Archive for June, 2013

Here in the small Southwestern Ontario community in which I reside, there have been thunderstorm warnings all week. And yet, aside from a brief 10 minute shower yesterday, we have not had one clap of thunder; one bolt of lightning; one stiff breeze.

I have been “blessed” with headaches since puberty. Most recently they were pinpointed as primarily stress-related headaches due to clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth. I wear a guard at night (which is INCREDIBLY sexy) so I don’t clench while I sleep, and yet there are times, especially when I am driving, that I catch myself clenching my teeth. Then I end up with jaw pain and headache.

Also, I was recently diagnosed with barometric pressure-related migraines. Nothing will make them stop until the storm comes. So for five days I’ve been in increasing amounts of pain and for five days I’ve been disappointed. I just stopped typing to stretch my arms and jaw and realised I’d been clenching. Again.

There is a lot of work to be done on the outside of the rectory. Two dogs have more or less killed the lawn by the front porch. The pup has decided he likes to eat flowers, so we have to be careful where, and if, they are planted. I’ve decided to move the gravel path we have in the front, which is not particularly usable, and replace the gravel with organic mulch. It will still have cement stones, sort of “stepping-stones” but there will be a softer place to walk, and it will be much better for the dogs.

Our female has decided she doesn’t like gravel, and she will do a complicated dance to step around the gravel and onto the hard packed dirt rather than step easily from the gravel to the steps. She’s also had a couple of infections in the pads of her front paws, so we need to make the path more dog friendly. The pup seems to have stopped eating the gravel, which is also good.

So the past few days, in the middle of the night, actually; while I’ve been waiting for the storm to come that doesn’t; I’ve been thinking of what I want to do to change the appearance of the outside of the rectory, using the resources we have (repurposing them) and purchasing a minimum of new resources.

It’s one of those projects that will awesome when its done, but will take some time to get there; as one thing depends on another to get finished. While I want the rain to come, I also want to get the projects started, but I don’t really have the time to start them until Friday.

SO, with my luck the rain will come as my spade hits the ground, and providing there’s no lightning, I may solider on. I’ve worked in the rain before, why not now?

I pray for the rains to come, the earth to cool and the humidity to leave. I also pray for the people of Alberta; who have had the rains come and forget to stop. We live in a world filled with oxymoron and while we may get frustrated we still soldier on.

I have had the lyrics to a song that the counsellors at the Diocesan Church Camp sing during communion. “Let it rain, let it rain, open the floodgates of heaven, and let it rain”. Its hypnotic when the song starts and often someone will rap “Jesus loves me” over top of the chorus. I am due to be there next week and am very much looking forward to hearing that song…

And in the meantime, I’ll get some more sparkling water, and draw yet another diagram of the proposed “after” picture of the side yard.

“Open the floodgates of heaven, and LET IT RAIN!!!”

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When I was a child I was a robust child. Not overweight, but healthy. I was not a stick figure, used to run and play outside all the time. When I was in high school I was in an automobile accident that caused my metabolism to slow, if not stop. So I began to gain weight towards the end of high school. I had also stopped running long distance, which may also have contributed to the problem.

At the end of my first, very short, marriage, I gained a great deal of weight in a very short time, leading some people to speculate, usually quite loudly, if I was pregnant. I was not. I lost most of the weight and was feeling really good about myself when I got married for the second time. That marriage was a disaster from the beginning, for many reasons, most of which were only revealed the long we were married. He was a bigot, he didn’t like my “gay” friends. He ran down my English heritage (his was Irish) and he made a point of noting my weight…especially as it increased.

I have always been an emotional eater. I usually eat in a cycle of sweet then savoury. I’ll eat a small tub of ice cream, standing over the sink, zoning out, shoveling spoon after spoon in my mouth. Then I’ll stop. I’ll pace for a few minutes, and then reach for a bag of potato chips, and eat them until they’re all gone. Then feel empty and go looking for something else to fill the void.

It is with some pride that I tell you I have not eaten a single potato chip in six months. I do, however, still binge on ice cream from time to time. Since I began to face my food addiction it has occurred to me that while I am in the process of recovery, I am becoming a huge food snob. If I’m going to eat chocolate, it has to be “good” chocolate. And I savour it, rather and shoveling it down my throat, blind to how much and how I am eating.

When I have lunch at home, which is most of the time, I set a place at the table, with a large glass of sparking water, a place mat, cloth napkin and sometimes a candle. I say grace, savour my food and often engage in pretend lunch conversation with some fascinating people. To date I have dined with Gandhi, The Queen, Jesus, St. Peter, Amelia Earhart, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Margaret Trudeau, Margaret Atwood (I guess I have a thing for Margaret’s), Margaret Laurence, and most recently, Adele.

Engaging in luncheon conversation helps me to slow down while I eat, to savour my food and to enjoy some sparking conversation (albeit one-sided, when my dining companion is imaginary). After lunch I clear my place, tidy up the dining room, and smile that I have had a healthy meal.

Breakfast is still the biggest challenge for me. I don’t like to eat breakfast. If I go out for breakfast, I stay away from home fries and ask for tomato slices instead. I may or may not have toast. But ordering breakfast is a great source of anxiety. I have steel-cut oats at home that I know I could make with some dried strawberries and raisins. And yet I don’t. I don’t really know why. I have a blender and could make smoothies. But I don’t. And again, I really don’t know why.

I’ve decided that this summer is the summer I get over my fat-shaming self. I will learn to love who I see in the mirror. I have a bikini top that I adore, and now I need to find a bikini bottom in which I will feel comfortable. That may be a challenge.

I am determined that this year I will wear a bikini. I’m not a single-digit size and likely never will be. But I am determined to love my body and be better at caring for and loving myself. I am more selective in which clothing I wear. If it doesn’t flatter me, look good or feel good, I don’t buy it. I never spend a lot of my clothing because I like to change it up. And I find some of the least expensive pieces are the ones I wear from year to year. It simply is what it is.

Today I have a lunch date, a meeting at the church this afternoon and one tonight. I’m going to dress for the weather, which is humid and stupid hot. And I am determined to love my curves, and even my bumps and bulges. I am dressing up as Adele for a summer party…wearing a dress that is much shorter than I usually wear, dramatic makeup, a brunette wig and fabulous “drag Queen” shoes. I’ve even been practicing some of Adele’s songs. Just in case I get a request to belt one out. 🙂

Yes, this summer is the summer I claim back my body. I will love myself and put only good things into it. I will be healthier, stronger and more beautiful because of it. I will care for myself and exude confidence. Because I am strong, beautiful and yes, at times, even sexy. I will rock it for all its worth. Why? Because I can.

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It seems that over the past year I’ve been in a process of change. It seems that everything around me is changing. And while some of the changes are difficult and some are downright awful, there are some that are uplifting in nature.

Our congregation has been in a great state of change for the past year. We have had four significant losses to the community and there’s another one that will be happening sooner, rather than later. To be completely honest, hospital visiting is not something I enjoy. I am grateful for a long walk from the parking lot to the hospital room as it gives me a chance to psych myself up for conversation. I don’t do small talk very well.

Most often I sit in silence if it’s the parishioner and me. If there is family present I will chat with them. And then turn my attention to the parishioner. There is always prayer, and the family as well as medical team are invited to participate. Sometimes there is anointing or communion. And at the very centre of it is God.

Lately there has been a great deal of pastoral care needed in the congregation. On Tuesday alone I did four pastoral calls, usually I do one or at the most two in a day. But Tuesday it ended up being four. By the end of the day I was absolutely wiped out. And I have been having difficulty sleeping since then, most likely because I’m not decompressing properly. I know I need to focus more on my yoga. And as soon as I get busy, my self-care takes a back seat. And that has to stop.

I am determined, this summer, to make healthier choices for myself. Healthier choices in what I eat, what I do, how I move my body, how I care for my body. And it will be awesome. I need to move myself up on the list, because right now, I sit on the bottom of the list.

The struggle I often have is whether or not I “deserve” to take the time for a massage, a pedicure or highlighting my hair. And while I know it’s appropriate and necessary to do those things, there are times when I think I should be spending that time caring for others.

*sigh* Just when I think I’ve got my perspective back, it changes. And it means that I need to change and be gentler with myself.

It is true that I am my own worst enemy and harshest critic. And that’s okay, I guess? I think what I need to do is to silence the criticism, and stop beating on myself. I am in a process of reinvention of myself, my home, and my life.

This afternoon I’m going to spend some time outside, doing some clearing up, moving some planters, filling them with soil and getting ready to do some planting, which I plan to do tomorrow afternoon.

I work hard and I am good at what I do. God has given me strength that I never knew existed, to care for people, to love them (even the difficult ones) and to connect with them.

There will always be one more email to send, one more phone call to make, one more floor to sweep, one more person to visit. So I need to be militant with myself, that I deserve to have this time as much as anyone else.

And I need to give myself permission to say no to things that are not life-giving or necessary. I need time for me. And that’s okay.

It’s almost time to tidy up my desk, put things away for my next office day and get ready to have lunch with a colleague. Today is going to be an easier day then the first part of the week. And that is truly awesome.

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Over the past several months I’ve been doing different things with my appearance. My weight is changing, I’m losing weight rather slowly, and I’m noticing that clothing fits differently. It’s as though my body is shapeshifting. For example, recently I went to get fitted for a bra. I have pretty significant body image issues, but the lovely clerk at the plus sized store I went to, was, in fact, plus sized herself. She was knowledgeable, friendly, and a great deal of fun.

After nearly an hour of her time (I didn’t realise it was anywhere near that much time when I was with her) I learned that I am a 40D. I was stunned to be that large. But I was the proud owner of two new bras that fit beautifully and made me look awesome! It truly is amazing what properly fitting undergarments can do for a girl.

I had great ideas that I am going to go for a walk every, single day. The reality is, it doesn’t happen much more often than it happens. Sleep is a precious commodity for me and right now I am not willing to sacrifice it for a walk. I do make small changes though, like parking in one central location when I go to the mall, and then walking back to the car between stores. Every little bit helps, right?

I’ve also started dancing. In my house. By myself. Bonus! It scares the dogs so they leave me alone. I pull up a song on my mp3 player, and dance for about 15-20 minutes. I jump around, wave my arms in the air, likely look like a complete dork, but do I ever feel better when I’m finished. Sometimes I do it more than once in a day. I don’t do it every day, but when I do I say I should do it more. One day.

My hairstyle and colour is also changing. I was colouring it darker and keeping it very short, in a pixie styled cut. Over the past few months I’ve been growing out my hair and have had blonde highlights added. I will do the blonde highlights one more time, and then will ask for darker lowlights for fall and winter. Because hair is a fashion accessory and I like to play with mine. I’ve actually started using a hairdryer again. Some days are great hair days; others, not so much.

I’m excited to mix and match my wardrobe. I’m wearing makeup. I’m caring about my appearance. All of these are signs that my depression is lifting and that’s always awesome.

I’ve realised that it’s not vain to care about my appearance. It’s not vain to go for a pedicure or massage. These are things that are worked into the budget. I preach barefoot, so my feet need to be presentable. Massage helps to work out the physical symptoms of stress, thus making me feel better (and often, that much closer to human).

Last week and this week are very heavy days, workload wise. So I take one appointment or commitment at a time. At the end of the day I look back and shake my head, but so far, I’m able to keep my perspective and to ensure there is fun booked into each week.

Because that’s how I roll.

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Twelve months ago my dad died. I miss him, more than I ever imagined I would.

This morning at 11:00 I am meeting a family at the cemetery where we will inter the cremated remains of their mother/grandmother. It seems appropriate that we will gather for this liturgy on this particular day.

M was also from England. She radiated sunshine and never spoke a mean word about anyone. Which is not to say she was all sweetness and light. When you had slipped up she would tell you, and you would know you had been told. She was fiercely proud of her family, and would have been delighted at her granddaughter’s wedding last Saturday.

M always wore Keds running shoes with a casual collared top and a cardigan. She joined our Bible Study group with some hesitation as she had never before attended Bible Study, and in the end she was the one who always started the discussion, as she had collected questions as she read.

I believe my Dad and M would have gotten along quite well, until it came time for football. Dad was a staunch Man City supporter, and M supported Everton. I would love to have seen the exchanges between them regarding their respective teams.

Today is also my sister-in-laws birthday. We are gathering tonight at my mother-in-laws to have dinner. I don’t really want to go, but I know I have to. Today is not about me.

So, after I’m finished my ‘work duties’ today, I think I will go for a walk and take in the beauty of this day. We started with fog, but it seems to have lifted now and there is bright sunshine.

Today is meant to be a day of peace.

Rest in peace, Dad, and rise in glory.

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The ring

Not that long ago I was in my parent’s house. The one where I spent 10 years of my life. My Dad died nearly a year ago and my Mam has since relocated. But the house is still there, almost the same as I remember it.

When my Mam has first talked of relocating she asked if I wanted her eternity ring. It’s a simple, beautiful ring made of Welsh gold with diamond chips all the way around. My Dad gave it to her when they had been married five years. Why at the five-year mark? Because they had been through some extraordinary stuff. Eighteen months after they were married, and long before my Dad became a father; he was involved in a motorcycle accident. He was hit by a car while riding his cycle, and initially left for dead at the scene.

As a result of his accident, he had to leave his job and so did my Mam, so she could look after him, once he was released from hospital. They lived on close to nothing. And survived. So when the insurance cheque finally arrived, just after their fifth anniversary, Dad took Mam to a secondhand store and asked her to pick out an engagement ring.

You see, when they were talking about getting married, money was tight. They paid for the wedding themselves and made a decision to go on honeymoon, rather than buy a diamond ring. So when there was money available, after they had paid off their debts, Dad bought Mam an engagement ring, as well as an eternity band. Mam can’t remember when he gave it to her, but she doesn’t think it was at the same time.

Mam has lost a lot of weight and her rings don’t fit her properly anymore. What she’s planning to do is take her wedding ring, her engagement ring, my Nana’s wedding ring, and have them melted down and fashioned into a right hand ring.

Which leaves the eternity band. What about it? It was decided it shouldn’t be melted down as it’s beautiful as it is. It likely could pass for a wedding ring. And as I was admiring it one day she said, with time, it would be mine.

I went to visit my Mam when I was on my way home. She is settling in at her new suite and the place is starting to look like home. I had brought her a collage frame with pictures of the family, including my Dad, and several of my Mam. She was thrilled and we hung it on her wall.

She disappeared into the bedroom and started rifling through things then presented me with the eternity band.

Most ordained clergy wear a ring of some description on the “ring finger” of their right hand. It is meant to symbolise commitment to God. My right hand ring finger has been empty for some time as I try to find a ring to wear, to symbolise my commitment to God. It is now adorned. With the eternity band.

Every time I look at the ring I am reminded of the story of my Mam and Dad. I am reminded that God has been with me always and remind with me always. And I will always, for all eternity, give thanks to God for calling me into service.

So through the trials and tears of the past few years, I can now see a visible reminder of an inward belief. Hmmm, the same definition of faith. Hmmm.

Thank you God for calling me into service. Thank you for your patience as I stumble along, trying to figure this stuff out. Thank you to my parents for teaching me about staying together…no matter what. Thank you to my Dad for renewing his lifelong commitment to my Mam. And thank you to my Mam for sharing a very special token of her love for Dad, with me.

To the world it may simply be a ring. But to me, it means the world.

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The first anniversary of my Dad’s death is next week. I’m now getting emails reminding me of his “passing”. I must say that I really REALLY dislike euphemisms for most things, but especially for death.

You don’t “pass” from life, you die. You pass a test, not death. ARGH.

Pass away is only marginally more acceptable in my humble opinion. At least there is a Biblical reference point for that.

As a clergy person, I hear euphemisms for death all the time. I listen carefully to the family, but I will not engage in downright stupid euphemisms. I heard an elderly lady tell her 3-year-old grandson that “grandpa is sleeping”. I don’t think so. Dude is NOT waking up any time soon. Try and get that little boy to ever nap again. I don’t think so!

I received a phone call last night from a parishioner whose mother-in-law is in hospital and is not doing well. She’s 84 and had open heart surgery that went really well. Then she developed abdominal pain and further testing revealed a mass in her bowel. So it was removed. And she’s not responding well. And that really sucks because I like R a lot.

I find myself weary as of late. Really, really tired, even when I’ve had a full night’s worth of sleep. And I’m not sure why. I suspect some of it is the weather, very overcast, gloomy, light rain, and cold. I suspect some of it is the realisation that things continue to change. And I suspect some of it is that I still miss my Dad and always will.

Tomorrow afternoon is our local Legion’s Decoration Day service at 2:00 p.m. There will be a small gathering of us who join together to remember those who laid down their lives and we will put crosses on their graves. The gathering gets smaller each year. The gentleman who organises the service has been diagnosed with ALS and he’s really annoyed with that. His body won’t do what he wants it to do and I can’t even imagine how that feels for him.

He has been told his life expectancy is 5 years. He’s REALLY unhappy about that. And I don’t blame him. He was active all the time. Now he can’t even drive. He can’t dress himself. He can’t teach line-dancing anymore. And he’s annoyed at that. Can’t say I blame him.

I’m at a place where I’m thinking about a change in my life. Not sure what that will look like, but I’m definitely feeling itchy feet.

In the process of planning my summer and fall vacation, which I am definitely looking forward to. The five days of retreat was good, but not long enough.

It’s time to shake off the dust from last night, get dressed, heal the sick and change the world.

Once I finish this cup of coffee, that is.

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I came back from my hometown a couple of days ago. While I was there I noticed many things about the house where I lived for 12 years.

It was really quiet.
I remembered conversations at the dining room table.
It was really quiet.
The house looked very much the same way it’s looked for the past 12 years.
It was really quiet.
I found a box of photographs that made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.
It was really quiet.
Some of the spices in the cupboard have been there since 1981 when we moved into the house.
I found the cigarette case my mother gave my father in 1979 when he graduated from teacher’s college.
My dad’s university diploma was framed in an inexpensive plastic frame as that’s all he could afford. I have brought it home and will be framing and mounting it properly. It will hang proudly with my university degrees.
I found greeting cards I had given my mother, some going back 30+ years.
Even though the house was quiet, I could hear my dad repeating some of his best-known sayings.
While it was good to be in that house, it no longer feels like “home”.
I realised when I pulled into the driveway of the rectory where I live with my family, that I had arrived home, I had not come from home.
When I went to the columbarium where my dad’s ashes are interred I was startled at the number of neighbours he now has. When he was interred almost a year ago, he was only one of twelve, now all the spaces are filled.
It was really quiet.

Leaving the house and locking the door, it felt, in many ways, like it will be the last time.
And whether or not that is true, I know that it will never be the same in that house again. My Dad is dead and my Mam has moved away. And that’s okay.

At first the silence scared me, but by the end of the weekend it was comforting. It was as though my parents were still there, sitting in the living room, waiting for me to come home from a night class at university.

And yet, as I look around, I know they are not there…at least, not in person.

So whether I go back again, it will never be returning “home”. Because I know with certainty that home is where I live with my family. And that’s a good place to be.

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