A Day in My Life, June 2008

I had a sudden desire today to chronicle and compare the different stages of my life, as I look back and notice that my life in June 2008 is remarkable different from that of June 2007, June 2006, June 2005, and so on.

I invite you to be a witness on this journey.

June 2008 finds me 27 years old, living in a two-bedroom second-floor apartment in the only apartment building in a tiny town in East Huron County called Brucefield. This town is known for it’s flashing light, yellow if you’re driving between Clinton and Exeter on Highway 4, or red if you’re coming from either Seaforth or Bayfield. There is one elementary school, one church, one drive-in restaurant, two mechanic shops, one Asian/Home Decor/B&B/Lunch Room location, and one fire station.

My apartment overlooks a cornfield, the view of which is mostly obstructed by a lovely birch tree. Said tree helps me feel more confident walking around in my apartment in less-than-decent clothing on summer nights. After all, who would be driving by slowly enough whose gaze could penetrate the birch branches in the split second I happen to be passing through my dining room, several feet from my beautiful picture window?

I enjoy living alone, though sometimes I do wish someone was there to care whether I came in or not, or to wonder where I was, or to motivate me to do dishes, finally! My neighbours are understanding and quiet, the area is safe, and I actually have a place to call home. MY home. I’ve immensely enjoyed painting and decorating my apartment, putting all of my good taste to good use in a place where I’m the boss, now and forever.

Another addition to my life is that of Trixie the Toyota, a pretty, dark-green 1997 4Runner who goes with me everywhere I go. She hauls the accoutrements of my life and hobbies without complaint. She has survived being rolled over in the ditch after skidding out on an icy country road, being hit-and-run by some unknown person, a not-so-successful attempt at backing up a trailer, and carrying some of my more treasured furniture.

Not so enjoyable are the bills that go with being established and mobile, namely cell phone, rent, insurance, hydro, phone/internet, groceries, gas, repairs, etc. I can’t say as I ever yearned for that part of nesting, but I take it in stride, usually. I’ll be much happier when I can finally get my tax returns done (for the past 2 years), pay off my credit card, and have money set aside for winter tires.

I have spent more than a year at the same job, as a server at The Brew’n Arms English pub and restaurant in Bayfield, Ontario. Earlier this year, I graduated to keyholder and Dining Room Manager, as well as Kitchen Painter and Orchid-Caretaker extraordinaire. My bosses are wonderful people who have become friends and family, as well as the most understanding and flexible supervisors anyone could ask for. They make me want to stay and do my best for them, for their business, for their town.

Last year at this time, I was also working as a drywaller, and, shocker! I don’t miss it a tiny bit. I do enjoy my refined house-painting skills, which I have recently put to good use in a “cottage” in Bayfield, and hope to expand as a second job. If you hear of someone looking to hire a house painter, give them my number!

I’m not attending church because I couldn’t handle the one I had called “home” for years. I’m generally fed up with the institution that is what church has become, with all its expectations and traditions and legalism. I would enjoy a faith-based community of believers that is honest and open, a group that can laugh and be reverent in an informal way. I really could expand this paragraph to a whole essay, but suffice it to say that I have not encountered such a community, but I still seek to hold onto my beliefs. I am discovering more of what life is like on “the other side” (outside the Christian bubble), and it’s very educational, despite occasionally dangerous.

If it were possible to live on coffee, I’d do it.

I’ve joined the wonderful realm of BlackBerry, as I once dreamed of doing. And I’m paying for it, too.

Writing is still my best communication method.

I rarely see earlier than 10 AM, or close my eyes earlier than 1 or 2 AM. I’d like to change that.

The music in my life has developed over the past year as well. I am the youngest voice of the all-female cover band, Cactus Jam, and I love it, despite playing mostly Legions. I was also privileged enough to be part of Noted!, a project sponsored by the United Way in my county, which is helping to boost the music careers of the 17 women chosen to participate. We got to record 14 tracks in a professional studio, and a great-sounding CD is the result. This past winter I also ventured out to sing a few times at Open Mic nights at a local pub, and have been the featured soloist at two church events.

This year finds me recently motherless, a drastic blight on anyone’s life, and definitely on mine. It has changed so many things and finally propelled me into nesting in the first place. It also made my brother and I guardians of our youngest brother and launched me further into the land of disabled children in Ontario. I now have a lawyer, communicate regularly with several case workers, get all kinds of official mail, and have to return junk mail still addressed to Mom.

June 2008 also finds me blonde, and with an even greater fashion sense. I love that about growing older! I predict I’ll still be stylish in my 80s. If I’m not, remind me of now.

I’ve discovered I love flowers and plants, doing the Toronto Saturday Star crossword, Pinot Grigio and Shiraz, premium beer, CBC Radio, brie on melba rounds with semi-dried tomatoes in duck confit, Dollarama’s plain candles, serving dessert, mom’s old couch and armchair (with my apartment’s decor built around them), C&E used furniture in Goderich, Americanos from The Bean, and living in Huron County!!! (Sorry, but that deserved more than three exclamation points)
Being Sarah Elizabeth takes different shapes all the time, and I’m enjoying the process. Here’s to another year!

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Puttin’ on the Ritz

As if my life could get any crazier, my second brother and his girlfriend of about a year and a half decided early in December that they wanted to get married. Before the month was out. Uh-huh.

 

So, of course, we had to pool our resources, call our people, and get real creative, real fast.

Somehow we did, without spending overly much money, and without driving each other crazy, and on December 29th, the second sister-in-law was added to the clan.

 

The garden-party-esque reception was likely the best-decorated reception ever held in that church gymnasium, thanks to the time and efforts and creativity of my siblings and a good friend, L.

 

Not without a few sibling squabbles, some exhaustion (and me seeing stars), and MAJOR lack of sleep, the two younguns are hitched, took a brief few days away, and are back to the difficult life at mom’s house. Felicidades.

Christmas with the Crazies

I’m crazy, you’re crazy, we’re all crazy, I think, I wonder. I’m slowly becoming more and more convinced that we all have an element to ourselves that is less than sane. That element seems to only increase with time and circumstance in my family. Pity the girls that have married (or are about to marry) into us. And should there be guys marrying in someday… Heaven help them! Or they will have to be superheroes.

Issues. We have issues. Us girls more than the guys, apparently. We’re intense, we’re emotional, we react strangely to things, etc.

The two of us even seem to be polar opposites to each other, never able to clearly communicate or to see eye to eye about anything. It has only intensified over the years, as our lives went different directions and our personalities developed in different environments.

Now, every family gathering seems to be characterized by some clash of ours, this Chrismas more so than usual, I think, to the degree that we had a red hot verbal lashing of each other between the giving of grace and the filling of the plates. It ended up with her yanking her plate off the table and stalking upstairs to eat, yelling that she’d only stay if I left.

The thing with us, and not just us girls, I think, is that we incite a thunder storm of ear-covering magnitude, we run away, we take a few breaths, medicate with something or other, then return as if nothing had happened. We don’t deal. We don’t know how to deal.

In some ways, I’m grateful that my sister incites me to vocalize my frustrations and anger with her, because I feel like I know how she feels about me, how we feel about each other. I wish more of us were that open with each other.

Yet, I’m sick of the storming and the bashing and the yelling. These past two days have been, well, to say it again, intense! I’m trying not to write this out of anger, so I won’t go into details, but she’s mostly unbearable, today was rough when she was in the house, and enjoyable when she wasn’t.

I wonder if this very difficult time in our (and I’m referring to all of my immediate family now) lives will make us shy away from each other, as our weaknesses and insecurities and, again, ISSUES become more and more glaring. Can we keep it together? Or will we run away from each other?

Superheroes, these in-laws, superheroes, I say. The Apostle Paul says it’s better to marry than to burn. I wonder if it’s better for us to stay single than to pull other people into our issue-ridden dysfunctionality. I mean, love can conquer everything, they say, but our kind of crazy I wouldn’t wish on any lover.

Still, we had a mostly merry Christmas, I’d say due largely in part to the three little adorable blonde heads distracting us from our issues and making us smile in spite of ourselves. I love you, Salome, Jaida, and Eliana! May you never inherit our emotional complications!

So Not Okay

Using the words I hear so often as I make my way through the seasons of The West Wing, I would like to issue a statement. Guess that makes you the press.

Despite the recent silence on this end of ATransparentLife.com, life has been anything but uneventful for me. The events include an eight-hour road trip to Ohio for the wedding of a friend, which became a mini YWAM Monterrey reunion; witnessing Remembrance Day ceremonies on television for the first time in a long time; getting two winter coats for $70; living through the first snowfall of the season; oh, and moving back into my mom

The Turkey, The Tension, and the Giving of Thanks

It

GrownUpVille: Reality in Fast-Forward

I have little time to write today because I’m in Responsibility Hyper-Drive.

My mom’s health has taken a turn for the, uh, more serious, so as not to say “worse”, and she’s currently unable to take care of many of the everyday things of her life. That leaves me, a single, unsettled 26-year-old doing what no one in my station in life should have to do: paying Mom’s bills, rearranging lawyer’s appointments, becoming the primary contact for my younger siblings, etc.

If you thought I was mature and strong before this, look out! I will be able to take on pretty much anything, even perhaps a stray satellite falling to earth at thousands of miles per hour, aimed somewhere between your house and mine. I’ll be able to talk about finances and invalid care and insurance and parenting with the experts, having substantial experience already.

Wow I can’t even think clearly enough to be as witty as I’d like to be in this post, so I’ll sign off. But not before I tell you how adorable I look in my new fake glasses from Claire’s, with my hair straightened with my new fancy HotTools flat iron!

Happy (Christmas) Easter

When I was a kid and Easter Sunday felt like the first day of Spring, I loved sunrise services. I would carefully pick an outfit that looked as “Spring-y” as possible, which meant it was mostly yellow, green, pink, or white. I would be excited about wearing only a sweater over my dress instead of a winter coat.

To this day, the thought of greeting the sun on a warm-ish Easter Sunday morning evokes excitement. A day in which people are gathered in celebration, all over the world! A day full of surprises, bright colours, good food, and family.

This morning, what I’m excited about is seeing my neices this afternoon, and playing with them, albeit indoors. Salome bossing Jaida around, stealing books right out of her hand and asking Auntie Sarah to read them to her. Or grabbing my hand to lead me to her room, where I’ll sit listening to her jabber on and on about very amusing topics that are too advanced for Auntie Sarah to fully understand, duh. Then, of course, there will be another book to read. Then another, then another, then another, till I’ve read all of the books in their possession five times each. Jaida will happily toddle around with her recently discovered walking skills, charming us all with her smile and patient personality.

This morning is the fourth day of what I like to call Winter: Recharged. Snow has not stopped falling for four days straight, and there are no signs of it letting up! Needless to say, I didn’t hear of any sunrise services being planned for this, my first Easter at home in Canada in six years. Apparently I didn’t pray hard enough for snow at Christmas and sun at Easter, because the Big Weatherman In the Sky seems to have gotten them mixed up (no, not a slam against God’s abilities, but a joke; laugh with me now).

Happy Easter, anyway. May your day be filled with laughter and good food and cracked, dyed eggs leaving stains all around your house because the kids can’t hide them outdoors.

A Bit O’ Ranting

Today I drove my mother to the city (I live in a town of less than 10,000 people) to have something called a Port-A-Cath installed. It’s a semi-permanent port for drawing blood and injecting chemotherapy. Because my mom’s going to be undergoing treatments for at least 12 more months, which means every 3 weeks they poke around her veins to find one that’ll accept an IV (and sometimes it takes up to 4 attempts, leaving the failed attempts bruised and tender) and just as often having to have bloodwork done, she wisely opted for this procedure.

Have I mentioned my mom has breast cancer that metastasized to her liver and lower spine?

Though it’s a reality in our culture that kids someday grow up to “take care” of their parents, you never think that day will come before you’re middle-aged with a passel o’ tots of your own, and a home, and a minivan, and at least one life insurance policy. At 25 and single, without so much as a car to my name, it’s definitely not something I foresaw for this season, and, no offense, Mom, it’s not something I enjoy.

The worst part is, if I were to be brutally honest, I’m not needed as much as I thought I might have been. She’s doing heaps better than anyone could have predicted, and she only “needs” me the odd time, to drive her to an appointment, or make dinner or clean up the kitchen or do laundry. I’m not organizing visits to a sick bed, planning menus for someone who has no appetite, creating and maintaining a relaxing environment, taking charge of the care of my younger siblings, etc.

At the same time, I dread the thought of someday having more responsibility. I never asked to be the oldest of a single mother of six, and I don’t want to accept the “natural” role that goes with that birth rank. I’ve unnaturally stepped into responsibility beyond my years so many times in my life, and, though it became normal for a while, now I want to run the other way. I wish my dang siblings (all of whom I love, of course) would just step up and take the responsibility!!

Perhaps it takes me stepping out of the way so they’ve got their backs against the wall and they have to do something about it. If I’m there in the middle, why should anyone else do anything? Sarah will just take care of it all! Sure, she’ll gripe and growl, but it’ll get done!

I do have to admit that this whole feeling is magnified by the fact that I’ve come back from almost 6 years of living on my own in different countries to live in a tiny, sound-magnifying house with my mom and two of my brothers. This house is not big enough for the all of us! So what if there are four bedrooms? I can hear my mother snoring upstairs and the dryer running downstairs. I can hear everything that is said and done on the first floor and everything in the bathroom echoes painfully into my room.

Yet, it all seems to point to this being the right place for me for now. I’ve prayed about another place to live, but nothing has opened up. What I thought would be a few months turned into seven and counting. I got involved at my church. I got a job. I started a Bible study with some friends.

Just remember, family and friends… IT’S NOT PERMANENT! Sorry if that’s become a hurtful statement… I really love you all, but small-town Ontario is not my heart’s home, and I must move on when the time is right, whether my siblings step up to the plate or not!

Motivated, Fattened, and Cultured

1. Having a motivation to clean house. Last night, after a fruitless craft show (7 vendors total, and we packed up an hour and a half early ’cause there were no shoppers. I sold ONE card!), and then some “me” time with Chinese and a movie (M:I 3), I found out that my aunt, uncle, and 2 cousins were coming after all and they might be staying with us! So at 9:00 I set out on a frenetic cleaning spree, which included 2 loads of laundry, 2 bathrooms, a front entry, kitchen floor, tidying in the living room, vacuuming the upstairs hallway and stairs, and making my sister’s recently vacated bedroom “guest-able” (vaccuming thoroughly; washing windows, doors, desk; Febreeze-ing mattresses; setting up a “bed”; and the most time-consuming of all: ripping down all of the pictures, posters, curling ribbon (yup), and other random mementos that had been stuck to the wall for years upon years, some for as many as 8 or 9 I guess, since the room was mine!).

The guests finally arrived at midnight, as I was shutting off the vaccum cleaner. I went on to tidy up the kitchen before collapsing exhausted. How very nice to wake up this morning to clean bathrooms and a tidy house!

2. Culberts, our local bakery. I haven’t tried even a fraction of their wares, but their cream puffs are worth a long trip for or worth getting up early for. Their carrot muffins are a regular breakfast staple for me, and they’re as good 2 days old as they are fresh. Mmmm. It’s also convenient that they’re only a few doors down from the bookstore where I work!

3. Scottish accents. I just sold a card and a bookmark to a woman with a Scottish accent. That burr is so rich, I love it!

Life, Love, and Film

1. Watching my Mom and her siblings let go of their father peacefully, knowing what lies ahead for him is infinitely better than what he leaves behind.

2. Friends who know your heart’s pain from across thousands of miles and call you to tell you you’re amazing when you least expect it!

3. Movies! I love them!!