Monday, August 23, 2010

Abandoning Hope. . . .

I have to do a little bit of redecorating in my bedroom. Two years ago when we moved into this house, I got to decorate my bedroom exactly how I wanted it. For the past 20 years or so, my decore choices had been tempered by Renfrew's opinion. But this time, the only person I needed to consult on paint colour and fabric was me. I went with a pale sea green and adorned my walls with inspirational words and dragonflies.

One of the wall words is 'HOPE'. You know:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all. . (E. Dickinson)

Hope, what was left in the box after Pandora did the mythical equivalent of pushing the red, do not push, button.

The problem with Hope is that it leaves room for doubt that things will work out as they are meant to. Hope is based on a belief that the Universe is NOT unfolding as it should. Hope is limiting.

Over the past few years, I have been studying a spiritual program called A Course In Miracles (the "Course"). The premise of the Course is that ALL unhappiness and misery comes from a false belief that we are separate from each other and the Universe. In Reality (with a capital "R") each of us is part of an organic and Divine wholeness that is what some call God. To get to what Christians call Heaven, Hindu's call Nirvana, Muslims call Jannah and Buddhists see as escaping Samsara, all we need to do is to 'remember' who we truly are.

This 'remembering' and the reunification of the Divine is inevitable . . . LOVE always wins. The question is, of course, whether it happens sooner or later. But even that isn't really true; since time, as Albert Einstein so correctly observed, is an artificial construct to keep everything from happening at once.

I was blessed to have been raised by a Mother who allowed and encouraged me to see the connectedness in everything around me. This Life, she taught me, was a classroom and my Soul was here willingly to learn lessons that would allow it to grow and mature. The Course has built on this foundation with the principle that EVERY interaction with another soul is part of my Soul's curriculum. Nothing is a coincidence.

Anyway, back to Trust v. Hope.

Looking back over my forty-some years, I see that a fixation on HOPE has messed me up. It kept me doing things in my life that clearly were NOT working with the belief that the next time it would work. I spent uncountless days focused on the future I was hoping for, believing I knew better than the Divine what I needed. This living in the 'hope' kept me from seeing the gems of wisdom and truth that were right in front of me in the NOW. It kept me from seeing the lessons that were presented to me.

So, I am turning toward TRUST. Learning to be in the "I don't know" moments when I am presented with a seemingly bad life event. Trusting that the Divine knows what I need to learn and trusting, even more, that the lesson is there and I need only ask that the lesson be shown to me.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I ate, I prayed, I loved . . .

Translating a book from the printed word to the screen is not an easy task. I remember about ten years ago listening to the 10 year old daughter of friend arguing with one of her classmates about the possibility of turning the Harry Potter series into a movie. Her position was that was beyond a bad idea because having "real" images would limit the imagination which is limitless (she was a smarty then, still is. . ). When I learned that a movie was being made of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, I was a bit leery.

This book is close to my soul for a number of reasons, not the least of which that it was what I was reading the weekend my life turned to chaos in 2007. The day Renfrew and I had agreed it was time to pull the escape cord on our marriage, I picked a copy of it up in Chapters. Honestly, I did not handle the separation really well. I have 'quit' a lot of things in my lifetime --> choir, band, Math 30, to name but a few - - but my marriage was the one thing I never envisioned quitting. Even then, I saw our separation as temporary. Give the husband some time to sow the wild oats he didn't get out of his system before we met and then he'd come to his senses.

We met at our marriage counselor's office with the plan being to calmly discuss the way we would disassemble our life. Somewhere between my office and the counselors, I lost 'it'. The only thing I was capable of saying was: "You want this. You deal with it. The Pumpkin is out of school at 3, remember to pick her up."

For the next 48 hours, I hid at my friend's house alternating between laughing, crying and praying. Renfrew had 'helpfully' phoned a number of my friends to tell them we were pulling the plug on our ailing marriage. People I had not spoken to in months were phoning. I talked to some. My dear friend ran interference with others. I was just plain tired - - not unlike Liz Gilbert on the floor of her bathroom sobbing and asking God, politely for help. By Sunday morning, I felt almost human. Almost.

I stopped for breakfast and then headed to my Mom's apartment to break the news to her. She knew our marriage was in trouble, we had talked about Renfrew's disillusionment with marriage and with my anger at his lack of commitment. I had tried to call her but had gotten no answer and assumed she was out at the casino with one of her friends.

As I rounded the last corner to her apartment door, I saw the newspapers. Several days worth stacked in front of the door. I knew before I turned my key in the lock what I would find. My Mom was gone, just as my marriage was. They say timing is everything and this clearly was not how I would have planned such things. Honestly, this type of double whammy is what a Nicholas Sparks' book is made of. . . one of the ones that make even the most devoted romantics roll their eyes.

But there it was. My life. Change was being thrust upon me whether I was ready or not.

The words of Elizabeth Gilbert spoke to my broken heart and banged up spirit. Her journey around the world to find herself and God helped me to see that the only way past the hurt was through it. I set about phoning my siblings -- I am the youngest of six. By evening, we were all sitting around our mother's apartment talking through what would come next. The end of my marriage became an afterthought that week. "My Mom has died and the funeral is Thursday. Oh, and Renfrew and I are separating."

After the dust settled, I looked around and realized I needed to find my way in the world and the universe. Prayer was easy . . . I am a word girl. In fact, God and I have had many, many deep conversations over the past several years. I know when I'm on the right path because almost magically obstacles turn into opportunities. The Universe whispers 'yes' and a sense of peace arrives.

Meditation. . . that is a bit more of a challenge. I borrowed the advice of Liz Gilbert's Richard from Texas to help me sort out my feisty monkey mind. When Liz comments that she argues with herself when she tries to mediate, Richard tells her: "That's just your ego, trying to make sure it stays in charge. This is what your ego does. It keeps you feeling separate, keeps you with a sense of duality, tries to convince you that you're flawed and broken and alone instead of whole." And so, I wrestle my ego and try to ignore my monkey mind as it swings from tree to tree. I have moments of complete surrender, rapidly followed by the tumbling dominoes of whirling thought.

It has been almost three years since that weekend. My life has moved forward and I have found a deeper commitment to myself and to the Divine. I have learned to forgive and to choose love over fear. I have learned to practice forgiveness and kindness in my daily life. Friends observe that I don't get rattled by much anymore.

My Mom, while gone from this world, walks beside me and I feel her presence everyday. I see her in my child as she grows into an independent young woman. I hear her in my own voice -- her words are the wise and patient ones.

God is here too . . . not the patriarchal, anthropomorphic bearded man-god of my childhood sitting in judgment waiting to punish his children. No, the God that fills my soul with hope and love is everything and everywhere. I see God in many places: the face of my daughter, the rainbow after a summer storm, between the lines of a really good mystery novel, in the worn face of a homeless man. God, as I experience Him, is a cheerleader and champion for His children who lives the message of Corinthians by not keeping track of our wrongs, but rejoicing in the right.

The screen adaptation of Eat, Love, Pray is a visual kaleidoscope. And, while I had my doubts about Julia Roberts ability to morph into Liz Gilbert, she pulls it off. The supporting cast rise to the challenge of the rawness of the material. The 'transitional' boyfriend, David, is just impish and charming enough; and Ketut, the medicine man is beyond perfect. Billy Crudup's besot and confused portrayal of Stephen, the husband Liz leaves is sad and believable. (I used to be a divorce lawyer, trust me when I say I witnessed those type of 'negotiations' a multitude of times over the years.)

It was easy for me to visual the Italy part of her journey. I may not have been there, but the scenic vistas are the stuff of travel brochures. But India, and Bali. The ashram in India came alive and I could almost hear the mosquitoes buzzing around my head. The beauty of the Hindu wedding took me back to another wedding I attended over 20 years ago and, yes, it is as amazing and beautiful as portrayed. Bali was beyond anything I could have imagined on my own, despite Liz Gilbert's rich text.

Yes, it is a wonderful journey. I say pack lightly and tag along. . .

Sunday, August 8, 2010

This past weekend I spent the better part of two days with a group of people I spent 13 years with what seems like a lifetime ago. It was my 30th (yes, people three-zero) high school reunion. Most of us started kindergarten together under the tutelage of Mrs. Hamilton in a converted convenience store and graduated from CHS 13 years later on a warm day in June, 1980.

I am the first to admit that my school years were NOT the best years of my life. If my high school years had been a movie, I would NOT have been Ferris Buehler or one of the "Heathers". No, I was the geeky, bookish sidekick who spent a lot of time alone writing bad poetry and daydreaming about writing the great Canadian novel. Even now when I am dealing with teenagers and young adults, I promise them high school is NOT real life AND things always get better. Looking back from the crest of middle age, I can honestly say they were neither the best nor the worst years of my life. They were years that shaped and formed the woman I am today. They were the years when I cultivated friendships with women I still am proud to call my 'BFFs'. As the old saying goes: "We'll always be friends -- we know too much about each other."

In my own mind, I have re-written the high school experience I wish I'd had many times over past 3 decades. Anne Lamott wrote "Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past." I have reached a place where I see that what I experienced as painful exclusion and torment was only that because I defined it as that. I have chosen to define my past as a wonderful gift that has given me insight into the pain of others so that I can help guide them get through to the other side. The Course in Miracles has taught me that we are all innocent children of God, and that hurtful, pain causing acts come from a place of pain and fear. If spending 20 plus years counseling people in difficult life situations has taught me nothing else, it has taught me that each of us has a story and those who 'hurt' others are themselves deeply hurting. I wish I'd known that when I was fifteen.

I have now made peace with the childhood experience that really 'was'. I gave up all expectations and judgment of those I once viewed with fear and suspicion and trekked back to my hometown for the reunion. Seriously, it wasn't much of a trek, I only live 70 kilometres away. That being said, it is a different world defined more now by the time that has passed since that handful of years that spanned my transition from child to woman.

Over the course of the two days, at least half of our graduating class attended some part of the event. Some had come vast distances, combining visits to family with the old school memory trip. Oddly enough, many of my classmates still live in our hometown - - a few even teach at our old schools. Some never left. Some returned after spending years away attending school, building careers or chasing some ephemeral dream or quest. I know I speak for all my classmates when I say we are thankful to those hometowners who did the leg work to pull off the reunion.

Friday night started with a dinner where we got to sit and visit with each other. Thankfully someone pulled out nametags and a Sharpie. Once I reminded myself that I was not looking for my friends as much as I was looking for versions of their parents, I was able to connect names and faces. We have reached the point, as Joni Mitchell sings where "we look like our parents did when we were our kids age." After a Power Point presentation of old and new photos compiled by one of our more computer savvy classmates, we gathered on the stage for a group photo.

Saturday morning meant sitting on hay bales on a flatbed and being pulled through the streets of town as part of the rodeo parade. This is one tradition that has carried on through three decades of reunions. As with our last reunion, those pesky Class of 1990 kids started a water fight (or at least that's the 'official' story). Between ducking water balloons and tossing candy at the kids along the parade route we all had a lot of laughs. A few of our classmates had to be 'encouraged' to join us on the float (thanks, Rocky, for the football tackle skills you clearly haven't lost).

The day transitioned into a barbecue at the house of another classmate. Mother Nature gave us beautiful sunny weather for the afternoon. Children who were still young enough to be seen with their parents hung out and played together reminiscent of scenes from 30 plus years ago.

I honestly had been planning to head back home after the picnic and call it a weekend. But instead I did something I never did in high school -- I changed my mind and stayed for the after party at another friend's home. I was not the kid who went to parties and 'hung' out in high school. I felt too socially awkward and afraid to risk some reputation destroying faux pas. Besides I could never get my hair 'right' back then! I was happier to head out to the quiet of a local lake to fish and read. The drama of crushes and boyfriends was a foreign land for me, but I always had an available shoulder for my girlfriends when their hearts got bruised or broken.

I had also chosen to leave the dominate religion of my town when I was in grade 11. This singled me out as well. Even then I knew that my relationship with the Divine was going to be a journey filled with twists and turns. Narrow, predefined pathways did not make sense for me as I had already read enough to know that there were as many pathways to the God as their were seekers. After high school I heard some thought I was a Witch or Satanist. Guys and Gals, for the record, I do not practice Wicca but some of my best friends do AND since I see the devil as a mythical creation of the early Christian church to keep people in line through fear, I doubt I'd worship something that doesn't exist . In short, my 'religion' is kindness . . . as the Dalai Lama has said numerous times. What ever religious structure helps a person live and practice kindness everyday, that is the Truth for them; if the religious structure causes a person fear, pain and stress, well that is my definition of Hell. [That is something my Mom taught me -- she really was the smartest person I've ever known!]

Back to our evening at Ruby's. It was great to see and visit with so many old friends for a while longer. The highlight of the evening was calling one of our classmates who is struggling with the physical realities of cystic fibrosis. Shawn is and will always be part of Us . . . and we send him our love in his journey.

For those of us who have moved away from the home town, the trip back 'home' was an experience. Living so close, I actually get back several times a year. My Mother's grave is in the local cemetery and I visit her to discuss how things are going occasionally. My own niece is now the principal of the alternative school back home (yes, I'm proud of her beyond words). My eldest sister and her husband live in the house I grew up in. My grandmother's house has been sold 'out of the family' but I still drive past and can almost smell the cinnamon buns and sweet peas. I'm sure many of my classmates had similar feelings this weekend -- the Town is 'home' and yet 'not home' at the same time.

The changes in town were a frequent topic of discussion.

Kens' Confectionery, which had been a fixture from all of our earliest memories, is no longer. We all remember the bread pans filled with a variety of penny candies -- mojos, chicken bones, licorice babies, chocolate coins. The ice cream freezer (my favourite was lime sherbet). The Elephant Pink popcorn. These were the flavours of my childhood.

Our old junior high -- the EJ Woods School has been bulldozed into a vacant lot across from the high school and the current junior high has relocated to the other side of town. The high school itself has undergone major renovations and the hill we once slid down in old cardboard boxes has been truncated with the building that houses the alternative school program.

Places that were the staple of our 'hangouts' are long gone . . . restaurants that served pizza and Chinese food are long closed or morphed into other businesses. The Social Centre -- where we attended those awkward dances with flashing disco lights now houses the municipal administration offices. The 'Mall' which originally housed the A & W Restaurant is a ghost mall - with only the IGA grocery store remaining.

One hangout that was central to my childhood was the K bar B Drive-in. It was located through the block from my grandmother's house facing the highway heading to Waterton Lakes National Park. I used to walk through my grandma's lot, climb through a barbed wire fence, slip down the path next to an old grain holding elevator to reach the K bar B and the wonder of soft serve ice cream double dipped in chocolate. From the time I was in grade 1, my friends and I would trek to K bar B for summer treats. I drove by this weekend and the old drive in has been revived, renamed and continues on for another generation.

In many ways we (the class of 1980) are a snapshot of our generation -- marriages, divorces, remarriages; university degrees and college diplomas; children and (oh my) grandchildren; successes and failures -- all the bumps and bruises that mean a life lived. Many of us have buried our parents. A few have buried spouses and children -- wounds that touch us all through the web that is a shared childhood. More than a few of us have battled serious, life threatening illness, coming out the other end changed.

The reality of life and loss mean that we've lost a few classmates to the Grim Reaper. Perhaps we all felt the death of Colleen the hardest, because she was the first -- we were only one year past graduation when a car accident ended the life of a genuinely gentle and sweet soul. Her life ended before it started. Another car accident, almost 10 years later, took Darcy, one of our class's shining stars who was almost finished medical school. Illnesses have crept in grabbed members of our class while we were not looking. ALS stole Lydia when we had barely started living our adult lives. Her face smiles with curiosity and joy from the group picture of our kindergarten class my mom took one day back in 1967. Undoubtedly the next few years will reduce our numbers even more, and each loss will be like losing a uniquely coloured crayon from our box of crayolas.

The reality of our own mortality has humbled and mellowed us in a way that nothing else has. As far as I observed, we all got along and spoke kindly to each other over our short time together. We shared laughs and compared experiences raising children and living life. There were no jocks and stoners; no beauty queens and plain janes; we just WERE.

Each of us is on a journey. . . and walking together, no matter how briefly, helps remind us that, at the end of the day LOVE is all that will matter. So dear friends, I hold only LOVE for each of you, for LOVE is what we are. In the words of Sarah McLachlan:

It will be easy to look in or out
upstream or down without a thought
and if I shed a tear I won't cage it
I won't fear love
and if I feel a rage I won't deny it
I won't fear love
Peace in the struggle
to find peace
comfort on the way
to comfort
and if I shed a tear I won't cage it
I won't fear love
and if I feel a rage I won't deny it
I won't fear love
I won't fear love
I won't fear love...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Shredder Therapy

This past weekend the Pumpkin and I had a garage sale to get rid of stuff we had both individually and collectively outgrown. A vast number of the boxes of stuff were delivered to my doorstep about a year ago by Renfrew. He assesrted the boxes contained things that he just knew I could NOT do without. As I unpacked boxes to sort and price, I realized that the contents were not, as Renfrew had asserted, MY stuff. No, they are clearly jointly owned items of the daily life I left behind -- at the same time I left our joint home. My repeated assertions were clear.

Or I thought they were clear. I did not WANT or NEED any of it. He could sell it, give it away, use it, bronze it or burn it -- it was part of what I had been evicted from. Just like he ignored so many truths that were mine over the dying days of our marriage, he ignored my truth about these things as well.

Thankfully, I am now at a point in my healing where I am able to shake the negative ions from my being as I turned my attention to the boxes and their contents. Although, my mind (being the dangerous and dark neighbourhood it often is) strays into the possibility he packed these boxes up specifically to rake my heart and spirit through the coals. He carefully put together collections of items and papers that would, once again, dredge up the sick and painful ache that until relatively recently throbbed whenever I thought of the last several years of our shared life. But the more realistic voice of the woman I am becoming (I really, really like her!) shrugs off these thoughts. Clearly my dark self was giving him far too much credit in actively plotting and conspiring even to not just break my heart but render it incapable of healing. No, he didn't plan what went in these boxes - - he just ignored what went in them.

I reach for one of the more recent boxes and realize that ignore is truly the operative in this situation. His new wife packed up this stuff -- at his request and direction. Apparently both she and I were under the impression he had sorted through the olio of books, photographs, letters and other papers for what he wanted or needed. As I set aside training materials for his career -- some of which are likely either 'protected' or 'classified' as his employer likes to label things -- I shake my head. I add to the 'give back' box photos of his family -- items from his youth that clearly have no place in my life and am almost knocked over by one letter that I know he once prized. It is a letter from his paternal grandmother -- a grandmother he did not meet until he was into adulthood and after he learned the man who actually contributed half the DNA that is HIM had died by suicide around the time Renfrew turned 18. This woman - whom he had sought out and taken long trips to visit - died when we were expecting our own child and I never had the pleasure of meeting her. A letter that contains her contribution to his search for his identity -- this letter is in a box packed up by his new wife and given to me as so much trash. I sigh and set the letter aside - knowing that it makes up a piece of the past that Renfrew spent his life trying to explain and sort out. That search may not seem so important while he is wrapped up in the intoxication of young love, but someday he'll get back to it.

Given that I knew I'd have several hours of only occasionally interrupted time, I took my paper shredder to the garage as a way to pass the time. If anyone had told me of the therapeutic uses for and healing powers of a paper shredder I would have thought they were grasping for another pop psychology miracle cure. But as I stood there sorting through old files and boxes, I discovered a freedom in the sound of the blades.

A folder marked 2002 revealed everything from cancelled cheques for my defunk law practice and paid household bills. As I pass the sheets of paper through the intermeshing blades watching them come out the other side in thin slips of paper I feel strangely peaceful. Like finally throwing out those notes from my first year universities courses once I'd graduated from my professional degree. Unpacking those boxes and putting the contents to rest has brought up feelings I've been ignoring -- probably because I wasn't ready to process them. I think they are ready to be taken out, set in the light, examined and recycled now -- at least I sincerly hope so.

Friday, June 11, 2010

WHO is that woman. . . .

With fathers' day rolling up, I figured it would be nice to put together a photo collage for Renfrew of selected photos of him and the Pumpkin. With a sense of optimism I trundled down to my previously-mentioned craft room to dig out some shots from the 4 years we spent in the North, during which time Pumpkin went from a just out of diapers 3 year old to a wise and curious 8 year old. I already had an idea of the photos I wanted to use. Or if not the specific photos, the times and places where they had been captured.

One was a trip we made as a family to Maui the January of our last year in the North. One of the few 'perks' of getting sent to the back of blessed beyond by the RCMP is that they pony up the cost of a trip 'out' each year. I figure they really do this because they know how much psychiatric treatments for everyone in the family would cost. Not to mention the number of members they'd lose to the loony bin due to serious bush fever. That year we actually took two trips -- one to Maui in January and a second to Mexico in October. This was due to the wonders of 'fiscal year' designations.

Keep in mind this was near the end of our tenure in the brush and I was close to my almost total break with reality and plunge into the black jaws of depression that fully blossomed with the melting snow in May. In January I was still very good at playing my role. I was working very hard convincing myself and anyone around me that I was 'happy, happy, happy' and being a loving supportive wife and small time career woman. I played that part so well, I think I almost believed it myself.

The second clutch of photos I was looking for were from the Mexico trip. This was after my depressive break but before we had relocated to the Sunny South. That time was a confusing and difficult one for me. I had come to grips with the very real depth of my despair and depression, and knew it was a slow climb back to normal. We had informal notification of our transfer, but the official paperwork had not yet been sent. It was a period of limbo. Like all liminal periods, it was a time when identity was in flux and everything was subject to rapid change.

From the time it was confirmed we were getting out short of the normal five-year sentence. . . err. . . posting, I began to breath a bit easier. However, until I saw the transfer order in writing, signed by someone with a lot more hooks on his shoulders than Renfrew's local commanding officer, I was suspicious and frightened they would find a way to keep us up there for another year. Perhaps it is because I grew up living next door to my hometown RCMP detachment. Perhaps it is from working several years for a large souless corporate entity myself. Perhaps it was a bit of paranoia layered with my depression. I just wasn't convinced we were going to get out of Dodge short of the five years that are required at this particular location.

Flipping through these photos I was looking for the images of Renfrew and Pumpkin . . . frolicking on the beach in Maui . . . dancing on the catamaran that took us snorkeling in Mexico. I found those but I also found something I hadn't banked on. I was struck dumb by photos of a woman I did not recognize. She resembled me and was wearing clothing I could identify as mine. But she was clearly sad. . . beyond sad. Behind the staged smile for the camera there was an emptiness. Something was dead, or at least on life support. It was so clear in her face. She felt trapped, caged and was getting ready to chew off a limb to get out of the leg-hold trap.

Now, more than five years later, I can see what was probably obvious to many of those around me. I was sinking in a quicksand bog of pain and loss. Now that I have had time and distance to unpack what made that time so destructive, I think I understand the undoing of my marriage and my sanity more clearly. There was no one thing. There is no moment or event I can point to and say: "AHA!" It is not like unearthing a diamond in the Arctic. It is more like gently brushing away layers of sand from an archaeological site to reveal a fully and vibrant civilization. The process is slow and painstaking, but worth the effort.

Lately I have been reading a lot of memoirs - - mostly written by women around my age about the joys, pains and realities of facing middle age and the stuff of life. One particular description struck me and has stuck with me. The author, in describing who she has become, proclaimed that the person she now is someone who her former self could not have 'picked out of a police line up'. Looking at those old pictures of me, when I was someone else, somewhere else I feel that in reverse. The woman I have become is so far removed from that sad, trapped, angry woman I would not identify her as me in any kind of line up. She is part of a past that has made me who I now am. I thank her for helping me grow. And I send her love and compassion, becuase I know that she is only beginning a period of great growth and, consequently, great pain.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


And those 'aha' moments just keep coming. For the past 20+ years I have lived in a state of 'almost', perpetually waiting for some magical event or demarcation of time to announce both to me and to the world at large (not that the world at large cares, I realize now) that I am THERE. Truth be told, even through five houses in four communities, Renfrew and I never really, fully committed to a place. Boxes were always left to be unpacked later and pieces of furniture tucked away because we had no place or use for them at a particular time. It was like we were just visiting EVERYWHERE we called home.

This has carried on to my present living situation - - minus Renfrew. I have both a dining room suite and a bedroom suite that belonged to my grandparents and parents respectively. Though both are 'in use', both are also awaiting the magical transformation of refinishing. Admittedly, I have started on the dining room suite and 3 chairs sit in my garage awaiting several coats of new colour and new seat cushions. The headboard to the bed has been striped of its many layers of stain but that is all that has been done to the bedroom set except for purchasing a new mattress and boxspring which, if set upon the bed frame, would totally obscure the headboard. Just when did mattresses need to be thick enough for the pea feeling princess's comfort?

After taking an inventory of my crowded craft room -- with boxes of photographs and memorabilia from 20 years of marriage plus some and my home office -- what it lacks in style it makes up for in a catch all for the detritus of my life, I realize I need to start somewhere and begin to make a 'THERE' for me to settle into.

Let me say I KNOW there is no 'THERE'. It is really HERE and I have spent enough time in prayer and meditation to know that HERE is where I want to be -- every minute of every hour of every day that I have left on this thrill ride we call LIFE. As I often remind many of my dear friends, we are human BEINGS not human DOINGS. I have been so busy 'doing' or not doing that I have lost stopping to just BE and enjoy the peace that comes from that.

So, I am starting at the heart. I am doing what my dear Mother wanted for years and what I have been ignoring for more time than I want to admit. I am cleaning my room -- or more accurately cleansing my room. While I cannot twitch my nose and have the bedroom set magically lose 70 or so years of stain and dust, I can start living my life like I am really HERE.

What does it mean to be HERE? It means that I am throwing out or giving away whatever does feed my spirit and create beauty in the room where I spend my hours closest to the Divine. I'm not sure what this will look like, but I will when I see it. I realize that I owe it to those I love, I owe it to the Divine and I owe it to myself. I am HERE.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers Day ...

On this Mothers’ Day, I want to talk a bit about the important things I learned from my Mom. Although she transitioned to the next world two and a half years ago, the things I learned from will serve me through this life time and hopefully into the next.
Even when I was a teenager, I knew my Mother was one of the smartest people around. She had a calm and patient way about her that just engendered calm in those she was around. This was good since I was one of those mercurial teenagers whose mood swings were similar to a ride at a major theme park - - except they did not feature any safety harnesses or seatbelts. It did not help matters that I was a decidedly square peg surrounded by a plethora of uniform round pegs. Regardless of what went on in my life I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that my mother was on my side and that she had my back.
In fact, her unwavering support started in first grade. There were 2 classes of first graders in my small town school in 1967. For some reason, someone got the bright idea that we should switch teachers for our math class. Now, I had pulled a lucky straw and gotten Mrs. Neilson as my teacher. She was the kind of old fashioned teacher who treated her students with a firm gentleness. We knew she was in charge, but she never lorded that fact over us or used her power as 'power'. She loved us and we knew it. It made even the most challenging of us want to learn.
The other teacher, who I will just call Mrs. "L", was the other kind of old fashioned school teacher. One who believed most fervently in 'spare the rod, spoil the child'. Remember, these were the days when the Strap was still a fixture in the public schools in Canada. What was even more disturbing for me was her tendency to shriek at her students. Perhaps she was having personal issues or perhaps this was just how she was, but she would routinely yell in class as if raising the volume of her voice would help my less quick minded classmates catch on to the nuances of counting to 20. I had never been exposed to an adult who yelled and screamed - - although my siblings assure me that my father did, he died when I was 2 1/2 so I had no clear memory of him. My mother rarely raised her voice and, when she did, it was generally to inspire us to get to the dinner table from whatever we were doing.
This new form of communication, which did not seem to have any predictability or logic to it, was most distressing for me. I'm sure it was even more so for the individual children who were the target of her wrath on any given day.
After several weeks of watching Mrs. L take out her frustrations on my classmates, I told Mom that I did not like her class. Apparently, I explained to Mom that all the yelling was giving me a headache and it was hard to concentrate on my schoolwork with a headache.
What did my mother do?
Well, if this happened today, the parent would probably charge into the principal's office and threaten to sue the school for traumatizing little Suzy. My mother's approach was much more subtle and, as I recall, more effective.
She wrote Mrs. L a note. It said simply:"Dear Mrs. L: Could you please not yell in class as it gives Elizabeth a headache. Sincerely, Patricia Odell"
I handed it to Mrs. L and, while I cannot recall the look on her face, it is my recollection that math class was a bit quieter after that.
I learned a valuable lesson from my mother's approach: Sometimes just asking will get you the result you want. Mom was not trying to 'fix' Mrs. L. She was not worried about why she was yelling at us - - it did not matter whether the reason was because we were the biggest group of imbeciles to enter the classroom or because Mrs. L was experiencing the mood swings associated with menopause. The cause did not matter. What mattered was the effect on me. Mom's message to Mrs. L was simple -- get it under control.
As I ponder my life, I realize that there was never a time that I did not believe that my Mom 'had my back.' She supported me, even when I was royally screwing up on so very many levels. But it was as though she trusted my ability to recover from a bad choice more than she ever felt the need to point out the obvious when I was clearly veering off the road in a less than safe direction.

The first time this happened, I was only in third grade. Apparently, I was a very verbal child who read and spoke well from an early age. When I was in third grade, my class became involved in a massive musical theatre production with the grade fours. I was chosen (along with 2 other third graders) to play one of the leads. Now, the drama queen in me would like to believe this was because I was cute, engaging and obviously Shirley Temple's heir apparent. Realistically, I was mostly likely selected because I was already reading at a junior high school level and had a pretty good memory.
Whatever the reason, I found myself thrust into the centre of the action. All these years later, I do not remember much of the plot. I do, however, remember how it felt to perform for my classmates. We did several shows initially for the other grades. Finally, the day came to perform for the parents, who had been invited to a special performance. That was when I experienced my first case of stage fright. I was suddenly totally terrified. Of what, I am not really sure. All I knew was that I did not want to go out onto the stage.
I broke down and told Mom. Instead of giving me a lecture about 'letting down' my classmates and teachers, she backed me up. I headed off to school with a 'note' from her explaining that I was having a crisis and simply could not perform that afternoon.
Now, I do not know if she and my teachers 'talked' on the phone. But, with much encouragement and cajoling from my teachers and cast mates, I managed to overcome the stage fright and went on stage. It was probably not my best performance, but I got through it. And, of course, Mom was right there in the audience cheering me on. Like she knew I would come through but she also knew I needed to know that she supported me and trusted me to know what I wanted. That knowledge was powerful and, in reality, gave me more courage than a guilt filled pep talk would have inspired.
Looking back, I realize what Mom did to get all of us launched into the world. Her family was her focus. She believed in each of us and knew that we would do her proud. I know some days it must have been hard to believe that, but she had faith in us even when we did not.
Mother was never big on telling any of us what to do. She was a proponent of the 'logical consequences' school of parenting long before it came into vogue. It was as though she knew her children needed to experience things to learn from them. Imparting wisdom through lectures was about as effective as using a blow torch to light a candle - - a lot damage could easily be done and the original point of the exercise is lost in the ashes.
I have always said that her approach was to give us enough rope to hang ourselves and, while we were there dangling just above the ground, she would come and cut us down. Once our feet were back on solid ground, she would ask (in her unique roundabout way), "So what did you learn from that?"

Now that I am on the edge of adolescence with my own daughter, I hope I can live up to the example I had. I pray that I will be able to back my daughter and trust HER enough to let her try it her way - - but always with the rescue squad on call to pull her from the flames and give her a safe place to figure out where her plan went awry so she can start again and be stronger in the next attempt.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My McBrain almost McSploded

I have a new respect for the predominately young staff at McDonalds Restaurants that dot the landscape in virtually every place on the planet after spending 2 hours 'helping' as part of the McHappy Day fundraiser. As a Board member for the Family Centre in Lethbridge, I figured it was the least I could do to help the organization that has provided resources and funds to the many programs that the Family Centre offers. Two hours, how hard could it be?

As I arrived for my 5:00 to 7:00 shift, the supper rush was well underway. The drive through had a parade of vehicles in various stages of ordering, paying for or picking up supper. Wisely I realized that 'helping' anywhere near the drive through would not be a good idea. While I'm sure that many patrons find having the local news anchor or radio personality mess up their order, having a no-name local volunteer do the same does not have quite the same cachet when retelling the story to your cubemates at work.

Trying to figure out where I could do the least damage, I plunked down behind the front counter filling drink orders for the young gentlemen working the inside sales points. This seemed relatively straightforward, afterall I worked in the concession at the basketball games when I was in high school. There are only 4 sizes of drinks and they even have a handy gizmo that automatically fills the various sizes of cups. All I had to do was put in ice and finish them off with a lid. Then there is the coffee. . . they have a funky set up to add cream and sugar to the coffee cups. Pretty neat. I think I didn't make too many mistakes. And there was only a passing suggestion I try to use the milkshake machine. My 'coaches' could clearly tell I was just hanging on to the learning curve with two things to worry about.

What I have to say is that I am very impressed with the younger generation. The two young men handling the tills were amazing. As I watched their fingers fly over the 'touch screen' adding extra pickles and deleting cheese; assembling kids' meals with the appropriate toy; whipping up a McFlurry or two; and basically multitasking in a way that made my head spin. And they did it all with big SMILES! Who says men can do more than one thing at a time.

So over the course of my time on shift, I managed to help with a few meals. I didn't destroy any equipment and my being in close proximity to the computer system did not make it crash (trust me, this is something to worry about). At one point, I asked the manager how many people had their head explode during the first shift. He just smiled.

That was my experience with the fast food industry. To all of you who have lasted more than one shift: I salute you! To the McDonald's organization, THANK YOU for support our community. To the patient young men, I 'helped', THANK YOU for not laughing at me. And to my Mom for insisting I go to University so I could get a day job, THANK YOU. The only way you would find me working behind that counter full-time would be if I could make my own McFlurry flavour to get through the day --> Baileys! Anyone else?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Rally Troups the Boil the Vinegar

Ever since putting down the sod at my new house 2 years ago, I have been trying to get rid of several rather stubborn clumps of dandelions. With apologies to my dearest Mother (whose favourite flower was the dandelion), I sprayed the entire area with "die wee die" before I put down the sod. After the persistent Taraxacum managed to push through the thick sod and sprout lovely yellow blooms, I then pulled out the herbicide and applied it individually to them. They still came back. Then I dug and pulled and tried everything legal to get the darn things to find a new home (there is a lovely vacant lot just a short distance away). I am now convinced they have roots of steel - - or maybe that stuff they injected into Hugh Jackman in Wolverine.

Because I am attempting to become more environmentally friendly, and honestly, because the toxic chemicals seem only to make the weeds healthier, I went to the internet for ideas on how to eliminate the dandelions in my lawn in a 'safe' way.

What I was really looking for was instructions on how to build a dandelion electrocution device. Seriously, many years ago Renfrew and I had a neighbour in Edmonton who explained how his late father had used a 12 volt battery and some wires to essentially ZAP dandelions. This was as we were all out in our adjoining front yards trying to reduce the dandelion population. I almost regret not telling my ex to go grab a big battery and get to work trying to duplicate the execution system. As creative as I am searching on the 'net (I have the reputation of being able to find ANYTHING on the net for friends, family, clients, strangers. . . I was a born research geek and the internet has given my desire to just KNOW things a wonderful tool.) the closest thing I could find about zapping weeds were some very technical research papers about microwaves.

Many of the other removal techniques I ran across were ones I've tried without success. One of those was pouring boiling water on the offending weed. Maybe it was because I tried it during a late summer heatwave, it did not have the desired effect and actually increased the problem because they got water. Another method suggested pouring good old vinegar on the dandelions. A clerk at Home Depot suggested getting out the drill and drilling a hole in the centre of the plant and pouring in herbicide. Suddenly my mind did one of it's synergistic leaps --> boiling vinegar into a drilled hole! YEAH -- combine gardening with POWER TOOLS. I love power tools. . . I'm the girl who mourned the closing of Prudhomme Hardware in Edmonton -- the last of the great hardware stores.

So I am going to take my lovely red cordless kettle onto my front step and boil up the vinegar! I let you know how it turns out. . .

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Refinishing History

Some pieces of furniture are just that -- furniture. They serve a function and over the years come and go as family needs change. Other pieces of furniture are much, much more. They form part of the history of a family and, in many cases, link generations. I am blessed to be the caretaker of several pieces of furniture that form part of a legacy of my family. My bedroom suite belonged to my parents and traveled with them across Canada as my father was transferred by the Air Force over the years of his career. My nightstand is crafted from bentwood and belonged to my grandmother's grandmother and she gifted it to me before she transitioned to the next life when I was still in high school. I treasure both of these pieces of history but the crowning jewel of the family legacy is an art deco style dining room set that was a figure in my grandparents' dining room for as long as most of my generation can remember. It is complete with a pedestal table, six chairs, a buffet and china cabinet.

Considering I am one of easily 200 plus direct descendants of my maternal grandparents, you probably are wondering how this piece of family history ended up in my suburban dining room. Growing up eating Sunday dinners at this table and putting the good dishes away in the bottom of the china cabinet, I surely did not expect to be serving my own meals at the same tables thirty years later. And even though my adult style choices were informed by my childhood influences (my cedar chest is a duplicate of the 'waterfall' style of the table and buffet), didn't think I would be choosing my houses based primarily on have a place for the table and chairs.

It was actually kind of funny how I found out about my legacy. We were at bingo. Before my Mom crossed over to the next life, family bonding time featured frequent trips to Winners' Bingo in Lethbridge. Mom was a regular there with a gaggle of octogenarian buddies who all had their specified seats. On this particular occasion several of my sisters and adult nieces were in town and we were chatting between games. The family home in Cardston was being sold and the furnishings had to be re-homed. My niece was buying the living room set for her basement rec room and other items were being donated to charity. I had gotten up to go grab something from the snake bar and when I got back to the table I heard my older sister asking my mom, "So what are you going to do with your dining room suite."

"I guess Elizabeth will get it," she replied as she set up her Bonanza cards.

I sat down and said, "What?"

Without missing a beat, Mom continued, "She's the only one of you who is into old junk."

I sat down and looked around the table at my sisters, nieces and Mom. My older sister, Catherine, started to fill in the blanks for me. "Mom and Father bought the dining set for Grandma and Grandpa in the 1940s so she gets it back now that the house is being sold. You want it?"

"Of course," I responded without hesitation notwithstanding the fact that my spouse and I were living in a small 90 year old 'character' home with no where to put the set.

So, just over a year later when we moved into our new house with our 4 month old daughter, the dining room table took up residence in the large eat-in kitchen and become a part of my own family's history. Well that house was sold years ago and the dining room suite has survived several moves -- first to Northern Alberta and then back to Southern Alberta when we relocated here four years ago. After two moves in as many years around Southern Alberta, the dining set has come to rest in my new home in Lethbridge. I am hoping to stay put for a few years, perhaps till Chicklet graduates from High School. In divorcing my dear ex-husband, I also lost his employer that is intent on moving him every few years 'just because'.

Anyway, I am finally getting around to putting a new face on the dining room suite. The last time anything was replaced was at least twenty years ago when my Mom took apart the six chairs and recovered the worn seat covers with a golden velvet that has now see far better days. The finish has never been touched. I do recall my my uncle wanting put 'mac-tac' on both the buffet and the table to hide where the finish has been marked by years of use. My Mom put the kibosh on that quicker than you can say permanent adhesive.

So, I have selected a new fabric for the chairs -- it is a deep rusty red and I am going to cut up an unused memory foam mattress topper to provide some cushioning where none has been. Today I picked out paint. Now I know that many of you are screaming: "PAINT? NO!!" But the reality is that the thin laminate would not survive the sanding needed to refinish it with stain. I know I'll be losing the wood grain patterns, most notably on the front of the buffet, but I will be able to preserve the dining room suite for perhaps another generation. The paint is a colour called 'red brick' and I think it will look fresh and classic at the same time. Tomorrow I start sanding and will do one chair to see how it looks. I'll post pictures and I promise to be gentle and loving with my piece of the family legacy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Perhaps I'll refer this question to committee. . .

I just finished reading -- or more accurately listening to -- Elizabeth Gilbert's follow up to Eat, Love, Pray. It is the story of how she, a woman who had 'broken faith' with matrimony found herself at the threshold of remarriage. How on earth did this happen? Long answer, short --> it was all because of the American Department of Homeland Security. Seriously.

When her Australian born, Brazilian partner was deemed a persona non grata by a DHS officer due to an overuse of the standard three-month visitor visa, marriage was the only option if they wanted to live in the United States. Gilbert and "Phillippe", although deeply in love, had consciously chosen NOT to marry -- both having lived through their own scorched-earth divorce. When it became clear that the only way they were going to be able share connubial bliss was to lawfully wed, Gilbert decided to look at the whole concept of 'marriage'. Her theory, which I share, is that the more I learn about something that scares me, the less I am frightened by it.

While enjoying her examination of the institution of marriage, I continue to take out and examine my own thoughts and feelings about pledging one's troth. You see, I too, have failed at marriage. And, in spite of my enlightened, evolved-being statements that it really wasn't a 'failure'. [Nobody died. We’ve managed to salvage a friendship and partnership to raise our child. Both of us have grown as people and learned a lot about ourselves and the world.] The bottom line is that there is a part of me that truly believes that the marriage failed. Or more accurately, WE failed the marriage. The wide-eyed promises we made to stick together through good and bad times, were so just so much ‘puffery’, as they called it in law school. Somewhere in the fine print were exclusions we did not know about and eventually tripped over.

Gilbert points out that marriage is more than a commitment to another person. It is a commitment to the marriage vow itself. A promise to honour and hold fast to something bigger than either individual. Divorce -- the intentional ending of a marriage union -- is more than failing to cleave only to our chosen other. It is rejecting that vow to God, the Divine or whatever 'higher power' (even if that power was just the power of the governmental State) that blessed and sanctified the union.
In order to sort out my own thoughts on marriage -- and answer for myself the question of what, if any, my future is in relation to it I have decided to write my feelings out. Please note that I am NOT currently in a 'relationship' of any kind -- other than with myself and the Divine. The only beings that share my bed have four paws and fur. There is no man clamouring to lead me down the proverbial petal strewn path nor have I set my sights on enticing a man into a commitment of any kind beyond, perhaps, a double-double at Tim Hortons. No, this is a question I actually have begun to realize I need to answer before I can honestly enter into a committed, dating relationship. I recall hearing Marianne Williamson speak about getting very CLEAR with what you want and what you believe. This is a cosmic precondition to actually opening the Universe to lead you to that destination. From clarity -- an honest searching of one’s deepest soul -- comes the ability to love unconditionally both the Divine and our fellow man. It leads, therefore, to living an authentic life -- which has become the central aspiration for the second half of my life.

On the face of it, I am a good statistical bet for a successful second marriage, should I decide to take the leap again. My first marriage ended just 6 months short (to the day, I just realized) of 20 years. For the most part, my experience with marriage, as a relationship, was good. My former spouse and I did not fight -- either verbally or physically. We were that loving and sweet couple that you see holding hands in public and stealing steamy glances across the room.

My final analysis is that the marriage died silently and slowly over several years of benign neglect and willful blindness on both our parts. We each stopped putting our marriage first – before our jobs, our child, our friends. We did not do the regular maintenance on our marriage that we did on our cars. And one day, the engine ceased and nothing could revive it.

My ex (who I’ll call Renfrew) has confirmed that I was a 'good' wife -- even though I admittedly fell far short of Martha Stewart in both the housekeeping and cooking departments. I was, however, the primary breadwinner for more than half our married years. With the exception of the first year after our move from Northern Alberta when I was recovering from a deep depression, I have been at least self-supporting.

We produced a child -- a pretty darn GREAT one. It is not just me and Renfrew who say this -- pretty much every teacher, Girl Guide Leader, Sunday school teacher and acquaintance who has had more than a passing encounter with her says so as well. She is, more often than not, the most together person in the family and she is only just turned 12.

Together and separately, we worked to make the communities we found ourselves in better and safer. We looked after, as best we could, our extended family and friends in need.
Our marriage created more good than bad and, for that alone, I am deeply grateful.

Anyway, back to Gilbert’s examination of marriage. I was surprised to learn that marriage was actually NOT part of the gospel taught by the disciples of Jesus. It seems that the early church fathers had carefully calculated that the End of the World was rapidly approaching. To insure a swift and sure ride on the Rapture Express, their teachings were that humans were to eschew relationships of the carnal nature and devote themselves to a life of celibacy and worship. As you can probably figure out, THAT idea was quickly trampled by hormone charged citizens. Once the Christian powers that be realized that the whole celibacy thing was a non-started, they did the only logical thing -- they appropriated the institution of marriage. Gilbert postulates that this, and the continued interest of both religious and political leaders in the nature and rules surrounding marriage, had a lot to do with the reality of the private nature of the interactions between spouses.

Think about it. I'm sure you have had instance to shake your head mystified by some revelation about a married couple who know. And I am NOT talking about Tiger Woods' dalliances here. No, I'm talking about Jill and Stu down the street. The erstwhile perfect couple with 2.4 children, a dog and a minivan. That is until the day that the moving van pulls up at their door and Stu and his well worn Barca lounger move on down the line. Or you discover that Jill has relocated to an Ashram in India and changed her name.

When my ex and I separated, it did not come as a big surprise to those who saw us daily (it is hard to hide that level of misery and the frequent marriage counseling appointments were a dead giveaway). Seriously, we were not exhausted and drawn looking because we had discovered the joys of almost-middle-aged sex. We were beaten down by trying to bridge a gap in communication and understanding that rivaled the depth and width of the Grande Canyon.

Friends and family we saw less often (including some with whom we had been very close) were visibly flummoxed when learning of our marriage's derailment. Even almost 3 years later, I occasionally meet up with someone who doesn't know about our parting of the ways. The only thing that drops their jaw faster than learning we are divorced is discovering that Renfrew has already bought a ticket for another ride on the 'marry-go-round'. He always was a lot braver than I am.

So, what were those arguments for me to consider marrying again? Oh yeah, I'm a good bet based on my demographic. Another reason to consider pairing up again would be the over-riding rationale for marriage in general: we humans need companionship. Another soul to share the peaks and valleys of day-to-day life. A person to count on through whatever life tosses our way. Oh, wait, I did that myth once -- it didn't work out. Next argument.

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a dozen times: "You must be lonely."

You know, there is a huge difference between being alone and being lonely that I did not truly understand until recently. I am alone a lot -- too much according to some friends and family but I am rarely, if ever, lonely. Lonely is not something that having another person in the room can cure. Lonely comes from deep in the soul. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that both me and Renfrew were pretty lonely the last 3 or so years of our marriage, even though we were rarely alone.

Another factor weighing heavily in favour of my projected future success in a marriage is the amount of therapy I've had. Renfrew and I spent almost two years trying to solve the puzzle of where we had veered off the path of marital happiness.

After our separation, I continued to excavate and take ownership of my contribution to the death of the relationship. With the help of numerous counselors, friends and the Divine, I think I have a better understanding of where I end up when I let fear run my life choices. Now, when fear shows up, instead of turning tail and running for the hills (or chocolate), I look into the fear. Heck, I turn around and walk straight into the fear and make friends with it. I am not totally fearless, but I am naming my fears and trying to unpack them into small bits I can conquer.

In spite of all the therapy and insight I’ve gained, I still sometimes think that I clearly wasn’t good at being married, or I would still be married. I ignored things that should have been my focus and focused on things that I should have ignored. Perhaps I have learned my lessons and I would be able to create a wonderful marriage with a new partner. But what if I haven’t?

Then there is the other side of statistics. Sure I’m a good candidate for a successful second marriage, but given that single women rate their lives as much happier than those of married women do I want to take a chance?

Right now I am happier than I have been in a long time. In fact, I am perhaps happier than I have ever been in my life. It is a different kind of a happy. It is a comfortable happy that reminds me of the red hooded bathrobe I had many years ago. No matter how lousy a day had been or how tired or sick I was, just pulling that red polar fleece hood over my head and stuffing my hands in the front kangaroo pocket made me feel safe and happy. I miss that robe.

My house is truly MY house – When I selected the colour for my bedroom I didn’t have to consult anyone. No one gave me a stink eye when I dripped a couple of drops of ‘mystique sea’ on the carpet or got a bit on the ceiling. My basement includes a meditation room AND a craft room. I let my child paint her bedroom eggplant purple and allowed her to do free-form paint designs on her walls in contrasting colours. My main floor living room is a library – bookshelves on 2 walls and comfortable chairs for curling up and reading.

Oh and my pets. Renfrew and I had three dogs for most of our married life. I now have two dogs – who, yes, sleep on my bed. My home is also the residence for two cats and two snakes – yes the kid was responsible for these additions, but they are now part of the family. Love me, love my zoo!
Well, I suppose I should fess up to one of the biggest factors why I’m hesitant to even consider marrying – or even getting involved in a long term relationship. Somewhere I have lost trust - - not in other people but in my own ability to accurately assess my own life situation. Honestly, until the day Renfrew looked across the table at me and said: “I’m miserable, I want a divorce,” I thought we had a strong marriage. I knew we were in a rough patch – we had recently moved, Renfrew had just turned 40 and was questioning a lot about his life, I was just pulling out of a depression deeper than the Marias Trench. But when he said those words, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I truly did NOT see it coming. I think I know how Sandra Bullock is feeling right now – except that Renfrew was faithful almost to a fault (yes, there are some men who really do consider that monogamy thing important).

So this is where I am – sitting here wondering when (and if) I’ll trust my judgment in the romance department again. I guess that is part of my journey. . . and it is always an adventure.