Friday, May 29, 2009

Do not hurry as you walk with grief

This poem was shared by Art's sister Karen at his funeral. I think it's beautiful.

Do not hurry
As you walk with grief
It does not help the journey

Be not disturbed
By memories that come unbidden
Let God support you

Be gentle with the one who
Walks through grief
If it is you,
Be gentle with yourself.
Swiftly forgive
Walk slowly
Pausing often

Take time, be gentle
As you walk with grief.

Adapted from a Celtic Prayer

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Surf's up!

This virtual world of ours is quite amazing… from 'Google Alerting' any subject you'd ever want to keep tabs on, to making new 'friends' in continents you've never visited (one of which I'm going to see in real life very soon, because she's coming to Canada from Australia and will be in my town next month - how about that!), to learning amazing and lesser known facts, to telling people things that you'd never dream of sharing with your friends… it's a lot to get used to. And it takes a wee bit of wisdom and a whole bunch of time management skills to navigate the waters skillfully. I'm still learning, but man, I love to surf!

I've learned how to create a hyperlink, how to set up a newbie, very simple network, how to blog and other things. But in other things I must appear as techno impaired as I really am to those of you in the know. Like what I did while trying to create links between blogs and network, I created a circuitous loop that goes no-where… and I can't seem to get rid of this useless link now that it's there (imbedded?) Then there's the 'badge' that I somehow changed on my network… it used to be this funky little badge that I enjoyed posting other places I visit, and now it's blank… no matter what I do I can't seem to change it back to the original one or create another one! Ahhhhh!!!!!

And when it comes to blogging, I can't seem to figure out how to print out what I wrote if it's more than a page long. And, then there's the ever looming as yet unanswered question of how to blog to an audience… rather than to a void… still trying to figure this one out. For example, I struggle with feelings of guilt and wonder if I'm being completely self-serving when I post a comments on some blogs (part of me hoping they might check my blog out in return!)

I know, I know, these are just little problems, but I really wish I could sort them out and feel like I have a handle on the basics.

And there's also the frustration of creating networks that are active for a time and then silent for much longer. This has happened to me twice… once within an existing network and once with a brand new one. And, how do you grow them up into something that has a life of it's own… rather than being the individual who draws everyone out into conversation, answers everyone's questions, initiates all discussions, groups, etc. etc. I just don't have the time to do all that all the time!

Virtually speaking, right now in my life, I think blogging is top of my list of what the internet offers. I'm willing to just write and wait and see where that takes me. It's not the only writing I do, and I don't rely on it for income… but it allows me to express myself without too many concerns about political correctness, editing, or correct grammar (I do the best I can without stressing over it).

And there's also the online writing contests, the following of inspirational blogs that come to me in regular e-mails, and the free downloads of awesome music, and the reminders of great concerts in my area courtesy of Ticketmaster, and the posting of writing to other websites, and the ongoing research and development and design of websites, blogs, and other things virtual.

All this on top of being a wife and a mom… it's no wonder I'm tired by the time the kids come home from school.

Oh, I received this today on my Google Alert… maybe it will interest you… can't vouch for the truth of it, 'cause I'm not much of a Yoga or weight lifting expert. But maybe it will be something you can relate to.

Three Steps to Stop Menopause Suffering Before It Starts

I'm back on the shore of domestic duties for now. Perhaps I could incorporate some yoga into folding the laundry???


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Things I'm going to do differently today:

• Let the answering machine screen my calls, and then call back when I have the energy to talk. Do not feel guilty about this choice.

• Fix my hair and put on something attractive or cute, rather than stay in my pj's until time to pick up the kids.

• Walk the dog. Do not procrastinate. Walk the dog.

• Have lunch with my teenage son, and be comfortable in the silence of our non-conversation.

• Make a stress-less dinner, 'cause every Wednesday is a busy day. Today, food is fuel.

• Be content.

• Match the socks that are single and lonely in the bottom of the laundry basket. Throw out the ones that don't have a mate. Don't feel sorry for them!

• Look for opportunities to smile and maybe even laugh once or twice. And, if I can't do that on my own… call a funny friend. And, if I don't have one, begin looking.

• Keep my blog short and sweet. Don't drown people in words.

And, enough said. Carpe diem, my friends!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The duck in my pool

So, why do I have two blogs… and what is the difference between them? Maybe I'm off base here, but I really do think these two places allow different parts of me to emerge. While there's this deeper more spiritual side of me, and while I believe with all my heart that God is the foundation of, the purpose for, the captain of my life ship, there's also a part of me that is separate… gosh… does that sound anti-Christian?

I've found myself surfing some Christian Women's sites of late, and I have to say that while I admire them, while I learn by reading them, this other separate part of me says, but what about the times when I don't relate… the times I question… the times of darkness and I feel separation from a real close connection with God??? What about those? I don't know, but I feel these times are sort of glossed over by some Christians and painted into a pretty picture most of the time. I just don't want to, I've grow tired of, spiritualizing absolutely everything in my life… and thinking that if I just pray the right thing, say the right thing, read the right scripture, that this too will pass.

Yep, it will pass, for sure it will… I trust in God that it will . But, I want to be alive and fully aware of how I am feeling, thinking, acting, observing RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of these other times. Somehow… I think that I'd be less than forthright or a shadow of myself if I just glossed over these places in my life that are a little off-kilter, or off the beaten path. They are who I am too. God didn't say only focus on the mountaintops, or on the spiritual highlights… did he?

So, I'm still working through what this means in my life… and obviously, but the very fact that I currently have two different blogs… one focussed on the good and Godly, and one focussed on the real means I'm a little bi-polar in my approach and not yet fully willing to be or accept or live what I'm suggesting I should live. But the blogs are linked, not hidden, and neither is this struggle I feel.

Truth be told I'm still a little afraid… of the Christian women knowing this other side of me… the doubting, struggling, slightly profane at times side, and of the other non-religious women - knowing the spiritual side, believing, connecting with God, living my life as an act of worship side! Does that mean I'm more concerned about what these groups of women think than anything else? Is that ridiculous 'need to be liked' the guiding force behind what I do, say and blog? PLEASE NOT THAT! But hey, I'm human like the rest of you… and so that need to be accepted is real. I've certainly come a ways from that being the guiding force, but it's still there, rearing it's ugly little head and so I need to figure out what that means, and how to deal.

So, I hope you can hang on with me through this process of figuring out who I really am and whether I can somehow take these two parts of me -- the Sometimes Suicidal Mama -- and the -- My Gracenotes -- parts of me, and combine them into a relateable whole that brings something to the table that is palateable. And that's gonna take a while and a whole lot of trust in God's plans… not just mine.

Which brings me to the insight that I believe God gave me yesterday… and the reason that I was going to post it on My Gracenotes rather than SSM… yet after 'writing this down' right now, with you, I believe I will post it in both places (how's that for taking a risk)

So, yesterday morning I got up early… I've had times where I regularly do this, but this Spring has not been one of them. Lots of reasons and excuses come to mind. Anyway, I managed to get up with my 5:40 alarm, took a quick shower and then took my bible and notebook out on the porch with me. I read a bit, listened to the sounds of birds in the early morning garden, and then it happened… the duck… darn that duck… dropped from the sky into our pool. The mood and the atmosphere of peace and Godly connection was immediately broken for me.

My dog dropped down into his 'point', quivering with excitement at this visit from the duck (who returns many times during the day, much to our frustration), and I got up and scared Mr. Duck away with waving of arms and clapping of hands. The dog ran around the pool deck sniffing and wagging his tail, as I returned to the porch again to try to regain my quiet time.

I felt ticked off at first… as I sat and watched the dog and realized that it was almost time to wake up the family. And then, I really watched the dog… and recognized something on the verge of profound… at least it was for me at that moment.

Buddy, my dog, was sitting at attention at the corner of the pool, ears perked up, looking at the sky and wagging his tail. It was a funny posture… sitting while wagging… but Buddy has a very small tail and it was wagging excitedly. He did what he always does after a duck encounter… he sits and waits for the duck to come back… excitedly waiting, expectantly waiting, for what he KNOWS is going to happen again. He shows no interest in his breakfast, in me, in anything but the duck's return. And, due to his amazing ears, Buddy always hears the duck while he's a long way off… before I can hear him, Buddy gets to his feet and looks at the sky… and then the duck comes back, splashing into our shallow end.

I'd been reading verses in my bible yesterday morning that you probably know… the Lord's prayer… and Jesus is telling his disciples how to pray and it said, "Your Kingdom Come," and those particular words attracted me for some reason… as I thought about what it would be like to pray this, and ask God to take over so many ways in my life, and make it about His Kingdom rather than mine. So, I was thinking this just before the duck encounter.

What hit me between the eyes as I watched the whole thing with the duck and the dog was that Buddy illustrated to me what it might be like to have a Kingdom Come heart. If I was able to live the way Buddy illustrated … anticipating, expecting God to show up and focus on that whole-heartedly… wow, might that be a wild way to live. I know God is there… why not look for signs and sounds of his presence? Now, I'm not suggesting I sit and don't eat or do anything, but I'm saying I need to be attentive and watching. And when God shows up, I'll be ready for whatever he's got going on at that particular moment!

Anyway, that picture of the dog's anticipation and joy and the recognition of an application to my life was unexpected and awesome.

Gotta go, I hear quacking in the distance.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Time flies…

Posting on the weekend is harder than during the week… too many people around the house looking over my shoulder or calling to me from the kitchen, or laundry room or garage. So, I'm back this morning with very little to say… but, give me a few moments and that is sure to change!

I know that I want to say something witty, something that will stick with you or will cause you to belly laugh or just smirk with a recognition that you aren't as crazy as you thought you were, or you are less crazy than me, or at the very least, you aren't alone. But I can't conjure that up… can I? I can't be funny if I'm not feeling funny… and I want this blog to be about real life, not well scripted fiction.

So, where does that leave me this morning? And where does that leave us?

Alone in front of our computer screens looking for connection, I think. Alone and needing to express our thoughts and feelings and insights and failures and successes and just stories of our days and nights and lives. Alone is OK, for a time.

But I also know that too much of sitting in front of my computer screen isn't good for me. I tend to let the time slip by, pouring myself into writing and expressing and not take care of the other parts of my life that are actually more important… like caring for my home, or my family, or my health.

Who else out there struggles with this lure of things internet? I'm wondering what it is about being online that condenses time… I can't think of any other activity I do that has the same result.

Laundry takes time… at the very least a full day of back and forth between washer and dryer, but I am aware of each passing minute as I undertake that particular task. Gardening also takes a long time… but strangely enough, most times I feel like I've accomplished a lot in the garden, I come inside to find that only an hour has passed… interesting, huh? The hard work and the needful work of those primary responsibilities (that are hardest to start and complete), actually seem to take less time to accomplish than sitting in front of my computer where time vanishes without any awareness of it happening.

Is there something scientifically proven about this computer time loss thing? Can anyone help shed some light on this for me?

Until I know more, I'm just going to keep it short this morning and choose to get out of my chair and spend time doing other things that I've been short changing in favour of blogging and writing. I'm not saying I'm going to stop writing or doing my blog… cause it's something I do for the joy of it, and cause it's this creative thing that bubbles up and can't be stopped. Even if I write nothing of interest to anyone else, I will still write. But, let's face it friends, I can't just blog or write all day long… that's not my real day job!

Someone commented recently when I said I was writing on my blog, "oh, you're busy entertaining yourself." That really BUGGED me! I thought a few nasty things that went unsaid, but mostly I thought this person really doesn't get what it's like to discover (at midpoint in my life) a purposeful part of myself that fulfills me and has the potential to impact others.

I write because I have to… I would be less than who I am if I didn't. But, I would also be less of who I am if I didn't exercise, sleep, rest, clean, cook, bake, garden, or do the things that I have the 'gulp' PRIVILEGE of doing as a wife and a mother.

So… for today… in the words of Porky Pig, "That's all folks!"


Friday, May 22, 2009

Do you believe?

It seems there's never enough hours in the day… for what needs doing (including my commitment to writing this blog and other writing that makes me feel alive) and for all the commitments that ripple out with a family of five.

I often wake up with anxiety from instant messages in my brain… to do lists forming before my eyes fully open, and the accompanying thought that there just isn't enough time to do what I think I need to do that day, morning, hour etc. It's a crappy way to wake up!

So, the last thing I felt like doing this morning was to take the few minutes it took to do something for my neighbour (doesn't matter what, that's not the point). But, I was compelled to take the time and do it, and as I did, I prayed that it be a 'sacrifice of praise' to God. Sounds like odd words maybe, but I simply meant that my actions were in a direct response of obedience to what I feel God asks me to do… think beyond my immediate circle of influence and do something completely selfless once in a awhile. I blow this all the time, but on this particular morning, I didn't.

There I was, doing my thing and praying over and over in my head… "sacrifice of praise God, sacrifice of praise." Nobody saw me (except my husband) do what I did… again, not the point of what I was doing.

Then on I went with what I needed to do, which still seemed like a lot.

An hour later the phone rings… it's my son's youth leader phoning with the details for my son's 'sit-in' this weekend, which involves some prep for me too. He started the conversation with the words, "So, about tomorrow night…," and I said, 'Tomorrow night, I thought it was tonight?" and suddenly grace stepped in and flooded over me. I was given, undeservedly, without cost, without asking, the gracious gift of time!!!!!!

So, I'm left with a question… as much for myself as for you…

Do I believe? Could there possibly be a connection between that one tiny selfless act of neighbourliness this morning and the gift of time that I was given a short while later?

Any providence in those events?

Any room in my heart to believe that?

I want to believe.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dust on, dust off

Well, being at home today for the entire day resulted in my creation of a huge to-do list. That's always what happens on home days, days when I don't have a writing assignment to complete or anything else pressing means I have to pay attention to the things that haven't been getting my attention lately. And that usually means housework.

I don't like housework. I used to like it, I liked the mindless drone of the vac. and the piles of clean laundry… I never did like cleaning bathrooms (particularly toilets - yuck) but now I don't really prefer any of it. The constant clutter left by all five of us all over the house undoes me, and I find there's so much time that has to go into the de-cluttering before the cleaning can really begin.

So, in a grumpy and slightly martyred frame of mind, I pulled out the duster this morning and began to clean the uncluttered surfaces… which was limited to window ledges, baseboards, door jams, and other surfaces too small to collect much other than dust and the occasional errant bug, dog hair or unidentified crumb. I dusted with my nice faux feather Ikea duster, and worked my way around the main floor of our home, taking note of the tasks that lay ahead after this low impact chore was done. And, the more I looked and thought about all the mess ahead of me, the worse my attitude became.

I was in the piano room with duster in hand when I remembered some dusting of long, long ago, and in particular, a person came to mind. I remembered my grandmother, Chrissy Cook, wheelchair ridden from a spinal operation gone sideways, and how she spent 25 years in a wheelchair with very limited abilities in her upper body and none in her lower. My grandfather (same one as referred to in my last posting) cared for her needs… all of her personal needs, lifting her in and out of the car, bed, plus cooking, laundry, shopping, and gardening and cleaning. Except for dusting. This was one chore that my grandmother could do and enjoyed doing.

She'd hold a cloth duster in her hand, and every morning (I dust bi-weekly because it begins to show after that) my grandmother would wheel herself slowly around the main floor of their 1060's bungalow, and dust all the surfaces she could reach. And, when I was there visiting, I would help to do the surfaces she couldn't reach.

I never heard her complain… as a matter of fact I remember her happily doing what she could… her one small contribution to the upkeep of their home.

I complain. I begrudge my somewhat meaningless and endless list of chores that are involved in caring for our home. I'd rather write. I'd rather pay someone to do the housework… but that's another story. What I'm trying to say is that I've become jaded and lost focus on the reason why I do what I do… why it's important to be a good steward of the things I've been blessed with, and why having a good attitude about it is important. My grandmother could only do the dusting… I'm sure she wanted to do more, but just couldn't so she did it with joy.

So, I think I'd better dust myself off my high horse about keeping our home clean and tidy. It's what I've chosen to do for this season of my life, and what I've been given responsibility for. Yep, I'm going to have days where the mundane nature of the chore takes it's toll. But, when I dust, I'm going to remember my grandmother and be faithful and joyful (most days) in the little stuff.

'Cause maybe it's not so insignificant after all.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Practicality sets in

There's a practical side to grieving that happens almost unexpectedly. Like on Saturday afternoon when we met at the house to clean up. I had no idea what that meant, just showed up with Bob ready for whatever needed doing. I'm a fairly practical person, task orientated, I thought.

We're cleaning out the kitchen, she said, so I proceeded to open up the pantry and the fridge and was soon faced with choices I didn't expect. The simply act of deciding what was to be kept and what was to be thrown away made my stomach turn over. We did a bit of chatting as we worked, creating little piles of things on the counter top, a few items worth saving that we might use… canned goods, pre-packaged foods… but my stomach just wasn't cooperating as she asked, what about this, would you use this? I have to admit I wanted to toss the whole lot, but then my practical/thrifty side took over for a little while and I placed a few things in a box to take home later. As did she.

The fridge was easier as the perishables were destined for the garbage. But again, the act of emptying and throwing away was not easy. There was this strange feeling of doing something I shouldn't have been doing, of somehow having less than enough respect for Art, and his intimate life at home (even though he hadn't lived there since December when he moved into hospice).

The men were busy with papers, sorting, discussing, throwing away, collecting. They were talking through it all… admirable, I think. When the kitchen work was done I sat on the bed with them, didn't really know what else to do. I kept looking around for signs of his life, but the room was strangely barren, again probably due to the fact that he hadn't been living in the house for a long time.

My final task was something I decided to do without being asked… I couldn't imagine someone else taking down the photos from his kitchen wall and maybe throwing them away. I organized them into piles, smiling at the pictures of our kids, and the other little mementos that were pinned up there… like the brightly coloured plastic star made by our daughter, and a hand written note wishing him well from another child. Children loved him. He paid attention to them and gave them candy and oreos and pop.

Then we opened a bottle of wine, the guys lit cigars, and we sat on his patio… maybe for the very last time with music from his ipod filling in the silences. Again that feeling of emptiness… strangeness… tightness in my chest, and searching for words. We raised our glasses to Art… talked about life, the days since his funeral, feelings, and then we headed for home.

I remember when my Grandpa died that my mother had to sell the contents of his home, and split the proceeds with her state-side and only brother. She did this alone. I can't remember why nobody else came alongside her in this. She advertised in the paper, held a garage sale, then set up and sold whatever she could and donated the rest to charity. I can't imagine how she did that… watching strangers drive away with the things of my grandpa's life? Or, did practicality just set in and allow her to do the difficult and painful?

In the words of my dear husband, this process of emptying homes and hearts just sucks.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

In my face irony

Ironically, I experienced how difficult it is to do the right, sensitive, caring thing when it happens right in front of me. It's just not that simple.

This morning I was able to stop for a family of ducks crossing the road by our school. Cars on one side of the road had already stopped when I saw a mother duck and 8 little ones heading toward my side. I put on my hazard lights, and prayed for traffic beside me to stop too. Then, with only 4 ducklings safely off the road and 4 more trying to hop up the curb, the traffic began to flow around me and I had no choice but to drive on.

I cried as I drove away and whispered a prayer that they would all be safe. I thought of jumping out of the car and ushering them to safety. But, logic took over, plus I was wearing my pj's, and I realized that it's so easy to judge when we don't know all the facts, so easy to make blanket statements (or write poems) when we don't know the entire situation, and so I stand corrected.

Please forgive my reaction in 'Drive by', as an emotional response to death in a larger sense.

Still sad and ok,


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Drive by

Did you have a choice --
Starbucks in one hand and
one hand on the wheel,
as he waddled over the centre line?

Did your foot hesitate, move
from gas to brake
or did you simply
drive on,

oblivious to his
small body and bobbing iridescent green head,
caught between the paradise of one ditch
and the other?

footnote: you've really got to wonder if people give a shit these days… and if they see creatures on the road do they try to steer clear or just mow them down without a second thought? I'm thoroughly pissed off right now!

Monday, May 11, 2009


Lost somewhere in my head --
remembrances of places and facial expressions and words
hand holding and hair washing
and uncomfortable conversations
with hidden requests brought into the light.

Trying to work through this…
start the laundry
and write some technical article
also with words
but the brightness is duller
the heart somehow tighter
and I realize it's not
just another day.

I have in my mind some
things to do
visits to make
special projects to undertake
flowers to lay
words to say or write or shout into the wind…

Not sure how long it will take
to get past this
odd, new, vacant lot of a place
where once you were just down the road
a stop along my way
a perceived obligation of need
now you are
and I am left

Saturday, May 9, 2009

51 years in 6 minutes, 30 seconds.

I had the honour last night of putting together a slide presentation to represent who Art was in his life.

Art's brother-in-law Henry and I poured over hundreds of photographs, made selections, timed them to music (a beautiful song written for Art several months ago), edited, and finally arrived at a presentation that, we thought, best spoke of Art''s life of relationships, sports, career, and service.

As we watched the final edit, we smiled as the words of the song seemed uncannily timed to certain images. I wonder what the impact will be this afternoon at the memorial service?

And while Henry and I did our very best to put it together, there was this over-riding question of how a 6 minute, 30 second presentation could possibly give enough honour and tribute and fleshing out to a life of 51 years?

It just can't.

It's simply one piece in the puzzle of this strange and awkward grieving process.

Writing through this…


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Art Suke, 1958-2009

Our dear friend Art died yesterday morning, after a long and drawn out struggle with ALS, (Lou Gehrigs Disease) resulting in loss of motion, speech, body function, and some dignity as well. He spent the last four months in hospice, cared for by many good friends,visiting out-of-town family members and an incredible nursing staff. The faithful visits by those who ministered to his body and soul was an amazing thing to witness. Art was well loved and will be missed from our lives.

I am married to Art’s best friend Bob, and as such my role was the same as it has been through their friendship -- somewhat peripheral. I have tried to support Bob by caring for some of Art’s needs, and allow Bob the time and space to do whatever he felt needed to do with his dear friend. I have found the last few months to be the most difficult, with ever increasing demands for personal care for Art,and the fact that I don't deal with illness and suffering well. My heart is too soft in some ways, and a bit stoic in others. Still, he was loved to the best of our abilities by our family -- our children’s ‘Uncle Art’.

There was something about Art that drew me, and held me in an outer circle of influence, sometimes moving closer for certain times such as his visits to our back porch for a cigar with Bob, or Sunday dinner with the family. Art was larger than life, loved to run in races, play good golf and spend time on the lake in his boat. He enjoyed the good life with his friends, yet was sometimes independent and hard to pin down.

Now that he’s gone, I feel a little odd, a little unemotional. I haven’t cried yet, and I wonder when I will? I told the kids about his passing after they got home from school yesterday afternoon, and they were strangely silent -- I expected some words, but I have a feeling that they too were feeling numb. We knew for a long time that he would eventually die, but now that it’s upon us, we are in disbelief.

Bob is processing things differently than I am, and that's normal for us. I want to talk about it, he wants to internalize and hold it together. That's just who he is, and admirable and strong.

Bob says he’s always wondered why Christians don’t celebrate the passing of one of their brothers or sisters into the presence of Christ? Why are we so sad? We should be happy for them and what they are now experiencing for themselves. I know what Bob says is true, and on one hand he’d like to feel like that, but on the other hand he’s really hurting inside too.

Dealing with death is so surreal and unsettling, and there never seems to be the right words to say, or the right actions to take. And things other people say and do can grate on you too. As a young adult, I remember my parents being strangely and almost overly comforted by death, and saying certain things that just didn’t sit right with me. Things like, ‘her testimony during her illness was amazing’, and ‘it’s a blessing that he has gone to be with the Lord… no more pain and suffering and so on.” Man, that bugged me then, and I don’t want to speak like that now, especially to the kids.

Why must we spin it into something good? It hurts to lose someone from your life… yes, that’s the selfish reality, Art is gone from MY life, and I miss him and want him back. Yes, it’s good and right and a blessing to know that Art's suffering is over, and that his faith means that he is 'in a better place', and I believe that I will see him again some day. But for a time, can’t I just be sad and mad and wish him back again with us?

If only our culture was better equipped to deal with death, and to deal with it in a way that isn’t so stuffed down or glossed over. I envy the cultures that wail and cry and scream… and get it all out, and then move on, when the grieving has run its natural course. Or those, like the Irish, that have big parties - wakes - and celebrate life with laughter and good beer and dancing. Our 'Canadian' grief is more like a slow leak in a rubber dingy, it can easily swamp you if you don’t take care. If only the hole were big and the air gushed out quickly, then at least you could swim.

It’s been a long time since someone close to our family died. And it’s been an even longer time since we’ve been present for the days and plans leading up the the final good-bye -- the very first time for our kids. I hope that walking through this process of death and funeral, and being up close with the individuals most effected, will allow our kids to see the reality of what has happened, and that we can talk openly about their fears and sadness and grief and help them to process things in a healthy way that allows them to honour Art, express their pain, and find the strength to move on.

I’ll be preparing the guest room tonight… actually, it’s Graeme’s room that he will have to vacate potentially for out of town funeral guests. And even that is an opportunity to be part of something greater than us, and more personal. Having a grieving friend or relative in our home might help all of us to process and truly believe that the overwhelmingly tragic has happened;

That our dear friend Art Suke, age 51, lover of life, family and friends, died.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A legacy of words

As I said yesterday, I'm putting together a special gift for my mom. I thought a collection of writing by the members of our family, simply bound in a booklet, might be something that she would appreciate. So, I've been digging around in the basement boxes, through old letters and documents and photos and finding some unexpected treasures.

At first the book was going to be a female thing… but I know now it's got to include the male writers in our family as well. And today's blog is me sharing a couple of gems with you.

The first poem is by my maternal grandmother… written in 1927. I have the original tattered piece of purple paper with her poem written in what appears to be fountain pen. Wow. Here it is,


The weary ones had rest,
The sad had joy that day,
and wondered ‘how’
A plowman singing at his work
had prayed
‘Lord, help them now.’

Away in foreign lands they
wondered how
Their simple word had power
at home the Christians two
and three had met,
To pray an hour.

Yes we are always wond’ring
wond’ring ‘how’
Because we do not see
Someone, unknown perhaps
and far away
On Bended Knee.

Chrissie Robinson

The second poem is by my younger brother, Joel Clements.


We walked through the fields,
saw lines
where the plough had been,
and followed the furrows
as they snaked behind the hill.

We listened to the wind
and heard
how it tickles dry leaves,
and tells of crickets
in the cat-tails.

We eagerly inhaled the country
into our city lungs,
tasting summer
in the dust
of the dry August heat.

We breathed the air,
filled with fragrance.
It brought fading thoughts
of our childhood
not long passed.

Chasing kittens
in the musty darkness
of the loft,
among sweet scents
of fresh cut hay.

Now we chase our dreams…

Why does it always surprise me when I see predestination in things… that there might be a pattern or a plan to my life and the choices I make, still has a way of catching my breath and stopping me up short. My search in the basement revealed poetry, letters, books and a love of words in past and present generations in my family. My daughter is also a wordy girl… why is that such a surprise to me?

Anyway, today I'm just resting in this place of knowing that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing and the 'writing on the wall' is more obvious than ever before.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mom, girlfriends and God

Only a couple more days until Mother's day… and that window of sending something before its too late is quickly closing. I know I've got to get my package off 'express post' if I have any chance of honouring my mom this year. Why I always wait until the last minute, I have no idea. So, I'm working away today at a meaningful little gift for Mom this year, and I hope that she feels loved when she receives it.

I've come to recognize that my mom and I will never be best girlfriends, and although I'm OK with that, there are times like Mother's Day that I wish it were the case. Mom and I connect on some stuff, but not everything, and certainly not the heart level stuff that I share with a few of my other friends. Mom and I can talk about the weather and other people for hours (not gossip, but facts), but as soon as it becomes personal, well, the conversation lags.

Mom is a wonderful woman, a hard worker, a great cook and baker, a lifetime supporter of mothering, a loving grandmother, but she just isn't my girlfriend. Too many years of history are there between us for us to be light and fun and silly together, I guess. So, the visits can be tense without the humour nor the heart connection.

So, I have to love and accept my mom and our relationship for what it is and what it is not. And I have to be thankful that there are other women in my life, both young and old, that make my life rich and fun and liveable. I would be lost without them.

This morning I had the opportunity to sit with a young girlfriend of mine and just shoot the breeze over a cup of americano. We sat in the window of the coffee shop, looking out at life on the street, and talked about stuff like friends, and jobs and the economy. An hour later, we hadn't solved anything much, but we had talked about a lot. Then we headed off to whatever was next in our days.

Girlfriends are one of God's best inventions, I think. I know I'm not saying anything new in this, but girls just listen better and understand better than guys, and so I want to say another hurray for girlfriends, and daughters and mothers and sisters… and the times when these are combined.

My dear husband just isn't wired to give and take like a girlfriend would. He tries hard to listen and then he presents his solution and I always take offense to that approach. I know he wants me to be happy and wants to solve whatever it is that I'm trying to share with him that is making me unhappy. But, I just really want to talk, to vent… nothing more than that most days.

Girlfriends empathize better, their body language is better, their silences are better timed, and when they speak it's not about the solution. Often it's about their life and how they handled, or didn't handle, something similar. And so many times there's laughter involved… even if it's allowing me to laugh at myself for being way too serious. For whatever reason, I come away from these conversations feeling better. Nothing has changed in my life circumstances, but I feel like I'm part of a special forces unit that is somehow, together, able to take on the world. Wow, that's pretty amazing to feel like that.

In the words of one of my wise girlfriends, "The sooner we get that our husband isn't our girlfriend, the better off we will be!"

In a way, I think the same potential for healthy emotional living that comes from girlfriend time, also comes from the time I spend with God. I can share EVERYTHING that's going on inside me without any fear at all of being rejected, being fixed, being misunderstood, being the odd girl out. God can take it all from me, and he gets me even more than my husband or my girlfriend or my mother is ever capable of. But, I forget that, and settle for other relationships to make me feel better and even tend to become needy of those people sometimes when I start to feel cut off or lonely. The silly thing is, God is here with me ALL THE TIME… and I ignore him so often.

I'm going to get up from this computer, put on my walking shoes, and take a brisk walk with my dog and with God. I'm sure we'll have a great talk (not out loud or people might think I'm nuts), and when I get back home I know I'll have a new perspective on things. Only it won't be the perspective and feel good kind of thing that I already have after my morning girlfriend coffee, which already has me energized. It will be a fresh understanding that the God of the universe, my friend, has it all under control and that I can just relax in that knowledge for another day.

Peace, out!


Monday, May 4, 2009

a little background…

I'm thinking it might help to know a little bit of my history at this point… nothing too detailed, but just a general idea of who I am and where I'm at.

About 18 months ago my menstrual cycle stopped. I was 45, and not expecting to be cold turkey into menopause. But, I was. I began to experience all of the symptoms that you have no doubt heard about, or even experienced yourself if you are with me in this phase of life… hot flashes (a tingling feeling in my head followed by blood rushing through my body and face - like being embarrassed all over), night sweats and sleeplessness, weight gain (not a lot but enough to be frustrating), moodiness, lack of focus, lack of desire, irritability (yes, even more than usual!), and I went to my Doctor to investigate what next steps there might be for me as I walked through this change of life. The Doctor said it was just a matter of managing things, and making adjustments as necessary.

OK, I thought, and I did a little bit of research (talked to my Mom and various friends) to find out their insights, what worked, what didn't, and proceeded to make some adjustments to my life, including walking more and eating less, wearing cotton and in layers that I could easily remove when necesary, and lowering the expectations I had for my productivity in lots of areas. The symptoms came and went, and things were going well for the most part, except for the difficulty in focusing on tasks, or completing them in a timely fashion. And, the overall feelings of anxiety and depression were sometimes quite strong.

And, all this 'mental' stuff was and is going on in someone who is supposed to be filled with hope and joy and all the other trappings of being a 'woman of God'. It wasn't the first time I've found that depression and faith are polarized, but here I was again… feeling ashamed, on the outside looking in, embarrassed to share the truth of what I was going through for fear of being 'too much' for those around me. So, I began to withdraw from relationships, and spend more time alone. (YIKES - not the best choice really)

Again I sought 'medical' help, and ended up finding some great nutritional supplements that are still helping me to regain some of my energy and vitality again (Macaroot). Some days are better than others, and there are even stretches of good days where I'm not even aware that there is this new reality for me… I feel like the old me those days. But, most days are different and I'm still trying to figure out what my new reality is.

All this to say that I'm tired of pretending that all is well all the time, that I've got it all together, and that being a Christian is the answer to everything.

I need you to also know that God is my foundation in life -- he really is. I believe that God is close by and understands and provides, but that is not a bandage solution for me. I don't think it's fair to the rest of you for me to say one thing and then experience another. How much worse things would be for me without God in my life is hard to say (probably a lot worse)… but to say that all is well all the time would be a lie.

So, my passion being writing, and my purpose being to let my life be an open book, I decided to write my way through this time of my life… sharing the ups and downs and realities of these days with you. If you catch me preaching, forgive me for that, and if you catch me being a wet blanket, I hope you can forgive that too.

What I simply want to be is real. I'm tired of pretending, hiding, and making excuses for who I am.

This is me. A sometimes suicidal mama. This is me with God. A sometimes suicidal mama with God.

Maybe somehow my life experience will help you?


Sunday, May 3, 2009

It's so simple

The garden in spring has a way of calming. Dirt, water, sunshine and the promise of new green shoots seem to work some miraculous thing in the soul and even out the highs and lows of mood swings for me. It's cathartic in the garden.

So, after arriving home from a thought provoking service at church, I headed outside to do some weeding and watering, and just find a head space that was more about the simplicity of working hard than anything else. So I thought, until the little girl next door stuck her adorable little nose through the fence and said, "Hi, friend". And I had no other choice but drop my tools, take off my gloves, sit down by the fence and talk to her.

"It's my birthday," she said. "I'm 5." "Wow," I said. "That's really getting old." And I sat and she stood at the fence and we talked and talked for quite some time. Then her sister joined us, and my daughter Claire joined us, and all of us kept talking about simple little things like favourite colours, and favourite animals, and birthday presents, and what we did the other night when the power went off and things like that. It was a very sweet time… four girls talking through the fence about simple things.

Don't you get tired sometimes of thinking about not-so-simple things, about the serious nature of life, and decisions, and things to work on and figure out, and what's for dinner and do your kids have clean socks? I do.

Don't you wish that you could laugh more and play more and be light and simple, like a little girl in a purple dress who dances on the fresh mown lawn in the sunshine?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Alone again, (soon please)

I'm a little odd, I think. I love to be alone with my own thoughts, and whether that happens inside my home or outside on a long walk, I value quiet, peaceful surroundings. Yet, too much of a good thing is… too much, and I find I can get lonely. Then I bounce to the other side of my odd personality where I also like to be surrounded by crowds of people, like at the sidelines of soccer games, or even sitting in the coffee shop alone, but surrounded by people. But again, not all the time.

So, does that make me an introvert or an extrovert? Can a person be both?

I think I'm an introvert, most days. I choose to be alone a lot, and enjoy it most of the time. I find people to be complicated, and being with them brings all sorts of complications like communicating in the right way, having the correct tone of voice, ensuring that my body language is accepting and not rigid, being flexible, being loving, being kind, appearing interested in what they are saying when I'm really not. Why is this so difficult for me, you ask? I don't have a clue, but I clearly recognize that sitting in front of my computer and emailing a 'nice' little note to someone is so much easier that being with them. Not relationally healthy maybe, but easier. And, I guess I'm in for easy some days.

But, having the life I have, and that being full of husband and kids and their friends and their dogs and cats and hamsters, the inevitable interactions happen and thus the need for some kind of communication. And then I'm faced with the most difficult two times of the day… (usually with the kids after school, or the husband after work) when I seem to forget how to open my mouth to speak… or how to think of something interesting to say… or even how to listen well to what is being said. It's like brain freeze, only it's longer lasting!

And then, in the middle of trying to figure out just what my personality needs and how to make it work in a world filled with other people and other personalities, my home and my world is suddenly infiltrated by a certain person who doesn't seem to have a clue about personal boundaries! I stop thinking I'm odd, and begin to think I'm crazy or soon will be if this person doesn't get a clue, or better still, stop talking! Without sharing any relationally damaging details, I'll just say that this person brings out the very worst in me… and there is absolutely no escape… they get up before me in the morning, talk while I'm on the computer, talk while I'm on the phone, talk through my favourite TV show, and talk on into the night as I finally get up off the couch and head to the quiet of my room where I can think and most importantly, breath again.

So, what does that make me? Selfish? Angry? Confused? Well, yeah, all of those, and as much as I'd like to figure out why, I simply have to get through this time of intense interaction with as much grace as it takes to survive and without any relational collateral damage, either to them or me.

Introvert or extrovert, we are all creature of very strange tendencies, preferences and habits.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What a difference a day makes…

So, it's been an up and down week… and not that one day is up and one day is down, sometimes it's almost an hourly variation. At this point I'm wondering both why it's been this way, and if you can relate? So far today it's been up and the sun has been adding to my feelings of overall well-being, that and some time spent with a good friend over a cup of coffee.

Another friend told me lately that a chemical is released when women are in each others company… something called 'Oxytocin', that actually causes us to feel better in a scientifically proven kind of way. So, with 'O' flowing through me, and sun shining on me, I can say that I'm feeling pretty good as a result!

The other thing that has me up today is being able to recognize how God uses people to do his work. Yesterday someone needed me when I was in an emotional place to give, the day before that the same person drew from their God reserves to lift up my failing spirit. And I see God at work orchestrating it all.

That's it for now… off to walk the dog and enjoy the first real spring day in ages. I know the red-wing blackbirds will be singing in the marsh, and I might just hum along.

See ya!



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