Finding Hope, Redemption, Courage... from Cancer

"(At one time) my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend." - Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What Lies Around the Bend 2.0

Any of you checking this site through an RSS feed or the URL notLink related to Facebook or Twitter feeds, it is time to say goodbye to this blogger site. Its served us well, and I am grateful so many of you came to see what I had to say in a fairly simple format.

It is also time to say Hello to the new "What Lies Around the Bend," via either the domain name:

We hope you will find it far more usable and 'pretty-to-look-at'; so usable, in fact, that instead of reading and running away, that you leave comments about what you like, don't like, or anything that generates discussion between those of us who think about stuff like thLinkis, or makes me more thoughtful and thought-provoking in my writing; and, so pretty, in fact, that you recommend it to your friends and family and those random people on the street (no, just kidding, that would be a little weird, unless you meet someone who's going through something hard and likes being around other 'interesting people'), and want to spend more of your precious time there.

All of the previous posts have been imported so you can find what you're looking for via categories (on the right side bar) or more info regarding some issues I've posted about via pages at the top. Would love to hear your feedback!

Thanks so much to all of you faithful readers. I love you and hope you're finding hope and joy through our little journey, and that we're making you laugh, just a bit.

The Meredith Family.

And, if you're not already, please follow me on twitter: @lana_meredith.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Reads for the Non-Compulsive Reader: Why Harry Potter Was So Successful

Okay, so I've never really been a Harry Potter person, but, as Kristen Lamb pointed out in We Are Not Alone, one of the reasons those books took the world by storm was really because they drew in the non-compulsive readers, those people who, unlike me, had a zillion other things they would rather be doing than reading ten books at a time (yeah, I know that's not normal, but I'm okay with it). These non-compulsive reader types need something really, really good to pull them away from their other activities. They also need something that's either going to meet an important need or make them feel better about their life in general.

But then, I believe that really, all reading should do that.

Which is why, prior to reading Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence five years ago, I used to feel stupid, or guilty, or just oh-so-shallow when I would talk to my reader friends who'd espouse on the virtues of this-award-winning-book or this-amazing-author, because most of the times the books or authors they referred to made me want to poke my eyes out or kill myself only a few pages into the book, since it was so, so, unbelievably, depressing. And for someone who's going through a major bend in their road, well, it just doesn't work to dwell on depressing.

Or, you get swallowed up.

And then I read Goleman's work, which scientifically showed that the most emotionally intelligent, aware, and positive people to be around, chose to spend their downtime doing, or reading things that were positive, escapist, and mood-boosting.

I finally had a reason to stop feeling stupid around the book snobs.

And hey, I love these people. They know what they're talking about. They are very, very educated and incredibly smart. But I'm here to tell you if that's not you, you may be actually choosing to do something very smart.

So, I have two reads for you today that I absolutely loved, two books that I think are made even for the non-compulsive readers, and two that will give you some hilarity for your own bend in the road:

The Book of (Even More) Awesome, by Neil Pasricha

Those of you who have The Book of Awesome, based on Neil's blog here, will know the premise; this guy thinks of thousands of tiny little things that bring joy to an ordinary day, and when we keep thinking about all of them together, we get happy. He's not just a happy idiot, either. He knows that most of us have something really dark to deal with, and need to be reminded of the awesomeness of eating something we really, really shouldn't, the relief when a police car in your rearview mirror pulls off and starts following someone else, or the joy of finding something you lost a long time ago after you already gave up looking for it, so we can feel happy amid the, bleh. His introduction is both heartwarming, anthem-esque - and it rhymes! - and I promise that this book would make an excellent addition to anyone's collection, even if its the I-read-it-while-going-number-two kind of book.

Jimmy Fallon's "Thank You Notes," by the Writers of Late Night

Okay, disclaimer: there are some crass parts to this book, so you wouldn't want to read it to your children or anything, but I got this for my birthday last weekend from the person who knows me best out of anyone except my mom and husband, and she was bang-on in her attempt to make me laugh until my sides hurt. It's quick, its got pictures, it will make you laugh about really dumb - and sometimes incredibly annoying - things.

Moreover, both these books remind us that in our garbage kinds of days, we are not alone.

And, from someone that's been side-tailed into more than a couple bends in the road, that's the kind of book I think we all like to read.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What on earth was that Carmageddon thing about? And, What on Earth is This Website Called Again?

Just an update for you faithfuls that have been saying to yourself, why for the price of eggs in China has this woman kept her website link so unbelievably, obnoxiously, LONG? My techie husband - seriously, my absolute hero - has gotten me a domain name that is far easier to find. We're doing some redesigning this summer to debut mid-late August, and I'm really excited about the soon-to-be-released results. I hope you will be too.

Anyhow, the easiest way to find me is now:

See? SO much easier. You can add it to your Google readers or other RSS feeds without scratching your head to figure out what on earth its called.

Congrats to all of us then. Well, anything feels like a congrats when the day is so yicky outside. Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I list my Friday Good Reads, handpicked to help us all take those pesky bends in our roads with a little more laughter and a lot more life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why I am Grateful for Demi Moore: CNN's 2010 Woman of the Year, Anuradha Koirala

You know when people compare something to a trainwreck, meaning that they know they should look away but just can't? Reading David Batstone's Not For Sale is like a reverse trainwreck; you want to stop reading because its just so awful, what's happening to these real, live, human beings, all over the world, but you know you shouldn't. Every page that disturbs me, I keep going because I have to know. My bubble has to burst. And every chapter that goes by I hug my girls just a little bit more.

What I love about this book, and I think you would too, is that he weaves stories of victims in with those that are fighting to save them. There are amazing stories of everyday heroes, people like you and I, who use things like soya milk, cooking classes, and jewelry making, to literally save lives.

And there's also some things that make me laugh, like how in Thai Buddhism - especially interesting since Thailand is considered Disneyland for sexual exploits (awful but unfortunately true) - women are not even capable of attaining the highest stage of spiritual enlightenment. The best they can hope for is to do enough good in this life, that they generate enough karma to come back in the next life as a man. The reverse is true as well: those born a woman in this life were thought to have created enough negative karma in their previous life that they were punished this time around as the 'weaker sex.' David and I laughed out loud over that, but it is sadly one of the things that many in South Asia use as an excuse to force women into slavery.

Anyhow... all of this leads me to a profile of one of these everyday heroes, a woman that none of us would know except for CNN & DNA - that's the Demi and Ashton Foundation, yes, founded by who you think founded it, with the aim to eliminate child sex slavery worldwide. (Note, I've never really been a celebrity person, just so you know, but I do love when famous people use their influence for raising awareness to serious, important issues like this, for what else is influence given then to fight the plight of the invisible?) This Nepali woman, Anuradha Koirala, enthusiastically named CNN's Woman of the Year in November 2010, lets her passion explode through her small stature as she defends the cause of the defenseless. Her organization, Maiti Nepal, has helped rescue more than 12,000 women and girls from sex slavery since 1993. 12,000 may not seem like much in the face of over 1 million still trapped, but they are 12,000 people whose lives have been radically changed.

CNN's website writes this woman's profile much better than I could, so I refer you to the link here. There are several videos that will leave you feeling encouraged and inspired, though a couple of them were slow to load on my computer. It will be worth it.

And the really good news? There are many more just like Anuradha. I hope to tell you about more of them in the weeks to come, but more importantly, to remind you, that every day, living well, being grateful for your own freedom, is one of the best ways we can inch-by-inch join Anuradha's - and really, every human being's - cause.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday's Pick of the Week: Ode to Vancouver's Rain

I know its not quite raining today, but you know that thing where we all spend our lives complaining about rain? Today it occurred to me that perhaps sun actually has a downside: it induces inescapable guilt. Yes, I said guilt. Because if I spot the sun and in a true-Vancouverite-panic, rush my kids outside to soak up every last minute because, who knows, it might not return for a year or something, then I don't do all the zillions of things that need to get done inside my house, things like laundry and cooking and dishes and the things that make me look like a halfway-decent mother. And, if I ignore the sun and say, no, I'm getting this stuff done, then I think, my poor kids are inside on a day like this. So, sometimes, there's good things to the rain. It limits my options, removes the guilt a little, because if its raining, well, not the worst thing in the world to stay inside.

Good grief, I'm messed up. But whatever, again, another post, another time. Today I discovered this brilliant little post on the 'Vancouver, We Love You,' site, celebrating one of the things Vancouver is famous for, rain.

By the way, I love these guys at Vancouver We Love You.... and I love not only their shirts but that they donate some of the income to the Covenant House in Vancouver, who are working to counteract some of the poverty issues that still plague our great city. Just another one of those groups that are doing their part in this unseen war that I blogged about here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why The World Needs Strong Women, and Why Kate Hudson Would Have Made Me Jealous Six Years Ago

As many of you have heard, both Kate Hudson and Victoria Beckham welcomed babies this morning - a boy and a girl, respectively. I offer them both my congratulations and my condolences. Babies are always good news, hence congratulations, but I can not imagine what it would be like to have your baby's arrival be announced to the whole world, hence, my condolences. Anyhow, that's for another post, something like Why I'm Grateful that I'm Not a Celebrity, or 10,001 Reasons to Stay As Obscure As Possible. But the news of these two rather dynamic women made me realize that had I heard this on my 25th, instead of my 31st birthday, I would likely have been jealous of Kate Hudson, and sympathetic towards Victoria Beckham.

Because, secretly, I really wanted to raise boys.

Yes, you mothers and fathers of boys are laughing at me right now. You have no idea, you’re saying. I agree. I don’t have any idea. But, when my husband and I were first married, I hoped that when the time came for us to have children, I would be given boys.

Really, it wasn’t a preference of a particular gender over another. It was just a cry of a frustrated, insecure woman.

To that point in my life I had felt gifted with traits that those in my environment primarily associated with men; I was naturally drawn to things like leadership and communication and candor. Unfortunately many of these personality characteristics lend themselves to professions also connected with men, or at least more populated with men, and I found myself in countless situations where I felt torn between my person and my gender. Did I change who I was? Or did I push the boundaries of what those with my anatomy normally did?

In the end I settled on a profession that at first did not excite me. Nursing was a means to an end, I reasoned. It would let me go anywhere and do anything, it would be that day job that would allow me access to the hobbies and passions I really wanted to exercise. Never did I imagine I would be put in one of the most perfect positions for me, in a profession that not only allows a strong woman to be strong, but actually requires her.

But I accelerate; let me fall back again to 2005, to the woman surprisingly pregnant with her first child that she fervently hoped would be a boy. A boy wouldn’t experience the injustice and unreliability that plague women's relationships, I - erroneously - thought. A boy wouldn’t witness his friends be treated poorly by men, I - naively - hoped. A boy wouldn’t be limited by anything. And if it were my boy, I might be allowed to influence one of the future great leaders of the free-thinking world. I may not be sanctioned or encouraged to do certain things as a woman, at least in my environment, I thought. But maybe I could teach a few of the next generation of men to lead and communicate and protect the women and children around them, and somehow, through them, I would be making a more fair, just, and safe world for women.

But I was given girls.

My first thought when Noelle was handed to me for that first time in November of 2005, besides she's really too cute to be mine, was, oh no, she’s going to have to do this. Not only would she experience the agony of labour, the incredible challenge of delivering children; but considering that, as my child, she would be anything but a casual observer of well, anything, she would also have to figure out that dance of who you know yourself to be with what the world perceives you to be.

I know now that this issue is not unique to women.

I also know now, after six years of loving and guiding future women, that perhaps I wasn’t as limited as I’d let myself believe. Perhaps I’d misconstrued my frustration as an issue with men, or rather, how, despite the women’s movement and all our efforts to the contrary, that the world still treats men and women unequally, rather than a frustration with myself.

For if I’d been truly secure, if I’d been alright with my dogged inability to let certain things slide, then I wouldn’t have been so offended when someone directly critiqued me for being difficult, since I was a 'strong woman'. I would have kept saying and doing what I knew to be right, apologizing for mistakes, or offenses, but not for being strong.

If anything, what I have to say is not an attack on anyone else. My insecurity is not their problem. Rather, I come to offer an apology. Not for strength, but for using my strength inappropriately. Not for challenging injustice, but for over-reacting in response to it. Not for bringing up controversial issues, but for allowing fear to sublimate what I knew to be truth into what others would accept. Not for being a part of conflict, but for taking responsibility for those conflicts that were really just expositions of things that shouldn’t have been there. And not for standing up, but for spending my energies on things that really didn’t matter.

I wonder if the gender-related inequalities we still see in our world, the pervasiveness of market-place injustices despite established laws to the contrary, are at least partly our responsibility, or perhaps more within our control than we realize. That much of the inequity I experienced as a woman could be due to my own mistakes, not to the general mistreatment of my gender. I wonder, women, if we’ve been our own enemy? If we've gone the right direction, but somehow missed the center? If we’ve mistakenly believed that strong women are something to apologize for, as if we were new or unique to the world, or if we’ve substituted the word strong for offensive, rude, or loud; if we’ve confused the gifting of strength as permission to propel ourselves forward, instead of protect the vulnerable; and, for those of us lucky enough to live in North America and other democratic countries, if we’ve seen only that glass ceiling instead of the immense freedom we’ve been given.

So, allow me to expose a few truths I've learned about us strong women:

1. We are not an invention of the last century.

Last May, after being captivated by the movie, The Young Victoria, I read several books on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. What shocked me the most, reading about these enigmatic monarchs, was that the connotations the Victorian period embodies, things like restraint and propriety and denial of all deep soul desires, directly conflict with the nature Victoria herself. The queen was, if I can put it bluntly, one of the feisty-est, pig-headed, stubborn, and brilliantly defiant women I have ever seen come to life on page or screen. Fortunately for her, Albert's equal strength contributed to a passionate and satisfying marriage. Fortunately for her country, her husband's equal capability combined with hers to power one of the most progressive governments England has seen. She was professionally – and domestically – a pioneer, one of the first women to use drugs in labour, and one of the few in her generation to produce nine children but still live into her eighth decade.

2. Nor are we always 'the usual suspects'.

Jerry Jenkins, amidst the wonderful wealth of writing advice contained in his book, Writing for the Soul, also shares many behind-the-scenes stories of the various biographies he's written. His interviews with Billy Graham in preparing to write Billy’s memoirs, eventually titled Just As I Am, made me laugh out loud. For Ruth Graham may have been as entertaining as the great preacher himself. Ruth once told Jerry that if “husband and wife were to agree all the time, one of them would be unnecessary.” (Jenkins, p. 62). She also reportedly directly ignored Billy’s request to have “no more than two” fireplaces as they were building their estate, and Billy returned from a speaking tour to find five fireplaces already installed (p.63). She teased and challenged one of the most widespread, recognized and revered speakers of his generation; even those who rejected Billy’s belief system somehow still respected him. Yet Mrs. Graham was not the retiring wife we might expect her to be.

Perhaps, I wonder, if that was one of the reasons for her husband’s greatness?

3. We may have misinterpreted what a strong woman actually is. defines strong as powerful or vigorous, which, if we thought carefully, could be attached to every woman, especially those who have given birth. The abilities I see of women in the delivery room, in their homes, and in their natural environments – even if “all” they do are what we consider mundane activities of daily life - astound me every time. I am reminded daily of that rush I experienced the moment my daughters were born, the recognition that if our bodies were made for this, then we were meant to be anything but weak. It is no mistake that women are the ones primarily attached to child-rearing, no matter how involved the dads of their children may be; for what atrocious monstrosities would happen to our children, to our loved ones, if mothers, or women, period, were frail? If they said, sure, you can do whatever you want with my child, and I won’t care? What would happen to future generations if moms allowed children, or teenagers, to do anything they wanted? What kind of people would we raise if the women responsible for them were permissive or shy? Can you imagine what would happen to a child whose mother said, oh sure, you want to do (insert dangerous activity), no problem, if mom said, oh, you want to never have any boundaries and get to talk and act anyway you want, yeah that’s no problem with me?

Let’s take this a step further: what if we acted that way towards not just our children, but to men? How can we point the finger at them, if we let them treat us in whatever way they want?

The pendulum has swung, ladies, from one extreme to the other, and perhaps that’s part of the problem. Maybe at times we’ve thought that strong was code for loud, rude, blunt, jarring, alienating, or simply abusive of the ones we’ve claimed to treat us unfairly. Maybe we’ve thought we’ve only had two polarized choices: to be one of those irritating, angry women who seem to be in a fight all of the time about anything remotely resembling inequity, or to embrace powerlessness and uncertainty as norms for our gender. And yet, neither one of these extremes actually win. Fighting against everything produces ‘bleeding heart puddles of insanity,’ as I’ve said before, and doing nothing elongates the situation. Initiating a war doesn’t win people over; staying out of sight prevents anyone from hearing what you have to say.

And really, those extremes are not true representations of strong and weak. Rather, they may be equal amounts of insecurity. For where else does explosive anger originate but in those places that are most sensitive and vulnerable?

But then what is strength? Might it be possibly be quietly, carefully, but effectively pointing something out and saying, this isn’t okay? Or, better yet, this could be better? Or even better, simply looking at one we love with eyes that say, ‘is that really the best idea?’

4. We may have focused our strengths only on ourselves.

Women in North America have been given a major degree of influence, not only in our own capabilities, but in the lives of those in our circle, in our families, at our work, in our communities. Women are allowed a voice now, and we are often squandering it. We are using our strength, our leadership, our gifts of influence, to promote ourselves, our agendas, at the expense, occasionally, of those around us; to promote women’s rights at times to the degree that human rights for everyone else are infringed upon; or to become more and more powerful for the sake of being powerful, rather than for the sake of initiating change for the better in our whole society.

Just as the most effective leaders serve the people they lead, the most effective men, and women, recognize that strength is not a gift we’re given to fight our own ambitions, but rather the plights of others. If anything, strength is a responsibility, not a right. It is not for increasing our own influence but to speak and act for those who cannot protect themselves. Those with voices must learn to put words to what others are thinking but may not have the courage to say.

And unfortunately, I, and likely many of the strong women I know and love, have at times spent so much time focused on our own lives, that we have missed the very real plight of our sisters around the world who are trapped in prostitution, human trafficking, or to put it very bluntly, slavery. According to the A21 Campaign website, found here, more than 1.39 million people, primarily women, are victims of commercial sexual servitude worldwide. Human trafficking is the second largest global organized crime, with revenues in the range of $31 billion USD every year. Only 1-2% of these hundreds of thousands of people are ever rescued, and less than 1/10 of a percent of traffickers are ever caught or convicted of their crimes. It has been more than 200 years since William Wilberforce first worked to make racial-based slavery illegal. And yet, it appears that there could be more slaves today than when Wilberforce was first fighting against it.

It's just, we don't know about them.

Sobering, isn’t it? I spend my time fighting for a position, title, or recognition, and many women - and men, even little girls and boys - have given up hope of living a life free of malnutrition, sleep-deprivation, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Over a million invisible people think of forced abortions, STI’s, Hepatitis, AIDS, and probable early death as inevitabilities. I am speechless, and deeply apologetic. We have spent our energies fighting sandbox battles when there is a real, live war for the health, wellbeing, and very lives, of our sisters, mothers, daughters - and brothers too - going on all over the world, and regrettably, even in our own backyard.

I don’t know how exactly to be a part of that war. Fortunately, many people and organizations have recognized the problem before I did. Baywest, the company my husband works for, are involved with IJM, or International Justice Mission (, an organization working to relieve victims and provide aftercare, while seeking accountability for the perpetrators. The Abolitionists of the 21st century, or A21 Campaign, based out of Australia but exhibiting a worldwide presence, have built a shelter in Greece, unfortunately the global hub for sex trade and human trafficking. The A21 campaign offers some suggestions on how we can help here. There are several books on the subject that can raise our own awareness and the awareness of those around us, like David Batstone’s Not For Sale, that in one weekend has opened my eyes to the hidden suffering of so many.

But beyond joining those who are fighting insurmountable odds worldwide, I know that I can make a difference in my own world, right now, by raising daughters who will never be sold into slavery as long as I’m alive. I can make choices to counteract the factors that contribute to human trafficking, things like widespread poverty and social inequity. I can raise women that inspire people to both listen and laugh, for lightening the suffering of others is never achieved by taking on a vow of eternal somberness. I can be the kind of woman, who, if gifted with strength, uses that strength to serve others and not myself.

For, what would happen to our patients, our elderly, our dying, our sick, or our moms and babies, if those responsible for them failed to advocate appropriately?

That, right there, is why I am a nurse; that ability to fight for another person’s wellbeing is why I love my job.

Well, that and the fact that I work with simply amazingly talented men and women who do the same.

Which brings me to a very important point: we can also make a difference by supporting the men that truly care for us. We can applaud them when they advocate for equality and health. We can be grateful for them, and especially for those really great men we get to be married to, the ones who actually love and respect strong women, and want to help them be stronger. So many of our men are tripped up by our petty insecurities, instead of supported and championed when they do what is right. And so, so many of them work hard for that, for us, already.

5. We may have focused too much on the 'glass ceiling' instead of our immense freedoms.

Which brings me to another reason I love Vancouver. Our city gives our women so much freedom. Our people, our men, care about what happens to us and what we have to say. Just this week, the VPD has partnered with Barwatch, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW), and the BC Women’s Hospital Sexual Assault Service, to launch the “Don’t Be That Guy,” campaign, an effort to decrease the incidence of sexual assault in our beautiful city. Vancouver listens to its women. Here, we can be leaders, helpers, changers of our society. Many of the most poignant speakers in this area are women, who are not afraid to speak their minds. And many men are not only applauding them for their efforts, but also joining them. Bravo, Vancouver. Together, we can win.

Another way we can win in this war is to wake up every morning with joyful thankfulness that we are free of so many trials our sisters face worldwide. We can work, we can vote, we can share thoughts and voice questions. These are rights, but we would be right to, considering the suffering of so many, see them as gifts. And I intend to use those gifts properly, respectfully, rationally; working consistently to promote a safe, healthy, and happy world for anyone within my sphere of influence.

The world needs us, women. We each have something to offer. We are each strong. As Mother Teresa said, We can do no great things; we can only do small things with great love. If we each do some, then together we will be an immovable, unstoppable, respected force. And for those of us who are called to raise children, we can take this calling seriously, carefully raising men and women of courage, wisdom, and love, future leaders who are willing to use their energies to improve the lives of those around them, even the lives of those they can't see.

So it would seem, that if anything, we as women have not been too strong, but perhaps not strong enough.

Another thing I would not have learned without cancer; leukemia has pushed me to the edge of my insecurities and asked, will you give in and try to be that placable person you’ve always wished you could be? Or will you accept that you were made to be steady in the middle of uncertainty? The hard truth pulsed through: there is no room for flimsy-ness in the winds of cancer, particularly not one that has invaded your blood.

So, I choose to embrace strength; I choose to believe that power and gentility are not mutually exclusive. I will apologize for any times I have been or ever will be rude, brusque, obnoxious, bossy, or in any way hurtful towards another human being. I will apologize when I am selfish, overly ambitious, pretentious, or easily angered. But I will not apologize for being strong.

And this, I know now, is why I was given girls to raise. Because the world needs more women who are not afraid, or apologetic of what they can do.

So, while I congratulate both Victoria and Kate today, inside I want to pump my fist in the air and say, you go, Victoria Beckham.

Because the world, really, needs more strong women.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts - "Small Islands of... hope?"

So, each week, on Thursdays, I hope to bring you two of my favorite quotes for the week, one serious, and one funny, or even silly. In today's case, the first one is very serious (but hopeful), and the second is very silly. In case you wondered, yes, I'm a bit of an eclectic? individual. If you want serious, read the first; if you want silly, skip to the end.

1) This quote is for my momma, who would have celebrated 32 years of marriage yesterday, had my dad still been alive, and for all of you who have ever lost anyone close to you, ever.

(And yes, I love, love, love this book; though I promise to quote something else next week!;)

"Visitors offering their condolences, thinking to comfort me, said, 'Life goes on.' What nonsense, I thought, of course it doesn't. It's death that goes on; (Ian) is dead now and will be dead tomorrow and next year and forever. There's no end to that. But perhaps there will be an end to the sorrow of it. Sorrow has rushed over the world like the waters of the Deluge, and it will take some time to recede. But already, there are small islands of -- hope? Happiness? Something like them, at any rate."

-Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

2)And for the bizarre humor quota of the day, one of my favorite Office moments, dedicated to all of my maternity nurse friends:

Michael Scott: (after sipping wine) That is sort of an oaky afterbirth.

Jim Halpert: What was that?

Also a quick note: I've decided to alternate weeks between the different types of posts described
here. Week 1 will include, "Monday's Mama Musings," "Thursday's Thoughts," and "Sunday's Commentary" (the type of posts you've seen more lately around here, like this one.) Week 2 will contain, "Tuesday's Pick of the week," "Wednesday's Profile in Courage," and "Friday's Good Read.") So watch for the first 'Profile' to come next Wednesday, July 13, when I get to write about someone very unique, and very dear to me. Right now I'm working on July 10th's Sunday's Commentary, which I think many of you may enjoy: "Why the World Needs More Strong Women."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuesday's Pick of the Week: The Trans Canada Trail

For those of you who missed the July 1st edition of The Globe and Mail, you missed out on this.

Is anyone else as excited as I am that you could actually skate some sections?


Monday's Mama Musings, Just a Day Late: Its Okay to be You, and You, and You

I had intended to write a very short post this morning, something about contentment, or perhaps why conflict may not always be a bad thing, maybe. I had several adorable anecdotes to share with you all, moments that would make us smile at the curiosity and freshness of children. But spending a week away with those dearest to me and reconnecting with some whom I see but a few times a year has propelled me in a different direction.

I hope you’ll hang in with me on this one, because for the sake of myself and those I love, I think it needs to be said.

We spent all of yesterday travelling back from Cannon Beach for a fourth of July weekend with my husband’s family and friends. I am exhausted from staying up into the wee hours of the night before, continuing a conversation that was just too good to interrupt for something as transient – yet very, very valuable to me – as sleep.

Why is it that, as the hours pass from evening to night, both honesty and laughter increase? Considering those are two of my favourite things, I’m definitely a night person. I know, it’s not good for me. I’ve tried – with increasing veracity proportionate to my age – to switch my tendencies, for I love the quiet hours of the morning as well, and my body feels so much better if I am in bed by 9 or 10, but I think my mind – and my soul – will always be drawn to nights. I understand now why David’s Grandpa Bob – also one of our favorite people - chose to sleep only five or six hours a night for a section of his life.

He just didn’t want to miss out on anything.

Some important interruptions happen in those hours we expect to be quiet and still. You moms of young children know that the 2 or 3 am feedings, walks, rocks, and cuddles with your young ones are both sleep-depriving and bond-forming. I remember one of my mommy mentors from the early days with Noelle told me that she used to wish she could adopt her children at five years of age, after they were all schooled in the basic routines, namely, sleeping through the night, and potty training. But then, she paused, and said, ‘I guess,the hard stuff, the interruptions, that’s what bonds you to that baby, isn’t it?’ I think she's right. Whoever schools the child in these basest of things is often the one they turn to when their world comes crashing down. For it may just be that all the middle-of-the-night, insanity-inducing moments are the moments you really learn – maybe not at the moment, but on later reflection, at least – who your child is, what their biggest fears and worries are, and how much they really need you, no matter how difficult your day with them may have been. Those night moments are when I’ve learned to really listen to my children and learn who they are.

I wonder if it is because, at night, when most of the world is quiet, we are finally able to listen.

And perhaps, not just to our children.

For Sunday night, as the 3rd became the fourth - a very big day in the United States, a day when that place celebrates their individuality, and uniqueness - when most of the beach crowd was finally quiet, a very important matter injected itself to our previously light-hearted, round table discussion, and my mind traveled vividly to those early days and weeks as a mom, when strangers would follow me around in Costco, making all sorts of inappropriate comments, requests, and questions regarding my newborn, and yes, even my birthing and nursing experiences. I remember those I had never met approaching me in malls as I was pregnant and touching my swelled stomach without permission, never recognizing the horrible encroach they were making on my personal space. I recall how they could “just tell” I was having a - insert gender here, I heard both, and in equal amounts. And, by the way, those who said they just knew, it had to be a boy, you were very, very wrong. I also remember hearing every piece of parenting advice I could have ever imagined, all before I’d delivered my first or had even a clue of how exacting, how amazing, it was going to be.

Of course, the unsolicited, highly pressured, advice, continued into the early postpartum period, and beyond. For some reason, when it comes to parenting, everyone has an opinion, even those of us who would not even have a clue how to care for an actual baby. By day ten of Noelle's young life, I was sleep-deprived, hormonal, and fundamentally shaken in every part of not only my fledgling mothering skills, but also my ability to function as a human being.

Fortunately, two weeks into this earth-shattering experience, a wonderful, beautiful, woman whom I barely knew but will never forget, stopped by my home with a meal, a card, and a gift, all on behalf of our growing little community. She must have had a sixth sense about what I was going through, or maybe she just had been there herself, because she looked straight into my eyes and said words that still induce tears:

You were given this baby on purpose. This baby was meant to be raised by you.

And somehow, instantly, I knew she was right.

It all made sense, then. It still makes sense, now, when Noelle is about to turn six. I look around and see my friends do far different things with their children, and somehow it seems right for those kids, just as I endeavor to figure out what is right for mine.

Someone, or something, far bigger than me, knew that these babies was supposed to be mine, and that your babies were supposed to be yours. That somehow, someway, we'd each figure out what to do with them and what to do for them.

If we think about it, maybe this idea applies to more than just mothering, doesn't it?

For aren’t our most powerful epiphanies discovered, or at least led by ourselves? Don’t we all tend to learn a little more effectively if we are allowed to seek out our own solutions? I'm not implying that we learn in isolation, or that we don't need each other, for we certainly do. But, the things that really tend to stick with us are those we initiate on our own, sometimes looking to others for insight, but deciphering what to do with that insight, ourselves.

So what is it that compels us – myself included – to demand others think exactly the same as us, or do exactly the same as us? Perhaps it is that we wonder, if they do things differently, even opposite, from me, and are successful, does that mean that my way is wrong?

Or does it just mean that, in so many situations, there is more than one way to do it?

I think this art of knowing what's yours is one of the great beauties of motherhood, and of life. There are many, many ways to do many different things, and all of them may be valuable. And even for those things that really DO have one best way, isn’t it better that we help guide others to find that best way themselves, instead of push them to it? They'll only resent us, or worse, reject the very thing that could help them, if we don't.

So here’s my challenge to us today: yes, part of being an effective community is intercepting inappropriate behaviour in those around us. But I think the most effective community realizes that in certain situations, supporting those around us means believing they are capable of finding out the most advantageous answers for themselves, and sometimes, by themselves.

If there is one thing I would wish for all of us, particularly for those of us raising little children right now, it would be that we would all be so okay with who we are, what we think, and the life we are called to, that we would feel comfortable with, even proud of, those who act, think and live, so wildly different from us. It is our uniqueness that gives our community flavor, and our differences that allow each other to grow. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I agree, it does take a village. It takes a village of those so comfortable in their own individuality, that they are free to empower each child's mother to be equally comfortable in her individuality.

So the next time you feel an overwhelming urge to state your case and plead your argument for why your child rearing advice is the only way to do it, or why your anything is the only way to think or do about anything, I urge you to stop talking, plunge deep down into what you actually feel about those things, and figure it out first. Once you know yourself and why you really think that, you'll feel much less propelled to force those viewpoints on others.

And when you see me feeling so uncomfortable with myself that I find myself being extremely unhelpful to someone else, feel free to smack me upside the head.

Don't worry about leaving a mark, either. It won't look much different from the half-forehead sunburn I have from sitting in one direction at the Oregon Coast all weekend, staring at the vast expanse of deep, wide ocean, knowing there's nothing between me and Japan right now, except water. And that water comes in at night, and goes out in the morning, over, and over, and over, every day since long before I was even a thought in my parent's heads.

It's a big, big, world out there, guys. Let's let each other be ourselves in it, okay?

And moms: its okay. You'll figure it out. So will I, someday.