Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Polka Dot Pages’ Category

a gift

For a couple of years when I was a kid I wanted to be a big animal vet, horses specifically. There was just something about them I loved, not to mention the whole draw of living on a farm and wearing jeans and boots all the time, which I somehow assumed went with the job. Then I wanted to be a travel agent. Flying off to distant lands, helping people plan their dream vacations; I couldn’t really see a downside. Then I wanted to be a journalist. Not a journalist in front of the camera but rather one behind the scenes, doing the research, putting together the pieces and then writing the words to bring it all to life. But no matter what form my life was going to end up taking, I knew one thing for certain: I was not going to settle until I found my calling.

I was, and still am, a big believer in the idea that there is something I’m meant to do.  There is something out there that will just click with me and I will love it and be good at it and be successful at it and it will not feel like work.  I grew up with two parents who worked extremely hard at their jobs and each achieved success in their fields but every day when they walked in the door, I could tell by the looks on their faces that it felt like work.

I ended up pursuing journalism and got halfway through the program at school before discovering I didn’t love it.  I stuck with it though, at the very least so I would have some letters after my name to fall back on until I found what it was I was searching for.  Then I met a guy and started dreaming very different dreams.  I started thinking that perhaps my calling had nothing to do with a career but rather that being a mother was what I was actually on the Earth to do.

Um, not exactly.

Two kids and ten years later and I have discovered that although I love my kids with a strength and conviction ‎that I can’t express or explain, motherhood is not my calling. I see mothers who truly love being mothers and I know, definitively, that I am not one of them. I love my kids with every ounce of who I am but, to be honest, being their mother almost always feels like work.

It took me a long time to get to a place where I could say that out loud (or at least out loud on paper) and not feel bad about it. It took me a long time to feel like I could share that part of me without also feeling like I had to apologize for even thinking it. I’m glad I finally got there; so relieved that after the days, weeks, months and years of feeling ashamed of the feelings that I wasn’t feeling, I can now accept myself and stop hiding it. I totally agree that motherhood is a gift, one that I will always be grateful that I was given but, as with some gifts, it has never felt like it fit quite right.

As they grow older, my kids need me in a much different way than when they were babies and toddlers and pre-schoolers. They need me in a much less physical way and although there is no doubt they still need me, their growing independence has left gaps in my days that I only used to fantasize about. When I spent hours in a rocking chair with one or the other attached to my body I used to dream of the gaps; of times when I could once again think thoughts of me and make plans for me and be inspired by the possibilities of what I could do.

Don’t get me wrong, most of my days are still filled to the brim with the kids, their activities and homework and friend problems and the constant search for missing library books, missing hair clips and whatever else manages to disappear on a regular basis, but now my mind has time to relax, even if my body doesn’t. I have time when I’m sitting on a hard wooden bench in a gymnasium watching my daughter chase after a soccer ball. I have time when I’m sitting on a hard wooden bench in a freezing cold arena watching my son stop hockey pucks. I have time when I’m sitting in front of a computer waiting to be inspired. I spend a lot of time sitting, and thinking, thinking and sitting and yet I’m no closer to finding any answers.

When I was a mother to babies I was filled with so many wishes and had no time to make them come true; as a mother to older kids I have all the time in the world but I seem to have forgotten what it means to wish wishes just for me.

I thought I had a plan for my life. I planned on school and I planned on a husband and I planned on the kids and the house with the two car garage but I guess that’s when I stopped planning. I wrote it all down on the pages of my life, hoping it would all eventually come true and I am so lucky that most of it has, but now I’m lost because I never planned what happens after.

And on the dark days I’m frustrated and disheartened to think that maybe I don’t have a gift to give, that I don’t have a role to fill beyond the one I play within these four walls. I get down on myself, I start to believe the negative thoughts in my head that tell me I have nothing left to offer, nothing to give that is worth anything.  On those days I feel like I’m trapped in a rut, a trench so deep and so wide and so long that I can’t see over the top of it.

But I’m not ready to give up just yet.  I’m not ready to pack away my perhaps childish idea that somewhere out there is the thing I’m meant to do and if I find it, when I find it, something inside will click into place like a key fitting inside a lock.

I have to believe it’s out there.  I have no choice but to teach myself how to once again start wishing wishes for me and finally start filling up the pages of the rest of my life.

 

messy-beautiful-450b

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project.  Click HERE to learn more and if you don’t know about Glennon Melton’s amazing memoir, Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, now’s your chance – it’s now out in paperback so pick up a copy!  It will have you laughing and crying, all in the same breath!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

the library

A special shout out to the Eagle-Eyed Editor for passing along this writing prompt in response to my “stuck on repeat” post.  As soon as I saw this suggestion on the list, I knew I had to write it.

“The Library that means the most to you.”

When my daughter was eight months old we moved to a new house, in a town about half an hour from where we used to live.  I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know where anything was, I didn’t know anything.  I was also on maternity leave which meant I had hours upon hours upon hours alone with my daughter during the day.  And, as those of you with kids know, there are only so many hours you can spend playing with Duplo before your brain begins to shrink.  After just a week of being in the house, I was bored.  I needed to find something.

So I packed my daughter up in the stroller and off we went, looking for something.  What we found was the library.

It was only about a 15 minute walk from our house, down a beautiful tree-lined street.  It was September, the leaves were changing and the whole street seemed to be on fire.  The library was at the end of the street, an old, dark, depressing looking building but, upon closer inspection, I could see some construction trucks tucked in behind.  They were in the process of building a new library, right behind where the old one stood.  Once it was done they would tear down the old one and put in a courtyard where it used to be.  It wasn’t much to look at, but it was what was inside that mattered.

We made our way up the ramp that led us to the second floor.  I had to struggle to get the stroller through the door and I was wondering if maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all.  But once I got inside I knew I was home.  All of the books, shelf upon shelf upon shelf.  The light was dim, the carpet was dark, the windows were small but I didn’t care.  My eyes adjusted quickly and my heart beat faster; I hardly knew where to begin.

I don’t remember how long we stayed that first day.  Knowing my daughter as she was at that age, she probably gave me 10 or 15 minutes before she started to fuss and whine in her stroller, no longer entertained by the crackers or toys or keys from my pocket.  I can’t remember how long we stayed but I can pretty much guarantee that by the time we left, the bottom basket was full of books.  I probably never even read half of them but just the idea that I could if I wanted to was enough, it was enough for me that day.  When my brain was shrinking from stacking and unstacking blocks all day, I could read a book and feel better, feel human, feel like maybe I could still matter.

As overly dramatic and cheesy as it may sound, I feel like that library saved me.  Whenever the walls of my house felt like they were closing in, I went to the library.  Whenever I felt out of touch with the rest of the world, I went to the library.  Whenever I just wanted 10 minutes to flip through the latest edition of People magazine and find out what the Kardashians were up to, I went to the library.  It helped me remember, if only for a few minutes, who I used to be.  When I used to read and read and read, hardly coming up for air, when I used to dream of one day writing a book that someone else would devour in the same way I had devoured the words of others.  Slowly I began to come back into focus.

When the new library opened, I went through the doors that first day and stood in awe at the floor to ceiling windows, the spacious aisles, the comfy arm chairs.  It was beautiful and filled with so many new books I hardly knew what to do with myself.

Nine years later we still live in the same little town but we’re in a different house and sadly, we’re no longer walking distance to the library.  No matter, I’m still there at least three times a week.  My hubby jokes that it’s my second home.  It’s really not a joke though because, next to my own home it’s the place where I feel most at peace.  There’s just something about being surrounded by all of those words, all of those ideas; it simultaneously makes me feel incredibly small and yet part of something incredibly big.

Maybe one day my name will be on one of of the books on one of those shelves.  Maybe one day someone who is lost, like I was, will find it and not feel so lost anymore.  Maybe.  You never know, amazing things can happen.

Especially at the library.

Read Full Post »

I’m not a big fan of packing, even if it’s to go somewhere fun.  I’m always sure I’m going to forget something, or two somethings, or ten.  I feel like as I’m pulling out of the driveway inside the house there is a spotlight shining on all of the things I’ve forgotten: the camera, my glasses, my son’s favourite hat, just taunting me.

In an attempt to counteract that, my list-making skills are put to full use.  I start weeks before anything ever needs to get in a suitcase although, inevitably, there are things that make it onto the list but never actually into the bottom of the bag.

I don’t usually have a problem deciding on which clothes to take because, let’s be honest, my closet isn’t that extensive.  Once you take away the things that don’t fit and the things I don’t like anymore, it leaves a select few items and those are the one that make it.  Same with shoes.  I’m guessing there are people out there who line 10 pairs of shoes up on their bed and have to make some cutthroat decisions about which ones get to come on the trip but for me, if they’re comfortable and they match at least three of the outfits I’m taking, they’re in the bag.  And believe me, that still only means I’m taking three pairs with me, no matter how long we’re going to be away.

However, my real issue comes when it’s time to decide on reading material.  For me, picking the wrong books, or the wrong number of books for that matter, can make or break a vacation.  It is a decision that needs to be pondered, thought out, strategically analyzed and then finally a small prayer needs to be said before the final decision is made.

Take too many with you and you’re left lugging them around for the duration of your trip.  Don’t take enough and you’re half-way through your vacation with nothing to read, which to me is basically a fate worse than not being on vacation at all.  One time my hubby and I went on a trip to the beach and three days in I had already devoured “A Girl With a Dragon Tattoo” and was left book-less.  My hubby is not a big reader himself but had brought a book with him on the off-chance the mood hit him.  It didn’t.  I was desperate.  That’s how I spent the last two days of our vacation reading a biography from an NHL hockey player.  A good way to expand my reading list but let’s be honest, not nearly as satisfying as a good chick-lit beach book.

Some people I know solve this entire issue by just preloading a dozen books on their e-reader and taking that instead.  It’s light-weight so you can take it anywhere, no matter how many books it has on it, and if you don’t like the one you’re reading you can just move on to something else.  In theory it sounds like a great solution and in my head I totally understand the rational behind it.  I even have an e-reader that I could easily take with me.  But I don’t want to.

I don’t like reading from an e-reader, no matter how convenient it is.  I like to have a book, the real book, with pages and a cover and a spine.  I like to be able to stick mementoes from my trip between the pages as a bookmark that also serves as a keepsake.  I like to come back from a great trip to the beach with sand in the spine and some of the pages slightly warped from having been wet and dry and wet and dry.  The book becomes the keeper or some pretty great vacation memories.  And I’m sorry, you just can’t get that from an e-reader.

So this time I have tried to plan accordingly.  The kids are coming on vacation with us so that is going to limit my reading time.  However, there will still be idle hours to fill and without a book to read at all times, I will most likely go crazy.

And so I have decided on three.

My vacation picks.

My vacation picks.

One that I have tried to read a couple of times in the past and am determined to finish; one that a dear friend gave me to read and her recommendations are always spot-on; and a back-up in case I actually manage to finish the first two.

Because I don’t think I can handle having to read another sports biography.

Read Full Post »

When I was a kid my parents had a huge dictionary that sat on a shelf on the wall unit in our family room.  It was so big that it took up the entire shelf, all by itself.  It sat right down near the ground because it was so heavy you couldn’t really pick it up (or at least I couldn’t) and you kind of had to slide it off the shelf and onto the carpet in order to open it.

It’s probably been almost 20 years since I’ve seen it but if I close my eyes I can picture the cover as though it were yesterday.  Whenever I opened it the spine would crack, making a very satisfying noise, and it had those finger holes along the side, marking where each new letter started.  The pages were whisper thin and would slide through my hands like silk.  I remember running my fingers across the letters, in awe of the fact that I had in my possession one book that held all of the words in the world (or so I thought at the time).

I remember running downstairs at random, just to pull that huge book off the shelf and look up a word, any word, it didn’t really matter which one.  I would read it over and over, rolling the sound of it around in my mouth, trying to memorize the meaning to ensure I used it properly.  Even then, I knew there were few things in life worse than using a word incorrectly.

My parents have moved three times since leaving my childhood home and somewhere along the way, the dictionary was discarded, along with the set of encyclopedias and the record player, lost to downsizing space and upgrading technology.

Now I guess we are supposed to look words up online, using one of the dozens of electronic dictionaries that now exist.  I really feel like it’s lost some of the magic though.  You can’t run your fingers across a computer screen and be inspired by all of the words your fingers touch.  Well, maybe some people can, but I’m more of a “hard copy” girl.

So the other day when I was cleaning out a shelf in my basement and I came across a smaller, and less fancy version of that dictionary, I took a pause.  It took my mind a minute to go back to the place in my memory where this particular dictionary existed but I finally got there.  I majored in Journalism in university and one of my professors mandated that each of us purchase a dictionary.  Not a pocket-sized one but a full-size, unabridged, Canadian dictionary.  ‘Canadian’ so that colour would be spelled colour and not color, which belongs to our neighbours to the south.  That’s neighbours spelled neighbours, not neighbors.  You get the idea.  And so I went out and bought one, used it frequently over my four-year university career and then promptly packed it away and forgot about it.

But for some reason I have kept it all these years, making move after move after move, packed in box after box and unpacked onto shelf after shelf.  I don’t know why.  I can’t even remember the last time I cracked it open but something stopped me from getting rid of it.

And the other day when I rediscovered it again, after all these years, I pulled it off the shelf in the basement and took it upstairs to the room where I do my writing.  There’s nothing pretty about it.  It has a bright red cover that has been bent and folded over years spent being shuffled around.  The pages aren’t smooth or shiny, but rather are kind of rough and, if I hold them close enough, have a faint dusty odour.  It’s also horribly outdated; and probably was even when I bought it.  The word ‘Internet’ does not have an entry, nor does ‘texting’ and ‘friend’ exists purely as a noun and not the “he friended me on Facebook” verb version that (wrongly) exists today.

But as soon as I saw it, I was instantly drawn to it.  I put it on a shelf right beside the computer so I can see it whenever I sit down to put fingers to keyboard.  Something about seeing it there inspires me.  Something about realizing all those words are there, all lined up neatly on pages, waiting for me to discover them, makes me want to write.  I feel like whenever I get stuck, I can just close my eyes, open it up and pick a word, any word, and use it as a starting point.  A starting point for something that probably won’t be brilliant and it probably won’t be amazing but it will be something, and at the very least I will be sure to use the word correctly.

It’s not the beautiful book I remember from my childhood but maybe one day I will have a writing room big enough to hold a bookshelf, a bookshelf with a space right close to the bottom that could fit one like that amazing book I remember.  In the meantime, I’ll settle for the one I have, and all of it’s 90,000 words.

After all, everyone needs somewhere to start.

startv., n. 1. to get in motion; set out; begin a journey; 2. begin; 3. set moving, going, acting, etc.
(The Gage Canadian Dictionary – copyright 1983)

Read Full Post »

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I had my first ever blind date on Monday. As a happily married woman who met the man who would eventually become my husband when I was 17 years old, there really wasn’t much need for blind dates, but I was interested to give it a try, such that it was.

From what I’ve heard from friends who have done it, it can really go either way.  I decided to give it a try anyway and went in with high hopes, which was probably my first mistake. It really is better to temper your expectations, to be pleasantly surprised rather than hopelessly disappointed.

Lesson learned.

I picked him up at the library.  He looked so great, sitting there on the shelf wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string (just like the song, how could I go wrong?).

My date - isn't he handsome?

My date – isn’t he handsome?

Each book had a note attached to the front, a small “hint” so to speak as to what you would find when you opened it. I chose carefully, bypassing all those with thinly-veiled references to vampires (of which there were many). I ended up selecting the one that said “it’s not about knowing all the answers…it’s about the journey to find them.” Well heh, that sounds pretty much exactly what I’m looking for right now!

I checked him out and could hardly contain my excitement.  The woman who scanned him through the machine for me explained how the “date” worked.  I was supposed to take him home, unwrap, read, and then fill out the “feedback” form tucked between his pages.  If I did all of that, I could be entered in a draw to win a prize, as if getting to read a “surprise” book wasn’t reward enough.

I waited until after I got home and the kids were tucked safely in bed, letting the anticipation build.  I think my hubby thought I was a little bit insane but he has long since given up understanding my obsession with books.  I took a deep breath, sat down on the bed, and ripped into his smooth brown paper wrapping.

I exhaled, scanning the cover for some small sense of recognition.  I flipped open the cover and read the liner notes.

I sighed.

Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

Now I love books.  Love them.  Devour them.  Can’t imagine life without them.  And although I would say that I have a certain “type” of book I tend to read more often than others, I consider myself fairly open to trying new things.  Looking at my “date” made me realize this was certainly going to be a test of how open I really am.

I took the book with me on the train the next day, convinced that I had to at least give it a try.

I made it about 30 pages.

Now don’t get me wrong, this book is great, extremely well written.  This author knows what she is doing, and judging by the reviews I read on-line and the sheer fact that she’s written and published more than a handful of books, she is very good at what she does.  It’s just not my cup of tea.

I decided that 30 pages is as far as this date and I were going to get.  There’s just no spark, no connection, no set of shared interests.  I fully agree that opposites can attract but it’s just not happening in this case.

So I’m going to fill out my form and send him back to the library where he can be enjoyed by someone else; someone perhaps who can enjoy his unique set of attributes.

And I will be just a little bit sad that things didn’t work out differently; lost as I was in my high expectations of finding something amazing there on the shelf, all wrapped up in brown paper and string.

But I won’t give up hope, and if the library decides to do this again next year (which I desperately hope they do), I will be first in line to try my hand at another blind date.

Read Full Post »

Image Courtesy: 4freephotos.com

My hands are full.  I struggle to fit the key in the lock, turn the door knob that always sticks, and shoo the cat out of the way before he gets outside.  It’s freezing outside though, I don’t know why he would even want to go out there but there’s no convincing him.  I throw my purse on the bench, manage to get my keys on their designated hook on the key rack and slide my feet out of my boots.

I gently set down the reusable bag that functions as my library bag.  My purse I can throw; these books are important.

There are probably 10 or 12 books in the bag and if you asked me off the top of my head, I can probably name two or three.  Not a great number considering I only checked them out 15 minutes ago, glancing at them quickly as I slid them through the automated machine, stuffed them in the bag and hastily grabbed my check out receipt. I will make time to look at them later, when the house is quiet and my brain has settled, I will sit down in the middle of the floor with my bag and I will slowly take them out one by one, deciding which to read first, and second, and third.

This is my ritual.

Ten or 12 books is a pretty standard haul for me from the library.  At any given time I probably have 50 books on the hold list and at least two bags stuffed with books in various locations around my house.

Some people are addicted to shoes, some to purses, some to music.

Me?

I’m addicted to the library.

I justify it by telling myself that there are a lot worse things to be addicted to.  I mean really, I’m addicted to reading, how can that be a bad thing?  And I’m addicted to reading at a place where everything is free.  In my view there really is no downside.

I love everything about the library. I love the way it smells. I love the fact that it’s so quiet. I love the way I can get lost in the shelves, seemingly alone in the world.  I love the way I can walk through the doors and randomly decide that I want to learn about some topic like knitting or kayaking or how to make paper airplanes and there will be books about all of those things. Lots and lots and lots of books; just waiting for me to pull them off the shelf, run them through the scanner, tuck them in my little bag and take them home with me.

Some people have issues with library books; they don’t like the fact that other people have read them.

I have an issue with people who have issues with things like that.

I personally love the fact that other people have read the books. When I’m flipping through the pages I try to imagine the people who have done the same thing, flipping through those exact same pages. What were they hoping to find in these words? Did they find them? Did this book change their lives?  Did they cry at the same parts I did?  Did they slam it closed and throw it into the chair beside them in disgust, as I did?

One of my favourite things is when people leave things between the pages, little clues about who they are.  One time I found an invitation to a party tucked between the pages. The party was for a date months before and I wondered if they ended up going.  Did they have a good time?  Did they look through their purse for weeks wondering what they did with the invitation?  Did they have to call someone to get the address because they couldn’t find it?

Sometimes I find pictures.  Sometimes it’s little notes, grocery lists, a phone number jotted down on a square ripped from a newspaper, a piece of ribbon, a drawing from a child; the tiny scraps that make up someone’s life.

Quite often I find the check out receipts from when the book was taken from the library.  These are one of my favourite things to find because I love nothing more than to see what other people are reading.  I’ve gotten many great reading recommendations from people I will never know, just by seeing what else they checked out of the library.

One day technology may surpass the library.  Maybe it’s going to be all about the e-books and the e-readers and e this and e that, but I for one, certainly hope not. Because there’s something so special about sharing a book, even if it’s with people you don’t know. The communal idea of many hands holding the same pages, the interconnectedness of reading the same words.

And the amazement that comes from finding something special, long forgotten, tucked between the pages.

Read Full Post »

I have a little personality “quirk” let’s call it that makes it almost impossible for me not to try things that other people are trying, doing, reading, eating.  Not for the sake of doing what everyone else is, but because I really feel the need to form my own opinion, throw my hat in the ring, add my two cents; you know what I mean.

This is especially true for books.  As I am pretty much a full-fledged book-addict I have to know what is new and hot in the world of books.  And then I have to read them…all of them…it can be quite a tiring process.  Believe me, if I didn’t have to go out into the world and earn a living I would be quite happy curled up in my chair with my comfy pants, hair in a messy ponytail, cup of tea by my side, and a book.

This was the case with the Twilight books which I fought tooth and nail to avoid reading until I finally caved and then proceeded to devour all four books in the span of three weeks, all while caring for two kids under the age of four.  ‘Go watch Dora kids, Mommy needs to see what Edward and Bella are up to.’  You get the idea.

I did it with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, just about all of Oprah’s Book Club picks (although I couldn’t do Anna Karenina – even I have to draw the line somewhere), and I’m slowly making my way through Heather’s Picks.  If it’s written about in a magazine, talked about at the grocery store, mentioned on a tv show, you can usually bet it’s been added to the little list I keep on my phone of “things to read.” Add to that all the ones that my mom hears about and you can understand why I currently have 43 items on hold at the library.

So, baring all of that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when all of the talk started surrounding “50 Shades of Grey”, I too decided I had to read it.  And read it I did.

Is it a great book?  No.  Is it a good book?  Probably not.  Is it highly addictive, infinitely readable and so graphic it made me blush?  Yes to all three.  There are books that are written to be great books.  There are books that win awards, books that will stand the test of time, books that change the lives of all who read them.  And then there’s 50 Shades of Grey.

By now everyone is familiar with the plot and the fact that it’s not particularly well written.  It really does go to show that you don’t have to be a great writer to get a book published.  Some writers I know find this frustrating but I actually find it quite liberating.  Why waste a whole bunch of time wrestling over the proper use of a semi-colon when it’s really just about coming up with an idea for a story that people want to read.  I figure if this book can get published, there really is hope for writers like me!

This is a book that does not, in my opinion, pretend to be anything other than what it is on the face.  It’s a romance novel on steroids.  It’s borderline offensive to women, the dialogue is eye-rollingly cheesy, the characters are fairly simplistic and unimagined but keeping all of that in mind, I read it in about three days.  I talked about it to people more in those three days than I have any book in probably the last year.  After talking to them about it, I know three people who went out and bought it just because they wanted to know what I was talking about.

I’ve spent more time than is remotely appropriate debating who should play the roles of the main characters in the movie version of the book.  And I, a person who very rarely buys books (I prefer to get them for free from the library) has contemplated numerous times buying the second one in this series because I am currently 34th in the hold line at the library.

I think there’s room on bookshelves for all kinds of books, even books like this.  Because at the end of the day, I think any book that gets people reading and makes them want to keep reading is doing its job.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find my credit card so I can download “50 Shades Darker” because who am I trying to kid?

There’s really no way I can wait.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »