Monday, January 26, 2015

Basic Economics II: PCOS, Target, and the Spanish Civil War

Alright, long post.  Beware.

I learn best through allegory, metaphor, so I won't apologize for the weird mental stretch in this post.  It's not really for anyone else, just me working out my own thoughts for myself about the economy. :) I hope I've scared everyone but the die-hards away.

Just us then?  Let's go.

Before I start with the parallels, I need to explain PCOS - my own lovely little syndrome (that was sarcastic).  When you hear Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, you're like ooh cysts on ovaries.  I get it.  But it's so much more than cysts on ovaries - and doesn't even necessarily even include them.  (They're just the symptom that usually triggers a diagnosis, because the other symptoms are often overlooked.)

PCOS is a collection of symptoms that occur together frequently enough for them to be identified as one disorder - disease - condition - but nobody is sure of their cause or why they often occur together.  (Some of the links within the syndrome are causal, but not all.)  I'm not a doctor, so I'll likely muddle this up, but I'm going to explain it the way I understand it.

The PCOS body doesn't know what to do with carbs.  A carbohydrate comes in, my body sets off an alert, and traps them in a fat cell, along with hormones and nutrients, and puts a high security warning on the door.  Nothing is getting out.  Carbs that come with a lot of fibre - like fresh fruit and veggies - get swept away fairly quickly.  But carbs that don't - like bread and sugar - are instead locked inside fat cells along with hormones and vitamin D and all sorts of other helpful (but now inaccessible) elements that my body needs in order to function properly.  All the potential is there - but it's in lockdown.  My fat cells are hyper amazing jailers ... they're just really sucky police officers, and they think everyone is a threat.  As a result, the PCOS body is often tired, malnourished (my doctor was scared of rickets, my D count was so low), chubby, pimply, balding, and infertile. Not really working the way it was designed - not beautiful, healthy, strong, productive. And it craves carbs - the carbs it's actually stuffed with, but needy cells can't access it.

It's an Alanis Morrisette song waiting to be written.

But when I found out all the details of PCOS, I was so furious.  Mad, that I actually had all the resources I need, but due to my hoarding fat cells, was unable to access.  I was particularly mad about fertility, but pretty ticked about weight gain, zits, mood swings, and potential rickets too.  Everything was there! But nothing was going where it needed to go. I can feel my temper kindling as I think about it.

Last week, when the news came out about Target closing and the CEO's severance package being equivalent to the severance of all the other 17000 employees combined, I saw that same kind of temper kindling.  We know that CEOs earn more than shop-floor employees, but that he was getting THAT much more? A collective "Not fair!" echoed around the internet.

And because I learn by analogy, I started thinking about the ways that hoarding resources is bad for the whole of society and I began to think that our economy is a lot like a PCOS body.

Fat cells are good.  They insulate the body and we need them.  But when they start hoarding resources, the rest of the body suffers.

Same with the wealthy.  We need wealthy people in our economy - they can efficiently use their wealth to create jobs, provide a storehouse of financial nutrition that borrowers can draw from to meet new demands or to survive lean times.  But when the wealthy hoard resources simply to lock them away -

people suffer.  People die.

In Spain, after WWI, the small upper class was excessively rich.  So rich that they didn't need to spend their resources to become wealthier.  They had more than more-than-enough.  So instead of employing the peasants to work their land (who might, after all, earn or steal a little more than subsistence demands), they let the land lie idle.  The prices of food increased but the wealthy didn't mind.  The peasants starved.  Land lay empty all around them, they begged for work, begged for land in which to plant some food - but their begging fell on deaf ears.  The rich were like my stupid fat cells, hoarding all the goodness inside while my body breaks down around it.  It wasn't necessarily malice, but apathy - they couldn't be bothered to go to the trouble.

And what the fat cells don't realize is that they support - or ruin - the body in which they dwell.  Personal hoarding makes a cell fatter but does not make the body better.  A well-stocked fat cell is a blessing and a joy, when the fat is able to be burned for energy, when it cushions bone, when it does its job.  (Anyone medical is probably dying with laughter, but you know what I mean!)

One of my favourite stories of fat-cell success starts in a small town in Zimbabwe.  There was a woman whose husband died, and she had four children.  She had always worked the family garden while her husband earned money to buy the things she couldn't grow - school fees, meat, bus fare, that sort of thing.  But with him gone, what was she to do?

She asked a visiting doctor for a loan.

After two years, she paid back half of the loan.  After four years, she repaid the remaining balance, with interest.  In those four years, she had used the loan to keep her children in school, food on the table, and eventually opened a store.  The loan met her need, and enabled her to establish the means to keep her needs being met into the future.

That is the fat cell, working well.

The super-wealthy can be resource banks, or they can be resource vaults - and society suffers when they are resource vaults.

You want to know the amount of the loan that made such a difference in the widow's life?

Forty dollars.

I think of that Target CEO and his former employees and I get so mad - he failed, and he gets THAT kind of money?  The system that funnels the resources his way is broken, the same way that my PCOS body sends all my carbs straight to lockdown.

Until I realize that I can compare myself in the other direction too.  I'm also a fat cell.  Compared to a lot of the world, a hoardy one.

We've all got resources - we can use them, we can hoard them, we can cultivate them, we can let them rot -

But no matter who we are, I think Haley's lesson from Economics 11 stands.

Those who can, should.


PS - They haven't found a cure for PCOS yet - but there are ways of working around it and managing the symptoms.  It's a lot of work - but the effects are beautiful (some of them are sleeping upstairs as I write).

PS2 - That doctor was so inspired, he turned around and inspired a lot of people.  Microloans are a thing - Google it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Basic Economics I: Haley's Lesson

I took Econ 11 in grade ten, the same year I learned that my body wasn't one of the ones that worked entirely properly.  I wasn't diagnosed with PCOS then, but I could have been.  Should have been?  But maybe I wasn't ready to hear.  Either way.
The thing I remember most about Economics wasn't in the textbook, wasn't in a lecture, wasn't my teacher - whom I loved; she was comfortable, kind, and had understanding eyes - it was in a quiet and beautiful moment with one of the Barbiest girls in school.
The class dynamic was unique for me - there were only four girls - and there were students from every grade.  I was used to girl-heavy classes like French Immersion and Advanced English, classes where I knew most of the kids.  I didn't know anyone at all when I walked into that room.  It was fun to be in a room where no one knew me - where I got to decide what side of me to be for fifty minutes a day.
Haley was perfectly gorgeous - slim and graceful and shiny - and likeable, though really really bad at Econ.  She picked me as a partner for every project, and all the boys tried to sit next to us and steal our ideas.  It was far from my normal - and it was awesome.
One day - probably a Friday afternoon, that chafing time of week - we were supposed to be doing groupwork, and became too rowdy to bear.  The teacher slammed her textbook down on her desk and shouted. She gave us to the count of ten to put our desks back in rows and sit still and quietly or else we'd have to stay after class.  There was a huge scraping and clanking as we whipped our desks back into place and dashed to sit down.
Just when she reached ten, the room fell silent.  Every desk was in place, and every body was still.  In front of me, J didn't notice that his stack of books was teetering on the edge of his desk - hipchecked by a lanky grade twelve on his way down the aisle.
The teacher turned to the board and began to write our homework down, when the books came crashing to the floor.  She turned, dagger eyes at the ready.
Nobody dared move.
If we stirred, we risked the wrath of the entire class - nobody wanted to be the one to make everyone stay late.
But the awful thing was, J was in a wheelchair, and couldn't pick up his own books.  It had to be one of us.  The books just lay there, weighted with meaning, a challenge, a metaphor.
It felt like forever until someone was brave enough to stand up and pick up the books.  Haley stood up and walked across the room.  She picked up each book and dusted it off and made a neat pile on J's desk.
You know that ache in the back of your throat that you get when you see something that's just about perfect?  Haley might've been bad at Econ 11, but she understood the driving imperative of a good economy - that those who can, should.
I've got too much to say about this topic for one post.  More later.
Haley, wherever you are - God bless you.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Crazy, Good Night

Kachi turned three months old last week. 

He's the dearest thing.  

He's bright and chatty, a good sleeper, a cranky teether, and sweetheartedly content.  (Teether - crazy, I know! He already has one tooth, and another is just about to break through the gums.)

I totally thought life with three kids would be insane.  I pictured harried evenings with Patrick and I stressed as we took turns juggling screamers, pukers, and poopers.  I thought their neediness would increase as they needed to compete for attention and time.  I thought it would be a lot harder right now.

It was a little tough at the beginning, when Kachi was still getting up in the night.  But we have wonderful little sleep-lovers, and all three of our kids slept through the night early.  I think that might be the life-saver ;).  

We have our busy moments, where I'm rushing from one need to meet another need and yet another is calling out for me - but overall, the kids are learning to be independent and patient, and I'm learning to prioritize ;).

Most evenings find us kissing Sam and Vava goodnight quite early, feeding Kachi his last bottle, then enjoying a few hours of solitude and rest.  It's awesome, and I'm so grateful for every moment.  

Tonight though - tonight was one of the nights I'd worried about.

Kachi woke up five minutes after I put him in bed for the night, jamming his little fists against his gums and squirming.  Patrick left for a meeting, so I turned on a show and just cuddled and paced with Kachi (his favourite soothing technique).  After a few angry screams, I realized he wasn't settling as he usually does, and it finally dawned on me that he was hungry - half an hour in his jolly jumper had really worked up an appetite.  So I mixed up a bottle for my squirmy, out-of-sorts boy and we wrestled our way through a bonus feeding.  Finally, he let out an enormous grunt and I realized he needed a fresh diaper.  Just then, I heard a huge wail from upstairs.

Sam occasionally has nightmares.  He has a recurring one where Spiderman takes him away and I don't come for him.  So I left stinky Kachi in the livingroom and ran as fast as I could up the stairs, hoping to interrupt the nightmare before it got worse and woke up Vava as well as Sam.
I dashed across the room and leaped onto the bed, wrapping Sam in my arms ... only to realize I wasn't leaping, I was skidding, and slipping, and sliding - in an enormous puddle of vomit.

I squawked, and woke Vava, who somehow had managed to sleep through the puking and wailing in her room ... 

And so I found myself running a bath, changing my clothes, stripping a bed, spraying a mattress, washing two toddlers (Vava couldn't sleep anyway) all at the same time - and then finally changing that longsuffering bottom and popping the baby in the tub too, because why not? 

After a few stories, cuddles, and kisses, all three of them fell back asleep.  

It's the silliest thing - and I wouldn't want my nights to usually be like this, because I'd be an exhausted wreck - but I loved feeling so needed and capable.  Taking care of them makes me feel so much more family-y.  I love that Sam was sobbing for Mama, that Kachi lit up with delight to join Sam and Vava in the tub, that Vava didn't want to sleep without "my boy, my Sam."  I loved seeing her hug him gently and kiss him goodnight.  I loved Kachi smiling at me as his eyes grew heavier and heavier, and he cuddled closer in my arms.  I love that there were fresh sheets and blankets folded in the cupboard, diapers stacked in Kachi's room, cozy clean pyjamas to dress them in, and stories to send them contentedly off to sleep.  I love that they're all sleeping soundly, the washing machine is humming, and the scent of Burt's Bees Baby wash still hovers in the air.

I know that they will grow and their hearts will break and their lives will grow complicated and there won't be anything I can do to make it all go away.  It will take a lot more than fresh bedding and a hot bath to make everything all better.  But right now, I get to be the one who comforts them, cleans them, makes them cozy, and sends them into peaceful sleep.

For this messy, brief moment, I'm enough.

And oh - 
it feels good.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

3611 to 3620

3611. Flowers that smell like spring.
3612. Sam and Vava playing happily together.
3613. Kachinvya's happy alertness.
3614. Love-texts.
3615. A new book.
3616. Sunshine.
3617. Micah playing with Sam while I cleaned unhindered.
3618. Vava wanting to sit on my yap :D.
3619. Our church getting a new pastor.
3620. Laughing with Patrick.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ohhh Mama!

My tender-hearted Sam had such a rough day yesterday.

His gorgeous hair was overdue for a trim this weekend, so on Saturday I popped him on a stool and snipped away. I am never very sure what I'm doing, and while the back was tolerably even, I messed up above one ear, and took a little too much off one side.  So yesterday, Patrick asked Sam if he wanted a haircut like his, with the clippers. Sam was ecstatic at the thought of using papa's clippers, so we went upstairs.
The first pass with the clippers was fun - "that tickles!" Sam giggled.  But partway through the process, Sam started crying. "Put it back!" he wailed.

His gorgeous curls! Gone! Ahh I know it grows back but his stricken face completely pierced my heart. And there was nothing to do but hold him tight and finish the job. He thrashed and screamed and fought until he saw I was crying too. Then he sobbed "ohhh mama!" and threw himself into my arms.

He wouldn't even look in the mirror. 

The storm passed and we went out for supper and a little playdate, and he wore the cutest hat to keep his head warm. It wasn't until after bathtime, though, that he finally peeked in the mirror at his new look.

He grinned at himself, and then smiled shyly at me. "You're so handsome!" I said, kissing him.

"I know," he laughed, streaking down the hallway toward his pyjamas.

This mother-heart is sore today, and I'm sure I have more silver in my hair than I did yesterday morning. But hey, I can always buzz it away, right? ;)

Friday, January 16, 2015

3601 to 3610

3601. My patient Patrick.
3602. Snowsuits.
3603. Great grocery prices.
3604. Dancing with the kids.
3605. My kids' forgiveness.
3606. Heat!
3607. Kachi laughing so loudly he startled himself.
3608. Sam speaking tenderly to his brother, "hi Kachimbeewa, are you my tweasure? Yes you are, yes you are!"
3609. A reminder to parent gently.
3610. My night to sleep on the undisturbable side of the bed ♥.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

3591 to 3600

3591. Happy kids who don't seem to feel the cold.
3592. Kachi being so cute and content while I fed the bigs.
3593. Aunt D picking up Patrick and brushing the snow off our car.
3594. Vava, super absorbed in playing with her toys.
3595. Sam's single tear at the sad point in his movie.
3596. Sam asking for "a yittle candy?" (I can't resist that "yittle".)
3597. Finding a duplicate of Sam's long lost and deeply missed dinosaur.
3598. Watching The Musketeers with my OTL.
3599. Having book-nerd friends who really get it.
3600. The prospect of heat returning tomorrow!! Hooray for a fixed furnace!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

3581 to 3590

3581. Patrick zooming home when I was scared by the furnace noises.
3582. Vava telling me she loves me, for no particular reason.
3583. Sam holding my hand while we cuddled on the couch.
3584. Making awesome plans for February.
3585. Kachi trying so hard to smile at me, as sleep took over.
3586. Fleece sheets.
3587. Patrick knowing me so well.
3588. Huge slow snowflakes falling.
3589. Meeting a nice mom.
3590. Eating from a pretty bowl.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


3581. Kachi's laid-back morning awesomeness.
3582. Vava looking so pretty in turquoise.
3583. Sam laughing uproariously.
3584. Friends.
3585. Dark chocolate cranberry coconut cookies.
3586. Vava putting herself in timeout because Sam was there.
3587. Finding Waldo with Sam.
3588. Dancing in the kitchen (again)!
3589. Finishing another gymbook.
3590. Getting lost in my year-plan Bible and reading a few days ahead.

Monday, January 12, 2015


3571. Kachinvya smiling up at me whenever I catch his eye.
3572. Sam's duplo robot.
3573. Vava singing and dancing in the kitchen.
3574. My reading buddy at the gym.
3575. Everything I went to buy being on sale at the grocery store.
3576. Patrick being so good at putting the kids to bed.
3577. Vava wanting to sit in a big-girl chair at the table.
3578. Fun songs.
3579. Sam helping Kachi in the jolly jumper.
3580. Kachi loving his soft book.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


3561. Homemade banana, pb, & chocolate chip ice cream.
3562. A sleeping baby to cuddle.
3563. Selfies with my Vavalove.
3564. Sam in a suit.
3565. Teenagers praising.
3566. Kind smiles.
3567. Running across the parking lot with the kiddoes.
3568. Sunshine.
3569. Homemade dressing that's plate-lickin' good.
3570. Vava taking Kachi's jolly jumper for a spin.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sunday, January 4, 2015


Patrick took Sam to the store today to pick out something with his Christmas gift card.  I'm glad it wasn't me.

Buying things for Sam is seriously fun.  He receives presents as if it were an Olympic sport.  His eyes grow huge, his grin is enormous, and his gratitude? Adorable.

But buying things with Sam?

He forgets what he loves, what he has been asking for, what he can actually do with the toys in front of him.  All he sees are the pictures on the package.  He wants the toy with the most amazing picture.  Some part of him truly believes he will be dirtbiking through a mud puddle if he buys the cheap plastic toy bike with a really action-packed picture on the package.  And the lamest toys seem to have the most wildly promising pictures.  Patrick and I try to steer him toward the things we know he loves, like the lego train set he's been dreaming of, but once he's captivated by an empty-promise picture, it's like he's blind to everything else.  He refuses to see the other toys - his eyes close and he just says, "no no no no no!  Stop it! I want this one!"  And - since it's his purchase - we don't override his decision.  He gleefully grabs his choice and clasps it as tight as he can all the way to the checkout, eyes bright and heart pounding with anticipation.  He surrenders it just long enough for the scan before fishing his beloved treasure out of the bag.  He hugs it the whole way home, then races inside, kicks off his boots, opens it and ... deflates.

No mud puddle.  No motocross course.  No actual dirtbike.  Just a flimsy scrap of plastic and a torn package.

Hello, mirror.  Hello, me.

As frustrated and sorry as I am to see Sam's decision making process, I can't blame him.  He's three.  I'm thirty-two, and I do the same thing.

I'm not as easily fooled at the store (although sometimes, yep, still get drawn in by a sale sticker and celebrity endorsement), but when the stakes are higher?  Drawn in like a sucker.
I struggle with knowing my own mind.  I struggle with choosing what I actually want:, the things that bring me deep-down joy or the things that other people tell me will give me joy.

And God doesn't always step in and override my decisions.  He lets me choose.  But He does try to nudge me in the right direction.  "This," He says, pressing my heart toward path A, "is a good and satisfying path.  You will love it."  But I shake my head.  I don't believe Him, not really.  Oooh Path B, now that would be the logical choice.  That's what my friend chose in similar circumstances.

And I try to figure it out, with my limited understanding of the future and my even more limited understanding of myself and the plans God has for me.  I'm Sam, standing in the aisle dazzled by packages, somehow sure that my parents are telling me to choose the lamest toy possible.

Every time Sam listens to us (and we're only telling him to choose the ones that we know he most deeply wants), he loves his purchases.  These are the toys he plays with again and again, the ones that bring him the most joy.  But most often, he doesn't listen to us.  The glitz and marketing fool him into believing that we want him to be less happy, to make a boring purchase and miss out on a really great toy.  Oh - silly, toddler Sam.

We are always looking out for his best interests.  When he's toy-shopping, we want him to have the best toys, the ones that will bring him the most fun ... because we love him.

God is pressing this into my heart and I pray it stays seared like a brand.

When His choice and my choice collide, let me always choose His!!! He knows me and my fickle heart better than I do, and His choices - oh, they will bring me the deepest joy, the most lasting gladness.  Me? I'm fooled by shades of understanding that barely scratch the surface.  I somehow think that the tempting path, the one He didn't suggest, will suit me better ...

Let me throw my own decisions to the wind, and cling hard to His.  Let me submit to His great will, and walk free in His Best path.

Whenever I have, I've never regretted it.

You know, when I was looking into 2015, I wanted a word that captured the feeling of this.  I'd settled on brave, because I want to be brave to say YES to whatever God suggests.  But really, there's nothing brave about it.  It's the most safe, the most sensible course.  I'm renaming it, my word for 2015.  I'm choosing instead the word bow - to remind myself to bow to God's will gladly, fearlessly, with anticipation.

Because He loves me, and He knows me
More than I, more than I.

Happy New Year, friends.