Family

That Poor Survey Woman…

A couple weeks ago Statistics Canada called me on my camping vacation to participate in “month two” of my four month survey – mandatory by law – of course, or no one would sit through a second (or honestly even the first).

The survey topic? Work and Employment.

Which quite honestly hit a few nerves on the first week for this mother of five. Even on a good day, asking a mother who has worked from before the sun rises most mornings for absolutely nothing in return other than the well being of her family, “if she has done anything in the past week that qualifies as work” and then EXPECTING her to say “no” is not only insensitive, it’s foolish.

Being asked that after a week of sleepless nights and VERY difficult behavioural issues with a couple of children and what can you expect, but a very, very emotional and upset response?

The questionnaire, which is repeatedly done for four months, asks questions such as:

Have you done anything qualifying as work the past week?

Are you currently looking for work?

Why are you not looking for work?

With the childcare available in Canada, what is keeping you from wanting to work?

All of the questions above, taking into consideration, is a slap in the face to a stay at home mom.

And suddenly I snapped.

“Pardon me,” I cut in sharply, “But I would like to let you know that this whole survey is really offensive to me! I mean, I know you personally didn’t make this survey,” I told the poor lady on the phone, “But what right do you have to ask a hardworking mother of five, why I’m not sticking my kids in daycare to make money?!? What right does someone have to assume that is a sensitive or appropriate question?!? And that mothering doesn’t “qualify for work”, but working in a daycare does? What right does my government have to make me feel useless for choosing my own children over a job that makes money?”

And yes, I did pity the poor woman as she stumbled and stammered out a compassionate response about this survey “not trying to put down hard working mothers” but desperate to get my point across I continued:

“Seriously,” I said, “I would like you to make a note of this on my survey. That this survey is inappropriate for countless reasons. Because quite honestly, I believe the purpose in asking these questions four months in a row is to put on some pressure on those who are “unemployed.”

The survey woman paused and said, I kid you not, “Well, I’m sure as soon as your kids are in school you’ll be able to finally get a job. No one is saying you are lazy.”

At this point, I began to cry, because I was heartbroken that our culture has drifted so far in just a few short years.  My grandmother would’ve never been expected to “return to work” once her children were in school. Because the things that she did in that day and age were valued.

Growing a garden and canning has value.

Making homemade, healthy meals, has value.

Volunteering has value.

Disciplining children and helping with homework has value.

So does cleaning, organizing, and mending clothes.

Someone has to drive those kids to sports, music lessons and social events.

Babysitting for others. Blessing neighbours with baked goods. Taking meals to younger mothers who’ve just had a baby or families who’ve lost loved ones.

These things have value!

And if I do something that “qualifies as work” in Canada…all those things I just mentioned, will be pushed off onto someone else or not done at all. And we wonder why everyone is depressed and anxious! Why neighbours don’t talk anymore? Why people suffer their hardships alone?

It’s because somewhere along the way, someone decided that mothering and running a household doesn’t have value!

Dear Canada,

I wonder if we decided to value mothers, how much less we’d spend on the foster care system, on juvenile detention centres, on prisons, on mental healthcare. I wonder if families would stay together, if divorce rates would drop,  if children were given a safe place to grow up?

I wonder if we defined importance, not by monetary value, but by character and ethics, what types of people would be honoured most highly? I wonder if we’d see through the cracked foundations we are so quickly and carelessly pouring for the next generation – if we’d really stop and consider what the effects are of our face-paced, workaholic world… I wonder if we would change.

Would we value mothers, if we slowed down enough to see them?

Why not do a compulsory survey about the despairing effects of distracted parenting? Of workaholism?

I believe the results would be staggering.

Maybe, just maybe, getting more civilians into the workforce to pay taxes isn’t the answer to our countries reckless debt and spending issues. Maybe, it all comes down to those cracked foundations we’re building on. Maybe it’s not about the money. Maybe it’s about the people.

Sincerely,

A Mother who does Valuable Work at Home

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Fitness · Health · Running

Run

Lost in thoughts that swirl like the wind around me, the steady rhythm of my feet keeps the time. The world around moves slowly, as if I’m in some different place entirely – a world far different from mine.

Golden fields stretch out far as the eye can see. Chaos fades into peaceful breaths, left alone to my thoughts and steps. Sometimes in silence, sometimes singing with each gasping breath. Sometimes yelling to the dog because she’s off in the field, nowhere near my side.

Beside me, my dog comes alive. It’s the favourite part of her day. Just us, going nowhere for no reason. When does that happen?

Most days, just before evening.

The sun begins to set.

The stifling heat of summer gives way to the cool of the fall. Leaves turn warm colors as the air grows colder each day. Red, brown, yellow and orange. The perfect skyline bouquet.

Run.

As my breaths become sharper, and my knees begin to ache, I change the tempo and taper my speed. The rhythm is slower, but perfectly in tune with the world around me which is also preparing for rest. My favourite shoes begin to rub and pinch in the all wrong places. The skin beneath my arm feels tender. A sword pierces my side.

But I do not stop.

Perseverance is par for the course. Runners know persistence, they are tenacious and among the stubborn on this Earth.

Because what would we do without this?

Trade real beauty and peace for a screen? Trade true emotional rest for a sitcom or show, that wearies the mind and troubles the soul? Or rush from one event to the next…still running, but without taking a breath. Or make wearisome conversation when all that you crave is stillness and to be alone?

No.

I run. To nowhere at all.

For the Joy. In the pain. Finding God. Shutting out hate. For the peace. For my health. This keeps me sane.

To remind myself that I’m still here, and I still matter.

Keep running.

Creative Writing

I Almost Gave Up On My Book

Writing is a largely thankless and daunting task. One that many dive into for no reason other than the fact that deep, deep down they know without a doubt that their words are meant to be written. Their stories just need to be told. It always amazes me how many writers press on through the day to day discouragement, though many times alone.

A few months ago, I almost quit the book I’ve been working on for almost two years now.

What might have brought me to this point, you may ask?

Well, if you’ve read any of my posts about my hopeless computer (which hates me by the way), you will know that multiple times now the hard drive has failed. And, like a person stuck in a bad relationship, I keep coming back for more thinking that this time maybe it will be different. As a result of my stubborn hopefulness, my work has been all but lost many times. And then, my computer genius of a husband swoops in to save the day and restore everything to working order.

But even Superheroes have a limit.

After the third time this happened, I could no longer blame my computer or excuse these unfortunate events as ignorance on my part. It was plain stupidity to not back up my files. My frustrated husband understandably took extra time trying to find the files and reinstall my writing program. In fact, that he was willing to do it yet again is a testimony of his love for me. But, in the meantime (for about six months) I was unable to work on my story.

At first, I saw this as a curse…

Until I recently read my book, I kid you not, written by somebody else. Now, I had heard of the well known series whose author seemed to read my mind…and hadn’t a hot clue what it was about until reading it this summer.

Reading that series crushed me, for the author had basically “copied” the main idea of my super “original” novel (ok I know, I know… it wasn’t copying me as it was published and written LONG before I came up with the idea…but still!)

It was as if the author had jumped into my head and completely taken my ideas out of context and then, to make matters worse, put a very disgusting romance in the mix with a touchy-feely couple that annoyed me to tears and made me want to throw up all at once.

And after reading her series, I seriously contemplated deleting mine. Who wants to be known as the author who tried to copy a hit series?? Who would even want to publish a work that seems so eerily similar to another…that almost everyone has already read?!? (Except for yours truly apparently).

Sigh.

I was about to delete it, but then, thankfully my thirteen year old boy begged me not to.

“I don’t care if you don’t publish it,” he said, “I still want to read it!”

That, my friends, is why every author needs a team behind them. His words sent me on a new mission: To salvage what I could of the originality story line and characters in my book and to make just enough changes that it won’t be mistaken for a “wanna be” version of another series. And it was this very situation, ironically, that helped me to overcome my six month “writing pause”.

The book that I am currently working on is the first in a three part series about a dangerous ideology regarding child-rearing and one mans “solution to the problem”. Macy Grale, knows something is amiss in the city named after the famous Dr. Jacob Slone, which was built upon his Five Foundational Truths. But only when she meets the doctor who brought her into the city, does she unlock the past secrets that haunt her dreams and discover for herself why Slone City is destined to collapse. Macy must use her gift of writing to open the eyes of the world around her to the truth behind the walls of Slone, reminding them of the importance of love, family and beauty.

After many hours, I am so close to being done, I can almost taste it. Today I finally printed out the first of many drafts and quickly sketched up a cover (which will be digitally improved upon of course)!

And you, my faithful readers will be the very first people to see it:

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There it is people! My first draft, with many, many errors, I’m sure! But it’s there. And that’s what matters.

If you have any experience on what my next steps should be in getting this published, PLEASE help me!! I know nothing about editing or publishing so I need your advice!

Thank you to all who have been so encouraging and supportive on my blog! This book wouldn’t have happened without you.

Faith · Parenting · Vulnerability

No one is Really Ready for Parenting

When I became a mother at the young age of 18, I clearly remember a very real pressure to prove to everyone around me that I was ready to parent. Now I can’t speak for those who wait until their 30s to first start having kids, but I can tell you from my own experience that I always felt as if someone was watching and even waiting for me to mess up.

As if they had CFS on speed dial and were eager to have the chance to call me in for any mistake I would most certainly make.

Every choice was thought through at least twice.

Every cry was my fault.

Everything I couldn’t afford to provide, I felt the need to justify. For crying out loud, I couldn’t even order a drive-through coffee back then without feeling guilty, as if I should be spending my money more wisely (on baby).

Every feeling of overwhelm was shoved down and pressed into a deep dark pit in my stomach which would only be addressed a decade later as I neared my thirties.

The reason was simple: Teenage mothers get a really bad rap. And I understand this! Often the mother is far too inexperienced, too self-absorbed, far too naive to realize what raising a child all entails. A baby definitely does not just simply mean a cute doll to haul around and a gorgeous Pinterest nursery to create…

Right from day one, the child is a living, breathing, individual being; a little human who hasn’t a clue how to tell you what they need, much less regulate their own emotions or take care of their most basic functions.

Being a young mom, I was painfully aware of this stereotype – so much, that I couldn’t even admit to my very normal feelings of becoming a mother. I couldn’t admit that I was afraid. I couldn’t admit that I needed help or ask for a much needed break. No parent should live with that kind of expectation. Raising children is far too difficult for one person to do alone. I took motherhood all on my own shoulders, lest someone would step into my life and tell me: “I told you so! I knew that you were too young. You never should’ve been allowed to keep your own child. You should’ve given it up to parents who were ready! Parents who are established in their careers, who have a house and can keep their plants alive (heaven knows I can’t!) YOU’RE JUST NOT READY!!!”

And you know what? They would’ve been right about that last part.

Because I wasn’t ready. Not for a second.

I wasn’t ready to give up sleep; to eat cold meals for the next year because the baby needed to be fed.

I wasn’t ready for the postpartum pain women experience after childbirth. I had no idea that for the next month I would have trouble standing without fainting and dread every bathroom break.

I had no idea of the pain I would experience while breastfeeding, or the loneliness of being the only one who was able to meet that need for my baby.

I had no idea of the absolute love and protectiveness I would feel when someone else would hold my baby in a position I knew he didn’t like or wrap him up too warmly.

I didn’t know the absolute terror I would feel as he lay with needles and cords from every limb while he spent almost a year in the hospital awaiting a diagnosis to why he was so sick.

I just wasn’t ready.

But neither is any parent, really.

A few days ago, I had the privilege of bumping into some new parents in their thirties. As I asked them how they were doing, they smiled and responded in awe of how nothing had prepared them for both the joys and the struggles they were facing and with a slight smile the man said, “It’s crazy how such a tiny person can completely change everything in your life!”

And it struck me: These feelings are normal! They didn’t just happen to me because I was too young.

Oh, that I would’ve realized that years ago!

I’m now 31 years old, with 5 kids. You could say that I have some experience…

And yet I still don’t feel ready in so many ways.

I’m not ready to stay calm, when my kid rages out of control.

I’m not ready to give up the things I love so that I can replace yet another worn out pair of shoes.

I’m not ready to navigate the teenage emotions and schedules, much less ready for my oldest to get his drivers in a couple more years.

But parenting never was meant to be about being ready. It’s about doing the right thing, even when you’re not ready. It’s about being the bigger person and admitting your mistakes (and you will make MANY). It’s about grace and second chances, for your kids, for yourself.

It’s about recognizing that everyone else around you was also not really ready, but yet, somehow, are doing it – and doing it well. Because what you really need to become a great parent is selflessness, love, persistence and a whole lot of people to walk beside you.

 

Vulnerability

Raw Post Ahead

For the past few months I’ve been struggling a lot with feelings of inadequacy. I feel like I just don’t measure up, like I’m mostly a disappointment to those around me and actually many times I wonder if those closest to me even like me.

And writing a blog when I feel this way? Yuck.

I mean, there’s {almost} nothing worse than reading post after post of an insecure individual, fishing for compliments and for others to validate them. In fact the only reason I am up to writing today is because finally I feel a bit better, as if things may be looking up for me. Often, when I feel this way I begin to drift away on my latest social media platform of choice, this time it being WordPress. I don’t want to be that whiny blog no one reads so I instinctively want to fade out before my followers do. I feel that familiar longing to do my knee-jerk reaction and “delete the account”…to crawl back deeper into my hole.

Being forgotten is often less painful than being noticed for the wrong reasons.

This blog hasn’t been super rewarding for me. As of now, I have a handful of people who actually read what I write. Mostly strangers.

I began this blog after having a dream that awakened a desire in me to write again. Writing for me has been therapeutic for as far back as I can remember. It’s a balm on my wounds. It takes the deepest pain, the most utter confusion, the darkest fear, the greatest joy and put words to it all. Suddenly that painful, dark thought doesn’t seem so frightening anymore when it’s been put into language. It’s been named and therefore, it can be understood.

There is nothing as beautiful as when emotion is transformed into words that make sense of it all. Make it musical and even more dimension is added; you can almost touch it. Poetry is the combination of our thoughts and feelings, finally released in a rhythmic form that expresses the inexpressible; a miracle that hits the page.

I never intended to write for fame or to be noticed.

I never started so that I could become the next top blog or because I expected my writing to make me an overnight millionare.

I started so that I could practice and improve my skills as a writer while sharing my unique story and lessons I’ve learnt along the way. I wrote to share my faith, to encourage, and, quite honestly, to write about some things that I couldn’t dare say out loud. Using my blog in this latter way has caused unintended conflict and I’ve had to delete a couple of posts in the past that brought pain to certain people in my life (one particular post was taken personally when it was addressing how tired I was of gossip). Since that particular post was written, I’ve felt an unaddressed strain in a couple relationships which resulted in me losing that first zeal I had for writing. No post is worth losing relationships over, no matter how well-meaning it is.

And on that point lies the reason why I feel like quitting: If I, a writer, can’t clearly get my point across and am so misunderstood, then maybe I’m not such a good writer after all.

Many times I approach the keyboard, clicking out my heart-felt words…

Only to delete.

Out of fear. Who will I hurt this time? Who will read into my intentions wrongly this time? Do I really come across that harsh? Am I that oblivious to my actions? Am I completely lacking self-awareness? Oh, when did these relationships become so painful, so delicately breakable that I feel like tucking myself into a corner and giving up? When did walking on egg-shells become a daily practice for me?

However I look at this though, no matter what lens I use, I always know that there is someone else out there who knows exactly what I’m feeling. They understand my words perfectly. And so I continue to write:

For it’s the only way I know how to navigate my feelings.

It’s the only way I know to ease my troubled thoughts.

I share,

Because I am not alone.

Somewhere out there is another soul:

Who feels forgotten and alone,

Who is painfully insecure,

Whose blog makes the ‘Sega Dreamcast’ look like a success…

And for some reason, that’s enough to keep me hammering on these keys, knowing that persistence may be the only thing I have left.

I keep writing because of how it helps me.

I keep running, because it teaches me endurance.

I keep working because the results are rewarding.

I keep loving because real love never fails.

I keep on giving, because one day I’ll see the fruit.

I keep learning Spanish because it’s been my dream since I was a little girl to speak it.

I keep praying because there’s a lot of impossible things that I am still waiting for.

I may be called a lot of things… but least they can’t call me a quitter.