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

Advertisements

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