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In Pursuit of the Happy Morning

This morning, it occurs to me that I can remember very few happy mornings. There have been a few, and they’ve been marvellous, and I can remember them in great and vivid detail. There was one morning when I woke up at my then-boyfriend’s parents’ house. We were visiting whle in college during a long weekend, I think. I woke up and the rural surroundings offered no traffic, no sirens, no hollering kids, no demand. Just sunlight. And I remember, it was clean and bright. There was a poster on the wall of a mountainscape, and when I woke up I felt like I was in them. I was greeted with a boisterous "good morning, kid!".  I felt so good it gave me goosebumps, and as I remember it, I feel like i want to cry. Later I married my boyfriend and his parents became my inlaws. That bed that I woke up in was my brother-in-law’s.
Recently there was a fantastic morning in the mountains. It was the first trip out there in over 7 years. Probably close to 8. I brought the kids. It was a total last-minute decision, and I found a cabin at the foot of Mt. Robson, privately owned by a very lovely German lady. Ben was out hunting and I had the whole weekend to connect with the kids and just get away from it all. We arrived at night, kids sleeping in the car, cabin lit up with white Christmas lights, weather mild and fresh. I couldn’t get enough of the SMELL. The smell of the trees! Cedar, pine… and the mountains themselves. I opened the cabin and it was cozy, bedroom night light turned on, kitchen clean and waiting. I hauled the kids in, tucked them in, set up our kitchen and locked the car (although I likely didn’t need to). We couldn’t really see the mountains and the clouds wre covering the stars. I woke up in the morninh and saw the mountains for REAL out the huge picture window, suddenly revealed in the morning’s grey, diffused light. As the sun rose the mountains gained dimension and drama as the sun raked across them. I made coffee. The kids tested their echos. I felt free. I had a smile inside.
Every morning for weeks on end I wake up with storm clouds around my head. Can’t work out, addicted to coffee, a cascade of gotta-dos tumbling from when my feet in hit the floor until they leave it again at night. I can’t move quickly. I escape on the computer. I got into a fender-bender. I’m angry and sad. I’ve been taking care of my internal environment as much as I can by making sure I’m fighting yeast (which I’m sure had a full-out rave the night or two after I had my birthday party. how many shots was it?).  I’ve been dealing.
I need a HAPPY morning!  I went to the body shop this morning and felt swept away by a mechanic saying "how was your weekend, Marge?" (not Marge but somehing close). The old lady at the counter said "really quite good thanks, Bob! And yours?"  (Not Bob, but something like it.)  It was bright and warm in the reception area and Marge got me a cup of coffee and there was a big, old, sedate golden retriever laying on the floor.
I need a "good morning!". I need warmth. Brightness. Beauty. Human contact that’s not demanding. Do you know, they give you that at McDonald’s here if you go through their drive through for a coffee in the morning. Gosh are they ever cheerful! Makes me forget how lonely I feel.
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Federal Election According to a Four Year Old.

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table with a very delicious cup of coffee. Gabriel helped me make it. I sat down on the kitchen floor when we were done, and then he sat down next to me and said, "I should have a warm drink, and you should have a warm drink."

So now we’re at the kitchen table and Gabriel is sipping a cup of warm almond milk with a sprinkling of Ghirardelli mocha powder, making it chocolatey and sweet, with just a leeeeetle bit of coffee flavour like mamma’s. Coffee in hand, wearing his Incredible Hulk shirt, he sips quite loudly. I say "yum" over my really welcome cup. Then there’s a pause. There’s today’s issue of Time magazine sitting on the table in front of us, with Mc Cain and Obama on the front.

"So, Gabriel. Who do you think is going to win the presidential election in the United States this year? This guy, or this guy?" and I point.

He looks. Confidently he puts down a chubby finger.

"This guy." Obama wins.

"Why this guy?"

"Because he’s the smartest."

"I think he’s the smartest too. What about this guy? why isn’t he the smartest?"

"Because he’s not the coolest. This guy is the coolest."

"This guy’s name is Barack Obama."

"What’s that guy’s name?"

"John McCain."

"John McCain. He’s not going to win."

"Gimme five, big kid."

Then we’re riffling through the pages, looking for pictures of Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. They are Obama and McCain’s "partners". I get to be Biden. Gabe gets to be Obama. We don’t find a picture of Biden, but then we see a spread with John and Barack standing in a maze of money, looking determined.

"Gabriel, who’s going to win the maze? Who’s going to get out of it first?"

Of course. Obama is the favorite here, as well. "Why is he going to win?"

"Because John McCain is going to walk, and Barack Obama is going to run."

We finish our coffee. Gabriel is now drinking water through a minitaure whisk, delighted that he discovered it can also be a straw. Can’t wait for November.

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Schools These Days.

I complained about it last year, and I’ll complain about it again.

Perhaps I’ll start by transcribing the school supply list for the Grade Twos this year.

Quantity Description
8 Duotangs
1 200 Page Plain Looseleaf
1 200 Page Ruled Looseleaf
1 120 ml White School Glue
1 Hilroy 1/2 Blank 1/2 Lined Exercise Book
2 Hilroy Lined Exercise Books
1 Hilroy 1/2 Blank 1/2 Interlined Exercise Book
3 Hilroy Interlined Exercise Books
6 White Erasers
4 Large Glue Sticks (40g)
24 HB Pencils (sharpened)
5 Large Ziploc Bags
1 Crayola 12 Pencil Crayons (Pre-sharpened)
1 Crayola 16 Wax Crayons
2 Crayola 8 Washable Markers (Wide Tipped)
1 Facial Tissue (250 Sheets)
1 Dry Erase Pens (Chisel Tip – 4 Pack)
2 Highlighters (Yellow)
2 Post it Notes (2 x 1½)
1 Plastic Pencil Box
1 1” Commercial Quality Binder
1 30 cm Clear Plastic Ruler (mm & cm)
1 Pencil Sharpener with Lid
1 Fiskars Childrens Scissors (Pointed)
1 Black Sharpie Pen
Headphone for computer use

Ok. The paper, I get. No worries. Paper paper, all you want. But ok.
Now look. SIX WHITE ERASERS. Six??? I went through ONE all year long
back in the day. Maybe two. How on EARTH will any child use six, unless
they’re cutting them up and using them as pea-shooter ammo? Lord. If
you require your students to have six white erasers in their pencil
boxes, I would question your teaching.

Second and third: four glue sticks. TWENTY FOUR pencils. Do I even need
to say anything here? Twenty-four pencils. When I went to school I did
a whole lot more writing than my kids do now, and I went through maybe
three. I remember getting down to the end of a pencil and it being an
amazing, celebratory experience. Are there more kids who chew their
pencils beyond recognition nowadays? Are they making log cabins out of
pencils in art class? Are they donating some to Africa? And the four
glue sticks thing. I never got to the bottom of a glue stick. Well
maybe I did. Once. FOUR?

Oh, and why they require TWO packages of the same 8 markers is beyond me. If they run out I’ll go buy more later.

I could go on, but you get the picture. I’m returning a bunch of the
stuff I got, and my kids are going to school with probably half of the
pencil-case requirements. It wiped me out. I’m broke. Twins to buy
school supplies for. Indoor shoes, music lessons, sports, lunches…

And then. The public schools like to think they’re private nowadays.
Teachers out there, feel free to flame me for this part if you feel
like it, but why on EARTH am I paying fees at a public school? For each
child, it’s $150.00. Not too bad, compared to university tuition or
private school. Add to that, however, fees for an agenda that the kids
REQUIRE as part of their curriculum. Should I be buying them textbooks
in grade two as well? After the agenda fees, there are the lunch lady
fees. I have to pay the lunch lady, too. Once a month there’s a "hot
lunch day" where local fast food joints nourish our babies’ bellies
with 100% pure ground beef on sesame seed buns, special sauce and nice
big swigs of milkshakes to wash it all down. SO order that on the order
form and pay no later than Tuesday for all three boys now in school.
Oh, and volunteer your time to help distribute it. After that, about
once or twice amonth, there are hot dog days and cupcake crazes where
the kids get to eat meat-packing plant floor scrapings, white bread and
sugar. Pack some Twonies in the kids pockets for that. Sometime at the
beginning of the year too, expect to get a nice invoice for field trip
fees. You’ll probably buy some skates to go along with that. So after
all of that, your happy child marches home with Scholastic book order
forms once a month. Once a month!!! I think I remember twice a year.
Then there’s the UNicef Halloween penny carnival, the Christmas
fundraising campaignSSS (yes, three of them: wreaths,
gifts/chocolates/wrapping paper, and whatever else.) As well as the
charity drive for the Kinsmen club where you buy extra toiletries and
presents for all the less fortunate ones who can’t afford deodorant
because they were too busy paying the public schools on top of their
tax money. Tired yet? It doesn’t end. They sponsor a child in Africa,
ask for change every single week of the year, and by the time school is
over, hand you a big fat list of what you’ll need next year, along with
all the school supplies that miraculously didn’t get used. There’s also
a teacher appreciation WEEK where every single day you’re to bring
something else to flesh out the staff room, volunteer to help with the
festivities, and donate money. I found out last year that the parents’
generosity helped to fund a cappuccino machine for the staff room! Oh
BLISS! Then there’s a spellathon and a math-a-thon. Sponsor your kids
and run around begging for money from your extended family and co
workers that they pledge to give if your kid can spell "the".

Thank goodness the kids don’t ride the bus. I’m so bloody broke.

Tell you what. I know our schools aren’t getting funded adquately. I
know our poor teachers can’t make ends meet so they need to strike once
every four years or so. Let’s just quit pretending we even have a
public school system, call the whole thing private, charge me tuition
at the beginning of the year, all-inclusive, and leave me the hell
alone. It’ll probably save me a bundle.

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Too much cheese.

I’m on nutrition program. It dictates, today, a half cup of cereal, three quarters of a cup of 1% milk, a dribble of olive oil and some cheese. Three ounces’ worth. I enjoy this program, but it’s hard to eat three ounces of cheese all at once. Maybe I should melt it.

I’m grouchy today. I just want to hide in bed and nurse my grouch till it goes away somewhere, but that’s a luxury I don’t really have with kids. I always fel guilty if I go to bed and stay there too late. Is that something I should get over?

We saw The Dark Knight last night. It was the best Batman movie ever. Heath Ledger was unreal. Which makes his tragedy even worse. That movie is still with me. And it was Batman, for crying out loud.

So let’s write a paragraph that’s longer than a few sentences. Lord. Why am I blanking? You know, we went to Davenport again for summer vacation this year. It was amazing. As soon as I was there, I remembered the headspace I used to be in. I remembered writing all the time. I remembered that feeling of belonging. It made me want to hang diapers on the line to dry. I remembered being hot. I remember feeling released when we all went to the park, although too many times I was tired and stressed… but it was still a release. I remembered how I was finally getting around to loving myself and dancing and making my way into the community. Another year or so and I would have known newspaper editors, lounge owners ,political figures. Did I only see the big picture this last year? I think so. So maybe where I am this year is a good thing. Nonetheless, walking through the locust trees and seeing my boys climb and hearing the cicadas made me feel at home in my own skin. I do miss it a lot.

And it made me want to write. I guess there’s a quietness there when there are no other purposes, duties, assignments, expectations pulling at you. I remember church and the friends we had and the gorgeous farmer’s market, the seasons… already it’s changing here. It cooled off a lot today and I fear my tan is on its way out.  Would I feel the same way about here as I do about Davenport if I were ever to leave?

Mmm. Where’s that bed? I finished my cheese. I just want to sleep now.

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Early morning sentences.

With what do I begin? I suppose, just like in previous entries, I oughtta just start somewhere.  It’s been close to a year since I’ve written anything here, which I find shocking, given the feeling of recency of the Starbucks incident.
Hmm. One second. I have to replenish my hot water bottle.  There! I’m back. And it took no time at all for you…
I feel as though I’m lightyears ahead of where I was even two weeks ago, yet at the same time, I’m back in the old saddle again. I’ve had experiences that have caused me to marvel at my purpose here on earth, and propel me into discovering what it is I’m meant to do with my precious time. I really got excited about that, until I got sledge-hammered with a brand new shiney bladder infection. Again. And now I sit here in my kitchen with a hot watter bottle and lots of tea, unable to sleep and feeling nothing but the present moment. Not pitying myself, no. I’m frustrated. I’m a bit concerned for my health. But I hate physical discomfort getting in the way of illumination!
I went to New Zealand. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to go there. A literal dream… I dreamed about it when I was a young girl. I woke up with a sense of exhilaration, breathtaking euphoria and freedom, and that’s what I felt when I went there. I’m back now, and the things I learned while I was there with a very dear, close friend are what will be catapulting me into a new and stellar life. I feel as though nothing is impossible.
Except, perhaps, maintaining a healthy bladder!
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Random Act of Kindness, or, Saved at the Starbucks

It was so unexpected! This morning I was late to wake up. I first  opened my eyes at 7:11 thinking, ah… good. I still have half an hour to snooze. I next opened my eyes at 8:26, about 10 minutes before I had to have my kids at school. And they weren’t even dressed. So anyhow, up I fly, on go the clothes (am I heavier today?), back goes the hair and into my shoes I run. Kids, get your clothes on!! We’re late!  They bolt down the stairs and goof off for awhile- I have to yell several times for them  to get a move-on. Gabriel won’t stop whining that he wants to come with me when he sees me hold the van keys. I yell at him, I’ll be back in ten minutes! Relax!!! Now I’m on my knees tying Peter’s shoes, and out the door we go. The kids are bouncing off the walls… at least they’re happy. Lucky (read: poor) Mrs. T in kindergarten. And then the van is suddenly quiet. There’s rain outside and it’s blue-grey everywhere. I remember that this is quintessential school weather. This is "I have an essay in my backpack and we’re doing gym today and I’m tired and I hope I never see Dylan again and I can’t wait till lunch so I can give Dave my note" weather. I decide to grab a coffee at Starbucks, since the coffee I poured at home was yesterday’s and I didn’t realize it till I had a mouthful.

So, off to Starbucks. I’m staring at the drive-thru  menu, remembering  a  joke about  Sugar-Free Soy Milk Cinnamon Dolce Latte No Whips on a favorite forum. I decide to modify my humble drink just a bit in fond remembrance, and order a tall light blend with a shot of toffee-nut and some cream. I inch forward. I check my face out in the mirror and notice a zit. I’m 30.  I inch forward some more. I’m watching the barista in the window now, and she’s sooo cheerful. In a nice way. I smile. She helpfully reminds the person she’s talking to that the latte doesn’t come with whip so he doesn’t have to say "no whip" if he doesn’t want to. Then she perkily offers a "you’re very welcome!" to the appreciative, newly educated patron. then it’s my turn. I have a twenty in my hand and she looks at me with a bright smile and says "you’re the toffee-nut!" I smile and think, well I like toffee, but I’m not a nut about it.  Tee hee.   I go to give her the cash and she smiles and says "Oh! Actually the lady in front of you paid for you already! She says have a great day…."  At which point I respond "Oh!!  Oh!" and sort of look around, snapped out of my little internal world and smiling with my heart beatinga little more qiuckly. Then the ebullient barista says "I know! Isn’t that nice??"  "Yes… yeah it is… thanks :) " and I grab my coffee, which isn’t a tall… I think it’s a venti now. And I drive away laughing, and then I start to cry! I’m crying! If i had a friend in the seat next to me and s/he bought me a cup of coffee, I would have thanked them kindly and enjoyed my coffee. But a random person wanted another random person to have a great day, a random LADY wanted this lady to have a great day, and spent a little money on her to encourage it!  Suddenly I felt as if the chastisements, subtle and overt, that I got yesterday, were of no conequence, that my day had potential, that I was perhaps good, and that gosh darn it, I could DO it!  I instantly started thinking about all the positive things people had said about me recently, about all the things I was proud of, about all the good jobs I’d done, about how probably I AM a decent mother, and how lovely this day really is. I think I uttered "I have to start doing that" about three time out loud, referring to buying the person behind me their cup of coffee.

So. I was the receipient of a random act of kindness. I’d heard about them, but this was the most genuine example I’d had, and what an impact it made. Just a cup of coffee. I’m going to pay it forward. And I’m not going to feel even remotely apologetic that I’m embracing popular culture cliches. It feels really good and I DO believe it makes the world a better place.

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