Thursday, May 8, 2008

Just The Way Mothers Are

My father is many things, but the one thing he is not is a phone person. He can write a beautiful letter, or thoughtful card and I have held on to the ones he has given me through the years. He will be happy to engage in conversation in person while choosing his words wisely and with care while sitting across from you at a coffee shop...but he is not a phone person. This isn't a complaint, nor would I deem it a negative trait that I have is just an observation. A truth about who he is, which I have come to accept.

In the 5 years that I lived away from my family I kept in touch mostly through my frequent conversations over the phone with my mother. It was in those conversations that the details of my life and the lives of my parents would be shared...and everyone would be kept "in the loop". My dad and I would chat briefly every 2-4 weeks for roughly 10 minutes. Each time he would ask if I was happy, and make sure that at the end of the ten minutes, right before he said the words "I'm done" in a matter-of-fact kind of way, that he loved me, and was praying for me. And then he would pass the phone off to my mother. Even though our conversations were brief and relatively infrequent, I never doubted his love or care. This was our routine. In fact, this was our routine for 5 years...with one exception - when mom went out of town.

I remember it pretty clearly, mom had gone on an excursion to England for about 2 weeks, leaving dad home alone, and me in Calgary without my daily phone call. I called one evening to say hello to my dad, and in that conversation a small miracle happened: my dad and I held a 27 minute phone conversation. I remember this because he pointed it out to me nearing the end of our conversation after looking at the screen on the phone detailing the length of call. We were both impressed, with ourselves and eachother. And suddenly realized that a new door had been opened - father and daughter could have long conversations on the phone together. Later that evening I was wondering why or how we had found ourselves in an extended conversation with eachother, and then realized that in the absence of my mother keeping us informed of what was going on, or listening to what was going on we were left with a void. Turned out that evening we were able to step in to that void for eachother, and listen and share with the other person.

It's quite a few years from that 27 minute conversation...and my father and I have had many more conversations of a similar length over the phone, each time still celebrating their length before he signs of with his "I'm done." And even though I now live in the same city as my family again, I still frequently talk with my mom, and we still share the events of our day with one another. My parents have been out of town this week, so I am finding myself at a loss for someone to listen to the slightly insignificant and tedious parts of my day - the stuff that my mom usually listens to. Without my mom, I have noticed, I am finding myself unusually chatty about insignificant details of my day with other people in my life, and fear that they think there might be something wrong with me. Whereas, my mother would know this is just who I am, how I go about my day, and for some strangely glorious and comforting reason enjoys hearing about it.

There's a book I used to read when I was a child. It was called "That's Just The Way Mothers Are". In it, the child in the story repeatedly messes things up, gets in trouble, or does silly things, but every time the mother is there loving him and supporting him because "that's just the way mothers are". The conversations shared between me and my mom are more than just opportunities to share my day, they are precious spaces held between myself and her where she still makes her daughter of 28 years feel valued, loved and important. Where the words "I'm proud of you" come with such weight and importance that simple decisions are elevated, and a sense of self-worth is imparted. It is a space that brings the lives of every member of our family is a space held by the love of a mother...because that's just the way mothers are. And I am SO thankful for the way my mother is.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Apparently I Found a Soapbox

I am boycotting Oprah. I won't deny that I have been an avid viewer in the past, but no more!! I have found myself shocked and angered by topics being shared on her show as of late, that make me wonder what we are doing for our fellow women, or fellow human beings all together.

For example, there was the episode that highlighted the "philanthropic" actions of North American women who paid impoverished women in India to be the surrogate mothers of their children. It was sold as a "win-win" situation: the North American woman gets her long desired child, meanwhile generously providing the Indian woman with what would be seen as a large amount of money that would be able to provide them with the means to move up in life and provide for her family. These actions were celebrated by Oprah and her audience, with NO mention of the possibility that this was in fact exploitation of another woman done under the guise of providing the beautiful gift of life for another woman. Are we really helping one another here?

Then there was the last episode I watched a few weeks ago while on my dinner break at work. It highlighted the life of a middle age "exotic dancer" and single mother of two, who was applauded for her ability to only work 3 nights a week so that she could spend more time with her children and be available for them. When asked how she felt about how the families of her children's friends might react negatively after the airing of the show, she responded that she had lived too many years caring about what other people thought about how she lived her life, and appeared totally comfortable with the idea that this might negatively impact her children. My heart broke. It broke for the lives of these two kids, and it broke for this mother, who was so misguided. How, I wondered, are you helping your children, by exploiting yourself, for the pleasure of men? How are you loving your daughter, and showing her that she deserves a man who respects her - for her and not her body??? How is this behaviour applauded?

What concerns me even more, is the vast amount of people (mostly women) who watch these shows, and take the word of Oprah as gospel, and live it out in their lives, therefore impacting the lives of their children. And my heart breaks again. Who will stand up for these girls? Who will be their role models? Who will help shape their moral identities, sense of self, and value as young women?

I have been blessed with knowing many beautiful women in my life. Women who inspired, and shaped me into who I am. From camp counsellors as a little girl who showed our little cabin of scrawny 8 year olds, that we were beautiful, and valued, and special. Then there were youth leaders, like Rachel Richmond, who's joyful faithfulness in serving managed to show me at an early age what walking with God looked like in real life, in a real woman, who was beautiful in all ways. And my sister-in-law, who has probably shaped me more than I know, as she's been in my life longer than she hasn't been. It was she that instilled in me that I was worthy of a prince, a mantra I have shared with many a girlfriend, and that there is something beautiful in the girl who can handle herself on the sports field in the afternoon and feel stunning in heels that night! I have heard how my mother impacts the lives of the people she works with, by simply being herself, in her soft yet strong, steadfast way, and know without a doubt that has shaped how I live out my faith. I have watched women serve in the community, giving of their time and skills to bless those around them. I have seen the hospitality of women opening their homes and kitchens to however many people they could ask, not to be restricted by the size of their table or dining room.

These are the women that need to be applauded. These are the lives that need to be highlighted. And not because of the effect that they have had on me, but because it is women like these who change the world, and selflessly bring light to those around them, just by being who they are...everyday. And it is these women to who I am eternally grateful.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Hopeful Romantic?

My friend called me the other night to make a request. She had plans of lying low for the evening and watching chic flicks to relax from a crazy week. It was with those plans in mind that she called me before heading to the video store thinking I would be able to provide a selection of appropriate chic flick choices. And her thinking was correct...I confess that I do have a large selection of such movies, as I have a tendancy to watch movies repeatedly (read: more than 1/2 a dozen times), so I have developed a bit of a girlie movie library. So, why, thought my friend, go to Pic-a-Flic when I can borrow from the Elise library? Unfortunately all movies have been packed, with the exception of three standards: Meet Joe Black, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. I had to keep some case of movie-watching emergencies.

So far there have been no movie-watching emergencies, as my cable has been providing appropriate movies for my mood. For example, I found myself taking tonight off to relax before venturing into the upcoming craziness that will be the week o'moving, and settled down to watch "Little Women" with my tea, and latest knitting project (oh, I am so 28 going on 70!). Blame it on the under 5 hours of sleep that I got post-night shift, but I found myself a little more sensitive than usual to the emotional moments of the story (I was a bit of mess by the time Jo came back to see Beth before know the story). Anyways, I couldn't help but remember how when I had first seen the movie, and I must have been 14 or 15, and being completely incensed when Jo turned Laurie's marriage proposal down, and then she went and married the old, German philosophy professor. I didn't get it at all!! All I remember about that first viewing, was being terribly dissappointed with the ending.

I had a similar reaction to Sense and Sensibility when Marianne ended up with Colonel Brandon. "Colonel Brandon. Seriously?" I thought. "Oh but he's old, and talks weird and creepy-like!! Not nearly as dreamy as Willoughby, scandalous as he may be."

And now, with twice as much life experience under my belt and it's accompanying perspective and insight, my heart swells at the endings of these two great stories. And I can recognize, maybe like Jo did, that the easiest or most obvious choice isn't always the best choice. And sometimes love surprises us in unexpected places, and from unexpected people.

I look forward to the day when I am surprised by love. And maybe that's what keeps me watching these stories repeatedly...the hope for that day.

I just let out a contented sigh. I'm pretty sure this designates me as your classic, hopeless romantic...or more correctly a hopeful romantic. And I'm okay with that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The End of an Era

There are about a million other things I should be doing right now. Things like laundry, and sorting my kitchen utensils, packing the various and sundry things that fill my closets to overflowing, and filling out my change of address forms, just to name a few...but yet I'm here. I'm here writing. I think I'm going through paper-writing withdrawl, and my fingers don't know what to do with themselves...that, and I'm feeling especially reflective as the end of an era approaches: the Era of the Apartment of Greatness.

I had an apartment in Calgary for almost three years that I shared with Andrea. It was my first apartment, and so even with it's lack of style, stark white apartment walls, tiny kitchen, and possibly the ugliest bathroom I've ever known, I loved it. It was a sign of growing independence, and it was all it's ghetto glory. We neighboured an adult video store, and across the street was a liquor store, and our "recycling program" was leaving bottles out for the homeless guy we heard coming as his grocery cart rattled down the alley-way. It was great...but a little awkward when giving directions to our place to friends after church "You'll approach the liquor store on the right, and then just turn left at the XXX video store and we're right there". And when Andrea and left our little 900sq foot pad of memories, I knew it was the end of an era, and that there would many stories that started with "This one time in our apartment..."

When I moved back to Victoria, my only criteria in finding a place to live was that it be a quirky apartment, with a coffee shop close by, and within walking distance of the ocean. If you look over my patio wall you will see 3 coffee shops, all within a block, and just 4 more blocks down there is the beach, and I'm not sure if you can get much quirkier than the little apartment above the dry cleaners. I've started to pack up my things, and find myself packing up memories, and patterns of life, as Kendal and I wonder who we will come home to and say "You'll never guess what happened?!?!"

If I was a poetic soul, I would write an Ode To The Apartment of Greatness. It would include a few lines about the patio that was almost as big as the apartment itself. Maybe a quick mention of spiderman themed patio-pool with "swim-up bar" (also known as the 2 ft patio table). There would be a whole verse about the breakfast nook, with it's retro cushions (thank you, Tricia). There would have to be mention of the smell of cinnamon buns baking that would waft up from the bakery next door. And definitely a line or two about how most days you could smell the ocean upon walking out the door. There would be a lamenting verse or two about the tribulations of sugar-ant infestation, and about the ridiculous levels of heat experienced in the summer as the steam floated upward from the cleaners. And finally it would end with a verse celebrating all the gatherings of friends and family that the little apartment had seen; the friends from far and wide; the impromptu dance parties; the sleep overs under the Christmas tree; the meals big and small; the laughter heard...

It would be a lovely Ode...if only I was a bit more poetic...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Where is Chaka Khan when you need her?

After a beautiful and wonderful holiday time spent with family, dear friends...and patients, I have been able to have a few days off before venturing to the ICU as a full fledged Critical Care Nurse (which means I passed my course...woo hoo! Insert a bowing me here). Last evening after a day spent with some of my favorite people, I had a night all to myself. By 9 o'clock I was in my christmas penguin flannel pj's and threw on a cardigan to stay warm in our very chilly apartment. As I was putting on my cardigan, I had a sudden realization that I looked quite similar to a brunette version of Bridget Jones in one of the scenes from the movie, and laughed to myself as I turned on the tv only to find Bridget Jones was on! Brilliant - How perfect!! (Just so you know, I said that last line with a British accent!)

As I watched, I found a few more similarities with myself and Bridge last night, beyond our unfortunate yet comfy outfits. There is a scene in the movie where Bridget is picking herself up from the disappointment of the devastingly handsome yet cheating Daniel, and she puts on the song "I'm Every Woman" sung by none other than Chaka Khan, and proceeds to start changing her life for the better.

I am having one of those Chaka Khan moments...without the vodka...and without the reason of a horrible cheating maybe the parallels between me and Bridge are limited...but I'm okay with that.

I keep waiting for the song to break out overhead as I look at the exciting things this new year holds. Tomorrow I start my new job. A position I have just finished almost a year a half preparing for. Later this month I will move into my own place, sans le roommate. It must be noted, that I do LOVE my roommate - she is fabulous, as most of my 13 roommates have been, but it's just time to venture on my own. And of course there are the New Year's Commitments I have made (please note, I did not say "resolution"...semantics, I'm sure...but New Year's Resolutions have such a non-commital connotation to them) that include healthier living and a more purposeful and positive existence (note to reader: vagueness intended. I can't be telling everyone this kind of stuff!).

So here's to corny as it sounds, I really do believe it's going to be great! And if you see me smiling and bobbing my head to music that isn't there...I'm probably "hearing" Chaka Khan, so feel free to sing along!

Happy New Year, Friends!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Elliptical Adventures

I am all for fall. It is my favorite season for many reasons. But the top 3 reasons would have to be: 1) the bringing out of sweaters and scarves; 2) the drinking of hot beverages while wearing sweaters and scarves; and, 3) walking in crunching golden leaves with multicolored ones above, drinking a hot beverage wearing a sweater and scarf. sigh. Love it.

On the other hand, I do not love our recent fall weather, what with the raining, and the cold, and the darkness. I have caught myself wanting to go for a run outside recently, but fear for my life with wind warnings along Dallas Road (my favorite running spot), I have denied myself the desire to exercise...UNTIL this week! This week I joined the YMCA (insert YMCA song here). I'm very excited. I've never belonged to gym before, so I'm feeling very young, urban, and professional-like.

So far I've only gone twice. The first day I was feeling a little too proud to ask people where everything was, so I thought I would find things myself. I thought I was following the signs for the "cardio centre" correctly when I stumbled upon the 3 pieces of cardio equipment in the area occupied by large weight machines, and equally large 'Roid Boys in their 20s. I confess I did wonder why there were only 3 machines, and why I was the only girl in the area...but it didn't stop me from climbing on the elliptical trainer and hitting play on my iPod as I started my much anticipated workout. About 3 minutes into my session I noticed a sign...just letting people know that these machines were for the people that were unable to make it up the stairs to the regular cardio centre. If I hadn't been surrounded by the 'Roid Boys I would have nervously laughed aloud...but instead I kept going until I'd finished five minutes, what I deemed an appropriate "warm-up" (although unintentional), purposefully left the boys behind and found my way to the real "cardio centre".

I figured today would be a little less awkward now that I knew where I was going. And for the most part it was...until I climbed up the elliptical again and hit play on my iPod...all was fine (being in the appropriate area, and all) until Scissor Sisters came on. Specifically, "I Don't Feel Like Dancing". I don't know about you, but whenever I hear this song I TOTALLY feel like dancing. Some of my favorite memories are dancing to this song (e.g., having an impromptu dance party at my house with my nephews and niece (I'd be happy to give a demonstration of Andrew's moves...they're legendary) and dancing at my friend Laura's wedding). I LOVE that double clap bit. Anyways - deep love for the song, and the dancing effect it has...that is until I was on the elliptical and all of a sudden I was trying to keep in time to the song and keep up with my thing you know I'm all out of sorts, somehow completely losing allllll rhythm, practically falling off and needing to stop my activity, regroup, and start again. Right after I pressed fast forward to the next song.

Seriously - Scissor Sisters should come with a warning: "Dance-ability of songs may cause injury...especially to the rhythmically challenged"

Out of curiousity...what do you listen to when you're workin' out? I need to find a new song...for my own safety.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Procrastination, Thy Name is Elise

I have a paper due in 3 days. I spent most of my morning sitting at the computer attempting to research for said paper....only to find myself looking at everyone else's blogs, facebook, checking my email repeatedly and trying to diagnose the nagging sick feeling I've had in my stomach for the last 3 weeks (don't cofirmed that it's not cancer. phewph.)

By afternoon I had finally narrowed down my topic, and actually had some ideas that I could use (it's a comparison of the leadership found in critical care and acute care settings and how this affects job satisfication...just incase you were wondering). But this all came after a trip to London Drugs...really all I needed was shampoo (to avoid the greasy, paper-writing-student-look)...but felt it imperative to go up and down EVERY isle (at least once...twice for the toiletries and make-up). So - not only did I find the shampoo I needed, I became aware of "needing" (and I do use the term lightly) the following: a lipgloss that can go on my keychain, an eye-shadow compact, mousse, a set of multi-coloured pens, lined note-paper, chocolates, a fancy dust rag, an US weekly (that was supposed to be my "treat" after working on my paper all day), face wash and sparkling water.

Of course after I got home from London Drugs I had to make some lunch...and you can't have a lunch break and work at the same time. So I ate my lunch, and while that was digesting (because, heaven forbid, I work on my paper with a full stomach) I started to fix my latest knitting project while simultaneously watching a Friend's re-run.

And now, here I am back at the computer...obviously NOT working on my paper...but I'm getting close. I have opened a word document, and I'm just preparing myself for the genious-ness to start pouring out ...

but I think I better go get something to drink first...