Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Boy Meets World

At 2:33 this morning, Grandkid made his entrance into the world to great fanfare and much joy (and relief). Eight pounds 13 ounces and a healthy set of lungs -- a born bagpiper if ever there was one. All are healthy and happy, but the name has not yet been announced.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Waiting, Patience, and all that other irritating stuff

Grandkid seems to have no intention of coming. He is completely disregarding the wishes of the adults who are all standing around waiting, car keys in hand. DIL has tried walking, bending, squatting, smelling some sort of natural oil that's supposed to induce labour, and blowing bagpipes. A few twinges, a false hope or two...and then nothing. Grandkid is comfortably ensconced and refuses to budge until summer. The only thing to do is try to ignore it and turn our attention to something else. That said, as we go about our regular activities, I know every sense of every adult in the house is tuned keenly into DIL's every move, every sound she makes, her very breath. The air vibrates with it. Being under such hopeful scrutiny must be driving her crazy.

Sometimes the universe has a different timetable than we do. We think something should happen to us right now and we get upset when it doesn't. It's one thing to believe God is at the helm and directing our lives for our good, and quite another to consequently say, "Thy will be done." Those four words can have a powerful effect on our lives, but they're very difficult to say and mean. Like two-year-olds, we stamp our feet and insist we know best. We have to go deeper, let go of our pride, our sorrow, and our hope, and learn to trust. The few times I've actually practised this, it has been well worth it, and the rewards have been astonishing.

So I'll do Sudoku and watch movies and walk the dogs and putter with my plants and try to let nature take its course without my assistance...or insistence.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Still Decluttering Each Day

I've been carrying on with my downsizing and decluttering, as I wrote about earlier. Mostly I've ditched clothes, but I've let go of a book or two as well, and two watches that no longer worked but seemed "fine" other than that... We do hang onto the stupidest things, don't we?

I'm also working on letting go of a grudge, which is a sort of emotional decluttering. Feeling bad about something or someone doesn't do you any good, and it certainly doesn't affect the person you have the grudge against, so you may as well let go of it. The Dalai Lama says that if you have the confidence you can handle whatever arises, you don't get angry. Anger tends to come from the fear that you can't control something. Well, it's time to confront negative feelings and let go of that anger.

I don't tend to take offense easily or get angry with people, in general. Having this negative feeling toward someone is new to me, and I find it uncomfortable and unwelcome. As I move into this next phase of life, as new life enters my home and I burrow deeper into home, I want to do it with a cheerful mind and an uncluttered heart.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Awaiting the new baby

Grandkid due any moment now, and it's like waiting for Christmas morning. "Is today the day?" is the first thought in my head when I wake up. I know he'll come when he's ready, and really, there's no rush. I mean, it's certainly easier having him as he is now -- portable, quiet, no fuss. Once he comes, there's no turning back. Then we'll be plunged back into the two-in-the-morning screaming sessions and the diapers and the anxiety and sheer finickiness of caring for a leaky, frail, little person. I remember bringing my own sons home and feeling as if I were dressing a raw chicken. So many things to care for! So many bits and pieces to clean! So delicate and easy to injure! Yes, it's definitely easier now, while he's still unborn.

But I can't wait to meet him.

I love looking into a newborn's eyes. Such peace, such quiet wisdom, as if -- if he could only talk -- he could tell you great wonders. Maybe that's why God keeps newborns from speaking right away. He doesn't want them spilling the beans about where they just came from. He waits until the memory fades a bit before allowing them language. :)

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Editing the next manuscript

I got the edit copy back from my editor yesterday, in preparation for publication this fall, and now I'm plunged into the maelstrom once again. It's like this every time -- having to leave what I'm currently writing and immerse myself back into a story I finished seven months ago. Sincerely, I don't remember the old story once I am deep into the new one. It's like being plucked from a nice warm bath and dropped into icy Lake Ontario and then told to dive for pennies at the bottom.

It's funny how I can work an eight-hour day in my cubicle and it feels like it's going to drag on forever, but I can sit down to write fiction and when I next blink, it has been nine hours. And I don't even remember time going by. I rise up out of the story gasping for oxygen and gape like a fish, completely disoriented. Fiction is always more real to me than reality.

I'm sure it makes me difficult to live with.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Pet Peeve

Someone I know posted a quote on Facebook with the intention that we all pass it along if we agreed with it. I agreed with the sentiment, but I couldn't bring myself to forward it. Why? It had the word "alway's" in it. Spelled just like that. Alway's. There is absolutely no excuse for such blatant disregard of the proper use of apostrophes. What would possess someone to do such a thing? Anyone who is smart enough to design a pretty meme and post it on the Internet is surely smart enough to learn the basics of punctuation.

This is the sort of thing that makes me want to run screaming into the night with my hands flailing above my head.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Old Landscapes, New Eyes

A friend has a house in Grand Bend, on Lake Huron. When a tornado came through a while ago, her house sustained a lot of damage, and she lost 40 trees on her property. These were over a hundred years old, tall oaks and pines, and she said the entire landscape and feel of the place has changed.

I write a lot about finding the perfect place to live, looking at real estate, daydreaming about living life somewhere else. But it doesn't hurt to stop and remember once in a while -- you may find the perfect landscape, but landscapes change. Earth doesn't stay the same forever. You can't depend on externalities. Life is about growth and loss and change and adaptation. So instead of trying to find the best place to live, it makes much more sense to take the place you live in and make it the best you can. As was said in Conference last week, you don't need new landscapes, you need different eyes. Be open to the beauty where you are. Place after place is the right place.

I may not have the best view when I look out the windows of my house. There's no lake, no grove of trees, no mountain or meadow. But when I look inward, when I think of the people in my home, the purpose of my home, I can see that the inner landscape suits me just fine.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Running with My Eyes Closed

My cousin Whitney, two weeks older than I, came to visit when we were about eight years old. We were playing on the front lawn, and for some reason I got the notion in my head that I wanted to be able to run, eyes closed and arms outstretched, as fast as I could. I think I'd been watching Born Free  or something, and the idea of running far and fast and free appealed to me. I asked Whitney to watch and make sure I didn't run into anything. She said okay. So off I went, eyes closed, running down the lawn, the wind in my hair...straight into the cotoneasters and the American Redbud tree. Which hurt. A lot.

Rubbing my abrasions, I turned on Whitney. "Why didn't you tell me? I wasn't supposed to run into anything."

Whitney just shrugged and said, "You turned."

At the time, it was a lesson in trust and, frankly, stupidity, but forty years later, I think on this incident with a different perspective. It is our job to make sure our children can run free without crashing into anything. If we see them veer off course, we're supposed to warn them, shout, wave our arms -- whatever it takes to steer them clear of danger. But ultimately, it's up to them if they insist on keeping their eyes closed and smacking into trees. Then all we can do is be there for them, to apply Band-aids and kiss skinned knees.

There have been times in my life when I've been foolish or headstrong, and I have been blessed with family, friends and church leaders who have steered me clear and warned me that I was getting off course. A little correction or nudge is all I've needed to avoid the trees. But they haven't just kept me safe. They have also encouraged me to run to the best of my potential. I just need to remember to do it with my eyes open.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Cheerful Chaos

A friend is getting a new puppy, and of course I'm reduced to a slavering idiot by the darling photos. Such pudgy cuteness! Even though I know it's totally unrealistic, I daydreamed all the way home last night about getting one. You would think that having seven people and two dogs in the house right now would keep me busy enough. Not to mention the newborn about to join the family. And the guest coming. And the twenty-three music students who trudge in and out of the house all week. Not to mention the fact that I work fulltime and put in twenty hours a week on the commute alone. And writing deadlines and church callings and... well, you get the picture. My life does not need another puppy and all that entails. But such cuddliness!

I knew when I got Brio that he would be my last dog. It's a sad thought, but really, I'm getting to the stage in my life where I want to be able to go away for a weekend on the spur of the moment, or jump on a plane and travel, without having to plan and book kennels or dog-sitters and then fret over my poor puppies missing me at home. I have loved having dogs in the family while I was raising my boys. I think every kid needs a canine. But yeah, I guess I'm about to reach a different stage.

Not that you can tell by looking at my house. I'm still very much in Mommy mode. Part of me misses having quiet mornings on the couch with a book. Calm evenings watching Merlin and Sherlock Holmes with my husband. Easy scrambled-egg suppers. But another part of me relishes having a full house, a pile of people at the table, every seat taken. I like the chatter and energy and bustle. There are days I feel like you could throw ten more foster kids and a litter of puppies at me and I would thrive in a joyful whirlwind.

And then sanity returns and I recognize my own limitations. Everything has its season. One season doesn't last long, and you have to be ready to roll with the changes when they come. Plan for everything, and then don't plan on anything.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Spoke too Soon

Granddaughter came home early from the Highland Games, apparently not enchanted with the noise. The Internet was fussy and kept cutting out during Conference. And while I was watching images of the lovely blossoming trees and tulips and blue sky in Utah, it was snowing outside my window. Sigh. Life does not always turn out the way you plan. I think one of the most important things you can learn in life is to roll with the punches and laugh as often as you can. :)

Saturday, 4 April 2015

A Perfect Weekend

The backyard fence is turning the sunshine into slices of amber, the air is cool and damp, and two Mallard ducks paddle contentedly on the pool. I can smell fresh earth on the breeze, and I know that, beneath the mulch, the garlic is sending up little spears. Yesterday I rambled with the granddaughter in a stroller the size of a Buick and discovered a shady trail running along a creek beneath towering elms, maples, and white pines. Nothing is in leaf yet, but the path wasn't muddy and there was the promise of green glory to come this spring. I must remember this place and come again, when the foliage will be so thick you won't be able to see the houses up the hill. If I can escape to such a place now and then, I will be better able to bear living in the noisy, cramped suburb. We wandered for over an hour and met two friendly sheepdogs and touched tree trunks (both smooth and rough) and noticed squirrels and listened to rivulets of melting snow and just had a relaxing time, and Granddaughter fell asleep just as we came home. I parked the stroller in the front hallway and let her continue to snooze peacefully, undisturbed. A day spent doing admittedly very little, and last night we made pizza and watched The Imitation Game -- brilliantly done but heart-breaking.

This morning I rose early to pack lunches -- most of the crew is at the Toronto Indoor Highland Games today, where Hubby and some of his students are competing -- and threw together some walnut baklava for dessert tonight. I lay on the couch in my golden living room and read a Susanna Kearsley book (delicious suspense and Roman history tangled together) and ate a chocolate bunny for breakfast (which I will no doubt regret later). Son Number Two is at work at the bakery -- they'll be busy this morning -- and Son Number Three will wake at noon just in time to watch LDS General Conference with me on the Internet. You can't ask for a better start to the day. Would that all Saturdays were like this. And still another day off tomorrow, Easter Sunday, and more Conference stretching happily before me.

Easter means we get to sing the hymns I love the best, about rising and hope and salvation. I wish we sang those ones every Sunday, but maybe they would not be as special if we did. I try to be mindful of Christ's role in my life every day, but Easter lets us pause and think about it more deeply. I especially like Conference weekends, which happen twice a year. Living here, I don't get a lot of infusion of Mormon input, and to have eight hours of instruction, revelation, and encouragement beamed in from Salt Lake City is wonderfully uplifting, to say nothing of the joy of listening to the great organ and watching the camera pan the vast audience -- so many Mormons in one place! For two brief days I feel like part of the bigger congregation again. I can almost feel the mountains around me, and I am once again in my mom and dad's house, lying on the family room couch, washed over with the warm, familiar voices of the apostles on the TV, while Dad whittles bars of soap into clever shapes and Mom knits in her chair. Conference is definitely one of the best memories of my childhood. Nowadays I have to watch it hunched over the computer with squeaky speakers -- no TV broadcasts up here -- but it's still a fantastic experience. I come away from it refreshed and energized and ready to tackle another six months of isolation.

While I miss being in Utah, surrounded by family and fellow church members, there is much to admire about living here too. And golden, peaceful weekends such as this remind me of that. I whine too much and need to stop more often to remember how lucky I am.

Friday, 3 April 2015

What I'm Throwing Out Today

Last night's choice of something to discard was a bottle of date syrup that has been lurking, open and unused, in my fridge for ages. I may as well admit no one is going to eat it.

Today the choice is a yellow shirt I bought at Value Village with the idea of taking it to Italy last year because it doesn't wrinkle. It also doesn't fit well and I never wear it. So out it goes, back to Value Village for another round. Better to admit to a mistake than to carry on with it.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Chopping the Future into Bite-Size Chunks

The Buddhist way is not to set goals about someday reaching a desirable future, but to simply start living it now, today. In other words, don't think about the person you want to be as a future thing, with a list of goals to achieve before you can attain it. Simply start being the person you want to be now, this moment, and if you mess up and fall short, you start again. And start again. No one is keeping count of how many times you start over. You don't dream about being, you just be. For example, if you want to be sober, start being it now, for this current five minutes, and then for the next current five minutes, and so on. The future consists of thousands of little "nows."  And the future isn't overwhelming that way, because you can tell yourself you only have to be sober for this five minutes. And then you keep telling yourself that. You see the point, anyway.

I've tried this approach when weeding a particularly large patch of ground. If I looked at the whole area, it would be discouraging. But if I kneel down, grasp a weed, and tell myself, "There is only this weed here, in my hand," I can pull it up. And then there's only the weed in my hand again, and I pull it again. In life, there's really only one thing we control, and that's what's at hand right now, before us.

I think I spend much of my energy anticipating the future, dreaming about possibilities, and setting goals, but really it all comes down to doing something now, in this current moment, a little at a time, to bring about the future I want.  Of course, deciding what I want is another matter entirely, and a deeper subject than I can confront right now (I'm writing this at 4:30 a.m. while waiting for my son to get ready so we can head out the door. I've been up since 3:30). Anyway, I've decided on a few things I want, at least, and so I want to do something -- just a small step -- every day toward those things. Then, after an accumulation of lots of small steps, I will see myself become the me I want to be. At least, that's the theory. Of course there are always unforeseen circumstances. I can train every day to be a world-class athlete, but then be struck down with a debilitating disease and not attain the goal. I can only control what's before me right now, in my hand, and that is all I am held accountable for in the end. At least doing the small step every day increases my odds of reaching the ultimate object.

So there are two things I'm going to be more fastidious about every day, small steps which will steer me toward what I want to be. I've been remembering to read my scriptures more often, and want to do it daily. To do this, I've been carrying a pocket version with me on the bus. It taxes the eyesight in the early morning, but at least it's getting done. The other goal is to reduce or throw out or recycle or donate one item from my home every day, with an eye toward simplification. So last night I recycled two binders of paper (old manuscripts now already in print -- I don't need them). I'll choose something else again tonight.

Son is ready and I must fly.



Dora the Explorer: A New Experience for Me

For the past twenty-eight years, I have been the only female in the house. With the brief exception of a beagle puppy named Heidi, every pet and person in our household has been male except me. I've enjoyed this. I revel in the sound of teenage boys laughing and rough-and-tumbling, the satisfying feeling of loading the table with food and having it disappear in ten seconds, the feeling of being surrounded by tall males as I walk through a mall. I like watching martial arts movies and I have become accustomed to seeing only blacks and blues in the laundry. Not once in twenty-eight years have I wistfully wondered what it would be like to have a daughter. A houseful of males is like having a litter of puppies, all enthusiasm and energy.

So I wondered, admittedly, if I would survive having two more females in the house when my daughter-in-law and granddaughter joined the group. At first it was completely unfamiliar territory -- "Frozen" dolls, pink clothes, princess dresses with toile tutus, and sequins and glitter (this granddaughter is a girlie sort of kid). Dora the Explorer on TV. My Little Pony. It's a whole universe of stuff I wasn't familiar with.

I needn't have worried. They have slipped into the household without much of a ripple, and it has become familiar and comfortable. The other night all the males went to band practice, and the daughter-in-law (DIL)and I watched Into the Woods -- a musical my husband wouldn't sit down and watch -- and it was absolutely fun. When I jumped up at a break to do the dishes, DIL came and helped me, and the two of us sped through it like clockwork, making it fast and efficient. I couldn't help remarking, "You can see the advantage of polygamy..." We laughed about it, but really, there's truth in it. Having another woman around to help change wet sheets at 2 a.m., to remember to switch the laundry, to empty the dishwasher, and to watch chick flicks with is a new and pleasant experience. When one is too tired to get up and do something, the other jumps in to do it. But it goes beyond the practicalities. I mean, my husband can fill that role and does so very neatly. But there's something different about having another female around. A sense of there being an inside joke, when our eyes will meet over the toddler's head and we both totally understand each other.

I wasn't aware of what I was missing.