Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Checked out, tuned up.

The last time I blogged, the view from my office's rooftop patio looked like this. (Above)

The trees are now naked.
And the streets have permapuddles.

(I was JUST talking to Jenn, my writer friend, about my need to increase my vocabulary. I'm starting with permapuddle. It may be a made up word, but its not one I've used before, so I'm on the right track.)

Have you read 1984? (By George Orwell)
I did, (for the first time), last weekend, in anticipation of Monday night's Book Club meeting. What a difficult, dark story. I couldn't finish it. Those torture bits at the end were just too much. But controversial books that stir up strong feelings are catalysts to good invigorating discussions, and this one was no exception.

We were a small group (November is Travel To A Place with Palm Trees Month for those who have the freedom to do so), so our numbers were low, but those of us who were there were enthusiastic and committed. We talked for hours. And now, a week later, The Thing that I'm still wrestling with is our language and my use of it. English is rich and full and we have so many words at our disposal. There is no law against using all the words; we can pick and choose from about 170,000 of them.  In the book, the government was removing tens of thousands of words every year , and the resulting language was called NewSpeak. (Newspeak is a controlled language of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, meant to limit the freedom of thought, personal identity, self-expression, and free will.)

This prompted a good talk thoughtful dialogue about words. And how, if you don't have a word for something, you don't know that thing. We think in terms of language. And if we don't have words, we don't have a point of reference. It was suggested that we need to be intentional about learning/using new words. The young mom amongst us does this daily by reading books to her kids that are beyond their current reading level. They talk about the words and ideas they don't understand.

When's the last time I did that? Intentionally learn new words and purposefully add them to my day-to-day conversations? A million years ago? As I was talking with Jenn, I remembered a Public Salon presentation from 2017. It had to do with this very topic and the speaker challenged us to keep track of identify the ten words we use most often, and thoughtfully replace them with new/rarely used words. I should do this.

Wow that was a rabbit hole and a half.

It's gonna take a million hours to get this blog written if I need 5 paragraphs to explain every word choice (permapuddle) I make.

Carrying on.
It was surely beautiful at the beginning of this month, yes?

It feels like foreverago, but I had one of those Full-Meal-Deal doctors appointments at the start of this month. I was expecting bad-ish news because of the weight gain due to this stage of life and my inability to adjust. But to his surprise and my astonishment I'm 'a very healthy woman'. Hahaha. Everything is perfect based on what he touched and saw. So. Yay me. 💣 Boom. (And today I'll have those annual tests (blood and boobs) because that's what we do here in Canada. Last time I failed them both (grrrr) which resulted in bananas and a biopsy. Hoping for an "A".

Speaking of exams, earlier this month we had our Annual Employee Review Interviews. Oy.
In the past year, I got a new boss, built a new design team, and established relationships with some new-to-me account execs. My first five years at Focus were fairly predictable, which is easy on the nerves, amIright? And then last fall, that calm season ended abruptly causing me to face a few challenges head on. And now? It was time for my report card. How did I do?

We have a new HR person, and she supplied us with new (I've just used the word 'new' 5 times in the past 4 sentences) review form. As an employee, I was to fill it out myself, and my boss would chat with me about it.
1. What were my achievements this past year?
2. How can I maintain this level of performance?
3. What did I not do well?
4. What can I do to improve this performance?
5. What can my boss do to assist me?
6. How can the organization assist me?
7. What are my goals for the upcoming year?

I filled that form out like a bawse. In case you were wondering why I didn't blog during the first half of this month, it's because I was writing an 8 page document about my work wins over the past 12 months.

And then? The 4 employees who report to me needed to fill out their forms so we could talk.
I wanted to be contribute meaningful observations to those 4 meetings, so I prepared by coming up with my own list about their individual successes. In case you're wondering, I am a believer in Simon Sinek's leadership philosophies:

If you're a manager or a boss, what's your north star guiding principle? Who's your mentor? Which writers/presenters/leaders have been influential in your life? Do you have a philosophy? How do you know what to do? Instinct?

I'm lucky blessed very fortunate in that I have a great (means large, expansive) fantastic (means bizarre, eccentric, fanciful, imaginary, whimsical?) BRILLIANT team; talented, self-disciplined, trust-worthy, hard-working. Makes my job super easy. (Seriously, it's gonna take me a year to get this blog post done.)

My Max had a birthday this month.

Above photo is not current. 

We met at the lake to celebrate. 
How do families recognize birthdays? We have a meal together. I transfer money into birthday child's account. We may or may not have cake. We definitely do not sing. 

I feel I need to put more effort in. 

Birthday boy, cooking some of the steaks (above).
His older brother, cooking the other ones (below).

Youngest bro chopping chives and garlic.

... and the girls, cuddled under the heat register. (Dani, Misty and Toto.)

Instead of a cake, the requested desert was chocolate chip cookies. 
Which I haven't made in 5 years. 
So the recipe was no longer in the forefront of my memory bank.
I texted Jule, who was out of town, but had it saved in her phone. 

And this was my first batch:

Where I had accidentally doubled the butter.
Threw it all out, and hours later, finally, the second batch was ready to be consumed:

According to Max, I redeemed myself. 
They were good. Very good. Awesome. Perfect. Almost as good as Grandma O's. 
We ate them all.

A typical evening with the Okids:

I guess our biggest birthday present to Max was the gift of him being allowed to be the first one to leave on Monday. Haha. The other two stuck around to unplug the cabin. Drew used a snake and Draino to clear the completely stopped up sink. (Ewwwwww.) And Clint climbed up onto the roof to clear out the completely stopped up downspouts. 

Trying to capture the wall of water that spilled over the roof once things were moving again...

And then, channeling his grandfather, he built a fire. To burn the garbage. 

There's a certain amount of peace to be had, knowing that the drains are flowing, right?
So very thankful for my boys. 

In keeping with the theme of this month (Looking After Things) next up was my truck.
It too, was poked and prodded in all it's private parts, checking to make sure all the drains were flowing. (Last tune-up there was some talk of transmission troubles. But alas, it, like me, is very healthy, despite it's advanced age.) HOWEVER, it did need a new set of tires. 

So I made another appointment and sat in the showroom with my laptop and worked while I waited. (Same thing as the day before at the dealership.) If you see me out and about in Langley during working hours, I will likely have my laptop with me, fully connected to the office, running things from a customer service lounge or doctor's waiting room. 

I feel like this month has been all about appointments.
Of course my semi-annual dental check-up was this month as well.

No cavities. But two more teeth are on their last legs. So to speak. (That's not a pretty image; teeth with legs.) UGH.
I spent a hundred hours this Spring getting three new top teeth. SO not looking forward to going through that process again. (Another 'aside': was at a gum specialist this afternoon. She asked me to fill out a double-sided form. Which I did, the whole while thinking, "Someone needs to redesign this document. The font is blurry. The formatting is atrocious. The spacing is all wrong." I imagined, as I wrote in my answers, how any one of my designers could improve this sheet. Despite my critique of the form, I was very thorough in my answers. (I'll never get this blog post finished. I'm spending this month filling out forms. )

Half an hour later, when I'm in The Chair, the dentist's assistant sits down beside me and said she'd like to go over my answers with me. Her first question was how do I pronounce my last name. And then she started reading all my answers. She flipped it over and kept reading. Then she turned it back to the front and looked at the info at the top. 
"Where do you work?" 
"Do you fill out forms alot as part of your job? Because you did this very well. I don't often get patients who do this as well as you."
 💣💥 BOOM. 
"Thank you for noticing. I really do try."

It's the little things, innit?
Then the dentist/specialist used a sharp pokey thing while examining me, talking to his assistant while he measured.
"She has tight cheeks" he observed. 
"Yes, I noticed that too, when I was x-raying her."
(What? Tight cheeks? That sounds like a compliment that I'll accept.)
"Hmmm," he noted as he tied to stretch my mouth to open wider, "she has very firm lips."
"I know," she agreed.
(Firm lips? OK, I'll take that too.)
"Can you pass me the blah-blah-thingy. Her tongue is very strong, eh. I'll need to move it aside."
"Uh huh. Very strong. And big."
(HELLO? I'm right here. RIGHT HERE. And I can hear you. Big, strong tongue? What the heck. Suddenly I'm feeling less like The Princess of Filling Out Dental Forms.)
He looked at me and said, "There is so very little room in your mouth, and yet you've got 10 capped teeth. Do you know what a challenge that would've been for your dentist. Commendable. He's done a great job. Your mouth looks great."

Anyway, when he was done, he looked at me and said, "You have a healthy set gums. You and your dentist have been taking very good care of them. There's nothing I need to do."

If you're keeping score, I'm totally winning with form filling and doctor/dentist appointments this month. 

ANYWAYS, in addition to Max's party (wow, that's a stretch, to call what we did a party...) there were two other celebrations this month; a significant birthday:

... and a My Favorite Things Party. 

Five years ago (WHOA time flies!) I hosted a My Favorite Things Party and invited Dani. She was still a teen, and one of the youngest partiers, but it left an impression. She has now hosted two MFT parties herself. Aacccckk. SO proud of her. She's a thoughtful, creative, organized, welcoming host. 


On my list of 101 Things to Do in 1001 Days, is "attend an Anne Lamott event".

Fifteen hundred of us were lucky enough to get tickets to this sold out event. (THANK YOU Maureen for getting them for us.) Thank you Village Books (favorite-ist book store, ever) for hosting the event. We met at the Mt Baker Theatre in Bellingham for two hours of listening to Anne talk about life. And writing. And fears. And hope. She has a way with words, a unique faith that doesn't sync up with my more traditional one, (which keeps me on my toes) and a sense of humor that is delightful. I was enchanted all evening.

I first heard of her through Nelson, (a friend/CBC instructor), who recommended (in 2001) I read her book, Travelling Mercies. I've been a fan ever since.

Afterwards, I treated Maureen to supper. It was her birthday, so I took her to a McDonald's off the I-5 in Bellingham. (Seriously. You don't want me planning your birthday celebration.)

As per usual, the conversation in my truck is always the best part of an evening. I love a good talk.


On the opposite end of the spectrum, I joined Val and Karm at Greendale Church's Pajama and Pancake Ladies Event. Best part of the evening? Listening to Val play the piano. When was the last time that happened? Decades ago. New bucket list item: Sit on Val's Music Room floor and just listen to her play songs that bring her joy.

And thus ends the 11th month of the year.
As far as November's go, this one wasn't half bad.

Everything (house, vehicle, body and teeth) have been checked out, tuned up, and prepared for another season.

Three things I'm thankful for:

1. FULL sunshine all next week. Roll on December!
2. Music. Musicians. (Saw Bohemian Rhapsody last night. And watched the documentary This Is It with Michael Jackson tonight. In awe of their talent. Saddened by their tragic, early deaths. Decided again, that I need to pray for entertainers/actors/singers/performers. )
3. That moment (last Wednesday evening at 10:15 pm) when I felt loved by my kids.

Sunday, November 4, 2018


He lost his words for 7 years.
During this dark season, he and his wife daily asked each other, "What are you grateful for today?"
And they talked about those things.

He is Brian Doerksen, a songwriter/musician, and after that long dry spell, he is back.

I was at Central Heights last night at his #Grateful concert. (Central Heights is where he and his wife were married 34 years ago. It was the venue for one of his more significant concerts in 2002. And it's where his mom's memorial service was 5 years ago. That building oozed memories and meaning for him.)
Hallowed ground.
I felt privileged to be there.

Music. It slips past your brain and goes straight for your heart.

November is my most challenging month. Not necessarily because of anything too specific, nor because of painful memories. But because it ushers in the dark season. The view from November is nothing but winter with it's gloomy days and long nights ahead.

I've been so busy at work and at my not-work, that I haven't really taken notice of October ending and November slipping in. But my internal clock was keeping track of the passage of time, and my emotions have been doing a fair bit of swirling. Which I've mostly been ignoring because I Have Things To Do. This week, in particular, I've had a lot of conversations, with colleagues, in my office, or with friends, in coffee shops, where one or both of us, has tears bubbling up just below the surface. Quietly, I promised my soul that I'll have a good cry eventually. Especially after I read this tweet by Diana. (Dr. Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series.) (I am a secret admirer of hers. She unknowingly mentors me in matters of social media responses, relationship maintenance and aging.) (Thank you, God, for Twitter.)

Tears are physically cleansing, not just emotionally. It's a way for your body to excrete stress hormones like cortisol.

I'm at the lake this weekend with Jenn who's working on the final edits of her follow-up book to Sleight.

We left Surrey at 7,  then stopped in to see Dani and her dad at the Vintage Barn Market in Chilliwack, where I had the pride (and joy) of watching my girl (and her family) chat with customers and sell the beautiful items they'd created. Ahhh. Memories of Billie's Country slamming me upside my heart. I love seeing Dani doing hair, but I REALLY love watching her make things. And I am thrilled that she is able to sell them.

Meanwhile Jenn was hanging out in my second favoritest booth - the bookstore on wheels:


"Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.")

ANYWAYS, (that was a bit of a rabbit hole) our next stop was to buy a pizza which we ate in the front seat of my truck in the Safeway parking lot, (Yes, A Weekend with Jane at the lake is a classy affair) before going in and buying some groceries for the weekend. 

We ate snacks while watching Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime til 3 am. Life doesn't get better. 

She spent Saturday writing her little heart out. I spent mine sleeping, and doing nothing. Because for me, Saturday is my Sabbath. (Hahaha. Let's come up with a spiritual excuse for being lazy as a teen.) I met Sandra at Central Heights at 6:30 and we chatted, (well, OK, I talked non-stop for 30 minutes) and then the music started. 

And it was like a reset button had been set deep within me. 

I was doing OK until Today, I Choose. 
Singing along? Was super hard. Words and emotions got trapped in my throat. Saying the words "As for me and my house, we will serve you" affected my ability to swallow and see clearly. Tears slipped out. But I had to reign them in before my nose got involved because I had no kleenexes with me. 

By the time Brian and his band were belting out The River, I was using all my energies to keep it together.

(Ugghhh. His videos are the worst. Hearing him live, with a band, and not having Papyrus font ruining the experience is how I suggest you listen to his songs.)

The best moment of the night, in my humble opinion, was when Brian invited his 82 year dad to join him on stage to sing "It is Well". Oy. 

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

I said goodbye to my concert-going, stoic, Pentecostal, non-crying girlfriend, and walked to my truck promising my tear ducts they could overflow as soon as we were on the road back to the lake. 

But I changed my mind when I got onto the freeway. Both the heavens and my eyes cannot be dripping great drops at the same time. Haha. Visibility would have been horrendous. Wildly irresponsible. So I just said all the words. All the words in my heart. I said them out loud, assuming God was sitting in the passenger seat listening. And by the time I got back to Cultus, I was at peace. 

So I baked brownies and cheese biscuits and we watched 4 more episodes of Jack Ryan. (Turning the clocks back really worked in our favor.)


I woke up Sunday and dealt with this. 
Rotting garbage on the side porch. 

(Here's the thing. We don't have garbage collection at the lake, so everyone always takes their garbage home. But this is the second weekend in a row (and third time this fall) that one of us has had to deal with the aftermath of raccoons rummaging though rotting garbage.)


So I cleaned it up like a responsible adult then went outside to breathe fresh air in deeply. 


What am I grateful for today? 


Three things I'm thankful for:

1. Family on-line chat conversations. 
I'd asked my kids for their advice to a young-mom-friend-of-mine who is struggling with teens who are not doing homework, not doing well in school/faking being sick in order to stay home, not doing chores, etc. 

The conversation meandered all over the place, and in addition to them coming up with some very solid advice, they added this:
"You and other parents, blame yourselves for being shitty parents for literally no reason at all. 9/10 of the things you prolly think you failed in parenting for us, we have not thought once it's your fault."

"Nobody is blaming you of being a bad parent. I hope you understand that."

"When you stopped forcing me to do homework? Finally? I still graduated. 
But I got not-great grades. Which bites when it comes to post-secondary, but I have NOT ONCE thought to myself, "if only I had better parenting. This is mom's fault."
"The only thought I have is, maybe I shoulda tired a bit harder."

2. I am thankful for the sounds of a dishwasher washing dishes and a washing machine washing towels. SO thankful I'm not doing either activity by hand. 

3. And I am thankful for my fam. 

Shalom, friends.
Thanks for reading.