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Posts from the ‘The Power of Community’ Category

Engage, Disengage

“It would be good if you could come.”

A friend recently invited me to an event that sounded amazing – fun, restful, joyful, and good. Her words were accurate: it would be good if I could come. It would provide rest, develop relationship, and give me time to think, meet, and connect.

It all sounded great.

But I had a nagging feeling I shouldn’t go.

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever think, that sounds incredible, or, I should go to that, because you know it will be so good for you, and yet, deep down, also know you shouldn’t go?

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The Best Thing I did Last Christmas

Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave. – Indira Ghandi

The best thing I did last Christmas had nothing to do with family gatherings, food, music, lights… or what was under the tree.

In fact, it wasn’t public at all.

Last Christmas – after a particularly painful conversation with someone I wasn’t sure I could trust – I realized I was carrying something… heavy. Without trying, I’d found myself in… let’s call it tension, with a few key people  – and one of them called me out.

I didn’t know where the tension came from. Perhaps it was gradual, like a stack of tiny rocks I’d collected over the few years I’d known these people. I thought I’d stuffed it away, or even ‘dealt with it,’ and yet here I was, less than a week from Christmas, and the rocks had spilled all over the main part of my life.

There was no escaping it.

And I knew I had a choice: continue in the tension, try to pretend it wasn’t there, or try and diffuse it.

Those of you who’ve ever been married know that the best way to escalate a fight is to: 1) defend yourself, or 2) leave.

The only way to diffuse it?

Swallow your pride, stay in place, and try to understand the other person. Read more

To a Greater Abnormal

Many of you know that earlier this year my hairdresser of 17 years announced she was moving. I didn’t think much of it, assuming it would be only a few minutes away.

Then she told me it was actually a few hours and a couple ferry rides away.

I admit, the word that came out of my mouth was… ahem, not so graceful. Not very PG. 

She laughed at my response. I’ll miss you too, she said.

It’s not just that, I countered. I can’t find another you!

Some of you women may understand me: haircuts, dyes, and styles involve a lot of trust between you the person doing them. You have to believe they aren’t going to make you look ugly, homeless, fatter, or older than you are.

And after awhile, the trust becomes personal. They get you through things. Events, birthdays, banquets, weddings, funerals, holidays, family gatherings… even illnesses (though I haven’t lost my hair from chemo, it’s composition has definitely changed and my hairdresser has helped me adapt).

Even if you don’t know your hairdresser that well, per se, you often leave them (at least a good one) with the sense that they saved your life in a way, and you can relax a little more the next time you go there. Read more

Back to the Future: A History of Thanksgiving

On my counter sits two bags of delicious homemade bread. My fridge boasts a beautiful display of homemade roasted pepper soup made by one of the very talented local authors of Mennonite Girls Can Cook. Last night we devoured plates of roasted potatoes, walnut chocolate chip cookies, and ‘easy lasagna’ casserole, all cooked fresh by a very dear friend of our family.

And right now I’m lightly cleaning up for the arrival of some of our favorite people ever – whom we also happen to be related to. These amazing friends and relatives are bringing every last inch of Thanksgiving dinner to us.


All of this comes on the heels of the best news I’ve heard in the last few months: my prolactin levels were normal.

That means, no tumor.

At least, not in my pituitary gland.

It wouldn’t technically have been cancer, and it wouldn’t technically have been in my brain, but the thought of operating inside my skull – and the thought of something growing inside my skull, affecting how I thought, saw, and did things – really shook me.

The thought of another cancer or almost cancer made my brain – and heart – hurt.

David texted me the news on Thursday morning: I called the doctor. Pit levels are good.  Read more

9/11/11: The Dragon Doesn’t Always Win

Ten years ago today, I woke with dread.

No, I hadn’t heard the news. I just hit my head on the top bunk and realized I had no idea what I was going to do for the chapel service I was supposed to lead that morning.

I shrugged on my backpack, hoisted up my thirty-pound-nursing-textbooks (word to the wise: those of you going to Nursing school, prepare to invest in a decent masseuse, physiotherapist, or chiropractor), and hoped my very strong coffee would give me inspiration as I walked the flowering-cherry-tree-lined path from McMillan Hall to Neufeld Science Center.

Other bleary-eyed students joined me, coffee mug in one hand, the other rubbing their eyes. Obviously, none of us were built for 8 am classes.

None of us residents, I should say.

A commuter friend saw me and bounced along the path.

I realized as I got closer she wasn’t smiling. “Did you hear the news?” she puffed out. Read more

The Wonder Woman of My Week: My Mom

I’m done. And it’s only a day and a half in.

Confession: I’m one of those moms that hates back-to-school. I love my kids. I love the lazy-hazy days of summer. I love the lack of stress, deadlines, and strict schedules.

But, of course, kids need to go to school. And when almost-six-year-old Noelle  rattled off a string of very important information – in extremely coherent fashion, I may add – on the drive home from school yesterday, I realized how much she’d grown in a year.

But still I sit here, ten minutes before her lunch bell will ring, wondering if she’ll be okay on the playground and if she’ll get back to her class on time when the bell rings and will she like what’s in her lunch, and I realize why my mom used to pick me up at lunch time some days in grade one.

It wasn’t just to help me get used to the long days, though it definitely helped. It was also – likely – because she missed me.

That’s why I feel like driving to the school right now, right?

Sigh. I’ve got a bad case of first-child-in-grade-one syndrome.

I know this stage brings a lot of freedom. But I hear some people talk about all the stuff they get done once the kids are in Grade one, and I think, uh, what? When? It seems busier, somehow. Am I really going to be able to keep this up for the next 15 or 20 years?

And of course my next thought is: wow, my mom was awesome.

No, seriously. She was. She was always there when I got home. She was always ready to talk, even when I was fourteen and I wasn’t ready to talk until 10 pm. She volunteered in all my extra-curriculars, just so she could know what it was like to be me, and so she could know the people I spent most of my time with. She didn’t do it because she was starving for activity, because if there’s one thing my mom has never needed, it’s more things to do. She did it because she wanted to be a part of my life. She wanted to be trusted with confidences. She wanted to be my friend, even when I annoyed the crap out of her.

I still annoy her, I know. But I ‘m so grateful for all that energy she gave me.

Some people say I intimidate them. I’m always shocked by this, because these are usually the people who are so good at all the things I’m not. These are the people I wish I could be more like. And yet I think, deep down, that if there’s anything to intimidate, at all, it might be that I’ve learned that, even with my large, glaring flaws, I’m still worth something.

Because we all have glaring flaws. And we all do some things really, really well. And we’re all worth something, because we’re us and no one else can do that as well as we can.

And the person who taught me that, of course, was my mom.

She didn’t teach me that with her words. She taught me that with her actions.

She was quick to listen, slow to cast judgment. She put her book down the minute I started to talk. She asked me that great question more times than I can count: and how do you feel about that?

She gave me enough of her that I now feel able to give something to my girls. And even when I don’t feel able, I choose to be able, because I want to be that kind of mom.

If there’s one thing I could wish for my kids – or for everyone’s kids, or everyone’s moms, or just everyone – it would be that we’d all be so okay being us that we’d have the strength to let everyone else be them, too.

Even if – and when – everyone else is so, so different from us.

So today, I may feel overwhelmed with activity, but I also feel overwhelmed with gratitude. Because I was given to, when I needed it the most, and now I’m free to give back.

Thanks, Mom.



Catching Fire: The Power of Community and the Freedom of Selflessness

At the end of The Hunger Games, a conflicted Katniss, an angry Peeta, and a frustrated Haymitch disembark the Capitol train for District 12. Each character has a different anguish. Peeta knows Katniss’s feigned affections were merely an attempt to recast the apparent defiance of a threatened double suicide as the insane actions of two lovesick teenagers. Haymitch wishes Katniss a better actress in her attempts to diffuse rebellion and satisfy the Capitol. Katniss herself is far more preoccupied with the knowledge that she unwittingly sparked the flame of district rebellion.

And now all she knows and loves will likely die.

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Coffee, Crisis, & Character: “How can we help?” vs. “What do you have?”

Up until Friday night, I thought of myself as a coffee snob.

Unfortunately – or fortunately – or something, the reverse is true. As in, I apparently know nothing about coffee.

I don’t have a burr grinder. I prefer dark roast from Starbucks. I sometimes grind the coffee ahead of time. I can’t describe texture, taste or blend.

As a proud Vancouverite, this won’t do.

The epiphany came during an extended family visit near Coeur D’Alene, ID. Some of my husband’s family are heavily involved in coffee growth in Ethiopia. When they asked what I wanted for breakfast, I said Americano, dark roast.

Why do you prefer dark roast? they asked.

Uh, I didn’t really have an answer. I think it’s because I like the bold taste.

They brought me something different, and of course, it was the best coffee I had ever tasted in my whole life.

I guess I need to take a course on coffee, I said.

No, no, they replied. Just check out Coffee Geek.

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The Wonder Woman of MY Week: My BFF

I was about to start singing the praises of a famous woman in history when I realized, deep down, I wasn’t feeling it. I know, I know. All you writers are yelling at me, do it anyways! But it wasn’t that I ‘wasn’t feeling it’ about writing, just that I didn’t want to write about famous people; just someone I am privileged to know. 

That’s my BFF.

Those of you not in the texting age, BFF = ‘best friend forever.’

Yeah, it sounds kinda… kitsch. Or cheesy. And, it is. But there’s really no other term that encompasses this kind of person for us.

Who do you turn to when your road takes a hairpin curve? Read more

What Zooey Deschanel & Fozzie Bear Have in Common: Friday Reads – er, Blogs, for the Non-Compulsive Reader

Tonight I stared at my Lego-spattered living room floor and realized I had absolutely no Friday Reads for non-compulsive readers. I try to put their needs first when writing Friday posts, because frankly, those of us maniacal, seek-out-novels-or-perish types of readers will find our fixes. The bigger challenge lies in finding what you normal types want to read.

And, despite the excitement generated by my discovery of a new phenomenon I hereby dub, Readers Block (yeah, I doubt I’m the first one to say that, so… don’t kill me, you who really own the copyright to ‘reader’s block’), I was devastated to learn I had nothing to excite the socialites of our little circle.

Seriously. This was madness.

I had no paperback or hardcover set of pages packaged with promise of a ‘as-good-as-a-condo-in-Maui’ kind of feeling.  I found no, ‘hey, no, you’ll really like this one!’ ideas for the readers whose occasional visits cause as much stir as Pippa Middleton on her sister’s wedding day.

(Seriously, when you non-voracious reader types leave me comments, I get positively giddy.)

And then, when all hope seemed lost and I was ready to drown my sorrows in chocolate and peanut butter (yum, Reece’s pieces, something I dream about but don’t let myself eat, since I’ve had two babies and my pants don’t fit as good as they used to!)…. the great hero #fridayreads offered a downright fabulous suggestion.

(FYI: #fridayreads is a hashtag group on twitter. Tweeps contribute what books they plan to read, or think the rest of the world should plan to read, each Friday, and put #fridayreads at the end of their tweet/post. The site collects these suggestions and shows readers trends for that week. They also have some great prizes offered for those who participate, so follow that link below and head on over!)

But, back to my deliverance from a Thursday evening breakdown.

These brilliant #fridayreads people conceded that contributions did not need to be actual books. Blogs or newspapers would do. (I almost typed, ‘papes,’ instead of ‘newspapers.’ Forgive me. That was a flashback to Newsies, and please tell me some of you remember that movie because then I won’t feel so unbelievably old).

I was so relieved for the blog-and-newspaper caveat. Before that, not even my signed Ryan Kesler jersey provided the necessary inspiration for this post. None of the 35 books stacked on my nightstand seemed good enough. None of the listings on my Kindle home page sparked an epiphany. Because, this week, all I seemed to have-just-read were painful grammar books.

Yes, I know. If I’ve seemed… stressed, well, ahem. That’s why.

Of course – though I was delighted to discover the ‘White’ of ‘Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style was the E.B. White, as in master craftsman of the beloved children’s novel ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ – I had no intention of subjecting your summers to the right way to punctuate this’es and that’es.

And yes, I see you, red underline!!! I did that WRONG on purpose!! ha ha, Lana ONE, Grammar Nazis… ok, I won’t look at their tally. Suffice to say they have a commanding lead.

But back to things we all care about. See, a blog, now, I could offer you one, nay, two, of those:

1) Comedy geniuses of the world, unite! Er, no. Sorry, I had a moment there out of ‘Dwight’s Speech’ in Season 2 of The Office. Um, for those of you who love to laugh, and for those of you who have always wondered why there wasn’t more good, clean, female comedic fun, may I present to you: Hello Giggles. Yes, you Twitterers are likely already following this great site. Hello Giggles is the recent inception of three really funny ladies: 1)actress/musician Zooey Deschanel (you know, crazy-fun girl on Yes Man that eerily looks-and-sounds like my friend Melanie; also, sister of the lovely-and-talented Emily Deschanel of Bones); 2) producer Sophia Rossi; and 3)internet sensation Molly McAleer. I promise you, it is some of the best of girl humour out there. And yes, boys, I think you may be welcome, if you wish. And yes, in my next life, I want to come back as a member of the Deschanel family. Why? Well, because they are that smart and that funny. I wouldn’t need to be in their immediate family. A second cousin, maybe. Or, a part of the Hello Giggles crowd. A girl can dream, right? Just sayin.’

2) The Wuc Blog – for those of you who like bizarre, edgier humour, The Wuc, derived from the Muppets’ Fozzie Bear’s Wucca wucca wucca, is for you. How I found them: The Wuc had the amazingness to ‘like’ my post from earlier this week and TELL ME SO!! So I promptly headed over to their site and thought, this blog is seriously funny. How had I missed out on the great Wuc before? ‘Tis a tragedy, I say.

SO… What do you guys think? What are you reading this weekend? Or, what are you trying to read and having a difficult time getting into? OR, what hilarity do you wish to share with us? Us Vancouverites are still searching for summer behind every rock and rain puddle and need all the bright stuff we can get! Any and all of your contributions are welcome.

Oh, AND, as you see under part 2), if you are kind enough to share your thoughts with us, I may just have to trek over to your land and see what life is like through your lens. AND then I might say how awesome you are next week! Isn’t that great?

And, since it is now Friday on the East Coast, Happy #fridayreads, everyone!




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