She’ll Never Learn

You think she’d learn –
collects boyfriends like
other girls amass makeup;
always thrilling at the start
the objectified male’s influence
sticking; believes in commitment
while inwardly protesting
ego creates a scene,
manifests conflict
needs to break away –
heart having leaped

You think she’d learn –
past courtships have
established that infatuation
is the exception: not a trail worth
targeting; where is common sense?
she will not listen, loves the sound
of ‘boyfriend’, is dedicated to desires
of the flesh, blind to problems
balls and chains provoke;
impulse is a good teacher,
she never heeds.

You think she’d learn –
clean slate is not achievable
dramas of the past superimposed
had one too many arse-ended
engagements – needs to minimize
this yearning for affection,
wake up, smash the drive
that invokes mayhem
settle for the institution
of loneliness.




Let Failures Lie

Pampered, socially supported
education would have been preferable
but I don’t belong to the elite,
and this malaise disrupts
any hope for success.

Learn best in the trenches,
dragged-out combat over hobnobbing
– can relate to the broken,
other-abled, survivors who thrive
despite challenges.

Know a man, who without
speech or behavioural norms,
moves others – inspires
(trapped as he is) love
and forgiveness.

Have loved others, projected
goodness into selfishness, been
betrayed,  watched friendships grow
where mine was cut off –
bore the burden of blame,

still I will share myself –
adverse to saying no –
in restlessness, seeking others,
when I should be nurturing self –
Who’s really at fault here?

A mother, once faced with immeasurable
tribulations, never giving up –
is not to be found, cut down
by illness, misfortune having culled
her optimism, her enthusiasm –

What is there to do now?
I kick aside the ashes of former
identities, contemplate the meaning
of failure, the loss of ambition
this locked out alienation:

Is it hurt, I feel…
Absence of former friends
echoes in the empty cliffs of

all that has been –
do they feel it too, or
is it merely personal mire?
What choice is there
but to embrace this solo journey?

miscalculated distances,
energy deficit, and yet,
I continue…until straight
and narrow meets clover leafs
and learning dawns –

paths cross over, crisscross;
life is about movement
and choices, and change
and endless possibilities –
there is no going back.


Lessons From A Newborn

Rest; nap as often as you need,
life can be exhausting; store up.

Cry; let your feelings be known;
your voice is your saving grace.

Joy is a whole body experience,
immerse yourself in total delight.

Hold on to those who love you;
your survival depends on them.

See the world through new ideas;
you never know what thrills await.

Listen intently when others speak;
they will be your captive audience.

Imitate others; practice until you
have found your own expression.

Trust the process, living fully
in each moment; be present.

Honour the miracle of existence;
embrace the blessing that is you!

A Trip to the ER

I have just returned from a record-breaking (in my history) trip to the emergency room and back, and as with all adventures in life, I learned something.

I experienced first hand the ignorance of the medical world concerning ME/CFS.  No wonder it took years to get a diagnosis.

Please understand that making the choice to go to the hospital is a big one for me – with an intolerance for sitting or standing, I could not bear the thought of sitting and waiting for hours on end – as is typical for our emergency rooms.  Imagine then, my surprise (and relief) when they took me right in and from the triage examination, rushed me into a bed.

A resident saw me within minutes, and before an hour had passed, I was hooked up to an IV and receiving fluids for dehydration and nausea.  Once vitals were confirmed stabilized, they had me on my way – all in under four hours.

The staff was charming, attentive, and I felt, really made an effort to understand what was going on with me, but they just did not know anything about ME, asking me to repeat what it stood for several times and even asking how I got such a diagnosis.  They didn’t appear skeptical, just genuinely interested, but considering this disease is more prevalent than breast cancer, it does beg the question:  How is it that no one knows?

Living with ME/CFS is an extreme act of faith.  The symptoms come and go, fluctuating between mild and severe and seldom amount to anything tangible in medical tests, creating frustration for everyone involved – especially my loved ones who wish so desperately for an end to this disease.

I saw four different cardiologists, for example, when I was trying to find the cause of my rapid heart rate.  The first told me I had a rare arrhythmia that I could treat with diet and exercise, the second told me that I did not have a heart problem and basically wasted his time, and the third that I am likely over-sensitive.  The fourth decided it was an intolerance for pain medication that was causing the problem, and to some extent, he was correct.  I now know that the increase in heart rate is related to orthostatic intolerance.  My pulse rate lying down is typically between 84-94 bpm, but increases to 116 or so when sitting, and 137 when standing.

I had a similar experience with continued respiratory problems.  In 2006,  I seemed to have a cold that would not go away.  It was the year I had returned to school, so I wrote it off as a side effect of working with children.  Then one day in March, I just could not catch a breath no matter what I did.  As I’d had casual bouts of asthma in the past, I was referred to the Asthma Clinic at a local hospital.  Testing reconfirmed a number of allergies, both environmental and food related and four years of visits to adjust medication followed.  On every visit, my doctor – a lovely man with a warm wit- would wonder aloud if this was really just asthma.  Now, I know it was a combination of asthma and ME.  Taking medications is not enough to ensure ease in breathing – pacing myself and avoiding over-exertion is key.

Today’s visit was for ongoing abdominal problems.  IBS was suggested after a colonoscopy four years ago, but the continued bloating and ongoing pain has become concerning.  A blocked bile duct was detected in another test, and an antacid prescribed.  Food sensitivities have been noted and I have adjusted my diet accordingly, but the difficulties persist.  “It’s likely just a virus,” they told me yesterday.  And, in part, they are probably right, but there is such a persistent, underlying wrongness to how my abdomen functions that I am not satisfied we have gotten to the bottom of this problem.  Apart from two forkfuls of rice and a couple of gluten-free crackers, I have had no solid  (or liquid) food in five days – the pain that follows is too intense.  There is no quality of life when the pleasure of a decent meal cannot even be savoured.

Living with chronic illness is discovering that much of medicine is still in the formative stages – uncertainty punctuated with educated guesses – so much yet to be learned.  And, if you’ll indulge this me this moment of feeling sorry for myself, I am a discontented guinea pig.

Day 262 Life Tests/ Lessons

6:30 am.  Thor’s alarm goes off.  Was I asleep?  It is still dark outside and like every other morning, I have nowhere to go, so I roll over, but my mind has already engaged, or rather re-engaged, stuck on the same LP track (a function of this disease) that has been running through my mind all night.  I get up, shuffle to the bathroom and while I relieve myself, take my mornings puffs of inhaled steroid to kick-start my lungs.

[Test  #1:  Can you find a reason to get out of bed when you’ve lost your ability to work, and no one needs or expects anything from you?

My answer:  The will to live is stronger than even I might have suspected.  Part of me wants to stay with the oblivion of sleep, and another part of me has things she wants to do – life to live  – so, yes, I am motivated to wake up each morning and embrace a new day.]

In the kitchen, I turn on the kettle and prepare my over-sized mug for the first cup of tea of the day.  Thor is already in work mode – checking his emails – coffee in hand.  Tea made, I shuffle back to bed where I start up my own computer and turn on the morning news.  I check for emails – mostly advertisements, some postings from blogs that I follow (which I’ll read later) – I am too out of the social loop to receive personal correspondence anymore.

[Test #2:  Who are you when many of your relationships have gone by the wayside?

My answer:  I am old enough to know that relationships come and go throughout life and while they help shape me, they do not define me.  A side effect of losing so many connections is that I am left with a handful of friends whose staying power continually warms my heart.]

Next, I check my online Scrabble games to see if any of my random opponents have played their turn.  My brain, more specifically working memory and executive functioning, are affected by this disease.  Playing Scrabble is a recommended therapy.  Several games await my turn, so I play them.

[Test #3:  Loss of brain power:  brain fog, confusion, memory loss, etc.

Reality:  I lose patience with myself, especially when I make mistakes that affect others.  A sense of humour helps, but I do find that this challenge makes me withdraw more than anything.  Loss of mental capacity is very tiring.  ]

7:30 am.  Time to make breakfast.  What to have?  My go to is instant oatmeal, but on thinking back to what I ate last – sweet potato and a slice of chicken at supper – I think my stomach could handle a bit more.  I decide on gluten-free bread toasted with two slices of precooked bacon.  I take it back to bed with me and change to the CBC news, rechecking the status of my Scrabble games.

[Test #4:  What happens when you no longer have the energy to make optimal life choices?

Reality:  For four years I followed a careful vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free diet.  Every weekend I shopped for and cooked special meals to enhance my well-being.  Now I am unable to shop for food, and depend on Thor for much of the cooking, and as his name suggests he is a meat-atarian!  Limited energy equates with limited choices.   I have let this ball drop for the time being… to be continued.]

News today is all about the TTC strike, and since I don’t even live in Toronto, I decide that listening further is wasted energy.  I shut it off and turn to Facebook, reading about the trips my once friends, now acquaintances, are either taking or planning, what they’re making for dinner, or who they are partying with.  I switch back to Scrabble.

8:10 am.  Thor is dressing for his first morning meeting then stretches across the bed to visit with me for a bit.  We talk about his day.  I can feel myself getting sleepy.  As he gets up to leave, I will myself out of bed again, taking my dirty dishes to the kitchen, making mental note of the work that needs to be done there, then back to the bathroom where I relieve myself, brush my teeth, and think about washing my face, but now I am too tired.  I go back to bed instead, choosing a Sonza playlist for sleeping and setting it next to my pillow.

10:36 am.  I hear Thor come home, enter the bedroom and check on me, but I am still sleeping and not ready to get let it go.  I glance at the time, and notice the faint calling of my bladder, but give in to heavy lull of sleep.

11:47 am.  The insistence of my bladder is too strong to ignore now.  I get up, amazed that I have slept so long.  Thor, hearing my movement, calls that out that I have an appointment in two hours.  This time I do wash my face, apply some cream and brush my hair.  Sitting facing the dresser, I wonder what to wear and settle on the usual – yoga pants, a t-shirt, and hoodie – my uniform.

I feel renewed after such a long sleep – the best I’ve had in days – so offer to make lunch.  Normally, I would nuke a bowl of soup, but I know Thor prefers it heated on the stove, so I pour the pre-made soup into a pot and turn on the stove.  I clean up the dishes left from breakfast and complain that the soup seems to be taking a long time (I have limited capacity for standing), so Thor takes over.  Not wanting to go back to bed just yet, I sit on the couch and notice all the toys still left out from our granddaughter’s last visit.  I try to tidy up, but the movement makes me dizzy, so I sit back down – it will have to wait for my next little burst of energy.  Thor serves up the soup and we eat in silence.  Not much to talk about on my part; he is no doubt thinking about work.

Soup finished, I snatch an apple out of the bowl and go back to bed.

[ Test #5:  Living with restricted energy

Reality:  Setting boundaries and valuing the little energy I have is a difficult life lesson:  so much of what I do in a day is habitual or mindless.  Choosing to use my energy for something useful like writing, or spending time with loved ones is a happy choice.  Yet, I find it hard not to get lost in distractions, or worse, “shoulds” ( I should do some laundry, sweep the floor, tidy the table, and so on).  I still have lots of work to do in this area. ]

12:27 pm.  I listen to an audiobook: The Hare with the Amber Eyes.  Some of it is hard to follow, but the narrator’s voice is low and soothing, so I keep pushing forward with the story.

1:00 pm.  Esther calls on her lunch break and we discuss her weekend and their upcoming move.  She sounds very upbeat, and I hang up feeling good about the conversation – I don’t have to worry about her today.

[Test #6:  Worrying about others.

Reality:  An excess amount of idle time equates to surplus opportunities to think about others, and as a mother, to feel guilt and concern where my children are concerned.  Sometimes, my mind will dwell on past situations and I will spend days spinning over something I’m sure I’ve done wrong.  This is one of the reasons I see a therapist.  Unnecessary emotional spinning is a definite drain of energy.]

1:15  I play a few more turns of Scrabble.

1:26  Thor reminds me we have to leave soon.  I put my cellphone in my purse and go one more time to the bathroom.  We discuss whether or not to take my walker.  I don’t need it to get into my appointment, but I will if we decide to stop on the way home.  Take it, I say.  It gives me options.

It’s a beautiful sunny day, and as we drive across town I note that most of the snow has gone from the streets and sidewalks, with only the last black-crusted bits remaining.  I feel uplifted, hopeful.  Maybe I can get out more, I tell Thor.

[Test #7:  Keeping hope alive

Answer:  This is another wonderful function of spirit:  the ability to regenerate hope!  Hope springs from a sunny day, a friendly exchange, a thoughtful gesture, and in my case, a restful nap.]

2:00 pm.  The appointment today is my weekly acupuncture visit.  Usually I sleep during this visit, but after this morning’s rest I lie instead and think of writing this column, and whether or not I need to continue coming every week, or if I could use my energy for something else.

3:30 pm.  We decide to visit at a new Farm Boy on the way home.  I want to find some ready made salads I can eat for lunches.  The store is big and a bit overwhelming for someone who has been housebound for so long, so I choose a few aisles, adding some things to Thor’s basket.  Walking is slow, and I have to sit while studying products.  I feel my muscles straining, but push on, so excited to be out and about.  I see a former student, and stop for a quick chat.   When my my muscles start screaming, I ask for the car keys and head out to wait for Thor in the car,  but the sun is so bright and warming that I perch on my walker and soak in the outdoor air.  An elder gentleman stops to chat and tells me his wife is housebound and won’t come out.  We swap stories and sympathies.  When I can no longer sit up, I return to the car and put my seat back.

4:30 pm.  Back in bed, pleased by my outing.  Missed a call from Marie, but my voice is hoarse from the exertion of going to the store, a signal that means I need to rest, so I’ll text her instead.  I put the heating pad under my back and notice I am suddenly cold, so pull up a couple of blankets.  Low grade fevers seem to spark up with exertion too.

I work on the blog.

6:00 pm.  Thor asks if I want dinner in bed or at the table.  Bed is the answer –  my muscles are strained from the earlier activities.  I set my writing aside and prop up my pillows, anticipating dinner.  It is superb!  Almond crusted trout and waxed beans.  I turn on the news, a habit I still haven’t shaken – but tire of it quickly.  I have some prerecorded shows to watch and want to catch up on.  Even though I am only supposed to watch one hour of television per day (it’s too stimulating) I decide to have a marathon and watch three shows.

9:30 pm  Being able to fast forward through the commercials helps, but now I have a headache, and the images from the programs are locked in my brain – this is why watching too much is not a good idea – I cannot shake things easily.  Also, I noticed that I am very emotional and cried easily over every little thing – another sign that I am off balance at the moment.

10:00 pm.  Finish writing this blog, and text with my girls.  Ready for bed but wired.  Will check in on my Scrabble games and then maybe work on a jigsaw puzzle to quiet my mind.

[Test #8:  Compliance

Reality:  It will be days before I recover from the “extras” I indulged in today:  my muscles will complain and stop working, sleep will become elusive, and I will not have the energy to get out of bed.  I will become cranky, feel discouraged, and want to give up.  Then it will pass, and I will try again, and when I feel good, I will want to do to it all – that’s my nature.  (Not to mention that I am obviously a slow learner.)]

Life is constantly testing us – living with chronic disease only magnifies this universal truth.  Some days I am more conscious of those lessons, and able to learn and grow; other days I prefer to just exist.  Right now, I would say I’m passing with a C-:  lots of room for improvement.

How about you.  Are you acing life’s tests, or just getting by?

Day 236 “True Merit”

Trudy rises well before dawn, throws on her sweats, grabs the dog leash, and the dog, and rushes out the door for a quick jog around the block, stopping only to allow Mitzy time to do her business.  Her husband, Frank, rolls over at the sound of her movements and absentmindedly reaches for her across the bed.  He moans with the realization that she is already gone.

“You didn’t get enough sleep!”  he chides her when she reappears, readying herself for the  morning ritual.

“Sleep is for the weak!”  comes her perky answer.

Frank rolls back over and resumes sleeping.  It will be an hour or so before his wife emerges from the bathroom, so he knows he has time.

Trudy’s morning ritual includes showering, styling her hair just right, applying just the right amount of makeup (including false eyelashes) and making sure her manicure is presentable.  As she coifs she runs down the day’s schedule:  meeting with parents at 8:00 am, report due to the Board by noon, meeting with Principal at 1:00, and a meeting of her staff at 2:30.  She has a class to teach in between, but there is just no time today, so she’ll have to ask Dorothy.  Trudy sighs.  Dorothy would not have been her first pick for her department, and she had tried to reject her, but the Principal insisted.  “Oh well,” she told herself, “I’ll just have to make the most of it – more work for me!”

The idea of more work never fazed Trudy.  She was a champion, and with her brains and capability, she was headed straight to the top.  She’d have to make sure Dorothy was clear about her expectations.

Black and white was the colour palette Trudy chose for this day.  She wanted to look and feel powerful and in charge.  Knee high black leather boots with stilletoes finished off the effect.  She was ready to go.  Slipping on her watch, she noticed that she was running behind.  “Oh well,”  she thought, “they can wait.”  She wouldn’t forgo her morning stop at Starbucks.

Dorothy arrived at school, early as usual, her salt and pepper hair barely dry yet.  She opened the doors, turned on all the lights and checked the agenda for the day.  Trudy, she noted, would be booked up, so that meant she would be taking on the task of her class.  “No problem,” she thought.  Dorothy co-taught most days with Trudy anyway, and to be honest, she preferred it when Trudy was busy, it gave her more autonomy with the class.

When Trudy’s 8:00 am appointment arrived, Dorothy ushered the parents into the meeting room, with apologies and assurances that Trudy would be along shortly.

Students started to arrive and her day began.  Questions, requests, complaints – Dorothy patiently dealt with each, and hurried the students along to their first class.  First period was always the quietest in their room, and Dorothy cherished this time to get organized for what typically turned out to be a challenging day.

Logging onto the computer, Dorothy intended to catch up with some of the paperwork that her position required.  She pulled out the overflowing file of  “to do”s” and started to search through for the most urgent, but stopped when she heard the distinct click, click of Trudy’s heels.

“Your eight o’clock is in the meeting room,”  she advised Trudy who was now fifteen minutes late.

“Can you hold them off a minute?” Trudy asked.  “I have to speak to the office first. Oh, and Dorothy, I will need you to take the class today – my notes are in the file.  They can just work on yesterday’s assignment, so you don’t have teach them anything new – I’d prefer to do that myself.  Can you also pull up the files I’ll need for the report I need to get done today.  Just leave them on my desk.  I will not want to be disturbed until it is finished.”

Obediently, Dorothy again advised the parents that Trudy would be along shortly, and offered tea or coffee as a peace offering.  “These parents have taken time out of their own busy schedule,”  she thought, shaking her head at her superior’s lack of courtesy.  Then she proceeded to complete the other tasks Trudy had given her, sending a quick message home to let her husband know she’d be late again today – no time to get to her own work.

Glancing up at the clock, she noted that there were ten more minutes before the changing of classes.  Dorothy would have test-takers, and some independent workers for period two, and she might be able to get through a few files.

She’d no sooner thought it, when a tall, slightly stooped boy appeared in her doorway.   His footwear caught her attention first – work boots, caked with mud – they appeared much too big for the gangly thin body they belonged to.  The boy wore a baseball cap and a t-shirt and jeans that hung loosely about him and reeked of dirt and sweat.  He was clutching a handful of crumpled papers and well-worn paperback.

“Hi Jack!  What’s up?”

“Miss P kicked me out of class,”  he said with a shy grin.  “She told me to come here.”

Dorothy pulled a chair up beside her.  “Let me have a look at what you’re working on,”  she invited.

Flattening out the papers, Dorothy noted that the pages lacked visible work.  “Are you supposed to complete each of these?”  she asked.

“Yep.”     Jack’s shoulders slouch a little more.  He doesn’t look at her.

“Jack, when was this work due?”

“Two weeks ago.  Miss P said I do it today or get zero.”

Dorothy tries to recollect any previous conversations with Miss P. about Jack.  How had this missed her?  She tries to keep on top of all her special needs children, and while Jack usually manages to stay under the radar, she had neglected to check.

“I apologize, Jack.  I had no idea you were having trouble.  Let’s see what we can do. Have you read the book yet?”

“No,”  Jack’s voice was tired – he’d been down this road before.  “You know I hate to read!”

Dorothy took the paperback from Jack.  “I know this book,”  she said enthusiastically.  “It’s actually not that bad.”

“Yea,”  Jack agreed.  “I read a bit of it.  It seems okay.”

The report Jack needed to complete was his final project for the class.  It would be worth twenty percent of his final grade.  Jack needed it to pass the class.  Dorothy looked at the pile of incomplete work.

“Pick one worksheet, and lets get started at lunch,” she advised Jack.  “I’ll read and you can answer the questions.”  Meantime, she’d talk to Jack’s teacher.  Jack was just one of the many students Dorothy saw in a day – students who ran the risk of falling through the cracks.

As the bell rang, Trudy came rushing through the room headed for her office.  “That was a waste of time!”  she remarked in passing, “I’ll be in my office.”

Dorothy stared at the closed door and wondered if anything important had been discussed that she should know about, however; the room quickly filled with students and her attention was dragged elsewhere.

Lunch came, and Dorothy and Jack settled into the back room with his book and papers.

“This question asks you to link a personal experience to something you read about in the book,”  she explained to Jack.  “Is there any part in the chapter we just read that you can relate to?”

“Totally,”  Jack’s response surprised her.  “You know the part where she talks about how she doesn’t know how she’ll ever learn to deal with the abuse at home?  I can relate to that!  Not abuse at home, but I’ve seen things that I wonder if I’ll ever get over.”

“Okay,”  Dorothy answers trying to hide her surprise.  “Let’s write about it.”

Jack, it turns out, was a volunteer fire fighter for the small community he lived in.  “I remember the first time I got called out to a car accident,”  he told Dorothy.  “The guy was dead.  To see at that blood and guts really shook me up.  We got some counselling, but I can’t ever get used to it.”

“You still volunteer?”

“Oh yeah.  It’s an important job.  Not everybody can do it.”

“I’m sure they can’t,”  Dorothy thought, seeing Jack in a whole new light.

“Can I see you in my office, now!” Trudy’s voice startled her.  “What are you doing in there?”

“Working with Jack.  Miss P sent him.”

“She also sent explicit instructions that we are not to do his work for him!”  Trudy scolded.  She showed Dorothy the email she’d received that very morning.

“Jack continues to be a problem in class, arriving late, not completing his work, and failing to demonstrate a willingness to comply.  I am sending him to you as one last chance.  It is important that Jack complete this work on his own to demonstrate his capability.  Please let him work in your room, but do not coach him in anyway.”

Dorothy’s heart sank.  “I just think that Jack is misunderstood,”  she started.

“Dorothy, you must be careful not to overstep your boundaries.  Jack has had plenty of chances, I don’t want you doing any more.”

“Well,”  Dorothy, who usually complied with Trudy’s wishes, was not willing to bend when it came to her students best interests.  “We are getting somewhere.  I’ll talk to his teacher myself.”

Another teacher popped his head before Trudy could reply and Dorothy took the opportunity to slink out.

“Jack,”  she said returning to the back room.  “We are on a roll and I want this to continue.  As long as you are working, you can stay here.  I will speak to your teachers for you.”

“Thanks Miss D!”  Jack looked hopeful.  “My friend Lisa said she would help me read on her breaks.”

Dorothy gave him a thumbs up as she headed towards his teacher’s classroom.

“She’s a useless piece of meat!”  Trudy’s voice boomed from her office.  Dorothy stopped in her tracks.  “Well, for one thing, she’s over fifty.  And she gives the student’s one on one attention, who’s got time for that!  I’m running out of patience here.”

Dorothy felt her own shoulders slouch.  Trudy’s phone conversation was disheartening.  It didn’t matter what Dorothy did, Trudy seemed to to disapprove.  She pushed on.  She and Jack had made a connection today, and Jack was making progress.  She refused to turn away now.

Just as she headed out the door, Miss P appeared.

“I’ve come to collect Jack’s work,”  she announced.  “You haven’t been helping him have you?”

“Hi P!”  Trudy emerged from her office.  “Come on in.  We were just talking about Jack.”

“I am so frustrated with that boy!”  Miss P exclaimed.  “He’s useless.”

Useless!  There was that word again.  Dorothy looked at her colleagues – young, smart, stylish – and the rage began to build up in her.

“I’m sorry,” she blurted, “but he is not useless! Do you know that young boy volunteers to save lives.”

“That’s nice, Dorothy, but it doesn’t get his school work done.”

“We are getting his school work done!”  Dorothy continued.  “Jack and I are making progress.  He needs help.  Jack has a legitimate learning disability and he has the right to help.  And if you don’t like that take it to the Board!”

Trudy and Miss P, shocked at this outburst, were momentarily speechless.

“Furthermore, that boy has witnessed more than all of us put together, and he may not like reading, but his heart is in the right place.  And that dear ladies, is what I would call true merit.  Jack not only deserves, but will get my help.”

Dorothy turned on her heels and walked out before she said more.

“Fine!”  Miss P yelled after her, “But I’m docking him marks for lateness.”





Day 221 “The Soft Overcomes the Hard”

I learned about love from movies, and novels, and my parents’ marriage.

Love Story etched in my heart the message that true love endures hardship, and illness, and even death.

Wuthering Heights taught me that love can be dark and punishing, but it is inevitable: not to be ignored.

These were stories of passion and romance, and I yearned for that feeling from the age of eleven.

My parents taught me about the kind of love I wanted to avoid: love born of convenience, fraught with oppression, fear, and denial. “He loves me in his own way,” my mother would say, and I despised her for being weak.

“You are waiting for your white knight to come and rescue you,” one of my high school friends told me. “It’s never going to happen.” Her words stung. I was too young to see the faults in my own brand of idealism.

I married the first chance I got. He was classically handsome, loved to dance, and girls flocked to be around him. I couldn’t believe he was mine. We were nineteen. When the pale pinks and blues of our wedding day faded, reality set in. Unable to hold down a job, my charmer slept till two o’clock each afternoon, then moved from bed to couch, where he consumed packs of cigarettes and watched television. He seldom came to the marital bed, but when he did, he made it clear that it was my fault he stayed away – he despised me. “Life is so easy for you,” he would lament. Working two jobs and running our household did not feel easy to me, and I told him so. The marriage was over before our second wedding anniversary.

“You couldn’t keep it up,” my friend told me. “You were burning out.”

My second husband swept me off my feet with sweet talk and limousine rides. “I don’t want to just live with somebody,” he told me. I interpreted that as a proposal, although he never actually said the words: Marry Me. We’d stay awake for hours and talk about our dreams, and before I could blink we were living together, then married, and having children. He was in a hurry, you see, to ‘have it all’ before he turned thirty. I didn’t see just how convenient I was.

The courtship ended once we were married, and I soon felt very alone, tending house and children. “At least he’s not abusive,” I’d tell myself. “Could be worse.” Even though I couldn’t see it, I was doing the dance my mother taught me, denying that something was missing. I wanted so much for love to work, to be a real thing, that I was a part of, and he played on that, telling me how “if I’d been more loving”, I would be something that I was not. In the end, when he left me, I was convinced that I was not good enough for love.

“You were dying inside,” my friend kindly told me. “I watched your spirit dwindle away.”

I grieved, then raged, but eventually found level ground, where, for the first time in my life I considered loving myself. It was a broken relationship, for sure, and I had to start with simple things, such as: What did I like to eat?

Through therapy, I realized that in trying to avoid my parents relationship, I had actually just recreated a different version. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck!

Loving myself, I decided would be the opening for true love to enter my life. So I played a game with myself, a game I called: What would it feel like?
I bought myself flowers, and allowed myself to feel the simple pleasure that such a gesture offered. When responsibility and obligation started to wear me down, I’d draw a bubble bath and pour myself a glass of wine, imagining that this is what love would do: offer solace rather than complaints. I even went as far as to visualize what it would feel like to be truly loved, not for what I could do for another, but because I am.

Accepting myself, just the way I am, and my life along with it, brought a sense of inner peace and I stopped longing for more. Maybe, I thought, this was the love I was looking for all along.

When Thor showed up in my life, it was already full, and his presence threw me off balance. I allowed the excitement for a couple of weeks, and then, to quote him, ” I kicked him to the curb.” I didn’t need this.

And yet I did.

Curiousity got the better of me, and so I invited him back in.

“These are the ground rules,” I told him at the beginning. “We will hang out for a year and see how it goes. There will be no talk of ‘us’, and no plans for the future. After a year, we’ll see how it goes.”

“What you see, is what you get.” Thor shrugged. “I am afraid I’m pretty vanilla.”

With Thor’s compliance, a friendship began to take shape, as well as a genuine, mutual, fondness. Most importantly, with Thor, I felt appreciated and acknowledged.

We married in a small, personal ceremony, exchanging our own, heartfelt vows. And on our honeymoon night, as I crawled into his open arms, he uttered the words that summed up all my years of searching:

“Let me be your soft place to land. No matter what life throws at you, or how harsh life can be, know that coming home will always be safe.”

Day 212 “Dharma”

“Let’s start by completing this reading and writing survey,” I suggested to the tall, lanky young man who had recently been placed in my care. Uncertain as to whether or not he had any literacy skills, I offered to read over the lists with him. “We’ll place a check mark beside any or all that apply.”

“Sure thing, Mrs. E.” Mark gave me that charming smile that he was famous for. Although his criminal record was longer than his academic one, Mark was a very likeable young man.

“Which of the following do you read? Magazines?”

“Sometimes. Motorcycle ones mostly.”

“Good.” I wrote that down.


“Not so much. I’d rather watch it on t.v.”

“I’d have to agree. Letters? This must be an old list….” I started to apologize.

“Oh no! I read letters all the time.”

“You do?” I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d received a letter. “Who writes to you?”

“My boy, Ace.”


“Yeah, he’s serving time for assault.”

“Do you write back to him?”

“Of course. We’re tight, Ace and me. He’s like a brother. I’ve known Ace since we was kids.”

Good to know. Mark has literacy skills. I checked off letters under the writing column.

Hovering over the journal box, I asked if he ever wrote a diary or journal.

“I’d like to,” Mark said, “but who would ever want to read what I have to write.”

It was the opening I needed to hook Mark into learning. I was charged with helping Mark obtain a credit in English and Math. Math was easy, as he liked the subject and demonstrated a natural ability; so English was the challenge. We decided that Mark would read a memoir and I would construct relevant writing exercises that would form the basis for Mark’s own personal blog / journal. Mark and I were both excited about the prospect.

What ensued were many hours of heart to heart talks. Mark, the youngest child of a broken home, had been left to his own devices at an early age. He stop attending school in the seventh grade and quickly began to wander with a rough crowd. He confessed that he really did want to turn his life around, but that he didn’t know how. I advised him that while change was possible it would be hard, and might mean a purging of relationships.

“My boys are my family, Mrs. E.” he explained. “Whenever I’ve needed anything, they are the ones I turn to.”

I understood, but I also knew that if Mark was to truly make changes, his friends would have to go.

“Ace is isn’t really his name, you know,” Mark said to me one day out of the blue. “It’s his gang handle. I have one too.”

“You know, Mark, if you sat your gang down, individually, and asked them whether or not they’d like to change their lives, I suspect half would say they did and the other half would be sociopaths.”

“You are right about that, Mrs. E. Take Ace for instance. He comes from a good home; his mom is a professional, and quite successful. His dad is never around, which was part of the problem, but his stepdad’s a good head. He just got off on the wrong foot because of his colour.”

As Mark continued to talk, Ace’s story began to sound all too familiar.

“Wait a minute, Mark. I think I know Ace…or his mother at least.”

He told me Ace’s name and my heart sunk. “I knew Ace as a young man. I knew his mother very well, and admire her deeply. Next time you write to Ace, you let him know I’m thinking about him, and his family.”

I left school that day with a very heavy heart, my last conversation with Ace’s mother echoing through my mind.

“I don’t know what to do,” she cried into the phone. “The police just won’t leave him alone. It’s racial profiling.”

I couldn’t believe what she was saying to me. I didn’t want to. Our city, in these times, capable of racial profiling. That didn’t happen in Canada, did it?

I didn’t hear from my dear friend again after that conversation. Our lives took on different directions, and even though I dropped her a line years later, she didn’t respond. I was beginning to understand why. Her baby was in jail doing time for assault.

“He didn’t do it, Mrs. E!” Mark had tried to reassure me.

Somehow, I believed him. But the story continues to haunt me all the same. Could I have done something different?
Did I let my friend down in her time of need because of my own ignorance.

One thing I know for certain: the world is made up of many interconnecting circles, and sooner or later, what we’ve left behind will catch up with us in one way or another.

Learn from me: Take care of each other in the moment. You don’t know how far-reaching your actions will be.

Day 207 “Discovering Your Purpose”

Yesterday, my husband lost all of the contacts on his computer, frustrating him immensely as it represents decades of business contacts, all friends, family, and commonly accessed services. In their place was a list of contacts from someone in the New Orleans area. Late into the night, Thor worked to restore the list.

Then this morning, we were awoken by a phone call, checking to see if he was okay. An email had gone out to everyone, marked “Urgent” and asking for money as he was “stranded in Italy.”

By the time we figured out what was happening, the phone was ringing incessantly, and texts and emails were flooding both our cellphones. It was overwhelming to say the least.

In the midst of this calamity came an email from a former employee of Thor’s saying he had tried to get through to the number in Italy, but was having trouble. He sent his cell number so Thor could contact him. Our initial reaction was disbelief that people would fall for this sham. Especially John, who Thor had not seen for decades, but whom he described as extremely bright.

“Why would he even thing you would ask him for money?” I wanted to know.

Thor called John and thanked him for his concern. It had actually happened to his daughter, he explained. She had been stranded overseas and needed to put a call out for money, so he didn’t like to take chances. Then they caught up on life since the last time they’d talked.

“It’s been way too long,” Thor told him as they ended the conversation. “Let’s do lunch soon.”

“Isn’t that nice that he would go out of his way after all these years.” We both agreed it was. More than nice. Heartwarming.

More messages came and a neighbour even came to the door, all checking that Thor was safe at home.

I know this post is supposed to be about “Discovering Your Purpose”, but purpose is that elusive promise that keeps our hearts and minds focused on anything but the here and now. I prefer, instead, to ask how can I live purposefully? How can I make each day count?

John did that today. He reached out to someone who once gave him a hand up in life, and risked appearing foolish, or worse, being defrauded, and brightened our day. He made a difference in someone’s life: small, but noticeable.

What if we all made that our purpose? To dare to help another, to extend a hand, and just say, “Are you okay?” To forget about ourselves for a moment, and the make the world a better place.

Children As Mirrors

When I think of my grandchildren – one now six months, and one on the way – my heart swells and tears fill my eyes; I love them so much.  I hope that I have extolled upon my daughters that children are a blessing to be cherished.

One thing I can tell them is that children will be their greatest teachers.  Honest, straightforward, and ever curious, children will tell it like it is, question inequities, and challenge everything.  Like little parrots, children repeat what they hear, and mimic gestures and behaviours.  They will also reflect the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My moment of revelation about how intrinsically linked mothers and children are came when performing therapeutic touch on the mother of a boy with severe autism.  His constant spinning and screaming was a source of anxiety for the young mother seeking my help.  She had hoped I could calm him, however; he was not receptive to staying still, so I offered her a treatment instead.  Amazingly, as soon as the mother began to relax, so too did her son.

All the way home, I thought of my own children, and questioned how many times their anxiety or distress was merely a reflection of my own emotional imbalance.  Over time, I had to admit there was a definite link.  If I would return home tired and distraught, that would be the time my children were acting up.  If I was feeling happy and positive, the children would reflect that back.

In therapeutic touch we have an analogy that the therapist is like a tuning fork:  when s/he is centered and grounded then the client can follow suit.  The same goes for children.

Another way of looking at this, is that children are mirrors for their parents.  When my oldest, Marie, is being impulsive, she is reflecting my own tendencies.  When Ester is feeling anxious, or John is burdened by being overly introspective, they are exhibiting the very traits I myself struggle with.  The challenge for me, as parent, is to a) take ownership of my shortcomings, and b) work to heal them so that my children can do the same.

Children are teachers because they offer us the opportunity and the incentive to become better people.

Grandchildren teach us how to fall in love all over again.

I’m so glad I enrolled in the school of parenting!