The wee hours…

It’s 3:21 in the morning. My thoughts are so scattered – summer is nearing its end, and the kids will go back to school – should I go back to school? Should I leave the safe confines of this new lifestyle and go and pursue or learn something different? Oh. My. God. I really have to tell Mr. Niceguy that his breathing is SO LOUD in the middle of the night – not quite a snore but wow it’s all I can focus on at this moment: IN. OUT. Pause….IN. OUT. Peace….IN. OUT…repeat, repeat, REPEAT. How do I think? I can’t! Do I get out of bed? Am I really admitting defeat? I’m going to be such a terrible mess tomorrow and that’ll make it TWO DAYS IN A ROW of really poor sleep… Wow my jaw hurts…why? And my shoulder is hurting too…are these all connected? I MUST PUSH past these thoughts before my brain really turns on – but how???

3:56 am. I give up. Once again I find myself on our annual pilgrimage to the great outdoors only this year I’m hoping it will be different. This year I’m actually welcoming the escape from a very busy summer. No cellphones, no email, no Facebook or Instagram updates (ok…perhaps just decreased Facebooking and Instagramming), no need to be anywhere or see anyone. And I’m prepared for it…sort of. I mean, once I got us all settled here in “The North Land” – sheets on beds, food put away, children tucked into beds and us too with the promise of a restful sleep to be broken naturally by the sweet call of the birds at dawn and the sun breaking over the lake.

2015 cottage 1Perhaps my favourite (and if I’m going to be honest, only thing I like) about cottaging is the morning – I can’t seem to wait for when the sun is getting ready to break the skies over a still, glass-like lake. This is absolute stillness. This is the feeling of being in the present. No other thoughts can penetrate its majesty but now, at 4:06 am, I know I’m still a couple of hours away… Did I pack the kids’ sunscreen??

Why is it that during these wee hours of the morn things come to my brain at light speed?

Especially here, in the great outdoors?? It’s so quiet that I can actually hear myself reciting my own thoughts to myself over and over again…

I had a colleague once tell me how he dealt with this – he kept a pen and pad of Post-It Notes on his bedside table. When he would wake in the wee hours, also full of light speed thoughts, he would write them down on sticky notes, post them on his wall and no longer feeling prey to the fear of forgetting (**because we always seem to wake up in the middle of the night with the solutions to the world’s problems or how best to plan the 5 year old’s next birthday party or that one essential item which was left-off of the 9 year old’s back to school list or for that matter, what to do with the rest of one’s life) he would drift back to a peaceful slumber. Only, I forgot my sticky notes and one fatal flaw in this methodology is that I don’t even know how I’ll choose which idea to write down and for that matter, I CAN’T WRITE IN THE DARK! Should I invent a pen that shines a light while you write?? A “night-pen-light”?

justin_trudeau heartOh Google, I miss you. My faithful companion during broken sleep. You have all the answers to my light speed thoughts: what are symptoms of insomnia – anemia – paranoia – vitamin C deficiency? What is the likelihood of scurvy in the modern era? Are oranges the best source of vitamin C? Are they genetically modified? Is genetic modification really that bad? Stress versus genetic modification, which is worse? When is the world going to end? Where is ISIS now? Should I vote for Justin ? He’s sooooo dreamy… Wait, what are the symptoms of ADD?!!

Maybe a walk would help…but I’d need to carry around this laptop for light. Gosh my eyesight really isn’t what it used to be…Shhhhh…don’t want to wake anyone up but this tossing and turning is torture!

Now I’m on the floor – the cold floor of the living area – a welcome escape from the IN…OUT…Pause pattern, and a break from the heat. 4:21 am – Not long to go now. My stomach rumbles but I’m ignoring you – got a few pounds to lose otherwise I can’t get back into my skinny jeans. Eggs, bacon, toast, coffee or that yummy cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese…I wonder…am I doing the right thing? Has giving up my career to spend more time with my family been the right move? What will I do when they no longer need me the same way? And when will that be? Will it be sudden? Will I be ready?

I think of my mom…of so many other moms. Their words echoing in my full, yet empty brain: find your own path – don’t live your life solely for the sake of others.

With back to school just around the corner I’m forced into a usual “September pattern”. Playtime is over – it’s time to get back to business and start checking things off “the list”. Yet, my “playtime” has been full of so much learning, so many new experiences and such an unprecedented rate of growth despite hours and hours wasted on watching The Bold and The Beautiful (best soap opera ever), or watching Jillian Harris on Love It or List It Vancouver (tips for any number of my weekly home improvements) – and if I’m going to be honest, wondering what I would do if I was the Bachelorette (in another life of course because hey, I found my one and only Mr. Niceguy).

Habitually forced into a pattern of insecurity I remind myself of some of these experiences and my accomplishments – none of which would have occurred had I not drastically changed course. And while I may not have all the answers, aren’t I getting closer to figuring it all out? Or further? I don’t know…maybe the answer is just supposed to land at my feet and all I’ll have to do is know when to recognize it. Or maybe I have to put in the work and avoid not making the difficult choices…

Wait a second, doesn’t lack of sleep speed up the aging process?? The floor is getting warm and I’m feeling overcome with sleep. I want to wait ‘til the break of dawn but I can’t…or I won’t.

4:53 am. It’s almost here! But sleep, I seek you. I don’t want to solve the world’s problems. I don’t want to solve my own. I just want to drift…and hey, that’s ok, isn’t it? I mean, I am on vacation now, aren’t I? I can worry about all of these things later – like tomorrow, or better yet, next week? But back to school’s right around the corner!! Pfft…I’ll navigate next week.  IN…OUT…Pause…

2015 cottage 2

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In recognition of International Women’s Day

While I know I promised to write more regularly, an incredible opportunity to speak at the Armenian Relief Society’s annual International Women’s Day luncheon, occupied every spare moment for the past two and a half months.  From being buried in post-it notes full of ideas jotted down during all hours of the day…and wee hours in the night, to continuous editing and practicing in my car, in the bathroom, while cooking, and in front of any random and willing audience, I finally got it down.  This speech was delivered on Sunday, March 1st, 2015.  It is certainly geared towards a female audience, regardless, I hope all you readers enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed delivering it…

TTG SpeechGood morning.  I’d like to start by thanking the ARS (Armenian Relief Society) Rubina Chapter and today’s organizing committee for inviting me to speak at today’s luncheon.  It’s really such an honour.

When the committee asked me to speak today, they said I could talk about anything and I thought…oh, my goodness!  Where do I even start?  You know, a year ago I decided to take a break from my career and spend some more time with my family while I figured out what to do with the rest of my life.  Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be standing here in front of you.  But, with this opportunity at hand, I thought I’d talk about the challenges that thirty and forty-something women face in today’s world.

While it is a HUGE topic, I’ve distilled my very candid observations down to 5 major challenges that I believe young-ish Armenian-Canadian moms and women face these days:  moms and motherhood (gotta talk about our moms), men (another must topic), the elusive work-life balance, one’s identity and what’s really important…you’ll find out.  I wonder if some of my observations will hold true for you.  Agree or disagree, let’s start relating!

Moms and Motherhood

Challenge #1.  Our first glimpse of motherhood, comes from our own mothers.  Moms, you inspire us, you teach us, you support us – in your own controlling – I mean loving way.  My own mother is very smart, beautiful, talented, and very, very understanding…so understanding is she, that she’s not going to get mad or upset or offended by anything I’m about to say…right mom?

As a general observation, Armenians are very passionate people:  we’re passionate about food, passionate about our causes and above all, we’re passionate about our families.

So in a culture where family comes first, it follows that our parents’ happiness means everything to us – their approval is nearly always essential and consequently, one can be quite vulnerable to any critique.  If moms believe that they’re acting in our best interest, they don’t hold back.  They’ll tell you what you should or should not be doing, saying, wearing, eating and even thinking!

I mean, I’m forty, and my mom is still telling me what to do!  Not that being 40 really means anything because while I feel a lot more confident and self-assured, in some instances I’m still trying to be one of the cool kids.  I feel like I’m in a kind of limbo:  not old enough to be wise, and not young enough not to care.  Not old enough for a cosmetic procedure, not young enough to not consider the prospect of a cosmetic procedure…am I too old to wear uggs?!

But I digress…  Everytime I write a column for TorontoHye Newspaper, my mom and I have the following conversation,

[ARMENIAN]  “Talyn, ayt eench keuradz eyeer terteen mech.  Eench bedee gartze joghovourteuh?  Antzial amseuvah hotvadzeut shad avelee lav er.  Artyok, hoknadz e-yeer?  Lav goodess?  Tzezi hamar aghvor jash meuh yepem?  Chem hasgeunar tzezi.  Ays seroonteuh darper eh.  Gyankeuh avelee arak eh.  Mer adeneuh assank cher.  Akh, aghcheegeuss, assee koo amenen tjouvar dareenereut en.”

[TRANSLATION:  “Talyn, what have you written for the paper?  What are people going to think?  Last month’s column was much better.  Could you have been tired, perhaps?  Are you eating well?  Shall I cook you a nice meal?  I don’t understand you…this generation is completely different.  Life is too fast – things were not like this when we were growing up.  Oh, my dearest daughter, these are your most trying years.”]

Huh?   How many of you have had this kind of conversation?  How did we go from, I didn’t quite get this month’s column to these are your toughest years?!

When you’re young, it’s hard to understand why mothers do the things that they do.  I gave my mom such a hard time because I thought MY life was difficult.  Like the time I ran away from home for a few hours to my Armenian best friend’s house and promptly called my mother to let her know I was ok.  My mom told me that she understood I just needed the space and most of all, that she loved me.  I know now that she was probably falling apart inside.  I also know this because every now and then she reminds me…  Regardless, she stood by me.  And I know she’ll always stand by me no matter what.  So every time we have that conversation about my articles, she makes me strive more, reach more, and try harder.  And I just hope that’s what my two boys remember when I’m mothering them!

Mothering Two Boys

Speaking of my two glorious, young and active boys.  At this stage in their lives, we are their everything.  But the time where parents are everything to their children is fleeting.  So…with that in mind, I’m prepared to make sacrifices.

For example, I’m constantly having to go on “boy” adventures – I can see all you moms and aunties of boys nodding your heads – you know exactly what I mean.  My kind of adventures are more like a night out on the town with my girlfriends or an exotic trip.  Boy adventures, are like:

  1. Clothing optional sumo wrestling
  2. Or roughing it in the dreaded “North” full of mosquitoes with no restaurants, shops, and worst of all, without female companionship!!!!

It’s not easy being a parent.  Kids don’t come with an instruction manual.  They make you second guess your every move.  I’ve resorted to begging, pleading, bribery, and even manipulation – some days, I hardly recognize myself.  Unlike any other job, the job of raising our children is 24/7, forever, the stakes are infinitely higher and the pressure for perfection is omnipresent.  For while we won’t be their everything for long, they will be our everything for all time.

So moms, grandmoms, and tantigs, we get it.  Thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do.  Thank goodness, though, we don’t have to do it alone…which brings me to my Mr. Niceguy – better known as my husband and challenge #2.

Men

Men are an interesting breed:  so even keeled and wonderfully objective – so long as they’re not tired, hungry or sick of course.  Men (and boys) have such different priorities –underwear left in the middle of the floor or dirty socks left on kitchen counters is surely not the end of their world.  For them, the end of the world looks more like a favourite soccer team losing a match – the sorrow of which is quickly forgotten with a deep fried or sugary snack of some sort.

When you’re getting married, the focus tends to be on the wedding, how you’re going to sign your name and officially moving out of your parents’ basement.  Over time, real life will test you, will make you want to move back to the safe cocoon of your parents’ basement, but hopefully it will also transform your marriage into a real balanced partnership.

For example, I’m a bit of a dreamer and an optimist – Mr. Niceguy is logical and rational.  Oftentimes, he refers to me as “passionate” – not that kind of passionate – his way of saying I’m a quick-tempered, headstrong Armenian woman. I’ve become even more passionate as a mother, particularly while trying to discipline our children who are not listening to a word that I’m screaming and when he materializes from thin air and begins to lecture me on the latest scientific research on parenting.  Ya, I’m passionate all right.

In any case, accepting our differences has made us stronger.  Just because I think that the Bachelor should stay friends with the bachelorettes he doesn’t give a rose to, and he thinks that that’s totally absurd, doesn’t mean we can’t get along.  Men are certainly from Mars and Women are from Venus but we’re all living here together on Earth so I call a truce.

The Elusive Balance

Another balancing act we’re faced with today is work-life balance… the “Elusive Balance” – Challenge #3.  Here’s what I’m going to say about this – and if I may be presumptuous, mainly for the benefit of those, like me, who are still seeking their balance: balance is what you make of it.  There is no one formula.  And while that may sound bewildering, it means that you can have a hand in its design – if you’re brave enough.

Striving for a career only to find that it interferes with your personal life is devastating…at least it was for me.  That’s why I took matters into my own hands and am carving my own path – a path that likely would not work for someone else.  Finding balance also requires help.  On the career side, you absolutely need the right environment.  You also need buy-in, you need to build your brand and your value to the point where you are supported to have more flexibility because losing you or replacing you would not be an option.  On the family side, you also need support, and you need to dial back expectations…in my case, those perfectionistic tendencies.  There will always be feelings of guilt – I wish I was more dedicated to my job, I wish I was more dedicated to my family.  I wish I had the time to have a haircut, manicure and a latte in peace instead of freezing my butt off at an arena or constantly responding to the buzz of my Blackberry!

Finding balance and maintaining balance is tough.  What’s great, however, is seeing so many women taking charge and courageously creating the kind of life that they want, rather than what someone else imposes on them.  Bravo.

Identity

Challenge #4.  Identity.  What is your identity?  How do you define it?  Identity is influenced by a number of different things like your age, gender, language, history, religion, employment and so on.  Identity is not static and is shaped and developed by you over time.  And I believe, that at some point, we all stop and ask ourselves, “Who Am I?”  I tend to ask myself this question when I’m up at two in the morning wondering if I’m ever gonna get my act together – and if my lack of sleep has anything to do with perimenopause or something – totally FREAKS me out…I think I’m having a hot flash right now!

Most women face a real identity crisis at some point.  And as an Armenian woman, this identity crisis gains a further complexity.  While we struggle with building a successful career and balance that with a full and complete personal life, many of us also struggle with the DNA-programmed need to preserve our culture and our heritage.  I know in my case I was raised with a healthy dose of “Hayeren Khoseer” and “Azad, angakh Hayasdan”.

I call this my three-legged identity tripod:  career, family and being Armenian.  These are the things that define my identity – if any one of these three legs does not match the length of the others, I topple down.

When it comes to my identity, I also realize that I don’t have to be perfect.  And that it’s really important to take risks.  Risks make you feel alive.  They make you feel like you’ve achieved.  Standing here is a HUGE risk for me.  Risks force you to expand your world and look beyond what you think you already know.

As I said before, being Armenian is a big part of who I am.  I am married to a non-Armenian (“odar”) who challenges me, supports my ambitions and respects me and my heritage.  My children speak Armenian.  They are learning about our culture and heritage and which is one way that I am preserving a very important part of who I am and passing on that ingrained Armenian DNA.  I also volunteer at the ARS Armenian Private School (if you haven’t yet donated to Telethon 2015, please do so) and the Zoryan Institute – a centre dedicated to the education, research, preservation and documentation of genocide and human rights violations, particularly the Armenian Genocide.  Working there feeds my soul.

But being Armenian and staying Armenian has not been easy.  Perhaps it’s like blasphemy to say that on some days I wished I was French or Italian – so much easier to relate and to have people understand who you are and what you’re all about without the burden of struggling to survive.  But as I’ve gotten older, and hopefully gained more wisdom, I’ve come to believe that the hardest things are the ones worth fighting for…marriage, your children, your friends, your family…and yes, your identity.  These are important things worth fighting for.

What’s Really Important

And that brings me to the final challenge.  Challenge #5, discovering what’s really important.  Some recent news about a friend’s situation really put this in perspective for me.

We all get bogged down with our own problems from time to time, and lose sight of the big picture – that we only have this one life to live and that we must make the most of it.  Don’t we all wish that we were prettier, thinner, smarter, more successful, more laid back, younger and so on.   The challenge for us is to grab hold of the magic in this life, and that magic, in my view, comes from sharing, from connecting and relating to the people around you, from being present.

It is a rare privilege to get a glimpse or to be present when people experience moments that will shape them forever, whether they’re experiencing moments of real learning, of overcoming, or even of regret.  The moment that you can share your joys and regrets, they become real and allow you to relate to people in ways unimaginable.  And the relating, well that is your legacy.

The connections that you make are what carry you – are what will sustain you.  These bonds – whether created because you had a little too much to drink and your friend held back your hair while you were sick, or you created because a friend watched your newborn, colicy baby while you finally took a shower and got some rest – these bonds are what I’m all about.  And look, you’re not going to bond with everybody, but when you do, stop and remember the magic.  I do it by writing it down – and you relate to me when you read my stories.

Thank you.

Lettuce

(Blowing off some steam post speech…biggest fear is to speak in front of an audience  with something in my teeth!)

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

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.

Funky blues…Part I

Open.  Close.  Open.  Close.  Open.  Close.  Open…scan top…scan middle…scan bottom…nothing in the left drawer…nothing in the right…nothing in the door.  Close.  There is officially nothing to eat.  I’ve checked, double-checked and triple-checked.  The fridge fairy bypassed my house again.  Maybe I can scrounge up some chocolate or candy…

Cable?  PVR?  Netflix?  Nothing.  Well, nothing except another show about a couple getting to choose between three potential homes in some exotic locale of which it’s quite obvious which two they’d only choose if they were completely insane.  Again?  No thanks.  And it’s not shark week!!  My shows have all had their season finales too: Survivor’s done, the Bachelor’s done, 90210 (yes, 90210) is done for good and worst of all…no Glee until September!  Whatever will I sing along with?? And I absolutely, unequivocally will not watch any of the PBS shows that reside on my PVR – no, I did not choose them nor can I stand to get past their descriptions like the role of this agency or that in foiling some terrorist plot or new insights into some World War II battle fought in who knows where, who knows when, or better yet, what REALLY was behind the financial crisis.  I really should’ve taken the time to program some of my shows…

So, nothing to eat and no entertainment…a nasty combination for my constitution.

It’s morning.  I get up, get ready and get to work.  I need to focus on work.  I need to put more of an effort into my career.  But I can’t.  I’ve ignored these funky blues, pretended they weren’t happening, and now I’m just going to be a big girl and admit that yes, I am totally funked out.  And today my funk manifested itself in the ultimate act of betrayal:  my very yummy chicken burrito full of lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, cheese, burrito sauce and sour cream bottom-end exploded onto my brand new silk coral top and black silk skinny pants…I LOOK LIKE A BAG LADY, FOR GOODNESS SAKE and I am definitely going to have to spend the rest of the day on my chair pressed right up against my desk to hide this mess.  This is not helping my funky blues at all…

But I’m not good at being still…and since I can’t concentrate on work anyway, I’m going to make one more attempt at breaking out of this funk.  I’m going to do what almost always works and I pray, would not fail me now…I’m going to the shoe shop under my building!

I can feel the funk lifting as I step into the elevator…down, down, down…sniiiiffff inhale…pfhooooo exhale…’DING’ out I go.

Ahhh…I swear I feel lighter, there’s a bounce to my step.  Whatever will I get?  Cute pair of ballerinas or perhaps a pair of trendy sneakers to wear on the soccer field – the possibilities are endless!  I walk in…to my absolute, and utter horror, however, I am confronted by one of my most hated songs – you know the one from your teenage years full of angst, revolution and the one that was the backdrop to a bad dumping or a wardrobe malfunction in high school.  I feel heavy, worn.  If I could cover my ears, curl up into fetal position and cry out of frustration, I would.  But no, I’ll put on a brave face.  I’m not giving up.  This song will pass…and it does…except the next one is worse.  I swear I lifted my arms up in total exasperation and stormed right out of the store.

Should they not be putting together song lists to INSPIRE purchases???  Who’s in charge here???  Why aren’t they playing any Britney Spears?  Or J.Lo???!!

My funk has now taken a backseat to my anger.  I need someone or something to BLAME for my funktastic mood…ah ha…Mother Nature.

I can trace my funk to this time of year, Spring, when we all come out of hibernation expecting renewal and change (lots of pretty flowers and warm breezes certainly seem like the perfect backdrop for some magic!)  For me, spring also happens to be a time when I am once again evaluating and re-evaluating every aspect of my life…all while tackling the ultimate in mundane tasks:  the multitude of baby clothes/toys/gear that I STILL have to get rid of, the flipping of my closet (and let’s be real, everyone else’s too) from fall/winter to spring/summer, the seven pounds I still have to shed before bikini season, the pedicure I still have to get, the tidying up of the garden and how I’m going to make sure that we get enough fruits and veggies in our diet…

This evaluation I put myself through is just so exhausting!!  My brain hurts.  There’s too much to think about.  And I keep adding more to my list.  As a side note, I’m not particularly gifted in any one thing, but I possess an incredibly high level of curiosity and sometimes ill-placed high level of confidence which have resulted in a deluded sense of capability.  In other words, I think I can do anything but I can’t figure out what to do first!!  This is just crippling…how do I dig myself out of this quicksand and get out of this funk????

Mother Nature…it’s not you…IT’S ME!!!  Funk.

Role reversal…?

Originally written for Mother’s Day…

About 7 years ago, I was standing just outside “flower row” on Avenue Road.  It was a very special Sunday, Mother’s day, and people were buying flowers for their mothers/sisters/grandmothers/aunts/wives.  Meanwhile, for me it was just a typical downtown Sunday, where I had just come from having a very satisfying meal at one of my favourite brunch places, looking every bit the rotund mother-to-be…43 pounds more heavy, 6 weeks pre-baked, prego lady…the perfect subject for a feel-good TV interview piece about Mother’s Day.

A reporter got one look at me and ran right over, practically salivating!  She prepped her cameraman (who also looked really excited but I think more because he could finally get his shot and get out of the madness) smoothed down her perfectly coiffed hair, and then turned to me.  After a quick, three…two…one…the mic was in my face and… “Hi!  We’re here in downtown Toronto on this very special day.  It’s Mother’s Day!  Miss, I mean, ma’am, tell me, how special is this day for you?”  I stood there totally frozen.  Why was this woman waiting for MY answer?  I shrugged and said, “Well, it’s kind of not a day for me, is it?  I mean, I’m just pregnant – I don’t have any kids yet, so I don’t really think of this day as anything especially meaningful.”  At this point she looked at me like I was from outer space…and like she was about ready to tear my head off…so I added, “Umm…I mean, until I have this baby, I think this is still a day for my mom, not me.  But I’m excited???”  Cameraman and reporter both looked at me, mouths agape, shocked…incidentally, I didn’t make it on the 6 o’clock news…

Was she waiting for me to gush:  “Awww…this is the best day.  So amazing!  I can’t wait to be a mother!  I can’t wait to meet this little baby!  I’m experiencing the miracle of life and it’s going to be the best thing EVER!”  Well, that’s just not me…I never heard the birds chirping or saw the clouds part – I had no idea of what I was getting into…and how much I would change as a result…

Seven years later…it’s 11:15 pm.  I just got home from work.  I’ve had one of those days…in fact, more like one of those weeks!  Up at the crack of dawn, drop one kid off at school, while my husband stayed at home and took care of the other (a big ball of ooze thanks to spring allergies and a cold), followed by a 15.5 hour stretch at work.

And the first thing I thought of when I came home?  “Where’s my dinner?”

For anyone that’s seen the movie Pleasantville, there’s a scene in it where the father, a stereotypical 1950’s man that goes to work, while his “little woman” takes care of the house, makes marshmallow salads, and cares for the children, comes home and gets all snappy because things have been turned upside down, his wife has “seen the light” and hadn’t prepared dinner. I felt very much like this man – like everything I knew had been turned upside down.

Here I was clinging onto the middle rungs of the corporate ladder and during this latest stretch of work insanity, my husband’s the one making lunches, wiping noses, overseeing homework and having chats with the other moms in the parking lot!  He’s the one who has become the centre of our home.  He’s the one who knows where things are and what’s happened on Lego Ninjago.  He’s the one they look for…

Don’t I want to be the one to take my kids to school, chat with the other moms in the parking lot and still have time to watch Bold and the Beautiful and do homework?  But also, don’t I want to achieve something that’s just mine…leave my own mark?

Like the pendulum of the clock, I keep swinging back and forth and at close to 1:30 am in the early morning, I decide I’m done.

And I’m strangely satisfied.  I remember that as a mom, I have the gift of continuously witnessing breaks in the time-space continuum – something I never saw before; moments, where I see myself in my kids’ laughter, tantrums, and surprise.  I can almost feel them experiencing life as my heart quickens when I see their absolute joy or total devastation and I’m forever perplexed and amazed at how quickly the world becomes a better place after a simple hug, a high-five and a smile.

I wish I could go back and answer the question I was asked seven years ago, all over again.  I would say to that reporter, here’s what Mother’s Day means to me:  That although I still think this is still more of a day for my mom… that it would apply to me soon.  That although I have no idea what I am getting into, I hope to do a good job and make sure that my kids will laugh loud, genuine laughs every day.  But being a mom would not define me completely and I hope that my kids would also get to know me.  After having said all of that, we’re just going to take things as they come, and figure things out as we go.

The big “M”

A few weeks ago, after a very long day at work and longer evening at home, I found my husband at the computer reading intently.  When I asked him what he was up to, he told me he was reading about midlife crises.  Which got me thinking, isn’t that the time when middle-aged guys buy fancy (sport) cars and have affairs with (much) younger women?  What on earth was HE doing reading about midlife crises…Oh.  My.  God.  Was HE having a midlife crisis??  What does this mean???!!

Run upstairs, grab iPad, start research…FAST!

Psychology Today refers to midlife as: “Mortality and the idea that time is running out [which] can leave a middle-aged person feeling discontent and restless.  Often this 40- to 60-year-old may have a need to reassess life and its meaning.”

Hang on then…does this mean that I might be having a mid life crisis?  At thirty-X and fast approaching 40, am I middle aged?  I mean, I have more laugh lines and crows feet than I used to, and sometimes I huff and puff after just a flight of stairs.  Then there’s the music on the radio… sometimes it just sounds like noise.  And just the other day, I was driving home from work and a bunch of kids were crossing the street in front of me and I can’t believe their choice in clothes these days – my mother would’ve never let me leave the house looking like that!

Uh oh, I’m feeling warm, I’m feeling agitated…and oh my goodness, restless!!  I am in full, DEFCON 1 crisis mode!!!

I think I AM middle aged!!  I mean, I don’t think I can even remember the last time I did anything spontaneously like tried to get into the latest, most hip lounge/bar/restaurant on a Saturday night after 10 pm that didn’t have any high chairs, kids menus or crayons….what does this all mean?

I continued my search for an answer when Google took me in a different direction.  Apparently, in today’s kinder, gentler lexicon, we should no longer be referring to a midlife crisis as a “crisis”, but rather as a transition – a period of tremendous growth.  Transition?  Really?

I admit, I’ve been searching for how to leave my mark…searching for something more.  I ask myself regularly, have I done all that I want to do?  Achieved all that I want to achieve?  Should I just be content with where I’m at???  And then there’s the list.  You know…THAT list.  The one we all have.  And if you’re anything like me, you have a few of those lists:  categorized, colour-coded, time sequenced…the works.  I haven’t even started to knock items off MY list!

And now I’m middle aged???  I’m going through a midlife crisis?!  I mean…transition?  I’m so confused.  I yearn for the past when things were simpler.  The present seems so overwhelming and don’t even get me started about the future – positively, terrifying!

And wait, I didn’t even bring this up…my husband did.  The big “M” has infected my household!!!!

It’s all starting to make sense now.  Seemingly, out of nowhere, my husband decides that it was important to get in touch with his Scottish roots before he dies – he’s 41 and healthy as a horse.  For him, that means learning to play bagpipes.  Not guitar (mmm…sexy), or drums (cool), or even the piano (hello)…bagpipes.  See, when my husband was just a young boy, his mom would take him to a sweet, little old lady’s house for piano lessons.  She would pull into the piano teacher’s driveway to drop him off, and then he would have to make his own way home.  But instead of going in, my husband would sneak around to the side of the house, wait until his mother’s car was gone, and then kill time wandering around the neighbourhood for an hour.  This went on for weeks!!

And right now, at this very moment, my husband is “learning” to play his chanter (an instrument that looks like a long recorder but sounds like an elephant with a stuffy trunk) which he bought online and just arrived today. This instrument is to bagpipes, as a tricycle is to a bicycle…and, I mean no disrespect, I THANK GOD that we have not yet graduated to the real thing!

But NOW he practices.  NOW he’s making up for lost time.  And NOW I’m listening to the two other “chanter enthusiasts” try to get in on the act but daddy doesn’t want to share his precious new toy.  So instead, I’m surrounded by the noise of none other than my own, “pop-up boy band” comprised of the chanter-to-be-bagpipe player, the guitarist, and the drummer.

Akh!  I can’t think!

I have evaluated, re-evaluated and re-re-evaluated my purpose, my career, and “what I want to be when I grow up”.  I have given up, picked myself up and continued my search for MY holy grail more times than I can remember.

And what have I learned?  That the big “M” is indeed a transition.  That it is ongoing…like learning to play the chanter.  I’ve been through some of life’s most notable and trying times – all of which continue to shape who I am, and undoubtedly, who I will be.  And while the chanter is now in the hands of my 3 year old, under the tutelage of my husband and accompanied by the loud stomps of my nearly 7 year old, and I still feel like I’m nowhere near figuring everything out, I know that I have now, this moment, this memory during my midlife, that despite all of my transitioning, I will never forget.

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.