Sunday, May 25, 2014

Accidental Activist

Here in British Columbia, our teachers are poised to start rotating strikes on Monday.  Quite honestly, I didn't really think much about it.  I mean, it didn't feel like it affected me personally.  I'm not in school.  I'm not a teacher.  And Q just seemed to be happy to have an extra day off so close to summer break, and hey what's just one day right?

It really seems to be the way, doesn't it?  If it doesn't inconvenience you or take something away from you or make you feel something, you don't really care, do you?  It does sound horrible, but it's true.  This is why there are starving children in the world and billionaires.  Teachers who are asked to take a 10% pay cut (again) and government officials in the same province who are given a 14% raise.

And so I thought about it.  A lot.  Because I really, really wanted to care.  I wanted to pick a side, one way or the other and care about it.  A lot.  

There are two sides to every story.  We are in the tail end of a recession, I thought, maybe there just isn't enough money.  I saw wage comparisons with other provinces.  I read articles from both sides.  I have wonderful friends who are teachers and they don't want to be rich.  They want to do what they love, and make a comfortable living doing it.  I thought about putting all the stats here, but I didn't want to bore you all - so you do the research...

I made my choice.

I chose to support the teachers.

I'm not going to lie, it was an emotional decision.  No, no, not emotional in that I cried when I made it...but I made the decision wholeheartedly with my heart

Teachers do so much more than teach. And so without further ado, here are the reasons why I support our BC teachers (in no particular order):

  • Teachers volunteer food to hungry bellies.  Here in BC, we have the highest percentage of children living in poverty in all of Canada.
  • Teachers help nurture our children's talents so that when they grow up they will be contributing members of society.  They help teach qualities like responsibility and respect.  In kindergarten, Q had a teacher with a hearing impairment.  It didn't stop her at all, but she did most of her listening by lip reading.  This was a blessing in disguise for the kids, because they learned the importance of making eye contact and and waiting to speak to someone.  Not only helpful in this instance, but respectful too.
  • Teachers, sadly, are sometimes the only people who care for some children.  How many inspirational stories have you heard or read that involve a teacher who cared when no one else did? Coach Carter, Dangerous Minds, just a couple of movies that show the importance of one person caring for those no one else cares about.  In grade 12, I had the best English teacher ever.  She liked me, and I was kind of the teacher's pet (I don't want to brag or anything....).  It felt AMAZING and I had parents who loved and cared about me.  Imagine how that would feel to someone who doesn't know what love is...
  • Teachers teach!  I know this might sound super obvious but consider this...we don't invest in education - where's your next doctor going to come from?  Lawyer? Teacher? Nurse? Writer? Politician? I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "Well that's what private school is for..."  Really?  There are enough, in my opinion, people living on the east side, who have dropped out, cannot read and are basically unemployable.  If only the elite get jobs, are there enough jobs at McDonald's for the rest of us?  There are tonnes of studies and statistics that show an education is the most important way to stop the cycle of poverty.
I could go on and on and on.  Really, I could.  My son's teacher bought 23 potting plants and soil and clay pots so each child could make a Mother's Day gift for their mother.  As a mother who doesn't have a significant other to take the kid out and buy a gift, this was a very welcome surprise.  But I think I've made my point.  

In the end, I don't actually see it so much as supporting our teachers as supporting our children and their future and by extension, OUR future.  I mean, I'm gonna be old one day.  Like real old, and I'm going to need a good doctor.  I'm going to need a good politician to make sure I'm not living on the street.  I'm going to need a lawyer to construct my will.  The point is - we need to invest in these kids now, so that society as we know it doesn't dissolve around us.  I know, I know, it's a slippery slope.  But are you willing to take that chance?  

I'm not.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Drowning

I feel like I'm totally failing at this whole parenting gig right now.  Like I'm in way over my head.  Like it's time for the final exam and I didn't study.  

Everything up to this point has been relatively easy in comparison.  I mean, the first two to three years, you basically succeed just by keeping them alive.  They smile, they cuddle, they hit the milestones close to the appropriate times and you're golden.  The next few years, you teach the pleases and the thank yous and the basic math and alphabet, and again - you feel as though you're a pretty freaking good parent.  

Then they hit their tweens and you're all like "what the eff am I doing?"

It's almost comical that I was blessed with my son, because he is the complete opposite of me. I love him more than life itself, don't get me wrong.  It's just that I find I'm scrambling to find ways to relate to him.  If I had my way, we'd read a book together and then talk about how it made us feel.  That seems like a successful bonding experience to me.  

I tried this.  It did not work.  I started reading Q 'Harry Potter' and we got about 3 1/2 pages in before I threw the book across the room in frustration because I couldn't hear my own voice over his whining and complaining about how boring this dumb book was.  I guess he was talking about his feelings regarding the book, though, wasn't he?

Here's the thing about me...if I'm not super good at something, I give up.  Skiing, rollerblading, university, dating - just a small list of things I stopped doing because I sucked.  I can't just give up being a parent.  Nor do I want to, just to be clear...I don't want to give up.  It just my thing, so I don't really know what to do with this drowning feeling besides just feel sorry for myself and wallow in self pity.

I can see Q slowly withdrawing.  I mean, he's never been one to talk about his feelings, but I can see that we have nothing in common that's bond worthy.  And that really scares me.  How do I connect with him as he gets older if I'm struggling to connect with him now?  I find myself riddled with guilt because I'm just not doing enough.  I feel like I'm nagging and yelling more than teaching and inspiring and loving.  

I feel like I've robbed Q of the kind of childhood I had planned for him.  Two parents together, lots of siblings to play with.  Summers filled with family road trips and weekends filled with family BBQ's.  He doesn't get any of that.  I wonder when he grows up what memories of his childhood he'll have.  Me nagging him to help bring in the groceries from the car, because it's just him and me and we're a team (to which he responds...."if we're a team, mommy....we're a horrible team")

I have realized two things:  

My sole purpose in life really is raising Q to be a successful, happy, well rounded person.  I am devoting all my time towards this goal.  Is that wrong?  I mean, what about me?  Do I count at all? Should I count? Or do I count when he's 18 and my "job" is done? Hmmmmm......

Secondly, if I can't connect with my child then I need to change my approach.  If he relates to sports - then I need to (gulp) become more 'sporty'.  For those of you who know me, you know that I am the least athletic person in the world.  I have a very serious disconnect with my hand/eye coordination and it makes things like kicking a ball more humorous than anything else.  (Well, humorous for others...frustrating for me).  But I understand that if this is the way I need to spend more quality time with my son, then it has to be done.  I'm currently looking for a lazy boy shaped bicycle seat for my larger than average rear end, if anyone knows of one.  We'll go for hikes.  We'll kick a ball around at the park.  I'll have to save the painting nails and braiding hair for my niece, I suppose.

I guess the biggest challenge I have with parenting is that you don't really know how good a job you've done until they've grown.  And isn't it too late by then?

So this Mother's Day, I'm reflecting on how I can alter my parenting skills now so I don't lose my child to video games and the teenage abyss.  Am I alone?  Do other parents feel this way?  How do you relate to your child(ren)?  Am I obsessive?

Because seriously, being an obsessive, Type A, worrier sounds nothing like me.

At all.

But honestly, this Mother's Day, I'm also feeling so blessed that I've been given the opportunity to be my Q's momma.  I guess that's part of my fear - how do I give this awesome gift justice?  

Now go hug your momma.  She's done a lot of worrying over you.  The least you could do is give her some huggin'.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Small Miracles in the Hardware Store

Did I ever tell you how I met my plunger?

I know, right?  Not many people have memorable stories about how they "met" their plunger.  And yes, I am talking about the one that fixes uh...jams...in the toilet.  I think I told y'all what I did with that plunger here, but I never told you how we met.

So, one of the characteristics of a woman who lives on her own is that she has to fix/do things that men typically do.  Oh I know, all the women's lib groups say that women can do everything a man can do and I agree with that totally.  I just believe there are things that women shouldn't have to do.  Taking out the garbage and changing the oil in the car are two such things.  I think that women are beautiful, delicate flowers and shouldn't have to smell nor touch such nastiness.

Unfortunately these thing still have to get done and so I have to do them (although since Q has become of  chore age, taking out the garbage is so his.)  I put together an elliptical machine and then took it apart after a year and a half when I gave it away - near new condition too.  I fixed the vacuum cleaner when it stopped sucking.  I try to remember to get my oil changed on time, but don't actually do it myself.  

Experience has taught me that when your toilet is jammed up, wait a while and it'll sort itself out.  But this one was snug.  It was not going anywhere any time soon.  

After work, I stop off at the closest hardware store.  And this place is huge.  Huge.  And it smells like plastic, like I just walked into a Payless Shoes.  I start to feel dizzy and disoriented.  I'm almost starting to sweat, but like a true lady, I don't sweat, so...

I take a deep breath.

"God," I say. "I'm going to need your help.  How on earth am I going to find a plunger??"

Well, listen to this.  

First aisle I stroll down is a father with his young son.  The father is distracted, talking on his cell phone.  His son has made a mess...

...of plungers.

Probably about 10 plungers, strewn all down the aisle.  Different types, sizes, even colours, all lined up just for me.  

Who says that God doesn't have a sense of humor?  That he doesn't answer prayers?

Thank God for small miracles!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I Judge People

Welcome to my bi-monthly special where I dissect my character flaws for all to see.

I think it’s important to say that I don’t have a really low self esteem, and I’m not doing this to beat myself down. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I thought I was pretty near perfect for a really long time. I was really nice to people (who were really nice to me), I only gossiped to a few trusted sources who would NEVER repeat a word of it to anyone, and I was so fricken funny, I made myself laugh all the time.

But when you’re near perfect, there’s nothing to work on. There’s no way to grow. So, I started really breaking it down. And I found that I’m judgmental. Not just a little judgmental, I’m like super judgmental.

It might surprise you (as it did me) that I don’t judge the prostitute on the street corner, or the drug addict/alcoholic begging for money. I’ve seen how tough life can be. I get how it can break you and beat you down. I’m actually surprised more of us aren’t out there trying to forget all the horrible things that have happened. If a bottle of vodka takes away the memories of being beaten to near death as a child or drowns the sadness from never being loved, then that seems like a pretty simple way to forget. And way cheaper than therapy. My heart actually aches for their broken souls. I’m sure I would be shocked by what many of them have seen and experienced.

No. I don’t judge them.

I judge rich people.

I judge smug Christians.

I judge rich, smug Christian people.

People who should know better.

People who’ve been given a second chance (and a third and a fourth, because let’s face it – God’s grace is never ending) and refuse to give others even a second glance, let alone a second chance.

I judge the people who say “Look at me, look at me! I’m such a wonderful Christian. It’s all about MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! I’m so ¬¬¬¬_________ (insert conceit…talented, pretty, rich, smart, nice)” People who forget they’re part of something bigger than them, forgetting that it’s not actually about them at all. If you have to tell people you’re talented, you’re probably not that talented (hate to break it to you).

I judge the rich Christian people who hoard their money for a rainy day, while other people all over the world are dying from simple ailments because they cannot afford medicine or clean water. I judge them for driving their rich cars, wearing their rich flashy watches while children are orphans and growing up without parents, without love, without chances to become better people. I judge them for living in huge mansions while others live in leaky huts, or door ways, or sidewalks.

The thing is – judging them doesn’t make me a better person. Judging me doesn’t make me better than them. It makes me the same as them. It makes me angry inside.

And judging others really isn’t about them. It’s about me. By choosing to judge them, I choose to see the worst in the world, instead of looking at all the miracles and blessings that surround me.

Everyone has their brokenness, for some it’s their conceit. Because believing you’re something better than you are might be the only way you can get through the day. Because loving money might be the only thing you’ve ever loved that hasn’t disappointed you. Or hurt you.

So this month, I guess I’ll work on being less judgmental.

And then next month, I’ll be perfect for sure.

For sure.

Perfect…

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Self Improvement (a.k.a I'm Not Perfect...)

I often think that I'm pretty perfect.  I mean, for me.  I'm pretty perfect for me.  I'm not like the perfect person.  And I'm not like a huge ego-maniac or anything.  I just think that after 36 years, I've pretty much learned everything about about myself that there is to learn.  I don't often seen much room for self improvement.

Maybe I'm too close to the situation.

One thing I pride myself in is my kindness.  I strive to be kind to people.  I think it's a lost art, simple kindness.

Stay with me here...it's not all self praise.  I'm almost making myself gag.

I've recently changed positions at my job.  It's been a rough two weeks to say the least.

As you'd expect with any change, I learned something about myself.

Something to improve on...

I'm only really nice to people who are...

wait for it...

nice to me.

So, I'm not actually nice everyone.  It's super easy to be kind to people who are kind in turn.  It's even easy to be kind to people who are neutral.  You know, neither nice or mean.  But whoooooo, have you tried to be nice to someone who makes you feel like you just crawled out from underneath a rock?  Have you tried smiling when someone is insulting your intelligence or questioning your ethics?

It's a whole lot harder.

So this is something I'm going to actively work on. So I can be an even more perfect version of myself.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Q-isms: The Enterprising Adolescent

Q: My friend at school is going to buy one of my Skylanders for $4.00

Me: Uh. What? No. You cannot just sell your toys. Especially for $4.00. Those things are like $15.00. They're expensive. Is it one of the Skylanders you have two of?

Q: No. It’s not actually a Skylander.

Me: What do you mean? You just said it was.

Q: Well, it’s more of an idea.

Me: An idea? You’re selling someone an idea?

Q: Okay, well it’s more of a prototype….

Me: A prototype? What does that even mean Q?

Q: I have this mechanical pencil that I stuck some things on the end of it. I’m calling it a Skylander and this kid wants to buy it. For $4.00. It’s like free money.

Me: Q. You can’t do that. Seriously. You cannot start selling your school supplies to other kids, calling them *prototypes*. You’ll get in trouble.

Q: Mommy. What would you do if you found $20 on the ground? Would you pick it up? You sure would. That’s kind of like what I’m doing.

Me: Nooooooo, that’s not what you’re doing…

Q: But the kid is okay with it…

Me: I would venture to guess that his parents are not. Unless I have a signed document from his parents stating that this child can spend $4.00 on a mechanical pencil that you have disguised as a Skylander, you'll have to save this idea for The Shark Tank, my friend...

Can you even believe it? He’s selling ideas? To nine year olds? What is next?

I am in so much trouble.

I mean, I admire his enterprising spirit...but this kid sure keeps me on my toes. I'm going to have to check his back pack every morning before he leaves for school!!


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ode to 2013 - A Great Year in Review

Well it's been a while since I've been here...I wonder if I remember how to do this...

Life has been crazy these last few months, and finding time to pour out my heart is difficult.  I mean, there's that, and I'm also addicted to Candy Crush.  Seriously.  Addicted.  It's not just blogging, I haven't read a book in months.  I remember really liking books.  Reading them, smelling them, spending the evening with them.  I miss books. 

I thought it was really important to chronicle 2013.  Probably way more important to me than you, but hopefully you'll enjoy the read regardless.  

2013 was a year of new beginnings. My momma got married (!) and my brother and his wife had a beautiful baby girl, their first (of many??) and my first niece.  I know that I'm a tad biased, but folks, I am telling you this is the most beautiful baby girl in the world.  One of the many benefits of being an introvert is the immense joy that I receive living vicariously through others.  No joke.  I couldn't have been any happier in these situations if they had actually happened to me.  

So Q and I downsized from a four bedroom, 3 bathroom house to a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom suite.  I thought I would feel claustrophobic in our new digs, but I actually found that I love the smaller space.  First and foremost, the cleaning takes me roughly 1/4 of the time to clean and secondly, it is just so cozy.  It's also encouraged me to purge and put less emphasis on *things* (and gives me so much more time to play Candy Crush...kidding...sort of...)

I started a new job.  It was such a great opportunity and I was in sooooo far over my head.  But you know what?  I made it through.  I learned that my capacity to learn new things is great, and this gave me so much confidence in myself.  I had a great year and enjoyed every second of it.  Then I got an even better job and had to decide between two awesome job opportunities.  Seriously.  Would you like this completely awesome job that you know you love, or would you like this new one that has the potential to be even more amazing?  How do you make a decision like that without thinking you might be missing out on something no matter which choice you make?

And those were just the physical life changing events.

I know, right?

All that, and some personal growth too?  What?!?!?!?!  Who gets that lucky?? 

2013 was a year of calm for me.  As a natural born anxiety case, this is really saying something.  There was no insane drama.  There was no unnecessary stress.  There was only calm.  

I spent a lot of time alone and came to terms with my introvert qualities.  I never really though of myself as an introvert, but the older I get, the more I enjoy quality time with myself.  Nothing delights me more than an evening alone.  I used to feel guilty about this - like I should be out with *people* doing *things*.  But spending time by myself has given me a deeper insight to me...and there can't be anything wrong with that.  I'd rather be alone than in a room full of people I can't relate to or having nothing in common with.  

I got to spend another year getting to know and getting to teach this wonderful child I'm blessed enough to call my son.  I can think of no greater reward or blessing in my life than my child.  Sometimes it's the smallest thing that gives me the greatest surge of pride, like when I give him something inconsequential and he says, "Thank you".  Nothing sounds better than "Mommy" and "I love you" and "Sweet dreams".  Just recently, over Christmas, Q was super sick with the stomach flu.  Amidst cancelled Christmas plans, I'm running around cleaning up his puke, and washing bedding and clothes, and checking his temperature, and bringing him ginger ale and I think to myself, "I freaking love being a mom".  Seriously, there is no greater gift than being able to take care of my child.  Gah, his whole life is ahead of him and I just know he is destined for great things and I want to give him the best beginning ever.  I just want to have a million kids and give them all the best start ever.  I just don't want to give birth to all these kids and there are sooooooo many kids out there that need someone to give them their best start.  I know that this is what I'm here on earth to do.  I don't want anyone to waste their potential because someone says they can't, or they're not worth it, or they're not wanted.  I want to WANT all those children in our foster care system, and give them love.

Oh....so corny, right?  I wish more people felt that way though.  You know, share the blessings around.  

But, C, what about the boyfriend....there must be one of those, right???

Nope.  Nope, there isn't.  And for the first time in my whole life, I can honestly and certainly say that I am TOTALLY okay with that.  Totally.  It's funny because this is a pretty significant life situation for most people - easily 2/3 of my friends are married or dating.  I mean, what would life be without romantic comedies?  What would Pinterest be without a "One Day" board?  What would Martha Stewart be without "Weddings" magazine?  Our whole society has placed a fair importance on being married, being doubled up, having a better half.  And don't get me wrong, I am so not opposed to it happening to me should that be the case, but I am so content with my life the way it is.  I am okay with me the way I am.  I don't need anyone else to complete me or my life.  I've been able to spend this time with my son.  Watching him grow and learn and be.  We have a really unique bond and connection to each other because it's just the two of us.  I remember falling asleep to the fantasy of finding the perfect man and having the perfect wedding and the perfect marriage.  Or looking at every man I passed, wondering, "Is he the one?"  And there's nothing wrong with having an active imagination, but wishing your life away is more of a waste than playing Candy Crush, in my opinion.  And I see God providing for me in a million other ways that make me so happy to be me. It's kind of like He's saying, "It's not time yet for you to have a husband, but in the meantime, would you like this blessing that will help provide for your needs??"  Uh. Ya.  Totally

I've become so much more spiritual.  And I don't mean yoga and feng shui.  Christians these days get such a bad (somewhat well deserved, though) rap about being these judgmental, self righteous, pious individuals whose belief is something so out there/naive/supernatural that makes them better than anyone else.  I don't want to be that person.  Ever.  I would agree that believing in a God who lovingly created each one of us in his image, then sent his one and only Son to die for our sins (because ugh, we are not perfect and we screw up soooo much) so that we could have eternal life in heaven where the streets are made of gold is pretty crazy.  On an almost a daily basis, I ask myself if I'm sure that's me.  And each time, I cannot find anything else that seems plausible to me.  I'm not stupid.  I've heard the big bang theory.  But at the end of the day, I choose to believe this instead.  Loving, well thought out, bigger plan, grace and mercy sounds so much more wonderful to me than BOOM!!! here we are, this organism reacted with this blob that became that blob and then millions of years later, here I am...a blob.  I try to live life like this:  Before I do anything, I ask myself two things, "How would Jesus react to this situation?" and "Will this right now matter when I'm in heaven?"  And then I try to do likewise.  At the end of the day, an eternity in heaven when I die sounds a whole lot more comforting than just ceasing to exist.

Okay, so what does that mean?  That means that when the Landlord fails to shovel my walk after a (relative to Vancouver) snow storm, I don't rant and rave about how careless and irresponsible he is for a home owner with a paying tenant (because this whole event won't matter when I'm in heaven).  Instead, I get the shovel and shovel my walk and his (because this is what I imagine Jesus would do, and while the snow pile won't matter in heaven, my reaction to it certainly will.)  I try to meet every situation with this formula.  Homeless person on the street asks for money, I go into to coffee shop and buy him a hot coffee and some chili.  He gets a full belly of food, and I know he's not buying booze (which, in my experience, don't really go well on an empty tummy).  

I don't want to judge.  I want to love.  I want my love to be contagious.  I want my love to be inspirational.  I want to be the example of someone who has been saved by grace.  If that makes me silly or naive, well I'm okay with that.  Totally.  At the end of the world, if I'm wrong, I will not regret my choice to live life the way I did.  And in the meantime, no one will (hopefully) be affected negatively by my decision.  And, I know from experience that living this way is so much more fulfilling than drinking myself into a coma or sleeping with another man who tells me, "It's just sex."

* Please note:  This does not mean I will not drop the occasional f bomb while sitting in rush hour traffic.

Phew...see what happens when you don't write for a while??  A novel comes out.

It almost seems like the end to Single Dating Mommy, because that's not what defines me anymore.  Not just the end of the chapter, but the end of this book.  Unfortunately, "Mommy" doesn't really have the same ring to it.  It's a little short for a blog title.  So I might keep the name, but I assure you, the content will not be the same.  

Will you join me in my new journey?  I sure hope so!!

And...here's to 2014!