Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Popsicle Drips on Calendar Squares

When my girls were little, summer seemed longer.

There were actually a few times when I longed for summer to end.  Those were the days when having three girls at home for two months wore me down.  A five year old, a two year old and an infant, or a six year old, a three year old and a toddler are combinations that are not for the faint of heart.  Many of you have been there.  Some of you are there now.  In those days I longed for Hannah to return to school and for Ellie to begin or return to preschool so that my routine could begin again and that I would have a few quiet afternoons filled with nap time and fewer bodies and minds to entertain.

It's not like that now.  Now, I wish summer could last forever.

Our days begin with sleeping in or dozing in our beds reading long after the school bell normally rings. We read the paper or the comics, eat brunch, go to the library, ride our bikes, hang out with friends and maybe even swim.  We watch a little T.V. (OK, sometimes a lot of t.v.), lick Popsicles and eat crazy amounts of corn on the cob for supper.  We hang with the neighbors, stay up way too late, wash our dirty feet in the tub and crawl into bed.

I love the lack of rigidity, the free-flowing rhythm to the days that dictates we're never in a hurry.  We aren't bound to someone else's schedule and no one is counting on us.  It sounds selfish and self-preserving to say it like this, but it's all about us.  And that feels good.

As we've been inching closer to September and emails and phone calls and letter trickle in about the fall, the pristine blank squares on my calendar in the kitchen begin their transformation.  Soon they are full of times and stars and reminders and commitments.  Lessons, meetings, classes and field trips.  Promises, follow-through and "we'll be there".  And that makes me nervous.

Just looking at those squares fill up while silently orchestrating  how to make all the pieces come together to get us all where we need to be makes me want to move to secluded island with nothing but books, baguettes and goat cheese.  In a nutshell, I don't do well under time-pressure.  It makes me short-tempered, edgy and harsh.  I turn from a soft-hearted mom who can laugh and chat to a Drill Sergeant who can move her troops with military precision.  We might show up on time, but don't be surprised if one or more of us is crying or gritting their teeth.

I've known this about myself for years.  That doesn't make the feelings go away.  Life with growing girls says that you can't press "pause" and you can't check-out.  You keep moving.  You might yell and scream, but you try to remember to say you're sorry.  There are places to go and people to see.  The pace is relentless and it doesn't show your best side.

Not like now.  I like this side of me.
The side that says, "Sure, read one more chapter.  We're not in a hurry."
The side that changes plans and commitments according to mood or disposition or whether the bike trail is calling us.

That's who I want to be.

But those calendar squares are filling up.
They wait for no one.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Night like This

Sometimes you need a night like this...

Friend arrives oblivious to the corn stuck in your teeth and your greasy, unwashed hair.  She doesn't care about the spots on your dress or the fact that you have dark lines under your eyes and you aren't wearing any make-up.

Friend brings two McDonald's cups filled with ice.  She also brings two Growers Strawberry Rhubarb Ciders which are popped open and poured slyly into the cups.  You raise your wax coated cups to each other and toast the night, then pop on the lids and slide in the straws.

Cups in hand, we drive down to St. Boniface and walk along the sidewalk and through the cemetery talking over the noise of jackhammers and construction crews in hope of finding a bench with a view.   We find a bench.  It's looking at an empty spray pad.  It's also home to a million mosquito's.

We need to find a bathroom.  Since we parked across from the hospital we walk across Tache' and find one just off the entrance.  The entrance is full of couches and chairs and empty spots to sit awhile, free of mosquitoes.

And so we sit. 
In a hospital.
We kick off our sandals and pull up our feet and tuck them underneath us.
We throw our heads back and laugh while our stories trickle out and into each other.
Truth-telling and confession.
Exposition and unraveling.
All on vinyl covered chairs.

Sometimes that is just the kind of night you need.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School

It's almost time.
You can feel it in the way the air gets cooler more quickly in the evenings now.
It gets darker earlier.

Moms everywhere are furiously completing their school supply shopping.
I am too.
Only this year I'm not just doing the planning and preparing for my girls to go back to school.
I'm going back to school too.
In a big way.

This past winter was full of application packages, reference letters, essay writing, and transcripts.
Spring brought phone calls and interviews.
May brought a letter in the mail.
"You've been accepted...." it said.
And I breathed a satisfied sigh.

This fall I will officially begin my Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of Winnipeg.

It seems a perfect fit for me.  A part-time program that includes 500 hands-on clinical hours that will result in professional credentials that will hopefully open doors I've only been able to stand outside of.

I am proud of myself.  I wanted something and I chased it down until I got it.
You see, I'm an excellent dreamer.
I always have a plan and a vision - but the follow up is where my challenge lies.
But this time I dug my heels in.
This time I really wanted it.

I am thankful for a husband who committed his support to me as I see this through.
Who finally has has a wife who has all of her kids in school full time and could make use of that great Bachelor's degree she has hanging on the wall  that could afford her a real job with a real paycheck....
..... who still said - "Do it.  If this is what you want, do it now.  I want you to do it."
And so I am.

I am mindful of the gift of the last many many years in which I was able to be home with my 3 amazing companions.
       I was the nose wiper and the apple slicer and the stain remover.
       I was the tear wiper and the story reader and the couch cuddler.
But now they're in school and they've got their own job to do.
It seems it's my turn to find out what I was born to do.
And I start in September.

(If you'd like to find out more about the MMFT program at the University of Winnipeg, read this article published this spring in the Winnipeg Free Press.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

No Hand to Hold Today

My girls have been a lot of places with me over their growing up years.
I'm not talking about exotic locales or entertainment venues.
I'm talking about waiting rooms, doctors offices, and labs.

I never had a husband who could just book off work whenever I had an appointment.
I didn't have my parents close by who could babysit.
I didn't have a live-in nanny.

And so it just me with the girls in tow, venturing off in search of answers, help, comfort,  and sometimes adventure.

We got really good at sitting in waiting rooms together.  We'd read and draw and play games and sometimes grumble while we complained about the wait.

My girls have sat on the floor quietly playing or reading for my teeth cleanings, massages, chiropractic adjustments, routine appointments, and  complete physicals.  I've even been buck-naked at the dermatologist's office standing in the middle of the tiny room while he looks my body up and down for strange moles and circles them with his ballpoint pen.   Let's not forget the infamous appointment with the urogynecologist in which I had to jump up and down repeatedly over a piece of paper after having my bladder filled to capacity with a catheter to see if I'd leak.  I had Ellie and Sasha in the room for that one.  It was quite an audience and I'm sure they'll debrief about it in therapy one day.

At the time, I didn't want to have my entourage with me for all of those appointments.  I wanted to go in and have it be all about me ("why can't this just be about me?") my inner (and often outer) voice would say.

But that wasn't the season.  It couldn't be all about me.  There was always someone to talk to that made the wait seem a wee bit shorter or a hand to hold as I walked out of the office.  Only I didn't see it that way then.

I've been able to go to appointments by myself for a year now.
Everyone is in school with their own job to do.

Today the girls were hanging out at their friend's place for the day.
I had an appointment and I went - alone.

Today I missed a companion.  The way that talking to a little person takes the focus off of yourself and your anxiety as you wait for the door to open.  The weight of the warm body on your lap and the way your hands don't fidget because they instinctively have a job to do or a body to wrap themselves around.  The way the little people beside you give instant context to the professional you're seeing - how they see you as more than just a solitary woman but as a piece of a bigger puzzle.  When another puzzle piece sits on your lap, you don't have to explain its role in your life.

These are growing pains.
All part of feeling out the next season where I'm more often alone than not.
Mostly it feels so good.
Today I could have used a little company.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Here and Now

This past Friday was August 10th.  That day marked one month since we'd been "home" and back in Winnipeg. 

"Home" came fast and furious.

We arrived to a yard full of signs saying "welcome back" and "we missed you". 
And that was lovely.
To me they said, "you were not forgotten" and "we saved a place just for you".

We were welcomed home with cold beer waiting in the fridge, food in our freezer, and tomato plants that had lovingly been planted in our garden.

As I walked through our empty house that first day, before the movers began to unload the truck, it all felt so clean
and sterile
and simple.

There was no mess to clean-up - no crumbs on the counter or drips of milk in the fridge.
No ring around the bathtub or wet towels lying on the floor.
No unmade beds or piles of laundry.

It was home - but it wasn't.

And there lies the tension.

They say "home is where the heart is" and truth be told, my heart hadn't had a chance to catch up to my physical body.  It still hasn't.

The house looks like "home" now. 
The laundry and crumbs and wet towels have all found their rightful places.
When I open the door it smells like "us" now.  That familiar scent that every family owns.
And mostly, it feels like home too.

But there are times - more than just a few - where I catch myself missing what we left behind with such longing, that it takes me by surprise....
       It's a picture of a smiling face I've put on our piano, or an image of the ocean at low-tide when the tide pools are full and warm and salty and oh - it's then I can smell it.  And taste it.
      It's an email from a friend who sounds just like I remember her with news and stories and the words tumble off my screen and sound just like I can hear them in my ear....

      It's a quote I read that I know I just have to share with our dear friends who walked alongside us as we asked more questions than had answers and lapped them all up, never afraid or threatened....

And so I am home.
(At least most of me is).
And home is good.

But I'm beginning to wonder if the parts of me that don't feel home yet, might not ever be.
And maybe I want some of me to stay near the ocean - surrounded by mountains and glorious green.
Maybe some of me needs to stay there.
(I liked that part of me.)
Perhaps she is best left where she emerged, and grew,  and wintered through the grey and the rain.

I know I'll figure it out. 
When a day brings enough time and space  to sit and think it through  -  feel it and weigh it.

For now I'll live in the tension.
At home.