Sudden Bloodhound

I am normally a bit oblivious

to many things;

if it doesn’t stink or scream

don’t expect me to notice it

(and even then, it’s got to stink pretty badly

to catch my attention).

But now I find myself

a sudden and unwilling bloodhound—

able to pick up on the tiniest scent

as I walk past the garbage can

or the kitchen sink.

The waft of the compost as I open the lid

hits me like colour—

a slime green wave riding the air

up into my nose.

Smells have become like warning signs

flashing across my vision,

sending me scuttling away in the opposite direction—

a sudden and unwilling bloodhound

lacking all desire to follow the scent

and solve the gruesome mystery

of its origins.

It’s a dog’s life,

early pregnancy,

so you’ll forgive me

if now and then

I throw back my head

and howl!

Back-Alley Beauty

In this time

when my heart is breaking

from so much pain in the world

I’ve been choking on silence

not knowing what to say

I felt that it was a time

for only words weighty with wisdom

words of solemn importance

and sorrow

But maybe in this time

when my heart is breaking

from so much pain in the world

it is precisely the time

to celebrate every bit of happiness

the day affords

To rejoice in each little buttercup

and bouquet of back-alley beauty

my children clutch in eager hands

and bring me while I cook dinner

And to wish and pray

with all my strength

many such simple pleasures

and calm moments of sweetness

upon each precious person

who walks the face of this earth

Quarantine Self-Care: In the Toilet!

I have a special button my sister gave me once; it says, “Mom Off Duty.” She gave it to me as a suggestion, rather than a joke, cause she knows I’m not the best at taking time to recharge my batteries. This morning I found the button in the toilet. Yes, actually in it–and that pretty much sums up how my self-care is at the moment.

I’m sure this is the case for many people…working long hours from home while parenting and homeschooling, or braving the front lines in the hospitals. I loved this image my mom sent me, because it’s so fitting. Real life superheroes walk the halls of every hospital right now! Thank you brave nurses and doctors and all health careworkers!

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There are so many heroes right now…but even Wonder Woman needs a bathroom break (alone!), or a shower, a quiet walk, or a few minutes for a favourite hobby to restore her weary soul a bit. These moments have been scarce for me, as I homeschool my seven kids and try to make magic from what remains of rice and dried in beans the cupboard until our next grocery order comes. The other day, for example, since we were out of bread and milk, we had homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and fishy crackers for breakfast, not that the kids objected much to that!

Anyway, as I’m not the queen of mamma self-care, I’m going to share a few ideas friends of mine have mentioned doing. Please comment and share your tips, too!

  1. Going for a quiet walk alone, and calling a friend to catch up.
  2. Having a daily time set aside to practice music alone, behind a locked door, without interruption “unless anyone’s eyeballs are bleeding!”
  3. Dates at home, while the kids babysit each other in another room. Snacks and a movie with your spouse, without your littlest kids climbing all over and talking the whole time.
  4. Walks with your spouse…if you’re lucky enough to have kids old enough to babysit that is. Some friends of mine in Saskatchewan even braved the rather chilly park for a lunch date!
  5. Visiting friends over Zoom, FaceTime or Skype, to have a laugh together and feel less alone. My friend Monique had a knitting date over Zoom, and I’m planning a writing one with my writer buddy Lisa Rumple, who bravely blogs about her mental health journey at The Resilient Catholic.
  6. Taking a class online to feed your mind and grow.
  7. Exercising. As a family, we like to do the daily workout with the Body Coach, Joe Wicks, on YouTube. He is funny and accessible, and requires no equipment for his 20 minute workout (30 minutes when you include the breaks). Even our toddler joins in, and likes doing jumping jacks, or as they call them in England “star jumps.” It helps that every Friday is Fancy Friday dress up day!

I think all these are great ideas to help release the pressure that builds up from being “on” 24/7. Sometimes it feels very spoiled to talk about being stressed right now, when some people are in situations that are so much more devastating. As my friend Laura asked, “When have people endured epidemic isolation from a place of such luxury and connection?”

While we are indeed so lucky to be able to connect with others from the safely of our homes, it also means that we are more aware of the suffering of others all around the world. This collective stress affects us all; I don’t see the use in pretending it doesn’t.

So we need to find ways of releasing that stress, so it doesn’t silently build up like the little bricks in Tetris, until they are almost at the top of the screen and falling faster by the minute. If like in the game, we can find ways to organize all the little bricks that cause anxiety into little rows, plugging in the empty spots, they can disappear and leave us more breathing room. It’s not that we won’t have more stress factors coming our way, but if we can acknowledge them and fit them into our life, maybe we can rob them of some of their destructive power.

Right now, some of the strange things like working and schooling from home, not being able to visit friends, travel freely or go out as a family to socialize are the new normal. It takes energy to readjust; we are mourning the loss of the innocence of a world where people didn’t hesitate to shake hands with strangers or hug a friend who stopped by.

So whatever your situation right now, however much you feel affected by this pandemic, I encourage you to be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself with kindness, as well as others. Don’t drown in your to do lists. Try to pause and savour the little good things that happen each day. Pray for the grace to endure this storm, and to grow better from it, but little by little. Don’t be harsh with yourself.

And if it helps, and you’ve got insomnia, too, eat pumpkin pie ice cream at midnight, like me.

Big love to everyone!

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    Misadventures in Housekeeping, Part 2: Magical Hummus Goes “Poof!”

    Lately, I’ve been trying to be resourceful about using up the food at the back of the cupboard, since our grocery delivery service is so busy they can usually only make it once every two weeks, and we are trying to avoid going out as much as possible. If our pretending we live in our little house in the big woods, and making homemade bread instead of running to get some can, help less people get sick, then we are going to do it.

    So, even though we actually live in a big house in the city, with seven kids instead of three, I’ve been trying to find my inner “Ma Ingalls,” because she could make do with almost no stores and make everything from scratch. With varying results–my attempts that is! The most explosive result, so far, came from making homemade hummus.

    If you know my husband at all, you will know he is a hummus connoisseur. Yes, that’s actually a thing. Having been to Israel, and tasted the real deal, he is pretty hard to impress. Not that he won’t eat store-bought or homemade hummus quite cheerfully, but he will often make reference to the truly amazing hummus he had in the Middle East. Probably it’s partly just nostalgia. Doesn’t everything taste better overseas?

    However, like the rebellious obliger that I am, I felt two things:

    1. A challenge to create a really great hummus at home, so it’s not always just “alright.”

    2. The pressure to make it good enough to compete with holiday memory hummus.

    Kinda silly the whole thing. In any case, all we had was dried chick peas, so I soaked them over night. Then, I followed the instructions for “Magical Hummus” from my husband’s Israeli cookbook step by step. Mostly. Ish. After rinsing off the soaked chickpeas, I was supposed to cook them in a pot with baking soda for 40 minutes or so, until super soft and soupy, all the while skimming off the foam bubbles in the top.

    I don’t have time for that; I’ll just do it in my instant pot.

    Famous last words. Normally, I absolutely love my instant pot. It’s so handy! You can whip up dinner all in one pot in less an half an hour, even if things are frozen, and it comes out tender and delicious. It’s the closest thing to having another woman in the kitchen without polygamy.

    But! I shouldn’t have ignored the instructions about scooping off the foam…and when I flicked open the pressure release valve to let the steam out after cooking the chickpeas for 25 minutes, out came sputtering hot and foul smelling yellow scum!! Aaaagggghhh!!

    I had to throw a towel over the pot to close the pressure valve without getting burned by my hissing, volcanic pot. After wiping chick pea scum off the cupboards and floor, and letting the pressure release naturally, which is what I should have done, I opened the lid to see a mass of bubbly, frothy soupy greyish chick peas, and to smell…. awfulness!!

    Mom, what’s that gross smell?! Eeewww!! Are you making fart soup??

    The house did indeed smell like one giant diaper; the kids weren’t even exaggerating. So I went around laughing like an idiot and opening all the windows and doors and putting the fans on. My poor neighbours!!

    That Eastland family, what are they up to now?

    I thought this attempt at homemakerliness was going to be a total fail, but here’s the suprising part: after I partly drained, then blended the chick peas with lots of tahini, some lemon, garlic, and salt, it turned out great! Except quite a bit too salty…as I was worrying about masking the imagined awful taste…but after I added some water, more lemon and olive oil, it was lovely. And it made a great dressing for homemade falafel, the next day, which surprisingly, turned out just fine, and even satisfied my Middle Eastern loving hubby.

    All’s well that ends well. Sometimes it just really stinks along the way!

    Cereal Bathing

    Since Christmas I’ve been floating in

    periodic luxury…

    the bath bombs my husband gave me from Lush–

    enormous sparkling balls of colour

    which fill our bedroom with exotic perfumes.

    When you drop them in the water,

    they careen around like drunken tennis balls,

    spewing a fuzzy stream of technicolor bubbles.

    The first one was coffee-scented,

    and I had to laugh,

    lying there in a giant creamy latté.

    Another resembled a golden peach,

    and out of its centre came floating

    –unexpected up to my face–

    a perfect little dried flower,

    all pointy and crimson.

    Why all this sweet madness of sparkling bubbles

    from my often-away, hard-working husband?

    They are a silent embrace from afar,

    a wordless thank you for all you do,

    an affirmation of my body’s goodness,

    even, or maybe especially, when it’s exhausted.

    So tonight, feeling frazzled and snappy

    from too many sibling squabbles

    and the sneaky migration of mismatched socks

    all over the living room floor,

    I threw in a big orange bath-bomb,

    and read a delicious chapter of Before Green Gables

    while the tub filled up.

    Finally, I slid into this frothy carrot soup

    and imagined I was floating in the sea,

    bobbing up and down near the shore

    with seagulls gliding high above the waves.

    But…the tiny bubbles popping near my ears

    made it sound like I was bathing

    in a giant bowl of Rice Crispies instead.

    At least, for once, with the toddler asleep,

    no one was trying to steal my cereal!

    Silent Salute

    I look with longing up the hill

    to where my little sweetie lies.

    A strip of tall, green trees topped with crimson

    stand at attention along the oft-walked road

    like a line of fire

    through the graveyard

    and up the hill where my baby ever sleeps.

    Glorious fall silently saluting the fallen–

    my heart shouting without sound

    as the bus rumbles by and whisks me away too soon.

    A Walk to See Her Sister

    The toddler tumbles like laughter

    over the dry grass.

    Disregarding all signs of mourning,

    she chases the crows with open delight.

    She greets everyone she sees,

    all the mummy’s and daddies and “bapa’s,”

    convinced each one is part of her family.

    She even ambles after a thin, pink-shirted man

    with a slight bend in his back,

    calling: “Bapa! Bapa!”

    When we reach her sister’s grave

    she sits happily on my lap,

    and leans over to pat the “Staahhh.”

    I tell her it’s Josephine, a name she can’t yet say.

    Unphased, she takes her nursing blankie

    and flaps it about and pats it

    until her sister’s stone is nicely tucked in

    with her name peeking above the blanket.

    “Baby, nigh, nigh,” she tells me.

    Then grabbing her blankie

    she trundles off to seek new adventures

    and waves, “Baa-bye!”

    trusting I will follow.

    I kiss the dusty stone

    and rise.