Living Without Bandaids

Just when the bed bug calamity is beginning to die down on the news this morning was a story about bacteria levels on menus, ketchup bottles, salt & peppershakers and other items you may find on tabletops in restaurants. And just to make the visuals REALLY impactful, the report would cut away to microscope slides with squirming wriggling organisms the voice over claiming, in melodramatic intonation, “millions of such bacteria can be found on ONE menu”. Random people on the street were asked to comment and were disgusted and mildly outraged.

Please, as if they didn’t know.

And I couldn’t help but wonder when this strange fascination with bacteria and germs grew to such obsessive proportions?

When I was growing up no one worried about germs. Your mom licked her fingers to wipe food off your face and if she didn’t she let the dog lick it off with nary a protestation. I drank out of the garden hose that had been sitting all winter in the shed where all sorts of vermin could have had their way with it. I once ate a potato out of the dog dish but only because I had to “out do” my eldest sister who had impressively eaten a dead fly off the windowsill.

One day I was dared to eat cat food. So I did. Not bad. A bit salty but otherwise perfectly consumable.

My mother never put bandages on anything. She adhered to the wisdom “the air needs to get at it”. Sometimes she’d break out the Mercurochrome (which is now banned because of it’s mercury content) and our scabs would be stained a reddish orange. We all lived to tell our tales of skin scraping adventures.

I’ve cut the mold off a block of cheese and still used it for sandwiches. Didn’t ride in a car seat as a baby and never wore a seatbelt until I was ten years old. As a kid I never wore a bike helmet when riding my two-wheeler down a gravel country road at break neck speed or attempting to ride it on the ice on the lake. (Where we had some spectacular wipe – outs I’ll have you know).

Now, I would never advocate biking without a helmet or driving without a seatbelt but people have to learn to be less paranoid about living. There’s enough in this world to be afraid of instead of dirty menus or bugs or mold on your cheese. Life is messy. You’re not living unless you get bruised and scraped. And what is worse is when little children afraid to get bumped or bruised or, heaven forbid, DIRTY. If you play hard, if you live authentically, you have to be prepared to get scruffy and sore. And let’s face it, it’s only after days like these when you have your deepest of sleeps.

So my challenge to you this year is to banish any thought of bugs and bacteria, metaphorical or otherwise, and “live deliberately…live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” (Henry David Thoreau).

And get good and dirty doing so.

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Reposting : You Can Run But you Can’t Hide

My mom used to dress my sisters and I exactly alike. She was a busy woman, teaching, helping out on the farm, putting in a huge garden, raising three daughters, so I gather she tried to make life as simple as possible whenever she could. The offspring would be easier to find if they were all dressed alike. She’d sew our clothes using one pattern and one bolt to cloth. Voila, three Pepto – Bismal pink pantsuits. When we were really little we didn’t mind looking like each other because we were gloriously oblivious and paid no attention to such trivialities as wardrobe choices. Important events, the new batch of kittens and ironing leaves between two sheets of wax paper for example, were much more entertaining. But then around the age of 10 we started morphing into separate entities. It was important to be different. In fact we wanted to be anyone but each other. My perception of my older sister was that she was the “lady”. She wore patent leather shoes and pretty pink lace shirts. Pictures show her with trendy chokers and perky cardigans. I, on the other hand, show up in every picture ever taken in junior high, wearing the same red and black flannel checked shirt and blue jeans. I saw myself as a rough and tumble tomboy. My take on my younger sister was that she seemed pretty content with our hand me downs until she hit high school. Then she channeled the lead singer of The Bangles and rocked permed hair and big earrings. Ironically this fight to look different from each other has all been in vain. Now that we are all in our forties we are beginning again to look-alike. We have all migrated to the same hairdresser, we have similar tastes in apparel, and if our feet were the same size we’d be swapping footwear. So if there is anything I’ve learned from having sisters it’s that you can spend a good portion of your life trying to separate yourself from Club Familia but it’s really just a waste of time. Sometimes there is that element of fate that comes along with genetics that you just have to embrace.

pink

A Random Post on Blow Up Plastic Swimming Pools

Today, as I walked to my vehicle, in a -20 wind chill, I thought of the plastic blow up wading pool I had as a kid.

A bizarre and random thought, I know.

From what I remember, the bottom half was white and the top half blue.

The dogs would use it as one big  ol’ drinking bowl.

My sisters and I would fill it top full (five inches) with water from the garden hose. It would take far too long for the sun to warm so we would jump in and gasp in shock from the cold.

And giggle, and giggle and giggle.

Most often we would jump in wearing only our underwear. Backyard wading pools never warranted the formality of a bathing suit.

Sometimes my sisters and I (yes we’d all fit) would plop on our stomachs and scissor our legs back and forth,

back and forth,

causing tsunamis to flood over the sides, soaking the towels Mom had laid out for us.

We’d run around the yard then jump in with a splash until there was a film of grass clippings that had washed off our feet, floating on the surface of the water.

One day we discovered how fun it was to run from a distance and slide into the pool.

Which we did over and over and over….

until the side of the pool split.

Alas, no amount of duct tape could fix the tear.

It was a sad day… until dad found the high powered oscillating lawn sprinkler.

Some thing, some thought or smell or sound opened that file from the archives of my memory

and I found myself smiling all the way to the grocery store.

Funny how the mind works some days.

20 Little Things

Little things that can make your day:

1. When you need an emergency massage and your therapist can only fit you in for half an hour. You arrive to your appointment and the person after you has cancelled so you get a full hour!

2. The parking meter you’ve stopped at still has 55 minutes left on it.

3. A break in the clouds letting in the sun.

4. A perfectly ripe mango at the grocery store.

5. Lunch with a friend you’ve known since high school.

6. Having a “good hair day” without even trying. Wake up and comb.

7. The baby in the cart at the grocery store line up blowing you kisses.

8. Having the repeat of your favourite television be the only episode you’ve ever missed.

9. Having the neighbor’s snooty, temperamental cat come up to you for a cuddle.

10. Humming random Christmas carols throughout the day.

11. Finding the missing piece of a puzzle.

12. Peanut butter on marshmallows.

13. Having exactly enough on a gift card to buy that perfect sweater.

14. Falling into a novel.

15. Toe socks.

16. Finding the $48 bottle of wine you drank at a fancy restaurant for $18 at the liquor store.

17. Finding your recorder from elementary school and remembering how to play “Three Blind Mice.”

18. Pina Colada flavoured Jelly Belly Jelly Beans.

19. Finding your really old and wonderfully soft Dallas Cowboy sweatshirt you thought you lost, washing it and having it smell of fabric softener.

20. Planning a dream vacation to Tuscany on Travel websites.

What are some of the little things that made your day?

A Farm Kid Christmas

Waxing nostalgic this morning.  Thought I’d repost these memories.

When I was a little kid Christmas was more than just exciting, it was downright enchanting. Mom would dress us up in our Sunday finest, usually pretty dresses, matching leotards and clumping ski-doo boots.

Our hair curled and our faces washed we’d make the 10 kilometer drive into town to church no matter what the road conditions.

The church would be beautifully decorated with trees and Poinsettias and a nativity scene set in the sacristy. Christmas Eve mass would always, ALWAYS, end in “O Come all Ye Faithful”.

Then, we’d make the long drive home where we’d change into our flannel nighties, say our prayers, and check to make sure our leotards were hung on the side of the armchair with care (we had no fireplace mantle).

Sometimes mom would make us hot cocoa in her fancy blue mugs and we’d watch the lights on the tree twinkle against the tinsel.

I don’t think I ever slept the whole night through because I was listening too hard for the clumping of reindeer hoofs on the roof. And, I admit, I was a tiny bit freaked at the thought of a strange old man breaking into the house.

Bright and early Christmas morning my sisters and I would run down the stairs, organize the presents into piles, then sit patiently for Mom and Dad to come down and watch us open our treasures.

We’d always get one present from Mom and Dad and one present from Santa. The year of the Barbie Camper was one of my favourite, second only the year of the plastic play kitchen.

Then we’d check the leotards where Santa would have left underwear, socks and mandarin oranges.

The day would be filled with Bing Crosby playing on Mom’s old record player, playing with new toys, eating cookies shaped like stars and bells. Weather permitting we’d take a ride on the Crazy Carpet down the hill Dad had made from plowing the driveway with the tractor.

And the day would end with the biggest feast on the planet.

I remember feeling every minute of the day.

Never afraid,

never sad,

never disappointed.

I was very lucky.

 

Encore: Tectonic Shifts of Reality

I met my neighbor today in our underground parking garage. Looking lost and alone without his wife. The two of them are the cutest little senior couple: the same height, always walking at the same pace. They always stop and talk, veering towards me in the parking lot or the foyer or the hallway of the building. Remembering my name and asking about my work. But today his wife wasn’t with him. He was alone.

And he give me a hug, something he’s never done before. And he told me that “this living alone thing is more difficult” than he thought it would be, and that he’s “ not a very good cook”.

And I wondered what has happened to his wife? Has she died since the last time I saw him? Is she sick?

But I was too afraid to ask.

He looked sad and unsettled but I couldn’t tell if he wanted to talk about something that may be the most personal thing in the world and if the parkade was an appropriate place to mourn.

But I hugged him again before we parted promising myself that I’ll find out the truth behind his sadness and perhaps inviting him over for an afternoon tea.

We are surrounded by people whose realities are dramatically shifting. These people drift in and out of the parameters of our day seemingly in a constant state

but the reality is

tectonic shifts are happening.

These emotional shifts are happening in the lives of people we work with, people who live in our neighborhoods, people we meet in parkades. How often do we take the time to notice? To validate the importance of what it is they’re going through by acknowledging their existence.

Through a smile,

a conversation,

or even a hug.

“Comfort is the only thing our civilization can give us.” Oscar Wilde

Applause for Plato

“The life which is not examined is not worth living” – Plato

Plato has a point.

But examining your life can be a difficult thing. I know it is for me.

Self-examination, of the physical sense is especially traumatizing. I’ve found a grey hair. Ok I’ve found a multitude of grey hairs. And a couple of hairs in my eyebrows are doing some REALLY “interesting” things. Once in awhile, all of a sudden one hair will flip up, and I’ll catch a glimpse of myself looking something like my dad, or my Uncle Johnny. Also, I chipped my front tooth and didn’t realize it until one little grade four student I’m working with pointed it out to me. So I’ve been going around, living life unaware of a renegade LONG eyebrow hair that bizarrely springs outward and up, and a chipped tooth.

Oh, and a pimple.

On my chin.

That I will name if it sticks around longer than the three day’s it’s already been with me.

Note to self; check self out in the mirror a little more closely in the morning before leaving the house.

Now, if you can emotionally get through the physical examination, life is indeed worth living.

However, a mental examination of self is slightly more difficult.

Especially if you’re slightly neurotic

like me.

I can mull and stew and over think a minute scenario, a casual interaction, and a miniscule glance for hours and evenings and days. And 100% of the time I’ve over-reacted. I’m learning not to do this as much. Telling myself that worry is a useless emotion. This self talk helps. I’m a master worrier. Experts have told me so. Not that I take pride in the fact, but just knowing that this is indeed part of who I am makes it less scary. I own this trait. I’m beginning to control it and shape it and chip it away.

Doing so has definitely made life worth living.

Examining the goodness specific to my life is also worthwhile. I have the best of families. Loving and devoted parents, sisters who are the best of friends, nieces I love more than life itself and brother-in-laws that are supportive and have adopted me as a sister of their own (or so it seems to me). I am a teacher. I have taught the most amazing people. People who will indeed make the world a better place not just for the cliché of “being in it” but because they are students of CHANGE. They are smart and sensitive and innovative. It is comforting to know how wonderful our future leaders will be. Over all the years they have proven to be GOOD people who will do GOOD in the world. Simply and succinctly.

In examining all of these people in my life, they indeed make life worth living.

Little accessible things in life, that on the surface appear insignificant, but in reality absolutely contribute to a life worth living: the smell and taste of fresh coffee in the morning (bonus for the Baileys). Saturday’s Globe and Mail. A good, NEW, screams to be read, latest novel from my favourite writer. A DVD box set release of my favourite show. Fresh flowers. A glass of an amazing Cabernet Sauvignon. Belly laughs.

And to en-capture and embrace all of this worthiness , I live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I fall asleep to blazing red sunsets and wake up to the sound of chickadees. I can witness the northern lights and an intimidating lightning storm over the course of the same evening. I live a year with four distinct seasons. Spring is quintessentially spring with pussywillows and the hatching of mallard eggs. Summer has the smell of cut lawns and the greenery of trees and the swell of mosquitoes. Fall, glorious colours, the haunting cry of geese flying south and the emergence of deer and moose (sometime bear) out of the bush. And winter. Snow. Sub zero temperatures. Hoar Frost. All coming together in Christmas card charm.

Definitely a wonderful setting for the gradual unveiling of my life.

A life worth living.

 

” A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…”

The new Star Wars movie has just opened in theatres and although I won’t be standing in line as an ardant fan I admit I’m a wee bit excited about going to see it.  The first trilogy was streaming on t.v. the other night and once I got over how dated the filming was I settled in and enjoyed the evening, not because I’m hugest “Star Wars” fanatic, but because I started remembering where I was in my life when I watched them for the first time. The vividness of my childhood thoughts and feelings at the time came back in one prepubescent, insecure, “crushin’ on Han Solo” rush.

I was in elementary school when “Star Wars” was released. All of my friends were talking about it but I hadn’t seen it yet when the family went skiing in Jasper with family friends. One evening, all pink cheeked and bright-eyed from being out in the snow that day, my parents allowed my sisters and I to walk the couple of blocks from the hotel to the theater to watch the film. I remember the darkened street. The quietness of the traffic. Getting momentarily frightened by the herd of deer in the middle of the sidewalk. Having to dodge other wildlife that had found their way into the resort town after the setting of the sun.

I remember sitting in the theater, waiting in anticipation when finally the film started. The music was epic, the running text narration at the beginning, then the loud noise of the space ship making me jump in my seat. It was my first real appreciation for science fiction. My favorite characters? C-3PO and R2-D2 of course. I LOVED it. And part of the reason I loved it was because my parents allowed my sisters and I with our friends to walk to the theater and to view the film independent of parental supervision.

“The Empire Strikes Back”. Summer holidays of Jr. High. The first time I went was with my sister. I was totally devastated that Han Solo was frozen in “carbonite” at the end. Was Han going to survive the freezing process? Were he and Princess Leia going to be together? What was a “Jabba the Hutt” anyway? It was all so HORRIBLY unresolved. I was distraught enough afterwards to get all itchy and unsettled inside…wanting to be alone. .. not minding sweeping out granaries alone because I wanted to mourn Han Solo’s potential demise in solitude.

I went a second time with my friend Kim, thinking that if I just watched the film again I would be able to get some answers. I would be able to surmise whether or not Han would return. There was NO way I could wait the three years it took to make the next film. IT WOULD BE THREE YEARS OF PURGATORY!

heavy *SIGH*…

Three years later, when I was in high school, “Return of the Jedi” arrived in the theaters. By then I was so wrapped up in the drama of my own reality I couldn’t escape to that wonderful level of enthrallment the first two movies provided. I went with friends, that much I remember, and we probably went out for pizza and talked about boys afterwards. Sadly Han Solo took a back seat to perceived romances with clueless, “half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder” high school boys.

The first Star Wars trilogy will always be close to my heart because of its capacity for “taking me back” to times when life was simple enough to actually devote my entire self to escaping… even for an hour or two.

What film is there in your life that conjures up more personal memories than plot recollection? But more importantly, how often do you take the time to watch them in order to remind yourself of how simple life can be.

This week I hope to sit in the theater and for a couple of hours and be transported back to my 13 year old self where the heaviness of being an adult is gloriously replaced by “The Force”.

Banishing Those Alien Thoughts

“If you were not thinking these alien thoughts, what would you be thinking?”

When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom pg. 167

Oh those “alien” thoughts.

Usually negative.

Debilitating.

Catching, then capturing you in a loop of emotional paralysis.

Self-talk that feeds our insecurities instead of banishing them.

But what if we didn’t entertain these “alien” thoughts? What wonders would abound? What imagination? What creative genius would be revealed?

Without these alien thoughts we’d be more open to the divine. Without the clatter and the clamour, the more aware we would be

of who we are meant to be,

and what our purpose is in this time and place.

And the truth is here. Within the reach of our fingertips. We just have to beat away those thoughts that blind

and mute

and deafen our purpose.

My alien thoughts are:

that I’m not a good enough teacher,

that I will die alone in a small apartment filled with felines,

that I’ve been misunderstood and my intent has been misinterpreted as something selfish and manipulative.

I have alien thoughts that I’ve been taken for a fool. That the trust I’ve placed in certain people has been a misplaced trust

and it’s only a matter of time before I’ll get hurt.

But

they are “alien” thoughts defined as “unfamiliar”, “disturbing” and “distasteful”.

Therefore they should have no reason for existing anywhere in my being.

Or yours either.

We are created for good.

These thoughts have no business being here.

I’m in the process of banishing them and I feel quite confident.

I know they will attempt to visit periodically…but I am prepared.

I will be thinking thoughts of love and kindness.

Creativity and tenderness.

Poetry and passion.

Or so I will try.

Bah Humbug

Much to my sister’s dismay I have decided not to put up a Christmas tree.

It’s not because I’m pulling an Ebenezer or that I’m trying to be environmentally conscious,

I just don’t feel like having a tree in the abode.

It’s too much work and messes with the feng shui.

The sister seriously thinks I am need an intervention of some sort

or at the very least a festive spirit shake up.

It just doesn’t seem like Christmas.

Does one have to participate in “holiday cheer” activities in order to get into the holiday mood, or does it eventually settle on you like some mystical fairy dust mingling and tingling into your very fiber so that you have no choice but to sing fa la la?

Now this isn’t a post where I’m going to wax theological, no, it is one where I’m just going to muck around in the ponderation of what motivates an individual to participate in holiday seasons.

Is it a sense of obligation where we feel the need the day special for those we care about especially the wee ones?

Is it because “we’ve always done so.”

I mean, what really is the point of Cookie exchange and Secret Santas if not to create extra work and a swack load of organization? For the entire month of December I was surrounded by those who were wound as tight as a top because of the length of their “to do” list.

But

there was a light this week.

A bright light of what the fuss may be all about.

This week a smidge of the “spirit” snuck through my Grinch like exterior.

At the High School where I teach we’ve been buying gifts for needy families. And the sweet Santas at our school, students and teachers alike, have been more than generous. People are

giving

and giving

and giving.

So much so that it has made this Christmas Curmudgeon go out and buy a poinsettia.

I guess that no matter what the occasion, if the act of giving is involved it can’t help but invoke a spirit that is good.