Thursday, May 26, 2011

Regarding Wednesday...

Only the Epps would celebrate the promise of new adventures in the Middle East with a fancy lunch at a Japanese restaurant. But after our session with a taxation specialist, I was feeling mighty overwhelmed and mostly in need of a stiff drink. When our accountant recommended "Nami," a high-quality Japanese restaurant, we were in.

As we entered the room, greeted by kimono-clad servers, my heart sighed and I reflected on my near-forgotten love. Japan. I was amazed by the authenticity of the restaurant. Only Japanese chefs. And mostly Japanese servers. There were booths on the side for privacy, and a tatami room in the back. I half-anticipated a lively "Irashaimase!" but no, we were in Toronto after all.

In the end, no stiff drinks were served. But the delicious green tea we delicately held in our hands brought us both back to many chilly days sitting in poorly heated Japanese teachers' rooms. There we would sit, muscles tight, huddling over our steaming mugs of tea, inhaling the warmth they brought, all while silently cursing the lack of central heating and the Japanese spirit of "gaman" that upheld the belief that freezing your buns off in the winter somehow produces character.

The food today showed me that we have been wise in our decision to stop frequenting the Japanese restaurants of St. Catharines. The sushi was fresh, melting in our mouths. Not the gummy, sometimes slimy portions we have gotten used to here. We both ate food we had not eaten since leaving Japan. Salted yakitori with sections of green onion, pickled vegetables, and zaru soba. And there were new surprises too, particularly a delicious grilled cod marinated in Saikyo miso for three days.

Friends, there is NOTHING like thoughtfully prepared Japanese food.

As we ate, we remembered. And we talked about things we missed about the culture. Like how they would savour their meals, loudly exclaiming "Oishii!" with every new bite, as if it were the most delicious morsel they had ever tasted. And how they held their mugs, as if each handmade piece deserved respect and admiration. I miss the reverence and respect of the Japanese culture. There was a sense of spiritual connection in the day-to-day mundaneness that is lacking in North American culture. The simple rituals of green tea and "Itadakimasu." I miss these things.

Qatar, in its expat-edness, will not offer the same experiences as our lovely Japan. And that is something I remind myself of regularly, to prepare myself for this unique journey. But you can be sure that we Epps will dive in, eyes wide open, looking to suck out all the adventure this new opportunity provides. I can't wait for the new routines, favourite haunts, and friendly people we're going to call our own.

Picture Kaiya, with her rainbow hat on, shouting out her favourite cowgirl word, "Yeeeeeehawwwwwwww!!"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Little Bit of Heaven

I promised I'd be back. Let's pretend it's Tuesday. This is the post I was actually going to write:

A writer was discussing on CBC what she believes heaven will be like. She described how every weekend morning, her daughter tiptoes into the bedroom and quietly snuggles beneath the sheets between her and her husband. They spend a few minutes there together, healing in one another's warm embraces, before starting the day. Heaven.

This writer's description awoke within me my own strong sensation of heaven. And it is quite simply this:

And this:

As the sun has finally come our way and the days have warmed, I've been reminded once again of what a solar-powered creature I am. But more than that. Of my need to be outside and to feel the sun warming that wonderful spot on the back of my neck as I walk down the laneway or dig in the garden. Life never feels more perfect than the mornings where I hold my mug of tea and stroll with Kaiya through the back gate, down the gravel road, to see what treasures we may find. Or the evenings where I sit at the patio set, glass of wine beside me, enjoying a meal with my family while gazing at our small patch of grass and the gardens we have worked hard to grow.

We all mellow together outside in the sun. The stir-craziness disappears, and the dark squiggle above my head grows faint. Our rhythm changes. Mealtime naturally fades into putter-time, and we all find our places in our little yard, bending down to pull weeds, admire blossoms, or simply build piles of dirt and stones.

August 17th looms large on our calendar, and there is nothing I will miss more than these easy-breezy days of enjoying the quiet calm of nature. So if you call and we don't answer, come to the backyard. There's a good chance you'll find us there.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I'll just let the words do what they will today.

If I wished to describe to you my feelings over the past few months, many of them could be summarized with the following picture:

Or even the next one:

What I had in mind was actually a cartoon of Lucy with that dark squiggly over her head, but sadly, I couldn't find that imagined picture. Let me know if you do.

I've been spinning and spinning in my Waiting Place. Spinning in useless circles, not knowing where to go, or better yet, how to rest. I purposely didn't take on more work in the winter and spring because I knew we'd be leaving in the summer, and I figured it would be good to make myself available to Kaiya and Jeff and friends and family to help us all get ready for this change. Looking back, I may have done more of a favour to both my husband and my child if I had just worked. A happy wife = a happy life, right? Instead, I left myself with far too much time to think, process, worry, and basically just stare at the house with a building sense of overwhelm-ment as I got frustrated with all the things I couldn't do to help Jeff and help us all push forward with this move... building and finishing closets, painting trim (without it getting all over the carpet... don't worry, that didn't actually happen, and take one look at the trim in the bedroom that I taped to find out why I didn't even try), fixing the drywall in the bathroom... you get the picture. A weekly rant has become common around here: "I don't want our last summer here to be full of renovations!"

You could say that two themes in my life this past year have been giving up control and waiting. I don't like either theme very much, and you'll all be the first to know if those two themes ever change. Ever.

As items on my "Waiting List" get crossed off, I realize I'm still waiting. I'm not celebrating as much as I thought I would be. A little more excitement in my bones? Yes. Absolutely. But still waiting. You and I both know one big thing I'm waiting for, but let's save that for another post, okay? Ultimately, I know this waiting goes deeper somehow, so I keep listening, whenever the dark squiggly above my head lightens enough for me to do so.

The Waiting has made me vulnerable. I have often likened this place to the feeling of stepping off a cliff and not knowing when I'm going to land or what I'm going to land on. Or perhaps I used that analogy to describe my loss of control? Oh, one of those two. But as I was saying... I don't have answers like I used to, or thought I used to. It's hard for me to come to this space to write, even though I know the good it does. And I can't always control the waves of joy or sorrow that wash over me when I hear a certain song, or connect with a friend, or even hold a certain pose in yoga. So forgive me if the tears come unexpectedly at times, friends. At least you can be certain that I'm living life deeply. ;)

I'm trying to listen a lot more. Isn't that, somewhere deep inside, what we all desire? To be listened to? And on a deeper level, to be known? Not to be judged as good or bad or needing a little tweaking, but just to be known and loved for who we are right at that very moment? I've been hearing that Gandhi quote a lot lately, about being the change you want to see in the world. So I thought I'd start there. Cause I'm not a big fan of people putting words in my mouth or pigeonholing me, and I know how good it is when you feel that connection with a friend and you know you've truly been loved and understood. So while my attempts may not always look like much, that's something I'm really trying to do... just listen. I hope you'll humour me. :)

Sheesh, where am I going here? This post is not at all what I thought it was going to be. I mean, not even a speck. Weird. It seems I can't even control my writing these days... Ha.

The pictures I wanted to share just don't fit with all this somehow. No problem. Let's let it stand, shall we? And come back tomorrow and I'll share with you what I thought I was going to share today. (!)

Blessings on the journey...

Monday, May 16, 2011

I should be doing laundry...

This is how shocked we were by the nice weather last Friday:

Sun, swimsuits, kiddie pool. What the heck is going on? Where did all the rain and cold go?! Thank goodness it came back Saturday and is supposed to stick around for, oh, two weeks or so. I mean, really, our hibernating Canadian bodies could hardly take it! Shock, I tell you! ;)

Picked up these babies today. About the only semi-cool shades they sell in my mostly blind prescription. Gonna be needing them a lot in another three months or so. Oh ya, that's right. Doin' the chicken strut. Somebody got a contract at CNA-Q in Qatar. Yes, yes I did...

So let it rain, let it rain. My future's so bright... I gotta wear shades.

As Kaiya would say: Moooo-ah-ha-ha-ha!

One of the best parts of being Kaiya's mom: she likes hugs and kisses *almost* as much as I do.

The past few days have been a flurry of fun activity; my inner introvert is seriously needing some quiet days and nights at home. Today's rain was a satisfying excuse to blast some Mika and clean the house. That video's awesome, by the way.

I've also been spending some time mentally trying on my new position as full-time employee of CNA-Q. The cold feet have become a little warmer knowing that I have this fiiiine position to look forward to. I have even felt a bit of what could be called "excitement" since receiving my conditional offer. I know, I know, let's not get carried away, right? But I'm slowly stepping out of this strange Waiting Place we've been in, getting ready to try on something new.

I think, it might just possibly be, perhaps, a good fit.

But I'll let you know.

In the meantime...

I scored a bunch of "new" clothes for Kaiya last week. And, as always happens, I'm marveling at how very grown up my girl is looking. She's picking dandelions here, her latest hobby. It's very sweet. She gives everyone she meets a dandelion like it's the most precious gift there is. And I kinda think it is.

Some of the dandelion bounty, stored in her oh-so-favourite rainbow hat.

She makes me catch my breath sometimes. Last week the heat made her hair curl ever so slightly, and I just couldn't get enough. I stared at her like I hadn't seen her for weeks.

It's getting easier and easier to imagine her as a world-traveling, culture-crossing adventurer, don't you think? You go girl. Don't you hesitate. Grab those dreams. They're yours for the taking after all.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Aware of My Gifts

I spent a lot of time with this girl today.

Now that the weather has finally turned our way, I've decided that Sunday morning is my favourite time of the week. Sunday morning has become slow and gentle. If the rush of Saturday has disappointed, Sunday calls to me like an old friend and encourages me to try again. I don't have to prove anything to Sunday. It just plunks itself down on a patio chair and asks me to do the same. It has no agenda, asks no big questions; it just desires my time and company.

Thank God for Sunday mornings.

This morning, we took our oatmeal outside. I was filled, re-filled, with hope and joy as I sat back, a satisfied customer, taking in sip after sip of tea while soaking in the sun. After breakfast, Kaiya and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood, her on her shiny, new, purple bike, and me strolling along behind. The streets were wonderfully quiet, and I enjoyed the sight of families gathered around breakfast tables, and grown kids stopping in on their moms with big bouquets of flowers. Kaiya pedaled on ahead while I sauntered, taking in all the smells of spring... freshly-cut grass, magnolia blooms... and the beautiful sights... the greens, blues, reds, and yellows of nature.

I was mindful today of my gifts. Over and over, I thanked God for blessing me with Kaiya. I remembered that in the midst of our conception uncertainties, I AM a mother. I am no less of a mother because I "only" have one child. And our family is complete. Kaiya is not deprived. And even on the days when I most question my abilities as a mom, I do a damn good job of taking care of her. Of raising her, and instilling the values I believe to be important.

Yes, the self-doubt monsters were unkind this week.

I thanked Kaiya (don't worry...mostly in my head) for who she is and for the gift she has been to us. I thanked her for being the one who made me a mom. I looked at pictures of my pregnant self and marveled at the miracle I now know that time was. Those nine months of perfect health and that flawless, empowering home birth experience. What an incredible blessing that time was! And what a gift to have her now!

And today, whenever it was just us, I worked really hard at being present for her, and for me, taking mental snapshots of my tall, talkative girl.

She knew it was a special day too. All day, she found ways to spoil me, saying "Happy Mother's Day!" each time. A handmade card, a heart sticker placed on my hand, dandelions and tulips picked from the yard, a bookmark crafted. She held my hand more today, leaned in, snuggled. But the crowning touch was the quiet twenty minutes she spent this evening, cuddled up in my lap, sucking her thumb while rubbing the corner of her yellow blanket in her other hand. In the space of those rare, peaceful, quiet moments, I don't think I heard a word of what was being said around me. It was blissful.

For the clarity, peace, and mindfulness of today, God, I give thanks.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Wisdom from Unexpected Places

Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" was, I admit, a Costco impulse buy. I liked the colourful, sparkly cover. I like the author, and I liked the title. Timely, I thought. We are, quite literally, going places, and since Kaiya loves books so much, I have found myself regularly searching out books to help prepare her for what's ahead. Little did I know that this book would be more for Jeff and I than for our girl.

And so today, after sitting on this post for over a week, I bring you the wisdom of Dr. Seuss.


You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.


You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

Since the fall of 2009, I have been in somewhat of a holding pattern. The life I was living, with its busy-ness and escapism, was unsustainable. And some personal events made it grind to a halt. As a result, I pulled back from work. I read more. I explored my health, changing a lot of the foods I eat. I found a good counsellor, to help me figure out the journey I was on. But most importantly, I created a space for myself, away from a variety of defining people and places, in order to explore what it was I really wanted and needed ... and believed. About myself and this amazing life we have been given. And I grew up.

Just in time, it seems. This fall, my strong and steady husband, the one always keeping me positive and grounded, hit upon his own rough patch. The troubles of life caught up with him, and the combination of a particularly difficult teaching assignment, together with the steady loss of a dearly loved one, was enough to bring him to his own place of doubt and grief. And so the leaning of support has shifted, an unexpected but beautiful transition. We are on a tentative, precarious climb back up the slope. Life as we know it has changed. Along with the difficulty has come a realness, a raw honesty, which we had always longed for but just couldn't grasp. And so, in the midst of the angst, we sense the re-birth. And for that, we are thankful. Our eyes are open now.

But this April, the old restlessness has settled in again. The focus and clarity I was so enjoying have vanished, and I find myself flitting from one meaningless activity to another, with next to no focus, finding joy and fulfillment in very little. The calm I could find in front of the bedroom window or through yoga, meditation and prayer has escaped me, slipping right through my fingers. I find myself constantly lost in thought, unable to focus on the present moment, time simultaneously dragging and flying by.

And I realize that somehow, sometime in this past month, I've transitioned from living to waiting.

Waiting, oh, we are waiting.....
for the sun to come
and the warmth to replace the damp, damp cold
for a contract to be offered
and a contract to be signed
for a child to stop being so disagreeable
and another child to be conceived
for a sister to return home
and decisions to be made
for hallways to be painted, closets to be built, basements to be cleaned
and a house to be rented
for Friday night and the end of June
for an email to come, the phone to ring, excitement to happen
for understanding and being understood.

Waiting, we have been waiting.

But this is not the end of the story.
Turn the page in Dr. Seuss' book, and this is what you will find:
That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

Waiting Place, I have something to say to you...
You're not all bad. In fact, you've been kind of necessary to us. We're proud, stubborn folk, and we've needed to have our butts whipped a bit in order to figure out the important stuff.

But we're just about done now, and you need to know that when we leave you, there will be no tears, no sad good-byes. I imagine our departure will be more like an explosion of energy, superhero style, with lots of sunshine, starbursts, rainbows, and applause. You've helped shape us, but we're just about ready to rise up and take flight. Thought you should know.

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." - Joseph Campbell

Perhaps, down the road, once this quiet, introspective time is behind us, we will see that in the end it was life waiting for us, and not the other way around. There's a part of me that still holds on, that wishes to stay in this Waiting Place, but each and every day, a greater part of me is crying out to let go and not hold anything back. I pray for the strength to do so.

Grace in the journey, friends.