Monday, February 4, 2013

When I Just Don't Like You.


I was still feeling a little gutted from an earlier exchange when I sat down at my computer. I found the page and slowly began to scroll down her facebook timeline. I hadn't gone too far before I saw my name giving her an endorsement. A big blue thumbs up. Then I saw it again. And again. And there were comments too. Yes, my name was there. Many times. On her photographs, pictures, jokes, quotes and status updates.Why wouldn't it be there? She was my friend. And I liked her.

I didn't need to check my own page to know that I wouldn't see her name. Not once. Ever.

3 hours earlier 

I rushed into Chapters to buy a couple of paperbacks for my children to read on vacation. But as always I got a little distracted in the poetry section. So I promised myself I could spend a few minutes browsing once I'd got the children their reading material first.
After about 15 minutes I'd found their books so I headed back to poetry. It was then that I saw my friend. She looked up from the bookshelf when I said "Hi."
I asked her a few polite questions. How was Christmas?  How was her winter getaway? How did her daughter do with the high school midterms? She quickly filled me in with all the details and I waited for my turn. But she didn't ask.
So I changed the subject and asked her about the book she'd just selected. "Oh, what are you reading? I didn't know you liked poetry? I write a little bit of poetry myself you know? I even have a blog..."
I'm not sure what I expected her to say, but she looked down and started flicking through the pages of the book as though she hadn't even heard me. After a few moments she offered "I know Elaine, I've seen your blog, but I'm sorry, I can't say I'm one of your 'fans'!"
"My fans?" I mouthed weakly.
"Yes, you know those people on facebook who seem to like everything you say and do. I'm quite sure we could all find something funny to say about our kids, but we don't!"
I bit the inside of my lip. Partly because I think it was trembling and partly because I needed to control my response.
"And your poetry is cute but I find it a little too 'sing-songy' for me. I much prefer the more classical type of poetry." She closed the book. "Well, I think I found what I'm looking for. I'll see you around.."
And then she was gone.
She may or may not have said goodbye. I'm not entirely sure. I was too busy picking up the pages of self esteem that she'd just ripped out of me that were now scattered all over the floor in Chapters.
I have never professed to be a poet or a writer. But I find I do like to write and sometimes my thoughts come in the form of a rhyme. It's just a hobby. Much like stamp collecting or racing pigeons. I wonder if she'd of been so unkind if all I did was post pictures of handmade quilts or model trains?

I made my purchases and left.

And I don't believe I have fans. Only friends (why couldn't I have said that then!!!)

3 years earlier

We met through some mutual friends and I liked her. Although we didn't know each other she sent me a facebook friend request anyway. I happily accepted.
I remember looking at her profile and seeing a very attractive woman with a good looking husband. Her children were good looking too. They were around the same age as my own. I remember "liking" things about her immediately. I mean what's not to like?

But this was back in the days before I knew the truth about facebook friendships. Back when I was trying to grow my friendlist and thought having 100's friends was important. Back when it didn't matter if they hardly knew me or even liked me? I just wanted to have lots and lots of friends.

Sad, but true.


I held my mouse over the "Friends" button and waited for the dropdown menu to appear. I hovered over the "Unfriend" button for long time and yet somehow I couldn't bring myself to click it. Doing that would mean breaking my #1 Facebook Rule: Never unfriend someone if there is even a remote possibility that you'll bump into them in the real world. Because, well, that would be awkward.
My fingers froze, I couldn't click the button. So I logged off and went to pick up my son from school for a Dr's appointment.

In the waiting room I couldn't stop thinking about our friendship. How one-sided it had been and how I'd failed to see that. What caused that? What did I do to create such animosity? When did we stop being friends? And a more important question - when exactly when did we become enemies?


But aren't you a Christian? I hear you say. Doesn't the Bible say "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5 v 44) Yes.Yes it does. And I believe it too. But I interpret that verse to mean do not wish anything bad or evil on that person. Do not think hateful things about them. Bear no ill feelings toward them and certainly do not rejoice in their sufferings. I do not interpret the verse to mean we have to remain friends on facebook - locked into some kind of permanent online contract and shackled by an invisible virtual chain. God forbid!

Suddenly I regretted my decision. She made it obvious that not only did she not like me but she also didn't like me. How I wished I had a smart phone and could access my facebook account right now. Scripture both noted and heeded. #1 facebook rule be damned. It was time to say to her what she failed to say to me in Chapers. Goodbye!

 Today: 5.15pm

I arrived back home and logged on to my facebook account. I looked for her name on my friendlist. It was gone. When I searched for her through a mutual friend I found her profile and noticed that I now had the option to add her as a friend.  She unfriended me. Wow. So I guess we did have something in common after all. Mutual friends and mutual feelings.


Well that hurt. I'm not sure if I'm more upset that we're not friends or because she unfriended me first. Probably the latter. But it hardly matters now.

I've spent the better part of the afternoon pondering friendship. But more specifically facebook friendship. I've always been uncomfortable with the term "friends." I think it cheapens the true definition of what a friend is. I would much prefer the list to be called "People I Know" And I'm sure some of the people on that list would be my friends.

People need people. We naturally gravitate toward some and are repelled by others. We need to reach out to, and connect with people and form relationships with them. But we should never confuse that relationship with friendship. And you can never truly know a person when the only sides they present are the best facets of their personality and the best photographs from their vacation.

I choose friends who will add a measure of value and quality to my life. I try to surround myself with people who will affirm, admonish, encourage, support, challenge, inspire, motivate, bless and hopefully on some level like me. And I want to be that person in return. I'm not saying that everyone should be interested in and like every single thing about me. And I certainly wouldn't expect my friends to like everything I do on facebook. I know I don't like everything that they do. I can't -facebook would have to become my full time job in order for me to be even moderately successful at that. But when I see something that I enjoy I will always try to give my friends a big blue thumbs up.

I am trying to shrink my friendlist now - choosing quality over quantity. So, if you are reading this today and it resonates with you, if seeing my name in your newsfeed is an irritant and an annoyance to you, if you share little or no common ground with me, if you can't celebrate any of my small victories or baby steps toward success, if you can't be happy when something good happens to me, if you don't like when I make a mild attempt at humour, if  you think I'm dull and uninteresting or if you just can't play nice - then perhaps you should follow the lead of my former friend and unfriend me. It may suprise me. It may even hurt me. But I'm sure I'll recover. I do have a few good friends.

But if you do go ahead and unfriend me, then let's hope we never bump into one another in Chapters. Because, well, that would be awkward!

Here is a more fun post about facebook. It's a poem (sorry poetry is what I do!)
 You can read it here

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Tale Of Two Mothers - Reflections of Connecticut

Today somewhere in Newmarket
A mother just like me
Is searching for a special box
To place beneath a tree
The box is for her child
Who will wait expectantly
To open it on Christmas Day
Wonderin' what it could be

This season is a special time
For friends and families
We gather with our loved ones
And make new memories
We share our gifts and celebrate
With joy and laughter too
And join our hearts together to pray
For peace, the whole world though
And now somewhere in Newtown
A mother just like me
Is searching for a special box
To place beneath a tree
The box is for her child
A casket it will be
To bury her beloved
In the Newtown cemetery

For what should be a special time
For friends and family
Is replaced by pain and sorrow
Through this senseless tradgedy
We cannot comprehend their loss
Or what they're going through
But families all around the world
In part, are suffering too.


May the God of all peace and comfort, draw especially close
 to the families of Newtown, Connecticut this Christmas.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Signpost

You were the signpost that showed "The Way"
As I wandered along life's road one day
Like an autumn leaf, that was blown and tossed
Unaware that I was even lost

You spoke God's truth and so much more
In ways I'd never heard before
I saw such love and joy in you
I felt compelled to follow too

And many others came to know
And lives were changed from seeds you sowed
 A quiet beauty you displayed
Just simply living out "The Way"

Then pain and sickness came around
And knocked the faithful signpost down
Still, from the stricken place you lay
With courage, you still showed "The Way"

The signpost has now gone for good
And few can stand where you once stood
But I am grateful for the day
The signpost once showed me  "The Way"

In memory of Cathy.
Sunrise 23/02/60 , Sunset 13/10/12
 Thank you for pointing me in the right direction.
 Eternally grateful.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The War of Words

You became my hero yesterday. Right there in McDonalds. And I would stick a purple heart on your chest if I could because what you did was heroic in my eyes. How courageous you were. How bravely you battled and struggled and fought - until you won. And I was so proud of you.
 I am so proud of you.

I realized yesterday that you fight this battle every day. This war of words. 
This is the life of one who stutters.
It is a struggle. 
Internal and external. 
Every. Single. Day.

You had to place your order and I made the decision not to speak for you any more. And you were nervous and anxious. You stuttered and stumbled and blurted it out.
 She didn't understand what you said.

Both of you looked to me for interpretation and clarification. 
And I looked the other way.

It hurt me to do that. I know it hurt you too. But I know there are bigger battles 
ahead for you, so I had to let you fight this one alone.

And you did.

I wondered...what would it feel like if I was to run every race and never get to the finish line?
To go on a diet and never lose any weight?
To keep writing exams and never pass?

Surely I'd feel defeated. Surely I'd lose hope.
Surely I'd give up.
I think most people would.

 Yet you don't. You get up every day and go out into this world
and fight this battle. This war of words.

Yes, there are victories. But there are also crushing defeats.

 And wounds that may not heal. And scars I'll never see.

So I had my own war of words. With God. And it was ugly.
And I asked him how he expected me to stand by and watch my son suffer.
And he reminded me that he saw His Son suffer.
In a garden.
And on a cross.

So son, I hope you know this: even though I cannot fight this war for you,
I am always, always on your side.

For Elliot. My son and my hero.
You can read the poem I wrote for him here

Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Necessary Leaving

One day my precious baby girl
Outgrew the walls that were her world
A flower that began to bloom
The moment that she left my womb
The cord was cut, we were apart
So she could grow inside my heart

But birth is not a time for grieving
It's just a necessary leaving

One day my precious little girl
Outgrew the walls that were her world
The time had come, for her to roam
Inside a place that wasn't home
I let go of her tiny hand
And left her in a foreign land
But school is not a time for grieving
It's just a necessary leaving

One day my precious teenage girl
Outgrew the walls that were her world
Her new home, where she now will stay
Is several hundred miles away
Far from my grasp and out of reach
She'll learn the things I cannot teach

For me, this is a time of grieving
For "Tee" - a necessary leaving

For my sister Sharon and my niece Teresa.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Love Thy (Noisy) Neighbour.

I got some advice from my mother when we bought our first home 5 years ago. "Make every effort to live in peace with your neighbours. In an emergency, they will be there before the police, ambulance, fire department, family or friends."

Sound advice. But I was quite sure I wouldn't need it.

The moment I moved into my house, I immediately liked my neighbour,Tracey. She was a single mother to three older boys. She was everything that I wasn't. Smart, funny, confident, engaging and perhaps the most practical person I have ever met. I admired her. Soon it became clear that we were more than just neighbours. We were friends.

Tracey and I lived happily alongside each other for four years.Then one day she decided to put her house up for sale. I was devastated. Who could possibly replace her? I wrote my feelings about her moving here

My new neighbours were a young Chinese couple in their thirties called Bill and Helen. They were joined by his parents who came straight from China. An elderly couple who spoke no English whatsoever. They seemed like really nice people. I liked them.

But a few months later everything changed.

My neighbours got a dog. A Golden Labrador. They called their dog Sunday. "Sunday". The very name suggests peace, calm and tranquillity. The dog was anything but that. She barked constantly. She barked loudly. I soon became very irritated with the dog. And with my neighbours.

I started to spend  less and less time talking to them. Gone was the cheery "Good Morning."  Gone was any advice about gardening and lawn maintenance. I no longer lingered on the driveway to chat after we finished grocery shopping. I made the excuse that I was carrying cold items that needed to be kept frozen. Which was partly true. I'd become cold hearted toward them. And freezing them out.

Now there wasn't only a privacy fence between us. There was also an invisible wall.

The emergency situation that my mother told me about happened late in the Spring. I was mowing the lawn and had to adjust the height of the blade. By accident, I placed my hand on the engine, badly burning three fingers of my left hand. My husband was gone for the day with the children and I had no car. Even if I did, I wouldn't be able to drive because of the extent of my injuries. I began to panic. I needed help fast. My neighbours!!! But instead of going to Bill and Helen, I bypassed them and went to the next house over. I would like to say it's because I knew Tiziana better (which is true, as our children have played together for years) but we all know that isn't the reason. It was because of the dog. It was because of the wall.

Although I could still hear my neighbours and their dog, I'd built a wall so I didn't have to "see" them.

Early in June I was out one morning watering my garden, when I heard a strange sound. It was a soft and rhythmic sound not loud or annoying in any way. But once I realised it was coming from my next door neighbours, I became irritated by it.

Intrigued as to what was making the noise, I peeked through the slats in the fence, and saw the elderly couple trying to sand the deck by hand with tiny pieces of sandpaper. Their deck is bigger than my deck, and my deck is huge. It was already about 30 degrees in the shade and the forecast promised it would get much hotter. They shouldn't be working like that in this heat. It would take them forever.

I watched them in silence for a few moments, but I knew exactly what I had to do. I ran to my garage and found the electric sander and some medium grain sandpaper. I took it next door and handed it to the old man. I  tried without success to explain to him what it was, but he didn't understand.So, I located the outlet, plugged it in and gave him and his wife a demonstration. I watched their faces change from bewilderment, to confusion, to understanding, to pure unfiltered delight.I will never be able to accurately describe the look on their faces when they realized that I'd handed them a tool that would cut their labour by about 90%. They looked at each other and laughed and laughed saying "Thank you, thank you, thank you." And they bowed. I was completely humbled.

Back in my garden I listened to the all the "noise" coming from my neighbours back yard. I listened to an old couple giggling like school children, having discovered power tools in the sunset of their days. I listened to animated chatter in a language I couldn't understand, but no translation was required. I listened to the electric sander gently humming. And I listened to Sunday barking. But at that moment I was no longer bothered by it. I lifted my garden hose high and to the right, so that it would water their vegetable garden. Then I listened to the sound of the water falling on to the dry earth. These were the sounds of forgiveness.

And there was another sound. A quiet crashing sound. It was the sound of an invisible wall coming down. No one heard it but me.

I would like to say that from that day Sunday became a well trained dog and stopped barking, but that is the stuff of fairy-tales and this is real life. Sunday did continue to bark, but somehow I learned to tolerate it.

I began to see my neighbours for who they were, a sweet, kind, hard working and happy family, who just happened to have a noisy dog. Bill and Helen worked very hard at their jobs and his parents worked hard at home and in their garden. I would see the parents all over my neighbourhood taking the dog for a walk and rummaging around in the recycling bins looking for "treasures."

Last week the old man saw me running. I was running very slowly because I was recovering from surgery. He gestured that he wanted to run with me. So we did. And for around 2km we shuffled along slowly together. We didn't speak, but then again we didn't need to.

Two days ago he gave me the first fruits of their labour from the garden. 5lbs of tomatoes.

But then yesterday a terrible noise came from next door. An awful noise that I never, ever want to hear again. It was a scream, followed by loud hysterical crying. I looked out and saw the police in front of my neighbours house. They had come to deliver the news, that they had just pulled the old man's lifeless body from Bond Lake. He had taken Sunday for a swim and then had a stroke while in the water. He died at 8pm last night.

The crying went on all night.

And so perhaps now I can be to this family in death, what I had failed so miserably to do in life... a good neighbour.

"Love your neighbour as you love yourself." Romans 13: 8-10

Sunday, May 13, 2012

When I Became A Mother

When I became a mother
Something was birthed in me
The power to love another one
So unconditionally

When I became a mother
My heart just grew and grew
It multiplied and magnified
And flowed with love for you.

When I became a mother
Part of my heart left me
And went to live within the child
Who once lived within me

When I became a mother
I never thought I'd see
Growing before my very eyes
Ones, I wish I could be

And now that I'm a mother
It melts me through and through
To hear my sons, say these few words
"I want to be like you"

And now that I'm a mother
My prayer will always be
Son be a better, greater, wiser,
Reflection of me.

Dear Elliot and Ethan...thank you.