In this season of life it takes concerted effort to make time go slow. I remember being twelve, waiting for thirteen. That was along wait. Being twenty, waiting for twenty one. Still pretty long in coming. And suddenly I am fifty. Now slow is my memory. Slow is my digestion. Time is not slow.

So, (for Mark) today it is Saturday and I am working hard at slow. I begin my day by noticing. I notice my husband's smile and his hands and think about how many times he has smiled at me and used his hands for me. I notice the flowers on the Christmas cactus and count buds still to bloom. I notice that the bedroom my kids slept in this week still smells like them and I realize I like that smell very much. I sit on the bed instead of ripping the sheets off. I remember how great it is to have family -

-so I call The Girls and give them a distance dose of Mimi love.

I move on to other tasks ... still paying attention to small delights - the smell of molasses, a friend's voice, the titmouse at the window.

I just checked and it is only two-thirty in the afternoon. I am surprised. Maybe it is noticing that makes time go slow. Paying attention to what I've seen a thousand times before. Being able to be surprised.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

addicted to attention

oooooooo...I got four responses and suddenly I WANT TO BLOG!!! I am beginning to see the addiction factor ... yet another way to get attention.

Speaking of seeking attention - I remember reading a quote from an aging actress (was it Katherine Hepburn?) who said it was a relief to be fifty and finally not have everyone watching her. She became free, and thus aged gracefully but without hiding her face from the public or becoming an other-world-like cariacture (for example, Liz Taylor).

Kyra (9) and I walked through WalMart this morning, invisibly. We trundled on our treasure hunt, a middle aged lady and a normal, female kid ... what could be less spectacular in our culture? No one saw us ...but we saw each other, and had a great time. We bought two little Christmas trees, battery operated lights, shiny tiny balls, and a pound of butter.

On the way home Kyra sighed with satisfaction and said, "Mimi, sometimes I just love to be with you alone." That's it. We were alone. Sometimes it is a good thing not to have attention.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


It's Thanksmas Eve and I am apprehensively sitting here next to my daughter trying to figure out how to change the font on my blog... to make a setting so stimulating that the words I write will not matter and you, gentle reader, will be mesmerized and not notice that I am Insecure about all this and basically have nothing of note to say. Save that ... on this Thanksmas Eve, I have two beautiful little girls sleeping in the bunk bed upstairs and three cats all trying to act as if the world was their oyster, and my daughter is having a small panic attack about the condition of their vehicle .... and with all that going on, not to mention that my very saucy husband was a poor sport at Catan, there is quite a lot of fodder for conversation. But all that being said, we have a lot to be thankful for and tomorrow we will stuff our faces to mark an event that none of us actually have a right to mark, considering that we are Canadian.