Some Days Your Bucket Is Cracked

So a Good Neighbour excitedly stopped me on the street the other day with some pretty cool news. I was happy to hear it. Thanked her for the info. Felt pretty good about it. Told a couple of the kids. Mentally crossed that one off the Bucket List. And then promptly got busy and forgot all about it. (Seriously, completely forgot about it.)

Over the weekend, my sister and her kids came over to help me and my girls start the clean out of my mom’s apartment downstairs. Mom’s become increasingly forgetful the past few months. It’s harder for her to clean up and move things around. I’ve pulled the fuse on her stove. She hasn’t been taking her meds. I’m starting to worry about her cat not being fed regularly. And she has a very long-standing and committed relationship with Publisher’s Clearinghouse. (Suddenly, the ‘clearinghouse’ part makes sense…) Before the PackRat becomes a Hoarder, we need to attack this.

Just clearing the clutter and numerous fitness gadgets made a big difference. A good kitchen wipe down and thorough vacuuming was welcomed and appreciated. But it was the boxes of books going out the door that made the biggest difference.

Mom is a reader. And a fast one. Too fast, perhaps, so that now she’ll start a book thinking it seems familiar, only to realize halfway through that she’s already read it. She’s devised a little system to help her out: she takes her brown felt tip pen and marks three ticks across the bottom edge of the pages when she’s done. Now when she sees the brown ticks on the book, she moves on. The last time I took her to the hospital for her regular blood transfusion, I found myself browsing through the clinic’s library, and wasn’t surprised to find three ticks on the bottom of virtually every book they had.

Watching the boxes of ticked books moving out to my sister’s car, I promised Mom I’d take her to the library regularly. As the doctor recently made me take her car keys, she’s not trusting me to keep my word.

Mom Getting a Library Card at Hamilton Public Library

Mom Gets A Library Card

And so on our travels today, with an hour to kill between appointments, we stopped at the library. Mom got herself a new library card, and I snapped a pic.

And that’s when I saw it.  With my own eyes – as well as my Good Neighbour’s!

I am not a selfie kind of girl. But this. This demands at least a moment of self recognition!

 

I mean, seriously. That’s my book! In the Hamilton Public Library! Right there! On the shelf!

I stood there stupidly for a while, not sure what I should do. Am I supposed to tell someone? Should I show anyone my picture on the back page?

Should I sign it?

I decided that the only thing to do was to show my mom. She was excited when I gave her a signed copy of it. And she was perfectly critical when she read it. But now it’s in the library! And I get to share one of my proudest moments with my biggest cheerleader!

Annoyed that I kept trying to get her attention and drag her this way, instead of over to the Large Print shelf, or the James Patterson Section, she finally followed me back to my shelf.

I pointed proudly. Look!

She looked, not knowing what I was pointing at. So I took my book from the shelf – the brand new copy, freshly labelled and stamped, Feb08 2017 – and handed it to her.

“I think I read this one already,” she says. And then she looks at the bottom. And there’s no tick marks. “Maybe not.” And she puts it back. And heads over to the ‘P’ shelf behind me.

There’s good days and there are bad days. And then there’s shitty days.

There was the day I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, but learned that she has Down syndrome.

There was the day that my husband died, on the eighth anniversary of our ‘Family Day,’ the day we adopted three-fifths of our kids.

And there was the day that I saw my own book on the library shelf, but realized that I was losing my mom.

I don’t care how full the glass is. If it’s cracked and leaking, it’s a shitty glass.

I have three shitty glasses on my shelf.

My First Book

Crossing a big ticket item off your bucket list is a momentous occasion. This I know, as I have managed to clear my entire 2015 Ta-Da list and am walking into 2016 with a relatively clean slate. Of the many achievements of the year passé, the biggest, and most personally exciting, is finally getting around to self-publishing my first novel.

Once upon a time, I jumped out of a plane. The most common question afterward was Alex Skydivingfrom how high I jumped. When I answer 3,000 feet, there is always that little catch, that little hesitation that says, oh, is that all? To which I always respond, hey, dead’s dead; doesn’t matter how far you fell.

So, then, yeah, I self-published my own book. But the thing is, I never really wanted to publish it at all. That’s not why I wrote it. I’m not looking for fame and glory. It matters not a lick to me one way or the other what happens to it now. (Although, yes, I would be beside myself if Kevin Costner wanted to make it into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Channing Tatum. But I digress…) I was happy to have completed the story. I wrote over 100,000 words, in some kind of a coherent order, and enjoyed every minute of the process.

It was my husband, Paul, who had always pestered me to try to find a publisher for it. Ironic that he had never actually read a word I wrote – that also being funny since so much of it was about him. But he, ever my greatest supporter, wanted me to publish it. I decided that, yes, I did want to see a copy on my shelf along with some of my other favourite books and started editing it.  Before it was done, he passed away.

As I prepared to tackle my renovations last summer, I finally thought I should put this task on the grand Ta-Da! list and get ‘er done. Before the office went in. Before my thoughts and dreams would become obsessed with Romantic Shorts. And so I put the whole thing together and published it through Amazon.

Pyrrhic Truths Front CoverAs it turns out, it doesn’t matter who actually turns your story into a book; when that pile of neatly trimmed paper lands in your hands, and without thinking, you stick your nose in and breath in that new-book smell, the elation and satisfaction of accomplishment are to die for!! And there it sits on my shelf. Quietly watching me and whispering constantly that it would like a baby sibling.

Yeah. I’m on that.

And looking forward to it.

Welcome to the family, Pyrrhic Truths!

Happy (real) Mothers Day!

I’m sitting here listening to the quiet and sluggish sounds of the kids eating breakfast and getting ready for their day. Somehow, the excitement of the first day of school has changed drastically, yet imperceptibly, over the years. With two moved out, one away to university, and the last two starting high school today, everyone is one step closer to the front door. My latest mantra? “Everybody! Out of the house! (I love you, but you all have to go…)” They get it. They’re ready. I’ve made sure of that…

But there was that year that I had all five of them at the same school, in the same place, at the same time, all day, every day. Ohhh, that was a good year. They spanned the student body, from first to eighth grades. As Parent Council Chair, everyone else seemed to automatically defer to me as the expert. I got a lot done that year.

It was hard-earned. And I knew it would go quickly; I was only ever going to get that one and only year of ease, comfort, and routine. I saw it coming. Realized the gold value of it right about the second day of kindergarten, when I was bundling and trotting two kids to school every morning, taking one back home, taking that one back at lunch, bringing them both home, feeding them lunch, trotting them both back over to school, leaving the other one,…. well, you get the idea. Every day. In all weather. For a year.

I know. I chose to have kids. But in my defence, no one ever manages to think through all the little crappy details.

And so, on the third day, I downloaded a countdown app on my phone. And I set the thing for the first day of grade one.

362 days. And counting.

Every time I felt the pressure and despair of the daily grind, I’d check the screen.

361 days.

Halloween came and went. Threw an awesome party for the kids. Christmas. Valentine’s Day. The milestones were ticking off the calendar. March Break. 171 days.

Summer relief lasted 37 hours. With teacher dad and all five kids home in my hair for two months, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I am no entertainment director, though I did learn the secret to keeping kids busy 24/7 with ease and a big long chore list! 70 days.

30 days.

Back to school shopping. Good and early, smiling all the way through WalMart. Erasers for everyone!!!

5 days. The grumbling started. Rooms to clean. Laundry to be done. Clothes to try on/throw out/replace. Groceries to be replenished. So much work.

1 more day.

I couldn’t sleep. For the first time since motherhood set in, I was going to be by myself. Completely alone. For five and one half solid hours. I had a plan: celebratory breakfast with the moms, a long hot shower, crepes for lunch, maybe a little tv – something R-rated. Oh yes, this was going to be a good day.

As I happily escorted the children down the street, that fine September morning so many years ago, my feet barely touching the sidewalk, my good friend and neighbour waved from her porch.

“You’re looking mighty happy this morning,” she called.

“11 minutes ’til the first day of school!” I bubbled.

“YES!” she agreed. “I just saw your husband; he didn’t look quite so enthused.”

“I know! Did he even talk to you?”

“Oh yeah. And then mumbled something that sounded like, ‘302 days until summer…'”

Yeah, he used to be a morning person…

So as I watched the kids line up and disappear into the big double doors of scholarly bliss, I heard the choking sobs of some of the other moms waving goodbye to their offspring like they would never see them again. I had the dubious privilege of having five incredibly well adjusted, confident kids; never understood the separation anxiety. But I tried to respect theirs, as I went around the corner of the building to flip a few cartwheels. I skipped back home with the weight of the world sliding right off my back like water on a duck.

Putting the key in the front door, my phone beeped with a text from my husband.

‘Happy Mothers Day ;)’

‘I love you too X)’

My last two highschoolers are now watching me type; they’re ready a half hour early, and I know that’ll pass. But the celebratory breakfast is a mere hour away. The house will be empty, even if just for a few hours. And I do know, that when everyone has gone and moved on, and there will be times that I’ll miss them, I also know that I will have earned the right to sleep in a little, eat the good jam, and shower with the door open.

Happy (real) Mother’s Day everyone!!