It’s All Over But The Crying

Tonight I handed in all my Practicum IV requirements — the final documents needed to complete my Master of Arts in Counselling degree. Which means that I am done. Done except for one last trip to Calgary to meet with my classmates over brunch on Friday morning for our final practicum class.

Done.

Did you hear me?!

Done! Done this 60-credit masters degree that has been in my life for the past 4 years and 4 months.

And what was my first response?

I cried (not tears of joy) and had an overwhelming desire to debrief about all the ways I have done poorly over the past four years.

(Trust me, this was not the way I anticipated feeling after being done everything.)

But alas, that is what happened. And so I pressed “send” on my email, went to the bathroom, and then sat down on Marc’s lap (breaking our Poang chair would’ve really added to the moment, but it thankfully didn’t break) and proceeded to tell him about all of my worries about how I could’ve been a better wife and mom, how I’ve been caught up in my own stuff, and have not been the person I should’ve been all of these years. I didn’t get crazy negative and I didn’t break out into sobs… but it was a pretty solemn moment, a bit of a fearful moment, and tears were shed.

Because what’s done is done.

Yes, I now have done the work to put two new letters after my name. But what I’ve done (and not done) to get there is also done and there’s no changing that. I know I’ve done pretty well and that I’ve grown so much, but my first response wasn’t to embrace the good, it was to acknowledge and worry a bit over the bad.

And maybe that’s okay. And maybe I can do it now and get it out and let it go, and I will learn from the mistakes as much as the good, and, thankfully, I have an extra-gracious family who has loved me through it all. Thankfully. I know there is much to be thankful for. Truly.

So there you have it. It’s all over. And hopefully the crying is over too. Maybe just some tears of joy when I walk the stage on April 26th.

Posted in Family, School | 3 Comments

Memories as a MA Student Ma

Just over four years ago, in January of 2010, I started my first course in the Master of Arts in Counselling program at Providence Theological Seminary. It was a psychopathology course and apparently I was the only one in the class to read the textbook. At least that’s what my good friend Amanda said. Except at that point she wasn’t my good friend. I actually met Amanda for the first time in that class. I remember so clearly her standing talking to some students at a break and calling me over and asking if I was “Marc’s wife who we’ve been waiting to meet.” The running joke that whole week was that I’d finally be allowed to leave the trailer! Another memory of the week was when the professor was highlighting symptoms of OCD and said in a panicked voice, “Did I lock the front door this morning?!” I replied very casually, “We don’t worry about that. The cold shifted the ground over at the trailer, so the door doesn’t even close anymore.”

And so I began a four year journey to get this masters degree. Something I hadn’t even thought of a year prior nor had ever considered as a career option in my life. But the more I learned, the more I loved what I was learning and saw how well it fit with my interests and abilities. And I did well, academically. And I tried my best to balance life as a part-time student, full-time mom, and wife of a full-time seminary student (and later, pastor) all while living in 800 square feet of trailer with the nearest family 900km away. The kids were 2, 4, and a just-turned 7 year-old Madeline when I started. Olivia was in diapers! And now at the end of this, I will graduate on my 35th birthday and Olivia will turn 7, herself, two days later!

Marc and I will have our 14th anniversary this August. Right now we’re sitting at 13.5 years of marriage. We got married right before our final year of university. I did the math last week. In 13.5 years of marriage, one or both of us have been in school for 7 of those 13.5 years. And you know what we were doing the other 6.5 years? Those were the baby years of course! So we’ve either been stressed and sleep-deprived from taking care of kids or writing papers.  I know that the regular 9 to 5 work world is stressful in its own right. But the only time we’ve ever lived that life was for the 9 months I was pregnant with Madeline and we moved twice in those 9 months. (We’ve moved 6 times total in our marriage, and, truly, I don’t feel like we are as gypsy-ish as we sound.)

So I am simultaneously looking forward to having just work (because did I mention that the counselling agency I’m interning at has asked me to work there after I graduate?) and also feel like I may have a slight identity crisis. I feel like I’ve lived life for so long with, at the very least, a constant low-grade (moving to medium to high depending on the week!) stress because of deadlines that I know it will take some time for me to adjust to the lack of  external stress and pressure in my daily life. I know this because at the end of every semester (if it actually ended before the next one started), I always took about a week to not feel lost in my days because the deadlines weren’t there. I also know this because today I found out that one of my courses from the masters of philosophy I started after university will count as my final theology elective and so I am now a half a paper away from being done my degree! And when I got the news I cried tears of joy and felt such relief. And then as the day went on, I had these moments of feeling lost and disoriented, but eventually the relief of not having one more course to do would come again and I’d try hard to believe it.

I’ve been waiting for this day for so long. It’s always seemed like something so far away — possibly even something that wouldn’t happen or that I couldn’t do. But here it is. And so tonight we celebrated. Marc and the kids and I drove into Camrose and we celebrated “Dixie-style”. Meaning we ate as cheaply and efficiently as possible. East Side Mario’s has this great “4 can dine for $24.99″ deal with bread, soup or salad, and pizza. Knowing we’d be out for supper, I gave the kids a little bit of pop with their lunch so that we didn’t have to buy drinks at the restaurant. Then we ate lots of bread and soup and salad, so that we got full on that and took some of the pizza home. Marc thought our lack of beverage purchases wasn’t very celebratory, but I thought it was the perfect way to “celebrate Dixie.”

And while it seems like I have been in school forever, I know that these years will fade in memory pretty quickly. So tonight I want to give a few snapshots of my life as MA student ma.

That first semester, we had 30 days to from the end of the modular to complete all of the assignments, and I recall locking myself in the bedroom of the trailer a few times when Marc would get home from school, telling him, “I just need 30 uninterrupted minutes to write this paper.” And that’s how I’d do it. I’d power through with gusto when I could be by myself — which was not often. I worked a lot during naptime. The thing was, the school work was not my main focus being a mom way. I always thought of the degree as my hobby of choice, rather than — say knitting — and so I could jump into pretty easily whereas the full-time students would easily get bogged down with the never-ending schoolwork.

Then there were the week long courses that took me away from home. I had three in Calgary and one that took me back to Manitoba after we’d moved to Alberta. The first time, Olivia had burnt her arm the week before and so Marc was left with the responsibility of taking three kids to the ER for dressing changes every night before driving 1,400km on his own with them at the end of the week to pick me up. During the other courses, the kids were, inevitably, sick. My modular in Manitoba last year included Marc texting me pictures of Olivia’s swollen face and telling of trips to the ER while I was in class. Then there was the time that my license plate fell off on the drive to Calgary. Yes. Those modulars were always very interesting. And I know Marc is an exceptional dad.

I recall finishing up my class on the book of Job (with the president of the seminary, Gus Konkel, who actually translated Job for the New Living translation) while lying in bed with strep throat two days before we moved to Alberta. I did *really* well on that paper. Seriously. Because, I have also learned that 20 drafts of a paper doesn’t necessarily make for a better paper. I have gotten some of my highest marks when I’ve said, “Screw it!” and submitted my paper thinking that it would just “have to do” and then finding out what I did do was a 98%.

You see, the researching and writing papers has always come easily to me. I enjoy it and know I can do it well. The biggest stress came when I actually had to counsel people. I felt so inadequate. Part of the reason was because I had done quite a few courses online and so I felt like my professors maybe didn’t have a good gauge of whether I was capable of counselling. And I also never really knew (still don’t!) how I compared to my classmates and whether I had learned “enough” to be able to really try this counselling stuff for real.

So imagine, if you will, Dixie going in for her first counselling session — a roleplay — with her dear friend Amanda as the fake client. Luckily, Amanda knows how to run the videocamera in the session room, as she was also a counselling student. And, so Dixie goes to hit “record” on the video camera and turns to Amanda and says, “Just one minute.” And out she goes, down the hall to the bathroom, because Dixie has a bit of a “nervous stomach” which needed to be relieved before she could press record. But she did come back and press record and she did her first session ever and didn’t get one negative comment, and the prof even commented that Dixie and her nervous stomach didn’t seem at all nervous on the tape.

And after that I knew I could do it! Of course! I mean, I did it once, so, of course, I could do it again! I would never have to run to the bathroom before a session again. I certainly wouldn’t have to go before pressing record on the second session…

:)

Thankfully, that was a Practicum I only condition. And I have now made it through 120+ real counselling sessions without having to go to the bathroom once! I’m still not sure if I’m doing this counselling stuff up to snuff but I am listening to the words of my supervisor and am “being Dixie” more and more in session. And that is, for the most part, good. And I’m learning so much and loving the work the more I do it. I will always love the research and the security of having my nose in a book and the possibility of formulating a sentence in ten different ways before it comes out in a satisfactory way. But I am also finding joy that I never thought I would in the interactions of the counselling room, even if there is less security and more risk involved in participating in the story of another in-the-moment.

So, those are my seminary memories. My semories. I remember the good and the bad. The highs and the lows. And I think, as I look back, I don’t regret too much. I’m certainly more aware of my own struggles and faults now than I was four years ago. But I also have a lot more compassion for myself now too.

And tonight we raised our glasses of water to having my masters being done just a few months sooner than we thought and the palpable sense of relief that comes with that. And we raised a glass to our dear friend Jeff in the registrar’s office who emailed the good news today. And we raised a glass to making it through these months and years of stress and change and still loving and caring for each other in the middle of it all — and probably loving each other better because of it.

So, here’s to four years and 60 credit hours and *cough cough* thousand dollars done… well, after I finish that last half a paper. :)

Posted in Family, School | 3 Comments

Choosing How I Feel

This weekend was supposed to look a lot different than it does.

We were invited down to Calgary for my cousin’s birthday on Friday and since the kids were off school and I had class in Calgary on the day of the party, it all worked out well. But, add to that, my aunt and uncle’s offer to have the kids for an extra night and drive them home Saturday or Sunday because I had to leave on Friday to get back for work Saturday morning, and it was a recipe for an AWESOME weekend! Marc and I had plans to go to the city to have supper with our good friends as the wife just had a birthday, we were going to get a hotel room for the night, since I had to work for a few hours Saturday morning in Leduc anyway, then we were going to a matinee of the new Wes Anderson movie. Brilliant!

Can I just remind everyone of the incredible luxury of parents of children having a night out? Especially, parents of children who do not have any family members close to where they live to offer free childcare? On the rare occasions those opportunities arise, you take them! And we were going to!

And then it started snowing Thursday morning. And the snow wouldn’t have been a problem if the wind hadn’t been so nasty. And so I knew right from getting up Thursday morning that there was a chance our plans weren’t going to turn out. But I hoped. And then I was okay with not going because of the roads, and I decided to be cautious. Then came the time we would’ve left, and I wasn’t so okay with it anymore. And the disappointment set in. And, okay, eventually I was crying and possibly sulking on my bed in disappointment, but at some point I decided that maybe it was okay to have a quiet weekend at home. And it has been.

But then there was Friday morning when I had to skype into my class for three hours while being home alone with three children. And I got them all set up with a movie downstairs so that they would be still until my 10 minute break mid-class. Except, for some reason, the kids brought their movie upstairs into the little tv for when the kids are sick which is currently in Olivia’s room, rather than the large screen tv downstairs. And then Olivia needed a refill on the orange juice and the carton was too heavy. And then, “can we have some Reese’s Pieces?” And some other disruptions.

Disruptions when I am video and audio logged into my class so everyone can see what I’m doing and we are doing confidential case consulting so the kids cannot hear what I am saying. So I eventually went and hid in my room and had to sit on the floor by the door, lest the class see the piles of laundry or think I’m participating in class from the comfort of my queen-sized bed!

So I google-messaged Marc at the church to tell him what was going on and he called the kids on the phone and told them to stop bothering me, but every time they took a step out in the hall, I didn’t know if the next thing would be a knock on the door. And I was so distracted and tense, that I just needed Marc to come and take the kids for the last half of the class. Which he did. And class was good and stress-free after that.

But, as I was in the middle of that whole scene, I could feel my anxiety rising. And so many thoughts came into my head which were adding to the anxiety.

Like when I discovered that pausing the screen is not the same as muting, and so my whole class heard me ask the kids why they didn’t watch their movie and then heard the swishing of the cords and the pillows as I got set up on the bedroom floor. Apparently the other online student couldn’t hear a word of what was said because of all of my swooshing. And all of that reminded me of the total embarrassment I felt when earlier in the semester the mic picked up Marc yelling at the kids for all of my classmates to hear.

Then as I sat there asking Marc to please come home, I was reminded again of how I automatically think that his job trumps my job and that sometimes that makes me mad or frustrated or sad. And I’m not sure if that’s the way it is or not, but I felt both frustrated AND guilty that he was going to have to bring the kids to work for the rest of the morning.

And then I remembered that if it hadn’t snowed yesterday — the ONE day it’s snowed in March! — that I wouldn’t be having this problem at all. I’d have been happily sitting in class stress-free because there would be no crummy internet or children lurking in the hallways with questions and needs. Nope! I would’ve been in class and then Marc and I would’ve had a night out AND an afternoon out! And the kids would’ve got to do some fun things in Calgary. But, nope! Can’t catch a break! Oh yeah! Just like when Marc and I missed our nights away at Pastor/Spouse retreat this fall!

But then Marc said he would come and get the kids and the 10 minute break arrived so I could get up from the computer and get the kids ready. And I remember, clearly, walking into to Olivia’s room and I was on the verge of all of those thoughts and frustrating memories causing a cascade of negativity and self-pity and bitterness. It was right there, ready to wash over me and amp up my frustration to newer levels. But instead I chose to just stop the thoughts right there. And I decided to be glad that Marc was coming to grab the kids rather than being annoyed that he didn’t offer it in the first place. And I decided to ignore the temptation to go down the path of  frustration over the days Marc and I get to ourselves often not happening.

And I chose gratitude. Or at the very least I chose to stop the frustration. And it was such a better choice to not feel that frustration.

And in the end, it’s been nice to have a quiet weekend at home — the first in many months.

And it’s good to be reminded that my bitter little heart can chose something better. Something better than bitter.

Posted in Kids, Life, Marriage, School | 1 Comment

The stories we tell and tell and tell…

Are there certain phrases that roll easily and frequently off your tongue? When a particular subject, event, or person comes up, do you have “go to” phrases that you always say? Have you told the same story in the same way to many different people even across years?

Or is it just me?

I continue to learn SO much in this counselling internship of mine. When I think of what I looked like as a counsellor in September versus now, it’s hard to even imagine. And I’m learning not just from the experience or from the study or from my supervisors, I’m learning from my clients.

And I learn the most when I look at myself. All of myself. Even the stuff that is difficult or embarrassing. Like today, for example.

I left work right after an hour-long meeting with my supervisor and I felt like I was buzzing — alert and anxious, but mostly embarrassed. I’d gone on a bit of a personal tirade and what I recognized (and acknowledged to my supervisor as we spoke) was that the things I was saying to her are things that I’ve said for a long, long time. Word for word. A subject comes up and this stuff automatically flows out of my mouth. And it was not good stuff. It was not stuff that showed my reflective, empathic side. It was Dixie with her amazing ability to cleverly exaggerate. (But it’s just so dang clever! I gotta say it!)

But, oh how I wished I hadn’t said all of that.

And that’s why tonight I went to my journal and wrote it all out. I wrote about those words that I always say. I wrote about the embarrassment that I felt. And I tried to figure out why those are my go-to words.

What purpose do they serve? What is my motivation for saying them? What do they do for me? Really? Do they lead me or my thoughts in any positive direction?

You can probably guess what the answers were.

So, yes, I embarrassed myself in front of the person whose opinion of me as a counsellor and as a person has some significant weight at this time of my life. But. Maybe that’s what I needed. I needed to feel the weight of that with someone whose opinion I value and respect in order to stop doing the things that have come naturally for so long. Just because they’re natural, doesn’t mean they’re beneficial. And so I am going to do a lot of thinking before those free-flowing phrases come out of my mouth again. And I wonder what it will be like to look at these areas with fresh eyes, now that I’ve taken my cynical spectacles off.

Is this making sense to anyone?

I’m wondering if others can relate to these kinds of automatic responses to situations — hearing yourself say the exact same phrases every time a particular subject comes up. What does it look like to think about those phrases and why we say them and in what way they are shaping up?

Because the other thing I’ve learned is that every time we revisit something, we modify that experience. We change our perspective and our experience of that memory. We can do that positively or negatively. And whichever one we choose, the more we choose it, the stronger and more powerful that perspective becomes. Until it seems like there’s no other way to see it. No other way to speak of it. So we say the same old things every time.

But not me. Not after today. Not anymore. At the very least, I’m going to think before I tell my stories.

Posted in Psychology, School | 2 Comments

The Past, The Future, and the Light in the Darkness

Marc and I have a couple of go-to movies. They are our comfort movies — our potato/carbohydrate movies. One of those movies is Midnight in Paris. It’s a light, entertaining, and beautiful movie about a writer on vacation in Paris who wishes he could live in the glory days of Paris — in his mind, the 1920s. (Spoiler alert!) He travels back in time to the 1920s and meets a girl from that time who thinks it would have been the best to live in Paris in the “La Belle Epoque”.

We’ve watched this movie so many times, but last night when we watched it, I realized something: People idealize the past because they know how it ends. They know the whole story. Whereas, when you live in the present, there is more fear because you don’t know where things are going. Sure, in the movie they talk about all of the great characteristics of each of their favourite eras — the culture, the music, the feel of the time.

BUT.

I’m convinced that part of the appeal is in knowing the whole story of those eras. And that whatever calamity may have hit in those times, they made it through. Or, as in both cases, the idealized eras of both characters end in the world taking a turn for the worse. (La Belle Epoque ends with World War I, and we all know what happened in the world once the roaring 1920s were over! ) By living in the past, we have the option to just pick the pieces that we like, but we also we know the whole story. We know how it ends, which will, of course, influence which parts we like!

And now I’m going to make this connect to parenthood.

I was at a baby shower tonight and struck up a conversation with a great lady from our church… which may or may not have lasted the entire shower until all but a few of the guests had left and where I didn’t even get up to the snack table!

We talked about all sorts of things, but what struck me was her perspective. She became a grandma a few years ago, so she’s about a full generation ahead of me in the game. And so her perspective on my stuff as a mom is different than mine because she’s walked it before in her own way. What I am looking ahead at in my future is what is in her past. She’s been there. She’s seen how it ends. As have a lot of the other ladies who joined our conversation.

And it is so good to hear their perspective. I can get so nervous about how my kids are going to turn out because of how they are behaving in these days. And what I need is not only some good advice about how to guide my children along paths of love, kindness, and gratitude. I also need to hear that kids (even kids you don’t know what to do with sometimes!) can turn out okay.

Because right now I don’t see what the future holds. Right now I have just over a decade of parenting under my belt and I can point to some rather harrowing moments of the past and can now see how they have shaped some beautiful things. But I see that best looking back. It’s awfully hard to see that looking ahead!

But when I sit with women who’ve gone on ahead of me, I can reorient my thinking a bit so the future isn’t quite so scary. So I can live in my present a little more fully and not fantasize about going back to a “better” time when life was more in control (because life didn’t actually feel all that in control when I was living then anyway!). Nor do I have to try to live in the future — either through worrying about how things will go or dreaming of a time when there won’t be lego men and spilled Nesquick on the kitchen table for days on end.

As we drove home from the shower, Madeline said to me, “Why is the dark so scary?” I replied, “Because we can’t see where we’re going.”

Exactly. But when I talk to these ladies — these ladies who’ve lived it — and when I take the courageous step of saying how things are really going for me… it’s like those bright beams on the front of the van on the drive home. I still don’t see everything ahead of me, but I see a lot more than I would without them.

So, tonight I go to bed thankful for good movies, good conversations, and those brave women who are walking ahead of me on the journey.

Posted in Entertainment, Family, Motherhood | 3 Comments

Dear Dixie,

Dear Dixie,

Today you feel stressed. Today everything is too much and you just want to crawl under the covers and stay in bed all day.

You tried that a few times. Unfortunately, you can’t fall asleep.

Your brain keeps spinning with everything — all of the things that you need to do, all of things you have done, all of the unexpected changes and frustrations, all of the deadlines and demands.

And don’t forget you’re sick. And that you’ve only NOT been sick for 10 days of the past 40 days. So you’re a bit worn out.

And look at you! You have gone back to bed the past two mornings to sleep because you knew you were getting sick again and you didn’t want to get worse by pushing yourself to get up and go full tilt from 7am onward. And so far you’re not anymore sick. Well done.

And look at you, as well! You’re aware that your natural propensity to bitterness and blame when you get stressed may have been starting up when you realized how difficult one of your assignments is going to be and how very little instruction was given. Yes, Bitter Betty wants to come over and play today. But you recognize that Bitter Betty only yammers on when you are stressed and that you don’t have to play that game.

Bitter Betty also likes to catch up with Dame Blame, and Dame Blame likes to uncover all of those parts of your life that aren’t going *exactly* how they should be and then she sends you on a rampage of frustration where you try to fix everything in a panic, leaving a war path of nasty demands in your wake.

But you also recognized that it was Dame Blame at the door, and you opened it only a crack and then shut it again. Because you knew letting her in wouldn’t make you or your situation any better.

So, dear Dixie. What are you doing to do on this day? This day when you’re tired and suddenly on the verge of frazzled but there are many thing to be done? And just thinking about those things makes you want to run and hide and fantasize that none of its real. Ie., that the five girls coming to the sleepover birthday party tomorrow are actually coming to a house where a hazmat suit is not needed to go from the front door to the basement? What do you do?

Well… you start by what you just did. Talking to yourself. And being aware of all of these crazy feelings you’re experiencing. Naming them. Having compassion for them and for yourself. And then. Stay in bed if you need to. But just for a bit. Then get up and do what you can. And let “what you can” be enough.

(That’s what I’d tell myself if I were my own therapist, anyway…)

Posted in Life, Psychology, School | Leave a comment

On Christmas Eve Night

The kids are tucked into the living room tonight — a new tradition as of last year. They are asleep on the couches and the giant bean bag cushion in their new so-soft flannel Christmas pyjamas. The glow of the Christmas tree will shine on them all night long (we didn’t set up the automatic timer this year…) It’s an idyllic Christmas scene, even if Olivia sounds wheezy and was heavily medicated before being tucked in and Luke is just barely getting over a cold himself.

It has been a good Christmas thus far and tomorrow looks like it will be a fun and relaxing day as well. Marc’s mom has been here for a week now and it is nice to be with family this year. So very nice.

Idyllic. Idyllic. Idyllic.

Tonight we went to church and participated in the Christmas Eve service. There was talk of rest after busyness and light in the darkness — a pretty realistic depiction of Christmas, really. And I consciously let myself sink into that message. Life has been stressful these past weeks and months. Some days and weeks are not easy. I feel like I’ve had a few goes this fall where I actually didn’t realize just how bad things were until it was all over.

But tonight I’m happy and I’m tucked into my bed in my own Christmas-y pyjamas (even if they were purchased on clearance in July and I’ve been wearing them since then).

I’m here now and I’m thankful — so thankful — for a night like tonight. A night of peace and joy.

And as I soaked in that moment in the service, lighting the candles and softly singing Silent Night, I thought of those I know who are not having an idyllic night or an idyllic holiday or an idyllic year. Truthfully, I thought of the faces of people I’ve seen these past four months in my first term of doing counselling work. And as we sang “all is calm, all is bright,” I said a pray for some of them and the pieces of their stories that they have shared with me, for those whose night may be neither calm nor bright.

And I sat there cuddled up with my little family… and yes, three of the five of us are sick, and the girls idea of letting me “do their hair” for Christmas was an elastic pulling their bangs out of their face, and Olivia may or may not have had to wipe her nose on her dress when I ran out of kleenex in the service … but still it was a peaceful night to sing of peace and joy and to know peace and joy. And I am thankful for these moments, after and even in the middle of sickness and stress.

Because the beauty of Christmas for me this year is a little more realistic. I feel like I know Christmas a bit more this year or that I am letting myself be known by it. Because it’s not all perfect or easy but that’s okay. I can lean into the light offered at Christmas just as I am. And these stories I’ve been hearing as I’ve sat with people over these past months, I can set them down by the light of the baby Christ too. A gift, really.

Like the imperfectly wrapped gift from a child, I set myself — all myself — up next to the light of Christmas tonight. I offer it and then I rest there. The sleep of Christmas. The sleep of hope and light in a dark world.

A merry, merry Christmas to you, tonight wherever you are tonight.

Posted in Faith, Family | 1 Comment

Manitoba in Three Parts

I may have spent more time planning coffee dates than reading my textbook… but in the end it was the better choice (and the test is only on the first four chapters of the textbook which is exactly what I read!)

I have come there and back again. There being Manitoba. Back again being the snowy, snowy province of Alberta and the little bit of land in the country we call home. I had such a good time in class. It was a class on psychological testing and assessment and when the teacher asked what our anxiety level was over the course (especially the statistics portion of the course), I answered honestly:

I have no anxiety because I still don’t think there’s any reason for me to know this stuff. Other people know it and that’s fine with me. And I’m hoping by the time I become anxious about the stats portion of the class that Iwill already know how to do it and just bypass the anxiety altogether.

Sometimes this ability to repress my feelings and direct them towards external sources comes in handy…

And, like most good things in life, I stuck my foot fully in my mouth and I absolutely loved the content of the course, especially the statistical analysis part, and I  now see just how useful this will all be in my practice. So there. Now that my foot is no longer in my mouth, I can tell you that the class was excellent and I learned so much and look forward to adding all that I’ve learned to my counselling work.

So that was the main reason I went to Manitoba. But the added bonus was being able to see old friends. How many different coffee dates/different sets of friends did I plan to see during my 7 day trip to Manitoba?

8.

How many did I end up doing?

10-ish.

I am so glad that, even though a snow storm prevented me from making my original flight, my plans didn’t have to change too, too much (besides too little time with Heather P! and a few faces missing at Faith). This is quite remarkable when you consider that I brought the snow with me to Manitoba.

And it was so good to see old friends. And to connect. To really connect. It was nice to know that after a year and a bit, we can still have good and true and deep conversations, even over a short lunch hour. The connection was really good for me. Life-giving and good.

Reason #2 for going to Manitoba.

The other reason I went was for the sanity of my family. I have a pile of counselling hours to get through before I graduate in April. But I also have two (hooray for only two!) more classes to take. I could’ve taken this same course in Calgary in March but I knew that because I’ve had a slow start with my counselling hours that I’ll be making up for it in the winter. Thus, it would’ve been too much to cram another course in to an already busy semester.

So off I went last Saturday thinking a little bit, but not too much of Olivia’s slightly sore-sounding throat. I got her to gargle a few times before I left and we threw some vitamin C at her. But I wasn’t expecting to wake up Wednesday morning to one side of her face being swollen! Well, technically, I only saw it through pictures via text message that Marc was sending me… But I was getting him the Alberta Healthlinks # and advising him on what to do while my class was going on. Long story (and a trip to the walk-in clinic, the ER, a snowstorm, and another trip to the doctor) short, she has strep. Which showed symptoms on her poor, puffy face. Poor, poor girl. What a scare it gave us too! Marc woke me up with a text Thursday night (technically Friday morning) wondering if he should take her back to the ER (in the snow storm) because the other side of her face had suddenly swelled up…

Luckily, Olivia wasn’t feeling sick (just looking awful!) and Marc was still able to do youth and could work from home Thursday and had already planned to use up a holiday day when the kids were off on Friday.

So I did not get the illness-free week that I’d hoped for. But everyone seems to be doing fine now.

And, except for the Livia stress, it was a wonderful week away. I feel like I have grown in many ways and I actually feel a new measure of peace — can’t quite put my finger on what or how. My way of being in the world just seems a little easier and lighter (despite the poutine, cheesecake, and other must-have Manitoba foods consumed this week).

Things are very good.

Posted in Family, School | 4 Comments

Just One Week

I leave in the morning for the last week-long course I need to do for this degree. I am so glad for that. I’m glad I get to go to Manitoba to do it. And I’m glad that it’s worked out to see a pile of different friends over the course of the eight days I’m away.

But, more than that, I will be so glad when this week is OVER!

It’s not just about the school stuff either. (Although having only 2 more courses left after doing 18 is pretty exciting.) Really, it’s about being back home again. For some reason life just gets very complicated when I’m away. The first time I took a week long modular away from home, Olivia had burnt her arm days before and so Marc had to take all three kids to the ER every night for it to be redressed. I’m pretty sure Luke the next time I was gone. And then this past spring Olivia threw up within hours of my arrival in Calgary for class. I told Marc I’d turn around and come home, but he said to stay. And so I did and got messages throughout the week about how things were going at home. Things like, “Don’t panic, but Olivia just threw up all over the new couch.”

Marc does great with them. Truly. But, the kids have a knack for getting sick, or there’s something extra on the calendar, or they have a day off school that week (when there hasn’t been a day off school in weeks) when I need to be away!

I sure hope this last week goes okay. One of Marc’s meetings has been postponed and replaced by another meeting which is going to be at our house. His Friday activity might be cancelled, meaning we might not have to arrange playdates for the kids because (of course) they’re off school on Friday.

But what I’m trying not to worry about right now is the sickness. My kids haven’t been sick in weeks. Which is remarkable for our family — especially with my little asthma boy, Luke.

BUT.

Today after school Olivia said that she had a headache all day and was so tired at school she was almost crying. Yesterday Madeline said her throat was sore when she swallowed and she was coughing. (Strangely, her throat started to feel better when I told her we probably shouldn’t buy her a slurpee if she’s getting sick.)Luke was the only one without symptoms.

Except that it has taken him over 1.5 hours to fall asleep tonight. Even after I got the kids in bed extra early because we all need to be out the door at 7am to get me to my flight tomorrow. He was all tucked in and good to go and a while later he started crying (like sobbing/heaving crying) about how much he would miss me this week. I laid down with him and calmed him down and he was settled again. But he was still awake and then he came out not too long ago and said he couldn’t sleep. So I gave him a melatonin and sent him back to bed.

I really did so well tonight. I was patient and caring. I even FELT patient and caring on the INSIDE. Rather than what I often experience of being mad on the inside but force myself to appear calm to the kids.

But I fear — with each sniff I still hear in Luke’s room — that I might start to unravel because this week might unravel. Every time Luke stays up even the littlest bit late his asthma acts up and he coughs and coughs. Sometimes it leads to sickness. Sometimes (if we can get him to bed early enough for the following days) it goes away.

But tonight it’s now a late night instead of an early night for him, and it’s an early morning.

And I would SO love for this week to go by like the past month has gone by with no sickness and little stress and everyone doing their things and going where they need to go. That would be really nice. Just for this one last week. But maybe that’s a lot to ask when one of the caregivers is two provinces away…

Anyway… We shall see what the morning brings. For now I am glad that Luke appears to be sleeping and that the snow has stopped falling. And tonight I pray for health and safety for me and my little family for this one week. This one last week.

Posted in Family, Kids, School, Travels | 2 Comments

To Brace Or Not To Brace

That is the question of the day.

This morning Madeline and I headed up to Edmonton for a follow-up appointment for her and a consultation for me with the orthodontist. She gets to wait a year for some grown up teeth to come in before the long road of mouth reconfiguration for her. I get to make a decision. And it is not an easy one.

From what the doctor said to me, I was in the first generation of orthodontics being a routine thing. There was no understanding of what those undergoing orthodontic treatment in the 1990s (when my over-sized, crowded adult teeth were coming in) looked like 20 years down the road. I had braces for a few months in grade 3 and then braces again from grades 6 to 9  and wisdom teeth out in high school. I wore my retainer every day after grade 9 for a long time, slowly weaning down as instructed, still wearing it in university and even after we were married. But I was never told that I should wear my retainer once a week forever, as I later found out I should’ve been.

And so some crowding has started and continues to get worse. I have one tooth on the bottom that is getting pushed out and it’s starting to decay. I don’t care that I have a crooked tooth. I care that the tooth is decaying and also wearing down my upper teeth.

I found out today that I what I got done in junior high was a “camouflage treatment”. It straightened my teeth but didn’t fix the problem. I guess what I needed back in the 90s was jaw surgery to move my lower jaw forward. This came up today when I commented on my double chins (a proud Norwegian heritage on BOTH sides of my family!). Apparently it’s not just a flabby neck problem, it’s that my jaw sits too far back. So because of that problem not being addressed and my lack of retainer retention and who knows what else, I now have the choice of whether or not to get braces for the third time in my life.

I’m torn because it will cost a lot of money. I’m torn because I don’t care about the cosmetic look of my mouth. (Though the idea of me big smile being filled with braces for a 18 months does make me sad.) What I care about is decay and movement in my mouth that could lead to more teeth trouble down the road. Marc says I could get a lot of dental work done for the price of the braces… so I’m torn again! Plus, I kind of want to wait until after my Masters’ grad in April to get the blasted things on as well.

So… To brace or not to brace. That is the question.

I would appreciate any feedback, especially from those with dental knowledge or who have gone the orthodontic route later in life.

Posted in Life, Memories | 1 Comment