Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Ode to the Single Mom.

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Oh sweet single mom

At the end of the day

When you flop exhausted

And road weary

Into your bed

The pillow beside you

Empty

Whether by choice

Or by chance

Intended or unforeseen

It matters not

You keep your reasons

Close to your heart

Along with all

The other artifacts

That brought you to this place.

The darkness settles in

And the mind races

Relentlessly

Out of control

It babbles and rebukes

Bluffs and bitches

These noisy

Disrespectful

Unkind thoughts

That drip

Persistently

Into the wells

Of tired

Spent eyes

Sockets full.

Your body aches

And cries out

For comfort

Relief

Reassurance

A gentle caress

Tenderness

Human contact

Anything will do

At times like this

When you are

Depleted

Drained

Consumed

By the demands

The needs of others

Your children

Always come first

That’s the deal.

These cherished offspring

The loves of your life

Their birth

The ultimate creative act

Nothing compares

And you know it

You became a Goddess

In the moment

Of their conception

And they are yours

Eternally.

They are the source

Of your greatest pride

Deepest devotion

Unwavering adoration

Biggest fears

Grandest hopes

They inspire you

To soar with the angels

They provoke you

To grovel in the mud

With the devil himself

They have the capacity

To bring out the divine

Reveal the retched

Make you feel

Larger than life

Insignificant as a mite

They give you

Super powers

When you feel helpless.

They bring meaning

To your life

They bring purpose

To your days.

You are unfailingly present

To make their daily life

Extraordinary

The task is both

Daunting and endless

You are there

In the trenches

The bleachers

And hard benches

On the sidelines

Leading the charge

And the loudest cheer.

You are the one there

For homework

For practice

For sports events

For dance lessons

For music recitals

For teacher night

For beach days

For dog walks

For stray cats

For bike rides

For Sunday dinner

For Monday mornings.

You take temperatures

And wipe runny noses

You dry tears

And supply tickles

You’re a chauffeur

And a chef

Entertainer

And educator

You are the

Tooth Fairy

The Easter Bunny

And Santa Claus

Your arms are always

Ready for a hug

Your lips prepared

To smile

Your voice trained

To sing

Your heart eager

To laugh

Your hand fixed

To hold

Your storytelling skills

Are epic

And your goodnight kisses

Are unforgettable.

You are a single mom

But you are not alone

Know that

You are loved

And cherished

Admired

Needed

Respected.

You may not hear it

When your head rests

So heavy on your

Singular pillow

But the applause is loud

The honor immense

And the gratitude mighty.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: A Writer’s Blessing.

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I walk my ginger cookie dog Rusty every morning in the hour just before dawn. It’s a sweet time. A gift from heaven.

Peaceful. Quiet. A writer’s blessing.

The hush before the alarms go off. The kettles plug in. Showers turn on. The Today Show announces another incomprehensible tragedy.

We walk the same circle route every morning. I’m a creature of habit. So is Rusty.

He likes to poop in the same spots. I carry white plastic grocery bags to scoop up after him. It’s all part of our daily dance.

This morning, when we got to the bend in the road, the glorious spot at the crest of the hill, I caught a glimpse of eternity.

The lights below flickered like halos as the world awoke.

At that moment I wanted to fly. Spread my arms. And take off. Rusty has floppy ears that were engineered for flight. I have big hair.

We can do this.

I stopped and looked out at the glorious sunrise and thought how lovely and endless these days are. Filled with the promise of forever.

But they aren’t of course.

I thought of my mother. How this particular orange of the sky would have inspired her to paint.

What a view. Oh God what a divine view. Tears came unexpectedly.

One day, if I’ve done this right, I will be the memory. I will be the gentle tear brushed from the cheek of one of my children.

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Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Wide-eyed Wonder.

 

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The exquisite thing about aging is the reawakening of wide-eyed wonder.

All the oohs and aahs of life seen through my own magical gaze. And not those of my children or grandchildren.

For decades I saw everything through the eyes of the young in my charge. Enchanting as the dust of fairies. Dazzling as the diamonds in the sky. All things spellbinding and sparkly, cast from the wands of wizards.

I saw it all through their crystal-clear unfettered perspective. It was a beautiful awe-inspiring view. A sacred privilege, the memory of which I hold dear in my mind’s eye, and as close to my heart as humanly possibly.

But now, all things fascinating, enthralling and magnificent, dreamy and delightful are again fresh and new, heaven-sent and divine.

Like never before.

I see the world around me as if for the very first time, with my own precious child-eyes. It fills my heart with such gladness.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Walking the Tightrope.

While Ma was lingering in her last weeks, and then days on Earth, I was walking a tightrope. It was surreal. Dreamlike most of the time. It was a delicate balance. How do you keep precious hope alive while you’re slipping headfirst into the long dark tunnel of despair?

The heart wants what the heart wants. But the head knows the hard cold truth. This cruel candor resided in the belly of the thin black line I traversed every minute of every one of those final evanescent days.

It was as though I was walking high above this fragile life that was unraveling. Thread by thread. Bit by bit. One piece at a time. Tiny fragments dissolving into dust.

There I was, out of my body. Looking down. A witness to my own personal heartbreak.

The line was taut. The emotions tauter. I was neither light on my feet. Nor was I nimble. There was no grace in my step. I was just there. Trying to breathe. Trying to keep it together. Whatever “it” was.

The multi-layers of tyrannizing fear permeated ever fibre and pore of my body. Suffocating my soul. Strangling my spirit. I was bound and gagged by the evil twins, anguish and anxiety.

Fear of losing Ma. Fear of life afterwards. Fear of going on without her. Fear of falling apart. Fear of my emotions and what they could do if unleashed. Fear for my family, especially my children. Fear that my heart would never be the same. Fear that I could not go on. Fear that I would.

Fear. Fear. Fear.

With each teetering step, I wondered if this was the defining one. The tripper. The one where all equilibrium was lost. The pivotal point where standing meets stumbling. The place where I falter. Then free fall.

Down. Down. Down.

Eventually, and inevitably, I did fall. It was inescapable. I couldn’t stay up there forever. I had to come back down to earth. Face the other inevitable. Ma was dying. And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Except be there.

In the end, falling was an epic relief. I would have let go sooner had I known that I had a safety net. It was there all along.

Yes, for I fell sweetly and safely into the arms of everyone who loved me.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Search for Meaning.

E on his throne enjoying the Christmas festivities.

E on his throne enjoying the Christmas festivities.

I’m a seeker.  Especially at Christmas time.  I search for perfect gifts for everyone on my list. Ones filled with wow and wonder.  I comb second hand stores for delicate vintage glass ornaments like the ones we hung on our tree at 204.  I inherited all of Ma’s and have been growing her precious collection every year for the past decade.  It’s my magnificent holiday decorating obsession.

I scour cookbooks, online cooking blogs and recipe websites looking for something new and delicious to bake or cook over the holidays.  In the end, nothing compares with the treasure trove found in Ma’s sacred and magical Gurney Recipe Box.

I flip through fashion magazines for inspiration on what to wear for all those festive occasions.  This is a silly pastime because E and I don’t attend those kinds of affairs.  Yet I do it anyway.  It pleases me.

I’m also bedazzled by sparkly festive shop windows.  I hunt for the perfect holiday outfit.  I daydream about a beautiful more glamorous version of myself that will somehow magically appear like Cinderella at the ball. I wonder what it would be like to knock ‘em dead at our office party.  I fantasize about a transformation from drab nondescript woman in the corner cube to glamor girl in the shimmery dress with legs that never quit.  That never happens.  Even the younger me couldn’t have pulled that look off.  Truth is, that’s not me. Never was. Never will be.  But it is fun to play that movie in my head once a year.

Pursuit of the perfect gift, recipe, or dress aside, what I really seek at Christmas time is meaning. What’s it all about?  This search trumps everything.

With E’s cancer diagnosis hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles, the desire to find something deeper, more profound, more significant was intensified.  It served to remind us of the fragile nature of this life we live.  Teach us to grab onto every precious moment like it was your last.  Embrace the ones we love.

We were given a reprieve from the fear and anxiety that brought us to our knees the week E was in the hospital.  The Friday that he was released from the RJH was glorious.  A heaven-sent day.

The first thing E did when we got home was take the dogs for a walk in the crisp clean December air.  It was as though he was breathing for the first time.  He could walk unencumbered by the inescapable steel dance partner he had been hooked up to all week.  Free from all the medical machinery that monitored his every heartbeat and breath.  Free from the antiseptic smell that clung to every cell and fibre of his being.  Free to walk upright. Stride. Strut. Swagger. Flounce his new found freedom up the rocky hills that surround our home.

Simply be alive.

For as long as I have known E, he’s been a real crank about Christmas.   He would happily take a page from Rip Van Winkle’s book and sleep right through the entire month of December.  It was the same old thing every year.  Come the day before Christmas, the spirit would finally move him and off he’d go in search of my Christmas present.  Some years this was found at the local Shoppers Drug Mart down the road.  When M got old enough he solicited her help. This put a stop to the drugstore gifts.

“I’ll make sure he gets you something really good Ma,” she’d say.

And she does.

Of course, it’s not about the quality of the gift.  Or even that there are gifts at all. But in our family, we do enjoy this tradition. We like to acknowledge each other in this manner.  It’s sounds cliche but it isn’t so much the gift as the giving.  As a family we like this and we’re good at.  One look at our living room Christmas morning says it all.

This year, the curmudgeon grouchy bah humbug E left the building.  Like Elvis on August 16, 1977.  Replaced by the new and improved version.  Enthusiastic and joyful.  Happy to celebrate. Cheerful and charitable. Without complaint nor criticism. No protests. Gripes or grumbling.  Beefs or bellyaching.  And above all else, the new E, that emerged from the chrysalis on Friday, December 14, was grateful.

Deeply.  Profoundly.  Beyond words.

Recently, I read a quote by Cicero that really resonated with my spirit.  It expressed so beautifully the meaning I sought and found over the Christmas season.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

E and I are consumed with gratitude these days.  There is so much to cherish and give thanks for.  Starting with our love for each other.  For our family, our beautiful children, our granddaughter, our extended family and friends, our good neighbors, our understanding colleagues, the compassionate caregivers and spiritual teachers. Everyone who has touched our tender hearts so sweetly.

Kindness and compassion.  Generosity and magnanimity.  Big-heartedness and goodness.  It’s everywhere.  Dressed in the same attire.  Cloaked in the fabric of love.

Jesus and John Lennon were right. Love is all you need.

I’m grateful for that.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Second and Last Kiss and the Smell of Old Spice.

Ma + The Old Man sitting on the stone wall.

The Old Man and his beautiful Italian Sweetheart.

The second kiss.  Does anyone even remember?  We don’t write love songs about the Numero Duo.  No passionate odes.  Or lyrical poems.  Tragic melodramas.  Nothing much comes to mind.  No backward glances.  No second chances.  Or even a second thought.  Nada.

Ma gave me my first kiss.  And The Old Man gave me the second.  The order and circumstances of these inceptive parental kisses most likely set the tone for our future relationships.  The Old Man would always be second best in my life.  The first kiss trumps everything after all.

Little back story.  The Old Man was an emotional guy.  He laughed easily and heartily.  Flew off the handle at the drop of a hat.  Tears welled in his eyes when he watched something sad on TV.  He cried like a baby when our birds, Petie 1 and Petie 2, died.  But as emotional as he was, I don’t remember him being comfortable expressing his love.  Yet oddly enough I always felt loved by him.  That was the paradox of The Old Man.  Emotional yet stoic.  Loving but unable to show it.  The stoicism was in his DNA.  He was a Finlander and they aren’t known for their overt expressions of love.  They aren’t huggy people.  Like the Italians.  Like Ma.

Part of the way The Old Man was had to do with his generation.  Back then, men were different than they are today.  Real men not only didn’t eat quiche.  They didn’t seek help.  There was no Burning Man.  There were no public displays of affection either.  It embarrassed everybody.   Husband.  Wife.  And especially the kids.  Even the pets hid in self-conscious mortification.  All that mushy stuff went on behind closed doors.  If it went on at all.  Most kids, myself included, preferred to think that it didn’t.  I was perfectly content in the belief that I was plucked from the cabbage patch.  Then carried in a pink flannel blanket by a stork and placed into Ma’s waiting arms.  Some myths are worth perpetuating.

The Old Man used to kiss Ma lightly on the lips before going to work every morning.  Perhaps “kiss” is a bit of an exaggeration.  It was more like a little peck.  A light brush.  An accidental skim of the lips.  I don’t even recall them holding hands.  But he did put his arm around her for pictures.  I don’t think he was just putting it on for the camera.  I look at the old photographs and I see a man showing the world that the Italian beauty next to him was his girl.  Sometimes he’d come up from behind while she was busy cooking and give her a little peck on the cheek.  She’d pretend to be annoyed and send him on his way but secretly I think she loved the attention.  Loved that he loved her.

Saying I love you didn’t come easily back then either.  Another embarrassing thing that sent everyone running for cover.  Saying it was awkward.  Uncomfortable.  And often blush inducing.  It was especially difficult if you were even the least bit shy, which our family was.  It was written in all the greeting cards of course.  At the end of the rhyming couplet.  Love and X’s and O’s.  Hallmark took care of everything.  But it was rarely openly and easily said.  It was just understood.  A given.  Taken for granted.  Families loved each.  Parents loved one another.  Parents loved their kids.  And kids loved them back.  There was never any doubt in my mind that I was loved, whether the words were spoken or not.

When I was in my late teens I fell in love for the first time. I found myself expressing that love to this young man.  It came naturally.  Like breathing.  Nothing much came of this callow relationship.  It fizzled pretty quickly.  My young teenage heart was crushed.  There would never be another quite like him.  But every cloud has its silver lining.  And mine was three little words. I love you.  Suddenly I was liberated.  It was the beginning of my Flower Power chapter.  The Age of Aquarius was just dawning on me.  And I was determined to openly and freely tell people that I loved them.  I wanted to introduce the phrase into my daily conversation.  It no longer needed to be pulled out of the mothballs for special occasions.  Like the good dishes for Christmas dinner.

Saying I love you to Ma was a piece of cake.  It wasn’t long before our good-bye kisses included an I love you.  Off I went to school with an I love you tucked inside my heart.  Ma stayed home with hers held equally close.   But saying I love you to The Old Man wasn’t quite as easy.  But I did say it eventually.  Not every day like with Ma.  But I said it and I’m grateful I did.  The truth is, he needed to hear it.  Craved it.  Like sugar.  And I needed to say it to him. The last time I told him I loved him was when I went home to bury Ma.  By then The Old Man was living in an old folks home.  I visited him every day during that week.  He had grown frail and was wheelchair bound.  His hearing was pretty much gone.  It was the night before my return to the Westcoast.  He was in the common sitting room.  The gathering place.  It was eerily quiet.  Surreal. The only conversation was the one coming from the television set.  When my niece and I opened the steel double doors to the room, we were greeted by a group of elderly folks sitting in wheelchairs.  They were all just sitting there facing the door.  Like it was a stage and they were the audience waiting for the show to begin.  Expectant.  Eager.  Earnest.  But there was also something else that I saw in their faces.  Hope.  Maybe tonight was their night.  Tonight there would be a visitor just for them.  Someone from their past who loved them.

But on this particular night, the visitor was for The Old Man. He wasn’t part of the audience watching the door.  He was by the television set, his head slumped on his chest, his eyes closed.  I touched his shoulder, which was thin and bony under his flannel shirt. He came to life.  We had a short visit.  It was a shouting match actually.  Because he refused to wear his hearing aid, having a private conversation was impossible.  So we yelled at each other for an hour.  Some things never change.

When it was time to leave I bent down and shouted in his ear.  Not just because he couldn’t hear, but because I knew it was my last chance to say it to him.  Loud and clear.  For eternity.  For the whole world to hear.  I LOVE YOU DAD.  Then I gave a kiss on the cheek to the one who gave me my second.  He told me he loved me too.  By this time all the old folks had turned their wheelchairs around and were no longer watching the door.  All eyes were on us.  After I shouted my love to The Old Man, the entire room let out a collective “Awwwww.”  Not applause exactly.  But close.

The Old Man smelled different than Ma.  She was all sweet tea, peppermint Chicklets and Second Debut.  His scent was inconsistent.  Right after work he smelled of bakery dust and sweat.  He’d head to the bathroom to wash it off and emerge smelling of Ivory soap and Brylcreem.  On special occasions, or on Sundays, he simply smelled fresh and clean.  Old Spice.  And everything nice.  But on that last kiss good-bye he smelled peculiar.  Off.  Tinny.  Sour.  The smell of death around the corner.  All the more reason to shout I love you.

I’ve thought about that last scene with my father many times over the years.  And how hungry everyone in that sitting room was for some expression of love.  And how it took their breath away when they heard the words “I love you” shouted with such wild abandon.  Such a sublime and wondrous thing to hear.

I love you.  And you.  And you.  And you.

Bill and boo snow day

me & dad in winter

Me and The Old Man

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Brown Rice, First Love and You are all Sanpaku

The firstborn enjoyed his solids.

I like brown rice.  But I didn’t always.  It wasn’t exactly an everyday staple in our family when I was growing up.  We mostly ate other starches like potatoes and spaghetti, before it was referred to as pasta.  My love affair with brown rice began just before I got my heart broken for the first time. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. That may well be true.  But quite often a woman’s heart is influenced by what a man puts in his stomach.  In the case of my first love, it was brown rice.  Although the relationship ended badly, it left me with two things.  A new way to eat.  And a new child.

Little back story.  Ma was a great cook.  Not a cordon bleu.  Nor a top chef.  Julia Childs.  Or Martha Stewart even.  But among her many gifts was the ability to create homespun, delicious meals for her family ever day.  While she may not have been a gourmet, there were times when she was called upon to be a magician, making much of little.  Shazam.

For the most part, we were meat and potato folks.  We also had our weekly meal regimen.  There were just certain things we ate on a regular basis that you could count on.  As surely as the sun rose in the east and set in the west, these meals were part of our family narrative.

The weekend began with fish and chips on Friday night, despite the fact that we weren’t Catholics.  For lunch on Saturdays we had hotdogs and fresh-brewed coffee, along with a visit from my mother’s cousin C, who I called Uncle C, because he was about a million years older than me.  Saturday nights were spaghetti nights, in homage to Ma’s Italian heritage.  Ma would get up early Saturday morning to prepare her tomato sauce and famous spicy meatballs.  She would place the pot of Italian goodness on the back burner of the stove to simmer all day, filling the house with a mouthwatering aroma that taunted us.  As a result, there were many “taste testers” in our family.  Wooden spoon dippers and sneaky samplers.  Guilty parties, all of us.  After church on Sunday we had some sort of roasted meat (usually beef) with mashed potatoes, gravy, boiled vegetables and maybe a tossed iceberg lettuce salad.  Sunday nights, The Old Man would cook up a batch of sweet wafer-thin Finnish Pancakes, which we smothered in maple syrup and washed down with more fresh-brewed coffee.

Dinner meals from Monday to Thursday were a little more unpredictable.  For the most part they still involved some sort of meat and potato combo.  A little fried chicken.  Or a savory tuna casserole.  Occasionally, despite my very vocal protests, liver and onions.  I have only one word to adequately describe this culinary offensive offering.  Yuck.  Often on the Thursday before The Old Man got paid, we had wieners and beans.  And usually sometime during the week, Ma fried up hamburger patties, which she served with mashed potatoes and green beans.  I used to pick out the onions in the patties and dip each mouthful in Heinz ketchup, then wash it down with a large gulp of milk.  The Old Man and I enjoyed a glass of milk with every meal.  Plus, there was always the whitest of white bread and butter in the centre of the table.  Each meal ended with dessert.  Usually something freshly baked by Ma.  Pie, cake, cookies, pudding.  If there were no baked goods, then we had ice cream.  Vanilla.  Sometimes topped with canned fruit cocktail and its coveted token maraschino cherry.

On special occasions and holidays like Christmas and Easter, we had grander versions of the Sunday roasted meat and potatoes.  By this I mean, turkey or ham.  Holiday dinners, however, involved more boiled vegetables, baked turnips, cranberry or apple sauce (depending on the meat), stuffing, cabbage rolls, and either dill pickles (with turkey) and mustard or sweet pickles (with ham.)  The exclamation mark that followed these meals was the assortment of desserts and sweet treats.

These were the meals of my childhood and youth.  But after I had my first big love, followed by my first big heartbreak, some things changed. My primo amore introduced me to a book called You are all Sanpaku.  I don’t remember all the intimate details from this book, but I do recall spending hours gazing into the mirror trying to determine whether or not I had Sanpaku eyes.  Were the whites of my eyes perilously showing in three places – side, bottom, side?  It was terrifying.  I was convinced that I was going to die suddenly from some heinous mystery illness if my irises didn’t centre themselves properly in my eyes.  Fortunately, there was a cure for this Japanese medical malady. The Macrobiotic Diet, as prescribed in You are all Sanpaku.  It involved consuming copious amounts of whole grains and preferably raw vegetables.  And if not raw, lightly steamed in a stainless steel steam basket.  Nothing processed.  Nothing.  Not even a hotdog.

The whole grain of choice for my love and I was brown rice.  Not white.  Not parboiled. Not Minute.  Nor anything produced by Uncle Ben.  Brown with long grains and unmilled.  Chewy.  Nutty.  Whole.  Had I not been so in love and consumed by fear, I would have considered this to have been food only suitable for our Budgie.  Had my pheromones not marred my taste buds and clouded my judgement, I would have acknowledged forthrightly that brown rice did not taste good.  Compared to the fluffy white stuff that came with our sweet and sour chicken balls, it was unappetizing. Downright disgusting.

But I was in love for the first time.  And I would eat anything for love.  Mushrooms even.  And broccoli.  Wild fiddleheads.  And because I liked to share things with Ma, I introduced her to the wonders of the Macrobiotic Diet too.  Typical of Ma, she embraced this new fandangled idea of mine with open arms and an open mind.  Slowly, bit by bit, together we introduced aspects of this new way of eating into our lives.  First the brown rice. Then the stainless steel steamer.  She bought a blender.  A pasta maker.  She added whole wheat flour and a variety of new interesting fresh vegetables, including broccoli, to her grocery list.  A health food store opened on the other side of town.  She began to explore the wonders of its wares.  Suddenly weird things began to pop up in our cupboards and refrigerator.  Yogurt. Wheat germ. Lecithin granules. B-complex vitamins.  Ma not only embraced this new approach to eating and health, she ran with it.  Like a health food flag bearer leading the charge.  Hail to Ma Earth.

Over the years there have been many books that have transformed my life. 

The firstborn playing with his food.

was one of the first.  It may not have saved my life but it certainly changed its course.  At least the part that involved my physical wellbeing. As for my spiritual path, and matters involving the heart, there have been many books that have had their influence.  I’m still a work in progress so I’m certain there will be many more.

But we always remember our firsts.

Like the young man who gave me the book, and the lifelong dietary path.  Yes, he broke my heart and it took years to fully recover from that.  But he also gave me one of my greatest treasures in life.  My firstborn.  And that blender Ma bought?  We used it to make all of his baby food.  Fresh.  Lightly steamed.  And blended with love.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Insomnia and the Power of One.

Ma loved all children but especially me.

I like to give.  I also like to receive.  But giving just feels so much better.  You get that warm and fuzzy feeling.  All gooey inside like a hot fudge sundae.  And there’s this glow that appears all around your edges.  Like the kind Angels wear and Beyonce sings about.  You know what I’m talking about. The halo. There’s also music.  Harps and lutes and chirpy birds.  It’s marvelous.  All this just from the simple act of giving.

Ma was a bigger giver.  And The Old Man would give you the shirt off his back without hesitation.  But I learned all about giving to people I didn’t know, and who lived in worlds far beyond our borders, from Ma.

Little back story.  Many years ago, when I was a much younger version of myself, I was living with my two oldest kids in the Italian neighborhood of Toronto.  It was a bleak period in my life.  I was separated, raising two kids alone, had a low-paying job, not much of a social life, lonely, frightened and lacking in resources.  I was also an insomniac.  Still am.  I spent endless nights ruminating over the state of my life.  Looking under every imaginary rock to see what was lurking there.  Leaving no stone unturned.  It was torture.  Self-inflicted torment.  Oh the wretched scourge of it all. Woe was me.

Much of my time was spent worrying about money.  There was never enough.  I took the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul” to all new heights.  Gave it fresh and new meaning. I was equally inventive and creative with my money management.  Plus, I was a master juggler of serious magnitude.  My financial situation was in such delicate balance that I was a one-woman circus act.  It would have been hilarious had it not been so pitiful.  Or my life.

It was during one of these sleepless nights that I learned one of the most profound lessons on giving.  Typically when I have insomnia I stay rooted to my bed like a beached whale on a California shore.  I toss.  I turn.  I thrash.  I flip pillows.  Pound them.  Beat them to a pulp.  Then ultimately toss them on the floor.  I kick my legs in and out of the covers.  I roll my eyes inside my head until they hurt.  I try to substitute my dark morbid thoughts for pleasant ones that involve sunshine and fields of daisies.  Eventually I succumb.  I never really know when or why.  But eventually the Sandman pays me a visit and I slip fitfully into Dreamland. Or Nightmaresville.
But on this particular night long ago, something mystifying compelled me to get out of my bed and walk down two flights of stairs to our basement rumpus room.  It had a television and was far enough away from my sleeping children not to disturb their peaceful and tranquil slumber.  Oh how I envied them.

It was the hour of the wolf and I was fully expecting to see nothing but snow and static on the television.  That suited me just fine.  My head was spinning and my heart was howling with fear and bitterness.  I was in no mood to be touched by anything broadcast in those murky unsettling hours before dawn.  But I was.  Deeply.  So powerfully in fact, that what I saw would stay with me for the rest of my life.

I guess it was an infomercial.  Although that seems far too trivial a description for what this was.  There were no hawkers of magic mops and make-up.  Nothing of that nature was going on.  But it sold me none the less.  It grabbed a hold of my heart and hasn’t let go since.

In the quiet of that early morning gloom I stared into the faces of sweet innocent children thousands of miles away who had nothing.  And I was broken. And humbled.  Saddened beyond description.  I saw bellies swollen from hunger and thin tiny limbs covered in sores.  Poverty.  Sickness.  Strife.  Yet in the eyes of these beautiful ones I also saw my own two children.  No different.  They were children. Kids.  Just like mine.  Suddenly my first world problems were put into perspective.  So I did what I often do in situations like this.  I had a little chat with God.

It went something like this.  “Okay, here’s the deal.  I’m on my own and I’ve got these two kids and three cats to take care of.  I can barely make ends meet.  Just ask Peter and Paul.  But I can’t deny what I just bore witness to.  I need a few extra bucks every month to help one of these kids and their families.  That’s all.  A few extra bucks.  Plus I need your help with my own kids too.”

That was the promise made.  That has been the promise kept.  On both our counts.

I also thought of Ma that night.  And wondered if she had ever made the same deal.  She had four kids and an alcoholic husband, who often in their early years together, spent his paycheck before it was earned. She was like the woman in the Bible who had little but gave much.  Ma’s five or ten dollars sent off to this charity or given to that cause was like the millions given by the wealthy.  She too supported a third world child.  I remember the photographs she received of her foster children over the years.  She never boasted.  She just quietly and faithfully gave every month for years.  They could count on her.  She loved children so.  No matter where they came from.  She wanted to help. To do something to change the course of even one child’s life.  Ma was a shining example of the power of one.

Flash forward.  It’s years later and I’m living on the Westcoast. It’s the middle of the night.  I can’t sleep.  But I can’t stay in bed either.  I have a room of my own now with a computer where I dream and make magical things happen.  Life is different.  I no longer ride it out.  Instead I write it out.  It’s raining as it so often does out here.  I’m worried.  There are wars.  And rumors of wars.  People are suffering.  Everywhere.  My heart aches and my head can’t make sense of any of it.  I get up.  I go to my computer and I write this poem.

A Mother’s Prayer for Peace

Dear God,

It’s the middle of the night,
And I cannot sleep.
The rain is pounding on the roof
And the wind is howling outside my window.
But I am safe and warm,
Comforted by my feather duvet.
My faithful dog curled up at my feet
And my husband breathing softly next to me
Our children safe in their beds
Surrendered to dreams,
Sweet sweet dreams.

Yet my heart is not at peace,
It is broken with sadness.
For out there
Somewhere in a world I do not know
In countries I’ve only seen on TV
Are other families
With mothers just like me,
Who but for your gentle grace
Live a different life.
One not privileged with
Warm safe beds to rest,
To sleep, to dream of tomorrow.

Their lives, every bit as precious as mine
Are torn apart and shattered –
By fear
And hate
And hunger
And disease
And disaster
And ignorance

WAR.

I pray for these loving mothers
And for their dear families
That they ALL
Each and every one
Have what I have
And know, truly know
What it’s like
To go to bed at night
And NOT be filled with fear
That their beautiful child,
Every bit as precious as mine,
Won’t be harmed
Or blown to piece
By the enemy lurking at the door.

God, I pray that all these mothers
Know at least one moment of peace.
And that that moment grows and grows
Like a wave across the world.

A graceful, gentle, loving wave of peace.

It begins with one moment
And grows from moment to moment.
It begins with one mother
And grows from mother to mother.
And it saves one child
And grows from child to child.

May we share this moment of peace
Mothers of the world.

Now I lay me down to sleep.

Amen.

In gratitude and love,
boo king