LEGO vs. the Flood

We sat on the floor in Connor’s room for a while this afternoon. I sorted mounds of LEGO while Connor built things and Ethan chewed on the body of a T-Rex.

Earlier, we had gone down to a community devastated by floods to hand out food and bottles of water.

“What did you think about that?” I asked Connor as we sat in his clean, dry room. “All the mud? All the ruined houses and the people throwing out all their stuff?”

“It was pretty cool,” he said, in his five-year-old way.

Ok, I think. So he wasn’t scared by it.

“What did you think was cool about it?”

“I dunno. It was just cool. And it was sad.”

So there’s that, at least.

*****

Today marks five days since the river banks broke and the floods destroyed so many parts of Calgary. 100,000 people—10% of the city’s population—were evacuated; some of them are home again, many are not. But it’s not like any of them can simply unlock their front doors and walk in as though they had been on vacation.

In the worst areas, there is mud everywhere – contaminated mud that drips from the couches and lamps and appliances that sit on front lawns. People have had to rip flooring and carpet and drywall from their homes. The streets are now full. There are huge trucks blocking streets as they pump water from basements. They are loud. The people doing the clearing are wearing rubber boots, gloves, and masks. They are covered in mud.

Bowness-flood3

Having two small kids, one of whom is still breastfeeding, makes it difficult to help as much as I feel I should. As much as I want to. I feel as though I should don old jeans and put on my boots and take some gloves and a shovel and just start digging people out. And not stop until all the mud and guck and crap is gone.

But I can’t really do that, so I have done other things. I’ve dropped off supplies in three different parts of the city. I’ve tweeted out information trying to connect people who can help with people who need help. I’ve donated money.

But I needed to do more, and I wanted Connor to help. So this morning we went over to an affected community not far from where we live and walked the muddy streets where homeowners and neighbours and volunteers are trying to clean up.

We went with my friend Erin and her two kids, who had loaded up their wagon with fruit and water and granola bars. Connor and I baked muffins and took those along with apples, bottles of water, and protein bars. We stopped every person we saw to ask if they needed something.

Bowness-flood1

It’s hard to help a five-year-old understand what has happened and what it means for the people affected. A big pile of soggy drywall is meaningless to Connor. We’ve told him people have had their houses ruined and have to throw out most of their things, including their toys. He knows that, even if he doesn’t entirely understand it. In one breath he’s talking about how wet things are and in the next he’s asking to go to the toy store to browse the LEGO aisle. To him, “going without” means not getting the new set he has his eye on.

I don’t expect (or even really want) him to understand the level of devastation we’ve seen here. But I did want him to be involved in helping. So we went.

He was entirely nonchalant, no matter what we saw. He insisted on being the one to give people the bottles of water and he wanted to hand out the muffins. But he was unfazed by the mud and the piles of rubble. Such is your perspective on natural disasters when you’re five, I guess.

*****

LEGO sorted by color

At bedtime, after we brushed teeth and read stories and turned out the light, I looked over at the bins of sorted LEGO. They looked bright and clean and perfect, unlike the muddy dollhouse I saw this morning sitting atop of a pile of rubble. Clean LEGO, dirty dollhouse. What a world of difference a few kilometres makes.

“How was your day?” I asked Connor, beginning the nighttime ritual.

“Good!” he said. I could tell he was deeply satisfied, though I wasn’t sure whether it was from being a helper or because I (finally) sat with him to sort LEGO.

“What was your favourite part?”

He thought hard.

“That we got to stay home this afternoon.”

Ah, I thought. It was the LEGO.

“That was your favourite part?”

“Well, no. I just said that to make sure you knew. My favourite part was giving people water.”

He looked almost embarrassed. He likes praise, but often shies away from it.

“That was my favourite part too,” I told him. “I’m really glad you came with me. I was really proud of you today.”

He rolled over and then over again, burying his face between the bed and his wall. This is his way – hiding and playing rather than acknowledging.

“Were you proud of yourself today?” I prompted.

“Yes,” he admitted with a smile.

So there’s that.

The pride, the knowing – it’s there. He has taken it in, in his five-year-old way. The carefully sorted LEGO will be scattered again, but this—the feeling of being there and knowing he helped—will remain.

 

 

Influencing Girls as a Mom of Boys

Some day, a young girl will be sitting in my kitchen thinking she’s not good enough or smart enough or strong enough. She may not be my girl, but I will see myself in her and I will say this:

“I know. Me too. But keep going. Do it anyway. Do it because you can. Do it because you love it. Nothing else matters.”

Influencing girls and helping them be strong—unstoppable, if you will—is really important to me, which is what my latest post at Yummy Mummy Club is about.

Have you felt like this? I’d love it if you’d come and share.

Artisans & Intention (+giveaway)

So you know that 20 minutes of intention thing I’m doing? It turns out my 20 minutes are not spent writing. At least not here. I did take some time the other night to get caught up on some things on my to-do list, but my writing here is taking a bit of a hit. I think part of the problem is that I have a few posts in draft that are basically complete but not really working for me. So I’m kind of stuck.

If you’d like to read some recent posts (pretty please?) you can find the story of the first stages of my postpartum depression diagnosis on Huffington Post. I think it accurately sums up the depth of my denial.

I also wrote another piece for Postpartum Progress – 6 reasons having a baby after PPD is easier. Not everyone agrees with this, of course, but it makes the discussion around this really interesting.

I’ll share some more thoughts on the 20 minutes experiment soon, but one thing it has confirmed is that I am spectacularly talented at wasting time on the computer. And on my phone. And on my iPad. I knew this already, which is one of the reasons I wanted to take up this challenge. In part I blame my slightly misfiring, sleep-deprived synapses, which make it very easy to zone out in front of a screen and only process something as long as a tweet or a status update. But it’s also a habit, and one I need to work harder to break. [Read more...]

Day of Silence

It Matters

I am at home with a three-day old baby. He is small and beautiful and so very wanted.

I am in awe, but I look at him and wonder what this next year will bring to our family, because now I know.

I know it won’t always be easy.

I know sometimes it will be really, really hard.

Just below the surface there is a small amount of anxiety. A nagging what if? 

I will admit to being scared. To, perhaps, a small amount of paranoia. To the worry that as much as I know now, as much as I’m so much better prepared and informed, I may not be able to avoid it.

But I will admit to hope.

Postpartum depression hit me by surprise last time. I didn’t expect it. Didn’t recognize it. Didn’t get help soon enough. And I never, ever want to experience something like that again.

Nor do I wish that upon any other mother – whether she’s a first-time, second-time, or sixth-time mom. Whether she gave birth or adopted. Whether she’s okay but her partner isn’t.

So today, on my son’s third day of life, I’m supporting Strong Start Day.

I found Postpartum Progress when I really needed it, and the information on that site (and Katherine’s response to my grateful email) was one of the things that led me down the right path towards recovery. That community has been important to me in the time since, as I worked through a really rough time last year and throughout this last pregnancy. I know I will be back there reading (and writing) in the days and weeks and months to come as I navigate my way through new motherhood a second time.

But not every woman can do that. Some don’t have Internet access. Some won’t know it’s there. Some just won’t think it’s relevant to them, as I wouldn’t have in the early days of my struggle. So the goal this year is for Postpartum Progress Inc. — the non-profit that supports the site and postpartum depression awareness (and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth) — to take all that great online information and turn it into material women can get from their clinicians and health care providers when they need it.

And they will need it. Someone you know will need it. Does need it.

Please help if you can. Donate if you can. If you can’t then please share the message. We do this one day a year – today only – and it matters.

It really, really matters.