Legacies too easily forgotten…

I’ve started following a site on Facebook called Mighty Girl.  It’s a great site.  It highlights all kinds of girls and women doing interesting things to change the world in big ways.  I think in these days of closet feminism and entitlement, this kind of information is important.

This week, however, I’ve been thinking about those women in my own family history that did their small part to change the world.  These women, and so many others, are largely ignored but for the few who remember them.  And, at least in the case of my family, those memories are growing dimmer.

The cottage has been a busy place this week as we play host to extended family.  They are here to rest my dear departed Great Aunt.  She died this winter quietly in Calgary, her later life diminished by a failing memory and lack of direct descendants.  She never had children, choosing to maintain, what in her day would have been called, a spinster.

Despite her rather lonely final years, the life Willie (Wilhelmina, but I was told NEVER to call her that) led was dominated by service to others, particularly those most vulnerable.  She trained as a nurse, largely in part to get out of the poverty of rural Nova Scotia where she was raised.

Willie took that new profession and did something unexpected however, especially for a girl from Advocate Harbour.  Willie took work with the federal government and spent years flying into communities in the high arctic in bush planes helping aboriginal people who likely had never seen a Western medical team like the one she and the doctor she accompanied comprised.  She spent years doing this and only much later in her career did she moved south to Calgary where she chose to work almost exclusively with the troubled aboriginal communities in the Southern part of the province.

Willie earned the respect and gratitude of more of this country’s aboriginal people than most of us will ever have the privilege of meeting.   Though we heard many of her stories years ago, most of us gathered for her memorial could not remember the details of her time up North, just that it was remarkable. She changed this country one day at a time, one soul at a time, and despite some beautiful thank you gifts of art we are lucky to be left with, most of that legacy will go unremarked upon and unremembered.

This week as we laid her to rest (well, not really, but the story of the empty grave and the lesson of trusting the cremated ashes to a less-than-reliable cousin will have to wait for another day) I find myself thinking of all those other largely forgotten women who blessed this world in ways we will never really know about.

Feminism, Justin Trudeau’s outspoken statements excepted, may be dying but strong women are not.  The so-called weaker sex is anything but weak and I am pledging to remember them.  I hope you will too.

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Times Have Changed

I started this site years ago when my babies were babies. At times it was a lifeline, a way of finding my sanity in a baby-crazy life.  At times it was a curse. It helped me keep writing when I couldn’t find paid writing jobs. It helped me find my way though the stress a grief of my mother’s terminal illness and ultimate demise.

At the time it was titled (Mis)Adventures of a Work at Home Mom.  I worked at home for nearly 8 years.  In the last number of years with another military move, I’ve tried a bit of everything.  I’ve been a stay-at-home mum, a work out of the home mum, and now I’m embarking on a new (mis)adventure, as a full-time student mum… and, heaven help me, a grandmum!

That’s right…. The Girl now has her own Dude!  It still seems hard to believe but just after I turned 40, I got news that the Girl was expecting.  Mini-Dude (as opposed to his uncles, Big Dude and Little Dude) is amazing.  He is the happiest, most even tempered baby ever.

Grandparenthood is its own (mis)adventure and has made me even more grateful for my own mother-in-law.  The thing about watching your kid parent is that they might not do things the way you might want… but the only thing you can really do is keep your mouth shut.  The Girl doesn’t want people telling her how to raise her baby (and rightfully so!).  It is one thing to be asked but unsolicited advice is not well-received by many people, no matter how well intentioned the advice giver.

My mother-in-law was brilliant at this.  She was never anything but totally supportive of my decisions, even if they bordered on the uber granola.  Cloth diapers, extended breast-feeding, homeopathic remedies, co-sleeping, it didn’t matter.  She always made me feel like a good mom.

Those are some big shoes to fill mama-in-law!

That said, seeing The Girl with her baby is a beautiful thing.  We may not have a lot in common and we may not make the same decisions, but we both love that baby fiercely… and that’s enough.

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A letter to Santa… from a military mom.

Dear Santa:

I know you’re receiving a lot of letters this time of year, and if they are anything like Big Dude’s letter this year it must take forever to read them (please ignore everything on his list past the first dozen or so), but I was hoping you might take a little time to task your elves to help a needy population of parents… those of us military spouses living through deployment this year.

I mean, its all very nice that your helpers in malls and at Christmas parties are giving away candy canes and chocolate like the calories might make their parents max out their credit cards, but trying to get bedtime accomplished  bymyself with the Dude on a sugar high and my one tiny remaining nerve not yet whined or complained into a state of numb exhaustion is not exactly helpful.

I can’t promise I have been good this year.  I can’t even promise I’ve been completely sane, but my children are still here and that must count for something doesn’t it?  If you see me when they are sleeping you already know some days I sink blissfully in the bathtub and try to ignore the world, you also know that other days I cry from not being able to be both mom and dad to the Dudes.  Its not all ‘nice’ but it is necessary and that is what gets us through the day.

I do have a few requests:

  • Could you suddenly introduce a ‘poke’plauge to strike down all Pokemon everywhere?  No need to cause heart ache, just a short and to-the-point note to the boys about the Pokemon needing years of uninterrupted rest and telling them an immediate recall of all Pokemon cards, toys and games is necessary.  I’m sure your elves can whip something up that will satisfy the kids and the parents.  Little Dude tells me Santa can do anything.
  • Speaking of elves… I think its rather selfish to share these kind hearted souls who only exist to bring joy to the hearts of many.  I don’t think its unreasonable to broaden their horizons in the off season with a few field trips.  Think of the joy they’d bring if they snuck in to wash my floors at midnight – okay who am I kidding, I’m still up at midnight folding the day’s laundry, how about 2am? Maybe they could whip up a little dinner and leave it in the fridge as well.  If they can get around Apple’s protectionist practices to make millions of iPods for children they can certainly handle a little light housework.
  • Lastly, as the social highlight of my evenings is reading Harry Potter with Big Dude, I would really like a Room of Requirement installed in my house.  You know what I’m talking about, that magical Hogwarts room that appears already equipped with whatever the user needs… it could be a bathroom that no one can enter but me, a place to talk on the phone but no one actually realizes you’re missing or a repository for the massive amounts of clutter that appear daily (and are currently reaching dangerous proportions).  If you had one at the North Pole it would be an excellent place to send all those Pokemon I was talking about.

I wish you the best for your big trip this year.  It’s a pretty tall order to bring joy to all on one day of the year.  We’re lucky this year.  Our joy will be coming home for a visit thanks to Air Canada (though after the flight he may not feel too grateful – you’re lucky the reindeer spare you the Air Canada experience) but there are many other families like ours who will have to wake up Christmas morning with a piece of their family missing.  Spend an extra few moments at those houses please.  Maybe a little of your magic will warm their hearts enough to find a little happiness for the season.  Please remember that naughty is a relative term… the angry child may be feeling lost or abandoned, the sullen child may be sad or worried and that tantrum may just be a bid for the attention he so desperately wants from the one person he can’t have right now.

I leave the usual cookies and eggnog Christmas Eve… no rum this year, I drank it all after the last attempt at getting Little Dude to stay in bed.  Please do me the courtesy of putting your own dishes in the dishwasher… its a miracle I haven’t chucked the china or paper plates already.

Love this military mom.

Oh, and PS… could you put in a good word with the local liquor store?  If they offered home delivery I bet you’d find us deployed mummies and daddies can be jolly too!

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Inspiration in the day to day… and chocolate.

I think I started to let this blog feel like a chore rather than a writing release.  In writing I sometimes found answers to my own questions but I think I started to expect to find them each time I sat to write… and any writer will tell you inspiration doesn’t hit when you want it.

Instead, I’m turning to my everyday life.  As I eased up on the pressure I let control my life I have started to enjoy myself again.  In light of that I share my latest inspiration… homemade Skor bar squares.  I found the recipe on my favorite new distraction, Pinterest.  Of course, I can’t find the original link so the recipe I share should be attribute to another blogging Mama and I apologize to her for not being able to give credit where credit is due.  Please think of her when you bite into a these sinful sweets.

I warn you… I’m rather honest with my recipes and if you expect me to be a perfect baker with no mistakes you’d best find yourself another blog.

Chocolate Covered Toffee “Skor Bars”

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp water

1/2 chopped pecans (I left these out cause there are so many nut allergies around)

2 cups chocolate chips

Line a cookie sheet with foil.  Set aside.  Melt butter, sugars, and water in a heavy saucepan over medium high-heat (don’t go any higher or you may burn the toffee like I did on my first try).  Use a candy thermometer to monitor the sugar temperature.  Use a saucepan that will be deep enough for your candy thermometer to stay solidly in the butter/sugar mixture but deep enough that it won’t boil over (my pot was too small and I have burnt candy on my burner now).  Stir constantly until it becomes a caramel brown colour and the temperature reached 300 degrees F and remove pan from burner.  This will take long than you think and the mixture will not gel properly until it reaches a certain temperature.  There are points where it look decidedly unappetizing.  Stir in pecans, if you want, or you can save them to sprinkle on top.

Pour sugar mixture into the prepared cookie sheets and spread out.  Wait a couple of minutes as the sugar cools and the toffee begins to set.  Using a pizza cutter slice the toffee into small squares, or whatever shape you want. Let cool completely.

Once the toffee is completely cooled and hard, gently break apart into individual pieces.  You may loose a few pieces here as the hardened toffee can be a bit brittle so plan ahead to have enough to loose a small portion.  Put chocolate in a double boiler and melt gently.  Drop one piece of toffee in at a time, cover completely with chocolate, shaking off the excess, and place onto parchment paper to cool completely and let the chocolate set.

I had planned to top the squares with crushed candy canes while the chocolate was still soft.  I forgot.  They were good anyway.

I doubled the recipe for a cookie exchange and it made a little more than nine dozen.  How many it makes depends on the size of your squares.


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Reserection… of the blog and of my sanity.

Its been a while since I’ve bothered to blog.  In fact, I’d pretty much given up completely.

My posts started to dwindle last spring, and by the summer they had stopped completely.  Not coincidentally, I think, the timing coincides with my foray into solo parenting.

It’s been a rough go.

Often I’ve blogged about events or challenges and the writing has helped me come to a solution… or at lest a path where I can start to find my way.  I think I have been consistently losing my way for months.

I’m not saying it’s been all bad.  It hasn’t… but it hasn’t been easy either.  I’ve had good weeks and bad weeks.  Lately the bad have been out weighing the good.

This past week had been a downward spiral from bad to worse.  After nearly eight months of deployment or Imposed Restriction or temporary duty, whatever the military chooses to call it, I was at the end of my rope.  My house was chaos, Big Dude is so very angry about everything, my mother would have turned 70 this month and I’m missing her terribly, I was locking myself in my room too often to escape my children and my own battle with depression was intensifying.  No matter what efforts I made at giving myself a break, nothing seem to reduce my stress levels. This morning was my breaking point.

I lost it… but then, amazingly, I found it.  With help.

The surprising thing about hitting rock bottom is the people that are there to pick you up.  All the cliches are really true.  It is darkest before the dawn and all that crap.

In the midst of my Mummy tantrum my husband called in the troops and my sister dropped everything to join the battle (sorry for all the military metaphors, my creativity is a little rusty… that or I’ve been a military wife too long).

I now have beautiful flowers brightening my living room, I’ve unloaded a lot of mental baggage onto some tired but sympathetic ears and my house is reasonably clean (thanks to a heroic sibling who dropped everything to drive an hour and a half to clean fridges, bathrooms and most importantly shine up my very dusty sense of control over my own house).

All this doesn’t bring my husband home, it doesn’t even really given me the patience and stamina I so desperately need.  It does, however, at least let me regain the illusion of control and a plan of action.  I need help and I have to find it.  Big Dude needs more from me that I can give him right now.  He’s in counselling but I have to seek out other outlets for him.  If I don’t have the mental energy to engage with him, I have to find someone who will.  His best friend may have moved and no longer be available for regular play dates, but I’ll have to find friends that are.

Figuring out what I need to make it through the last busy months of this separation with at least a shred of sanity may be more of a challenge but I have to start somewhere.  My MFRC will be getting a visit from me inthe morning where I will grudgingly shift from volunteer to client and ask for help.

I’ve never claimed to be super mummy and God knows I have been anything but in the last few months, however, after today I can honestly say I am surrounded by super mummies.  The ones who will drop everything for a friend in need… even if she doesn’t know how to ask for help.

None of us can do this alone but even my fragile psyche can see the strength in community… now I just have to master the difficult skill of asking for help before I hit rock bottom.

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The dying plant… and fledgling fruit

I came home from three weeks at the cottage to find nine dead plants, and several more on life support.  Sad but not surprising considering The Girl, staying on her own for the first time, was the one caring for them.

It was my poor tomato plant that caught my interest most.  It had been so promising when I planted the seedling this spring; bushy and bright with the tiny bulges of the early fruit.  Tonight I found the stalks leggy and bare, the remaining leaves shriveled and dry.  The whole thing was mostly brown but for a bright spot of red.  There were three nearly perfect tomatoes just turning red.  Deprived of water, the plant had given all of its energy to these little tomatoes, giving its own life force to help them ripen to maturity.

With this week’s news that my solo parenting adventures may now continue indefinitely, I feel some kinship with this poor plant.  In an attempt to meet all my commitments and expectations my own leaves have begun to shrivel.  With the summer daylight, bedtimes have extended later into the evening and my after bedtime activities like dishes and laundry have been delayed as a result.  It is nearly midnight some nights before I find a moment to myself.

I’m the first to preach the importance of self-care for mothers, all people really, but it can be a hard sermon to live.  A depressing lack of babysitters near the cottage has meant my ‘me’ time has been severely limited.  As a result I feel as mentally dry and shriveled as that  plant and there is no reprieve in sight.

This is usually the point in my blog where I try to find a lesson in my metaphor but my dry soil provides none tonight.  For now, I’m going to find some olive oil and vinegar, see what little I can salvage from the dying basil plants, and enjoy the meal my poor plant died trying to give me.  The rain, I’ll have to hope, will come tomorrow.

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Anything and Everything: the pressures of modern motherhood.

And here we are again…

Strong, proud, military and alone… and not feeling so strong.

It’s funny, I find, in this weird half-solo parenting life – you go on your merry way and manage as best you can and then one silly thing sets you off to thinking ‘why ever did I ever think I could do this?’

I couldn’t start the damn power washer today.

I managed to walk for an hour, help a friend, make it through a brutal yoga class, watch another friend’s child, weed and rearrange huge parts of my backyard, do two loads of laundry and make a healthy, local and interesting meal for my children.  Yet the fact that I wasn’t physically strong enough to start the engine on the stupid gas powered power-washer erased all those triumphs.

That’s the problem with the modern model of motherhood.  We’re supposed to, not only do the cooking, cleaning and childrearing, we’re supposed to do everything a man can do as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe women can be anything they want to be.  I AM woman, hear me roar.  Today I encouraged the girl playing with Little Dude today to abandon the damsel in distress persona for the warrior princess (to no avail, she was firmly entrenched in her damselness).

The problem is in believing woman can be anything, we seem to convince ourselves we can be everything too.

There’s a new book out arguing that Modern Motherhood is sending women back to the dark ages with its expectation that life is completely centred around the child. I’m not willing to go that far but I can see some of the reasoning as valid.

Feminism was once about empowering women to take on a man’s role and abandoning traditional notions of motherhood.  Now we seemed to have moved back to those traditional views of motherhood (not without reason) but the expectation of feminism remain (again, not without reason).  The result, however, makes for a tough balance.  No wonder depression rates in modern mothers are so high (depression rates in women are twice and high as those in men and it is very common for women who stay home with young children).

Part of my brain understands I can’t, and shouldn’t want, to be everything.  I just wish the left side would tell the right side about it – other the other way around… I’m just too tired to look up which part of the brain controls logic and which emotion – and I don’t really care anyway (maybe that’s a good sign… the first in an imaginary 12 steps to recovery).

Maybe that’s a good way to think of it… I have an ‘everything addiction.’

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Proud and Stong?

My handsome husband is home for a few weeks.  For once, he managed to make it home not only for my birthday but Mother’s Day as well.  That’s a rarity in the ten years we’ve been married.

My Mother’s Day started with excited (translation: loud) and well meaning (jumping all over me while trying not to wake me) children giving me their hand made cards and school made gifts.  He completed the gift trio with his own Mother’s Day offering, a t-shirt.

My husband knows me well enough to know that I do not wear the traditional boxy t-shirt.  He even apologized for the shirt itself, it was the slogan on the shirt which made him want to give it to me.  It says Proud and Strong Military Wife.

This is a slogan that I work hard to fulfill.  As an active member of the Board of Directors of my local Military Family Resource Centre, this is at the heart of everything we do.  In fact, it is our mission statement… that military families are proud and strong.  Yet, somehow applying that description to me personally gave me pause.

Only a fraction of the way into my year of solo parenting, I can’t say I feel very proud or strong most days.  Most days I feel weak as a kitten.  My battle with depression and my struggle to keep this family going with only one parent (or sometimes maybe just half of one) seems to overwhelm all else.

I do put on a good show.  People comment all the time how together I look… but I freely admit that it is a mask.  The more polished I look, the rougher I feel.  But I don’t generally put on the mask for Handsome Husband.  He sees me over Skype at the end of the day when I look as beaten down as I feel, when I don’t even have the energy to talk to him.  He knows the flaws and sees the tears.

For some reason, he still wanted to give me the t-shirt.  I guess, maybe if I fool him, I can fool myself.  Maybe, just maybe, that means there’s a little strength in me somewhere.

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Supermummy doesn’t live here…

My motivation has been a little lacking of late… have you noticed?

The long lag between posts must have been a give away.

Now fully facing the joys of military wife life, I find myself once again caught up in that endless motherhood cycle… we take care of the kids, the house, the community and finally, maybe, we start to look after ourselves.  My work and myself are the ones that are suffering.

Twice a week I get the house to myself.  I’m supposed to be working. However, when I finally get back to the house after shipping off my last child for the day my instinct is to turn up the music and break into the Risky Business underwear slide.  I want to revel in the silence.

My work days have been rather unproductive of late.

My evening hours, however, are a different story.  I finally get those kids in bed and I need to wash the dishes, fold the laundry, sweep the floors, wash the floors, pick up the toys, pick up some more toys – and that’s if I don’t have a meeting for my seemingly endless volunteer work.  It’s 10 o’clock before I can sit down.  It’s after midnight before I’ve settled down enough to even consider sleep.

Sleep and work seem to be the first to go on this solo parenting adventure of mine… and they’re often the very things I need to keep me going.  Writing feeds my soul and sleep feeds my body.  No wonder I’m not feeling very healthy lately.

So… time for a change.  The housework is not all going to get done.  That has to be okay.  The workload is going to have to lighten a little.  That has to be okay too.  As I keep preaching, we mothers can’t do it all.  The myth of the Supermummy harms us all.

So, I breathe.  I write a little. I head to bed earlier and help myself let go of the stressors of the day.  I book a massage and I let a few balls drop.  Maybe I indulge in a little ‘risky business’ and then I settle in for both work time and me time.

I won’t get it all done.

I won’t be perfect.

And that’s okay.

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Bikes, deep breathing and a solo ride in parenting.

God grant me the patience to endure my blessings….

A few days ago I set out to teach my boys to ride their bikes.  Now, I knew before I even starting searching out the missing helmets that this was not a job at which I excelled.  There are many things about motherhood I do well, this is not one.  Just days earlier I started my first long stretch of solo parenting and this was a job I had usually relegated to Daddy. After a frustrating hour of barely kept patience and limited listening skills we came home dejected.  The Dudes wanted to stay out longer and I couldn’t face another minute of trying to keep my cool.

I set out to write about the experience but I got three sentences of complaining into my post and discovered I had nothing else to say.  I could find no lesson in the bike misadventure, only my own still simmering frustrations.

My post floundered under the weight of my own inadequacies until the next day.  Faced with the daunting task of spring cleaning the yard myself, I began to tackle the work.  Five minutes in Big Dude insisted on riding his bike again.  Feeling martyred, I put down the rake to take another go at it.  This time  he took to it and began to pedal on his own.  In fact, he did while I turned to talk to a neighbour.  Success came when I least expected it.

Big Dude still needs a lot more practice before he’ll be biking off to his buddy’s house by himself, and my patience still needs a good ironing, but we crossed a threshold without even meaning to do so.

I’m trying to take a lesson from this as my long husband-less stretch looms ahead.  The fact that I have to do the ‘Daddy jobs’ is not going to change.  Perhaps I just need to let them happen without trying to BE Daddy too.  A single parent may have to do the job of Mummy and Daddy but she (or he) doesn’t not actually have to try to be that parent to make it happen.

Mummy just need to be Mummy… flaws and all… and the Dude will still learn to ride his bike (or tie his shoes, or hit the baseball, or any of the other skills I’d rather leave to Daddy).

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