Delayed at Procrastination Station

This one’s for Mr. Niceguy…who ever so sweetly purchased a book for me all about being Happy!  xoxoxo

Once again I find myself in procrastination station but instead of beating myself up, I got a little help from none other than the Big Man upstairs…

It’s 1:05pm and just over 96 hours ago, with the prospect of a long weekend ahead, I had compiled a list of much needed projects to complete:  tackle new outdoor lighting, replace kitchen faucet which has been on the fritz for over 3 years (no word of a lie but a fritz that just doesn’t really merit the effort), consider applying for a blogging gig, and buy outfit for special dinner in my honour.

Oh, and of course, being one who is very involved in my culture and community, I have about a million obligations borne out of my volunteering.  So where do I begin?

Here I thought that leaving a job that afforded me with very little time to manage house, home, family and self, would now provide me with the kind of space I needed to “get it all done.”  Not quite.  But then, I can’t blame it all on the work – or no work.  For you see, the reason for my procrastination is not because of laziness, fear or an unwillingness for change.  Rather, it is my absolute tendency towards being ever-so-slightly, a self-diagnosed ‘haver’ of ADD.

royal-tenenbaumsLike just this past weekend out of the sheer goodness of my heart and inherent, perpetual guilt, I had agreed that Mr. Niceguy, the 7 year old and 4 year old would accompany my parents to a post-church Easter dinner.  While I wasn’t thoroughly excited to attend this dinner, I’m glad I did for what I observed would have provided much fodder for a Wes Anderson movie (think The Royal Tannenbaums or The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)…

As we took our seats, I thanked the heavens that I’d had the wherewithal to bring along gaming devices for the boys for like most large-scale dinner events, we were in it for the long haul.  At every place setting there was one ruby coloured egg to be used for the “Easter egg wars” (he or she who has the last remaining, uncracked egg, wins!) and a cookie in the shape of the cross.  While the priest announced that we were not to touch the eggs, the cross appeared to be fair game and while I was busying myself with my own diversions, before I knew it those crosses were being held by guns by the 4 year old (!!!) and while he virtually stood on his chair yelling, “Pow!  Pow!  Pow!” I had to fight my every instinct to crawl under the table or smack that cookie out of his hands and politely asked him to please refrain from such boorish behaviour and to recall that God was watching him from above and so every single Octonaut toy would be confiscated by Him, never to be returned again.

Seemingly, everything was now in the “all clear” and I could return to the task at hand:  research for one of my volunteering commitments.  When all of a sudden, I heard a light rustling…and a little bit of a ‘crack-crack’.  Then that sweet, sulphuric, signature smell that can only mean one thing…an egg that would never make it to the egg wars.  Staring down both of my children, asking them to reveal to me who had broken the egg, they looked at me with those cherubic eyes and swore it wasn’t them.  So I turned, and right next to me was a bag, which formerly housed the cross cookie (now gone), filled with none other than ruby coloured eggshells, used tissues, and all sorts of other garbage…there on MY bread plate left by a neighbouring dinner companion!  This person had also hijacked my fork and was ever-so-slightly inching her seat over so that my claustrophobia started to kick in!

I felt grossly violated – at least my personal space did.  In an effort to avoid an absolute meltdown, I buried myself in my phone – from Instagram and Facebook to the new Realtor App (always getting ideas…) and Houzz – and neglected much of what was going on around me.

I began to block things out and in turn, found solace.  So what if I couldn’t be enjoying the sun, watching the world go by at a café with a latte in hand, so what if I was on automatic pilot and had responded to the dozen or so questions from my children about when the dinner would finally be served or for that matter, what we would be having for dinner, and so what if I was blatantly bribing them to stay put, stop using the cross cookies as guns and stop asking about the egg fights that they could stay up later and watch the shows they’d missed since they had to be at this event.  I was trying to survive.  Until…

Lo and behold, all of a sudden, I came face-to-face with the priest – and unfortunately I was the one uncensored.  My face was frozen in a weird sort of scowl slash look of disgust as I thought long and hard about the contents of that bag now on my bread plate, the lady at the next table making strange pucker faces at a baby who probably couldn’t see farther than its own hand and didn’t have the neck muscles to turn away, and the smell of cigarettes that somehow kept wafting over thanks to a group of “young adults” that kept ducking outside for a quick smoke making my throat constrict and my eyes water.  Had he been alerted by the “higher-ups” of my uncharitable thoughts?  Had God himself sent him over to remind me that there are more important things than my sense of space or my laundry list of things to do?  Either way, there he was, right in front of me.

I don’t consider myself a religious person.  But I do believe that there is something greater than us all.  Connecting us all.  And the thought that there is someone that watches over me and keeps me from, well, I’ll just call them life’s great burdens, is comforting.

96 hours after listing all of my “grand plans” I have accomplished nearly nothing…but I did watch the 7 year old make it as a finalist in the egg wars and the 4 year old try and skip stones at the beach afterwards while Mr. Niceguy and I took stock of our present.  I think I’ll hang out here, in procrastination station just a little while longer…although wait, what’s for dinner?!

sign from heaven

(Extreme) Spring Cleaning…

Spring has sprung.  The amuse-bouche of warm weather we’ve had in the last little while made me get a jump on my spring cleaning.  Now I’m not just referring to dusting, vacuuming or mopping – rather the acquisition and purging of wardrobe, the home projects that we’re now ready to take on, or the much needed manis, pedis, highlights and root repair!  But now that my speed train has just about pulled into the 40s station, should I be doing more?

While I crossed off many of these “more traditional” spring cleaning items off my list throughout the week, an unexpected turn of events over the weekend left me thinking, perhaps I need to abandon the traditional, go more modern, enter the “seemingly” mainstream and engage in a different type of help.

In other words, maybe it’s time to consider some extreme spring cleaning…

The circadian clock or rhythm governs our 24-hour biological cycle:  sleeping, wakefulness, alertness and all sorts of other biological functions (that need not be mentioned).  Related, I believe, is the seasonal rhythm or cycle that we experience:  more babies are born in the spring and summer, blues that we feel due to the lack of daylight in the winter, and the need for revitalization once we’re out of “winter hibernation” – the “self-spring-clean” to get ready for summer. circadian

In my 20s, I would use this time of year to shop ‘til I dropped:  new wardrobe, new accessories, a quick visit to a spa with some friends, a trip to the hair salon together with an extreme diet of nothing but steamed rice and air-popped popcorn, a DVD exercise program and voila, a glamorous reinvention – spring cleaning complete.  But two 47 pound pregnancies later (NO, that was NOT a typo, YES I most certainly DID gain EXACTLY 47 pounds with EACH child), along with the passage of most of my 30s (OK, virtually all of my 30s…) and things are not so straightforward…they’re mostly just heading downward.  And while the circadian rhythm can be derailed with a late night TV indulgence, the passage of time cannot.

Just this past weekend while socializing with other mommies at not one, but two kids’ birthday parties (again, proof that more babies are born in the spring), it seemed I wasn’t the only mommy thinking about more drastic measures. We spoke of a number of things – like the mommy makeover that comes following a pregnancy (lift, tuck, etc.).  From the simple act of abandoning low-rise jeans – for these do nothing to contain the muffin top – to the seemingly more complex decision to visit a clinic for an injection or two, I can’t help but think that while I hadn’t noticed (or wasn’t looking) these more intense measures at “self-spring-cleaning” seem to have entered the mainstream.  Am I behind the curve?  Should I be considering these more drastic measures at self-reinvention (or for that matter, self-preservation)?  Do I even dare?

It seems quite unfair that with age comes wisdom but the price you pay is in the looks department.  I wonder, if somewhere in the universe, there existed a great big control room with a lit panel that let you push whatever button you wanted, like, “Looks and brains stop at age 25” would I push it?

Whether it’s while plucking my eyebrows or washing my face, I can’t help but notice that a light pull of my cheeks up to my ears seems to erase the past decade.  Or a smoothing of my forehead makes all those “worry lines” or “thinking lines” go away.  I look young, I look refreshed, I look at ease. I curse my wayward ways that led me down the George Hamilton path of perpetual tans!  And I remember how my mother would tell me in my late teens and 20s to stop furrowing my brows together so tightly because one day, those lines would stay, and to eat more vegetables so that my body would gain more nourishment and ward off illness and old age.

Still, the passage of time does not discriminate.  Whether I had heeded her warnings or not, those lines would still be here and I recall… I used to furrow my brows together because I wanted to appear pensive and because somehow, they took my mind on a journey of knowledge.  I worried because I wondered if I would be a good mother to the children I’d someday bring into this world.  And I indulged because with all the hard work and effort I put into obtaining my degrees and my career achievements, it was important to taste those fruits of my labour.

So while I don’t have the answer today as to whether I will one day undergo a more extreme spring clean and go through with a poke or a slice, for now, I’m content that at least in my own eyes, I can still rock it (albeit with a little extra bit of work!)  And although my face crinkles just that little bit more than it used to when I smile, nothing in the world will keep me from smiling (not even a few extra laugh lines!!)

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Battle of the Sexes!

This week I have thought a great deal about the never ending battle of the sexes…and I’ve concluded, women win.

We survive continuous changes from puberty to our death, and we do it in stride!  Women are reminded virtually every 28 days of a “weaker state” yet we overcome.  We can bear another human being.  We can go through “the change” and still come out the other side while physiologically, the greatest challenge a man has is his daily routine of shaving a beard.

Now I’ve completely distilled it.  I’ve used a trump card that can’t be beat.  I realize this may be fighting dirty but I know I’m right.  For this week I have endured.  I have lasted.  I have won.

I have been ruminating about the battle of the sexes because I’ve been surrounded by two, very feverish children with undulating colds and a very ill Mr. Niceguy, poor, sweet Mr. Niceguy, who has been in a state of malaise.  And at every turn I have been met with one runny nose or another and the fear that every surface is contaminated with germs and so I must guard not to touch, sit, eat, smell or even look at anything!  Still, after a very extended weekend in our virus-laden house, I have endured.  I refuse to succumb to the illness that has gripped every male person in my household.  And I have concluded, it must be because I AM A WOMAN!!

I am told, women have stronger immune systems and we eat better, are neater, better at organizing, etc.  Surely that can’t be the only claim to superiority?  No.  The battle between the sexes has been raging through the ages and here’s how an article in the Mirror begins:

Men joke that women can’t parallel park, women say men have all the emotional intelligence of a plank of wood…

male-vs-female-brainThe article actually does go on to cite that Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found unique differences in brain connectivity between males and females:  male brains are structured for perception and coordination (like ducking if a ball was being thrown straight at them) while the female brains are wired for coordination between analysis and intuition (like examining evidence in a high profile crime case and knowing when your client is lying to you).

Essentially, we are two different species when it comes to how our brains work.  But like the article asks, who’s best?  I’m quite certain it will (unjustly) be a tie…

From the standpoint of intelligence – women win.  They have been scoring higher and higher scores on IQ tests and likely that is due to the fact that we, as women, have had to deal with greater complexities in the last century such as juggling family life while building a career.  Male brains are also adapting to the faster moving modern world, however not at the same pace as women’s.

Women also win when it comes to medicine – female doctors are said to be more cautious in that they order more vital tests, more likely to prescribe the right drugs and essentially, are less likely to tell a patient to swallow two Tylenols and call back in the morning.  I can’t say I’m one to speak on this as I’ve known great male and female doctors…but yay, another point!

We know women are great multitaskers – after all, they have to be.  And this may be an unfair challenge, but take it from me, as a woman, sometimes I wish multitasking was not an inherent, ingrained requirement.  Having said that, we win.    We are superfast at making dinner, doing homework, paying bills, writing up proposals and preparing lunches for the next day…ALL AT ONCE.

What I didn’t know, and was so happy to read about, is that we make great bosses – this is because I am bossy and now I have validation.  Truth is, however, that female bosses are fairer and make decisions that are more likely to benefit all stakeholders (also, if you don’t believe me or the Mirror, the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics found that female-influenced companies are generally more successful than those dominated by men).  Hear that?  Stand up women and let’s take over the world!

brain scanHere’s where we lose: at throwing, driving (WHAT?!), sleeping (no surprise) and at boozing.  Hmm…so what if I can’t throw a ball like Blue Jays’ pitcher, R.A. Dickey?  And ok, apparently men’s brains are better than women’s at visualizing 3D images which helps when it comes to parallel parking – I would like to add here that I am the QUEEN of parallel parking, even with my oversized Mom-UV!  Truth is, in general, I do have to agree with this one.  And sleeping – why of course men are better.  Remember that multitasking thing?  That doesn’t just shut off because it’s 11pm and time for bed…  And as for boozing.  I had to laugh – I am the cheapest date!  Apparently it’s because men are full of more water and so do a better job at metabolizing alcohol.  So touché, besides, I’m full of more brains…

So that’s it and just as I predicted – 4 to 4.  But is this really an even split?  I mean, can we weight these?  Surely intelligence must count for more than throwing?  Unless of course you had to “throw” a lasso to swing yourself out of a burning building?  But dare I ask, how would you know whether a lasso would be the thing to throw if it were not for intelligence?  Am I being too petty?

Uh-oh.  What’s that?  *cough, cough*  My throat is feeling scratchy.  My eyes are tearing up and watery.  Oh…I feel so tired, my body hurts, my head hurts…oh no!!  Can it actually be a TIE?

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Sisters before misters

We’ve all heard the term, “Bros before hoes”…how about, sisters before misters?  We too have an unwritten rule of backing up our girlfriends and not being sellouts…

Some time ago, I was out and about with Mr. Niceguy at a park.  And though I’d love to say we were alone and were on a romantic stroll, gazing into each other’s eyes, whispering sweet nothings, and getting ready to settle down for poetry over a nice picnic with some beaujolais, baguette and brie…the reality was that we were chaperoning our children which meant screaming at one not to throw sand at the other kids in the sandbox, while pushing the other for what felt like an eternity on the swings while having this type of conversation:

Me:  Hey, how was your day?

Mr. Niceguy:  Hmmph.

Me:  Did anything interesting happen at work?

Mr. Niceguy:  Nope.

Me:  How are the markets?  Are they up?  Are they down?  Are they up and down?  (tee-hee)

Mr. Niceguy:  Yup.

Me:  So things are going well then?  TSX hit a new high?  Or they could be better?  Markets still reacting to Russian aggrandizement?

Mr. Niceguy:  Huh?  Ya.  Hey, what are we doing for dinner?  Where are the boys?

frustrated-momSo, it can be a nice change to run into other parents at the park.  I find it’s a good way to have some adult social time and to commiserate.  After all, how else are we supposed to get through the sleepless nights, the teething, the terrible twos, the not wanting to wake up and go to school, the nagging and whining and all that other not-so-great stuff?

While children are definitely one of life’s greatest joys, let’s be real…all good comes with some bad and having a support system to deal with some of their curve balls is an absolute must!

Anyway, on one such occasion we met a couple while at the park.  The conversation flowed freely and we were all enjoying ourselves, reveling in the happenstance for adult time while the children ran around, until the moment when the woman from the couple had to tend to her tantrum-having-toddler and her spouse came over and made a slight complaint to me…about her!  I was completely taken aback.  Now while what he said really wasn’t a big deal, it was really weird – not only because we’d just met but also because it felt like I’d been transported right back to high school, like to an episode of Glee – yes, I still watch it, and did you see Gwyneth last week?  She was AWESOME – where I was now put in a position of “high drama” and “inner conflict” and had to figure out “the right thing to do”…  My inner monologue started to work overtime as I broke out into a cover song and dance routine in my head.  Hadn’t this guy heard about “sisters before misters”??  Didn’t he know the code?  Things just got a little too intimate…

Now let me explain what I mean when I say, intimate.  Not intimate like being intimate with a loved one in the bedroom when you’re…well, NO!  Intimate like when you’re getting ready for a very important first meeting so you try and retry outfit after outfit and finally settle on a cute skirt paired with a sweater and booties that will carry you from that meeting to an après work drinks party that you just got invited to and can’t miss because since you left your middle-management-downtown-financial-district-career, gone are the days of regular Thursday night drinks and throwback parties where the beers are bankrolled and you don’t just talk about homework and compare extra curriculars but bitch about bosses, new initiatives and unreasonable work expectations.

After all that daydreaming, you realize that you’re going to be late and so no more revisions on the last outfit iteration and off you race to the subway (which before, was the bane of your existence, but now, an out-of-the-norm treat) only to realize when you get on the train that your sweater shrunk more than you thought after you freshened it up in the dryer (bloody merino wool and bloody hard-to-set-dryer-timer!!) and that you’re going to have to sit through an entire quasi-interview / meet-and-greet / bacon-to-my-bread meeting fidgeting with a now very tight and itchy crop top and though you try your best, you are no match for nature and you flash your still-not-washboard stomach and belly button to the utter amazement and surprise of not just you, but the prospective employer.  THAT kind of intimate.  (Oh, and true story by the way)

So how does one respond?  By now, I believe I’ve expressed (in rather eloquent detail, if I do say so myself) that while I can have the strongest of opinions, I can also be a cowardly jellyfish – I responded from a place of great surprise in between nervous giggles:  “Oh, ha ha.  OK.”  And while that would’ve normally been enough, the puzzled look on his face revitalized me enough to say, “Well, to each his own.  I think she’s doing a great job.” And walked away.  Though we’re not in high school anymore, it’s still sisters before misters…except where Mr. Niceguy is concerned, of course!

frozen sisters

 

The (unexpected) joys of travel???

Travel can bring out the best (and worst) in people.  It can be stressful trying to get from point A to point B which is unfortunate because it can also be an opportunity to learn and grow.  With the airline industry being what it is these days, unless you’re in an opulent, first-class suite on Emirates Airlines (dare to dream!) expectations for air travel are typically quite low and the attitude is certainly one of:  to it and through it! 

Air travel is fraught with perils of all things negative; at every turn chances are high that in one fell swoop you feel what’s like to be on an island in the South Pacific fighting in a multi-round elimination challenge to “win immunity” – or in this case, to board the plane, find room to stow all of your belongings, claim your armrest and get to your destination.

From packing the trunk with overstuffed suitcases (including the extra one that had to be brought along due to the weight allowances which were only discovered the night before), to the unpredictable traffic en route, to the ridiculously long lineup for bag tags (despite the fact that care and effort were taken to print boarding passes the night before), the dreaded security line (which, has much improved since the days of trying to juggle holding a finally sleeping infant, collapsing a stroller, and removing shoes all in one go while fending off glares of other passengers) and finally to the gate, onto the plane and into the “ever-so-coveted” **full blown sarcasm here** middle seat – the mode of travel for the foreseeable future as the windows are coveted by the 3 or 7 year olds and who can survive a tantrum in closed quarters? 

Suffice it to say, gone are the days when Mr. Niceguy and I could spontaneously take off with merely a carry-on between us, drinks at hand.

I practically grew up on airplanes.  Thanks to my dad’s career which took him to Saudi Arabia for nearly a decade, we spent much of our vacation times and certainly all of our summers, jet-setting (totally privileged!) making my sister and me expert travelers.  Air travel back then was also much more glamorous and much simpler – at least that’s how I’m going to choose to remember it…

Catch me if you can

Bitten by the travel bug and sprinkled with a dash of wanderlust (together with my commitment phobic tendencies) to me, there is nothing more exciting than going somewhere new and immersing myself – ok, not just anywhere but places where I can shop, lounge on a beach, shop, check out historic ruins, shop, pick up a new language, shop…you get the idea?  I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in the West Coast.  I braved March Break madness and took a flight to visit my sister and her family in Vancouver – Mr. Niceguy, 7 year old and 3 year old all in tow.

Having forgotten what it was like to travel during March Break (this not working thing is still new!), I was not expecting the chaos at the airport that comes with school holidays.

Boarding passes in hand, we made our way to the bag drop off and just when I thought things were going well, while getting some assistance from an airline attendant, a woman bud in front of the 7 year old and 3 year old who, diverted by all the excitement had left a large gap in front of us.  This woman just sauntered into line not minding that an agent of official capacity was speaking to us, not caring that she cut in front of the 50 or so other passengers who were patiently waiting, and certainly not at all concerned that she took advantage of my children!

I will not profess to be cool headed – those who know me or who have read my entries in the past know my longing to be a flighty, cool, hipster chick that lets things roll but alas, I have failed miserably.  Being Armenian, I have a predisposition to the “Armenian temper” and 0 to 60 and back down to 0 is something I can do in a split second.  However, this time, I stayed at 60…ok, 100.  See, this woman took advantage of my children who were surprised to be overtaken; she also took advantage of me and of all the other rule abiders.  She hijacked my travel experience!  I felt my eyes alight, my body temperature rise and I was poised for a fight and when she next paused, like a Maserati Gran Turismo, I maneuvered my cart and we overtook her but not without adding in my shy anger (the kind when you’re about to have a confrontation but can’t look the other party in the face because you really wish you weren’t having this confrontation but you will forever regret that you let yourself be a doormat), “you budded” ever so quietly lest the extremely proper and non-confrontational Mr. Niceguy hear.

She had the nerve to respond loudly, “well, we’re all going in the same direction anyway.”  WHA?I  My instinct took over, my inner struggle subsided and I just scoffed, “Ya, that’s right” and boy was I proud of myself…Mr. Niceguy was proud of me too, having witnessed the whole thing.  I felt so grand and dignified…and surely, this was magnified (and validated) by the fact that I was about to be bumped into the fast security line legitimately

Quick, boots off, lap top out, cell phone, pockets emptied, belt whipped off, push children through the checkpoint, get through checkpoint, boots on, repack bag, snatch children’s hands from conveyor, grab phone, beg children to stop trying to climb up on conveyor, fill pockets, yell at children in front of masses to take seats at far end where I can keep an eye on them, whip belt back on as pants now starting to fall, and no one, I repeat, no one, needs to see my favourite, comfy, “wedgie-proof-travel-undies”, glare at children while I walk over counting to 10 in my head taking long, measured breaths and reminding myself that it’s all about the journey…

As I said, for me the excitement of boarding a plane trumps just about anything.  Forget about the budding lady or the fact that my children were totally out of control, I had the golden ticket:  passes to the Air Canada lounge…this trip was about to get a whole lot more decadent…

After all my years of corporate travel (and only two or three visits to the lounge thanks in large part to budget cuts and middle management) I, nay, WE had arrived.  I was worried about how disruptive the 7 year old and 3 year old were going to be…but perhaps I should’ve been more worried about me.  I couldn’t believe my eyes:  eggs, bacon, waffles, fruit, fancy yoghurt, exotic juices, mouthwatering pastries, and specialty coffees to my heart’s content.  All of a sudden 4 hours of sleep and waking at the crack of dawn didn’t matter.  Croissant dangling in mouth, latte in hand, I got to the magazine table:  Cars, business, fashion – I didn’t have to choose, I grabbed them all!  My troubles melted away….my cares melted away…my fear of having to sit next to the 3 year old for 5.5 hours melted away…like I said, we’d arrived…I could almost imagine being in that Emirates Air suite…

emirate suite

But how long do those kinds of sentiments really last when you’re travelling by air?

We got on the plane and to our happy surprise, were well accommodated. And despite the fact that I once again found myself squished in the old, reliable middle seat, my neighbor was extremely kind and helpful.  I tend to conserve energy on flights with the 3 year old (you have to be ready for the 8 minute circuit:  change dvd, go to washroom, change movie on screen, get something to eat, open window cover, close window cover, turn volume up, adjust headset, adjust air, change dvd again, go to washroom again to finish what was left unfinished…you get the drill) but my neighbor was so great that I partook in some light conversation, shared my Goldfish crackers, and even threw in a few jokes for good measure!

What happened next, however, came completely out of the blue.  After a (typical) seat mix-up that took the airline some time to sort out, a woman took the seat in front of the 3 year old.  She had barely occupied her exit row seat with ample leg room for more than a minute when she stood up, turned around, looked at my 3 year old and said, “Now you make sure not to kick my chair.  I don’t like that.” 

If I asked what you thought of this woman, what would you say?  How would you take that?  Would you wonder why she spoke directly to the 3 year old?  Would you ask about the tone in which she made that statement?  Certainly, you may wonder about your own state of mind at the time which would affect your perception when she uttered those words.  Like if you were feeling particularly upbeat after a visit to the VIP lounge, would you take it well?  Either way, you have by now probably imagined what she looked like and perceived what she meant…

I was surprised.  Up to that point, the 3 year old had been an angel (the 8 minute circuits had not yet begun).  The plane hadn’t even taken off yet – no cross check, no safety movie, nothing.  Yet, this woman felt the need to make this statement.  Regardless of whether she was a sweet, lovely woman with a kind face – what happened next was even more surprising.  The entire 5 rows behind her on both sides of the plane had witnessed the event.  Had witnessed this tall, cratchity and grey woman with small, evil and squinty eyes, and a tone that was not quite sweet but stern, make this statement.  She became vilified.  All of those passengers condemned her.  And sadly for her, the occurrence was exaggerated,

“Did you hear what that @#$%^ said?  To that poor little boy?  His feet probably don’t even touch the chair!” 

“That evil woman wagged her finger and said that she would be very disappointed in that poor, little baby boy if he makes a single sound!”

“Wow, what’s wrong with that woman?  Some people are just crazy!”

I actually started to feel bad for this woman.  Unlike the woman who budded in line, in this situation I had 5 rows of people come to my defense – actually, to the 3 year old’s defense.  That felt really good.  What felt even better was the reaffirmation that sometimes keeping cool and maintaining my composure is of greater benefit than losing my @#$%!

In this woman’s case, however, I think had she looked differently or approached things with a little smile, she probably would not have been labelled as such.  Also, had she tried to not intimidate but rather, to request, no defense would have been required and her personal brand would likely not have been tarnished.  Never one to pass up an opportunity, after the initial shock subsided I decided to remain magnanimous and instead highlight discipline, “That lady is going to get mad at you if you don’t behave.”  But I think the 3 year old had learned that “preventative maintenance” would not work having picked up on the fact that the tall, cratchity lady had no credence and there were 5 rows of passengers who would back him up no matter what.  So started the 8 minute circuits…

I won’t go into the details of how I survived the rest of that plane ride…but survive is what I did.  So it should come as no surprise that my initial thoughts are also reinforced:  travel, the opportunity to learn and grow, to see human nature at its best – and worst!  Thankfully, I had a belly full of yummy pastries to get me through it and maybe, just maybe, someday I will make it to that Emirates suite…

kidsonairplane

Photo  was taken by Ma1974 on flickr

Frenemies…a necessary evil?

I’m feeling a little vulnerable…coping with the dreaded Identity Crisis is hard…much harder than I actually thought.  Once again, after years and years (and years) at the same job doing the same thing and referring to myself in the same way, I am now charting my own course.  And while I figure out exactly what that is and where I will go, I feel discombobulated, disadvantaged and confused.  [As an aside, I take full responsibility for part of the “discombobulation” which stems from my particular A-D-D-like nature:  I have so many ideas, see so many possibilities, and have so many desires that it’s hard to pick just one!  While some may call this a lack of focus, I say…well, that’s probably quite true!]

I know in my heart of hearts that the decision I have made is the right one (not just for me but for my family), although it seems that today and at this moment my “self-sabotaging” nature has got the better of me.  For example, while I had hoped for a very smooth transition into my woman of the world or female conqueror being…instead, I feel more like that circa 1952, Betty Crocker baking, bon bon eating, woman of the house…and I put myself here!  Truth is, I know that’s not who I am – nor is it someone I could pretend to be – but the reality is that I went from one uphill battle to another…from working in a very male dominated industry with extreme expectations to altering the perception that just because I’m on my own and I’m at home doesn’t mean I’m now a “Lady of Leisure”!  (Not that it would be a bad thing…?)

I keep wondering…am I letting down the Lean-In generation?

With International Women’s Day coming up on March 8thhave I let down the entire female species? 

Here, in my new office (the local Starbucks), I am left with the thought that these sentiments are akin to the whole frenemy conundrum – yesterday I caught up on the latest Glee episode which centred around frenemies and complicated relationships. Frenemies…we can all point to one or two in our circles…and just in case, here’s a definition from Wikipedia (which I think is très apropos!)

“Frenemy” is a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy” that can refer to either an enemy pretending to be a friend or someone who really is a friend but is also a rival.

For me, my frenemies have almost always fallen into the latter category.  I have been fortunate to have some of the most solid bunch of friends:  from my near and dears who challenge me and support me through life’s ups and downs, to my mom friends who have helped me tap into my inner nurturer and saved me from an unbreakable cycle of diapers and drama, to my work friends who are always up for a bitch session and a beer…like I said, I have been lucky.  But I’ve also been lucky – really lucky – to have had frenemies.

Frenemies can really make you feel small, unsure of yourself, and down.  Like try spending hours upon hours getting deflated balloonready (ok, maybe just minutes upon minutes as who am I kidding?  I can’t remember the last time I actually had hours to primp), picking that perfect outfit to go along with those brand new shoes which you know are KILLER statement pieces and will make any girl swoon and you show up and POOF.  You’ve been trumped.  Her shoes are more killer.  Her outfit, to die for.  Not a hair out of place, not a single nail chipped, not an unconfident bone in her body.  What’s worse – she’s totally oblivious to all of your effort at taking centre stage.  Fssssssss….like a deflating balloon whose fate is sealed, you try and endure.

But, frenemies have had their place in my life – and they certainly continue to.  They have fed my competitive nature, my need for rivalry, and my love of the game; they drive me to find that 10-letter word complete with a Q, X or Z with a triple word score, or fight tooth and nail to find a way to build hotels across Park Place and Boardwalk.

Without frenemies I perhaps wouldn’t have strived more, tried more, dared more and risked more.  Perhaps not right at those moments where I’d been defeated (while I was slinking in some corner wishing I could blend in with the drywall)…but definitely later.  They fed my dreams and desires and just when I had been ready to take myself out of the competition, they put me right back in.

I’ve often thought:  just stop competing.  Stop worrying and getting anxious about what you don’t have and focus on what you do.  Be present.  Be now.  Perhaps that works for some Zooey Deschanel-looking hipsters who are laid back and free spirited – but that’s not me.

With International Women’s Day right around the corner, I hope you will forgive this following imposition.  Let us women, all of us, agree to accept each other for who we are and the parts that we play.  There’s always so much to learn from everything…and every-ONE around you.

Besides, if I have frenemies, then I must be one too….onward and upwardTRUMP!  

onward and upward

Coming out of the dark…

‘Coming out of the dark’ was the title I gave the first chapter of a book I started to write nearly 8 or 9 years ago…I only got about half a page down when I abandoned the idea.  Perhaps it’s in the cards for me still…

There are (many) days when I wake up and think to myself, how am I going to get everything done?  I have a list that’s at least as long as my driveway (the longest in the City of Toronto – just saying, not actually…or perhaps?) and I’m just not sure where – or how – to begin.  This is a conundrum.  For example, writing this very entry is on that driveway-long-list, and I haven’t even really decided what I will write about.

Should it be about the fact that I’m sitting at my desk for the fifth-to-last time?  And that the lights in my office keep flickering on and off like torture – I’m sure to get a headache from all the flickering which really won’t be fair as the Bachelor is on tonight and I swear I’m going to lose it if he says, just one more time, to a blubbering girl with his Spanish accent, “Look at me.  Pliss.  Look at me.  Me.  Yes.  Look.  I no wanna see you cry.  That hurt me.  Pliss.  Don cry.”  The headache will just make me want to whip off my slipper and toss it at the TV screen…the TV screen that is, in just a few days, going to be my lifeline to civilization.

clare-the-bachelor-crying-juan-pablo

Come to think of it, tossing that slipper won’t be so bad considering that every time I wear those slippers, I get little electrical shocks when I open a drawer/hug my 3 year old/reach out for a napkin you name it!  I mean, last night I spent a good 10 minutes that I don’t have Googling, “What to do when there’s too much static electricity in the house” and “How to train yourself to become immune to static electricity” and finally “Harnessing the power of static electricity.”  After all, on any given day there is an energy crisis and quite frankly, since we’ve looked into alternative sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, why not static electricity?

If an entire monster town can be powered by a child’s screams or laughter, then why not think about static electricity?

Incidentally, I did read about an attempt to charge a cellphone with static electricity…

Ridiculous.  About as ridiculous as this flickering light…which has now stopped flickering.  And so I’m sitting in the dark, in my inner office with a view of three walls and a hallway…who actually thought that this kind of muted taupe-grey and faux wood would actually promote productivity?  I am at least fortunate enough to have a mildly interesting print hanging on the wall of the ocean…at least I’ve always thought it was an ocean…or is it a lake?  Perhaps it’s just a puddle…I don’t know.  But now that I look at it, all it is, is a series of more shades of taupe and grey.  Hummpphh.

I wonder if it’s grey outside…perhaps a quick glance out the window…right…just another wall.  No matter, what I do know, is that it’s cold.  Cold and windy.  On a more positive note, over lunch I thought it would be a good idea to shop for a bathing suit cover-all…I’m really willing the warm weather to return…HAAAAAAAAAPSHOOOOOOOOO!!!!  What was that?  HAAAAAAPSHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!  Oh no!  A sneeze!  Two!  I knew it!  This morning on the subway a young buck-wishes-himself-next-titan-of-industry (aka a man who fancies himself a highly important corporate person) was sucking on a cough lozenge and I must have caught this cold from him!  He kept breathing on me and I could smell his cough lozenge and it drove me crazy the way he kept rolling that huge lozenge in his mouth for EIGHT subway stops such that I could hear it clicking and clanking against his teeth – I wanted to shrink and just disappear – oh my skin is crawling just thinking about it…

WHY IS THE LIGHT STILL OFF????  DID MY GLOBAL PROFESSIONAL SERVICE FIRM FORGET TO PAY THE BILL????  Sheesh.  Must be because I resigned…YES!  I resigned.  About a month ago (I was nice and sweet and gave a month’s notice in order to transition properly and because, well, it seemed like the thing to do given I’ve been here for over a decade.)  But seriously…would I really be singled out like that?  And the thing is…it’s not like I’m just sitting here writing this entry.  No.  I’ve had some very important work to do all morning – and it’s all happened in the dark.  Ironic.  I have to smile.  I’ve often wondered if a lot of the time while doing my job here I was “in the dark” – be it the dark side or really “in the dark” and not realizing that there was so much more out there for someone like me…

Weird…the light just went on.  Like a light bulb in my brain.  And oddly enough, I’ve just tackled one more thing off my list…actually two (hint: this article and my little announcement). Time for something more.

Promise to provide a more “Spincycle-ish” entry next week…but then, this qualifies…doesn’t it?  Promises, promises…

In the dark

Marriage. That blessed arrangement…that dream within a dream…

One of my favourite aunties, though I can just barely call her that as she’s really so much more, recently sent me an article published in the New York times (perhaps Spincycle Diaries will one day grace its high brow pages…) about marriage.  Fitting, really, given the time of year what with Valentine’s Day, Family Day and spring being in the air…

???????????????????????????Marriage, as an institution, was not one that I entered in too lightly…though perhaps, I didn’t think too deeply about it either.  I mean, as soon as I’d laid eyes on Mr. Niceguy for the eighth or ninth time, I knew I wanted him to ask me.  Let’s digress for a moment…with Mr. Niceguy it was not love at first sight – no lightning or thunderbolt city (I borrow that statement from Tom, a favourite character in the movie, Four Weddings and a Funeral).  But apparently, for Mr. Niceguy, the moment he saw me, it was thunderbolt city for him (yay!)  He knew he would marry me…and so he very cunningly began his campaign to do just that.  So when he finally did get me to notice him, notice him I did.  And I knew that I was so intrigued and beguiled that I had to have him ask me to marry him.

But having a boyfriend, getting engaged and then even planning a wedding – these are not the real precursors to a happy marriage.  In fact, they are not at all related…though choice, now that certainly goes a long way.  I think of the wedding scene in Princess Bride.  Had the wedding to Prince Humperdink actually occurred, I think Princess Buttercup surely would have committed suicide eventually.

With nearly half of all marriages ending up in divorce, is marriage an institution that we should aspire to be in?

The only way I can think of to answer this question is as follows: it depends.  While marriage is not for everyone, for those who feel they have found the right person, it may very well be.  According to the New York Times article, The All-or-Nothing Marriage by Eli J. Finkel, marriages in general have become less satisfying…because of an “all or nothing” proposition.  In that, our expectations are just too high and so the institution of marriage is at a disadvantage when it comes to meeting our “needs.”  Cited as perhaps one of the bigger reasons for the decline in marital satisfaction is the lack of time spouses spend with one another; spouses, who spend time alone with each other, talking or sharing an activity, are likely to be happier.  While the institution of marriage may have initially served a basic need (protection, security, maintaining title, and accumulation of wealth) Finkel states that since around 1965, the self-expressive marriage emerged:  marriage as a means of self-discovery, self-esteem and personal growth.

So in keeping the “Self-Expressive Marriage” in mind…here’s what happened a few days ago…

Me:  So…ummm….it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow.  Uh…well, where are you taking me for dinner?

Mr. Niceguy:  *shrug* Huh?  What?  I didn’t make any plans.

Me:  *incensed* What?  Why?  Don’t you know me?  I love surprises and a chance to partake in such an important, albeit manufactured, holiday…why, how else will you express how much I mean to you?  (Self-discovery)

Mr. Niceguy:  *annoyed* Are you serious?  Do you really think that?  The kids have Kung Fu…

Me:  SCREW KUNG FU!!  I’m not showing up to Kung Fu with you – like ‘oh look at us, we didn’t even bother to make plans for Valentine’s Day’ oh no!  I DESERVE one day a year.  In fact, I get TWO days:  Valentine’s and my birthday.**  That’s just two out of 365 days – just 0.5% of the year – even less in a leap year.  You know I love it when you make plans to show me that you love me and you do things for me all the time, but this is a special day and, well, I want it.  Please?  (Self-esteem)

Mr. Niceguy:  Okay, okay.  I’ll see what I can do… (personal growth)

WesleyandButtercupThere you have it.  I couldn’t agree more with Finkel.  Such insight.  But I will add the following: overcoming adversity – kind of like the adversity overcome by Wesley and Buttercup (or like another fun favourite, like Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock’s characters in the movie, The Proposal).  Perhaps that’s a part of personal growth…but I think it should be a category of its own.  This may be a little mushy…so I’m warning you readers.

When I did enter the institution of marriage, it was on the heels of one of the biggest parties I’d ever attended, much less thrown.  But all of that pomp and circumstance, the sheer joy and bliss, would give way quickly as there was a lot going on for both of our families and for each of us – which I won’t get into here – but things that really tested our bond and our commitment to one another.  Many times I found myself thinking, can I do this?  And over the years, our bond has been challenged, time and again, for many reasons notwithstanding professional baggage or the trials and tribulations that come with having children.  In fact all of the kinds of things that cause one to “grow up”…

Yet…it is this adversity that has brought us closer together…me and my Mr. Niceguy.  While I wish we didn’t have to go through some of them, I am grateful that we’ve navigated through together.  This marriage thing is definitely for me.  Happy Valentine’s Day…

**Note…subsequent to the writing of this entry, we discovered that there are, in fact, THREE days a year that I get – the third being the wedding anniversary I share with Mr. Niceguy.  *GUSH*

the_proposal19

Field trip through the ages…

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying the 7 year old’s class on a school field trip to the new Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto as a parent volunteer.  I was responsible for my son and two other boys from his class – together, Les Trois Mousquetaires, and with Athos, Porthos and Aramis to my d’Artagnan, we set off on our adventure:  all for one, and one for all!  The shenanigans these muskateers pulled were absolute classic from insisting that they knew more than the guides, to suggesting the existence of extinct mega-sharks (megaladon shark – more deadly than the T-Rex!) in the tanks to passersby – but these were no match to their absolute glee, exhilaration and delight over their adventure.  This got me thinking…

During my elementary school years, I remember looking forward to field trips with such excitement that I would lose sleep at night or continuously ask my parents “how much longer ‘til I go?” and prepare, redo and refine lists of things to bring, what to wear and weigh decisions about who to sit next to or pair up with.  Ahhh…the field trip.  So many wonderful things would happen on the field trip…

sea cucumberIn the early years, it was all about getting out of the routine of being in a classroom and – for the über nerd in me – the opportunity to learn by doing instead of by reading.  Growing up in Saudi Arabia had its advantages and I will never forget the one field trip that our school was able to organize (at the time, field trips were generally tricky for expats in Saudi for a number of reasons).  Aside from extracurricular activities at school that consisted of ballet, computers (which in the early 80s were a real treat) and survival swimming (I would swear that I could hold my breath for a full two minutes underwater and tread water for over 15 minutes fully clothed, shoes and all) this field trip supplemented my regular classroom learning and shaped me in a very profound way.  I was taken to the Red Sea where I was able to swim with many exotic species and was even given a sea cucumber to hold which in its frightened state, defecated on my hand.  True story.  And despite that one event, it was on that field trip that a love of adventure (and the sea) really took hold.

Years later in high school, field trips provided the opportunity to find the courage to sit next to the boy I had a crush on and was otherwise too shy to approach.  Somehow field trips broke barriers and allowed for the transcending between classes – and by that I don’t mean grades or levels.  There were the mean girls, the jocks, the nerds, the Italians, the preps, the headbangers, and so on and so forth.  I fell into none of these categories as my three very close friends and I were drifters and spoke to people in all groups regardless of boundaries – though that didn’t mean we belonged.  Again, I attributed this to my sense of adventure – never wanting to set roots or belong to any one group or place, instead experiencing as much as possible.

One particular field trip to watch a production of Shakespeare’s MacBeth led me to an on-again-off-again boyfriend and a relationship that would last throughout most of high school; a relationship that may never have been possible otherwise.  He ran with a pack that socialized only with a certain group, but it was on field trip day that I got noticed, as barriers came down and I was viewed through more objective lenses.

Years later, it would be the corporate retreat or holiday party that replaced the school field trip.  Call it what you will:  teambuilding, leadership training, soft skill building workshops, blah-blah-blah training.  The reality is that these corporate retreats are just adult field trips – nothing more than boondoggles and opportunities for hookups and scandal!  Though I never partook in the hookup and scandal part (for most of my corporate life I have been spoken for and have had enough wherewithal to not jeopardize things with my Mr. Niceguy), I certainly was not above the gossip, rumour or conjecture and it was amazing to see how a change from the routine, once again, would result in many a lapse in judgement, atypical behavior and regret.  And the holiday parties or socials were no different – just a retreat packed into a few hours rather than a few days.

My tendencies again, ingrained, once more would reveal themselves:  adventurous and fun loving and perhaps a little naïve.  I’ve written in the past about being emboldened by one such work party and ordering round after round of Kamikaze shots for “all my friends at the bar”, while standing next to the company president.  Though perhaps I haven’t written about my tendency to also have a couple of drinks, jump up on a bar (or any elevation really) and shake my groove thang!  Once again, I blame it on the field trip.  Regardless of my day-to-day self, field trips have a way of bringing out one’s hidden side…

So today, it was nice to see the beginnings of the “field trip persona” for my Trois Mousquataires…especially evident when Athos, or was it Porthos, or perhaps Aramis exclaimed, “this is the best day of my life so far.”  As a sort of d’Artagnan, or student to the ways of these 7 year olds, they reminded me of the simplicity of life and the ability to find pure joy in the everyday which triggered so many memories, flooding my brain.

It is a rare privilege to get a glimpse of people experiencing moments that will shape them forever – whether they’re moments of real learning, of overcoming, or even of regret.  In my case, I wonder…perhaps when these three musketeers are older, they will recall this field trip – with that same twinkle in their eyes – as the start of something…

Until the next field trip!!

three muskateers

Screw the weather…I’ll just make lemonade!

I AM SO SICK OF WINTER!  There, I said it.  And now I’ve joined the grumpy, bundled up masses just trying to get through the day without freezing off their a**es!   Generally, I love winter, love the snow, love the beauty of it…I even love the cold when I’m prepared for it as it utterly fascinates.  But today, at this time, I’m sick of it – let me explain…

Growing up in the desert (Saudi Arabia), has made me appreciate extremes.  For example, the heat in Saudi, is very similar to that of say, Vegas (if one makes it outside the casino) – unrelenting; like being a chicken cutlet in a 450 degree oven.  So for me, the arctic-like cold is also fascinating.  Without the appropriate protection, one can freeze to death.  And it is this danger that fascinates.  And this amazement that makes me realize that I’m so small – my problems, are so small – and that life is a precious and privileged thing.

Six_Emperor_PenguinsWhile I’ve reveled in these thoughts of puniness, and insignificance, and relished in the bigger picture (i.e. boys stop fighting don’t you realize that the climate outside is colder than where the penguins in that movie live?!  That shut them up…) I’m now completely in the present.  And my problems don’t seem puny or insignificant for I have discovered a hole in my boot.  Not a metaphor…but a real hole in my boot.  And NOT one that is obvious either. NO.  Just a tiny, small crack that for the past 2 weeks has been the source of perplexity…

It’s hard to think of the wonder, the greater, the bigger and the larger when you have a hole in your boot!  I bought these boots that are supposed to insulate and protect – to shield me from the cold.  And now that my defenses are down, my problems have become the wonder, the greater, the bigger and the larger.  The solution should be simple…buy a new pair of boots.  In February, however, every store window has succumbed that winter has overstayed its welcome and so I’m met with “oh, sorry ma’am, we sold out weeks ago” more times than I care to share and “did you check out our new cruise wear?”   Say what?!

I have an “I want it all” attitude.  And this attitude has fuelled many a decision – one in particular which I will divulge in the coming weeks (stay tuned!)  Just this past weekend, while having dinner with some friends I was asked, “Do you prefer it when your mascara fans out your lashes or makes them thicker?”  To which I responded, “Why can’t I have both?”

If I can’t have it all, why am I willing to write it all off?

As a self-defense mechanism, I frequently decide that something is just not worth having / pursuing / getting when that very thing is no longer exactly as envisioned.  For example – I covet a particular bag.  It’s absolutely fantastic in the window.  Then when I go to visit said bag, it has a funny zipper, or the hardware is silver (and not gold) or the cross-body strap does not adjust and is fit for an amazon instead of 5 foot, four-and-a-half-inches-on-a-good-day, me.  And instead of being upset about how things just didn’t work out, I toss it aside and move on.  So, if I can’t be insulated, well protected and shielded, am I prepared to just toss aside winter?

Here’s where my thinking has lead me:  it’s not worth the negativity.  I need to get over it as it’s not the end of the world.  It’s just winter – not the cause of all problems.  And it’s not going anywhere…at least not right now (especially according to the science that is Groundhog Day…wha?!)  While I’m not at all prepared for the 8 (or so) weeks of winter that remain, I may as well succumb – like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day – I need to move on.  So, snow boots or no snow boots, I will stop worrying about the little things and instead focus on what is possible – like a little more skiing and hanging out in the bright sunshine.  Like making lemonade out of lemons…a tasty delight…or perhaps a pink lemonade cocktail…now that would be more apropos!

Pink lemonade cocktail

SCATTERBRAIN…if only for just one day…

I’m going to take a moment and date myself.  In 1989, Vachon (manufacturer of the pastry called “Flaky”) ran a commercial about a woman – a very scattered woman – that annoyed me to no end.  In those early teenage years I used to wonder how someone could be so scattered, so bewildered, and yes, flaky?  And now, in an ironic twist of fate, I AM HER!

There are days when it’s a wonder that I’ve managed to actually put myself together, get the kids to school with packed lunches and homework completed, and then myself to work.  How does one do it?  Autopilot mostly.  But this particular morning, my autopilot had a massive glitch and here’s what happened instead:

  • I forgot that I changed the station on my circa 1990’s alarm clock from the news to music in an effort to make my “reveille” much more civilized but though my intentions were good, all that resulted was that my dreams were set to great background ambience – in other words, I got up more than half an hour later than usual.
  • The 3 year old (almost 4) woke up with an extremely runny nose and I spent about 10 minutes trying to fish out…well, he calls them “burgers”…
  • The 7 year old remembered that he forgot to remind me YESTERDAY that Mondays are library days and since we’ve already lost one book, I thought it might be wise to spend a few seconds looking for the latest one borrowed before I end up funding an entirely new collection of books at the school library.  Only, it never actually takes a few seconds…AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!
  • Just when I thought I was finally ready to leave, a quick final glance in the mirror and I found more greys in an already, severely damaged section of my head thanks to the trials and tribulations of PREGNANCY from which, after four years, my hair is STILL recovering (on most days, side parts are sadly, a thing of the past).
  • My skirt hem came undone, the plastic thingy at the bottom of my car door is on the verge of falling off, my so-called winter boots which do nothing to keep out the cold also proved that they are useless in keeping out the snow and my poor toes have transformed into pale, blue nubs at the end of my feet, and after taking three times longer than usual to drop off the kids at school, I realized I had left my laptop at home and would be adding another hour and a half to my morning commute.

These occurrences must be a sign of my frozen brain – the electrons are just not firing.  So quick, FIND WHITE, STARK, PADDED CELL.  Failing that, stay at home; only then can one be sure to avoid more mishap.  Besides, change of routine can be good, so today is work from home day.  I can be much, much more productive – no disruptions, no social coffee runs, no discussions of how the weekend was (which in my case was a bit of a bust so fortunately, no need to rehash) and no temptations for a heavy, calorie laden lunch (poutine, pasta, chicken pot-pie…it’s that kind of a day…)  No, I will stay at home, get all of my work done tout-suite, and have a very healthy lunch which will surely fuel my brain to produce some of the best work ever seen!

Right.  Laptop fired up.  Logged onto work network.  Ready to go.  But wait…it feels a little cool.  I’ll just go and put on a sweater.  Yay, love working from home.  No high heels, or suit jackets required.  Wow, it’s still really cold and the house temperature appears to be normal…oh no, am I going though perimenopause?  (I have an irrational fear of menopause and everything related to it – seriously, just the mere mention of it sends me straight to anxiety-ville) But wait, that’s hot flashes, not chills, that must mean…oh no, am I getting the 3 year old’s cold??  Ukh…

I can’t concentrate.  Maybe I just need to tidy up – clear work environment equals clear mind.  Done.  Now what?  Write report or do research?    Speaking of research…I still need to book that hotel in Whistler and check out a good Prosecco for a very dear friend…  No!  Must do work.  Must be productive.  A quick glance at the bottom right of the screen and I’m saved.  No wonder I can’t think…it’s almost lunchtime.  Yes, surely I’ll be more productive after some nourishment.

Oh.  My.  God.  I am full.  I think I just need a nice, warm cup of coffee to help me digest…

The distractions are everywhere…the excuses, limitless.  But I finally hankered down, got some work done, recommended a Prosecco or two and even checked out some hotel options, and the truth of the matter is that it did take a lot less time to get stuff done here, than it would have at the office.  So now, I’m going to take my annoying, flaky self, and do something I never have a chance to do on a regular work day…PLAY.  The sun has peaked out from behind the clouds, the snow looks soooo inviting and despite my soggy boots, I’ve just gotta get out there because before I know it, I’m going to have to leave my little padded cell and re-enter the real world.

Snow day

FEATURE: All about New Year’s Resolutions…and your resolve!

new-year-resolutions-artAbout a month ago many Torontonians were plunged into darkness.  At a time when we would have been preparing for one of the biggest holidays of the year, a severe ice storm hit Toronto toppling down trees and power lines leaving many without the basic necessities of life:  light and heat.

While Christmas is not for everyone, it is considered to be a day for family, food, warmth and peace.  Looking out of the window while driving along many of its streets, the scene in Toronto around Christmas time resembled more of an apocalyptic aftermath, rather than a time for turkey, roast beef, mashed potatoes, and other traditional fare.  Where was the guy in the red suit?  Where was God when so many felt powerless?  Literally…

Some emerged out of the dark on the countdown to New Year’s day, having missed their traditional Christmas gatherings and dinners.  Like being the protagonist in the climactic part of a dramatic movie – the plot culminating in an unevenly weighted, cataclysmic fight with alien beings that have an arsenal of superior technologically based weaponry ready to destroy the Earth and all that we hold dear.  Protagonists, or in this case, Torontonians, victorious, emerge from the dark and into the light, and towards the promise of something new, as they realize their triumphant destinies.

Making resolutions are akin to this type of sentiment; whether you believe in them or not, make them or not, and are able to keep them or not, resolutions make one acknowledge the passing of the old and give hope for the chance of something new and better…

So what is the history behind making New Year’s resolutions?  Many are aware that the celebration of the New Year predates Christian times when it was celebrated in March under the Babylonian calendar.  Along with celebrating the New Year, many ancient Babylonians made resolutions in the form of promises to gods which predominantly involved the return of borrowed objects and the payment of debts.  Similar to some of the most popular modern day New Year’s resolutions:  spend less, pay off debts, gain financial control, or be a better neighbour or friend.

The New Year was then moved by the Romans to January, a month named after the two-faced god, Janus, who looks backward into the year that passed, and forward into the coming year.  The setting of resolutions during Roman times evolved to be mostly morally based, i.e. be good to others.  Again, this has modern day parallels:  spend quality time with friends and family, help those less fortunate, be a volunteer, help others achieve their dreams.

Although a secular holiday, the act of making New Year’s resolutions can also be found in religious holidays.  For example, during the time starting with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and up to Yom Kippur, one seeks forgiveness for their wrongdoings over the year.  During Lent, observers sacrifice as a form of penance such as giving up a vice (like smoking, drinking, or chocolate!)

Whether the motivation is secular or religious, making resolutions are a part of many peoples’ DNA.

When it comes to resolutions, the allure or promise of something new and better is overwhelming, while taking stock and being grateful for what we already have doesn’t seem to fit the bill.  But making New Year’s resolutions is the easy part.  The trick is in achieving them.

According to a survey conducted by Red Bull, approximately 40% of men make resolutions while that figure increases to 48% for women.  Of those, nearly all have a top priority resolution which for 2014, was to improve overall health.  Unfortunately, only 12% of those surveyed stated that they were absolutely certain they would achieve their goal.

While New Year’s Day was just over three weeks ago, by now, the dreary, drab and (at times, polar vortex) cold month of January is littered with unmet, unachieved and abandoned resolutions.  It’s commonly stated that it takes three weeks for a new habit to take hold (while it only takes three days to break one) and by this point, those who are still clinging onto their resolutions, having not accepted failure, are likely to succeed.

The probability of achieving a resolution is directly linked to how realistic it is; setting and achieving goals is actually a learned skill.  In corporate settings one of the methods used for setting goals is using the SMART system; in other words, resolutions should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewardable and Timely.

Some goals are just too big – and while there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, to increase the probability of achieving the dream, it must be broken down into smaller parts.  When a 7 year old grade two student was asked what he thought his resolution would be for 2014, his response was to run faster.  When asked how he would achieve his goal, he responded, “by practicing, a little bit every day.”  Wise words from a 7 year old.

What’s also important to remember is that you’re not alone.  Achieving a resolution can be a group effort.  Research states that women are more likely to achieve their goals as they broadly communicate their desires.  If guarding a resolution close to your chest is more your style, for today’s busy lifestyle, you can seek help from your smartphone.  Our smartphones are loaded with apps that help with both goal setting and tracking achievement.  These apps can be helpful in reminding us that we have made goals, or resolutions, that we want to keep.  For example, My FitnessPal and Nutrino are apps that will help with losing weight, while MyQuit Coach and Cigarette Tracker are two of the many apps designed to help with quitting smoking.

Some of us, writer included, make lofty resolutions without considering how we will actually achieve them and so come the dark, dreary days of January and the depression that sets in given the short days and seemingly never ending cold, tired of hibernating we are ready for more.  Most of us are on the precipice of abandoning our resolutions but, like a seed that’s planted before the frost, resolutions need time and effort to come to fruition…don’t give up.   As the young 7 year old said, “practice a little bit everyday.”

Wikipedia Postcards2CardsNewYearsResolution1915

Short…but oh, so sweet!

7 year old:  Mummy why is the sky blue?

Me:  Hmmm…*not sure but should give answer.  Am adult.  Older and therefore wiser.*  Why, it’s because of all those chemicals floating about in the atmosphere…

Mr. Niceguy:  Well, ummm, more accurately, it’s the way light travels from the sun in waves, like radio waves or energy waves, and through the gases and particles in our atmosphere… blah, blah, blah…

bluesky.en

7 year old:  Mummy, how long will the earth survive?  When will the earth end?

Me:  *My boy is so smart.  So inquisitive.  Wait, are we back in that death phase when he was constantly thinking about how people die when they reach one hundred and his time is running out?!*  Hmmm…thousands and thousands of years…

Mr. Niceguy:  Well, no.  That’s not quite true…

Me:  Yes it is.  I mean, sure it’s longer than that *whisper to Mr. Niceguy – he’s 7 (i.e. can we put it in terms that he’ll get please?!)* but you know what with global warming, and overcrowding, and…

Mr. Niceguy:  Son, there are a number of theories on this point.  And man is always coming up with new technologies and ideas to combat things like global warming, density and overpopulation.  The earth has a life of many, many millennia remaining Me thinking:  Just say billions for crying out loud!   Eventually we may travel too close to the sun and then it will be too hot for life to survive and…

Red_Giant_Earth_warm

When it comes to my 7 year old, and the 100+ questions I get asked daily, I often feel I have to have the right answer.

Even if I’m uncertain, somehow I must “logic” my way through

While some may say (ahem, Mr. Niceguy) that this behavior is perhaps unhealthy and we should teach our children that spreading the truth is more important than being right or appearing to be an all-knowing, wise shaman-type, omniscient being, well, with a bruised ego I retort, how about some confidence and the ability to think on one’s feet and use logic to argue a point?  Any takers?

Truth is, I do agree that arming a child with the skills to go and seek answers, conduct research and certainly to uphold good, moral values like truth, honesty and yes, humility is very important…but for now, just in this fleeting time, it’s nice being the alpha to omega, the end all and be all, for the 7 year old…before I know it, he’ll be calling my bluff and be too embarrassed to hold my hand in public.

At the age of 7, my parents were my everything.  While my dad was superman, my mom was the very beautiful wonderwoman.  And although this sentiment has persisted…it’s certainly not in the same form.

And then, there is that other issue.  That competitive issue.  The one when you know that there is that smarter, wiser, stronger and in my case, much calmer, more rational and certainly more logical person standing right next to you who is always prepared to be the voice of reason and truth…Mr. Niceguy.

I have a vivid imagination and I believe that puts me in good stead with children.  Sometimes teaching by consequence is just not enough like, if you stick your finger in an electrical socket you will become electrocuted with 10,000 volts.  Or, when you don’t eat your vegetables, your body doesn’t get the fuel it needs in the form of important vitamins and minerals – the building blocks – to perform.  I resort to my grandparents’ methods:  “If you don’t eat your veggies, you won’t grow properly and you will just make the devil happy and more powerful.”

So when the universe throws me an opening and things all go my way…

7 year old:  Mummy what’s the closest planet to the sun?

Me:  *AWESOME!!!!!  I GOT THIS ONE!!!*  Mercury!

Mr. Niceguy:  Uhh…I don’t think so…

Me:  *AGHAST. *  What?!  It’s Mercury?  You know, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus (tee hee) and Neptune

Mr. Niceguy:  I think we’ll need to check on that…

Me:  *Huh?*  Check on what?!  Google it!  Wikipedia!  I know I’m right.  It’s MERCURY!

Later that evening Mr. Niceguy confirmed my answer with the internet and told me I was right.  And I smiled the most beatific smile.  It feels so good…wouldn’t you agree?

I told you so

What to expect when you’re expecting…

I’m borrowing this title…and taking it out of the “expecting” context – in the pregnancy sense, that is.  Having cleared out my bookshelves to make room for new reads in the new year, I noticed just how many books I bought on pregnancy, a mere 9 months of my life (how can I say this about such an important time? I’ve had children.  If you haven’t, well, all I can say is, you’ll see).  What I need is a What to Expect for some of life’s OTHER main events.  Like…

What to Expect When You’re Expecting…How to Handle the Holidays edition, or What to Expect When You’re Expecting…Post Holiday Survival Guide.

Since I can remember, the holidays have been a time I’ve looked forward to with all my being

Better than birthdays, better than a bonus day off, better than finding the secret stash of cash hidden in a sock, at the back of your closet, in an old pair of boots in case of an emergency:  to me, the Christmas holiday season always felt like I had won the lottery – there just seems to be a sprinkling of fairy dust in the air!

Most everyone is excited about the change in routine – a couple of days off work, holiday break from school, time with friends and family, and if you’re lucky, a visit from the guy in the red suit complete with a little trinket, or two!  Not to mention the absolute joy while watching the faces of the 7.5 year old and nearly 4 year old as they tear through package after package of carefully planned  presents (some educational, some that will surely encourage imagination, and others that will simply turn their brains to utter mush).  But the greatest gift for me does not come in a package:  it is the excuse to bring together friends and family, to feed them, entertain them, and watch as they relate under my roof; truly, the present I look forward to all year long.

However, to know me would also be to understand that I am by no means a Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver (love him!) or Barefoot Contessa.  Though I try really hard to be inventive and imaginative, inevitably, the stress of the holidays takes hold and things almost never turn out as I expected…or imagined…

For starters, though I invite my family over for the holidays months in advance and every year, I am amazed at how quickly they forget that they are ATTENDEES at the party, and NOT the hosts.  This of course is extremely typical in the Armenian culture – and especially with moms.  Nevermind that I own a home, am married, work for a living and have birthed two children, it seems there is still a seeming lack of trust (??!) around this annual gathering…

Mom:  Calls me at work, sometime late November.  Hello dear.  How are you?  I’m starting to make my plans for Christmas eve dinner.  What are you planning on serving?

Me:  In the middle of juggling at least three balls at once…  Hi mom…wait, what?!  Are you calling me at work to ask me about the Christmas eve dinner menu?

Mom:  Why yes.  Yes indeed.  What were you thinking of serving?

Me:  Mom, it’s still NOVEMBER!!! 

Mom:  But it’s December next week.  Your dad and I want to know so that we can prepare our plans for shopping.

Me:  BUT – IT’S – STILL – NOVEMBER!!  I don’t know what I’m going to do, I haven’t thought that far ahead.  Oh.  My.  God.  MOM!!!!   I’m at work!  Somehow I think reiterating this obvious point will change things???

Mom:  Yes dear, but you have to think of these things.  How’s everyone going to know what to bring?

Me:  Getting angry and loud…kick door shut before I totally lose my cool at the office.  It’s not a POTLUCK!  It’s Christmas eve DINNER!  And I’m making it!!

Mom:  Still totally calm tones.  Well dear.  You are so busy.  How about I make the turkey, the stuffing, the rice, all of the sides and bring a fruit platter.  Why don’t you just make a couple of salads.?????????????????????????????????

Me:  0 to 200mph / Defcon 1 / Full blown nuclear.  WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!  It’s MY house.  It’s MY dinner party. It’s MY menu!  Why can’t you just come over and be a guest?  Why do you have to take over?!!!  Why are you making me think about this NOW!??!   I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO BEFORE THEN!!!

Mom:  Still calm (HOW?!  HOW DO THEY STILL REMAIN CALM??!!)  Yes sweetheart.  But you’re planning a party and you don’t have a menu.  And we all know you’re busy.  It’s ok.  I will take care of things.  The family has been asking about what to bring.  We’re all trying to make our preparations.  But most of all, we just want to help you.  You’ve been so nervous and on edge lately…

Me:  Confused.  Defeated.  Exasperated.  Feeling guilty.   Look mom.  I’m at work.  Please, can you not make any more plans about MY party.  We’ll need to talk about this later.  I have to go now.  (Totally feeling shamed for screaming…it’s an Armenian parent specialty) Umm…oh, and thank you for wanting to help.

Mom:  Ok dear.  Nice talking to you.  Just take care of yourself.  All this stress isn’t good, you know.  Are you taking vitamins?  Oh, and don’t take too long to get back to us.  Bye!

Oh boy.  I swear it’s the same every year.  Why isn’t THAT what I was expecting??!  And needless to say, little did I know back at the end of November, that this conversation was just the beginning…a torturous couple of weeks at work, the Christmas eve dinner that had to be cancelled due to the ice storm and power outage, and then the absolute apex of unexpected events, the passing of our beloved Zoom.  The little fish I, without any premonition, wrote about some weeks ago…

If I was going to write some sort of a (survival) guide or manual, it would have the following title – What to Expect when all of your expectations are dashed:  Just go with it!  And that’s what we did;  it’s what I did.  Christmas Eve dinner became the very first New Year’s Eve dinner, I accepted help from all those around me, and in the end, it was my mom that brought the salad.

Wishing you the very best in 2014!

mother-and-daughter-holiday

Epilogue:  Zoom passed sometime between the eve and actual day of Armenian Christmas (January 5/6).  He will always be remembered by our household, especially the 7.5 year old who shared his room with him for just over 2.5 years.  I will forever be grateful for how he bonded our family together (in that special way that only pets can) and the little lesson he taught me:  to get up and go after what I want.

The above is dedicated to Zoom T. and to a very brave woman who lived Zoom’s lesson.  I hope to follow in both your footsteps…

me and zoom

Ode to you! (‘Tis the season…)

From never before seen ice storms (in Toronto)
To never expected power outages
To unpredictable Christmas celebrations
And Santa always knowing how to find us

To restoring the holidays during the “bridge”
And preparing for the end and the promise of new
A wish for all things desired you hold in your heart
A wish for all things that will complete you

It’s been amazing to write for all of you these past few months
Truly, a real dream come true
Through the Spincycle Diaries there’ll be much more to share
Though, who knows how it will continue!

Happy 2014 and thank you all so much for reading, following, liking, commenting and encouraging. Wishing you and yours a very belated Merry Xmas and a very Happy New Year!

 

PS:  I’m a horrible poet…will promise to stick to writing!New Year

The art of thinking…on one’s feet!

I’m often surprised at the vastness of human interaction:  in other words, it’s amazing what boundaries people will cross when relating with one another.  Specifically, my boundaries, which some may say are a little more narrow than others.  And in the face of having my boundaries crossed, what’s even more surprising is how often I find myself completely stunned, immobile and utterly incapable of thinking on my feet…

I remember when I’d go clubbing with my girlfriends in my late teens.  Back then it was pretty easy to get your hands on a fake ID…in fact, with a little creativity one could easily create their own.  In any case, there were three of us and we were inseparable.  All week long we would talk about which clubs we’d go to and with whom, plan outfits and so on and so forth.  We were a lot more daring then…  And while the first was the pretty one and the second was the sweetheart, I always liked playing the part of, for lack of a better term, smart ass.

Random beefcake:  “Hey.  Howzit goin’?  Can I get you a drink?”

Me:  “No thanks.”  Ugh.  I’m onto this guy…he’s just after one thing!

Random beefcake:  Puffing chest like a peacock.  “So, uh, you and your friends come here often?”

Me:  “Ya.”  Lame.  Please go away.

Random beefcake:  “You know honey, we didn’t wait in line.  I know some guys.”  Getting very full of himself.  “I could get you in whenever you like.”

Me:  “Hmmm…thanks.  That’s ok.”  Oh. My. God.  Gross.  Feeling like I’ve been drenched in slime.  Turning to leave…

Random beefcake:  Crosses boundary!  Grabs my arm and getting a little feisty.  “So it looks like my friends are hooking up with your friends so how about…”

Me:   Looks that would shoot daggers and kill in an instant.  Grab beefcake’s hand, remove from my person.  “How about what?  Look, I’m sure you’re a really nice guy.  But here’s the thing.  I’m studying international relations and politics.  I’m planning on being a diplomat or a lawyer, ok?  I don’t think there’s a match here.  So how about you just move on?”  Oooooh…harsh…walk away.

Now that’s thinking on your feet.  But somewhere along the way, that very self-assured girl took a bit of a back seat.  Call it having babies, call it changed priorities, call it growing up and being immersed in environments where the rules perhaps aren’t as clear…

In my thirty-X years, situations seem more complicated, the stakes are higher and thinking on your feet means keeping your head in the game… a game that knows no boundaries…

Like that certain person (we all know one) who, no matter what, will point out just how tired I look every single time I see them.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  Monday morning?  Tired.  Friday afternoon?  Tired.  Dressed to kill?  Tired.  Always tired, tired, TIRED!  Appalling.  And though this is a regular occurrence, it’s still surprising.

Is there no nicer way to greet someone?  Now, I’m not saying that one shouldn’t show care or empathy, or even concern at my once-in-a-while or more-times-than-usual haggard state.  But since when did that kind of small talk replace the inconsequential talk about the weather?!  I wish I could just reply, “Ya, what of it?!  I have this chronic condition, perhaps you’ve heard of it, it’s called: LACK OF WORK LIFE BALANCE-ITIS.  You know, like PULLED IN A MILLION DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS-EMIA…”  But relationships in your thirty-X years are complicated…  So instead, I do what I always do – I half whimper and smile.

Why be surprised?  Why assume that everyone respects boundaries?  Sadly, I’m often most caught off guard when I’m at work.  And I think this has more to do with the fact that thinking fast and being on my toes just doesn’t seem akin to looking at financial models and writing presentations or reports…not terribly life or death situations, right?  Wrong.

For example, the other day I was told by someone that if I made a mistake, just one mistake, at something that I was responsible for, that they would “kill” someone… nay (and here it comes) – with slit eyes, dark face and bony finger pointing towards me – that they would “kill” me!

Nuclear-Explosion-001Now THAT’S harsh.  Despite the (hopefully probable) fact that it was an obvious turn of phrase and common colloquialism, my boundaries had not only been crossed, but pulverized, like after a nuclear attack.  The situation was also just a little bit ridiculous.  As soon as the words were out, I think I just stood there, mouth agape, and the only thing that I did or said again (DAMMIT!!) was half whimper and smile.  Seriously.  Like why couldn’t I have responded with any of the following:

    1. Wow, that seems kind of violent.
    2. Whoah.  You know that’s against the law, right?
    3. I think the last time I threatened to kill someone (obviously as a turn of phrase) I was highly hormonal, 16 and in high school.
    4. Now that’s not being much of a team player.  Hey man, if I go down…you go down.
    5. Aha.  I get that you would like for me to be like a robot or some kind of droid that is incapable of human error.  I shall endeavor to rise to this impossible challenge.
    6. @#$% YOU.

Is it that I need more of a backbone?  Is it that I just shouldn’t care?  Or is it the fact that perhaps I need to remember that boundaries, for some, are meant for crossing.  So what if I just crossed my own first?   What if, I put aside sweetness, politesse, empathy and consideration?  Sounds like too big of a price to pay for not being me.  Though I am all for some witty repartee…time to get back in the game and master the art of thinking on one’s feet!

Chess piece

Lessons from a fish…seriously.

Every now and then we step out of ourselves and take on an alternate persona.  For me, this is akin to the person I become after a scotch on the rocks…or two…okay three!  And yes, I did say scotch; though I can be a pink, frilly cocktail kinda girl too – hand me a Prosecco with berries any day –I’m a closet scotchaholic!

That aside, after a couple down the hatch, I transform – it’s a chemical thing!  Now I’m not saying I’m one of those loud, obnoxious and mean drunks – ok, loud and obnoxious, never mean though!  But somehow, after a few drinks I’m brassier and ever so entertaining – at least by my own interpretation.  And I spend a great deal of my time trying to convince all those around that I am actually lucid; that my slurred speech and general incoherence should be no indication of my well-being.

Why fake through the situation?  Why not admit that yes, I have succumbed?  What am I so scared to admit?

Most of the time, I’m a pretty lighthearted, easy going (albeit somewhat complicated) extrovert.  But every now and then my extroversion gives way to a very introspective, insular side of me.  Call it a funk, call it the blues, call it taking stock, call it what you will…but it’s during these times when I wonder if I’m where I should be and doing what I want to do, or whether I’m just trying to keep afloat.  Isn’t it better to just be grateful for the stability I already have – whether it’s the roof over my head, a steady job and income, good friends and family?  True, these are all good.  But I want more.

And this time, the realization came from none other than Zoom, our family’s pet betta fish.  Every now and then, when it’s my turn to feed Zoom during all the chaos that ensues around me (usually at bedtime when arms and legs are flailing to get into the right arm and leg holes of pajamas, teeth are supposedly being brushed, and prayers are being said) Zoom comes to the top of his tank and waits.  And I swear, he’s looking at me…trying to say something…me and zoom

Perhaps it is strange to write about this fish.  Perhaps I should go back and talk about the three scotch I downed this past weekend, or something more comedic like the seven year old or the three year old’s latest antics, but I swear, this fish and I are kindred spirits and here’s how I know.

Zoom came to us by way of a birthday party favour.  I remember it well – it was the year all the children in my 7 year old’s class were turning five.  As we were set to leave, the child’s mother handed us a plastic bag with a fish and a small baggy with food.  While some would baulk at the idea and think, “Oh no!  Another responsibility!!”  I was delighted (perhaps even more delighted than my son!)   Then, about 6 months ago, Zoom started to display some very strange behavior.  He would ignore me.  He would hide in his fake plant all day, or play dead with his head down and his tail suspended above him.  I freaked out.  And I did what any one in my situation would do:  GOOGLED!  I refused to be responsible for fish depression or worse yet, “fishicide.”

After ruling out fish swim bladder disorder or some other fish ailment, I did what I do best:  I went shopping…to the pet store.  Close to thirty design decisions later (round tank or rectangular, coloured or natural gravel, toys or plants, etc.) we moved Zoom into a larger, more professional tank, in a much busier area of the house and the result?  A much happier, active and thriving betta!

Although not in words, Zoom had communicated that he was no longer happy in his original fish bowl – he’d outgrown it.  And this has served as a little reminder that perhaps I too need to be honest.  I too need to be courageous and face the music:  Have I outgrown my fishbowl?  Will I be happier in another?  How will that happen?  Who will move ME into a better tank?

Probably the most frustrating thing for someone as loquacious as me and with very large, grandiose (and perhaps somewhat unrealistic) dreams, is feeling invisible and not being heard.  It feels unjust.  Recognizing that I don’t have a plant to stick my head in and that perhaps diplomacy, humour and wit (not to mention charm and a killer smile) won’t always save one from circumstance – as I have repeatedly experienced while trying to weasel out of parking tickets, or getting out of sticky situations though it could be that perhaps I’m not as charming as I think or my smile isn’t so, well, killer – what does?  What does one do when utterly frustrated, overwhelmed and fighting every instinct to bang one’s fists, throw something and just run away?  And, quite frankly, how do you run away when you’re trapped in a fishbowl?

I think of my kindred spirit, Zoom.  I think of how clever this little fish was in communicating his needs and, well, I’m clever too.  Starting tomorrow, I’m breaking out of my fishbowl.  Charm, killer smile, diplomacy and brains…I’ve got all of these in my arsenal.  And who knows, perhaps I’ll lapse into a persona of courage, and before I know it, I’ll be celebrating in a dapper way with a Prosecco in one hand, and a scotch in the other.  The countdown is on…this year is going to be great!

scotch

‘D’ is for Double-standard…

Earlier this evening, Mr. Niceguy was preparing dinner – once again relieving me.  And I think mostly because I’ve been subjecting the family to fat free, low cal, protein and veggie rich fare which totally goes against his constitution.  That, and I’m officially off pasta (at least, most of the time…ok, as best as I can…all right I limit it to no more than two intakes a week unless there’s leftovers and well, then, it’s just wasteful if you don’t finish things off).  And Mr. Niceguy, like most guys I know, LOVES a meaty, hearty, saucy pasta.

We decided that two dinners would be better as I had indulged a little during the afternoon siesta with some salt and vinegar flavoured ‘chackers’ (part chip, part cracker?) so while he prepared his hearty pasta for himself and the boys, I prepared a nearly fat free  egg white and veggie omelet in my new, white ceramic non-stick pan.  And while dicing the veggies I blurted, “Oh wow.  Tomorrow’s this guy’s birthday that I used to have a massive crush on when I was 17!  I wonder what he’s up to…”

And I thought to myself – if similar words had come out of Mr. Niceguy’s mouth things would’ve gotten pretty ugly tout suite…and therein lies the inherent double standard.

I find men and women to be very different on this point.  And before I offend my kind, I’m just putting it out there as it is…for me…and if many a woman’s willing to admit it….probably for you too.   As a woman, there is nothing more off-putting to me than the walk down memory lane about the relationship that never was with the girl that was just too cool or just a snick out of reach.  That perfect girl next door, or perhaps that exotic exchange student.  The girl who was just so laid back and effortless.

On average, it takes me at least 20 minutes just to get going in the morning.  Up, a quick surf on the iPad (I have an addiction which may be the subject of another entry someday), run through outfits in my mind (black top, short skirt?  Too tarty for work…grey pants and white shirt?  Too dull.  Sweater dress with stilettos?  Hmmm….just the right blend of daring and demure).   Then comes the debate about washing or not washing my hair, full make up or natural look (both take the same amount of time…don’t kid yourselves and when you get to my age…there’s no such thing as truly au naturel), and then on to the jewelry…

I guess what I’m saying here is that I’m totally high maintenance and as laid back as I may seem about certain things – like I’m a hamburger and French fries kinda gal over a fancy four-course meal – there’s no way I would ever consider myself “easy-going.”

At best, I’m diplomatic with a dash of crazy.

So when conversations about the past come up, I have a very predictable response:  at first, I’m easy going, effortless and laid back.  But it doesn’t take long for the crazy to come out…

Me:  “So, umm….tell me about your university days…how many serious girlfriends did you have?”

Mr. Niceguy:  “Uh…I dunno.  I can’t really remember.”

Me:  Getting slightly hot under the collar.  “What do you mean you can’t remember?  Think…first year?  Anyone caught your eye?  Or when you were graduating?  Anyone you thought you’d take the plunge with?”

Mr. Niceguy:  “Why?  I mean, who cares?”

Me:  “Well, I’m just trying to get to know you better.”  Feeble.  Totally weak.  “Seriously?  You can’t remember?”

Mr. Niceguy:  “Well, there was that girl in high school that I also dated while I was in first year.  I think she became a doctor.”

Me:  Interrupting – “Really?  Who?  That girl with the dark hair?  A doctor?  Was she even good looking?  Did your parents meet her?  Did they like her?  What did your friends think?  Did you think you were going to marry her?  What was so great about her?  Did she hang out in your dorm room?”

Mr. Niceguy:  “Well, we didn’t last.  And after her…well, I can’t really recall.  There were some girls…but not any really serious girlfriends.”

Me:  Internally screaming, WHA???!!!!!!!  “Oh, that’s nice.  Ya…who would want to get serious during university?  I mean, sheesh, I would tell our boys not to get too serious too…”

Mr. Niceguy:  “Well, there was that one girl.  The ballet dancer.  I met her during a school trip.  I always wondered about her afterwards…”

Me:  HMMMPPPFFF.  Why did I start this conversation??  A ballet dancer no less…  “Well, if it means that much to you, you should just look her up and see what happened.”  Maybe she put on 60 pounds and drives a school bus!

So what happened right after I uttered those words while cooking side-by-side with Mr. Niceguy should come as absolutely no surprise:  nothing.  Silence.  And a smile while continuing our efforts to get dinner on the table.  Plus the realization, on my part, that perhaps next time I could extend the same kind of courtesy to Mr. Niceguy and not poke and prod him into revealing things that are perhaps better left unsaid…but then where’s the double-standard in that?

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Don’t panic! It’s just (Rough) Rider Nation!!

There are times when the duality of my life cannot be ignored and comes into stark relief:  on the one hand, I’m my own person, career woman, trying to achieve my own aspirations while on the other hand, full time mother and wife.  Isn’t it always present?  Yes.  But how about when you are given less than 24 hours that you will be spending the next 4 days in the Canadian Prairies?  Oh, and it’s going to be MINUS 27 degrees…WITHOUT the wind chill?!

Monday morning – up after hitting the snooze button at least 5 times (which by my alarm goes off every 8 minutes, so a 40 minute delayed start).  No one else is up because they wait for me…although had Mr. Niceguy been around, things would have been moving faster (most mornings he heads down the stairs and plants himself in his “command centre,” aka TV room, to catch all the pressing financial news from overseas that would impact his day).  But not today – Mr. Niceguy was away for the weekend and would not return until that night.

Jump out of bed, brush teeth, wash face, shout out to 7 year old and 3 year old to start getting dressed (doesn’t do much good but I’m hopeful they actually will be ready for a change!) hair isn’t sooo greasy so skip the wash, get dressed and down in 20 minutes flat.  Finish getting boys ready (see?) by throwing clothes on hoping arms and legs go in the right spots, grab packed lunches from the night before, brekkies in the car, and we’re off!

After dropping them off and then getting downtown and parking the car, I slow down and take a breath.  Latte in hand, I walked through the shopping concourse under my building, admiring the Christmas Décor and I thought to myself:  today is the day I slack.  Today is the day I walk around and take a little time for myself – I’ve had my little monsters to myself for FOUR DAYS and now it’s “ME-TIME”.  Perhaps I’ll do a little shopping over lunch…maybe get a mani/pedi, or get a head start on my Christmas shopping.

The lead-up to the holidays is my absolute favourite time of year:  people are generally nicer, everything smells of warm cookies and cinnamon, and the white backdrop to absolutely everything makes it all magic not to mention Christmas carols playing in all the shop stores…  And as for work, the thought that most of my assignments and responsibilities have been completed or at a slow point was very, very warming to me – like a hot cup of cocoa full of marshmallows and skads of whipped cream…yummmmmmm…..

Only that was not to be the case.  I got SOLD, so-to-speak, into a new assignment that would take me to the farthest , most desolate reaches of the land…Praire Country.  And the panic which gripped me was palpable – I could feel the cold, hard, long, bony, clawed fingers wrap themselves around me and pull me into the abyss that was work…

What would happen to my children?  When would I see Mr. Niceguy again?  Who would make dinner, fold laundry and band-aid boo-boo’s?  I think the 3 year old is coming down with a cold and the 7 year old is feeling neglected…who will be their mommy while I’m gone??!!

Well, 24 hours later, after the briefest of hand-offs to Mr. Niceguy, I was on a plane, prairie bound…

And despite the freezing cold, the people I met were wonderful – they warmed things up right away and even promised to get me a “watermelon helmet” (something Roughrider fans are known for)!  And it actually felt kind of nice to stop playing the duality game for a few days.  True, I was on the clock and spent virtually every waking moment working, but I could grab a coffee when I wanted, sleep uninterrupted, not attend the washroom unless it was for my own biological needs, no tantrums, no cooking, no cleaning…these were definitely some of the perks!

I thought being off the dual track was exactly what I wanted…and what I needed…until I made it to Regina, aka Rider Nation (for all those who don’t know – Regina was hosting the Grey Cup and the Saskatoon Roughriders faced off against the Hamilton Tiger Cats yesterday and as predicted, won).  Seeing all the families dressed in Roughrider Green all of a sudden opened the floodgates I had worked so hard to keep closed.  All of a sudden I couldn’t think of anything else other than getting home and wiping noses, answering to the hundreds of “Mommy” demands, and just be in the middle of my own little universe…my world…my family.

There are times when the struggle to preserve one’s identity becomes overwhelming – especially when one becomes a parent – and I find this to be true regardless of whether you are male or female.  I certainly found the transition to parenthood much more difficult than when I became married and was now considered someone’s wife.  But what is absolutely amazing is how much capacity we have for growth.  Despite the initial shock, disdain and fear that surrounded my realization that I would be shipped away from my family and will potentially have to continue to travel and be away for a little while, the people I met and the excitement that arose from doing something so completely different gave me an amazing opportunity to learn and grow.  That, and Roughrider Nation, it was a pleasure to meet you and congratulations on an amazing Grey Cup victory which I watched, curled up on my OWN couch, family in tow!  Thanks for the perspective…

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If it’s good enough for Gwenyth…

There’s a feature in US magazine that makes a regular appearance, Stars – They’re just like us.  I used to think it was cheesey and really such a stretch – like who actually feels better about themselves when they see that yes, J.Lo actually pumps her own gas?  Really?  But about the time that I had the seven year old many, many, moons ago, I had an epiphany…

It was day 9, 10 or 11 back from the hospital.  Those days are all a big blur and I believe they are because my mind has made (and continues to make) the greatest of all efforts to shield me from the trauma I experienced.  I was the first in my closest circle of friends to have a baby.  Yes, I had been exposed to them and yes I come from a large extended family so babies were being born when I was in my late teens but it’s not quite the same until you pop one out yourself…somehow, you skip all the nasty bits.

Anyway…it was day 9, 10 or 11…and it was following one particular feeding that lasted over 3 hours with me isolated in the bedroom with just my baby boy, during a small dinner party hosted by me that I thought, with tear stained cheeks, there must be another way.  I had naively thought that my small collection of baby books would prepare me – albeit, up to that point I had focused mainly on the pregnancy part and didn’t bother to read about how things would turn out once the baby arrived – a grave mistake.

I should have heeded the warning signs:  I was terribly concerned about having the right hair and natural looking makeup for the delivery.  And I honestly thought that once the baby popped out, we would all get cleaned up and then poof, be back in the sanctuary of our home to start a full year’s vacation from work!

Baby would just be a project – and I would have all the time in the world to figure things out…

So when I was told I had to stay overnight because they wanted to observe the little guy I was slightly put out, but smiled and complied…until I was rudely awoken at 6 am and asked by a very cross nurse, “Did you wake that baby and feed him overnight?  When was the last time he nursed?!”  And apparently, before I passed out 8 hours ago wasn’t good enough – nor was my response, “Why would I wake him up?  He was asleep.  Do you have a bottle somewhere?”  The look of horror on that nurse’s face was laughable to me then.  There I was, this straight A student, this total cheeky, know-it-all with a plan, smiling away…but she had the last laugh, I’m sure of it.

People GwenythIn any case.  Day 9, 10 or 11, worst feed EVER, tear stained cheeks and I thought to myself.  Gwenyth had her daughter, Apple some months ago.  She’s a very busy lady and movie star.  How does she do it?  And while maneuvering with my son in my arms, I opened up a special issue People Magazine that featured all the celebrity moms and babies and there it was, my salvation, at the very bottom of the page, Gwenyth Paltrow’s nanny book.  Her nanny had written a book!  And the very next day, I got my hands on that book because I figured, if it’s good enough for Gwenyth, it’s good enough for me! 

Celebrities are an interesting breed.  They have teams of people scouring and vetting and basically seeking the best for their clients.  So why not jump on the bandwagon and benefit from all the legwork someone else has already done?  That book saved me and I don’t even know how many times I’ve quoted, “Gwenyth Paltrow’s nanny book” since.  So when I found myself at the end of my rope again a couple of months ago, I hopped on the bandwagon once more…

I’ve written many times about my absolute love and admiration of the ketchup chip.  It is perfect.  Thin, crispy, with the right balance of salt, sweet and sour.  And how my love of this devilish delight (together with my absolute lack of control and a side effect of some meds), ‘Kim Kardashian-ed’ my behind.  At first the curves were welcome – like historical days gone by, I carried those extra pounds around like they were a sign of nobility.  But after some time, they began to feel like a chained weight (pun intended) and with the realization that it is no longer the Renaissance and I am certainly not Botticelli’s Venus, the time came to make a change.

After 4 torturous weeks on a diet which did not allow partaking in any Hallowe’en candies, Mr. Niceguy birthday binges, or late night, thai-food takeouts, I am happy to report that if it was good enough to get Ms. Kate Middleton looking 5+ stars in her wedding dress, it was good enough for me!   Arrivederci extra weight!  Hello the real me – it’s nice to be back again.

So what’s the moral of the story?  First, though mostly silly, celebrity gossip can actually be more than just a source of entertainment – it can truly be a resource!  And second, celebrities or otherwise, in times of need, it’s nice to know you’re not alone.

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