Tuesday, December 10, 2013

where snow is falling

life hurts.
and sometimes, when life hurts,
you walk out of the hospital, where snow is falling,
and drive across town, where snow still falls
and life still hurts.
you lie down on an empty apartment floor,
where the paint is fresh.
and outside, snow falls upon the nativity at the church across the way.
bare branches sway.
cars roll by, sidewalks fill with footprints.
we walk together, side by side, hand in hand.
we leave our marks, and life hurts.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

uninvited East

this sidewalk points East
i'm riding it outta here
through the staff parking lot
and the lane where buses line up

walking East, past other houses' driveways
and other peoples' houses
and other families' people
that i know little about

it hits like wind on red cheeks
or tears on fallen leaves
or boots on wet sidewalks
or heartbeats inside fall coats

that i've been uninvited.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Huron County Dancing With the Stars 2013 Wrap-Up

published in the Signal-Star on October 8, 2013
Three hundred and twenty glittery guests. Opulent d├ęcor. Hearty dinners. Decadent desserts. A worthy cause, and ten excited dancers: the makings of one great night.
Dancing With the Stars 2013 arrived with fanfare and met every expectation. Key players from Huron County Victim Services – Jan Vogel, Melissa Wormington and Michelle Millar-Field – looked as good as they felt. This was their night, and it went off without a hitch.
The lovely ladies thank Susan St. Lewis and the Knights of Columbus for the beautifully-decorated hall; Wamby’s Catering; Flashmagic Productions; Dance Techniques for the makeup expertise; Sweets and Treats for the table favours; and the Goderich Fire Department, J’s Bistro and many others for their contributions to the very successful silent auction. Much praise goes to a beautiful woman named Cathy, who brought the audience to its feet with her true story of transformation through the help of Victim Services.
It certainly was a wonderful evening. I, however, will be remembering Dancing With the Stars in a different way.
You see, I got to be a dancer. A bona fide, never-danced-before, pair-me-with-a-professional-and-hope-for-the-best celebrity dancer. I was in good company: Sifto employee and volunteer firefighter Jamie Chisolm, ESTC program co-ordinator and pub owner Stephanie Currie, personal support worker Cidalia Cabral and BMO banker Matthew Hoy were all as fresh-faced to the dancing world as I was.
Do you have any idea what it takes to learn two dance forms, choreograph two routines and perform them for judges (Patty Coulter, Steve Hewitt and Ashley Phillips) and an audience? Timing, posturing, form… rehearsing, responding, relaxing… presentation, expression and yes, extension are all fancy words that mean “work your butt off, and make it look good!” We were scared to death.
We had nothing to fear, however: professional dancers Reanna Ramaker, Les Cook of East Side Dance Studio in Blyth, Ken Scott, Katrina Bos of East Street Station in Goderich and (my personal favourite) Wayne Bos had us well in-hand. These people are like cream: they grabbed us and rose to the top. We became a family of kings and queens enthroned in the green room with butterflies, each awaiting our turn to strut.
Katrina and Matthew stole the show for first place with their tango and waltz/polka. Their contagious energy filled the place with claps, hoots and laughter. Wayne and I impressed ourselves with our Viennese Waltz (to Metallica!) and Cha-Cha (to Cake). We must have impressed the crowd, too: we took second place. Stephanie and Les won everyone’s hearts with their own third-place Waltz and Cha-Cha. What a ball!
And now it’s over.
Let me try to explain what this feels like. It’s the same as when theatre actors finish a run – but most of us can't relate to that.  It’s a space on your calendar, a hollow spot in your belly. Like a close friend has moved away, like you’ve stained your best dress.
Wayne knew it was coming, and he knew it would hit me hard. I’m the artistic type, plus I’d poured everything I had into preparing for this competition. Our rehearsals were always filled with breathless laughter, as I wriggled out from under the stresses of the week and focused on strength, grace and beauty. As the final days approached, satisfaction comingled with sadness at the thought of “all this” being nearly over.
I watched the crowd fill the dance floor that night through blurry eyes, wondering at the specialness of it all. Charity, self-awareness, music and dance: four markers of God's image stamped upon humankind, swirling and smiling before my very eyes. I noticed a dark form beside me. He lifted my hand, and we proceeded to the floor for one last celebratory dance.
“Last dance” in one sense. We’re already making plans for more lessons.
DWTS 2013 dancers Les Cook, Stephanie Curry, Matthew Hoy, Wayne Bos, Bethany Davidson, Jamie Chisolm, Reanna Ramaker, Katrina Bos, Ken Scott and Cidalia Cabral cut the cake and pop the champagne
Our Waltz:
Our Cha-Cha:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

free indeed

fistfuls of sand
had me buried deep.
You drew close,
loosened my fingers
and pulled me out, open-handed.
don't know what i'd do...
it's just so good to know You.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mom on the roof

i didn't ask for this -- did i? sure, i always liked kids, and i figured i’d have three. because i was cute and smart and young, plus young at heart. those who are young at heart make great parents. i was counting on that. it’s cute and smart to count on that.

i married my husband when i was twenty-two and ten twelfths. our plan was to wait two years before having kids. Two: such a nice, round number. a very nice, safe, round number. Two would keep the old people from calling us Kids and prevent them from asking when we were going to start having Kids.

eight months in, i was pregnant. at eight months and three weeks, i was not pregnant. the cramps were terrible and the medical instruments were cold and my womb was tipped back and the nurses were kind. i sobbed onto white sheets and heard the 23rd Psalm from a red Bible.

the miscarriage was nearly as shocking as the pregnancy, and one month went by before i felt the full weight of it upon my hormones and my emotions: the excited congratulations of acquaintances, directed at another girl, not me, because she was still pregnant, i wasn’t. how come she could do it and i couldn’t? we were both back at Bible school for a reunion; why did she score the perfect scenario and i didn’t? i sobbed onto the colourful quilt upon my sister’s lap and let her stroke my hair.

the doctor said to wait four months before trying again.

those four months were free: i was free to be young and cute and smart and childless.

five months.

six months.

without doctor’s orders binding me to childlessness, i wasn’t feeling so free anymore.

it was the morning of september eleventh. i remember the date because i would look back on photos taken later that day and wonder if my friends could tell i’d been shagged. wonder if mourners would be appalled i’d been shagged. wonder if people were allowed to shag on 9-11.

it was the morning of september eleventh, a great day for morning sex. as i opened the condom package my husband said, “it’s been six months. shouldn’t we stop using protection?” those words. shouldn’t we. they shriveled me. i’d been coasting along on Submission, and as long as he didn’t speak those words, i didn’t have to submit to them. but then, there they were.

they held Pregnancy. they held Motherhood. they held eighteen years of losing my life. i didn’t want them.

the first pregnancy hadn’t been planned. it had come way ahead of the Two Years timeframe we’d pulled out of the air. it still hadn’t been Two Years; how had it become Four Months?

i sobbed onto my chocolate-brown duvet and heard the words.

i steadied myself, opened myself and lost myself. i sank my nails into my childless husband and let him change our lives with one deep breath. out and in.

i was still a little girl. i still didn’t know I was beautiful. i wasn’t done clamoring for attention, rating myself against other little girls, trying to outdo the world in a contest of cute/smart/spiritual. my dad had never wanted the world to see my beauty, never listened, never understood me. i didn’t understand myself, couldn’t make myself heard, couldn’t feel beautiful. all I knew was Jesus was listening, Jesus would come for me someday, Jesus would make me beautiful and Jesus understood. some guy named Paul said he knew Jesus, and Paul said to submit to my husband just like he was Jesus. just like i’d been submitting to my dad who never understood me. so when my husband said shouldn’t we, that meant we should.

we did.

two months before our second anniversary, a son was born.

he came early, and the doctors said they had to cut me open, so i let them. when my husband went back to work four days later, i sobbed onto the colourful quilt upon my sister’s lap and listened to her prayers for the Young Mother.

for me.

seventeen months later, a son was born. it had been forty hours of back-breaking contractions without a change to the cervix, so it wasn’t “labour”. the doctor told me i was allowed to ask for a caesarian, so i did. my uterus was still pretty thin in spots and my mom had to get back to work. plus i was tired. looking after two babies was going to be hard enough without a uterine rupture to recover from.

the next year was so hard i broke out in a body rash. ‘nuff said.

the following year, Mom Bethany remembered what Young Cute Bethany had said about having three kids, and then it happened before she let herself really think about it. twenty-five months later came a son, and then there were three.

and then there was a tubal, because Mom Bethany had done all she could and Young Cute Bethany was surely satisfied, and the old people were surely impressed.

it’s the middle of the night, four years later. the sons are eight, six and four, and Bethany is Young And Cute For A Mom. she just stepped down from the rooftop she was sitting on with her oldest son, who had earlier been telling her to jump off the roof and die because she asked him to get ready for bed.

see how i disengage myself from that? talking about myself in the third person, as if it wasn’t me who let the house get too messy, the boys stay up too late, the routine get too messed up and the Mom get too bossy.

fact is, sitting on that roof, all i wanted was to be a teenager again, laughing with Virginia and trying to figure out whether i was beautiful.

that’s what i’m really good at. and i know the answer now.

all the old people are gone. sure, they still meet every sunday morning in the building next door, but i don’t. because they told Young Cute Bethany they needed her, and they let her teach VBS and Sunday School and paint free posters and co-ordinate the nursery program and lead the ladies’ prayer group, but when Mom Bethany needed them they didn’t know it.

how could they not know it?

i’m beautiful and i know it, and i’m a poor mom and i know that too, and i’m a damn good mom for sure. not because i know how to submit to my husband, or be cute or smart or spiritual, or even because i know how to get my three boys to bed on time (i don’t). it’s because i don’t know what i’m doing, and my kids know it, and it’s okay. they don’t submit to me as their authority, no matter how much i want them to, because to them, i’m not an authority figure. to them, i’m just Mom.

Mom on the roof.

and that’s beautiful.

Friday, June 28, 2013

the Good Bus Motherhood

i've been hit by the Good Bus Motherhood.
chugging along, it drags me from place to place —
smashing my head off rocks,
smearing me through puddles.
tattered and torn and swathed in exhaust fumes,
i cling white-knuckled;
knowing neither when the next bend will come,
nor how it will hit me.
i see other adults in this same predicament:
sane, successful, good-willed people.
we nod sympathetically and call out words of cheer from under our buses.
we will never let go.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Community looks after its own through tough times

by Bethany Davidson
Published in the June 18 edition of the Goderich Signal Star

I first saw her at the Goderich YMCA. She was one of those happy, sweaty ladies pounding through an aerobic class of some sort: cute workout clothes; lots of energy and friends and laughter. The next few times were at J’s Bistro on the Square. She and I would be there for a coffee or a breakfast date with our toddlers; the boys would size each other up as we waved across the room.

It didn’t take long for Colleen Edwards to introduce herself. We had something in common, noted she, so we should set up a play date for our youngsters. We exchanged numbers, and the rest is history.

Only we haven’t actually done that play-date thing yet. Turns out I’m selfish with really amazing people, and I’ve been scheduling all of our get-togethers for when the kids are away.

I did get to meet the rest of Colleen’s wonderful family, and a few of her many friends, too. On December 31, 2012, a bunch of us piled into Colleen and Al’s home to ring in the New Year – early, with plenty of juice boxes for the little ones. That’s how they roll: if Colleen and her gals want something done, it gets done their way.

Then came the abdominal pain. And the text message with the Big-C word in it. And the tears.

But it was action time. Colleen was only going to be in the hospital for one week following surgery, which was barely enough time for her friends to show some major love.

A secret Facebook group called “Colleen’s Crew” was created, and membership quickly cleared 40. A lot of Goderich-area locals, plus BFFs from Toronto and across the ocean, and of course Colleen's mom, met there as co-conspirators. All of a sudden, there was a dog-walking schedule, a dinner-making plan – even the rally-point for a back-yard makeover!

Kelly Karges got on the phone: soon, Gold Coast landscaping, Grayhaven Gardens and Art’s Landscaping had donated a ton of river rock, topsoil and plants to add to their dear friend’s surprise. Sommer Brothers Construction pitched in labour on a brand new deck and planters. Darryl Duncan’s landscaping expertise gave direction to crews of willing friends and the money they’d collected. The weekend of June 2nd and 3rd became a work bee on Trafalgar Street, amidst threatening weather forecasts and several hyper children (Melanie Norton-Ball kept those entertained; the weather took care of itself).

Colleen came home that Sunday. Ivy (five-year-old with an iron will) insisted that her mother enter the new back yard with her eyes closed. Taking Al’s hand, Colleen did what she does best: rose to the challenge without hesitation, smiling widely. What she saw when she opened her eyes was that major love I mentioned. Here’s a sampling…

“Colleen is the friend who loves you no matter what flaws you may have. People have said Colleen is lucky to have us as friends, but I feel like we are the lucky ones! I know she would do this for every one of us.” – Chris Wilson

“Colleen embraces you - once you know her, you don't get away! She has introduced me to most of my current friends. I think she knows everyone.” – Melanie Norton-Ball

“Colleen is my #1 cheerleader! She's always living her life to the fullest...something we all should be reminded to do!” – Kelly Karges

“I love it when she tilts her head just a bit and flashes that big old toothy smile; you know she is cooking up something fun. An hour with Colleen can be bit exhausting BUT in a really good way... it can take a bit of work to keep up with her!” – Teresa Marshall

“Colleen is like a rock... a talking, laughing, loving rock who would do anything for her friends... so a very animate, mobile rock, and much warmer and softer than just any old rock.” – Catherine Falconer

“You are a lucky person if you have the pleasure of knowing Colleen, and you always feel like you are never far from her thoughts.” – Lisa Taman

I’ll vouch for that. Here’s to you, Colleen, to your family, and to this community you’ve become such a vibrant part of!

Photo by Kelly Karges