Thursday, October 7, 2010

Married in todays terms A LONG TIME

 If you're married and have been for over 5 years you have most likely had a few moments that made you want to walk away, give up, start over.  You have probably had many conversations with friends who told you not to put up with it, that your worth more than that, you listened and part of you agreed, but if you're like me something inside you just couldn't give up.  Perhaps I am slow or stubborn but I just couldn't walk away, and I'm glad I didn't.

My husband and I have been together for almost 9 years and for the most part we have had a good partnership.  As you can tell from above we have had our moments, there was a time that I felt betrayed, hurt beyond belief, anger, and so scared.  Through many hours of counselling, and scheduled date nights somehow we made it through the "dark" times.   The hardest part of the coming out of the dark times is the effect it leaves on the people around you.  The people you talk to, the people who become external influences in your marriage only hear about the good stuff and rarely about the amazing things that happen after.   Facing those people as a couple or as an individual is excruciating if your me.  Why do I have this incessant need to feel judged and then worry about it until it turns to debilitating anxiety?  On Tuesday I vowed to let it go. Be free of the anxiety, the worry, move past it.  Just simply.. Let it go.  Take responsibility for my actions, for our actions, state that it happened.. I can not change that..but I can continue my life happy, free and full of love.

Part of letting go came because I had a want and a need to feel in love again.  After reading an article recently on a blog that was quoting an article from the New York times I became energized at the thought that that "in love" feeling is with in my reach and my control. If you click on New York Times it will take you to the article, it is a good read and some great ideas on how to re-connect. If you are in a relationship that is 2 days or 50 years I think everyone can learn from it,  I personally found it fascinating.

Through this article and my secret addiction for the bachelor I decided it was time to set up a new way to date as married folks.  Creating "Secret Dates".
How would this work?  Each couple (Or single.. they would be set up on blind date) puts there name in a hat and one by one we all draw a couples name.  You would be responsible for setting up the couple you drew a fantastic date night.  You would babysit their kids, plan and organize their date (to be under $75 to keep it real).
For example:  Darren and I draw Ashley and Brad's name
We would plan some kind of fun adventure/date for Ashley and Brad, they would pay for their date but would not expect to spend more than $75 that evening (unless they choose to).  We would show up with a "Date card" that gave them their first destination and either Darren or I would babysit their kids that evening. 

Everyone I have mentioned this secret date to seems excited about the idea.  I do wonder.. is it the thrill of organizing for someone else, the idea of having a date,  perhaps the free babysitter, or is it the thrill of it all? Will it be like a cookie exchange, you know.. some will put in effort and some will not?  Not sure and it doesn't matter, what matters is we are trying to keep it fresh, keep it real, and live life with adventure, love and a dose of creativity. 



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Diaries of a Mad Woman

She sat there feeling very alone and scared, frightened, not from the angry women that surrounded her or what she was about to hear. She knew the truth, she knew what had brought her to this moment.  What she was most afraid of was change, fear of the unknown, fear of once again looking in the mirror, digging deep and remembering.  Remembering the many things she witnessed, learned, became and imitated, and most of all she feared she had damaged and taught the two things in this world that meant the most to her.  What if what she learned sitting with these 15 women was that she had done irreparable damage to her children.  What if she learned she was damaged beyond repair and that change wouldn't happen.

As I sat down in the comfortable black leather couch this evening, week two of five, I looked around the room and took note of the women that surrounded me.  They did not look angry, they did not look crazed and not one foamed from the mouth.  When I heard each one of their short stories of what brought them to this place, I realized that I am far from alone and the company I keep is of moms, grandmothers, sisters, lovers, store clerks, teachers, lawyers, they are all of us, the difference is... each one of us for what ever reason is there to change. Each one of us wants to learn, we recognize a need to change.

The first week I sat with these women I was full of emotion, I was ashamed to be there, ashamed to be seen, scared to share. And now this week, a week after learning a few small skills I entered the room excited to share, to learn, to be open and willing to go deeper and further into my soul, into my being.   I am excited to change, the possibilities of learning skills to keep me from saying and doing out of anger, things I can never take back.  I want to live my life with no regrets, but I also want to live my life full of kindness and love. 

As she got in her car to drive home she reflected on the last two weeks and what she learned in these classes,  change would not be easy, if it were everyone would do it, and it would be no big deal. But by being present, being conscious of her feelings and practising QTIP she may just be able to do this.  And then she imagined a life where she never lost her cool, a life where her children heard praise ten times more than they heard her yell.  For the first time in her life she felt as though she was ready to be herself, to be person she was born to be, to act as she wants to act not as she'd been taught.    She was ready to be the Mom, wife, friend she imagined.  Not imitating her parents, but parenting as Alyson would parent. 

I am not saying my parents did not do an excellent job, they did, rather there are things I would like to change about myself.  Things I would like to re-learn as an adult, as a parent, as a wife, as a friend.

Until next time, 
(QTIP = Quit taking it personal)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On Being a Mom

On the bookshelf I glimpsed the corner of a journal I started writing the day I found out I was expecting. It had been awhile and I love reading my account of being a mom. The book has pictures, drawings, songs and on every page, various degrees of emotion expressed such as excitement, fear and love. Of course this was not the time to read it. The dishwasher needed to be loaded, I had brought home work to do and the lunches still needed to be made.  Maybe I could read just a page or two; it had been a long day. 

Right away I opened to a photo of me looking like I swallowed a watermelon whole. It always makes me smile to think I carried that 10 + pound child and there was no getting him out. I remember trying to sleep, rolling over, tossing, turning, numb from the hips down. I would walk for hours thinking this would help the process. It didn’t. My sister teased that my child would be born on her birthday which was two weeks past the due date. I vehemently swore there was no way he was staying in there that long. He did, she was ecstatic. I wasn’t.

I fast forwarded to toddler Tyler and was reminded of how busy he was – virtually into everything. I was amazed at how quickly he learned despite the fact that he was always so sick. I cannot differentiate whether the empathy I feel for the then single mother was because I could feel it through her writing or, because I lived it. Surgeries came and went and we got through it. He kept growing and learning and growing. My daughter joined our family when she was 14 and Ty was 3. I remember the connection I felt between the three of us and reflected on how important that would be in the years to come. As all 14 year olds, she had her struggles and she got through them. I watched her in the same way I watched Ty. She was always learning and growing. Ty is now eight and Tash is 19 and we have all travelled far, physically and emotionally since those early journal days.

I put the book down and smiled while doing the menial tasks I wanted to avoid in the first place. The work I brought home had lost it's urgency. I reflected; despite the uncertainty involved in being a parent, (children don’t come with manuals) the thing that never fails to amaze me is the bond and connection that is always present through every stage of their development. Becoming a parent means that a million times over you will watch your heart walk around the room and in return you silently commit to being the best parent you can be. For me, this magic is undoubtedly the most endearing benefit of being called Mom.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Community is best for all

I am a strong believer that life is better when you live in your community, and when I got an environmental reason it just got better...Here is a smidgen of my experi'mental' leanings:

A few years ago on a road trip to Vancouver Island I was listening to CBC radio while driving the beautiful coastline highway.  You'll have to excuse me as I have a terrible memory for details but do remember what interested me.  First being David Suzuki (who I adore and love to listen or watch when ever I get the chance), as soon as I heard his voice we stopped scanning for a station to listen to.  He was talking about the environment and what we are able to do to help the downward spiral that consumption has taken us.   He spoke about Walmart and how he believes that Walmart is one of the best companies going forward for environmental reasons, that they are set to a goal of being a zero waste company.  That was fascinating (I still rarely shop there as they are not there yet, and I disagree with some fundamental business practices, instead I prefer to spend my money in the smaller more local mom n pop shops or Canadian chains when I can).  But the part of the program that most peaked my interest was an environmentalist from California (I wish I could remember her name she was fantastic) that when asked if buying "environmentally friendly" products was making a difference she said no.  She said the absolute best thing the average person can do to have the largest impact on the environment is to live with in their community.

That statement got me thinking, and for the past 2 years I have been doing my best to do exactly that.
Here are a few ways that my community has helped the environment:
We have a great hand-me down program at R-Town, kids clothes, toys, sports equipment, baby furniture all get passed from home to home sometimes having 5 or 6 kids getting use from a single item. 

By getting to know our neighbours we spend more time eating together as a community, consuming less, driving less, and with less waste.

I have made a conscience effort to do  my shopping as close to home as I can when I can.  We drive much less than we did by discovering great shops closer to home, and the added bonus, most are mom and pop shops that need our support and in doing so we help create jobs with-in our community. 

As it turned out living with in our community had other great perks that go beyond the environment and consumption.   Because we got to know our neighbours we now spend a lot of time together and with that comes this peaceful feeling of security, there is always someone around to watch the kids if need be, and spending time with girlfriends has helped me more with anxiety and depression, than any councillor ever did (not hating on councillors just saying)... Which in turn did help the environment and my consumption, after all going and talking with a friend has saved me thousand of dollars in counselling bills and hundreds of tanks of gas getting there...

R-Town is about to have the Grand Opening of our much anticipated Common Room.  It is a general, multi-purpose room for residents of R-Town to use.  In my mind I saw great community events that bring neighbours together and turn them into friends, that had people coming together to do social activities to brighten their spirits, to bring that secure feeling I have to anyone willing to put themselves out there. My fear is that fear itself will not allow these things to happen.  The fear of the room getting wrecked, the fear of it costing money to run, the fear that people are evil and of course the one that no one can control, the fear of something new.
I believe if people show up, they will have fun, and given the opportunity every ones lives can be enriched by spending time with one another.  And building a stronger community is in every ones best interest.. even the environments.

- Aly

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Looking in the Mirror is not always pretty

I often find solace in writing about things that scare me, things that many people would find private and something that shouldn't be shared with the world. Today I am sharing one of those things. I know that one day it could come round and bite me in the rear but I am ok with that. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, it is all me. The authentic me. Liver disease, laugh lines, jelly belly, and perfect stretch marks that remind me of the miracles I named Maaren and Leif. 

almost 3 years ago I attended a parenting course put on by SFU Information Children just after Leif was born (they offered free child care with the course and I figured a couple hours a week to better myself for free... sign me up! Did I mention my children are 18 months apart.. I needed the break and this was an incredible guilt free break). One of the best things I learned is we are not born knowing how to behave.  It is something that is taught. At the time I took this advice with my children in mind, trying to teach my children the best I knew how. 

Since having children my marriage has had it's share of ups and downs, and with good reason.  In the last 4 years there has been a serious lack of sleep, lack of self worth, with little to no time for romance or simply time for one another.  We stopped making caring for one another or ourselves a priority.  We have tried having set date nights but with lack of income those get harder to do, and life starts to take over and it gets lost in daily activity.  Each time we stop making "us" a priority, "things" start mount up.  Life's expectations start to wear on each of us, and our behaviour starts to change. 

This idea of  "we are not born knowing how to behave" has just started to sink in on a deeper level, three years later.  It does not only apply to my raising my children into kind, confident, loving adults, but it applies to myself.

This year, year 33 of my hopefully 105 years on earth is the year of taking a good long and hard look in the mirror.  Discovering who I am, the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.  I first blogged about not recognizing the face in the mirror followed up with it's official, I'm what I used to consider old when I learned of health problems. So today I blog of growing up mentally and taking responsibility and being ok with changing to improve myself. I warn you what I am about to write is something I am not proud of, and very few people know about me, but it is me, it is my honest me.

I recently had a wake up call, that I am not always the person I think I am. That my behaviour when I get heated is not pleasant, and it's also not acceptable.  Somewhere along the way I learned that it was ok to say stupid things when left feeling vulnerable, scared, panicked, or simply angry.  I never realized the hurt I could cause by words, I am not a violent person but I am a cruel person when I am backed into a corner. And until a few days ago, I thought it was ok to be like that, that my emotions, that my feelings were ok to express in a hurtful manner,  never once stopping to think about how my actions, my words affected others.  Others more specifically being my best friend, my husband.   It's as though I thought that no matter how terrible I treated him, he loved me and accepted me for who I am and would always be there for me.   Lucky for me, he does love me enough to tell me the truth when it is most needed.

Taking a look in the mirror is not easy, when I stopped and listened to words that have come out of my mouth, and saw the pain I caused someone I love very deeply my whole being cried.  I have never cried so hard in my life, I cried so hard I couldn't stop throwing up.  I have cried for loss, and I have cried for physical pain, but I have never cried when looking in the mirror.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I mean that sincerely.

I look back now to that parenting class I took so many years ago, the class I took for a guilt free break to better myself as a parent.  Who would have guessed that line that has stuck with me through theses years would give me solice and hope for myself.  My behaviour is learned, which by my calculations means I can also un-learn, and re learn.

Perhaps by looking in the mirror I can learn to be the woman I have been striving to raise my children to be, to become the women I thought I was for 33 years.

Until next time,

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Almost Famous

William locks the door. He reaches under his bed. It's a black leatherette travel bag, with tartan design. He unzips the bag -- it's filled with albums. He flips through the amazing, subversive cache of music. Cream's Wheels of Fire...the seminal Bob Dylan bootleg Great White Wonder... the Rolling Stones' Get Yer Ya Ya's Out... The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds...Abraxas by Santana... Jethro Tull's Stand Up... The Mother's of Invention's We're Only In It For The Money... Led Zeppelin...Crosby, Stills and Nash... Miles Davis' Bitches Brew... and The Who's Tommy... with a note taped to it. "Listen to Tommy with a candle burning
and you will see your entire future..."

When Almost Famous came out in 2000, I thought, I am soooo William...but the chick version. I was lucky, I had the best cousins who had a phenomenal amount of LP's...yes I just referred to those black plastic things you put on a turntable. I remember watching a Meatloaf video, Bat Out of Hell, and yes getting turned on at 8. It was hot!

My passion at that age was KISS, don't know why, to this day, but I loved, loved them. I had the red t-shirt, with the sparkly press-on that was ironed on with the 3000 degree iron, Detroit Rock City!!. Loved that shirt. But seriously, what is music to me today?

EVERYTHING! I did that, I listened to music in my room with candles and funny...I am actually doing that right now, but with different technology. I remember when I was a teenage girl, confused and lost, I would sit and listen to Led Zeppelin, Depeche Mode and Crosby, Stills and Nash on my sister's Fisher Price record player and know I would be okay because "momma said that's the way it outta be."

Music has been my saviour and it has expressed how I feel when I could not. Music is such a huge part of who I am as a person. And the older I get, my musical preferences change...I can't stand listening to Guns and Roses anymore, probably 'cause all the work Axel had just turned me the fuck off. And it's funny, I walked around with friends who blared that shit on their boom boxes down Younge Street...thinking I was such hot shit!

I know I'm older and I don't think I will ever stop burning a candle to see my entire future while I have my Ipod playing...but U2 now considered "an oldy but a goody"?

But, one thing I know for sure is; if I ever get lonely, I can just go to the record store and visit all my friends (sic).


*Sorry no proper citations, too freaking lazy to do it, busy listening to music...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A letter to my daughters....

Dear Naomi and Madelyn,

When I was little, Grandma used to say to me "how do I love thee, let me count the ways..." I never really understood that..."you love me, me?" As a Mother now, to you Naomi and Madelyn, how do I count the ways that I love you both?

Naomi, my love, I think you are beautiful, inside and out. I think you have a strong and independent spirit that will take you far in life. I see beauty in the smile you give your sister when you are teasing her and I see joy when you are helping others, building birdhouses. I love your laugh. You are my first born child Naomi, and although I will make many mistakes parenting you, please know that I only want the best for you and know, I will always be your Momma.

Madelyn, my pussycat, you are a toad! You know how to laugh like a child should, never loose that. You have eyes that sparkle like Naomi, never let them go dull. You have big dreams and enjoy your quiet space. I am watching you grow, into a person, and that is so exciting for me.

My girls, how do I love so many ways. I work to provide for you, so I can never say no, to Karate or to Sparks camp or to the shoes that everyone else is wearing. I stay up, so I can drive you home from the youth centre and leave work early so I can go to a Mother's day tea. We are a patchwork of lessons, and parties and activities...and I wouldn't have it any other way. You are my children, and I am truly blessed you have picked me as your Mom.

Naomi, Madelyn. I am not perfect. I do the best I can everyday, I try to achieve the best I can everyday because I know you depend on me to do so, and I do it without hesitation. My love for you both overwhelms me at times, that I cry when I know your heart is breaking, when your friends let you down, when you scrap your knee and when you are sobbing in pain. You both are a part of me and I am a part of you.

God speed, my children. When you have children of your own ( after University and after finishing your Masters Degrees!!) you can look down upon your sleeping babes and ask yourselves "how do I love thee."

Mom xoxo