Room With a View


"Have you ever been to a Greek wedding?" he asked.

And suddenly I was not in a crowded restaurant, on the eve of December, struggling to find my Christmas Spirit.

I was in Wyoming, a family wedding. We were dancing in lines, kicking out our legs, throwing up our hands. Opa!

Standing in circles, and passing opened bottles of ouzo, drinking in swallows, puffing on cigars and cigarettes. Bright and noisy tents, with the music of our teenage years echoing in our ears and pulsing in our bodies, sharing drags of cigarettes and swigging beer from bottles. The cry rose up, we joined in, hoisting our bottles, waving our cigarettes, Opa!

Laughing, shouting, hooting and hollering with delight, our hearts full of joy and the luxury of satisfaction. The gate to Yellowstone, the feet of nature, stars all around, stars above, in our eyes and minds, out of us, unbidden, Opa!

Two families, two clans, coming together and each proud to have the other. We were young and smart and joyful, we all felt cool and we all fitted in and we shouted Opa!

It is years ago, I say, looking back from my early thirties to my later twenties. It is years, decades, eons really. I am not that woman, we are not those people. Carrie, radiant in short hair, grown in from chemo, brilliant as the mother of the bride, is gone and in the ground these last 3 years.

The summer is over, the stars are dim, and I have not tasted ouzo since.

But, yes. I have been to a Greek wedding.

Saturday Quotes

When you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it.
Theodore Roosevelt

Many thanks for your kind words, they have been much appreciated.

Mrs. Spit, Business Analyst. ;-)

A Cup Of Comfort

Yesterday did not start auspiciously. Unless auspicious means that it began with the jangling crash of heck(1) and went down hill from there.

It began in fact, by waking up 35 minutes before my alarm was due to go off, needing to visit the loo. I don't know about you, but at this point, an internal war begins. One side insists that I should simply get up, have a nice shower, drink a leisurely cup off coffee, and start my day off as a civilized person. The other side is equally sensible, but slightly more manipulative, insisting that it is cold in the house, and my flannel duvet cover is warm, and really, I am very tired.

Back to bed always wins, I find myself crawling back into warmth, dislodging cats who have taken over, and trying to fit my legs into the impossibly small space left me. I look at the time on my alarm clock and it is already too late, and I will myself back to sleep. When my alarm goes off, too soon! I insist that I am tired still, and I hit snooze more than I should.

When I finally dragged myself out of bed, Mr. Spit greeted me (back in the loo) with an empty coffee bean jar in his hands. There were, oh, as many as 30 coffee beans in the bottom of the jar, and that was not going to do it. I began my drive into work, satiated by a cup of mostly decaf coffee, with egg nog, the cream having met a similar destiny to the coffee beans.

The drive was chaotic and traffic-filled, and the news on the radio was all bad news, and I arrived to my office 10 minutes late, having been waylaid by construction, and a stalled, abandoned car in the middle of the busiest downtown street.

I was required to navigate the vicissitudes of office politics, with a focus on naming and blaming, and a minor in ridiculous and unreasonable expectations, all before 9:15 am, and with no coffee. Before 9:30 a colleague was earnestly requesting that I silently assassinate another department at my company, indeed a skill I have not been keeping hidden in my back pocket.

It was 9:45, and I was quite ready to consign this day to the rubbish heap, pleading with Phil, the denzien of heck, and also the prince of insufficient light, to make this day end.

But, a miracle did occur.

At 10:35 or so this morning, I was offered a new job. Well, a new title, reporting into a new division, with new responsibilities, for a one year secondment. No extra money, but henceforth, you may refer to me as Mrs. Spit, Business Analyst. (I'm actually quite firm on this, and have been making Mr. Spit call me this all night.)

Finally, I came home today, to a package (and if I have loved anything about blogging, it is the sending and receiving of packages). This one was full of love from Jen and Jamie. Filled with hot chocolate and gourmet marshmallows (who knew there was such a thing) and bubble bath. The spaces filled with love and care and concern, kindness and mercy and grace.

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.
Carl Jung

(still working on that equanimity thing)
(1) I actually do believe in hell. I didn't start my morning there. Not even close.

Still Not Dead

People run because they like the runner's high.

Runners high? It's caused by hyperventilation.

You know what happens when you hyperventilate?

Your brain cells die.

Runners high is caused by brain death.

You must be brain dead to like running.

I must be brain dead to find this a bit fulfilling.

Where You Live

Mr. T is looking for a new house, and occasionally I look over my shoulder at him and he's surfing the MLS website, so I go over and look. I'm sure he totally does not appreciates my comments on the houses he looks at, and I'm sure he totally does not appreciates my comments on townhouses in the suburbs.

And he was raving about this town house in the suburbs, which sounds like a living hell with an awful commute dream house, and I am not so subtly trying to convince him that only pretentious gits perfectly lovely and boring people live in the suburbs.

It's not at all working. Now, I will allow a fair bit of selfishness in my insistence that Mr. T and his very lovely partner should move to where Mr. Spit and I live. (His partner is a journalist, and the Rat Creek could use her. Also, he strikes me as the sort of community minded person I could con persuade into helping out in the new community garden because I think he has a strong back ) But, still.

The very best example of why all the cool people live in my neighbourhood is Tom. Tom owns DawgFather (and totally ignore the mention of Terry in the review. Tom owns the joint, honest. No clue who Terry is. None.)

Anyway, the Dawg Father is a hot dog place, and the first time we went in, I was a tiny bit concerned. Oh, not the location. It's a hot dog place. It's not swanky, it's clean and bright and there are exactly 6 hot dog types on offer. You can have them with Ruby fries, or without.

What freaked me a bit was the price. A hot dog for $7.50? You're kidding right? And then you see the hot dog (a Baltimore with cheese and bacon and onion , if you are at all smart). Plus the Ruby fries. The Ruby fries are named after Tom's favourite departed dog, and they are salty and garlicky and there's a bit of parsley, and oh, sweet heaven, I can hear angel's singing. People who like coleslaw say that Tom's is the best in the city. (I don't, but he always gives me extra potatoes and makes fun of me)

But really, what you are paying for is . . . Tom. Tom is, well, he's a character. You are never sure what he's going to say. But, he's fun and charming (He calls me doll. I like men that give me nice pet names). He's outspoken and very serious about hot dogs, and has the greatest stories. He has a profoundly x-rated tattoo, that takes everyone forever to notice. And then they are too embarrassed to ask if it is what they think it is. He's the kind of guy that I take people to meet. He always makes me smile.

Tom is the sort of person who thrives in my neighbourhood. He's off beat, and we collect those. We have your problems, and then we have your eccentrics. Every house is different. We have artists, we have musicians, we have sculptors, and some journalists. They even let me live here, and I'm not good at anything artsy.

We are not the commonplace. We aren't your average Joe's. We're a bit odd. And we like it when odd people move in. It stops the normal ones from taking over .

And here's my thing. Say what you want about my neighbourhood. You don't get Tom in Terwilligar Town.

By the numbers

Geohede does it much better, but I was looking at the search terms, and since I started tracking:
  • A very large group of people have shown up looking for some sort of information (?) about naked women and spitting. You're gross. Really gross. Go away now.
  • 57 people have shown up at my blog, wondering some variant of whether or not Rob Lowe is bald. First off, I have written one post about Rob Lowe. One. And I do not have a bloody clue about whether or not he is bald. Not one. As near as I can tell, he's not bald. Do you all know something I don't?
  • 15 people have come looking to find out why you can't divide by zero. I don't know either, and in case you haven't noticed, I'm not the math blog. Go and see Mr. Spit.
  • 3 people came by looking for Altar Guild jokes. I promise you, as a life long Anglican, there is absolutely nothing funny about Altar Guild. (and certainly not this.)
And one of the commonest questions? On a Christian response to infertility. That's a hard one.

Monday Miscellany

  • I have a post about men who don't like women that was going to go today, except, well, it's a crappy piece of writing. So, let me see about fixing it from some random bits of prose to something with a point.
  • Mr. Spit went snowboarding. He has not broken anything, and thinks he might go again. He's also hobbling like an old man, but don't tell him I said so.
  • I spent the entire weekend knitting and watching Star Trek: Next Generation. It is just possible that I may be the geekiest person, with no social life, ever.
  • I also did laundry.
  • Except, I do have a social life. I had dinner with Kuri on Friday. And unlike dinner with Gen, last Wednesday, there was not 5 Bellini's and 2 double shots of Jack Daniels.
  • I had something I really, really wanted to ask all of you, and I can't remember what it is. Oh, yes. No, I do. Or at least I remember something, if not what I wanted to ask you, what I should ask you, which is this:
  • I have a lovely university student house sitting for me while I'm in Vegas. (I told you I'm leaving for Vegas in 16 days, right? Martha is coming.) Anyway, said University student will be writing her final exams while at my house, and I thought I would buy "study food" for her.
  • What's study food for you? I lived on Fried Egg Sandwiches and Pizza Pops. Which I am totally fine with. But she might not be? What would you leave in the fridge/cupboard for her?
  • Oh, and finally, SAMUS IS DONE. I've started on Hey, Teach!

Snowy Grace

I woke up this morning to snow. And there's something about snow in November that makes me blue.

Amidst the swirling snow did I leave the hospital that day 2 years ago. In an almost blizzard I left the hospital, and the swirling snow became an atmospheric metaphor for the loss in my soul.

I have long maintained that I can handle a cold Alberta winter. It may be bitter cold, but there is bright blue sky and yellow sun, and miles of space. Alberta is anything but colourless in the Winter. Even the snow reflects the dazzled glory. Alberta is a land of deep colours, blue and grey mountains, green conifers, and brilliant snow.

I am, at my heart, a prairie girl. I always will be. And yet, when the snow closes in, when it swirls around I cannot take refuge or find comfort. I used to look at a blizzard as a wonderful thing, a chance to curl up, light the house, put on a fire, get a blanket. Comfort. Blizzards are soft and tender when you are in the house. The cloud cover keeps the light level low, playing hide and seek with illumination. It is dark and then lighter, in a random sense of play.

And I woke up this morning, looking at the snow all around me, and I remembered that day, the way the snow stung my face, my hands. I felt the scrape and blemish of ice crystals on fragile skin. There is no comfort, the snow, the wind, it is oppressive. There are no wide open space, reflected glory. Trudging to the car, arms and heart empty. Leaving Gabriel behind, looking back at the morgue in the basement, thinking of my son on cold, hard stone.

There's something about snow in Alberta, in November, that takes me back to that terrible place, where I am, once again, small and fragile. Newly born and so very old.

Saturday Quotes

When he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heav'n so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

My Mother's Rules

I have long maintained that no one needs to know Pythagorean Theorem. I was *that* kid, in the back of the class, who put up her hand, and lazily asked the teacher not why we needed to learn this crap, but asked exactly when he had used it in his own life. Generally speaking, it makes sense to memorize things you are going to use. Thus, I will always remember things like 2.2 KM to a Mile and the books of the bible in order. I will allow a certain amount of slippage, things that you needed to know once, but now don't, and probably make you a more rounded person anyway- the date of publication of the Durham Report, and the names of all the monarch's of England, in order.

And then there's the really dumb stuff, like Pythagorean theorem. Sure, it's a nifty bit of math, and it's dead easy (unlike conics, which may be nifty, but is hell to actually calculate). But really? No one ever uses it, and there A squared + B squared = C squared is nothing but clutter. Keeping me from remembering to pick up my laundry off the floor and making your name slip my mind.

And I get it, I get it. We aren't teaching children to use Pythagorean theorem, we are totally teaching them to think another way. We are stretching their little brains, so that they grow up to be smart, articulate human beings, who can all get jobs, and pay their Canada Pension Plan Premiums, so that I can retire at 65. I get it. I get that learning is at least in part about learning how to think, instead of just facts.

But. . .

I got to thinking a while ago, about the lessons we learn as women. Most of the things, particularly those my mother taught me, were lessons taught "because women need to know this stuff." I know how to curtsy, how to seat people at a dinner party, what wine to serve with what, and how to make a centerpiece.

So, I was talking today about women's stuff. Actually, we were talking about women's humour and if it exsisted, and so forth. But, it made me think about the stuff my mother made me learn. And I have to confess, to you at least, if not my mother, that given the odds, I've seated more people at a dinner party, done more centrepieces, and yes I have curtsied. I still haven't used pythagorean theorum.

The Undiscovered Country

In less than a month, Gabriel will have been dead for 2 years. He will have been gone for 4 times as long as he was ever here. And I am pondering how I feel about this. How I feel about him, about me, about this life I am living.

I met a woman on Saturday, and we were talking about prostitution, and I made a comment about teaching our sons that women were not for sale. I wasn't talking about my son, or even your son, I was talking about boys, as a whole. I was talking about teaching children, most generally, better than we were taught.

And somehow, she missed this. She smiled, and she asked if my sons had "Their mother's red hair?"

I stumbled. There is a little boy at church, of about 4 now, and he sits on the Gospel side, ahead of me in the sanctuary, and I can see him even when I do not look. I can see him, and in him I see shadows of Gabriel. Gabe's hair, at birth was dark, black and oh so fine, but I wonder. His father had flaming red hair as a boy, and I still do. Doesn't matter how I colour my hair, the red comes through.

And I stumbled, and I fell down a bit. Oh, not visibly, I doubt that she noticed, but I fell down a bit.

For the sake of a little boy who would have had his parent's red hair, eyes somewhere between blue and hazel, a whole undiscovered country.

But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Hamlet - Act 3, Scene 1, Lines 78-82


I find that it is helpful to set very low expectations for myself, when it comes to any sort of physical exercise. I find that I should take my expectations, and then I should reduce them, and reduce them still. When asked what I hoped to get out of this running business, I answered that I wanted not to die. Oh, no, don't misunderstand, I didn't want to live longer, I wanted not to die. While running.

I went to the Running Room tonight. Now, the Running Room, much like Lulu Lemon, is a place, that well, scares the Dickens out of me. It is a foreign land. I do not speak their language. I do not know their customs. Indeed, these places, they are filled with a strange and foreign people, who need to eat more ice cream and cheesecake.

This land is full of clothing that is bright and reflective. In fact, in the absence of any evidence that their fashion designer is a peanut-starved chimp, I must assume that the goal of their clothing is to be, umm, visible. Now, I don't know about you, but I have never, even in the neon 90's, bought a jacket because it was screaming green, and had reflective tape across my butt. I am trying to camouflage the breadth of my butt, and there they go, trying to give passing motorists, if not a target, a heck of a fright.

I braved this foreign land, and I went to the back wall. Well, actually, the first time I went in, I got stopped at the front door and had to ask this pimply-faced young boy where the sports bra's were. Yes, that's right, I asked a 17 year old about women's underwear. (And tragically for him, I don't think he's going home to fantasize about me tonight) He pointed. To the back of the store. At this point I had 2 choices. No one, not even you dear readers, would have faulted me for refusing to push my way through all the runners, sitting on benches (why weren't they out running any way?) to get to the women's underwear section, conveniently located behind the running video that was playing. (And how does watching a video count as exercise anyway?) I did the sensible thing, and went for a cup of coffee.

I came back half an hour later, as the runners were leaving (Is there a polite company sort of expression for that many masochists in one place?). I wandered back in, went to the back, and this very charming woman came to assist me. She asked me what I was looking for. (Oh, how I longed to tell her the microfiber, fully breathable thong). I had 2 criterion (and my male readers are forgiven for bowing out now). Criteria one was containment in one container (holding my assets in one bra. I didn't want to, say, purchase one for each side.) Criteria 2 was constrain (the operative definition was no movement. Of any kind)

I have Fiona. Seriously. I have a sports bra, and her name (I'm not making this stuff up) is on the tag, and that name is Fiona. My assets are contained and constrained. By something named Fiona. I've always thought of Fiona as a name for a tall, slender, lithe Irish girl. But no, Fiona is some sort of industrial German Frau with no dress sense.

About an hour ago, Fiona and I went running. Run 60 seconds, walk 90. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 8 times. She held up (that's totally a pun) her end of the run, and I held up mine.

And like I said at the top of this, I had low expectations. I wanted not to die. I am pleased to report, that after shelling out $112, (including $60 for my bosom buddy, Fiona) I am not dead.

Seems a promising start, that.

The Things We Left Behind

the hell with the fee for service agreement I should be vetting and
the course notes for a seed starting workshop.

The New Blue Rodeo Album, and a new bottle of Maker's Mark.

To quote the song . . .
Summer makes me restless
And I can’t get by alone
I know that’s you that’s calling
But I don’t pick up the phone
The day you started wandering
I guess I lost my faith
I sit here now to wait and see
What’s coming in its place
(One Light Left in Heaven)

Monday Miscellany

This carefully written blog is not brought to you by Mrs. Spit. Rather, it is brought to you by the delight of the season, the return of Top Gear.

Because BBC is so much more sensibly funded than CBC, and because through the wonders of the internets, and Mr. Spit's delightful skill at stealing television programming off the back of the internet, I get to watch Top Gear, even though I am not actually in the UK, and I don't have to watch it on BBC Canada with the bits cut out. I get to see everything in it's glory.

Ahh, Richard, how I have, ahem [mutter, mutter] missed thee.

I just watch it for the cars. Really. Where else can you see a Ferrari, a Lamborghini and an Aston Martin. Race through Europe. Also, there was plum wine and a Dacia Sandero.

Art Glass

Suddenly, it is thrown to you, and you hold this grief in your own two hands, and you begin to look at it. And at first, you think it is an ornament, frail, tender, fragile, some sort of flower and you wonder what can be done with it. And then you realize it is art glass, this grief.

And you hold glass, and it moves, throbs, ebbs in your hands, and you realize that it is not just life that has it's own force, but death too. It throbs in your hands, and your own heart throbs with it, and the hot, salty tears flow down and are caught in the well.

You, who have walked a path that is different, and yet the same, you are unable to speak, and unlike many it is not because there are too few words, but because there are too many. And you hold this glass thing in your hands, and you don't even begin to know how to fill it - there are not tears enough. You hold it carefully, and even so, it begins to crack. You try and cobble it together, still terrified of that moment that it will shatter at every one's feet, spilling sorrow and gall.

And you look at this woman, her grief so fresh and new, full of sharp edges, discordant form, still warm from the fires of hell. You look at it, astounded by crudeness of shape and the way the colours are thrown together, clashing and jarring.

From that place, this present awkwardness, ugliness you ask the questions, you ask tentative questions, you ask the questions only a once grief struck person can ask. Not about how and when, about essence, about form. You hold up the glass, and with worn fingers you trace colours. You ask about shape, and the way one colour runs into the next. Cradling a newborn turns into university graduation, recent marriage returns to playing dollies in the basement. Your finger tracks the colours, locating them, caressing the way they cross the glass.

"Tell me about her", you say. "Tell me about who she was, and what she was to you?" And when all she can tell you is about the dinner the week before, and she stumbles, you listen still. And when the talk turns food, you ask about her favourite food.

The glass has a deep well, and you understand that it is not about the food, it's screaming a name into the darkness, and getting no answer. And you know that a name is the only gift you can give. Tonight, you will be the place where a name is still said, and stories are still told. You give the gift of remembrance, the solace of regard.

You hold up this art glass, and you wonder about the terrible power of art, the destructive forces of creation. You look at this woman who cradled baby, child and adult, you look at this woman and you form the words daughter and dead, God's grace, and grief, and you look at the fault lines in the glass, and you hold it. In your own two hands, you hold grief and sorrow and anguish, and you look at the enormity of grief and the smallness of your hands. Even now, even miles down the road, you do not know how any mother does this.

Even now, you do not know where God can be found in all of this.

dona nobis pacem

Saturday Quotes

Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space.
- Dave Barry

I woke up from the most horrifying dream that it was Christmas Eve, and I had done no Christmas Shopping. I was tearing through a mall, buying random crap for people I don't even like much. Thankfully, parking was not a feature of my dream.

Risotto and Flannel Sheets

Because life is not like this, and I do not live in a romantic movie, my hair was short, frizzy, out of control, and I had acne. My maternity jeans kept falling down, and I was at that really awful stage, where it not entirely clear if you are pregnant, or merely fat. At any rate, my breasts were huge, so I suppose I had that going for me.

About 2 years ago, I ran into an old flame at a guest lecture. And I, torn between 2 worlds, chose memory, abandoning manners. I saw him and he didn't see me, so I went running after him, and I caught up with him outside the door.

"Mike. Micheal!" I called. And he turned, and if this were a romantic movie of any sort, I would have been silhouetted by the building light. My hair would have been long, curly, and flowing. I would probably have been dressed in white, and I would have been either tall, slender, or beautifully pregnant.

But, I followed him out, and he offered me a cigarette, and that took care of announcing my pregnancy, and by his change in tone, he remembered I married, and was married still. Anyway, he asked what I was doing.

And I'm left a bit short. I had big plans you see. I was going to do big things. I was going to change the world. I was going to make a difference, armed with the Nichomachean Ethics and A Theory of Justice. And this must have been a believable thing, because Mike believed it, and could not understand what I was doing now.

I live, well, let's face it, I live a boring life. It's not meaningless, but it is boring. There are no late night conversations on duty and justice. We don't talk about epistemology much around my house, and certainly we don't talk about mind-body dualism. I haven't sat in the Sugar Bowl in forever, and even if I could be there, I have forgotten much of Descartes' arguments. Philosophy, political thought, seems rarely to intrude on the business of living life.

I sit on a board trying to end prostitution. I champion community journalism. I teach people to grow tomatoes from seed. I make saskatoon jam with friends, in a community league kitchen. I make meals for people who need them. I knit. I weed. I go to work and come home again. I write a blog that mostly talks about every day stuff. I'm a wife, a mother, a volunteer. I'm a friend. I'm really not much of anything.

And on days like today, when my hair is out of control, and I'm just out of sorts, I wonder how my life became this. And then I realize, nothing is forever. That was then, and this is now. So, I live in the now, and talk about a priori evil on the way to get a cup of coffee. And what I'm up to these days, mostly?

Mostly, I'm reading Sense and Sensibility, trying to remember how to make a really good risotto and looking to find a set of flannel sheets that won't pill.

For Funsies

I work with a bunch of fitness freaks. No seriously. We are talking people that come into the office after a work out and can't walk for days. We are talking about people who go mountain biking and come back covered with bruises and slashes and great bloody scabs.

We are talking about people who run 100KM DEATH races. Yes, you read that right, it has the word DEATH in it, and they did if for funsies. These are people who think that Iron man's are a stimulating day (It has the word Iron in it. People are NOT made of iron. I am sure of this.)

I am the only sane person around here.

I do yoga. Sometimes I take the stairs. Some times I even take the stairs to go up floors.

And really, that's about it.

And occasionally, these co-workers of mine, they comment that they hurt after a run, or a work out or a something. I universally tell them the same thing. . .

"Don't whine to me, I told you that exercise was going to kill you".

So, I'm not sure what it means, when I got this urge to start running again. Oh, I used to run in university. I'm not particularly good at it, and I never will be (it's the short, stubby legs), but I did it, and I enjoyed it.

I checked out the Running Room, and their course doesn't start until Jan (I've missed 3 weeks of the other course already, so that won't work). You prepare for the St. Patrick's Day Race.

Which means I'm asking you. I don't want to be the only person who can't manage to run 20 minutes at a stretch at the end of the clinic. Maybe I should start now. . .

Any suggestions on getting started?


I objected, in the heat of the summer, to a blogger who made fun of Harry Patch's name. Henry John Patch, for those of you who don't know, was one of the last surviving soldiers from World War I, and he died on July 25th. He was 111. He was our last link to trench warfare and trench foot. He was the last link to what we used to call Shell Shock, and now we call hell. He was the link to mustard gas and the Western Front.

I was excoriated by other commentors on the blog. I was called a bitch, and told I had no sense of humour. One of them turned up here and threatened to slap me. And I was bewildered and I am still. All of this for standing up and suggesting honour and respect. It's not that the name isn't strange (although, it's actually not in the UK), it's that when we reduce someone to their name, when we poke fun, we reduce and then we forget. Forgetting is dangerous. Forgetting is frantic years between WWI and WWII, dancing the Charleston while the world fell apart around us. Forgetting is not always a conscious choice, it is the mark of carelessness, a refusal to pause, a refusal to take seriously. Forgetting begins with poking fun.

Harry Patch came home from the trenches, married his sweetheart, and became a plumber. He had 2 sons, and when the next war came, he was too old to go off and fight. Death and war have always been a young man's game.

I took a course in World War II history, and if you know anything about that war, you know that you start with the war to end all wars. You start with the terms of the armistice, signed in a railway car in France, at 5:30 in the morning, before the sun came up on November 11, 1918. Like all wars, World War II was rooted in history, rooted firmly in our mistakes, in not learning the lesson, in forgetting.

I have always known peace. I have never heard air raid sirens and seen ration books and felt fear of a loved one dying far from home. And in that place of solid peace, the history prof played us the sound of an air raid in London. From BBC footage and recordings of Stuka's diving, the sounds of war. The scream of a doodle bug falling, the terrible silence and the blast. More screams. Air raid sirens, fire sirens, shouts and wails. Smashing buildings, smashing crockery, smashing lives.

I was changed that day.

It seems to me that there is not much I can do, to stop the calls that lead us off to war. I cannot rid the world of evil, and I cannot feed and clothe the broken. I cannot sign treaties, and I cannot ensure a voice for everyone. I cannot even understand what it is to live in war, all the books I read, the pictures I see leave me confused, unable to understand. I have stood in London, I have seen the damage still. I have heard the words of those who lived then. And still I know not. All that is left to me is to remember. To hold corporate memory.

Speak softly of this world's Harry Patches. Speak clearly and with care.


I think what Mr. T was trying to say was that I was entitled to whine. I bet (although Mr. T wouldn't, and that's another story). He's fine at communicating, but I'm perhaps not always good at listening. And he's probably not wrong. But I think I'm too good at whining as it is.

I whined a lot this weekend. About how my back hurt, a headache, how I was doing something for others and no one was doing anything for me. I whined about what we didn't get done, I whined about a meeting, I just whined. Nothing was good.

I whined about everything but what I don't want to whine about.

What's the point? Really. Whining is not going to change anything. It won't make any difference. What is, is. And perhaps more than that, it hurts to poke that area. It hurts that I keep losing what I want so much. It hurts that other women get pregnant and stay pregnant. It hurts that babies are born addicted to drugs. It's hard to find God in this place. He just doesn't seem to be here.

He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.

I'll save you the trouble, I've looked it up in about 15 different translations. They all more or less say the same thing. Psalm 113, verse 9 says that God is going to make me the happy mother of children. (I'm the mother of a child, but I'm not exactly happy about how that turned out.)

Now, I know I've read that psalm before. I've read it a lot, I suspect. I've read the psalms a lot in the last 2 or so years. Somehow, I've never seen that verse. I read it, caught my breath, read it again, and marked it. For the next few weeks, I kept finding myself returning to it. For someone as terrible at remembering the chapter and verse of well, anything, I remember it.

And for a little bit, I thought I understood the meaning. And then, all at once, I was back to walking by faith, and not by sight. This is hard. For every woman who waited for her baby, I can find another who waited, and never did get her child. I can hold up women who waited and lost, or waited and never did get a child. For every Sarah, for every Rachel, there is another woman, who 'chose' to live without children. I am not so foolish as to blindly believe that eventually a baby will turn up in the midst of the tomato patch (Mrs. Spit really hates cabbage). I know that some stories don't ever have a happy ending.

I'll read the verse again tonight, tomorrow night, other nights. And I'll hold it up. I want to believe it. I really do. I want to believe that somehow, in all this mess, this blood, this fear and hurt and anger, somehow another baby will find its way not just to my uterus, but home in our arms as well.

And I half-way do. Half of the time I totally believe it, and half of the time I do not believe it at all. And maybe that's ok. There's a verse for that too.

And thank you for reaching out. Thanks for telling me that you were with me. In the end, the bleeding has mostly stopped, I am feeling better, if a bit sad and a bit angry and a bit confused. I will manage for a while, and then I will thrive.

Sit and be Human

"How far along were you dear? Are you sure? This has happened before? Was the pregnancy confirmed? What's the longest you've carried?"

I had to go to the hospital on Friday, when suddenly I started bleeding a whole bunch more. I stood in a crowded waiting room, explaining my sorry and pathetic obstetrical history. It's not that I'm bleeding, it's that there's so much, and I don't even know if you need to see me, but I know I'm in pain and I'm frightened and I'm all alone because there was no one to go with me, and I just want to sit in the corner and cry. I don't want to be brave and grown up.

And I looked up at the last question and sighed. 26 weeks, I developed pre-eclampsia. He died shortly after he was born.

And there was this look in her eyes. This horrible, awful look. You can differentiate pity.

There is pity that lets you stay with a person. When you accept and understand that you don't know what its like to be someone, but you can imagine they might need compassion and mercy. You can sit a while with them. Abide. You don't poke and prod, question, you do what needs to be done, and you let the other person be human.

And then there's the other kind. I get a lot of the other kind. I get a lot of "I can't imagine" and "I couldn't cope" and they run away. Without ever moving their body, I can feel their mind withdraw. I can feel them flee.

The first kind of pity is what makes us so wonderfully human. It builds bridges, it is mercy and compassion. It is the bedrock of humanity. It is goodness and care and solace. It builds up, allows us to connect, expand, absorb. We become better, larger, more generous. Jesus tells me that the Kingdom of God is something like this.

The second kind makes me want to cringe. Standing at this horrible counter, with everyone around me, losing another baby, and I'm trying to explain. I don't want to be called dear, I don't want to be told to keep my chin up, and I don't want to answer questions about what is or is not being done for me. I just want to know. This blood and this pain, can you do anything for it? Is it ok? Is there a problem? Do I need tests? Can I go home?

I know I'll sit in this damn waiting room, for hours, bleeding. I know I'll be alone, knitting a sock, crying a little bit, occasionally. And you can't change that, and I don't want you to try. I know what I'm facing, I've been here before. What I need is simple. . .

Just sit with me, this place is lonely and frightening. Just sit and be human with me.

Saturday Quotes

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

Job 19: 25-27



I went to Audrey's, our local book store, last night, to buy a copy of Sense and Sensibility. I am only buying this book because I bought Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and I started reading that, and I realized that I don't think I've read Sense and Sensibility, and I think, in the entire spirit of parody, you should read one before the other. (Also, this explanation for Mr. Spit, who gets very nervous when I go into bookstores. It's ok dear. I took the store credit we had and spent that on the other 2 books I bought. It wasn't very expensive, as far as Audrey's trips go. In fact, I may modestly say it wasn't that expensive, period.)

But, my flimsy household accounting (and even flimsier excuses to my husband) aren't particularly what this entry is about. It has been, as you might have noticed, a shit week here at the Spits. (and I'm using that word because my mother told me I was having a shit week, and if she says it, surely. . .)

And while I was at Audrey's, there were day planners for 2010. And I realized, that I have not had a dayplanner in a few years. I tried using my Palm, and these electronic bingley-beep dealies are not for me. These dayplanners were Moleskin, which strikes me as the sort of thing I would like to use. Ernest Hemmingway used Moleskin, and I think I might be more like Hemmingway if I could use Moleskin. I would derive a visceral pleasure in using the same sort of thing he used. It would be traditional and historical, and every good kind of thing. It would be a connection to the past, unlike the new-fangled bingley-beeping things.

Every so often, Mr. Spit indicates that I should get a Kindle. And don't get me wrong, I think the Kindle is great, nifty and cool. But. . .

It's not paper. It's not ink on paper. You can't turn pages, you can't leave it open at a paragraph, underline something that speaks to you. And you certainly can't throw it across the room when a line makes you very angry. There's nothing permanent about a Kindle, or an electronic bingley-beepy thing.

A kindle is a device, and I like books. I like paper. I like the feel of a perfect pen in my hand. I like ink. I like a good pen. I like blue ink on paper, the feel of it as it leaves the pen. The slight indentation a good Cross fountain pen puts on nice cotton paper. I like the heft ink gives to words. I think about these things, I like permanence.

And all of this is a particular way of saying that I've had enough of this week. This week has been a soul sucking morass. I've written it down, and I'm glad that some of you commented to share it with me, and all of you read it. I'm glad that I have words, and I can turn my thoughts into them. And like all books, all things with permanence, I've had enough of this chapter, for now. I'm turning the page, to see a new title, and new events.

And were it not for a book, I would likely have lost my perspective on optimism entirely.

I picked up Madeline L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time Quintet two nights ago. And in typical Madeline form, she reminded me of the power of permanence:
There are still stars which move in ordered and beautiful rhythm. There are still people in the world who keep promises. . . That's enough to keep my heart optimistic, no matter how pessimistic my mind. [And you and] I have good enough minds to know how very limited and finite they really are. The naked intellect is an extraordinarily inaccurate instrument.

Madeline L'Engle, A Wind in the Door.

It is not

It is not the sheer physicality of another miscarriage that's distressing me. It's not all this damn blood and the wincing pain and the hormone induced emotional crash. I cry, but tears of frustration and rage as much as sorrow. Probably, if I am honest, more frustration and rage. All of this is but a nuisance. It's not pleasant and I could do without it, but that's not the thing of it, at least for me.

Perhaps another way.

There were many deaths in Gabriel's death. There was the death of the child we called Gabriel. There was a little boy with ten fingers and ten toes, a head full of hair, and the crooked Pearce ring finger on his left hand, he was here, on this earth, with us, and then he was gone. And that was sudden and shocking and horrible.

And there was the death of children, which came all at once and slowly. It came all at once with the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia and all of those wretched stats, and it has come slowly, as we have had failed cycle after failed cycle. As we have been pregnant enough to know, but never pregnant for long enough to tell anyone. Death as the inevitable comes screeching into present day. Another dead baby. Five if you were counting.

On Sunday I was vomiting in the Safeway parking lot, pleased as punch, because this is normal for me. I was, excited, happy, hopeful. And now, I am angry and embarrassed. Furious with myself, that I allowed my hopes to be raised, frustrated that I came up with a stupid little plan to tell people I was pregnant, and now I am only slightly crazy, wondering if my body deceived me. I was so sure, had such a sense that this was going to go well, and now, it was all for naught. I have caught myself, since waking up in the puddle of blood, telling myself that I am not pregnant anymore. I was, and I am not. In the same way that Auden told us to stop all the clocks, I cancel appointment plans, waving that nothing came to anything anymore.

It is not, for a moment that the rug was pulled out from me. This is more fundamental than that. It is questions of what I can trust, what I can believe. What is real and true. Was there ever a rug?

It seems to me it is perhaps this: Gabriel's death was a knife buried in our back. It was a sudden, horrific accident. Pain like that is fast and rare. Another miscarriage is another slice in my arm, a fourth gash in a year and a half. It drips blood to be sure, but slowly. It's easily bandaged up. It is a wholly different thing than a traumatic accident. I bleed, I get over it. It is not a large thing, and I tell people that I am fine, except.

Eventually, you lose the same amount of blood, either way.

Even Now.

There are times, even now, that I have to stop myself. I have to stop myself from typing Anna's name into Outlook, stop myself from picking up my work phone and calling her. We have an instant message client at work now, and I can imagine sending her random smilies.

There are times, even now, when I wonder what she thinks about something, and I am so very close to asking her, that I can almost hear her voice.

There are times, even now, when I form the words pulmonary embolism, and 36 in my mind, and my mind explores around them, and I cannot fathom them. I cannot reconcile Anna dead and gone.

I look at the note from her on my cabinet at work, and I cannot believe it wasn't just sent yesterday.

And I see the pictures of Emma's birthday party, and I cannot believe that Anna wasn't there.

And there are times, even now, when I am about to do something else, and I stop in at Facebook, and I see the odd shot, amidst all of them that her husband posted tonight, and I cannot stop. My eyes fill with tears and my hands come to my mouth.

And even now, I cannot believe how much I miss her, and how much this hurts.

Go to Nait and be a Plumber.

Anyway, the story starts with a grumpy faculty chair and ends with a furnace dying on Easter.

As I talked about a while back, I stumbled my way through University, from start to finish. Maybe by 3rd year I had made some friends, and I knew and was known by my prof's. I had certainly established that 8 am classes were of the devil, and that existentialist philosophers had way too much time on their hands, but that was the sum total of my knowledge at the ripe old age of 21.

I wrote what must have been a thrilling essay for a poli sci class (John Stuart Mill and female circumcision) and the prof teaching the class recommended that I enter the honours program. As we have already established, I am not so much a process person as a project person. The end of the matter is better than it's beginning(1).

And I went to go and see the chair of the program, and at the end of it, I tentatively asked what one might do with a degree in poli sci, even you know, with an honours stamp on your degree.

Now, perhaps it is important that I tell you, Dr. L is now retired, but he was somewhat famous for 3 things:
1. An esoteric specialty, that should have guaranteed him lots of media time, but because of reasons 2 and 3 didn't.
2. His astonishingly bad dress sense
3. His tirades about the strangest things.

I hadn't ever taken a class from Dr. L, but his reputation, as they say, preceded him. Which leaves us back where we started, in a tiny office on the 11th floor of the Tory Building, looking out over the river valley, with me in an upright chair, and Dr. L about to blast me.

"If you want a job, go to NAIT and be a plumber"

I graduated, years after I started, with a degree in Poli Sci. Effectively a double major with economics (excepting the problems with econometrics).

And I did the only thing I could do. I got a job as a receptionist. 4 years later I was an Executive Assistant, and then a Policy Analyst.

Which takes me to the Easter weekend of 2005, in which our furnace died. Now, Mr. Spit and I are pretty well educated folk. And the furnace wasn't working. We looked at it. We phoned my uncle the plumber. We poked at it some more. Still not working. 2000 books in our house, and the furnace wasn't working. Either of us could converse earnestly and with great knowledge on the properties of structural steel or price elasticity of demand, but the only use the darn books were going to be was if we burned them to stay warm.

I was talking to someone else last week, and she remarked that after she bought her house, she looked around at her friends, friends that were doctors, lawyers, accountants, and thought that none of them were of any use.

Perhaps, perhaps just Dr. L had something.

(Yesterday was not the most spectacular day at the office, I'm just saying)

Monday Miscellany

We could call this the "I have enough enviro-guilt to share" episode.

I would rather buy stuff that's made to last. Mostly, I think it's what I grew up with. Our TV lasted 25 years. Our microwave 15. My mother retired her old Electrolux vacuum just 2 years old. The vacuum was a present from her first marriage, making it over 35 years old.

I wasn't raised to throw stuff out. I was raised to buy really good quality stuff. And use it for 20 years. And to keep using things until they are totally broken.

Mr. Spit's father bought a microwave for Mr. Spit, so that Mr. Spit would have a microwave when he moved out to Alberta, shortly after we got engaged, oh, about 10 years ago.

And the microwave has always had an issue. When you pull your food out, after heating it, the microwave, it keeps going. We've learned to cope with it, hit a few random buttons, open and close the door a few times, and it stops. Not a big deal. But, the old microwave, she doesn't seem to heat well either. But, I don't want to fill the landfill with something that still works - sort of. And I looked into it, it is not worth it to try and fix it. For the cost of fixing it, I could have a new microwave. A good one. So, while that keeps the microwave out of the landfill, it's also not fiscally sensible.

So I refuse to get rid of a poorly functioning microwave, because in the words of Monty Python, "it's not dead, it's sleeping".

Tell me, oh internets, what do you want to throw out, but can't?