Intentional Friendships

I left the workforce last week. As I was thinking about the ways this will change my life, I realized that I won’t be required to spend time with specific people for eight hours a day, a couple of times a week. I have no obligation to leave the house and be within conversation range of other adults for any amount of time. If I want maintain friendships with the people I’ve come to know over the last eight years of my life, I’ll have to do it on purpose.

Workplace friendships aren’t like other friendships. At work, you see people at their best and worst, their most genuine and most fake, their most stressed and most exhausted. You see all these sides of a person and you stick with them anyway. You support each other, no matter what. Because you have to.

As I was thinking about how some of my friendships with coworkers will largely take place over Facebook and text messages in the future, I realized that this is currently true of most of my friendships. Between childhood friends moving away, college friends moving away, and adulthood friends being stuck in a never-ending lockdown, I don’t really see anyone in person anymore. I’m finding myself having to work to maintain friendships.

That’s always true of some friendships. Some friends live far away, and it’s always an intentional effort to stay in touch. Some friends live nearby, and in a normal year, I let things slide a bit because I know I’ll see them around soon enough. Work friendships largely take care of themselves, as we’re going to be in the same place, at the same, multiple days a week, until one of us quits: We couldn’t drift apart if we tried.

Now, with my exit from the workforce, and with the province enforcing social distancing, all of my friendships will have to be intentional. Ugh, effort.

I’m an introvert. Going out of my way to interact with people goes against my nature. But I will fight my nature on this one. Friendships are important. We need friends. We need people with whom we can laugh, cry, face challenges, recover from hardships, and work through our thoughts and feelings.

I’m not great at intentionally maintaining friendships, but this is a skill at which I will try to improve. This year of social distancing, and quitting my job, has really helped me cherish my friendships, and has enforced the need to make time for ‘scheduled maintenance’ when it comes to friendships. Sometimes friendships start easily. Sometimes they can coast for quite a while. But if a friendship is going to last, it needs intentional effort.

Value

It’s been an odd year to be a coffee shop employee. When the world shut down, we didn’t. When the world stayed home, we didn’t. It’s been an interesting year as we sort out what jobs we view as essential. I’m a minimum wage worker. I get paid the lowest legal wage possible because what I do is not seen as a highly valued job, and yet I’m essential. That’s a hard one to wrap my head around.

I know I’ve seen posts online from other essential workers saying it would be more honest to call us expendable. We went to work because we were desperately needed, and at the same time, easily replaceable.

I’ve seen banners on the way to work saying “We support/thank essential workers.” Then I go to work and get yelled at because someone’s debit card didn’t process quickly enough, or the safety measures we have in place are frustrating for a customer. At times the support banners are encouraging. Sometimes it just feels sarcastic. It’s a jarring emotional swing.

Working during a global shutdown has done weird things for my self-esteem. At times I think, “Everyone else gets to stay at home because society values them enough to protect them. I guess I’m pretty worthless if I’m still going to work.” At other times I serve coffee to health care workers, long term care home workers, truckers taking supplies to grocery stores, and others who are keeping the world spinning and I think, “I’m out here supporting people who are keeping the world from collapsing into chaos. My job is super important, and I’m out here doing it because I’m a basically a hero. I deserve to have my own personal staff to make sure my cape is properly ironed.” Yep, a jarring emotional swing.

There is one thing that keeps me grounded whenever I start trying to make sense of my ‘essential worker’ label: Jesus loves me. I know that sounds like a simple Sunday school answer to a very complicated contradiction, but sometimes it’s the basics that can provide a sure footing when everything else shifts underneath me.

The Bible tells us that every person has become separated from God. The Bible tells us that Jesus was willing to die to bridge that gap and restore that relationship. That is how much Jesus loves me – more than His own life. That is a valuation that is humbling, comforting, uplifting, and never-changing. It places me on equal footing with everyone else, because we can all say, “Jesus loves me more than His own life”.

My job has become a major point of focus for me this year. It’s hard not to focus on my job when it was, for months, basically the only reason I left the apartment. It’s hard not to focus on my job when the term ‘essential worker’ has been in commercials, on banners, in headlines, etc. But my job is just one part of who I am, and it’s not what gives me value. It gives me hope and reassurance to remember that, though my job-based value increases and decreases as the world around me changes, my God-based value does not change. No matter what, Jesus loves me.

Our Own Talents

There’s a story in the Bible about a man who goes on a trip, and hands out assignments while he’s gone. He gives 5 talents (a measurement of money) to one slave, 2 talents to second slave, and 1 talent to a third salve. When the master returns home, the first slave has doubled his money. The second slave has also doubled his money. The third slave tells the master that he’s a harsh man who reaps where he hasn’t sown, and so the third slave was afraid and buried the money. He hands back his single talent. (Matthew 25:14-30)

There’s a lot of pressure on Christians to find a ministry, do it well, pour 100% of yourself into it, and see thousands of people make a decision to follow Christ. That’s not always realistic. Sure, everyone has a calling, a skill, a way to impact the world for Christ. I’m not saying anyone is unable to contribute. But not everyone is the apostle Paul.

In the Bible, we see people with all manner of skills and levels of ability be effective for God. We see people planting churches (Acts 14:1) and preaching to thousands (Acts 2:14-41). We see people sewing clothes for widows in the community (Acts 9:39). We see people performing miracles (Acts 14:3), and we see people donating money to brothers and sisters in Christ who live in poverty, even when they themselves had little to give (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). We see people make an impact on the world around them in large-scale, impressive ways, and we see people make an impact in smaller, less impressive ways.

You know what? Big and small were both recorded. We know that the apostle Peter gave a sermon that led thousands to believe in Christ. We also know that Tabitha sewed coats for widows. Both acts were considered important enough to preserve in the Bible.

I’ve struggled with the parable of the talents. Often there are only two points of focus: the slave who had 5 talents and doubled it, and the slave who misunderstood the master’s character and was too afraid to try. It becomes a binary issue: incredible success, or total failure. I’m not convinced that’s the point. After all, there is a slave who was successful with a middling amount of resources.

The second slave was given less responsibility. The master knew he was good at his job, but not as good as the first slave. Still, the second slave took what he was given, and did a great job. He wasn’t expected to keep up with someone who was noticeably more gifted. He was expected to live up to his own abilities, and he did. He did very well, and upon his return, the master said, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!” That’s exactly the same response the master had for the slave who had doubled 5 talents.

Two slaves did the best they could with what they were given. The master gave them reasonable expectations based on what he knew their capabilities to be. When the master returned, he congratulated them both on doing a good job.

God knows what gifts, talents, and abilities each person has. He gave them to us, after all. He gave some people the ability to plant churches. He gave some people the ability to sew clothes. Both are important to the people whose hearts they touch.

It’s easy to look at how we’re trying to serve God and our church community, and feel like failures if we can’t personally point to several hundred people and say, “They found God because of me!” But that’s not reasonable. We’re not all gifted evangelists. Still, we all have our gifts, and are expected to use them the best we can.

It takes the pressure off when we realize that God does not expect us to compare ourselves with others. We’re expected to live up to our own gifts and abilities. I’m not the apostle Paul. That’s okay. I don’t have to be. I don’t have to wonder if God is disappointed that I haven’t planted churches, started a Christian foundation, or held a meeting to tell thousands of people about Christ in one night. Maybe that’s just not my gift. If so, that’s okay. I just have to succeed at my own calling, and stop looking at the callings of others.

Dramatic Laundry Tale

Social distancing is hard to do properly in an apartment building. How do you stay 6 feet away from someone when your door isn’t 6 feet away from your neighbour’s door? How do you stay 6 feet away when your door is less than 2 feet from the door to the stairwell? How do you stay 6 feet away when the laundry machines aren’t 6 feet apart?

I had to do laundry the other day. I managed to avoid other people entirely. The experience was emotionally odd enough that I started narrating in my head on the way down to put in the wash. Honestly, add a few flickering lights, a worried grandmother, and make me 16, and I’ve got the perfect start to a young adult, post-apocalyptic novel. Here is what my overactive internal monologue was saying as I did laundry:

I scoop up a handful of quarters and pocket them. I put the jug of detergent in the basket along with the clothes. I stand close to the door, listening. The hallway on the other side of the apartment is quiet. Good. I crack the door open, and see emptiness. Good. The door of my apartment is only a step away from the door to the stairwell. I take a deep breath, and take that step, fearful that someone will burst through unexpectedly. No one does.

I pause with the stairwell door cracked open. I listen. Footsteps shuffle on the lower floor. They’re heading away. Good. I slip through the door with my basket of clothes, and proceed cautiously down the stairs, tense. At any moment someone could enter from the parking lot or the door to the first floor, and I prepare for a retreat if I encounter anyone. They say we need to stay six feet apart. That will keep us safe. It’s harder than it sounds.

I reach the first floor. No one is near the security door leading to the parking lot. No sounds from behind the door leading to the first floor hallway. Good. I edge into the hallway and look. No doors opening. No one in the hall. I pick up the pace, anxious to get to the laundry room before anyone comes out of their apartment unexpectedly. I pause again at the laundry room door. I don’t want to go in.

It’s a narrow room, with one exit. If anyone is in there, do I wait in the hallway for them to finish? Do I back six feet down the hallway so they have clearance when they exit? What if someone comes in while I’m in there, and insists on using the machine next to mine? There are only three machines, and one is usually broken. They say six feet will keep us safe. It’s harder than it sounds.

Thankfully, no one is there. One machine is in use. Ten minutes left on the timer. I have plenty of time before they’re back to start my load. If we both return promptly, we have a decent buffer. We shouldn’t meet each other tonight. Good.

I load the machine, and put the quarters in the slot, each one ticking down a second until I’m free from that tiny space. Clink. Clink. Clink.

I finish up, pick up my jug of detergent, and start back for the safety of my apartment, stopping to listen at every door. It’s quiet. I picked a good time.

I reach my apartment and head straight for the sink. I scrub the outside off of me.

I sink onto the couch, safe for another 29 minutes until I have to move the clothes over to the dryer. 29 minutes until I have to brave the hallways. 29 minutes until I’m back in that narrow room with only one way out. For 29 minutes, I’m safe.

 

 

 

The Season of Easter, and Social-Distancing

We’re in the middle of March, in the middle of Lent, and in the middle of a pandemic. I don’t think anyone thought that the church as a whole would start giving up church services for Lent. We’ve been told to sit tight for a couple of weeks, and reassess then. We’re about 4 weeks away from Easter. We might be giving that up for Lent as well.

It’s hard to imagine Good Friday and Easter passing by without church services, but it might come to that. I think it’s best to prepare ourselves, in case that happens. It’s one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, and one of the busiest. And we might all be stuck inside our own homes.

I think there are a few very important things to keep in mind this year as Easter approaches. I know it hurts to consider cancelling services that are probably already in the planning stages. Easter comes with special services, special speakers, special music, church potlucks, family dinners etc. But as hard as it is to imagine cancelling, should it become necessary, we need to keep the big picture in mind – two big pictures, really.

First, God is still God regardless of circumstances. History is still history regardless of current circumstances. Who God is, or what He did on the cross, will not change just because we have to cancel services. Even if we have to celebrate at home, we can do that. God hears us individually as well as corporately, and His plan for us does not change based on church attendance. The big picture is that God is ultimately in control of our lives here, and in heaven. For a Christian, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Christ is our hope, our peace, and our joy here on earth, and whenever we do die, we get to experience Him in person. Missing even the most important of church services will never change that.

Second, as long as we live, our commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). How can we best love our neighbours right now? A good way to start is by being sensible during a pandemic. It’s hard to adjust to the idea of loving people by avoiding them, but spreading a potentially deadly virus is not a good way to love your neighbour. Stay home, when possible, for the good of the vulnerable people around you. This virus moves quickly, and the best way to keep hospitals from being overrun, and to keep our families and communities safe, to is keep our distance. It’s everyone’s job to take proactive measures as much as possible.

It’s easy to think that Lent, Good Friday and Easter are necessities of the Christian faith. You know what? They are. But the celebrations and traditions that accompany them are not. Easter is still Easter without a service. During this time in the church calendar, we focus on Christ’s sacrifice which atoned for our sins so that we could be seen as blameless before God. That is incredibly important. Without that, we’re just a group of broken and sinful people with no hope. But God is our hope, and God does not change when our traditions have to change.

Hang onto the big picture, in terms of community health, and eternal hope. Keep being proactive about this public health crisis. Remember that God is with us even when we can’t be with each other. Keep praying, singing praise songs, and reading your Bibles at home, and come out of this with a stronger faith. Set a good example in loving your neighbour enough to stay home. And as I heard in a sermon online this week, the building is not the church: the body of Christ is the church. As much as we’re social-distancing, we’re still not alone. We’re still connected.

Tuna Casserole

An amazing thing happened at dinner today. James ate half of his meal, looked up at me, and said, “Mommy, thank you for making me this.” I was touched. That’s what every mom wants to hear. What did I make? Tuna casserole.

Casserole is supposed to be an easy dish. It’s what you make with leftovers. It’s what you make when it’s 40 minutes until dinner and you realize you forgot to thaw anything. I have a casserole recipe from my mother, and it’s an easy recipe. It’s egg noodles (which do no need to be precooked), soup from a can, tuna from a can, some frozen veggies, and some grated cheese. Other than grating cheese, it’s practically no work.

Casserole is not easy for us. It’s a meal I make when I’m feeling ambitious, when my husband is home to help, and when the boys are behaving. I can’t have gluten. This means I can’t use egg noodles, and must precook my noodles. I can’t use most canned cream soups, so I make my own. Suddenly casserole is a lot harder.

Today I decided to go for it. I precooked the noodles. I made ‘soup’ by heating water and milk, then adding a bouillon cube and a handful of spices. I couldn’t find our frozen veggies, so I poured in a can of creamed corn. It was underway.

My wonderful husband found the frozen veggies, so we added those as well. He grated a mound of cheese for the casserole, then grated more to mix with breadcrumbs and tortilla strips for a crispy topping.

Our combined efforts made a lovely-looking casserole, and I put it in the oven for half an hour, because it sounded like a nice, round number. There’s a cook time in the recipe, but when I’m adding frozen veggies to freshly boiled soup, it’s anyone’s guess. So I guessed, and it came out crispy on top, cooked in the middle, and that’s really all you can say about a casserole. It’s basically thick stew. So it was perfect.

I thought the casserole was delicious, but I did not expect our preschooler to turn to me and say, “Mommy, thank you for making me this.” Of course, our little boy does not eat noodles, soup, or veggies. He was eating peanut butter smeared on a dinner roll. Whatever. Still counts.

Long-Term Investments

We had a baby, and a few months later, we did what millennials do best: we started worrying about how he’d pay off his student loans. We took some money to the bank, and set up an RESP, which is a long-term investment. It should have 17 years or so to grow.

We got a crash course on how long-term investments work. They are a good place to put money into higher risk/higher reward investments. If you need your money back in a couple of years, you might want to play it safe. If you have 17 years to wait, you can take some risks, because the market will bounce back.

We saw a very pretty graph with many colours showing investments over time. They all had dips and spikes, and overall, gain. The thing with the higher risk/higher reward investments is that they fluctuate more than low risk investments. Low risk brings slow and steady gain. Higher risk means more volatility, but in the end, higher gains.

One has to be patient with a long-term investment. They go up, they come down, but they recover and grow if you leave them alone long enough. They have dips, which are frustrating and worrying, but they recover, and they are worth the stress in the long run.

Children are long-term investments. We had a baby, and he is dependent on us for at least the next 17 years or so. We’ve invested love, effort, time, sleepless nights, hours spent walking him around the apartment to get him to sleep, and we trust that in time, our investment into this little life will bring us an abundance of pride and joy. Some days it already does. Other days…

The Bible says that children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). Some days I wish I’d been given a gift receipt, because children can be frustrating and exhausting. There are days when I put in the love and the snuggles and the time and the effort, only to have my baby scream at me for three hours. Those are the times when I need to remind myself that he’s a long-term investment. There are discouraging dips in the returns some days. Some days I wonder why my best parenting efforts aren’t working, and instead of a healthy, happy baby, I have been rewarded with a stuffy-nosed, cranky, clingy child who won’t let me get 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep. But he’s a long-term investment.

There will be hard days, but there will be days of smiles and giggles and decent naps. There will be hard nights, but there will be a first mother’s day card, first birthday, first Christmas, first day at school. Some days I’m so exhausted I can’t think straight, but there are days when he crawls over to me, puts his head on my knee, and smiles at me. That little smile makes the stress worth it. Having him fall asleep in my arms makes it worth it. Having him pull himself into a stand, then look over at me and grin, so proud of himself, makes it worth it. There are bad days, but our investment in our baby always bounces back.

Today was a rough day. Today the line on the graph plummeted. But we’ll see how tomorrow goes. And the day after that. And the next week. And the next year. And the next decade. Because he’s a long-term investment, and he needs time.

Gift-Giving Anxiety

Does anyone else get serious gift-giving anxiety? I do. It’s so hard to buy things for other people. Life would be so much easier if I could buy things for people, show it to them to get a reaction, then erase their memory so the gift would still be a surprise. That is not possible. So instead I stew about it.

Even when I know what I want to buy, even when I’m sure I have the perfect idea, my confidence falls apart at the store. I’ll go to a store to buy the Thing. I find Thing in an aisle. Or, rather, I find an aisle full of Things. It’s an aisle of Things, all slightly different.

There are Things in every colour of the rainbow. There are Things in several weights, heights, depths. There are Things from different manufacturers with different guarantees. They have mostly the same claims about the products, but with slightly different wording.

Now I’m frozen in the aisle, overwhelmed with possibilities, with no idea what to choose. I don’t know if the recipient would rather have periwinkle, vermilion or chartreuse. I don’t know if Recipient would like the Thing that has a five year no-question-asked guarantee, or a stricter 10 year guarantee, or the Thing where I can add extended warranties as I check out. I don’t know if Recipient wants the Thing that is ‘big’ or ‘large’ or ‘now in a larger size!’

I just wanted Thing! Now Thing is too complicated. I don’t know what colour goes best with Recipient’s kitchen, or bathroom, or living room, or car. I wish I’d taken more art/design classes in school. I don’t understand colour schemes at all.

Why did I come here without measurements written down? What if Thing is a centimeter too big, or if it’s too heavy for Recipient’s shelf? Why did I not study carpentry so I could know the weight-bearing potential of average shelving units?

Maybe I’ll get the Thing with the five year warranty. That seems reasonable. But, maybe they offer that because Things in general only last up to six years, and the day after the warranty expires, it will fall apart. I should have studied small appliances!

Nothing I studied in school has prepared me for this moment. Everything I’ve ever learned is irrelevant. I’ve been standing here reading labels, picking Things up just to put them back, and talking aloud to my kids about Things for a very long time. I look crazy. I don’t know what to do. The kids have no idea about Things. They’re bored.

I should have had kids earlier, so their attention spans could be longer by now, so that I could have more time to make this decision.

Now I’m standing in the aisle with a Thing in one hand, a Thing in the other, a baby starting to fuss, a toddler wanting to run off to touch the store’s Christmas tree, and I’m doubting every major decision I’ve ever made.

I could have made this decision by now if I’d had a different major, or different hobbies, or if I’d had kids at a different stage in my life, or if I’d invented forget-me-technology. I’ve done everything wrong up to this point in my life!

So I pace, and I overthink, until I settle on one that seems right, but I’m still not sure. I start regretting the purchase before I even get my debit card back out of the machine, and I take Thing home, all the while hating the fact I bought Thing instead of some other Thing. I put Thing in the closet, or under the bed, hiding it until Christmas morning. I can only hope it was the right Thing I brought home.

And now it’s night time, and I’m lying awake, reliving every moment in that aisle, certain that any other Thing would have been better. But I know that’s ridiculous, because I spent an eternity in that aisle, and I picked this Thing, after a careful study of every possible aspect of all of the Things. And if I liked this Thing best out of all of the Things, that clearly means only one thing: All Things are wrong and I should’ve bought a gift card.

Yep, gift-giving anxiety.

It’s time to take a deep breath. It’s time to calm down now. I picked Thing because I thought someone on my list would like Thing. And I’m not stupid. I’m not an artist, or a carpenter, or an electrician, but I am a reasonably intelligent adult. I made an acceptable choice. Thing is fine. Thing was bought with love. Love and pacing and overthinking. But mostly love. And that’s what Christmas is about, right? God’s love, familial love, neighbourly love. So Thing is fine. I’ll be fine. I just need a few deep breaths.

Stop the Ride! I Wanna Get Off!

The last few weeks have been an emotional, financial and plan-of-action roller coaster.

I got a message from my cousins in England saying that my Nana had had a stroke. I didn’t have a passport. I have two young kids. I tried to get there anyway.

I got a passport in a hurry. My in-laws volunteered to take the kids as long as I needed. Then the parade of plans started. I tried to keep everyone in the loop: family in Tillsonburg, family in Toronto, family in England. I tried my best to make everything line up, and the plan changed almost daily as I tried to make the timing work.

I was going with my dad. I was going alone. I was going with my brother. I was going with my mother. I was going with my brother again.

We were leaving right away. We were leaving in a week. We were leaving in two weeks. We were leaving on a weekend. We were leaving and coming back during the week. We were leaving during the week and coming back on a weekend.

We were going to be there for a week. We were going to be there for four days. We were going to be there for two days.

I made plan after plan, and watched plan after plan fall apart. I held on, because it was my last chance to see my nana. Finally, a solid plan emerged, and I booked plane tickets.

Two days later, my nana passed away.

The plan had been to go and say goodbye. It would have been nice to do so while she was alive, but I thought that perhaps we could still be there for the funeral. A week seemed reasonable to plan a funeral. But England is not Canada, and funerals take longer there. There was no chance the funeral would happen during the dates we had set.

Just like that, all the rushing, all the planning, all the phone calls, messages, packing and stressing crashed to a halt. Every last plan had fallen to pieces. There was nothing left to put back together. We didn’t make it. There was no more rush, no more plan, no more chance to say goodbye. There was just a whole lot of nothing.

Then crept in the horrible realization that there was one thing left to deal with: I had to figure out what to do with two very expensive, very useless plane tickets. After reading West Jet’s cancellation policy (it should just say don’t), I fully expected I’d never get any of my money back. But, might as well try, right?

I prayed for the ability to get through my story. I was so teary it would be hard. I prayed for a kind West Jest agent. I was afraid I’d get a disgruntled employee who had no interest in helping me. I prayed the boys would sleep through the phone call so I could deal with this.

I called, I cried, I explained the situation, and a very nice agent said, “Under normal circumstances, I can’t do much for you. But, these are not normal circumstances, so I’ll see what I can do.”

After an hour on the phone, a valiant attempt on his part to get me to accept travel vouchers and discounts instead of a refund, and four separate transactions, he told me that all the money would be refunded. He said he’d even waive the cancellation fee for me.

So it seemed my prayers had been answered. I cried, but got the story out. I got a nice man who genuinely wanted to help if he could. Both boys slept soundly.

Yesterday I got the date for the funeral. Things don’t look good for travel plans.

Yesterday I also checked my bank account. That didn’t look good either. There were four separate transactions. Most of the money was back. There was $450 missing. I considered just accepting that. I  had been very blessed to get back as much as I did.

I talked it over with my husband, and decided to call. What could it hurt? So again, I prayed for nice people, to be able to keep it together emotionally, and I called. Two agents and two hours later, I have been told the rest of the money is now on the way. The first fellow broke all kinds of rules for me, but he promised me the moon, so they will deliver the moon in full.

I have to say that dealing with cancelling the flights has been a long, frustrating process, but West Jet has very professional, compassionate, and helpful employees. The agent from Guest Services actually went back and listened to that first, long, tear-filled phone call to see what I’d been told so she could help sort things out for me. That’s amazing. So again, I received answers to prayer in the form of very, very kind people on the other end of the phone. God has been good through these very trying weeks.

At this point, I have a funeral date. I have my money back. I have no plans. I am exhausted. These weeks have been a roller coaster.  I want off the ride. I want to go on the kiddie rides, where a cute, little, bumble bee-shaped pod goes around slowly in a circle.

I don’t know what the next few weeks will hold, but I will keep praying for help, because I need all the help I can get. I do not like roller coasters, but God is my safety bar in the roller coaster of this month, and hopefully this ride will eventually end, and things will be okay.

 

 

 

England and Light Bulbs

On Friday I go to London to pick up my passport. I have to go to London to get it because I went to the special office to get them to rush it for me. You see, I’m suddenly looking into an overseas trip. My Nana lives in England, and she had a serious downturn in her health last week. When I heard she was doing poorly, of course I wanted to go visit.

There have been problems and complications as I’ve tried for the past week to sort out this trip. I didn’t have a valid passport. I have two young children. There were health and financial hindrances to finding someone to go with me. We have to plan around my husband’s work schedule so he can get me to the Toronto airport. My brother is planning to go with me, so we have to add his work schedule to the pile of things we need to work around. My wonderful in-laws offered to watch the kids while I’m gone, so we have to coordinate with them as well. We have to plan for accommodations and public transit far away from home. I have to plan with my in-laws for picking me up from the airport, and with my husband for getting me back home from Toronto again. It’s been nuts.

I’m trying to coordinate all of this, and I’m a person who is incapable of changing a light bulb. I’m not kidding. Two light bulbs burnt out in my kitchen about a month ago. They have not been replaced. It’s just too hard to replace these light bulbs.

You see, my husband is on nights, and thus asleep during normal business hours, so I have to take care of this. I can’t reach the light bulbs. I’m too short. And they’re behind a hard-to-manage … light bulb cover thingy. It’s heavy. It’s breakable. It’s finicky to dislodge. This is not a thing to be done while my three-year-old is running around underfoot. If I have to dislodge this heavy, finicky, breakable thing, while standing on a stool, while the preschooler is trying to climb up my leg to see what I’m doing, one of us is going to end up in the hospital.

I need to get the light bulbs down before I can go get a replacement, because our building replaced our normal, get-at-Walmart-or-Canadian-Tire bulbs with fancy-pants light bulbs. They save electricity. They’re supposed to last longer. They’re super expensive, and only sold at the fancy-pants light bulb store.

The store is close to our apartment. It’s about a two minute drive away. But I have children, and if I have to take a busy, excitable, curious, light-obsessed preschooler into the fancy-pants store where everything is expensive and breakable, it’s gonna be a bad day.

Then, if I managed to get the light bulbs, I’d still have to replace them, and they’re still up high, behind a heavy and finicky cover.

So it’s been a month, and I haven’t changed the light bulbs in my kitchen. I’m using the light over the stove for a kitchen light.

And I’m trying to plan a trip across an ocean. It’s been a stressful week. But, this is important, so I’m doing my best not to have a stress meltdown.

Maybe I should start with something small and work my way up to finalizing the details on this trip. Maybe, while my kids are sleeping, I should go get those light bulbs down. Then, tomorrow, if I can get to the light bulb store and back in one piece, maybe I can take a deep breath and calm down about my trip. If I can replace those light bulbs, I can totally handle international travel coordination. Yeah, that’s the same thing.