Thursday, December 18, 2008

When the Nest Empties

When the house empties, often the marriage collapses or the adults get sick. I think that's because people are living a story that doesn't make sense but they were too busy to notice. So what do people do? - They create an inciting incident. They give themselves permission to toss out everything they've created over 25 years and do some crazy reaction story by stuffing everything they hate about their current lives into a cannon and then introduce a new storyline from the splatter that hit the wall.

Jurgen Wolff has provided us with the story spine - how to reduce a story to its simplest structure.

1. Once upon a time (basic setup)
2. Every day (conditions at start)
3. But one day ... (inciting incident)
4. Because of that....(conflict moves story along)
5. Because of that....
6. (Repeat) (basic conflicts and escalations of act II, to the end of Act)
7. Until finally....(resolution)
8. Ever since then....(new status quo)

You have a life. Jurgen has given you a basic story structure. After 55, you should be getting to Steps 7 and 8. That will give you plenty of time for revising and polishing and publishing and maybe even profiting from a completed story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gen Y - Our Hope

Our best hope for pulling out of the current economic woes is Gen Y. They don't let shifting economic circumstances prevent them from embracing life, embracing adventure, moving forward. I think every Baby Boomer needs a Gen Y mentor. The current system definitely needed an overhaul. We have a lot of old, conservative, dependable stocks tumbling because the organizations are too tall, too inflexible, too distanced from the consumers. There should be some voice on the automotive board of directors to explain what lower income people require in an automobile. Executives want to wrap their aging bones in comfort and can well afford to do so seeing as they are driving company cars. Kids need a vehicle stronger than an aluminum beer can for a price lower than their annual income because unlike the executives, kids are actually consumers forking out money every month for the privilege of being able to drive to their modestly paid jobs. I'd say put a Gen Y on your board of directors but we all know where that has traditionally gone. "If you hire my kid for your corporation's special summer hiring program, I'll hire your kid from my corporation's special summer hiring program." Nice but hardly a way to broaden and diversify the voices being brought to the table. Look in the mirror and then turn around and look at the world. What always worked in the past, isn't working today. Your hope lies in Gen Y because they are still buying Christmas presents and houses and electronics and having babies and fueling the economic system after many older heads have pulled back and decided they would only act if the outcome were guaranteed, certain, sensible, a sure thing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blogging About Kids

I decided to give the kids a break and not exploit the details of their lives in my blogs. This was a big journey for me. I was quite proud of myself. Imagine my surprise to receive a call from one them questioning that decision. Are they the center of my universe or planets spinning on separate orbs? For a long time, they were the center of my universe or maybe I was the center of the universe. With this mother/child relationship, it's hard to tell. There are four of them and one of me so I think I was the one sitting in the hole in the center of the table equal distance from all of them. They wanted to move beyond my reach - to move away and have a life that wasn't symbiotic. But now they are buying houses and pets and building tables where they sit in the hole in the middle of the table. And thankfully, they'd like their father and I to take seats around those tables. But those tables are someone else's tables. We're not the ones holding everything together anymore. We're now on the outside of the table - we're the ones that are hard to hold - who want to take off and be with our peers. I guess there's a lot more written about needing to let go of your children than there is about how to hang on to your parents. The shift was anticipated and accepted by us. I gather it's a bit of a shock to them.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Post Menopausal Zest

In WWII, they discovered that post menopausal women were real little workhorses. Like the energizer bunny, the just kept going after the younger ones were too tired.
I think you tube has come up with the answer to this phenomenon.
I no longer have to devote any energy to saying all this stuff in the Mom Song every day
and I also do not have the frustration of having to listen to all this stuff in the Response to the Mom Song every day
It's like going into tools and doing a major delete of history and sites visited.

Urban Legend? Possibly Not
Orgasms During Childbirth? What would happen if women were taught to enjoy birth rather than endure it? This article has 395 comments and growing.

When I was in nursing school, orgasms weren't on the curriculum but there was something about women's ability to control their own pain. And then I had my first baby and questioned every single thing I had every been taught. I'm thinking it's closer to infant circumcision - hospital style. I've seen babies vomit, pee and poop while crying at the top of their little lungs during the procedure and never bought the idea that babies don't feel pain which was in vogue at the time. Let's just say my first labour was a very messy event and the epidural took affect about half a second before my heart considered quitting. That said, I continued having babies and I didn't buy the paediatric associations stand that baby boys shouldn't be circumsized. If you had to sit with 5 year old boys waiting to be circumcized the next day, you wouldn't have taken a chance on that one either.

I'm just curious about why the childbirth orgasm thing has re-surfaced. My husband heard a radio show about it during my last pregnancy which was 20 some years ago. You know why I think it's possible? Angelina Jolie reportedly says she experiences orgasms while getting tatoos. So there you have it. If pain turns you on, then childbirth is an ultimate experience. There's another possible explanation as well. In the Yukon, epidurals weren't available and I was given a drug that allowed you to feel the pain but blocked your ability to be concerned about it and then caused you to forget it. I wouldn't recommend you taking that drug however because it permanently changed my ability to process pain. Sometimes experiencing pain is a good thing. Pain is your body's way of motivating you to demand attention and act while there's still time to save your life. If I were in a delivery room with an orgasming woman in labour, I'd be wondering about a drug screen and a neurological assessment of the mom.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Popcorn & Saltzman Predictions

Jurgeon Wolff's December Brainstorm e-bulletin included this:
Trend spotters Faith Popcorn and Marian Saltzman shared their predictions with the Los Angeles Times recently. Here are some of their key prognostications:

* generational tension (recent grads will feel cheated and resent Baby Boomers);
* the entertainment industry will thrive, with a heavy emphasis on nostalgia, happy endings, and fantasy;
* a move to safer cities and an increase in escapist behaviour, including smoking and drinking;
* stronger nuclear families and families of friends (including communal living) and sharing of transportation;
* acceptance of downward mobility - going simpler, smaller, and more ecologically aware.

Why am I always so ahead of my time. Before Gen Y was even born, I was so ready to work in a flat organization that threw appreciation parties every 2 weeks but geez there I was like so underappreciated. And now the latest rage is downward mobility. Like I'm so "been there, done that". Before I'd even seen this, didn't I write that blog post on buying books for mom saying give me happiness literature. Here I am living in small town Ontario opting for way less crazy driving than Windsor. Don't I share my car so much that I hardly ever drive it. Didn't I just learn how to make a chocolate martini - heavy on the chocolate sauce. I draw the line at communal living though. I'm more the hermit living inside a cave in the middle of a desert type - well a cave with high speed internet so I can connect with family and friends. So if you don't know where to begin when it comes to creating a nostalgic, fantasy life where everything ends happily, give me a shout. That's my genre.

Canada's 100 War Dead

The Canadian people know the name and story of all 100 The average age of Canada's war dead in Afghanistan is 29 years old. Every time a death is announced, I check to see if Canada has remained true to its promise not to send children into war. There are no teenagers amongst the 100. The down side to sending adults into war is that they have dependents - 38 women and one man have now been deprived of a spouse. The war dead have left behind 63 children, ranging in age from adult to infant.

My oldest son tried to join the regular forces when he was in Gr. 11. My husband intervened. He talked to both his reserves commander and the recruitment office and told them not to accept his application until he had his Grade 12 diploma. It really wasn't an issue - the regular forces makes it difficult - almost impossible for a kid without a high school diploma to enlist.

When I look at those 100 faces, I know I am looking at the faces of committed adults who made a decision to serve their country. They paid the ultimate sacrifice because they believed in the mission. They weren't tricked into enlisting. They weren't immature kids with some movie idea of what war was all about. Even after basic training, the military doesn't send someone to Afghanistan just because they volunteer to go. Those soldiers had to prove that they had the maturity and preparation required to make sound decisions under extremely stressful conditions.

It hurts to watch each coffin return. The difference between a child soldier and an adult soldier is that we believe an adult has to do what an adult feels called to do. Life is a gift - a mother brings a child into the world and then steps back and watches what her child decides to do with this wonderful gift. Some mothers wait for the return of flag draped coffins. I watch them and cry but I get it. They did what mothers are supposed to do - they produced adults capable of making difficult, dangerous choices. It's important to look at the faces of the fallen - lest we forget.

Michael Ignatieff & his wives

I get Book TV. I recognize Michael Ignatieff but I didn't think he'd be hanging around Canada long enough that I needed to be curious about it. Well now he's leader of the Liberal Party and could be Prime Minister next month, I decided to read about him in Wikipedia and the Globe and Mail. Wow! He's even more of an original than Maggie Trudeau and she was a bona fide IT girl.
I'm coming out of my political stupor. According to my reading, he's a tell all kind of person - a trait I so enjoyed in Maggie. I'm sure Edgar Hoover is spinning in his grave. Of course who I'm really interested in are Zsuzsanna Zsohar and Susan Barrowclough - both of whom sound fascinating. Who are these women and what style of womanhood will they model for Canadian girls desperate for some new options? Harper, Martin and Chretien's wives kept a pretty low profile and Gen Y won't remember the 3 Ms - Mila, Maureen and Margaret. Let's bring the wives of the men in power out of the shadows and let them be a little fiesty. Have we ever had a Prime Minister with an ex-wife? Is that a whole, new, unchartered territory?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Annual Physical Time

The Canadian Health System sends notifications to your family physician if you are behind in your cancer screenings which makes it impossible to fall off your doctor's radar. Sometimes I'm really tempted to change to one of the many older doctors in the area who were in university with me. They've been practicing forever and wondering why they didn't take tool and die instead and would pretty much leave me alone. Instead I have a superconscious, highly motivated younger doctor who is always frustrated by me. You should be blessed by such a doctor. He'll save you in spite of yourself. So now I have a stack of requisitions for tests and am trying to figure out how to coordinate them so I only have to make one trip to Windsor. In case I've forgotten, he reminded me that I am at the age when things could start going wrong. I was listening to Prof Robert Shiller lecturing on The Universal Principle of Risk Managment: Pooling and Hedging the Risk. The basis of this is probability theory. He explained that if you have a mystical side, probability theory doesn't have a clear meaning to you. So my doctor makes objective observations and concludes there is a high probability that I'm a medical disaster zone. And I look at me and think if I just stay out of its way, I'm sure my body knows how to fix itself and besides God and I made a pack that I could have time to write and publish my thoughts as a gift to all of you.

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Fat Child Tale
If you do nothing else today, please check out the above article by Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity doctor in Ottawa who actually has a heart.
I was a fat 6 year old. I cried myself to sleep every single night and that was in the days before people were mean to fat kids.

It's possible for a baby to be the tipping point. My family was overworked and over burdened and along came an unexpected pregnancy just when they were seeing the light at the end of the childrearing tunnel and thinking life might get easier.
Absolutely everything in our family was dated from my birth. My mother had her hysterectomy was I was 4 and my grandmother had her stroke when I was six and we got hot water when I was 7 and my oldest brother died when I was in Gr. 13.

My dad had chronic glomerular nephritis which sent his blood pressure through the roof. The doctor thought he'd have a stroke if he had a nightmare so he took powerful sleeping pills to keep him from dreaming. The children's story that represented his life perspective was The Little Red Hen. My mother protected him by never allowing any of us to place demands on him. It worked. He lived to be 89.

My mom was the rose in the Little Prince. She was a rose in the midst of a cornfield. The nitrogen levels were too high for something so delicate. Her doctor pumped her full of everything he could think of to maintain the pregnancy. He thought a baby might save her. She had a major hysterectomy when I was 4 years old which plunged her into a lifelong depression. My dad thought any kind of sickness was disgraceful and my poor delicate mother would have suffered greatly if any of his relatives even suspected that she had emotional/mental struggles. So I became my mother's listener at 4 - only I didn't know it was the illness and not the truth when she told me I was a wicked, ungrateful, unlovable child.

By the time I was 5, I was really ill but it took over a year for a proper diagnosis. The doctors said I was screaming in the middle of the night because I was a spoilt brat. By the time they operated my bladder was full of scar tissue from chronic urinary tract infections. Anyone who has ever gone to a urologist knows that it involves a lot of invasive, unpleasant tests involving hospitalizations and in my case surgery. My parents protected each other by not visiting - by not being there to explain or offer support.

And then the major tragedy struck. My grandmother, the decision-maker on the farm, had a severe right-sided stroke while I was still in hospital after surgery. My dad made the doctors discharge me because he thought hearing my voice would bring my grandmother out of her coma. It did. She lived for another 10 years - until the doctors told my dad someone was going to die and he had to choose between his mother and his wife. When I returned to school following my surgery and my grandmother's stroke, I developed hepatitis and in the pictures after that I was fat. My family job became keeping grandma happy and watching that she didn't wander away. She couldn't talk, was always available and was consistently happy to see you which made her just about perfect.

So there you have it. I was sick and over-exhausted from walking a mile and half to and from school and learning all day and had very poor social skills because we didn't play after school. Even if a doctor had prescribed all the recommendations in the above article, my teenage brothers already had a pile of farm chores and were doing their best by me. We had a river behind the house and a major highway in front of the house and animals and farm equipment and sometimes hired men around so I could only play outside if grandpa was out front swinging the scythe. My dad was Chairman of the School Board all the time he had kids in school so he could hire women teachers who had raised a family and understood what life on a farm was like.

Books for Mother

I once belonged to this wonderful book club where all the members submitted the book they received as a Christmas present and we circulated those books amongst the group throughout the year. So what do you choose for your mother and all her friends to read?
They'll love anything you give because it shows they're loved enough to get something you actually picked with them in mind. As most kids live a distance from their mothers, it is very important to the community's peace of mind to know their friend has a mother/child connection.
The older I get, the less I like the tragic tales Oprah has a fondness for. The reason it's rugged when parents' die is because now one is free to honestly look at his/her life without concern of betraying or hurting anyone. It takes about 3 years of angst and soul searching to find peace and accept that we are all broken-winged birds who are frightened and try to lash out if anyone gets too close. So you finally say, we all did the best we could given our brokenness and become better people for having gone through the process.
I don't want to read sad stories of tragic lives because frankly once you are passed 55, you've seen enough real life tragedy to last a lifetime. In my childhood family pictures, only my brother and myself are still alive. Don't tell me a sad tale. I get enough of that talking on the phone.
Pick something that inspires or entertains or celebrates or something you really enjoyed that helps us know you better. In fact, what would be really great is if you pulled a book off your shelf with stuff underlined with little notes in the margin because the book we most want to read is you. People are continually evolving - nothing gives a mother greater pleasurer than knowing her child, whatever the age, is unique and a marvel.

Patience and Endurance

Maybe I should explain the reference to patience and endurance in the last post. In the Yukon, the Catholic and Anglican priests are close. The nearest colleague of your own denomination is at least a hundred miles away. Stephen arrived in Yukon fresh out of seminary so the Oblate priest was the mentor who cared about his formation the most. Father Ivan was sitting in our chaotic household trying to convince me to have 10 children. I already had 4 kids age 6 and under and was convinced that one more would be the death of me. Irish Father Ivan believed that women with 10 kids had a special wisdom - a wisdom that was disappearing from the world. So Ivan says, "Let me say a prayer for you Ruth before I go." And here's the prayer, "Please be with Ruth and grant her strength and endurance." I was young. I'm thinking why not ask for what I'd really like - "Please turn Ruth into a beauty and send a few Rock concerts her way." Now I don't care about such things but I like be happy for other people who make interesting choices.

Empty Nest Syndrome

Is there such a thing as empty nest syndrome? Well it's not whatever the researchers imagine it to be. They get the wrong answers because they start with the wrong premise and ask the wrong questions.
What do mothers miss?
We miss seeing our children in late afternoon and knowing at glance whether life has been good to them or they're coming home wounded. You still know how to make it up to them, how to heal their wounds but you're not there and you hope they can remember how to do it for themselves.
We miss shopping and cooking for a crowd of hungry people. My husband and I shouldn't, can't, don't have much enthusiasm for food anymore. Whether I cook or I don't cook doesn't much matter now - stunting our growth is now the goal.
We miss the life - the laughing, the arguing, the joys, the frustrations, the crowd of kids hanging around - the whole nine yards.
But you know what I miss most?
I don't have the same conversations with God. I'm not praying for patience or endurance or a guardian angel or please God let me live until they're raised or please don't let the Bishop think of us this year (We were easy to move because we didn't have things like a house, or a successful wife or the need for a moving company to protect expensive stuff - think the Beverley Hillbillies and you get the picture). I miss the solution to every single little thing requring a miracle.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dividing my posting time

I'm standing at the cross-roads and decided why not take both paths - a have your cake and eat it too philosophy. My reconnecting blog is going back to its original purpose - reconnecting with the people I know in the real world. I've started a second blog E-learning thoughts at for my e-learning community and whoever else is curious. Friends call me ruth and r works for the more academic side of things. It's a balance that I've really needed. In fact, I haven't felt this energized in forever because being a clergy spouse is a shadow role and as much as I love Stephen and the church, I want a space that's just me. A space where my thoughts are my thoughts and not a reflection on anyone else.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Ideas that Fall Flat
This link which I highlighted and pasted doesn't seem to work and in this case that's a blessing. Well actually it does if you highlight the address and paste it.
Anyway it takes to a picture of Christmas gifts wrapped in plain brown paper with grey duct tape bows. You too can be Red Green. And you'd do that because? -- dollar store stuff is a dollar regardless of whether it's duct tape or a bag of colourful bows. My daughter works in IT and she tells me that it is impossible to order a brown truck with a grey interior. And I'm telling you - it's impossible to hand someone a Christmas present wrapped in butcher paper tied with duct tap because kids cry. I know that. My kids cried the year I decided to wrap the gifts in newspaper and the year that I thought school supplies would make great stocking stuffers and the year a friend offered us a guitar but didn't realize that kids actually like their Christmas present to arrive on Christmas eve or at the very latest Christmas morning, not a couple of week later. And what exactly was Stephen thinking the year he gave our elementary school sons saws - a skill saw, a scroll saw and a power saw.
It's not only wives who send husbands to Christmas Dog House Hell. Watch the video and ask yourself if duct tape Christmas bows is going to lead anywhere good.
P.S. The same site that has the duct tape bows has instructions for making felt brass knuckle ornaments. Ho,Ho,Ho and a Merry Christmas to all