27 December, 2007

~ Regarding resolutions... ~

'Tis the season for making New Year's resolutions, for making promises to one's self about behaviour and/or lifestyle changes one plans to maintain, if not for the rest of one's life, then at least for the coming twelve months.

It seems also to be the season for proclaiming this resolve to one and all....whether or not they are interested...or are even listening.



I have been asked one too many times this week about the New Year's resolutions I have made. Well....I have this to say about that, and let me make this perfectly plain:

I do not make New Year's resolutions.


There are two reasons for this: A) I am not short on will-power, oh no! I have plenty of will-power, it is won't-power I am lamentably lacking: B) I don't believe in setting myself up for failure.


Happy New Year to you all, poppets!

Peace ~

20 December, 2007

~ Miracles, Blessings, Merry Christmas ~

In this, the season of giving, I am finding myself less than interested in the contents of the parcels and packages under our tree. While my children are searching for their own names among the ribbons and bows, being careful not to actually touch anything (no shaking or rattling or smelling of presents until Christmas morning), I sit watching them, entranced by the miracle of their very existence. I have always marvelled at my children, completely in awe of the fact that I carried these beings within me, once upon a time. I find myself smiling, pleased with the knowledge that their personalities are no different now than they were before they were born—anyone who has spent long hours talking to The Great Bulge will understand what I mean. It is still fascinating that the songs I crooned to my ungainly belly had the power to calm a restless baby when I sang them after birth. The fussiness would cease and I would, look down at my child’s (eventually) sleeping face, aware of the tremendous responsibility I was holding in my arms.

During a discussion many years ago, an acquaintance challenged me to provide my own proof that God exists. Without hesitation, I told him of looking into the enormously knowing eyes of my own newborn children. In doing so, I had glimpsed the face of God. I told him of burying my nose in the nape of my babies’ necks, breathing in the intoxicating perfume which could only be described as the scent of God. Prove God exists? How could I doubt it?

These same Wonder Children are poking at the name tags on their gifts, aware of the rules, but itching to break them. They are good children (for the most part) and they check their desire to rip away the paper to reveal the treasure inside. My brother was not always so patient…

Our house was three stories tall, with a claw foot tub and a fire escape and a back staircase leading to the kitchen and dressers built into some of the bedrooms and not so much as a closet in others. It was a magical house, full of all the creaks and shadows that make life interesting for small children. The year the celebration of Christmas was to be held at our place, relations began arriving early (there’s a lot of cooking to be done for four generations of people), each depositing a tantalizing armload of bundles under our tree. My brother may have been three or four that year, certainly no older, and the temptation proved overwhelming for him. He appeared suddenly in the kitchen, thrilled with a magical telescope, chattering animatedly about it, filled with perfect glee...until my Great Aunt scooped it from his hands with a stifled shriek and announced to all assembled that it was a gift meant, not for him, but for me. My own delight was tainted by the supreme disappointment on the face of the little boy who had unwrapped the kaleidoscope. Until it disappeared in one of our many moves, in my mind the kaleidoscope was as much his as it was mine, perhaps more so.

My children draw names each year, so each of them are to buy for only one of their siblings. This is a great game for them and they take the responsibility of choosing the perfect gift very seriously. My middle son once chose the gift for his younger brother and was beside himself with excitement as we fixed the paper in place with ridiculous lengths of cellophane tape. At last the gift (a uniformed fireman which crawls and hollers instructions to his buddies when the button on his back is pushed) needed only to be decorated with a bow. The ears of a five year old are more sensitive than even a nine year old boy can imagine. When my middle son stuck the bow to the top of the present, he stuck it right on top of the button that made our fireman friend go. We stared at one another in horror, my middle son and I, as fireman noises emanated from the red box on the table before us. From the depths of the house, we heard the unwelcome voice of the one for whom the noisy fireman was intended crying, “I got a fire guy! I got a fire guy!” The disappointment on the face of the gift-giver was heartbreaking.

In this world, there are people without a place to sleep, people who are without warmth, without food, without safety. I am painfully aware of this as I sit in the glow of thousands of faerie lights, my hands wrapped around a mug of fragrant, steaming coffee, a plate of frozen shortbread stars on the table beside me. Someone of great faith once explained to me about counting my blessings instead of feeling guilty about having them. She also stressed that it was not enough to simply count my blessings, but to share what I can, as well. I do that, sharing more some times than at others, and I am teaching my children that when you have, for example, an allowance, you must save some and give some away before you can spend any at all. The money they save goes into their piggy banks, the money they give away goes into a jar and once a month they decide where it will be given (this month, they have chosen Santa’s Anonymous). They weren’t sure about the idea at first, but when they understood that they could make a difference, they were sold on it.

So I count my blessings. I handle each of them with reverence, I turn them over in my hands, admiring them from all angles, and I give thanks. The mountain of gifts under the tree is nothing compared to the brilliance of my life—the innumerable joys I experience each day, the faces of those whom I love best, the miracle of good health (I have decided to look upon my rotting knees as God’s reminder to me that I need to slow down), the blessing of hot running water, the abundance of humour and laughter in our home, the positive excess of books (though, really...can there ever be enough books?), both good and bad, to read.

Many bright blessings...

Merry Christmas.

05 December, 2007

~ Mega Claus and Moments of Grace

If it were up to me, all of our Christmas decorations would be ivory and white and gold. If it were up to me, all of the lights would be white and none of them would move. If it were up to me, there would be bowls of clove-studded oranges in each room and we would eat lots of shortbread and fruitcake and no one would ever sip eggnog.


They don’t let me run the world (my oft-heard lament) and so it is NOT up to me. Because it is not up to me, our house is covered with red and green lights and our home is filled with glitter covered plastic decorations and strings of blinky lights. Because in years past I have had to rescue my little porcelain village from marauding cats, a horde of vicious dinosaurs, an attack from the Godzilla—G.I. Joe tag team and even, once, Finnegan the Flying Dog (“I didn’t know Finnegan could fly” I said, forcing myself to remain merry as I picked Glitter Snow from Finnegan’s scruffy hide...“Neither did Finnegan!” my youngest son laughed), I arranged my village on the sideboard, congratulating myself on choosing the safest location for my villagers to spend this holiday season. The other day, one of my sons pointed out the giant Father Christmas who had miraculously appeared in my village and was towering over the westernmost church (like every good prairie community I know of, my village has no less than three churches). “He’s waiting until you go to sleep, Mum, then he’s going to destroy your village...he’s going to burn it to the ground, stomp down the trees and eat all the food. Those kids playing with the puppies? Gone! That family standing in their yard? Squashed! That puny Santa over there by the workshop? History! You’d better watch out, little village, Mega Claus is coming to town! Haaaaaahahahaa!”

This is what I have to endure. My little porcelain villagers are living in fear on account of a mad giant on the loose in the countryside. It’s all a product of the garish decorations and blinky lights, I just know it.

In disgust, followed by the maniacal laughter of my son, the Mega Claus creator, I retreated to The Grotto, the safe, small room at the bottom of the house which is my sanctuary, my refuge from the daily madness I must put up with. These days, though, even time in The Grotto offers no solace. As the only completely off-limits room in the house, the only room with totally restricted access (the door is always locked and I alone know where the key is kept), at this time of year, The Grotto becomes the room for storing all unwrapped gifts, the room for sorting out who gets what, the room for storing everything that cannot be seen until Christmas Day. Right. Let’s do a little math, shall we—seven people live in this house and there are presents for each of them. The two adults in this house each have two parents and there are a few step-parents into the bargain, so there are presents for that lot as well. Once you start to add siblings, friends, aunties and so forth, you end up with presents, wrapping paper, ribbon, packing paper and shipping boxes amounting to five cubic feet more than the storage capacity of my room.

Which figures.

When I find I can’t escape to The Grotto, I do the next best thing—I start washing dishes. Ordinarily, my kids scatter at the sound of running kitchen water, so if you ever need ten minutes to yourself, try washing dishes. Unfortunately, Mega Claus must have messed with their programming (perhaps while waiting for me to drift into slumber so he could destroy my village) because my kids did not scatter. Within the span of three breaths, three of my kiddies had settled themselves into the kitchen chairs and a fourth was dragging the stool in from the office. I now had an audience. I had no help with the dishes, of course, I just had an audience. Rather than shoo them all away, demanding some peace, I decided to see how it would all turn out.

Moments of Grace—they happen at the most unexpected times.

We talked about hundreds of different things. Well, mostly they talked and mostly I listened. I stood sideways at the counter, reading their lips to understand their words over the splashing in the sink. My ivory and white and gold decorations conspired to soothe and calm my kiddies. Together, my children worked out a couple of problems, figured out a couple of personal puzzles, planned out a couple of surprises and ironed out a few misunderstandings. Occasionally, they turned to me for clarification, for a word they couldn’t find or for a detail they couldn’t remember or disagreed on. They included me, but I was not a part of it…I was apart from it, witness to it. Then they laughed. All of the children present at that moment laughed from deep in their bellies, all of them looking from one another to me, including me in their mirth. It was a Moment of Grace and I was grateful for the too-full Grotto, for, had I been hiding there, I’d have missed the Moment.

Last night I watched my daughters, head to head on the front room floor, wrapping presents for our cats. My eldest was showing her younger sister the best ways to cut paper, fold corners and affix ribbons. I sat on the arm of the chesterfield (something my children are not allowed to do), grinning like a mad fool. My husband wandered in and watched me watching them. It was when my eyes met his that my tears started and I left my girls to their work.

Tonight, when we hang our stockings (on the railing this year on account of the doomed village taking up the whole of the sideboard), I will know that I have already received more than my heart can possibly hold. I am well blessed.

I may moan because they don’t let me run the world, but perhaps it is just as well.