My Computer Hates Me

It sits there, white screen of death, mocking me. Daring me to try fixing it again. Well not me, but my husband, who loves me ever so much as to put up with such requests.

It knows me well.

Coming from a Mennonite background, I just can’t bear the thought of throwing out anything that may just have a tiny bit of life still left in it. If I can sell it, yes, then I have no issue parting with my junk, because who doesn’t like to trade junk for cash?!? Or give it to someone in need, even better! Self help…sure!

But this hellish computer isn’t sellable. Or gift-able. It is garbage. A $2000 piece of iMac garbage.

It still looks brand new but the face itself hides the disaster within. I know full well that it fries it’s own hard drives within 6 months of replacing them.

The computer was a lemon when we got it. A toss away from a friend who wisely went on to a new and better relationship.

But being who I am. Could. Not. Chuck. Mr. FryMac.

My husband is a near genius when it comes to fixing technology. So with a hairdryer and some other tools he took the cursed thing apart and melted parts together, moved pieces around (I’m sure this description is precisely accurate by the way). And VOILA! I had me a brand new looking iMac.

A new hard drive was ordered and the thing worked beautifully for 2 full years. And then one day.

GONE!

All my writing, my saved files and documents!!! (thank goodness photos are in the “cloud”)

Most people would shrug and say at least I got two more years out of it… Not me!

I insisted that he fix it again (at which point he looked at me like I was from another plant and told me that it would just do this again)… to which I, knowing nothing about computers but fully believing in miracles, replied that surely Mr. FryMac would last three years this time.

So my ever patient husband shook his head and fixed it one more time telling me that he wouldn’t do it again. Oh and he recovered all my files. Because he’s amazing.

Now, four months later (practically to the day) everything’s gone.

He told me so….four short months later I’m in the same situation again and one would think I’d learnt my lesson already, but alas, the thought comes to me…maybe just one more time??

It’s either Mr. FryMac or back to good old Windows 7 **Shudder**

Well…which would you choose?

I’m leaning towards taking my chances with the FryMac.

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Beautiful March

I don’t know what it is about turning the calendar page and seeing that uplifting word “March” that lightens my heart so. Maybe it’s the promising thought that the worst of the winter winds, storms and temperature drops are over. As I’ve shared in the past, winter in Manitoba, Canada is no picnic. With windchill, temperatures where I live can drop as low as -50 degrees Celsius (That’s -58 Fahrenheit for my American readers)…This last February we spent almost a week in such weather and I don’t need fancy wording to describe what it feels like: It sucks. 

Kids get out of sorts, vehicles break, snowblowers break. My doors freeze shut and I literally have to blow dry the handles to thaw them. It’s just too cold. And I know I’m not the only one around here who asks the question, “Why do people LIVE here?!?”

But then, March! A glimmer of hope, the end is near! Spring is near. With it, longer and brighter days, sunshine, fresh cool air that doesn’t hurt to breathe, mounds of snow that day by day look just a little bit smaller. And yes, spring comes with its own troubles here… BUT after the dirty roads begin to dry, after the flooding ditches and after the loads upon loads of laundry from kids playing on the soggy, soaked grass and mud, after all this comes a beautiful and dreamy summer. Summer in Canada is wonderful! And every time it comes I thank God over and over for this country I call home. The skies are open and blue, the fields around my home stretch out for miles. It’s so warm and sunny that winter is but a distant memory. I forget the harsh reality that winter lasts half of the year; starting gently in November and December, freezing harshly in January and February, and slowly thawing from March until April.

I wonder, would I fully be able to appreciate summer if I never experienced the harsh, cold realities of winter? Would I love every minute of the sunshine if I hadn’t experienced the long days without it? Would all the warmth be taken for granted if I had never been without it?

Interesting to think about, that hard seasons of life make the good ones so much better. If I light a tea light in a sunny room, it goes unnoticed. But light that same candle in a room that is pitch black and the candle shines brightly. It reminds me that even bad things can serve a purpose in this world and that thought fills me with so much hope. Sickness makes health so much sweeter. Pain makes comfort all the greater. Going without, does bring about thankfulness for the things we have and it’s no secret that a thankful heart is a happy heart.

So, I guess (though I hate to admit it), even winter in Canada has it’s purposes.

 

 

 

Don’t Blame a Selfish Generation on the School System (or the Government)

Sometimes a post or a comment can trigger a string of thoughts. Often I just ponder them throughout the day, but, once in a while – if I have the time to sit down and write – a new blog post is written. A few months ago, I noticed a paragraph that got posted a few times on my feed by different people and so even though I often skip long status updates, I ended up reading this one through many times. And each time I read it I thought, hmmm…it’s very interesting how whoever wrote this felt the need to both write off an entire generation of people and blame the government for making them that way.

Here’s the post:

R.I.P. Canada You are too soft. You raised the cost of living so high that both parents are always at work, rather than spending time with their children. You took authority out of schools. Parents were told ‘No you can’t discipline your kids’. Well, Canada You shall reap what you sow, and we have lost a percentage of next generation adults as the soft approach turned them into rude, selfish, disrespectful humans who have no respect for people, property or authority…

(Ok I deleted a big section of this long-winded rant, but I left the conclusion for you 😜)….

Things need to change! Copy & paste if you have the guts too!!!”

Now, I would agree with some of the thoughts behind the post, but today I’m not writing about politics or my concerns about our current government’s shortcomings. Today I want to address a FAR more important issue that’s damaging households and families in every background and social status across our Country.

Let me start off by saying this:

Fellow parents, it is not the governments fault or the school system’s fault if our children turn out to be selfish, disrespectful and rude. It’s OURS. If all our children are really turning out that bad, we just have to look in the mirror to see who’s really at fault.

I hear again and again that “both parents HAVE to work in order to survive these days” and I have to tell you, in the most respectful way possible, that this simply isn’t true!

I got pregnant as a teenager. I got married at 18. My husband was making only $24,000 a year when our first son was born. And you know what? We have been living off of one income for the past 12.5 years.

Was it easy? No. No it wasn’t.

What teenager wants to go from living in a wealthy home in a nice neighbourhood, to living in a mouse infested trailer in the trailer court? What woman (or man) wants to be stuck at home all day with a baby because there’s no money for a second vehicle? What teenage new mother wants to stop wearing makeup and buying new clothes because she can only afford the used ones? Or go without internet, satellite, or a smartphone (gasp!) and settle instead for a landline.

Not very many – I assure you. Not very many are willing. But don’t tell me it’s not possible! I’ve lived it.

But here’s the thing: my baby boy couldn’t care less whether he was laying on designer sheets, in a fancy house, with a well decorated nursery – or a plain white sheet, in a used crib, in a trailer.

All that mattered to him was that he was being loved and tenderly cared for.

Now don’t get me wrong….I’m NOT saying you need to homeschool or stay at home and live on one income to raise good children. But you do need time. And it’s not the governments fault that we haven’t made time for our kids.

It’s our own busy lives that do that.

If us parents would be really honest with ourselves, all that stuff we buy for “them” is really not for them at all!

It’s for us.

The fancy themed bedrooms with matching decor, the name brand outfits bought for that perfect photo shoot, the outrageous Pinterest birthday parties, with the perfectly decorated cakes (as I gulp…guilty over here 🙋🏼‍♀️) …all these things never were really for them in the first place. They were for us. To boost our egos. To make up for what we fear we lack. Social Media and Pinterest have only fueled this struggle for parents because deep down we want our kids to have the best childhood! We really do!

Yet, I look at so many children and do you know what I see? Emptiness. Sadness. Disconnectedness. The result of parents not giving them what they deeply wanted and needed all along.

Parents: All your children want is YOU! From day one. This is why the new fancy toy set you just bought for them remains in the corner a few days (or hours) later while they whine and cry at your feet…they didn’t really want it in the first place. They just want YOU!!

Twelve years have gone by. My husband went back to school for a college degree and got a job in a field he loves. Four more kids have been added to our home. My oldest boy is in grade 7 and has been in the public school system now for the past couple years. My husband is making a lot more and we are living in my dream home in the country. But we still are making “sacrifices” so that I can stay home. And somehow, looking at the relationship that we have with our kids, I no longer see them as sacrifices. I willingly give up a finished basement, a shiny new vehicle, or a perfectly manicured yard to finish raising my children well – to have them feel safe and loved and connected. To have time to teach them to work hard, to volunteer, to cook and clean.

And I don’t worry about the negative affect of the school systems policies, because I’ve done the hard work at home. No matter what happened at school, I know my boy can come home and talk about it with me, feeling safe and loved. It wasn’t up to the school to raise him.  It wasn’t up to his coaches to teach him respect, or up to his Sunday school teachers to teach him about God and morals. It was my job! And unfortunately not all parents understand this!

Parenting is a hard, draining, often uncertain and lifelong commitment. It’s a parents job to teach respect and morals. And in Canada we still have so many opportunities and freedoms to do so! You know the best way to change your country? It’s not simply changing the government. It’s raising the next generation to be confident, caring, compassionate, hardworking individuals who believe that their most important job in life isn’t the one that pays them to be there, but rather their responsibility to the lives around them.

You want to change Canada? Then do!

But don’t try to change it by copying and pasting some whiny rant against the government. Change it, one person at a time, by taking responsibility for what’s happening in your own home.

Snapshots and Memories

As I raise this family of mine, I often hope that the good things will stick. Many times us mothers live in constant worry – as if our children will only remember every single bad thing we ever did and forget all the good times that happened in between.

There was a time when my oldest was small, where every time I would mess up, yell, or react in a wrong way, I would comfort myself with the thought: “Well he’s only two, he won’t remember that.”

Then, “Hey he’s only three, I don’t remember anything from when I was three…maybe he’ll forget it.”

Then four, “He might actually remember this.”

Then Five: “By this age he’ll totally remember…”

And then Six: “He’ll never forget that!”

Somewhere along the way I had become haunted by the thought that every single flaw, every failure would be carefully recorded, stored in their memories and brought out on the inevitable day when they most certainly will all go to years of therapy to undo all my mistakes.

But realistically, our memories don’t work that way.

My own childhood is a mixed-up snapshot, a mostly happy blur of highlights: playing dolls with my sisters, an old horse named Gus who I led around the pasture for many hours, dump runs with my dad, working outside with the whole family and then going afterwards to my grandparents house to swim and eat freezer-burnt Revels (which, by the way, I LOVED because of all the ice on the outside and the middle was yellowish and chrystalized just as I liked it!!), singing with my mom while she rocked me in our old brown rocking chair, random cartoon characters, knitted kittens and KFC at my other Grandma’s house, hockey cards with hard chewing gum in the packs, stories of my Father’s fascinating childhood in Mexico, new batches of kittens every spring, special family vacations, family gatherings with cousins to play with, morning devotions, camping disasters and traumatic news events such as Princess Diana’s death and 9/11.

Were my parents perfect? No.

But do I have a file of horror stories that I need deep healing from? Absolutely not!

In fact, almost every single one of my memories of them are happy ones!!!

Still there’s days where I wonder: Will my kids remember any of the good?

Looking back on pictures of my firstborn has many times filled me with deep regret. Regret because I wanted so badly to be that perfect parent that I wanted HIM to be perfect, so I barely gave him a childhood. Still I was trying my very best then, just as I am now.

“Let’s play a game!” I suddenly said to my children one lazy afternoon as I was thinking such thoughts as these.

I called it “Snapshots and Memories”

“Let’s take turns telling stories of our early memories (good or bad) and see what all comes to mind!”

What’s the worst that can happen?? (Part of me expected the worst.)

I started off the game with a memory from when I was five. My family was moving to a new community and I was so excited, yet sad, simply because I was really worried about missing the opportunity to sleep with our big class bear in kindergarten! Each child got a turn to take the bear home and sleep with it for a night…(ok that’s kind of gross now to think about!!) But my teacher was so kind that I got “randomly picked” the night before my last day at that school. I was thrilled! Now I could move on 😉

Next Bella shared a memory of going to a conference when she was six and being so embarrassed when a boy her age kept following her around telling her he was “in love” with her. She shuddered at the memory! (Oh the problems of being popular everywhere you go lol).

Then Jonas shared a memory of a spicy chip he ate and that I gave him a cold glass of milk afterwards…. (skipping that part about his dad encouraging it and filming as he changed from smug faced to “oh boy, this is HOT!🥵”)

Ok phew! So far so good!

Dallas shared next about going through my spices in the cupboard when I came up asking what he was doing and he kept saying “I’m trying to sell it” when he really meant “smell it”.

Emerson told a random story about monsters chasing him and me spraying them with a fire gun…which I quite enjoyed because I was the hero of that one and it most likely was 100% true…

AND…then the game took a very sharp downhill turn of made up senarios that I’m quite certain never actually took place, ALTHOUGH….the story of our family rocket blasting down Mt. Everest with two day old baby Emerson strapped to it really would be quite the adventure to tell the grandchildren about one day!

Maybe I’ll have to keep that one in the memory book…

As for their “ruined” childhoods, I am now certain that it’s not the actual failures I need to worry about, but the made up ones.

 

Watch your Labels

Not a dog, not a wolf…all he knows is what he’s not.” Balto

When I was I child, I loved the movie “Balto”. It was based on a true story where a town suffered from a severe epidemic and ran out of medicine for it during a severe snowstorm. Balto, who was half wolf and half dog, didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. The dogs wouldn’t accept him because he was different, they thought he was “wild” and “dangerous”, the people of the town were afraid of him – but he was soft, he was tame and he just wanted to belong.

In the end, his differences and wild instincts are what saved the town. But those differences were only appreciated once he had done something great, once he was famous.

I think we all tend to see differences in a negative light. It’s why we use harsh words in describing people who we think should be more like us. For example, the other day in frustration I said to my kids: “You don’t care about being on time at all!” And in my head I was thinking all the negative things: Lazy, Slow-pokes, Thoughtless, Uncaring, Unconcerned. In reality that’s only my view of them when I’m rushed or in a hurry. On the flip side they could be thinking the opposite of me: Workaholic, Driven, Bossy.

In their eyes, I care too much about being punctual and in my eyes they don’t care enough!

As my week went on, I thought about all the benefits that their laid-back and care-free personalities bring to my life. It brings peace, it brings joy! They are able to notice things that I don’t have time to see. Like a bald eagle, perched on a tree outside. Or a beautiful flower beside the road. They are able to laugh in stressful situations.

What if, just what if, we began to speak words of life over others? What if we focused more on what good each character brings to the world, then what problems they’re causing? The truth is that we need each other and our differences desperately. I need my carefree children to bring joy and calm to my life. They need me to bring order and structure to theirs.

I was thinking of all the negative labels I’ve put on people and of some of the good that comes out of those same traits. As I began to change my thinking I suddenly saw a shift in my perception of those around me. Instead of calling people:

Strange/Weird… I called them Creative.

Defiant… Independent.

Slow… Careful.

Bossy… Leader.

Stubborn… Tenacious.

Perfectionist… Wholehearted.

Self-righteous… Passionate.

Negligent… Easy-going.

Lazy… Relaxed.

Passive… Peaceful.

Cowardly… Cautious.

Simple… Humble.

Frivolous … Joyful.

Bitter… Just.

Hasty… Prompt.

Shrewd… Wise.

Know-it-all… Convicted.

Careless… Fearless.

Callous… Strong.

Emotionless… Reserved.

Emotional… Soft-Hearted.

I’m not speaking about the exception to the rules here. I’m definitely NOT saying that bad character should be treated as good. But this isn’t about hurtful characters. This is about negatively labeling people who have been made the way they are to enrich our lives.

This week start with yourself. Address some of the negative labels that have been spoken over you (maybe even in your own head).

I’m not weak, I’m tender. I’m not insecure, I’m flexible. I’m not a perfectionist, I am wholehearted. I am not bitter, I yearn for justice.

I am more than the labels given to me.

A Short Summer, A Long Bucket List and Three Half Finished Novels…

Summer is almost over.

Since when do I literally panic at those words?!? I have a real desire to move somewhere hot for September, October and November and live in denial that it will ever end.

Summer in Canada is ridiculously short, but like most things, that’s what makes it so irresistibly sweet. We bear through a bitter six months of winter – half hibernating, half shriveling away in the arctic air and then after being soaked in the rain for a month or two, we finally can enjoy SUMMER. Children burst out of their homes, not a minute to lose! Playgrounds which were eerily empty and abandoned for the frosty months come to life. White legs stampede to the beaches. We book our holidays months in advance, being sure to make the most of every single second.

For the past two years, my kids and I have made a summer bucket list. It’s nothing crazy, no big life changing events are on the list, but it’s about 25 activities long and therefore, always is a rush to complete.

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This time, however, it isn’t so much the weather change that I am dreading, or even failing to check off every box on our list; it’s the realization that summer is almost gone and with it another year of my failed goal: to finish my first novel.

Oh, by the way, I am writing a book.

Actually three.

Cue the awkward pause as people nod politely and change the subject…

And in many ways I don’t blame themPublishing a novel and making any sort of career out of it, never mind actually becoming a bestselling author is almost like a child claiming they’ll grow up to be a movie star…😏 “Mmmhmmm, sure sweetie, you do that!”

Yet I have had this desire from the moment I could write words on a page and form them into something resembling a sentence.

I remember writing my first story in grade 2. My peers wrote their opening words, the only ones that could possibly be used to start a story at that age: “Once upon a time…” And I knew even then that that didn’t cut it. Already, at age seven, I knew that wasn’t the way to write a book. Not a good one. I still remember my teacher’s surprise when she read my opening line: “The sun shone warmly on little Jessica’s face, her dark hair blowing in the summer breeze…”  I remember her reading it to the class, devouring my writing as if it were a rare exotic treat. I felt gifted, as if I were a prodigy of writing, sure to blow the rest of the world away with my cleverly thought out plots and well-structured sentences. Only to find out in my teens that I actually had a long way to go before I would ever publish my work.

But maybe that’s why I’ve always loved it. It’s challenging, and still relaxing for me. It takes effort, yet is in some ways rather effortless. Not to mention, it is also the only talent I ever remember being noticed for in school.

But the funny thing is, I’ve never finished a full novel.  I’ve had countless ideas, some that eventually fell rather flat, some that took off. Until, well… I got near the end.  Every single time I’ve come close to finishing, I give up.  Eventually, after years of sitting in an unopened file on my computer I click delete.

I don’t really know why. But it’s as if I fear what will happen if I finish. So I finish…then what?

Perhaps, it’s partly because I think it’s childish, this dream to write.  Because writing isn’t a real job, right? More like an eccentric hobby for the most lonely of introverts, those crazy ones, who’ve never quite given up their childish imagination.

But even scarier to me is the thought that keeps plaguing me: If I do in fact finish it, will anyone actually read my book? Will they have any interest? Or will I finally be publicly exposed for the wannabe writer that I really am? Should I just grow up already and let go of my childish dreams?

However this time, I am further than I’ve ever been before. In all three books. And even though I’ve been working on them for months (ok one of them I’ve been working on for years!), I feel like I actually really like my work. I am proud of the writing I’ve done. And I feel like others may like them as well.

So summer, please stay a little longer. Don’t hurry away. Let the days slow down and the workload pause. Let me finish the bucket list. Let me enjoy my kiddos. Let me finish my novels. Ok, maybe just one of them.

Because I really want to know how it ends, and, even more so, if others will enjoy reading it as much as I do.

What’s Happening to Me?

 About two months ago, I went to the doctor thinking that there was something seriously wrong with me. Most days it was a struggle just to get out of bed. Exercise was out of the question. I could not last the day without taking a nap. And the pain…EVERYTHING hurt. These were just a few of my symptoms. In short, I was functioning way below my normal capacity level and I knew it. The things I used to enjoy became things that caused me stress. I dreaded them. Social outings felt meaningless. I wished I could just go to sleep one day and never wake up again. No matter how hard I tried to be joyful, the sadness was so deep in my soul I could feel it in my chest.

I thought that I must be dying.

After tons of tests and blood work, I was shocked to hear the results: “You’re as healthy as they come! Everything looks good and normal!”

And then the doctor began asking me lots of questions, with deep compassion in his eyes, “How have you been doing emotionally? What do you do for a living? Do you often have feelings of despair/hopelessness? Have you recently gone through something traumatic? How’s your support system? Do you ever have suicidal thoughts? Have you recently stopped enjoying the things you used to love?” Etc…

And suddenly the light went on.

I wasn’t able to just “cheer up” or “snap out of it” because my mind was telling me there was something very, very wrong. Basically, I was in constant fight or flight mode, our bodies way of responding as if we are being attacked. The stress I had been under for so long, was literally causing my brain to begin to act as if I were in constant emergency.

I then realized that although for many years I had told people I understood depression, I really hadn’t.

As a Christain, I have always believed that God is enough. For everything.

But I finally realized why telling someone dealing with mental health issues to just “lean more on God” or that they had to “change something” actually made things worse! You see, those living under depression or other mental health issues already realize quite clearly that something is wrong with them. And most likely they already are loaded down with feelings of inadequacy or shame or guilt because they know that they should be doing more, they should be trying harder…but they just CAN’T. Their brain isn’t functioning at full capacity…neither is their body.

According to the CAMH, 1 in 5 adults are currently struggling with mental health issues. And 1 in 25 adults live with a SERIOUS mental health illness. I bet you can guess which of my blog posts get the most hits: the ones where I share about my struggles with depression, anxiety or pain.

So why am I sharing all this?

Because this issue effects not only the MILLIONS living with it, but their friends and families as well. It affects relationships, the ability to work, parenting, employers, communities.

Just think: if 1 in 5 people are functioning at 25% or less capacity, how much the communities, the businesses, and families are missing out on!

Summer Prayer Challenge Week 1 – Wednesday: For the Church to Understand and Respond Appropriately to Mental Health

So here’s the prayer points for today:

As always start your focus on Jesus. Today thank him for his attributes: Holiness, Love, Kindness, Gentleness, his perfect Justice, etc. This is SO important, don’t rush this!!

Pray for each family member next, starting with your spouse.

And then for Mental health and the churches response:

-For Christians to have godly wisdom as they seek to help those living with mental illness.

-For us as believers to give less well meaning advice and just BE there to support these hurting people, not trying to “fix” them but  listening and praying.

– For the church to have compassion on those living with mental illness and not to lay further burdens/guilt/condemnation on those suffering.

-For us to find ways to practically help those in need, not by just offering a quick fix solution, but realizing that these issues go deep and most likely take months, years or in some severe cases, even decades to work through.

-For miraculous healings for people suffering with mental illness. You bet I believe that God still heals 🙂

-For grace, grace and even MORE grace…and patience – dealing with someone who is unstable is very difficult indeed.

-For eyes to see each soul, each person as GOD sees them and to speak to them with His tender heart.

-Lastly, I have realized that many going through depression or other mental health issues have been extremely accused or hurt by the church. I’ve heard testimonies over and over again that those who have gone to the church for help got turned away, brushed aside, not taken seriously or even rejected altogether. Many of these people have since left the church and gone elsewhere for help.

This makes me so SO sad. Pray for healing from hurts that Christians have caused. Pray that God would find these lost sheep and gently bring them back to himself. Pray that they would learn to trust the church again and be able to connect once more to the body.

Once again, if anymore thoughts pop into your mind, pray these as well. Thank you for partnering with me in this.

-Heather