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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I’m not mad…it must be the cows!!!??

I have this thing…this small tendency…this tiny faux pas about me that I just can’t seem to help…and I’m betting I’m not the only one.  I’m betting it’s just wiring.  I’m betting it’s just because of where I’m at, who I’m with, and the situations in which I find myself.  It’s not my fault!  In fact, it’s never my fault.  There’s always an explanation…

I feel like I’ve always been who I am.  Like I haven’t really changed over the years…well, not significantly.  I mean, my hair is straighter (I look 12 when it’s curly and no, that’s not cute and it is not the perfect remedy for aging either as I’ll simply look like an overgrown adult baby – something I think I’ve made clear in the past is intolerable!) My face is more angular while my curves are just getting curvier…but no, my personality remains the same.  And so, it follows, I have always maintained that there must be an explanation.

Is it just reluctance to take on responsibility or is it the fear that when responsibility is taken, it brings with it a GRAVE consequence?  Like maybe I’m not as good a person as I thought and therefore no better than the rest?  Maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am and therefore simply not good enough? (I find myself here quite often, but I digress…)  I don’t know.  It’s just that sometimes when not-so-pleasant things happen, it’s much easier to say, “It wasn’t meant to be.” Or, “It was destiny.”  And my own personal motto, “There must be a reason…”

Taking responsibility and accepting consequences is not something that’s taught like math, science or phonics…maybe it should be??

Mr. Niceguy and I went out for his birthday just this past weekend, a rare treat given that I have been in a complaining jag for the past little while:  I’m not tall enough, thin enough, my house isn’t big enough, I’m tired, the boys are driving me wildly insane, I need a vacation, I need a tan (yes, I said it!  TAN! TAN! TAN!!!!!)  I need to find the perfect coat/boots/haircut/work bag, and so on and so forth ad nauseum ad infinitum!!  One of my many series of complaints involves how rarely Mr. Niceguy and I go out and relive our pre-kids days when he would plan dates, pick me up and the sun would revolve around ME!…surely not unfamiliar?

Anyway, we went out for Mr. Niceguy’s birthday…a birthday dinner event that Mr. Niceguy planned himself!  (He’s Mr. Niceguy for a reason…)  I’m not sure if Mr. Niceguy has ever been analyzed, broken down and “Spincycled” so here goes:  aside from being devastatingly handsome (watch out Matthew McConaughey), Mr. Niceguy is a couple of years older than I am (a fact that I often grip to when I’m staring FORTY in the face with complete and utter DREAD).  Mr. Niceguy does NOT share my ethnic background so he’s not loud, not hot-headed or quick tempered, and often waits for the appropriate break in the conversation to respond (i.e. does not interrupt).  And he is very, very nice.  While he’s a lovely Monet watercolour – calm and rational, I’m more like a Picasso or Salvador Dali.  But it is his wisdom, openness and determination I envy above all his characteristics…

So for Mr. Niceguy’s birthday we went to a fancy French restaurant for some steak-frites!  Except, being on yet another diet to seriously try and shake the nagging, clinging extra poundage, I ordered a filet, dry, butterflied and cooked medium-well, with steamed veggies and a salad, no dressing.  And this got us thinking about our younger, carefree, pre-kids days, and another birthday some many, many moons ago…(ok, not THAT long ago…indulge me!)

Mr. Niceguy and I had decided that we would have a big night out:  dinner, theatre, club and then when we just couldn’t stand up straight any longer, we would stagger and meander to our third-storey walkup in midtown Toronto.  We were at a different steakhouse then and being the gluttons that we were, we indulged:  butter pan fried steaks, lobster tail, butter sautéed mushrooms, mashed potatoes and potatoes au gratin, topped with my absolute favourite dessert:  crème brûlée.  It should come as no surprise that after our feast, we made it only to the theatre and then called it quits…but the night would not end then.  Hours-upon-hours of payment would be exacted from each of us in turn…and through it all, despite my weakness, summoning what little strength I had left to clench my fists, I swore I would not let things go without finding fault!

The next morning, with matted hair, splotchy skin and at least five pounds lighter, I called the restaurant and explained what had occurred:  the sweating, the chills, the cramps, the nausea, the going green and the feeling like I should just move into the toilet and wrap myself up in my bath mat for warmth.  An utterly horrific night!  Thank goodness our apartment came with two bathrooms…  I theorized to the manager of that very fine establishment that perhaps they had served us a bad batch of meat?  Perhaps it had not been cooked to temperature?  Or perhaps it was some sort of bacterial infection?  I explained good-naturedly, and in an effort to help nip-in-the-bud any possible incidence of mad cow disease, that he must immediately ensure that no other patrons had been afflicted!  Having frequented this restaurant in the past, I was certain that something was off.  That something diabolical had occurred.  It couldn’t possibly have been our choices…

The manager patiently listened to my concerns and then finally in his most rational, gentle manner offered us a substantial gift card to return to the restaurant and to my complete embarrassment added, “Miss.  We’re terribly sorry for both your husband’s and your experience.  But I took a look at your bill and it seems that you chose a number of our richer dishes…all at once.  These can sometimes have an adverse effect as they are laden with lots of cream and butter.  We hope you’ll return and we can make some recommendations for you next time.”  Ouch.  We passed the gift card over to my parents knowing they would make better choices in the future…

With a bruised ego, I took responsibility.  I accepted fault.  And I lived with the consequences.  We all make mistakes once in a blue moon.  It was meant to be…

English: Salvador Dali with ocelot and cane.

English: Salvador Dali with ocelot and cane. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)