Monthly Archiv: October, 2013

Dental reflections

I hate the dentist. It isn’t personal. I hate all dentists, but since I’ve had the same one for almost twenty years, I suppose it’s possible that she could get confused. I remember when I was eight and my mother took me to the doctor to have plantar warts removed from my feet. The doctor used liquid nitrogen to burn them off. It hissed and smoked and hurt. My mother thought I should be grateful but grateful I was not. I would stare at the top of his head, bent over torturing my feet, and I would hate him with everything in me. Even at eight, I understood that I was being irrational, but the knowledge did nothing to change how I felt. Away from him, I could say he might be a good man. In his presence, I despised him and clung desperately to mental images of myself hitting him with a baseball bat or kicking him over and sizzling part of him with his own torture device.

I have progressed very little in my relationship with my dentist. The last time I visited her, I told her that it was quite difficult to like her, given the amount of misery she caused me. I expected that she would take this tongue in cheek. It is not the kind of thing that adults say to each other in earnest. The fact that it was technically true was to me a very private matter.

This week I had to go back to the dentist for a marathon two hour appointment to get a crown put on. Somehow it came up that she had taken my pretend/real admission rather personally. I can’t remember how it was that she communicated this unfortunate piece of information. What I remember is that I then had to force myself to be warm and appreciative for two hours, while drooling and being simultaneously poked, pushed, prodded, and gagged.  Attempts to make up for hurting her feelings instead of quietly hating her, came at such effort as to make the whole thing an odd kind of religious experience of an intensity I do not often experience. Smiling and friendliness (in the brief moments of respite when my mouth was free of her meddling) cost me something. I left feeling tired but different. I was grateful for the grace that came, but I didn’t want any more of it very soon.

Still, I wonder about ramifications. Having softened to the human behind the evil metal dentistry tools, I am stuck wondering about the what if. What if there is something be said for being human to people who hurt me . . . or at least trying?

Costume update

So Mr. 13 is bowing out of the celebrations this year. I got involved in the brainstorming last night with the girls. Ms. 5 was adamant that they wanted to be something scary. Ms. 8 listed off all the scary things they could think of, which would, incidentally, have given them nightmares about each other for a week. Luckily, they went to bed cheerfully diverted. Not sure what the forecasted rain will do to their plan to be professional violinists . . . but really I am only posting on this because of Mr. 10.

The formerly mad scientist announced yesterday that he was going either as a ninja or a spy. Both seemed to involve track pants and a hoodie pulled down over his head. From there the general malaise deepened. I offered suggestions. My husband heard the ten or so rejections and came down to try and help as well. I thought he and I were rather persuasive on the merits of being, a) one of the men in black, b) a s’more or c) Indiana Jones.  A and C involved inquisition from Mr. 10, followed by excitement and enthusiasm about how he could pull it off. A lot of time later, still no decision. Exasperated, I give Mr. 10 one minute to make a decision – because how hard is it to choose between a man in black, Indiana Jones, a ninja, or spy?

“Got it!” he said thirty seconds later. Sly grin. Arms folded across chest. “I’m going to be an Egyptian Writer.”

Come again?

Mr. 10 has a bacteria infested very large and perfect feather that he found in the field this summer. For some reason, I had not thought of a costume based on this.  The Egyptian Writer plans to have his feather and a scroll covered in hieroglyphics . He will be sporting the flesh coloured pants from the hand-me-down bag that we have marvelled over but never worn. He also plans to fashion an Egyptianish toga type covering for his top half out of the blue sheet that ripped en route to the wash last week.

The boy brings new meaning to that whole verse about being in the world but not of it.

Tailless (as in without a tail)

B2 brought home a list from school yesterday. He was supposed to write down ways that he was unique. The capitalized darkened sentence midway down the page caught my eye. “I am short and proud of it,” it read. The sentence before said, “I have a chicken named Tailless.” I remembered that I was remiss in writing about County Road 21, if I failed to write about Tailless.

In my perfect world, I would always be able to look out the window and see a chicken. Due to the effect on the driveway, my husband does not agree. I go in spurts leaving the coop door open anyway until the foxes catch on. The summer they got 14, we kept the chickens in for more than a year. Then this summer I started letting them out again. At first, strictly as a Sabbath observance. But the need for Sabbath grew until the chickens were out whenever the wind blew.

Foxes, observing the extended Sabbath struck again. They got three and a third chickens in one afternoon – which is when Tailless got her name. She took over sitting on the eggs all day for so long we thought she would never leave. B2 started disappearing into the chicken coop at odd times and taking five times as long to collect the eggs. Turns out he had fallen in love with Tailless and was hand feeding her grain, and stealing her scraps from the house.

“I need money,” he announced one day. “Do you have any work I can do?”

“What for?”

“I want to buy a chicken. It can live with the rest of them, but it has to be mine. Would you sell me one?”

“Ok,” I said.

“How much would a chicken cost me anyway? Tailless. How much would you charge me for Tailless?”

“Two dollars,” I said and his eyes lit up.

“I have that much on my dresser right now!”  He tore up the stairs to his room and returned with a toonie. He handed it to me and we shook hands. Then he was gone.

Twenty minutes later, while I was making dinner, he returned from the chicken coop to talk shop.

“It feels so good to own something,” he said, hands shoved in his pockets, standing by the kitchen counter. “I went and told Tailless she was mine. It just feels so good, Mom.” And he was gone again.

IMG_2246                                                   IMG_2249


Image one is a sleepy Tailless wondering why I am in the coop at night. I cropped it in usual techno challenged fashion to give a better view of her altered shape.  Her tail has actually grown back quite a bit. Image two is her in action this morning whereby I learned again that photographing chickens (tailless or otherwise) is quite difficult, as they are always in motion.

Unholiday p.s.

This year the ten year old has been invited to trick or treat with a friend in town. I wonder if that will change things. He is merrily collecting items to transform himself into a mad scientist. What people in town will think, I don’t know. I am denying my urge to rush to Walmart and fix it before it breaks because there’s nothing wrong, and everything right with this boy combing our house and garage and work bench for props.  Currently, my mad little scientist would only be happier if he was going as a piece of poop or a fart.

Impending unholiday

My annual dread is fast approaching. Before the kids went to school, I solved it by turning off the lights and playing games in the basement to end October. Since then we have 1) ignored the non-holiday in other ways 2) dressed up and gone out to get ridiculous amounts of candy from people who are obviously very insecure about seeming cheap.

Halloween seems so overblown to me that I feel the need to wave the flag of moderation . . . but really is it candy and costumes that drive me crazy.

On candy, my children eat freely the first night and can only get through a tenth of it at most. They don’t want it for days after that . . . then what?  How am I supposed to sleep at night thinking about their little immune systems processing all that sugar, cavities forming in triple time. What happened to getting ONE piece of candy at a door? Or an apple?

On costumes, I love kids dressing up, but nobody does that. Everywhere, people are wearing freshly purchased costumes that will rip quickly and end up in the trash. Occasionally, someone is wearing something hand sewn by Grandma or Aunt Betty, but no one, I mean, no one, is wearing a costume imagined, designed, and assembled by the actual child wearing it.- – – Ok, there are four of them . . . but they are all mine. If Halloween was about creativity and pretending, I would be there. Handing out whole wheat, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in moderation, but I would be there.

Instead, it is all so plastic. Buy, get, need, want, gotta have . . . more candy, slicker costumes

Sometimes I wish someone would tell my kids how much they don’t get it. How much their costumes look so extremely homemade by 8 and 10 year olds, with touch ups from a 5 & 13 year old . . . Then I could say forget it and stay home. But no one has said a word. Old ladies and farmers have complimented the get-ups and asked for explanations. All parties seem pleased with the interchanges I can’t quite hear from the car.

I live with children who have yet to notice much beyond the beautiful of the world around them and I’m not sure it’s time to change that. The possibility of expanding their audience once a year to showcase their creations to complete and total strangers delights them. The fact that I throw away their candy slowly over weeks irritates them but not enough to diminish the joy of one of three days in the year when I declare, “CANDY FREE-ZONE,” for a few hours. I assure you that those words are danced to as wildly as any tribal dance anywhere.

Further to earlier Good vs. Evil post

Apparently my post this morning was clearer than mud but just barely. This is sad commentary if anyone knew how much time I spent trying to say it right, but I digress . . .

The point of the fruit that I didn’t want to throw out was that in the middle of a day, thinking about nothing in particular, and wishing to foist those second class grapes on my son, I realized something. Most days I do not spend a lot of time considering whether or not I should steal a car, or if it would be ok to vandalize the lawns of people who irritate me. On the flip side, I don’t seem to be being asked to sell all I own and move to South America, or to start my own charity by raising chickens for food banks. (Of course, I have seriously considered most of the above but that is a side note.)  Sitting there looking at those grapes, I realized that a lot of my choices are as simple and boring as whether or not I’m willing to take second best . . . in order to let someone who often doesn’t even know the difference have the very best.

If this still is not clear, I accept sympathies and just trust me that the grapes helped me think straight about what I think matters. (Even if they failed to make me talk straight.)

Good versus Evil

G1 (girl one – blame my husband, he started it so we wouldn’t have to spell when they were little) does not eat her grapes for lunch on Thursday. Excellent. I resend them on Friday. My job is to mark, “check,” on the mental list requiring me to provide healthy lunches.  I mark check. Grapes return as expected.

To the chickens or the fridge? I ask myself.

Nasty North American, there is nothing wrong with those grapes.

I put them in the fridge. North American digs can be very persuasive.

Saturday, G2 asks for grapes. Triumph. G2 is so busy being happy all the time I could feed her almost anything. Smiling, I remove tupperware of grapes from fridge, re-rinsing for extra love and set them by her place.

G2 leaves without touching a grape. She accidentally got too full on the carrots and cucumbers.

Fresh, clean, lovely grapes are put out in a bowl for guests who do not eat them. B1 swoops in quickly. “Mind if I have some grapes?”

Victory from the ashes. Problem solved. My hand reaches for the grapes in the Tupperware. I start to explain that these need to be eaten first.

And then I close my mouth. I realize that I want him to eat the grapes that were pulled off the stems on Thursday morning, and travelled back and forth to school twice so that I don’t have to. The grapes were probably not touched by a booger picker, but the possibility remains that they could have been. Possibly even more than once. Potential booger fragments in a cozy warm lunch pail, now little invisible armies all over the grapes.

Chicken food? I ask myself again meekly.

But I do not want to be a nasty North American who is too good to eat perfectly good food which probably does not have boogers on it. This is why I need my son to eat them.

I sit there staring at B1, who no doubt wonders about how much concentration is going into his request for grapes. Sitting in between two containers of grapes, I feel like I am in the woods watching the two roads diverge into the yellow woods. In the struggle, I am forgetting to breathe.

“Ok,” I say.

I get up and wash the old grapes one more time. I eat them, while watching B1 consume the whole bowl of good grapes. I am strangely content.

Getting home

Last fall I got lost in the woods and swamps near where we live. With light fading, and the realization that my children would soon arrive home to an empty house, I left the bike I had been stubbornly carrying through the swamps beside a tree. I knew I would never see it again. I needed to get home and not much else mattered.

I do not have an innate sense of direction and rarely know which way is north. I could see the sun setting in the west, but as I had no idea where I was, it didn’t tell me which way to go. All I could be sure about was that by going in one direction (as opposed to circles) I would eventually hit a road. Once on a road, I would know finally know the way home.

Recently, I found myself rather irritated by another human being and in a position where my opinion about this human was being sought. (Due to my lack of patience and an unfortunate deficit of inborn humility, I am ashamed to say that this feeling of personal disdain for other people is something that have a good deal of experience with.) Human mentioned above had not been terribly thoughtful or pleasant in their interactions with me. Better words to describe their approach to me would be along the lines of dismissive, condescending, and largely oblivious to me as a fellow traveller on the highway of life.

I was justified, and therefore longed to spell out in clipped. King’s. Best. English. my. insights. about. the. nasty. human. Unfortunately, I had to admit to myself that the human seemed hurting, and that the hurt might be driving the harshness of the public persona. This has been me also, in other places. I grudgingly wondered if a small amount of mercy were in order. Secondly, and a far from noble reality, I worried that if the person asking my opinion didn’t share my views, that my negative reactions might be reflected back at me, rather than the human who really DESERVED them. I went with soft truthful but gentle. No accusations attached.

I got a note back thanking me and saying that my response had been charitable. It caught me off guard. Even if I got there for not all the right reasons, was it true? I felt like I was sitting with that word charitable floating in the air in front of me. I couldn’t stop looking. I still can’t.

I have begun to wonder what it would be like if I were to become someone who was charitable. If being well defended from the enemies of people who misunderstand me, is actually a missed opportunity to be the kind of person I would very much like to be.

Charitable isn’t the road I thought I was looking for. But there’s a clear path through the trees. No bells. No whistles. No gold stars on a chart. Just a way home, if  I’ll take it.

Birthday Girl

Dear Birthday Girl,

When you were born, I was so afraid I was shaking. Outside I was smiling but inside I was scared down to the deepest parts of me. I wondered if God had made a mistake – not about you, just about letting me be your mom. I wanted you so much the words for wanting you couldn’t get out without closing up my throat and coming out in a whisper. But you were a girl.  And a girl was me. And I didn’t have any idea how to be someone that you would want to grow up to be like.

You took care of that part, being so much yourself that I didn’t have to worry about you trying to be like me, I just had to love you. And that was easy.

I’m glad I got that little jean jacket outfit for you when you were a baby. Otherwise, I would have never seen what my kind of clothes looked like on you.  As soon as you could walk and open drawers, you tore off anything you didn’t like. Only the frilly stuff stayed on, so I could dress you in what you loved or find you playing naked and search the premises for whatever reject outfit I’d chosen.

Here’s a picture of my favourite present you ever gave me. You made it for me when you were about five, wrapped in tissue paper in a box and you danced while I opened it.

“You’re going to love it. I made it myself.” And then leaping and pointing. “See! It’s a rosary. There’s the beads. And the cross. I got it off the bottom of a toy car. I couldn’t believe it. Doesn’t it look just like a cross?”

Eventually, when summer came and the sun got hot on my dresser, I found out that you had used molasses for the glue to hold it all together. Three years later, the top of the coffee lid  medallion is still sticky. It was too perfect to change so I didn’t.

So much you have taught me, my curious, artsy, feminine, non-conformist.



Plastic coffee lid rosary