Don’t forget the big things!

We’re into 2017 already…and what changes have you made? A little piece written before the clocks turned 12 on December 31, 2016…


Last year marked some unbelievable changes:  the images pouring out of Syria topped a new level of gut-wrenching gruesomeness, a truck ploughing into an innocent Christmas market in Berlin and, yes, a playboy TV personality actually made it to the White House.  Now, whatever your views – humanity has been shaken to its core.  I will not comment with my own personal position:  I’ve long learned my lesson that politics and religion are the quickest route to discord.  However, I do believe that there is a bright light in there somewhere…Trump’s ascension to Presidency while unbelievable does illustrate that which we often forget, anything is possible.

As part of the inherent good in our society, I believe that we all have a duty this year in 2017 to be more and do more and especially to think more about others.  To think about those who are less fortunate than we.  To view differences as enhancements and not barriers.  To celebrate the extraordinary and to try our very best to not fear the unknown, but take a step towards it.

Recently I saw a wonderful ad by Amazon – a priest and an imam, both friends, end up buying each other the same gift.  In one genius stroke the marketing group at Amazon leaves you feeling that there’s room for everyone and everyone’s belief on this planet.

It is now about 18 hours since I started writing the above and as luck would have it, the universe has plucked me out of my ‘magnanimity’ and once again thrown me into the pits of life.  Yes, for the past 17 hours I have cleaned vomit from every crack and crevice of my home, gotten down on bended knees and scrubbed every surface, and washed everything including a very large, luxurious king duvet.

It’s amazing how quickly ‘life happens’.  One moment I’m posting a photo of me and Mr. Niceguy preparing for a family feast and reflecting upon my good fortune for living in a country with no war, the rule of law on the brink of my favourite day in the whole year (Xmas eve) and in one fell swoop, gastroenteritis.  And not mine either.

It seems this is the pattern in life.  Big things take a back seat to the little ones.  And somehow, the little ones become the much bigger things, while the big things just, well, “happen over there.”  But I think it’s ok for that to happen…sometimes…especially when you’re trying to get the sick smell out from your rug – yes, that happened too!

The little things count…and I daresay, they count just as much as the big things.

Mr. Niceguy and I have often had an interesting repartee about things – like how my perspective can sometimes…well…be skewed.  Quite frankly, I believe his can be quite skewed too…albeit in the opposite direction.  Like when the nearly 7 year old projectile vomited all over the kitchen floor and the “splash and splatter” wound up all over the kitchen cabinets – even the ones behind him. And here’s a holiday scene for you, the poor little guy was standing in a puddle of, Hey!  When did he even have rice?  I don’t recall giving him any rice in the past two days!!  And what do you suppose that green stuff is?!

I was frozen to my spot.  Couldn’t believe what I was seeing – I mean that stuff was coming out with such brute force reminiscent of a volcanic eruption.  While Mr. Niceguy lifted 7 year old and proceeded to place him, clothes and all, into a tub, I muttered and cursed and pleaded with the powers that be, “oh, why me???” and to please end my torture – to just let me get on peacefully with my small existence and the planning of my beloved family dinner.

In one fell swoop I was at the computer googling what was wrong with my little guy and did it merit a trip to the hospital…while Mr. Niceguy, as cool as cool can be, cleaned our boy up, put him to bed, covered every surface with spare sheets and towels (AARRGHHH!) and simply carried on.

This pattern was repeated all night long:  I, woe is me-ing, and Mr. Niceguy just managing the situation at large.

img_0190Now, about 18.5 hours later, life has completely turned back around:  Mr. Niceguy is peeling potatoes, my roast is nearly done, my cheese pies (beuregs) are making the house smell divine, the 10 year old is still as happy as a kid can be on Xmas eve and the 7 year old is making a tremendous recovery.  All despite my lack of sleep, two-or-so minor mental breakdowns, and the (very prudent) cancellation of some guests’ attendance.

So as I prepare to sit for my Xmas eve meal in less than 3 hours…by the time, reader, you finish reading my article, you will be well into 2017, and there will be big things and little things and the little things will seem like big things, while the big things happen over there…

I hope each and every one of us remember the more important things, particularly when our little things stop being big things:  to make every moment count, to stick to our resolutions (they are really our deepest desires, I believe – like my desire to be 10 pounds lighter like I was at the start of 2016) and above all, to remember to have the Xmas spirit last throughout the year.

Hoping you’ve had a great start to 2017!!

 

 

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Spincycle Diaries:  Chaos Theory – the explanation for my insanity?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result

This according to Albert Einstein, one of the smartest human beings to ever walk the earth so it must be right, right?  So if it’s as simple as trying something different each time until you get the result that you seek or hope to get, why do some of us – namely me – have so much difficulty understanding this and are prone to rinse, repeat, redo, rinse, repeat, redo, rinse, repeat, redo…caught in a spincycle of insanity?

I’ll offer up a quasi-hollywoodesque-scientific reason:  Chaos Theory.

spincycle-octoberSee, I became the proud owner of a very big screen television – a dream come true, really. So now I get to watch The Bachelor, Survivor, and my favourite movies virtually in life-size. While most people would be excited during a renovation with the prospect of a gigantic closet, full automation or the latest and greatest kitchen appliances, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this TV. I dreamt up a list of all of my favourite movies that I would watch on this giant TV. As an official member of the Arsenal Canada fan club, Mr. Niceguy had a simple request: to watch the Arsenal vs. Hull City soccer match. The 10 year old was keen to hook up his video games – NO – and the 6 year old just wanted anything Netflix. Top of my list, Jurassic Park. The idea of watching a gigantic T-Rex on the screen both excited and thrilled me at the same time.

Needless to say, in a house full of boys, I’m still waiting for my turn.

But I digress, one of my favourite characters of all time is Dr. Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum in said movie. He is a mathematician and devotee of Chaos Theory. So what is chaos theory?  It is a branch of mathematics and the key to understanding the cause of my insanity.  In fact, I say this to all the moms out there, it may also be the answer for you.

Physics has had great success in explaining certain kinds of behaviour, like the regular movement of the planets in our solar system, or the way a pendulum swings.  These are what’s called “linear equations”.  Think of it this way:  if you have 5 apples and you eat 1 apple you are left with 4 apples; linear. But physics does not handle another type of behaviour, described as “turbulent”, or non-linear, quite as well.

You know what’s “turbulent”?  Boys.  Boys in September.  When they go back to school and everything is new and exciting, frightening and freaky, and their personalities are completely out of whack because I, their mother, still haven’t figured out just how to enforce an earlier “school time” bedtime and have been beaten down to now hoping that the time change, and with it, the dark will do my bidding.  All of a sudden I am once again dealing with umbrella sword fights in the car, backtalk, insubordination and a general feeling like I’m undervalued, unappreciated and just irrelevant and the 10 year old and 6 year old have already turned into pimply faced, hormonal teenage boys for whom I am simply the large megaphone from Charlie Brown (for those who are not familiar with the “megaphone”, it’s Charlie Brown’s teacher and when she speaks, the children only hear, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah”).  Incidentally, and just as a side note, I have a healthy fear of teenagers.  They can turn on you on a dime and before you know it, you’re wishing you were never born.

But back to chaos theory. If turbulent events are described as non-linear equations, then is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result really insane?  Perhaps being in a spincycle, then, is not a predictor of the final result. My favourite example is that which is used in the movie: a drop of water is placed on the back of the hand – the water, rolls down a certain path.  When the same drop of water is placed at the same spot, again, on the back of the hand, it now travels a different path because the hairs on the skin have risen or the microscopic cells on the surface of the skin itself have changed.  Thus, a non-linear, turbulent event.  Physics can only explain that the water will drip down, but which path it takes, is determined by numerous factors which may, or may not, come into play – chaos.

Now for a real-life example.  My kids like to play a (dreaded, awful) game – it’s called, “Opposite Day”.  Usually it comes up when they’re starting to get annoyed with one another and they’re on the cusp of yet another fight in the backseat of the car that I’m forced to referee through the rearview mirror during rush hour traffic on the way to school.  “I think you’re the greatest…” starts the 10 year old, “…on opposite day!” To which the 6 year old replies loudly, “So what you’re saying is, I SUCK?!  Well YOU suck!  MOMMY!!!!

So when I YELL at my kids to STOP YELLING at each other because good, decent people DON’T YELL over and over again and I’m going insane because this is the umpteenth time I’ve asked them to stop and I’m afraid that one of these days I’m going to get into a car accident (yes, I’m a hypochondriac and yes, that’s a very linear equation when it comes to me) is it fair for me to expect that at some point I’ll get a different outcome because children are non-linear equations?  I mean, they are turbulent and ever changing so perhaps at some point they will just please stop yelling??!!

In conclusion, while it may appear to most that I, like other mothers, am insane for trying to mold my children into good and decent contributing citizens of society by repeating the same requests the same way over and over again, I ask you to remember Chaos Theory. Eventually, we will get to the right outcome and therein lies the secret and answer to all my doubts about my abilities as mother…at least for now….until some part of the non-linear equation changes again….

Are automatic responses just faulty learning?

So, we’re doing something right.  The almost 7 year old brought home a glowing grade 1 report card – such an amazing achievement and yet, we’re only at the beginning…

We spend about 16 to 20 years in school:  2 years of kindergarten, 5 years of elementary school, 3 years of middle school, 4 years of high school, then onto college or university.  And sometimes that’s not enough to land the job of your dreams so it’s back to school for a graduate degree…or maybe even a PhD…or two.  Either way, school provides the opportunity to get the learning required for the career / job of choice (or at least the creds to get your foot in the door!)

What comes into play when you haven’t got the training or experience?  Is it instinct?  Is it upbringing?  Genetics?  Exposure?  Or is it “immersion”…

Lessons for work:

  • Doesn’t matter how skinny they make my legs look… maybe I shouldn’t have worn my 6 inch platform sandals to work…on a Tuesday…or ever!
  • Note to self: do not declare, “Kamikaze shooters for everyone!!!” at the company sponsored social…again….while standing right next to the president….ooops.
  • A closed door does NOT equal privacy when having a fight over the telephone with your best friend / mom / husband / whoever!  Even if the doors are heavy, the walls are paper thin.
  • The “third stall” is not only for times when your insides are protesting but also a sanctuary for when you don’t want anyone to see you cry because your boss yelled at you  or because you just got put on a file that has you working in the remote corners of the country just weeks before you get married / etc.  No one will bother you there.

Lessons for marriage:

  • Signing a piece of paper does not mean that my significant other now needs to check in with me for every, single decision / outing / etc…call off the private investigators!
  • Stressing over the perfect formal dining room suite just two months after getting married – particularly when living in a tiny downtown condo with no dining room –is time wasted that we’ll never get back.
  • Going to bed angry sometimes IS the thing to do…the walls in condos are similar to those at the office.

Lessons for when you first have kids:

  • The term, “sleep like a baby” is a twisted joke.
  • That labor is the hard part is also a joke.
  • Trying to decipher the difference in baby cries is also time that I’ll never, EVER, get back…should’ve skipped straight to:  it’s gas / they’re hungry / it’s gas / they’re overstimulated / it’s gas / they’re tired / it’s gas!!!
  • One chocolate / candy / toy / book / TV show / etc. is never enough…be prepared with more…and more…and more!

What if your “learning” has resulted in “automatic responses”…and what if they’re really far off base?  Like faulty perspective that distorts reality…

Besides escaping with chic-lit books, I spend a lot of time in the realm of fantasy:  from the Hobbit to Twilight and Harry Potter and more recently, Vampire Diaries.  I often fantasize about being thrust into a quest to save the world that’s fraught with clashes of good and evil.

Late last night, I was walking to the subway station after leaving the office through a very well lit and deserted shopping concourse in the financial district downtown, and I scared myself into thinking that something was waiting to jump out from behind a trash can or pillar and attack me!  My guard was up and adrenaline was coursing through my veins.  It didn’t help that all of a sudden I started to hear clicking heels behind me.  Don’t turn around!   Is it a mugger?  Do I fit the victim profile?

All I can think of is, will I ever see my kids again?  Or my husband (aka the level-headed Mr. Niceguy)?  Why did I have to go and pick a fight with him?  Quickening my pace I make it safely to the subway platform and when it pulls in, I jump on and find a seat.  I’ve lucked out…there’s a lady doing something on her phone…a guy a few seats down sipping some 7Up…everything seems normal…but wait…who’s THAT guy?  And why is he staring back at me?  Oh my goodness…he seems quite pale…is he a vampire?  A death eater?  Serial killer?  Stop staring!  I can’t!  I want to stare my murderer down so he can regret the day he was born!  I will not be made into a jacket, thank you very much…even if I’ve gotten a little rounder!

Get into position…back against wall of subway…that’s right, I’m ready for anything.  I’ve watched enough Kung Fu (Panda) to know what to do…HI-YA!

Finally.  My stop.  Exhale….relief…..  Can’t wait to get home and give my honey a squeeze…but wait!  The vampire / death eater / serial killer is also getting up.  Oh no!  Did he catch those evil looks I was giving him?  Have I angered him?  I didn’t mean to…I’m like a Chihuahua and don’t know my own size!  Sorry!  I swear I have no control over my facial expressions and Mr. Niceguy is always telling me to stop staring!  He says I have a staring problem that most toddlers grow out of.  Dammit…he was right again!

Inhale!  Quick!  Run up the escalator, then up the next one too and out the doors…I’m outside, phew!  I’m catching my breath now and turn around.  Oh my gosh.  He’s right there.  Staring at me.  Why is he looking at me like that?  Hey!  I’m not some kind of weirdo or a pity case?  Either way, you’re wrong!  Just a second!  Pffft…

And before I know it, to my surprise…he’s walked on by…hmmm…lesson learned.

Time…it’s never on your side?

It’s 8:45 am…train’s at 9:25 am – plenty of time to park the car, run up to the office, change into my sleek heels for the closing lunch, download files onto my laptop, go to the washroom, and casually walk to the train station right?

8:46 am…parking ticket in mouth, laptop bag on one shoulder, purse in hand, keys in other hand…oooh, I should grab my coffee cup and chuck it in the garbage too instead of leaving it to rot in my freshly detailed car…CRAP!!!  The coffee cup tipped forward and coffee has trickled down my right sleeve, then the cup falls in—total—slow—motion…there’s coffee all over my carseats and floor!!  Oh no!!  Oooh, but I have baby wipes!  Problem solved.

A quick clean up later and I’m in the elevator on my way up to the office.  Ahhhh….the only place in my life that’s JUST MINE.  No toys, no clothes or socks all over the floor, no one whining for my attention or asking me where this is or that is.  A real escape…

Oh.  My.  God.  It’s 9:05 and I need at least 12 minutes to get to the train station.  RUUUUUUUUNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!

This was my Monday morning.  And it seems to be the norm for me lately.  I’m always in a rush and seemingly out of touch with time!

Take my 6 year old’s hockey games.  The hockey rink is like my church.  I go there…because I have to.  Because it’s for a greater cause.  Because I have faith that my son could be a great hockey player if he just cared enough.  So I get up every Saturday morning, feed my son breakfast, fight over the importance and merits of sticking to something that you started (this time and for the purposes of this entry, hockey lessons) and fumble my way through a myriad of equipment:  neck guard, chest and shoulder pad, elbow pads, shin guards, the jock cup (this one always makes us laugh), the socks, shorts and jersey…and then those blasted skates!  Why can’t they just be Velcro???  I have broken more nails than I can count putting those things on!  And if it’s not a broken nail it’s the “lace burn” (akin to a rope burn) that kills me.  Those things are like weapons!  Trying to get a 6 year old boy to stand still, and then trying to get leverage to lace up the skate all while worrying about slicing your femoral artery – akh, the stress level!!!

And then once again, I’ve taken much longer to get all the gear on than anticipated.  And this means, of course, that I have less than 5 minutes to get to the arena.  And I still have to get dressed myself!  So I wind up at the rink with a t-shirt and (gratefully a bra), jeans, uggs and whatever jacket happens to be hanging by the door – and most of the time it’s my ratty “take the garbage out” jacket which is only a jacket in name and should really just be called a robe as I use it mostly to cover myself when I’m taking out the garbage in my PJs so as not to miss the garbage collection!!  So I’m freezing as I haven’t even bothered with socks and am walking my son onto the ice thinking about then sitting down in the “warm area” for 35 minutes of spacing out (we missed the first 15 minutes of practice, you see) when my son looks at me with those big brown eyes and says, “you’re going to stand over here and watch me the whole time, right?”  Oh boy.

Of course I comply.  And now that we’re where we need to be, doing what we need to do, I need time to go by.  But time’s just not going to cooperate with me, is it?

I watch the clock.  It feels like hours have gone by…but no.  Just 4 minutes.  Can it be?  I’m completely frozen.  My bum has officially turned rock hard from the cold (not the 10 squats I squeezed in last night for the first time in a month).  I swear I can no longer feel my fingers or toes and I feel like my nose is going to fall off.  Just 4 minutes?!!??! 

Why wasn’t time moving at THIS pace when I was trying to catch my train?  Get out the door in the morning?  Get the kids to school before the bell?  Sheesh.

And yet, sometimes, only sometimes, time really shows you what it’s worth when you’re going at just the right pace.  When you don’t hit the snooze button at all and get up when the alarm clock buzzes at the crack of dawn.  When you catch the subway right before rush hour, pick up a latte and croissant, and make it to your desk with more than seconds to spare.  When you get home, finish dinner and homework and find you can still squeeze in a funny movie, a quick catch up phone call or coffee, or play with the kids before bedtime.  It’s pure magic.

So now, I’m feeling the magic.  For just one more hour I get to sit here, on my train ride home, the sun is shining outside, I’m playing my favourite tunes, relaxing and I have absolutely nothing else to do.  Time and I are going at the same pace and though I know we’ll inevitably be out of sync as soon as the train pulls into the station, and I pull out my car keys to race home and get dinner on the table and start homework, I have now.