Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, 2012

Whatever was not done by this morning was not really going to get done, so we all slept in and then mozied to the mall where we did what any self-respecting (North American) family does Christmas Eve: we got our flu shots!

Then we packed up extra cookies and went to visit friends for coffee just before they headed off to the Hobbit and we to church for the Christmas Eve service.

Home again, home again, to stockings (we still do those) and dishes and delightfully checked off checklists. And one last look at the angel on the mantelpiece.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
I wish you blessings and light.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Breakfast Out

Last Tuesday, was it? Times flees and runs around in circles and comes back and rearranges things when it is the season of Advent. So. Yes. Possibly, last Tuesday. Jessie went out with her friend RG after RG had finished writing her last paper of the term. They ate and drank and talked about love and bad TV and then Jessie came home and fell asleep and woke at 5 am feeling sick and promptly fainted in this way that she has that makes you think it is a seizure.

She doesn’t just drop gracefully, eyes rolling up or closing, and then lie there. She, as in life, has her own way of what we now know is fainting (or syncope, if you want to get all medical). She drops, yes. Then her eyes roll back into her head and stay open so you can really only see the whites. She rasps/chokes for air, stops breathing, and then begins to turn blue. At this point all her limbs go board-stiff and then jerk. If you can get her into a prone position and keep her lying down, she does quickly recover, freaks because she has fainted, panics, and if you let her up, does it all over again. A couple of times. In a close space, it looks and feels even worse than that. In fact, on Tuesday night even the paramedics, who were present for the third and final episode of the morning, said it was definitely a seizure.

But at the hospital it was ruled as a “syncopal event.” Again. You think I’d believe them. After all the neurological and cardiac tests. But sometimes, in the midst of one of these, I too panic. This can’t be fainting, I think. This looks too serious, is too much NOT Jessie. And then I recount what she looks like, double check three or four times with the doctor, the medical staff … “turns blue!” I say. “Goes stiff and then jerks!” I repeat. “Like this!” I say and I want to lie down on the ground and act it out. I don’t. “Ah,” said Tuesday’s  doctor. ”Myoclonic jerks!” “Hey,” said Dan, “that’s a good name for a band!”

We laughed. We relaxed a bit. And this is how we started our Christmas holiday season: breakfast in the emergency ward. Jessie, her usual smiley self, almost fully recovered.    

We will have the usual anxiety to deal with. The waking in a panic. The calls for help or a sleep buddy. But this is manageable. Or that is what I keep telling myself as I breath and count on mother instinct to always kick in, keeping an even keel, an even voice: breathing in we relax the body, breathing out we sigh. Breathing in . . . . and out. Breathing in . . . . and out.

It’s how I mother, or try to. Slow and steady. In and out. A rhythm on its own that is primal and yet sometimes so distant that I need to coach Jessie, and myself, into its graceful hold. In and out . . . of the seasons, of the year, of the living of a life. It’s in and out.

A bittersweet beginning; but maybe, in all this coaching, I will get it right. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Let Us Hold in Our Hearts

Let us hold in our hearts, in silence, the 26 people gunned down at a Connecticut elementary school Friday. And all their loving connections.
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Rachel Davino, 29
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Source: Connecticut State Police

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jessie Flips: About Propeller [part 1]

Propeller Christmas Party
I finished writing my Christmas cards last night for people in Propeller Dance and I'm really happy about it. We had the annual Christmas dinner out in Carp, a small town just outside Ottawa, at one of the dancer's homes. I really enjoyed dancing an performing in this company and organization this year and now this year is coming to a close and I'm looking forward to doing more of this in the new year. I'll probably help work behind the scenes too. For example, I wrote my first press release for Propeller two weeks ago and we got more press coverage at the community day last weekend than we ever have before! We had two TV stations and one newspaper there. 

Some of the people that I look up to in Propeller are: (and I will do more next week, but we just got back from the party and its almost midnight and I have to go to bed!) ..

Bella is an amazing artist and performer and when she dances she uses her feet and facial expression. Bella and I get together sometimes and cook.
Bella at Community Day

Liz is a really talented performer and has really good stage presence  I met her when she was finishing her masters at Carleton University. She was also my mentor in lesson planning. Bella, Liz, and I teach together on Saturdays. 
Liz (by Dave) Liz won the Celebration of People Award for an artist with a disability this year. 
Liz and me in Calgary where we went for a dance intensive a couple of years ago. 

Renata is co-artistic director of Propeller Dance and she is a great performer and she knows a lot about technique. Renata is mentoring me in choreography and choreographic work. 

Amelia is a new dance and she and I work so well together. Both Amelia and I made a duet with Renata's support called "What's in the Box?" Amelia is really funny and we make each other laugh. 

wacky Amelia, and Moni
Amelia and me getting ready for the box dance (photo by Dave)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The First Angel

Yesterday's angel post brought a mama friend to mind, Kate, who had made Jessie (back when she was just a wee thing, but still full of piss and vinegar!) a window overlaid with art (Jessie as an angel) and inspiration (six symbols of spiritual strength and the feminine).

The original source of the piece was a polaroid picture (remember those?) taken at a church bazaar, where you could put your face into an opening in a wooden cut out angel figure and have your picture taken as an angel. Jessie was so small Dan had to hold her up (you can just see him in the background) and she jutted her chin out in a way that she had that indicated the beginnings of either defiance or determination. Anyways, a glimmer of something that all my mama and women friends recognized and honoured.

Kate borrowed the polaroid and created this delight, fashioned from a cast-off window and stained glass paint. It was a miracle gift to Jessie, and to me. A blessing of love, reflection, depth, and beauty.

Today Kate and I messaged back and forth (we no longer live in the same city), sharing images and words from that time long ago. And I thought of all that Kate taught me (and teaches me still), and meant to me (and means to me still), and brought to Jessie's life (and does, in her own way, still). And I am grateful that the window, which transforms the light, is still there for Jessie to explore as she grasps her own womanhood. May all our girls have such magical women in their lives, a clutch of feminist fairy godmothers.

For those curious and intrigued, this is a shortened version of the symbols:
Light One: Full Moon and Three Stars. full moon=matriarchal, primary feminine sign, protected or consecrated space where all participants are equal.
Light Two: Fate. the three goddesses of fate (fairy godmothers) who hover over infant's cradley proteching and supporting the child in mystical ways.
Light Three: Interlaced Cross. a sign of interdependent dualism, think yin/yang. Earthly world is horizontal and green, spiritual world is vertical and purple, and they interlace, what happens to one must affect the other. 
Light Four: Ladder. sacred laddeer with seven rungs, ladder to heaven, also leads to the heaven in the first light.
Light Five: Spiral. Death and rebirth (and of particular meaning to Kate, appearing in each of her pieces and a symbol of divinity for her)
Light Six: Triple Arrow. symbol of unity.    

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Angels in the Window [Ellen Stumbo Writing Prompt: A Christmas Memory]

We are having a slightly awkward and unusual Christmas this year; many of our traditions are taking a hiatus as we empty my parents' (I still think of it as my parents' even though my Dad, Jessie’s Grumps, died 2 years ago) condominium in Montreal. My mother, while keeping her beachfront condo on the Atlantic in Florida, has moved into a seniors' residence. Last year was our first Christmas without Grumps, and by this year, we had fully expected the condo to be gone and our family to be forging new traditions. But things, as in life, did not go completely according to plan, and while my mother is delightfully ensconced in her new apartment, we are only now divvying up the significant leftovers, if they can rightfully be called that. They include a beautiful Quebecoise pine dinning table and a full kitchen complete with Cuisinart, kitchenaid mixer, and a full silver cutlery service. Too. Much. Stuff. But, as ours is all falling apart at the seams and hers has so much value—material, historical, and narrative— most of our Christmas in Montreal will be spend packing. I will say that my mother has done all the difficult work of sorting, and deserves a medal. As do my brothers, who live in Montreal and have dealt with the daily-ness of the downsizing.

So, the short part of this long story is that at home here in Ottawa we do not have a tree. It is the inherited one sitting in a box (along with the reindeer) in Montreal. We do, however have Christmas decorations and a tradition (mostly) of breaking out the Christmas music and books on December 1st. Which usually morphs into a much later date, but I am sure you all know about that kind of tradition. Last year, in preparation for our own kind of downsizing, I put all the angel ornaments that Jessie had been given over the years into one box, separate from the other ornaments. When we did get around to the music and the books, I also felt the need to add to the festiveness and brought out two extra boxes—the boughs and this box of angels.

I placed the box on Jessie’s lap and said “These are all your angels from all the different angels in your life.” And together, as a family, we unpacked them and placed them in the window:

As we were unpacking we shared the stories of their provenance—some funny, some mundane, some bittersweet. I think the first angel came from my parents' friends in Montreal, the Garners, who always have a special place for Jessie in their thoughts, at their home, and in their gifts. While we don’t see them as often as she (Jessie) and we would like, their angels grace her life, and that is gift.

There is the angel that I am sure Dan stole from some theatre group’s Christmas party, and the one that our laughing neighbours Randy and Nancy gave us. We live in an old neighbourhood, one where the lots are tiny and the houses cheek by jowl, so you really have to have good neighbours. Randy and Nancy were the epitome of that: Randy babysitting in emergencies and making passports with Jessie and traveling by spinning the globe in the living room, Nancy by giving me great educational advice and adapted cooking books and connections to teachers and mentors (she was a special ed teacher). They no longer live next door and we miss them.

There is the angel that I, with forethought, remembered to keep. It was the year that Jessie made and hand-painted angels for gifts. Usually, by the time any Christmas craft was done we had run out of any extras to keep. This one, though, I put aside specifically as a keeper. The bright colours and half moon smile are so typical of her drawings in grade 1.

Then, there is the final angel. The one I take out last, as it was a gift to Jessie from my Aunt Kathy, just a few years before she died. Kathy was just 10 years older than me, so a cross between a sister and a very special aunt. She loved me, and Jessie (and Dan) unconditionally, and you can never replace that kind of love. So this angel is my bittersweet ornament, a gentle prick of regret and deep-rooted love. And I place it with great care on the window, and hug Jessie, and remind her that she is indeed loved.

This she knows. And feels. And she grows silent as she contemplates the window. And then the tears fall. Because I have told her that these are her angels and when she moves away this box of angels will go with her and grace and bless her own home at Christmas. “It is sad to grow up,” she says. “I know I want to grow up and move away, I’m excited to grow up and move away. But sometimes I just want to be a kid again and have nothing change. Its HARD growing up!” She smiles and cries. I hug her. She holds her arm out, beckoning Dan. We have our family hug, blessed by bittersweet angels.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thankful Tuesday: Energy Abounds

This is Tuesday, so I am joining in the Thankful Tuesday party over at Micha Boyett’s blog, Mama: Monk (if its not thankful over there, rest assured, Micha will share something with you that will make you feel thankful for going there!).

This week I am thankful for all the energy that abounds in the people that Jessie surrounds herself with:

Natalie, who took the dance support specialist course (a unique program developed by Propeller Dance to train dancers to support/accompany people with a range of abilities in Propeller community classes) with Jessie and has joined the children's class where Jessie is a teaching assistant. Natalie also knows about Hannukah, so she put together a one-pager for Jessie on some basic words, practices, and, of course, food! Now Jessie wants me to find a dreidle! All, of course, in preparation for the upcoming Hannukah meal in Montreal this Saturday with DB's paternal grandparents. While Natalie has many other wondeful and endearing qualities, I am truly thankful for the effort she put into creating this one-page Hannukah guide for Jessie.

Caitlin and all the other staff, connectors, volunteers, organizers, and family members belonging to LiveWorkPlay who are there as role models and friends and people who listen to and honour Jessie's dreams and goals. And who are also there to help create a supportive resource and celebratory community that knows how to laugh and party.

Janet and Josh, sitting at our table at our first ever LiveWorkPlay family feast, who know a lot about living on their own and finding work and dating and were glad to share their excitment and knowledge with Jessie and DB.

Ximena, Liz, Moni, Robert, Bella, Phil, Shara, Renata, Jason, the incomparable Amelia, and a host of other dancers, mentors, and musicians with whom Jessie dances and teaches, and without whom Jessie would lead a very staid, routine, and boring life filled with chores and mom-defined goals, which might include cleaning her room. But, thanks to these wonderful, energetic, creative, and eclectic people, Jessie lives an unpredictable and always exciting, if often challenging (in the good/growth way) life filled with music and movement and joy and what the buddhists might call "right" action, speech, livelihood, and other bits of the eighth-fold (as I understand it, which isn't saying much!) path. 

My friend CG,and her daughter {RG} and her friends, who always include Jessie and can never ever think of a reason for her not to participate in whatever adventure they have up their sleeves. CG in particular, for her energy in what I can only call extreme cooking, a sport that she has invented to fully welcome every single one of her children (yes, all two) and their friends (all ga-zillion) who make that house their home. Jessie, of course, would eat Just About Anything, so CG's running usually has to do with some mess that Jessie has concocted, in (and sometime outside, like the time she threw her knapsack into the canal and CG had to go get a fishing rod to rescue it) that house.

I am thankful for all these people and their infinite energy. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

This Weekend's Lovely Madness, in pictures

The season had begun . . . first with a computer crash, then deadlines, then a celebratory weekend rushing from one event to another and all I can say is that it was fun! While I am up still working, Jessie crashed a while ago after a weekend that started with her first community feast with the LiveWorkPlay community on Friday . . .  where she brought DB and ran into many friends and aquaintances:

. . .  to a full day with Propeller Dance at their community day featuring performances by all the community groups, the children's classes, the new youth class, and a preview of the new work (in progress) that the performing group is working on. Propeller is an amazing organization, and community day fills performers and audience alike with joy and delight ... I hope my photos capture even a small part of that:

. . .  to an evening writing songs with Lyrics Lady:

. . . to a Sunday afternoon singing at a L'Arche community event to an evening potluck followed by the annual RG {Grays} carolling extravaganza, to raise money, I believe this time for Dominican projects in Kigali :

potluck, rule of one applied! CG host rushing in background!

RG leading practice.

Benedeta's first carolling experience!
to, finally, sleep. More words tomorrow.
But also know, the Rule of One was used successfully, mostly, all weekend! Hooray!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jessie Flips: About Say Yes to the Dress

I have been watching You tube on my laptop a lot these days and the one show that I love watching night after night is Say Yes To The Dress. I am like obsessed with this show and it is my favorite. The reason why this show is my favorite is because of all the couples and their stories of how they met and how they got engaged and, of course the dresses. But the best part of all is when the consultants come into play and help the bride out. The consultants are there to support the bride and to help the bride pick the dress she is looking for.

One of the people that I like is Randy. Randy has a huge sense in fashion because he is the fashion director and his job is to support the bride go in the right direction that she wants to go in. He helps guide the brides; he is like their guidance to find the right dress that the bride wants. And I think Randy is the best at it than anybody. He’s confident and he knows what looks best on any bride, and to me he is the best fashion director.

And the reason why I watch this show is because I want to get ideas for my own wedding. Both [DB] and I have already planned out our marriage and wedding plan. And that is to get married on a beach in Southern California. But I talked with [DB] and I suggested maybe we could have a plan b just in case plan a doesn’t quite work. And Plan B is to have a traditional inter faith wedding in Montreal at St. Paul’s And St. Andrew’s Anglican Church with 22 people from our immediate families and our extended family. So watching this show Say Yes To The Dress gives me lots of ideas for when I get married.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Subject: Like Seriously

Yesterday, I woke up early to work on a looming (is there every any other kind?) deadline. Of course, it is on morning like this that you can almost guarantee that Jessie will not wake up and just go about her usual routine. No, it is on mornings like this (after a Monday morning where she slept in TWO HOURS past her alarm and missed work at the Foodbank) that she will choose to challenge every little bit of routine that we might demand of her.

We collectively devised a very simple routine with just a few simple rules (like the Rule of One, and we know how well that is working) that she has agreed to follow. We review why we have this list: to help her become more independent, but mostly so we DON’T FIGHT about what she is supposed to do. So, on this morning, of course, because I have a deadline, because I gave her 2.5 hours of my billable time yesterday to drive her to a performance to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities, because, just because, she slept in and why follow a routine anyways? Yes, on this morning, she decides to push every button and limit. From deciding to go straight on to the computer (no breakfast, no getting dressed) . . .

what she was working on on her computer ... and I know this because she LEFT HER COMPUTER ON  when she went off to rehearsal

. . .  to yelling at me because it is almost time to leave and she is missing her bus pass and her wallet and . . . (but she always throws in a few responsible accomplishments into the mix, like brushing and “waterpik”ing her teeth, putting in a load of laundry and responding to e-mails).

This absolute panicked fear of mine that work and words will not have space to bloom (or even just meet deadlines) appears to be a common advent theme amongst some of my favorite bloggers (when I get a chance to read them). See Addie and her missing babysitter, or Amy Julia's ordinary hard stuff.

At any rate, its all good when I can email my love at work. Somehow the venting lets me move on to the next page, both literally and figuratively.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thankful Tuesday: A Daughter Like Jessie

This is Tuesday, so I am joining in the Thankful Tuesday party over at Micha Boyett’s blog, Mama: Monk

While I kept a list this week of things I was thankful for, it got recycled with the grocery and house to do lists as I was trying to clean the piles of papers vying with the contents of the kitchen cupboards (don’t ask) for space on the dining room table. So last night, as I put aside the editing I was working on and asked Jessie what I should be thankful for, she said “Your friends!” And when I told her, yes, for sure, but I was also trying to keep the focus on these transition years and it would take a full-length book to thank my friends, she said, “You can be thankful that you have a daughter like me!”

And I am! Because even in this mess of growing up, in this mess of driving, problem solving, present buying, sex educating (her me), and money managing, Jessie reminds me that it is all about people. About friends, and lovers, and husbands, and mothers, and spirit cousins who gather in darkened candle-lit rooms to be still and quiet together for half an hour every week. It’s about connectors, and fitness instructors, and old neighbours with new dogs, and strangers who use the “r” word and are then corrected and accept the correction with suitable contrition. It’s about church friends who invite Jessie to sit for a while, and church friends who invite her to work for a while, and church friends who offer to teach cooking and sewing and public speaking when I have lost all patience for any of that.

It’s about mama friends who hug her and love her when I am almost at the end of my patient and thoughtful loving and am running on gut and instinct. It’s about long-time from forever friends who bicycle in sub-zero weather wrapped in layers of wool and Polish-knit sweaters to teach my daughter to sing and want to come back for more. It’s about husbands who vacate basement offices to let mothers work in peace and quiet and without incessant Say-Yes-to-the-Dress whining and drama in the background.

And finally, at the end of a long day, it’s about Jessie who lets me sit beside her as she nestles into her bed, and read her the daily gospel and reflection from my favorite gifted Advent book (God With Us, if you are wondering). And then remembering/telling the beginning of the Godly Play Advent story . . . Advent is the time when we are all (and this is where Jessie gifts me with a long graceful arc of her hand, sweeping, pointing to an imaginary spot in the distance), all on our way to . . .  Bethlehem, we singsong together.

Peace on your journey.         

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Rule of One Revisted

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, and I managed to talk Jessie into coming to church with me to celebrate the verb to HOPE. I love this season of waiting, and was grateful for Busted Halo’s first day of Advent practice—taking a breath any time you find yourself having to wait. A hopeful practice, a being-present practice, and definitely a practice needed by mothers trying to get daughters to church on a Sunday morning after a Saturday night of partying.

After church, Jessie darted ahead of me into Fraser Hall, first to the table of snacks and treats. We are, of course, focused on mastering the Rule of One this season. And there are many opportunities to practice it, along with waiting and hope. Which seem to be what I need to focus on, in support of the Rule of One that is.   

As I approached the table, Jessie’s furtive smile (ah, braces, there is no hiding consumed matter with braces) showed me that she had already partaken of at least one treat, not counting the chocolate brownie and slice of lemon cake she was holding, one in each hand. I gave her the mother-evil-eye (you are out of line, but I won’t yell because we are in public) and she turned away from me, quickly walking to the edge of the room to smile sweetly (mouth full) at her former brownie leader sitting in a chair by the window.

When I finally got her out of the hall and in to the car, we discussed (a polite description of our conversation, which involved a lot of heavy breathing on my part, and which I am not sure is exactly what Busted Halo meant by taking a breath, but sometimes you only have variations to offer), again, the Rule of One.

But Mom! said Jessie. I used the Rule of One. I remembered ‘take one,’ so I took one. . . . And then I took more.

Needless to say, we will continue to work on the Rule of One. At least during this season, there are many chances to practice.
And we had 2 chances to practice the Rule of One, first at our church, then at another church's Advent supper last night with the Harts. This is Jessie and Minda, mom of the Hart family. Minda encourages eating lots of delicious food. Jessie is sticking with her through this season. So am I.