Author Archives: Christie Hoos

About Christie Hoos

I'm a bookworm, nature lover, kick-boxer, candy fiend, sci fi geek, home body, progressive Christian and part-time student. I love my crazy life and the messy, fun, stubborn, silly, brilliant people who populate it.

The Marriage of Two Minds

The challenge: “Tell a story, in 50 words or less.”

“Opposites attract!” friends quipped.

He, drawn like a moth to a flame, warmed to her vivacity, sparks of passion and life. She, lured by his depth, quenched herself with serene and steady.

Inevitably, her words burn and his silence douses. Opposite becomes opposition. Coexistence, a chore.

So they become something new.

Together.

fire and water

So here’s my verse for the Word Press Writing Challenge:Fifty http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/writing-challenge-fifty/
That was easier said than done.

The title of this piece is a play on Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare. It’s one of my favourite poems, a tribute to timeless, unfailing love. Although love itself must never alter or compromise, we must if relationships are to endure. Not entirely, not unilaterally, but in little ways every day.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

 


The Stranger: A Short Story

Somewhere between fact and fiction lies this story.

My trip down memory lane this summer has sixteen lanes of traffic, on both sides. Interstate 5 stretches all the way from Canada to Southern California and it’s a road I know well. At every stop on this familiar road trip, I’ve been reading and re-reading an article written by Martha Gellhorn, about her memories of World War II. She was front and centre at some of the pivotal points in history, yet 50 years later she’s struggling to make sense of it all. With her memory fading, the coherence and purpose she once had now elude her. It’s frustrating as hell. How do we make sense of the world when we can’t make sense of ourselves anymore?

As I muscle my way across the lanes of traffic onto my exit, I try to focus on the mission at hand. This is difficult under a deluge of my own memories. I spent many blistering summers here in Eagle Rock, a relatively affluent suburb of Los Angeles. My holidays were punctuated by trips to the library, to the beach, to church, and to buy household items and underwear with Grandma at the Glendale Galleria (which sounded SO much more glamorous to my childish ears than “mall”). Occasionally, a longsuffering relative would bundle some of us kids off to Knott’s Berry Farm or, on a really good day, Disneyland.

I angle my wheels toward the curb and pull on the parking brake, before clambering out with an armful of bags and papers and empty soda cans. I once tried to roller skate down this very street with my cousin Janis. Lined with palm trees, Hermosa Drive is just as picturesque as I remember, but seems even steeper and more dangerous to my adult eyes. What were we thinking?

But today isn’t a holiday. Nor is it time to wallow in nostalgia. Today, I’m here to work, reviving an old skill set for an important man. It’s been years since I coddled, cajoled and provided personal care to several elderly clients. It wasn’t a job I loved at the time, but it feels important in hindsight. At least I know what I’m doing.

The white house halfway up the block is a poor man’s Georgian mansion. What it lacks in size, and adjoining plantation, it makes up for in sheer panache. The four towering pillars at the front would seem pretentious on any other façade, but this house has the supreme self-confidence to pull it off. No longer pristine, it maintains an air of shabby elegance. The extra wide front door has an antique brass knocker on its brow and I’m thrilled to announce my arrival with a brisk rat-a-tat-tat. “Simple pleasures for simple minds,” my husband always teases. When no one comes after several minutes, I’m forced to resort to the doorbell after all.house

Shifting from one foot to the other, I juggle my packages back and forth, sagging under the weight of old insecurities. As extensively as the family has briefed me on the situation there is still so much uncertainty. I’m not sure how I’ll be received.

When the door finally opens I am surprised by the blast of heat. It’s even hotter inside than out. An industrious Mexican woman greets me before bustling past.

“I will see you next week SeñorBob,” she calls over her shoulder.

The Señor is enthroned in a frayed green armchair on the other side of the room. Straight-backed, legs planted wide, with a cane in his hand like a sceptre, he scowls over the coffee table at me.

“Well… you gonna come in, or what?”

I’ve never encountered a more intimidating stranger.

I try to ease the heavy door shut, but the hot Santa Ana wind wrestles it out of my grasp with a resounding bang. I take a deep breath and paste a smile on my face. The key to confidence is: fake it ‘til you make it. I’ll pretend he’s glad to see me.

I try to make nice; the polite chit-chat strangers use to grease the wheels of introduction. “It sure is windy. I guess they don’t call the Santa Anas “devil winds” for nothing. I thought they were going to knock me right off the road. Is it normally like this? I see they’re filming a movie in the house up the road. Do you get a lot of that around here? Have you had lunch yet?”

Smooth. Nothing says “trust me, I’m here to help” like a nervous ramble.

He’s unmoved. Not a word; just a glare.

I feel less like an intruder when I notice the food stains on his white dress shirt and catch a whiff of his scent. Unwashed Old Man will never make my top ten aromas, but today it smells like a welcome. He does need me, even if he can’t see it right now.

Putting down my things, I excuse myself to the washroom, a genteel Canadian-ism which makes him snort.

“The bathroom’s in the back. Don’t touch anything.”

The washroom’s a study in pink. Someone loved dusty rose once upon a time. Behind the toilet a faded sign, written on the cardboard sleeve salvaged from a package of pantyhose, is taped to the wall. The feminine script reads, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Ah yes, the classy prose of drought country. Before I dare to let anything mellow I help myself to a rag and give the whole room a wipe-down. It’s what my Grandma used to call a “lick and a promise,” but at least it’s a start.

He’s right outside, when I’m done, leaning heavily on his cane, stooped nearly in half.

“Might as well show you around,” he snarls.

Waving his hand dismissively toward the stairs, “Bedrooms,” then nodding toward the front room, “Keep the curtains closed; we don’t want the furniture to fade.” As we inch our way through the dining room, “Fer company” is all he says. Apparently the kitchen is self-explanatory.

He lights up as he hobbles into the backyard. Rendered speechless, I’m impressed by its beauty: the charming nooks, the hidden paths to benches and bird feeders, the dramatic blooms and rustic gazebo. Then he starts talking. He shows me the system he’s rigged to open the back gate with the touch of a button. He explains the construction of each sprinkler. He points out the fruit trees and names each type of flower. Even the grass receives an extensive lecture. “St. Augustine’s the way to go. It’s not like most grass around here, but it’s tougher, better, needs less water. No weeds dare grow when it’s taken root. Ya see how low to the ground it is. It don’t grow much higher than that; it don’t need much fussin’.”

Sure enough, the grass is unlike any I’m used to. It’s prickly and barely gives way under my feet. It suits him.

He settles himself on the back patio; waiting, I assume, for his lunch. He barks out an order: “sardines and crackers.” I try not to gag as I put a tray together. Whether that’s the rather pungent main course, or my deep seated aversion to submission, I can’t tell. I don’t generally take orders well.

We sit in silence. Chewing. Eyeing each other suspiciously.

“Used to have a dog around here, a stray. Just showed up one day begging for food and wouldn’t leave. Huge slobbering mountain of a beast. Not a lick of sense. No use to no one, that mutt.”

“What did you do?” I wondered.

“Spent a fortune on him, got his shots, took him to the vet, fed him here on the patio.”

“So what did you name him?”

“Didn’t name him. He weren’t my dog. We just called him ‘Dawg.’ This one time he got hisself tangled up in some barbed wire the neighbour left out. Howled bloody murder; most awful racket I ever heard. I was in the shower at the time, but I hoofed it out here fast as I could to save ‘im. There I was, buck nekkid, trying to unravel that dumb Dawg, ‘til Doris comes screeching out, ‘Grab a towel, Pa.’”

The floodgates have opened. Suddenly, he’s talking about anything, about everything. About his wife Doris and how she was always the smart one. About “The Meeting” and serving the Good Lord and walking the straight and narrow. About his son and grandson, who lived in an RV on the driveway for more than a year. About the doctors who told them to put their daughter in an institution when she was born, and were surprised by their vehement refusal. About the time they got into the car to go on a drive and didn’t stop until Michigan.

With each mumbled story the picture of a different man emerges. He’s an old school patriarch living “in the world, but not of it;” rough around the edges, with an unexpected marshmallow center. Listening to him feels like coming home.

Sometimes he finishes a story before moving on to the next one, but not often. Sometimes he simply trails away, then jumps in with a new thought from yet another decade. His memory seems to wax and wane without conscious control.

Out of the blue, he turns to me, tapping his fingers against his brow, “I’m losing my mind, ya know.”

There’s an edge of panic to his voice, but the statement is made with complete resignation. This man, who proudly pointed out his workshop and many homemade inventions throughout the house, who spent years building his own equipment, who was the go-to handyman in every sphere, cannot fix himself. And neither can I.

Without the mask of hostility, his confusion is more pronounced. Even as he reminisced, his memories seemed to slip through his fingers no matter how tightly he grasped for them; not just what he had done, but who he was and why he was here. Gellhorn once asked, “What is the use in having lived so long, travelled so widely, listened and looked so hard, if at the end you don’t know what you know?” It’s frightening, and worst of all, so very pointless.

I came here hoping he would recognize me. I imagined a few meals and a good cleaning and a friendly face could hold back the tide of dementia a little longer. I thought that was the job. But I was wrong.

At the end, when memory fails and we can no longer make sense of our lives, it’s up to our loved ones to do it for us. That is how memory, and meaning, lasts forever. This is the job. I am here to catch those memories as they slip away and make them mean something in the world, to make HIM mean something. It’s all I can do.

I put my hand on his arm and leaned close. “Don’t worry Grandpa, I’ll remember for you.”

This piece was published in the literary magazine “Louden Singletree” under creative non-fiction. 

What began as a composite character of all the clients I once worked with who suffered from dementia, evolved into a picture of my own Grandpa, as seen through the lens of my mom and sisters, my aunts and cousins, and those last few visits we had on the back porch of the Hermosa Drive house.


The Winding Road to Baker Street: A Guest Post

Welcome to my very first Guest Post, and to sweeten the pot – a Free Prize! Everyone who leaves a comment on this post before April 10th will be entered to win an e-copy of Angela Misri‘s brilliant debut novel – Jewel of the Thames.

When I think of Angela, certain moments come to mind: my first meal of authentic Indian food, dressing up in a sari, whispering into the night and between classes about the great mysteries of life (that’s right – boys). I assumed, the way teenagers do when life is supposed to make sense and you don’t know what you don’t know, that Ang would grow up and become a writer. Of course she would. It seemed so simple.

But life is never a straight line.

So here’s Angela’s story…baker street

There are these moments that <dramatic music please> change your life forever. Christie can attest to this, she and I have shared one or two of these moments over our 20-year (!!!) friendship. These are the moments that led to Jewel of the Thames becoming a reality.

Everything changed for me one spring day in 1992 at an assembly in the gym where, as per usual, I was giggling and whispering with my friends in the audience. Suddenly my name was called by the Principal of the school and I was jostled out from the safety of the herd and to the front of the room. Having not really listened to the preceding speech, I was shocked to learn that a poem I had written as part of a school assignment had been published in an anthology of like-quality poems by Canadian children. The Principal smiled the biggest smile I had ever seen on a teacher, and handed me a copy of the coil-bound anthology, turning me back towards the audience of my schoolmates and starting the applause that followed me back to my safe haven between her best friends.

That was the moment when I discovered that despite being of Indian descent, there were in fact other options for your life’s work than medicine or engineering.

You would think that that moment would be enough to put me on the right path, but no, I struggled gamely through two years of pre-med, an MCAT and a summer dissecting cats in a neurology lab (no, really, it happened) before taking my first University-level Shakespeare course. The class was a requirement for the BSc I was clawing my way towards despite terrible grades in math and physics.

I was getting an A in the class and thoroughly enjoying it, sad that it would be ending, and sad I would be leaving my favourite teacher, Dr. Batycki when on the very last day of class she called me over. My classmates and I were lazily talking amongst ourselves about the spring and plans for the summer, so I remember feeling very comfortable and happy that day. Dr. Batycki stepped outside the classroom, holding the door open for me, and then grasping both my hands in hers, proceeded to tell me that I was a writer. No, not just a person who enjoyed reading and writing, but a person who SHOULD be writing. I of course denied it, explaining that I was going to be a doctor, that maybe someday I would write medical textbooks (my father’s suggestion when years earlier I had asked about writing as a profession) but I was not a writer – that’s just something I did for fun. She smiled at me then, and took up my hands again (which I had dropped in shock and denial) and just said it again, “You are a writer, Angela,” and then patted me on the shoulder and went back into the classroom.

That was the moment I discovered that you can deny your destiny all you want – it will, like Lady Macbeth’s spot – mark you forever to all who meet you.

Between that moment and my truly horrendous marks in math, I switched to English Literature, and excelled, moving further and taking a Masters in Journalism before my 23rd birthday. I wrote my first full-length novel in those years, a historical fiction set in 3B.C. India called ‘Savitri,’ and many poems that will never see the light of day if I have my way. I also wrote a thesis about Sherlock Holmes that would set the stage for the Portia Adams Adventures. It was a psychoanalysis of the great fictional detective in which I postulated that he was bipolar. It was incredibly fun to research and write and allowed me to read everything about Holmes and Conan-Doyle and many of the other authors who had taken to writing about the Baker Street detective since then.

You remember Galadriel’s lines at the beginning of the Lord of the Rings trilogy? “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.” Ok, so my writings were not lost for that long, but for almost 10 years, while I was excelling in Digital Journalism at the CBC and raising my son, I barely wrote anything that wasn’t a news story or a web documentary.

Suddenly, on a trip to San Francisco, I was so inspired by the landscape and colours of the desert that I started writing a short story in my moleskin notebook. That story grew to over 80,000 words of a time-travel novel and inspired more writing, and more poems and suddenly I was writing all the time – stopping only because my hand would cramp up around my pen. I wrote on the train in to work, I wrote at lunch time, I wrote on the ride home, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.

During my last two years at the CBC, I that novel set in San Fran plus three books about detective Portia Adams – 35 moleskin notebooks in all.

During my last two years at the CBC, I wrote that novel set in San Fran plus three books about detective Portia Adams – filling 35 moleskin notebooks in all.

That was the moment when I discovered that I should write novels.

Finally, the pressure of having all these books written with no one to read them got to me and I hung up my headphones (I worked in radio, follow along people) and left the CBC to get published (again).

Life is about moments. These are the ones that led to me becoming a novelist.

Angela, the real life author, at a book signing! Photo by Wayne MacPhail

Angela, the real life author, at a book signing!
Photo by Wayne MacPhail

I’ve already given my review of the book itself, but judge for yourself. Here’s a brief synopsis:

There’s a new detective at 221 Baker Street

jewel of the thames front coverSet against the background of 1930s England, Jewel of the Thames introduces Portia Adams, a budding detective with an interesting — and somewhat mysterious — heritage.

Nineteen-year-old Portia Adams has always been inquisitive. There’s nothing she likes better than working her way through a mystery. When her mother dies, Portia puzzles over why she was left in the care of the extravagant Mrs. Jones but doesn’t have long to dwell on it before she is promptly whisked from Toronto to London by her new guardian. Once there Portia discovers that she has inherited 221 Baker Street — the former offices of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Portia settles into her new home and gets to know her downstairs tenants, including the handsome and charming Brian Dawes. She also finds herself entangled in three cases: the first involving stolen jewelry, the second a sick judge and the final case revolving around a kidnapped child. But the greatest mystery of all is her own. How did she come to inherit this townhouse? And why did her mother keep her heritage from her? Portia has a feeling Mrs. Jones knows more than she is letting on. In fact, she thinks her new guardian may be the biggest clue of all.

So here’s your big chance, leave a comment here (before April 10th) and you can win a FREE e-copy of Jewel of the Thames! Answer a question, or simply leave your name to be entered into the draw.

What childhood dream have you recently reclaimed?

What moment has changed the trajectory of your life?

Which fictional detective do you most closely resemble?

 


What I’m Into: March 2014

Today was a sunny day.

Ya, that’s right. Sun. Blue sky. Green grass. I wore shorts.

We who live on the rainy West Coast complain a lot. And it is grey and soggy and unrelenting. But sometimes, while our relatives are digging themselves out from another snowstorm, we’re digging out the sunscreen. We win.

Reading

I’m SO relieved I don’t have to think of diplomatic things to say about my friend Angela’s new book, Jewel of the Thames. I loved it! You know when you eat a meal that hits the spot – feeding a craving you weren’t even aware you had? That’s what this book did for me.
BBC’s Sherlock rekindled my fascination with the unconventional genius detective; Angela Misri feeds it with this fun read. Portia Adams, recently orphaned, discovers she is heiress of 221 Baker St from the mysterious grandfather she never knew. As with all my favourite detectives she is quirky, tough and brilliant. The mysteries are intriguing and I whipped through it at record speed.
PLUS – as a special bonus, my friend Ang has agreed to be the first official guest poster on this blog on Thursday!
jewel of the thames front cover

I also read The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall this month – exploring the necessity of narrative, a power so integral to humanity we rarely notice how completely we are immersed in it. It’s a dense book exploring competing ideas about everything from literature to dreams to LARPing (that’s Live Action Role Playing, non-nerds), but it is full of story itself, never once feeling like a textbook. I usually dislike evolutionary psychology, but this author manages to present his ideas without sucking the mystery and magic out of life. So much to think about… a fascinating read for every bookworm and amateur sociologist.

Surfing

My second cousin and a friend put together this unusual blog. Weekly Love Story tells a unique story about real-life love each week. They reach beyond formulaic Hollywood romance to show us everyday beauty: a meeting of the minds, sister and brother, a beloved child, passing friendships… there is so much out there worth celebrating. It always brightens my day!

Watching

A friend reminded me of this poem recently: The Shrinking Woman, about our tendency as women to agonize over how much space we deserve to occupy in our own worlds, not just physically, but in other ways too.

As usual, I’m behind the times in watching Call the Midwife. After the first couple of episodes I liked it just fine, but didn’t see what the big deal was. By number 4, I had fallen deeply in love with this series. It is by turns gritty, sweet, challenging, heartwarming and deeply human – a celebration of community and womanhood set in East London during the 1950s.

After watching the (pretty good, but not as amazing as the series) movie with me, Glen agreed to watch all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars together. That’s love!

Our family gives The Muppets: Most Wanted a unanimous “okay” – a fun show, but not nearly as good as the last one.

Advocating

Last year the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that our prostitution laws are unconstitutional. The government has been given until December 2014 to draft new laws. The conservative government has been here before and ultimately committee recommendations to implement a Nordic (abolitionist) model were overlooked. Although the official deadline for public input was March, we can still influence the direction our country takes.

As for me, I’m an abolitionist. Here’s why:

abolition infographic

abolition 2

abolition 3

abolition 4

abolition 5

abolition 6

Infographic by: rethinklife.org

For more info or to get involved, check out:

The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution

Blogging

This has been a strange month for So Here’s Us. I’m all over the place.

On one hand is my usual fare, a poem for World Down Syndrome Day: I Am Me; another one for So-Overwhelmed-I’m-Losing-My-Mind Day (aka – almost every day): Sinking; and finally an introspective piece about things life is teaching me: Excuse Me While I Apologize for Living.

On the other hand, I’ve started a new series called What I Believe explaining our new life philosophy. It starts with a break-up letter to our beloved church: Confession Time and explains the biggest shift: From Certainty to Mystery. For those interested in spiritual matters, stay tuned for Embracing a Bigger Gospel and What is a Progressive Christian Anyway?

So here’s us, panting for spring and all the new beginnings that come with it.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” list.

 what I'm into

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What I Believe: From Certainty to Mystery

Welcome to my second installment of What I Believe. In my last post I broke up with my church, the one I have loved, and been loved by, for a solid decade. The philosophical shifts that have brought us to this point are less about this church in particular and more about our entire understanding of life and truth. Most foundational in these shifts is what modern writers have been calling “embracing the mystery.”

It was a lot less fun to get here than you might think. But in the end, more rewarding than I expected. I’ve never felt so free.

As always, it’s not my intent to offend. This is my journey, mine alone. These are my thoughts and ideas, and for once in my life, I don’t need to convert anyone to it.

I used to live in a world that was black and white with a slim margin of grey. I shook my head at those who didn’t have quite as much grey as I did, and called them Legalists. I worried about those whose black and white was more smudged than mine, and thought them weak.

I remember being frustrated with these smudge-y people, who refused to play the game right. They would duck and weave their way past labels and positions and absolutes. Blithely shrugging their shoulders, as if “I don’t know” were an acceptable answer.

Until my husband – the missionary, the apologist, the solid, unswerving intellect of our operation – began wrestling, questioning and dismantling his theological boxes. Some that had never held water for him anyway; he’d always believed in evolution and women’s equality. But now it was all on the table. Hell. Gay rights. End times. Inerrancy of the Bible. Truth in other religions. Even the existence of God.question It was scary and uncomfortable questioning the foundations of our whole world – in practice, the very opposite of weak.

It was hard for him to say anything, to anyone. He doesn’t like to think out loud. After years of chewing on revolutionary questions, conclusions had yet to emerge for him. Just angst. Layers of irritated, depressing angst. So he opened up to me anyway. Finally. Hesitantly.

As if I would be surprised.

I hadn’t read all the books on all the subjects like he had. I hadn’t agonized over all the issues for years. But I had felt the same restless discomfort. That the Jesus I knew from the Bible didn’t fit within the strictures of our evangelical traditions. That the “us & them” mentality pervading it was toxic and untrue. That the certainties we were expected to maintain at all costs were dishonest and unreasonable.

So I read the books and had the discussions and did my share of agonizing… I was surprised to find that the “other sides” weren’t ignoring the Bible or explaining it away, just filtering it through a different perspective. Sometimes it fit for me, sometimes it didn’t, but nothing was clear anymore. I slayed my sacred cows and the world kept on spinning.

Taking into account the width and depth of Christian perspectives, it is quickly apparent that sincere, intelligent God-followers – experts, scholars and the earliest church thinkers – have come to radically different conclusions about the same scriptures, the same Christ, the same questions, throughout history. Certain positions that seem foundational, non-negotiable within church tradition are eventually discarded as ridiculous: flat earth, racism, conversion by conquest, slavery… to name just a few.

The oft repeated “the Bible is clear about _______” begins to sound suspicious. Because more often than we like to admit, the Bible is confusing, even alarming, requiring a certain amount of mental gymnastics to harmonize. Because the Bible, set in both an ancient time and a foreign culture, is not easy to understand or apply in a modern context. Because the Bible, as meaningful and important as it is, requires human interpretation, something that is deeply fallible and hardly ever clear.

Could it be that “I don’t know” is the ONLY acceptable answer?

I have emerged from this haze of questions. Not with the conclusions I expected, clear positions and easy-to-read labels for new boxes. With freedom. With peace. That I might be, and most certainly am in some areas, wrong. That I don’t have all the answers. That I don’t have to have all the answers. That when Jesus summed it all up in one sentence: “love God and love others” He meant it.

Can it be that simple? To choose love. Every time. Every issue.

I know that this answer is too smudge-y for many of you, more poetry than equation. But our sacred book is made up of poetry, history, allegory, ancient laws and ultimately grace – not math. Jesus was always more interested in the heart of the matter, in the heart of a person, than in drawing lines and creating policy.

So I’m not sure anymore. About a lot of things. Not like I used to be. But that’s what faith is for.

So here’s my confession, I don’t believe what I used to. I don’t consider myself an evangelical or fit neatly into any denominational box.

But I still believe. In God. In Jesus. In learning from the Bible. In finding a spiritual community. In buying fair trade and wearing sensible shoes. In love, over and above, around and under, as the fabric of who God is and who I am meant to be.

Still to come:
Embracing a Bigger Gospel
and
What is Progressive Christianity Anyway?


Excuse Me While I Apologize for Living

Every once in awhile it feels like life is conspiring to teach me a lesson. As if God is pointing a celestial finger at something in my life. “See! Do you see? This.”
fingerofGod

The unrelated incidents begin to pile up and a pattern emerges. And I start to see. “Ohhhhhh. This.”

  • I deal with a biting incident at our new church (my son, not me) like a mature, well-adjusted adult – bursting into tears, sobbing “I’m sorry we’re so much work…” The ladies in the nursery both comfort me and call me on it. Why it is so hard for me to receive the same kind of help I’d happily give others?
  • I’ve got a sore throat and a head ache. I need help with the kids. I apologize all day long, until my husband totally loses his cool. “I’ve never met anyone who apologizes so much for their own existence! You are not the only one in the mix.” This is a recurring problem.
  • I read My Sister’s Addiction about the compulsive need to be needed. She quotes Mark Nepo

    “I have been learning that the life of a caretaker is as addictive as the life of an alcoholic… we briefly numb a worthlessness that won’t go away unless constantly doused by another shot of self-sacrifice…”

    This is me. So me. Ouch.

  • I have trouble leaving my son at preschool. Even though he’s totally happy and well cared for and  I have class and I really need the break. I walk down the stairs slowly, so slowly, pushing down a ridiculous upswell of guilt.
  • I make a new friend who is passionate about teaching children to be advocates for each other, especially those with special needs. My kind of people. She tells a story about her daughter learning to advocate for herself, an important first step in becoming an advocate – Short Hair Don’t Care. And I find myself in tears. Again.
  • A blog post appears in my inbox, I mean to delete it (no time to read), but click on the link by accident. Iced Tea, Decaf and the World Changing on its Axis is about a woman going to school while her husband helps cover for her (sounds familiar). She talks about the lessons of her mother’s generation:

    Women are the ones who sacrifice for their families. Not men. Not children. Women. In  her world, God could not be calling any woman to do something that would cost her family anything. Not.Possible.”

    And I start crying (of course), because deep down, I must believe this. Even though I know it’s crap. And I don’t want to.  And it’s not what my parents taught me.

Clearly, I have a problem. I’m pretty good at giving. I won’t back down from a spirited debate. I’m a strong personality in many other ways. But some strange mixture of pride and insecurity makes it hard for me to ask for help. To accept the help I need. To accept that I need help at all. This is more than just a life skills deficit, it’s a spiritual problem.

I go to extraordinary lengths not to put people out, not to be a bother. If they bring me the wrong thing at the restaurant, I’ll usually just eat it. If someone does me wrong, I usually just eat that too. I make myself small.

Also, I’m really weepy these days.

This morning I had a chance to put some weight behind my resolution to speak up, to stop apologizing for what I need.

The good news, the absolutely thrilling and exciting news, is that a short story I wrote has been published in the university literary magazine. The editorial staff put a ton of work and effort into the annual publication. They did a great job!

As someone who’s done a lot of copy editing I know how easy it is, almost inevitable, to miss something. And they did. Unfortunately, the word missing is crucial. A climactic statement at the very end of my story rendered nonsensical.

It still works. I’m still 99% tickled to see my name in print. I know it’s too late to do anything about the print copies. I tell myself it’s not a big deal, stop obsessing. But I need them to fix it before they post the PDF version online.

That was a hard email for me to write.

So here’s me, taking up space in the world. And that might put people out, or rock the boat, or make a mess. And I’m learning to be okay with that.


I Am Me: a poem for World Down Syndrome Day

Hello.
It’s me.

You can call me…
sweetheart
kiddo
sunshine

Call me…
student
equestrian
swimmer

Call me…
artist
dancer
singer

Call me friend.

I am me.

I am…
charming
stubborn
silly

I am…
affectionate
moody
kind

I am…
imaginative
exuberant
bossy

I am sweet.

I am me.

I have…
parents who adore me
sisters who tease me
a little brother who follows me around

I have…
grandparents who dote on me
teachers who are proud of me
friends of all shapes, sizes and colours

I have…
fears and dreams
favourite songs and movies
strong opinions about my own life

I have Down Syndrome.

have
Down Syndrome.
But I am not Down Syndrome.

iammeI am me.

So here’s my homage to the lovely “Lose the Label” campaign (@Lose_the_label). Because we are, all of us, more than our diagnoses and disabilities.

March 21 is World Down Syndrome (aka Trisomy 21) Day. You know, 3/21 for Trisomy 21… get it?

In honour of the unique and wonderful people we know, who happen to have Down Syndrome (especially the one we feed and hug and tuck into bed every night) I am posting a link to this tearjerker. I defy you to watch it and not get choked up:

Dear Future Mom…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ju-q4OnBtNU


Confession Time

I’ve been cheating.

Unfaithful.

Stepping out.

On my church. With another church.

Okay, not exactly scandalous. But it’s a big deal to me. And to my family. Not the flesh and blood ones I inherited, but the ones we chose. The ones who chose us, over and over again, these past 10 years. Chose to feed us, to notice us, to like us and to love us, to teach us and learn from us, to laugh and cry with us, to help us move and paint and fix the thousands of things that have broken beyond what our remedial-level-handiness could bear.

This is the church that once considered us one of their missionary families. The church that once hired me, welcomed me on staff and appreciated me; irreverent humour, socialist politics, feminist rants and all. The church that rearranged itself entirely to support special needs kids and families like ours.

I know, I know, if our church is so awesome…

Why stray?

Don’t get me wrong, they’re not perfect. We’ve had our ups and downs. But the new church, it’s not a perfect fit either. In fact, it might require even more give and take from us. And we have very little left to give these days.

It’s not about that.

So, why trade comfortable, familiar and safe for new, strange and, since we’re both introverts, kinda scary?

It’s a long story.
A very, very long story.

If you come to this blog for Mommy stories about adoption or special needs, anecdotes about the strange thing my kid stuck up his nose last night or how I gave myself a black eye with my own umbrella; or, if you are part of the 99.99% of the world who could care less about my spiritual beliefs…. feel free to scroll past these “What I Believe” posts and return to the blog for regularly scheduled programming. I will continue posting about other things too. FYI, if you can hardly stand the suspense, it was a fork – up his nose (who does that?).

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to also unpack the story of our shift in life philosophies (what church folks often call “theology”) and the reason why this is a good thing for us, and not at all a reason to call my friends/parents/former pastor in a panic. Or do. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. Who am I to tell you what to think?

To the church family who has loved us well for over a decade, please know that this isn’t a judgment…

It’s not you, it’s me.

I’ve changed. So has my husband.

You’ve been patient. We haven’t felt bullied or disrespected for sharing our questions or concerns, even when you’ve disagreed with us, and wondered when we’d get over this rebellious phase, and ultimately accepted us as the official shit-disturbers of care group.

We just aren’t on the same page anymore.

by michael svigel the christian post siftingpoint.com

by michael svigel siftingpoint.com

We think you’re great. We want only good things for you…

I hope we can still be friends.

That’s why we tried to juggle two churches at once. That’s why we’ve taken so long to officially “break up.” And that’s why we might still visit from time to time (you’re not getting rid of us entirely).

But why make such a big deal about it? Why not just stop showing up and hope no one notices? Is it ridiculously melodramatic, rampant overthinking, to write a letter like this?

Um, ya…
have you met me?

To us, church is not just a place to go; it’s a community, a web of relationships. I don’t expect those relationships to end, but as our affiliation changes, so will they. And that can get messy. Already I’ve heard a few rumors and misconceptions about what we believe.

I guess that’s inevitable. It’s hard for us to put years of intellectual wrangling into a few succinct sentences. It’s confusing.

I’m not known for my brevity, but I’ll do my best to clarify our understanding in the next few posts. I’m going to pretend that the entire internet wants to know our story. Of course they do. I’ll even answer questions from the comments section. Seriously, anything. Almost anything. Within reason. Use your best judgment.

Stay tuned for posts on:

So here’s us 2.0.


Sinking

Hustle, Bustle
Push, Pull
Undertow

Swirling currents
Essential activities
Unrelenting demands

Faster, Faster
Higher, Stronger
Better, Bigger
More

I can’t touch bottom anymore.
I’m not the strong swimmer
I thought I was.

No lifeguard
at this end of the pool.
Play at your own risk.

Drowning
in busy,
in belongings,
in belonging to.

I need
to save myself
for a change.

drown

So here’s me, carving out moments of still and silent for Lent. Because God keeps whispering “Be Still” and it’s time I listened.


What I’m Into: February 2014

vitaminsI turned my back for 5 minutes, maybe 10. He pulled a chair into the kitchen, climbed up on the counter and helped himself to a jar. He got a bowl out of the cupboard, removed the “childproof” lid and poured 3 months of rainbow-coloured vitamins into it. He carried it carefully to the table, sat up with a spoon and was just about to chow down on a massive multivitamin feast… when I noticed the quiet.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. A sentiment which pretty much sums up January and February in our house. I’ve filled pages and pages of journals, written a record number of unfinished/unpublished posts and spilled my guts to dear friends and people I barely know alike. Maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime.

In the meantime, to maintain sanity I’ve also been…

Reading

E&PEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is the most fun I’ve had reading in a long, long time. Aside from the dark and haunting subplot, this romance between two (slightly nerdy) 16 year-olds, set in the 80s, could be my own. It is funny, sweet and captures the drama and desperation of teenaged love.

In the “you had to be there” category When We Were On Fire is an uncomfortably honest memoir by Addie Zierman about the strange subculture of evangelicalism. Exposing both the beautiful and the toxic, she shares her story of leaving and ultimately returning to “the church.” It tastes awfully familiar.

lamottBird by Bird by Anne Lamott contains some of the most profound, funny, inspiring, practical, winsome advice I’ve ever read. A book about writing and life, by one of the most beautiful writers of our time. To say I like it is an absurd understatement. Brilliant!

Surfing

If you’ve ever felt the burning desire to drop out of our corrupt, soul-killing, materialistic system, build your own home in a remote forest location, and live entirely off the grid in a one room yurt with your entire family… then you should read Esther Emery‘s blog. If, like me, you really haven’t and don’t expect ever to, you should read it anyway, because she is wise, honest, challenging and amazingly likeable for someone who’s living such an extreme vocation.

In an effort to behave more like the adult I aspire to be, I’m trying to keep up with international news. BBC World News is my new favourite. I’ve found it to be up to date, with quick and easy headlines, balanced coverage, without the North American fixation most local agencies fall into.

Watching

Saving Mr. Banks is one of the first times I’ve taken my girls to a movie that I wanted to see. This is based on the story behind Mary Poppins. It doesn’t move quickly, but the acting is fantastic. Turns out 11-years-old is too young to enjoy it, but 13 is just right.

I can barely admit this, but one of the movies I enjoyed most recently is Robocop. These kind of movies are a guilty pleasure – something I do alone, since my guy prefers romantic comedies over action, sci-fi or war movies (take that Binary Gender Roles!). I was impressed with the surprisingly complex issues this movie deals with and a really weird looking Samuel L Jackson.

I was guilt tripped into watching Gravity with my husband. Only 2 actors on camera the entire film, most of which is spent drifting in space… sounds dull. But it’s gripping. I can’t believe Sandra Bullock didn’t win an Oscar for it. She carries the entire show.

I’ve also been watching The Walking Dead, Call the Midwife, and as many episodes of Veronica Mars as I can manage before the movie release on March 14th. I can’t wait – probably my favourite detective character of all time, with the notable exception of BBC’s Sherlock.

Naval Gazing

Okay, I’ll admit it. I love those stupid buzzfeed quizzes that tell you what kind of dog/country/soft drink/cancerous fungus you are. For a healthier brand of introspection I’ve spent some time perusing the Enneagram. This personality system was designed by monks in ages past and is a much more productive, and spiritual, practice than I ever expected. Thanks to Lexi who first “therapized” me into this method and Leigh Kramer, whose series on Enneagram has been eye-opening.

I’m a 1, if anyone cares.enneagram-best

Blogging

What writing I actually managed to post on the blog this month consists entirely of love letters: to my husband in Once Upon a Marriage, my littles In His Shoes and In Her Shoes, even to an object, the one nearest and dearest to my heart in My Favourite Thing.

So here’s me, participating in Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link up.

 what I'm into


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