An egotistical indulgence…

Forgive this next entry, but my speed train has almost pulled into the station and I refuse to just travel patiently!  I’m trying to relish these last few moments before I have to disembark…

As spring turns to summer all I can think of is how can I relish these last few weeks – days – hours before I have to give up a decade that has shaped me so much?  It saw my confidence grow which in turn, gave me a better sense of self.  It saw me turn (more like bumble) into motherhood, not once, but blissfully and blessedly, twice.  It tested my every boundary and forced me to accept some very hard truths and change.  And yet, through all of the upheaval, it was kind as it surrounded me with great friends, a wonderful family and some of the most amazing opportunities and experiences that were beyond imagination…

And so you can see why I’m panicking?  Why I’m having trouble letting go?

It’s been just over a quarter of a year (good effect and makes things sound longer and more significant) since “the departure”.  The identity crisis is starting to take a back seat to this glorious weather and I’m starting to find my groove.  I knew it would take some time to get over the routine of career and that I would be overwhelmed with all sorts of emotion (again, dramatic effect but deservedly so).  I was certain in the fact that I would have to respond to the same questions over and over again…all while not knowing the answers myself.  Yet, stepping out of my boundaries has been good.  I say this cautiously because for the first time in almost forever the future is an empty canvas that I can paint however I like…and I must say, I am enjoying the vastness of it all.  And as one of my very dear friends said, being “unpredictable” – perhaps a word I would never, ever use to describe myself.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my biggest challenge was getting through homework, ensuring we made it to my son’s end-of-year school concert and finding a blender.  With my newly acquired wisdom – acquired because there’s now a little room to think about things other than spreadsheets, industry trends and interest rates – I decided that I should seek to become more healthy and stop avoiding entire food groups by blending them all together into a delicious smoothie.  We’ve all seen the commercials and the demonstrations…I was finally converted.

For three mornings in a row I had the following:  kale, spinach, swiss chard, strawberry, banana, pomegranate seeds, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, mango and pineapple all whipped up with greek yoghurt.  To my surprise, an absolute delight.  And yet on the first day, a massive headache.  Was it because I was sipping on this smoothie for most of the day?  I couldn’t get over this migraine!  It came and went for the first three days!  After some googling I found that I had put myself into a state of DETOX.  My smoothie was cleansing my system!  And all the toxins were bubbling up to the surface!

I blame these toxins…I believe I may have been in a drunken haze for in that migraine-induced, dizzyingly hyper-energetic state I decided that staying true to change was of the utmost importance and the key to life.  And in that inebriation, I decided to take yet another risk: after all they’re addictive, get my adrenaline going and make me feel A-L-I-V-E!!

While booking an exciting upcoming vacation, after much research into where to go and where to stay and what to see and what to do I decided to roll the dice!  There was Mr. Niceguy, the absolute voice of reason that with a smile on his face said, “You?  You’re really going to do thatYou’re going to take that chance with the hotel?  OK.  I know what I would do…but go for it!”

Was that a dare?  Did he not think I could go through with it?  And of all the words he said, why did I cling onto “but go for it!”  Did I miss the, but?

As the smoothie haze began to wear off, my old habits bubbled to the surface:  what if I’ve made a HUGE mistake? What if this place is horrible and I’ve ruined our family vacation?   And why won’t this headache let up???   Ugh!  To win big you actually have to get in the game and play.  But the frustration and the tears and the upset that ensued over the outcome…well surely I must have been a fool!  Surely I should’ve known better!

The duality was driving me crazy!  On the one hand, a wild-eyed thrill-seeker, and on the other, a tip-toeing super-planner afraid of regret.  It was time to end it.  For my remedy, and to restore balance in my universe, I popped open a Diet Coke (the nectar of life and I won’t hear otherwise) to accompany some ketchup-covered onion rings and you know what?  After a little recalibration…I think I’m quite pleased with the outcome.  While these final miles on the train are making me giddy, I can handle this next leg of my adventure…

Featurette.Smoothies

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I’m not mad…it must be the cows!!!??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

English: Salvador Dali with ocelot and cane.

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

More than just a mommy in Strollerville…I’m a princess!

Some time ago we moved to our current neighbourhood, what we jokingly called, “Strollerville” (a term I first heard made by Professor Richard Florida).  At that time, the 7 year old was a new toddler, and the 3 year old was my next project.  Strollerville is the mecca of neighbourhoods for young (yuppie-ish) families – right on the subway line, which makes it easier to get downtown (I swear nearly everyone in this neighbourhood is either a banker, lawyer or stockbroker), within walking distance from some very well known and one-of-a-kind retailers, great schools and parks, plenty of free street parking, and easy access to the city’s major highways.

Yet, coming from a very chic and trendy neighbourhood downtown where children were almost never to be seen outside the 9am to 3:30pm window, and where the closest thing to a kid’s play place was the Baby Gap or the Potterybarn Kids on Bloor Street – which, ironically were almost always devoid of children – Strollerville was like being in a theme park with children everywhere!  And although I missed the sounds of luxury imports racing up and down our street, I knew that we had made the right decision for our little, growing family – particularly since I no longer was mistaken for “the nanny” when I would take my (then) toddler out for a stroll!

Strollerville is now my home and I’ve found that I’ve marked my time here in the most unexpected way. True, the trees have grown, the house could use a fresh coat of paint (thanks to my two little terrors), new restaurants and shops have popped up, and the little boy who would always ride the bus with his mom is not so little anymore…

My first weeks commuting to work were the most harrying for me.  I had to wake up an extra 45 minutes earlier just because we had moved 10 minutes away from the core!  Anyway, I would see this woman with a little boy, about the same vintage as my 7 year old, nearly every day on my way home from work.  They seemed to have such a connection – he was very sweet and quiet and never tested his mother, while she had the kindest disposition.  They even looked like each other.  He was very obviously the center of her world.

Now I’ll take a moment to digress here…I am no less connected to my two boys, who are definitely the centers of my world but I cannot recall a single day where I haven’t been tested, pushed, stretched, taxed, overwhelmed, etc. by them!  Particularly in public when their inner Satan chooses to come out and party.  I mean, simply recollecting the shenanigans of this past weekend, my birthday weekend, when they repeatedly begged to leave dugout seats (I repeat, DUGOUT SEATS) at a baseball game (after the top of the FIRST inning) and simply became more insistent with every minute culminating in both of them on my lap in inning 5, completely obstructing my view, each whining into my ears (too closely and spitting God knows what into my ear canals…eeew), and then breaking down in tears when I unexpectedly took all my frustrations out by yelling at the ump!

Or as recent as last night, when I was given a hard time because I’m planning to go out (sans les deux) with my other mommy friends and have too much food, too much wine, ice cream on the giant piece of (faux) Canadian shield in Yorkville, while wearing my too short for me shorts and stilettos, and pass judgement while people watching, without them. Here’s how that went:

Me:  So guys…just a reminder that mommy’s going out

7 and 3 year olds in unison:  WHY???!!!

Me:  It’s mommy’s birthday.  You want me to have a nice birthday, don’t you?

7 year old:  But your birthday passed.  How many times do you have to go out for your birthday?

3 year old:  Ya.  Issss my bertday (His “bertday” was actually 4 months ago)

Me:  No, it isn’t your birthday.  It’s my birthday party.  And mommy’s friends are going to take her out.  She deserves it.  [Note:  I am all flustered and like a volcano that’s moments from erupting…]  I’ve cooked and cleaned for you, I take you to school, I pack your lunches, I play with you, I buy you all the greatest toys and clothes, I go to work so that I can earn money to keep a roof over your heads, so guess what?  I’M GOING!

Them:  [Totally un-phased] can we come too?

Me:  NO!!!!!!!

Anyway, I hadn’t seen this woman in some time but today, as I hopped on the subway a little earlier than usual; there she was sitting just perpendicular to me, with her son.  He had grown so much…  Still, just as obedient and quiet as ever – she was reading the newspaper while he was busying himself with a Nintendo DS.  And when she thought the volume was too high, she gently leaned in, whispered something to him, and he, without a moment’s hesitation, turned it down.  I noticed that she didn’t wear a ring on her left hand – perhaps she is raising him by herself – and when I looked up at her face, I noticed that time had also moved for her.  No longer as youthful looking as when I first moved to the neighbourhood.  Her hair had more greys, and there were a couple of lines near her eyes that crinkled in just that way when she smiled at her son.  But she was no less beautiful, and no less lovely than when I first saw her those years ago…

I have no idea how long before my boys stop being boys.  But what time I do have, although laced with tears, frustration, bewilderment and anger, is also wonderful, loving, happy, and most of all, magic.  And just when I think that once again, things are just too hard and too complicated, I got the best belated present…

Them:  OK…we know you really want to go out.  Is that what you’re going to wear?

Me:  WHAT?!  WHY?!  I just got this today…doesn’t it look nice?  (Snap: why do I even care?  Honestly?  I just want my IV drip to start hooked up to a bottle of Pinot….)  Are you saying this to upset mummy?  Is this all because you really don’t want me to go?

3 year old:  I don’t want you to go.  [Figures]

7 year old:  I don’t want you to go either but…if you have to go, you have to go.  Hmmm…mommy, you do look nice.  You look pretty, beautiful…you know, more than a princess. [Melt]

Meandboy