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!)

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WANTED: The rest of my eyebrow…

When one starts to egotistically indulge, the universe finds a way to “right-size” their ego…

Part of my eyebrow went missing and I honestly can’t remember where it went.  What’s worse?  I can’t even remember when it was last there…oh, what the rest of my eyebrow must be thinking of me.

Did I tweeze it away?  Did I pull at it?  Did it simply rub off while I slept?  I can’t say…  Perhaps it is a new kind of facial baldness?  Is this the symptom of another affliction?  A side-effect of aging that gets overshadowed by the soon-to-arrive-at-some-point “Big Change”?  Quite frankly, if so, then womankind, fellow sisters, you have done me a great disservice by keeping me in the dark on this one.

I had to figure out what it was like to first kiss a boy and what it meant to get to “all the bases” on my own – and while child labour was a mystery (not to mention the notion of parenting in its entirety), no one, and I mean, NO-BODY ever said anything to me about the possibility of losing part of my eyebrow, an essential feature on my FACE!

It’s absolutely no wonder, then, that the sun’s been shining brighter from “the west” – my God given (and now taken away) natural parasol is missing an arm.  Yet, how could I have not noticed before?  Did I become so intoxicated by the sun’s kisses?

I could’ve done something about it had I first noticed its departure. I should’ve done something about it when I first noticed it was missing…but what?  I suppose I could’ve been more proactive…it’s been some time now…only, I don’t know how long as I’ve been avoiding my face (well at least that region).  When I first caught a glimpse I was so appalled!  I went into denial…I just thought if I didn’t think about it, it wouldn’t be true.  I blamed it on the light and shadows.

I blamed it on the relentless winter and undulating weather (although we are now in a much more steady summer-ish pattern, it seems to me that one can almost always be justified in blaming the weather for virtually anything).

Oh!  If only I could recall the moment.  My brain is trying to preserve me…to keep me from finding the real cause…and ergo, the true culprit!  I know I should’ve been more concerned about my appalling diet…but I’ve been good!  I bought the fancy blender, I’ve had my near-daily smoothies and powered through the detox headaches.  Overall, I’m living a much more clean lifestyle when it comes to eating and drinking (ok, minus the three beers at a friend’s house but it’s World Cup and that only comes but once every four years and so I could be given some leniency, could I not?)

Oh.  My.  God.  That could very well be it!  Perhaps it was all part of the detoxification.  Perhaps that part of my eyebrow was actually toxic and the rest of my body did what it needed to survive…like gangrene?  Had that part of my eyebrow succumbed to necrosis, and was the rest of my eyebrow just undergoing euthanasia?  Well, if that’s the case, do I give thanks?  No, that’s insane.  I’m going off the deep end.  I must recall how it happened.  WHY CAN’T I JUST REMEMBER?!

Wait.  Maybe if I stare in the mirror long enough I’ll get a flashback.  Like in those movies or crime dramas when they have temporary amnesia and then all of a sudden, lightning strikes…FLASH!!  OK, here goes…but wait.  What if I focus and stare at it and I get nothing?  And what if it never comes back?

No. Be brave.  S – t – a – r – e…….and THINK!  I see it…baby blue with white polka dots….a tweezer…oh, and I’m going in…STOP!!!!

And that’s how my day started just yesterday…it ended in the emergency room – not because of anything to do with the trivialities above…but because the four year old experienced an allergic reaction to a cashew.  Which really put things in perspective.

Now my four year old is happily sitting on the couch, watching one of his favourite movies, eating his favourite indulgence…one that he rarely ever gets.  And I’m grateful…missing eyebrow and all.

missing eyebrow

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

Heels, hoops and all…you better represent!!

Summer is nearing its close, it’s back to school and this year I was ready!  Instead of spending my two weeks of vacation sipping very expensive cocktails at a five star hotel on the French Riviera wearing a wonderful broad brimmed hat and behind large Jackie O sunglasses (so blasé), I decided to be a mature adult and tackle all sorts of important tasks around the house.  OK fine, it’s not really a choice if the Riviera isn’t a real option.  Anyway, as part of the “staycation” I filled my time with some much needed home renovation (and people renovation) projects:  from basic gardening to full landscaping, (root) touch ups, school supplies, new wardrobes, replacing burnt light bulbs, manicures after replacing burnt light bulbs, and so on and so forth.

Although I am a renaissance woman, and wholly capable of being a quick study in just about anything, there are some things in which I am not meant to dabble.  For example, after a particularly raucous night out with Mr. Niceguy a few years ago which included an open bar tab and hopping from one club to the other, we arrived home in the early morning hours, starving.  After placing an order for chi-thai delivery, Mr. Niceguy mentioned that his hair was getting too long.  I mentioned that cutting hair was right up my alley and that I’ve often trimmed my own hair – front and back.  Note here, I have fairly long hair which is naturally curly so any slight discrepancies usually blend well.  Note also, that I normally don’t handle scissors while drunk.  What I did to the back of Mr. Niceguy’s head was unforgivable.  And the sad part was, I just kept trying to fix it.  Some things are much better left to the professionals!  (Don’t drink and trim!)  So, I started the process of engaging some professional help for some of my home projects.

What I found was that despite fairly lengthy (and though I do say so myself, well informed and knowledgeable) discussions with these professionals I was consistently asked, “Will your husband be there?”

What.  The.  #$%^?!!!!????  WHY???

In this day and age, do people STILL believe that the woman of the house is still just the “little lady”?  That seems so utterly out of date and backwards.  Let’s just be clear about something here:  I am a career woman.  I earn a salary.  And a global professional services firm happens to believe that I am highly capable of raising millions of dollars in financing.  I may wear sky high heels, pretty dresses, hoop earrings and although on most days the quality of my day directly correlates with how good my hair looks I AM STILL HIGHLY CAPABLE OF MAKING DECISIONS, thank you very much.

I mean, I can represent!  I can whip on some boots and dig up a lawn.  I can wield a brush and paint.  I’ve hung chandeliers and constructed closets.  I’ve also gone from work to banquet to soccer field to brunch without missing a beat.  I haven’t let my family down – I’ve represented.  And I’ve made them proud…and that’s what I’m now teaching my boys.  They need to be self-actualizing adults.  Strong, independent, able to make decisions and see them through.  And they need to demonstrate their capabilities.  Though at this age, sometimes I’m not sure they really get the message…

About two-and-a-half years ago, I was in a pretty serious accident.  My two boys, then four-and-a-half and just 9 months old, were sitting in the backseat while I was driving.  As a treat, I decided I would take them both on a surprise trip to Toys R Us and en route, I would go through the Tim’s drivethru for a much needed coffee and a Timbit (yes, one Timbit – it’s my way of demonstrating self-control).  It was an unusually frigid winter day (I believe close to minus 60 with the wind chill!) and the traffic lights were not working so cars were treating the intersection as a four-way stop.  My turn came to drive through when out of nowhere we were struck by a car.  We spun out of control and I momentarily blacked out.  It was my older son’s screaming that snapped me back and all I remember thinking was, please let them be safe.  Luckily we all walked away.  I didn’t realize it then, as it took about 11 more months to transpire, but I had sustained a crushed disc which resulted in severe sciatica.  After visiting a number of different doctors and professionals I found myself face-to-face with one of the most capable and incredible chiropractor-acupuncturists (in the world!!!), Dr. S.

And just this past week, Dr. S paid me a house call.  She is extremely elegant, capable and professional and I can only imagine what she thought when she walked into my world…

Both the 7 year old and 3 year old were completely entranced.  They loved her portable treatment table which they used as trampoline, diving board and fort all while she graciously watched and I begged for the ground to open up and swallow me whole.  Then they proceeded to tell Dr. S about the dead chipmunk we had found in the yard and disposed of moments before her arrival, “He has no eyes.  He has no head.  He’s dead.  Mommy put him in the garbage.” Nice.   And showed her a picture of our dearly departed cat, “This is Hudson.  He’s our cat.  He’s dead.  He’s really dead.  He’s in here (showing her the little urn given to us by the animal hospital).  But you can’t drink from this cup.  Coz he’s in here.  He’s really in here.”  OMG!  And what could I do with needles up and down my spine?!  Then, the 7 year old brought my gluten-free, organic loving Dr. S a plate full of marshmallows and gummies to thank her for all her hard work and because she must be hungry.  Oh boy.

I wished I could crawl under Dr. S’s treatment table…needles and all.  But then I remembered a little girl, age 8, who would walk around with grace and kindness because she had secret powers:  she knew that she was a mermaid in water, and mermaids always took care of everyone, and that she could fly if she really, really put her mind to it…she was special.  That magic was obvious to everyone and if it wasn’t, she made sure it was.  She was strong, capable, imaginative, kind, curious and clever.  That little girl was me.

I can only imagine what the 7 year old and 3 year old must imagine.  What they must believe to be real.  What I know for certain is, that even if they don’t get it right away, I will continue to raise them to make sure that they too convey to others who they are:  capable, strong, generous, kind and independent people.  They will represent well…and garner much laughter along the way!

Superhero shenanigans

Trust me…famous last words

“Trust me”…whenever I hear these words I feel like doing the opposite.  Similar to “relax”, “everything’s going to be ok”, “it’ll only take a minute”, and “it’s nothing serious”.

Seems to me (and my suspicious mind) that these statements, these combinations of words, have all somehow come to be used in instances to disguise situations where their meaning is not quite the same as their intent.

I have trusted to my own detriment.  Trusted that my contributions were being valued.  Trusted that what I was saying was being heard.  Trusted that someone else would have my best interests at heart.  I have also tried to “relax”, believed that “everything’s going to be ok”, that “it will only take a minute” and that perhaps “it’s nothing serious”…and I have come to terms with the fact no good can come from hearing these words.

Where is all this coming from?  Why am I feeling so suspicious now?  Why am I on heightened on alert?

Years ago I attended a corporate retreat – the kind with all sorts of team building exercises and presentations, too much drink, tons of new people, staggers to breakfast completely hung over with a bunch of strangers with whom you have to network and remember, etc.  For a global company like the one at which I work, these kinds of “retreats” can really be quite extravagant and this particular event was so overbooked that attendees were asked if they would be willing to share a room.  I volunteered as soon as I heard that for my sacrifice, I would get “special recognition”.  Who doesn’t like recognition???  Well, aside from not having any space of my own, my “special recognition” wound up being a gift basket – a SINGLE gift basket to SHARENOT the kind full of spa goodies, fantastic condiments or gourmet cookies.  No.  This one had weird cheese product, pate and cheap wine – and all I got was regret and a bag of peanuts.

In any case, it was at this particular retreat, after a Myers-Briggs assessment, where I learned I was an extrovert…

…the act, state or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self…extroverts tend to enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive and gregarious…energized when around other people…prone to boredom when they are by themselves

So what happens when an extrovert, such as me, is immersed in hours upon hours of one thing?

Theorizing for a moment…at its most basic, Carl Jung’s theory of extroversion and introversion may suggest that sticking an extrovert in a room full of say, happy-go-lucky people, would probably put the extrovert in a similar (if not the same) state.  To continue theorizing, what happens when you expose an extrovert to hours upon hours of the Vampire Diaries?

For the past 4 years, I had been under a complete rock…after discovering the Vampire Diaries, I can’t stop.  I have finished over 20 hours of viewing in the past 3 days – which makes it two entire seasons over the past week.  And when have I found the time?  Between the hours of “they’re finally asleep” and the “crack of dawn”.

All this TV viewing has been in an attempt to forget about the stress:  2 summer colds (one for me and the other for the 3 year old down who’s throat I had to shove horse pill sized antibiotics 3 times a day for 10 days – it’s 2013!  Is there NOT a one-pill solution???!), lots going on at work, and all the usual stuff that comes with being a career woman and homemaker!  I have been feeling completely run down.

So, to survive I found the most unexpected salvation:  pretending to be like a vampire.  WAIT!  Not the sucking blood and killing people part.  The detached, heightened awareness, super strength part.  Like, when I get really mad and upset – say because I’ve been told to trust someone who clearly does not deserve it, or relax in a situation where surely one cannot relax, I remember to keep my powers in check.  I remember to be magnanimous, to have a grand presence and above all, spare those who seek to cause me distress.

But all of this has also manifested itself in the physical:  I walk taller, sneak about, I’ve been making these odd facial expressions like I can read more into a situation and see through people, and just the other day, while enjoying a sandwich over lunch, I snapped my head to the right, took a sniff and knew someone was eating ketchup 7 feet away from me… I have to fess up a little secret here – this is not all attributable to the vampire thingy:  I have a nose like a bloodhound and an absolute LOVE of ketchup, which in fact, was the only thing that helped keep my meals down during two pregnancies.  It is the perfect condiment – why didn’t they include a bottle of 57 in the gift basket??!!  

Last night I watched a marathon of 8 episodes – at about 45 minutes an episode, that’s about 6 hours’ worth – from 10 pm to 4 am.  And when I was finally falling asleep I saw flashes of light, and heard whooshing noises and footsteps.  Completely freaked, I forgot all my vampire strengths and woke up Mr. Niceguy:

Me:  Wake up.  PLEASE wake up!!  Shhhh…I think there’s someone in the house.  I saw flashing lights and heard footsteps.

Mr. Niceguy:  Ok, take the phone, if I yell, dial 911.  Don’t hesitate. [Seeing the terror in my eyes]  Just relax.  Trust me.  Everything’s going to be ok.

Me:  What?  No!!!  Where are you going?  Please…

Mr. Niceguy:  I’m sure it’s nothing serious.  I’m going to look around…it will only take a minute.

Me:  <GULP> [Oh. My. God.]

I stood completely rooted to the spot, between both boys’ bedrooms in the dark hallway.  I couldn’t hear him anymore.  And I couldn’t see him.  Did I really hear those things?  Did I really see those flashes of light?  And more than that, should I have let him go?  Can I really trust this situation?  Where is he?  I know I have to keep cool, I know I have to keep my wits about me…what’s taking so long??!!

And before I know it, he’s back.  And he’s checked everywhere.  And there’s no sign of anything or anyone.  And everything’s ok.  And the rules don’t apply here.  I can exhale.  I feel trust, I can relax, everything is ok and it only took a minute to realize that it’s nothing serious…or is it???

Vampire-Diaries-Comic-Con

Bleep! Bloop! Blurp!…men are from Mars, women are from Venus…ummm…ya!

Monday:  Start of week 2 on this major acquisition which is happening at lightning speed.  It’s definitely the “dog days of summer” as I’m totally working like one.  I’ve arrived home from work only to find that the 3 year old is burning up with a fever of 102…oh no.

Tuesday:  Acquisition still full steam ahead.  Fever is now at 103.  Leave work early and rush home to takeover watching 3 year old from grandma…coach 7 year old’s soccer game…and sneak in an episode of Bold and the Beautiful…it’s the little things…

Wednesday:  Fever spikes at 104.  Sleepless night tallies 2.  Work from home day.  Develop financial model day.  Try and get disgusting antibiotics down my toddler’s throat day.  Try not to have a nervous breakdown day.  Think happy thoughts…ommmmmmm….

Thursday:  Fever down to 100…progress!  Sleepless night tallies 3…wrong kind of progress!  Tag out of babysitting – Mr. Niceguy’s turn.  Drop 7 year old at camp, race downtown, park car and walk to my desk.   Oh, there it is again…like a forbidden drug…the travel shop.  I always look at the window with such forlorn on my way to the office – do I go to Delhi?  Sounds so exotic…I can just smell the spices.  Do I take a whirlwind trip to NY or Las Vegas?  Or a month jaunt to Europe:  London, Paris, Florence…just $499 / $899 / $1,099…

Friday:  Temperature normal!  Hooray!  And I got some sleep!!  But the list of things to do has been piling up and I have a really full weekend ahead.  Oh boy…I just need to make it to Saturday…

Saturday:  4:57 am, I hear a pitter patter in my sleep, reach out my arms from my horizontal position, twist to the right, grip the 3 year old, lift him up, twist back to the left and plonk him between Mr. Niceguy and me – all without opening my eyes.  4:58 am – did I just do that?  Do I dare open my eyes?  5:08 am, I can’t take it anymore – I rush to the washroom and then rush back…sleep, why do you evade me?  5:14 am, I hear him.  Thump, thump, thump…that distinctive walk…it’s the 7 year old.  And before I know it, he’s standing over Mr. Niceguy.  I’m in a horror movie.

7 year old:  I had a bad dream.  [He says without fear – almost like it was super cool]

Me:  Oh.  You ok?  Why don’t you squeeze in here – your brother’s here anyway.  But we’re still sleeping, it’s too early…

7 year old:  My bad dream starts with a ‘T’

Me:  [10 bucks] Tornado?

7 year old:  [Pretends he’s shooting guns – with the sound you make while clicking your tongue in your cheek] “Tch-tch”  Ya.  In the basement.

Me:  Tornadoes don’t happen in basements.

7 year old:  [Points gun at me] “Tch” – You got it!

Scammer.

After nearly an entire week of sleep deprivation and disruption, for which I maintain a healthy level of fear as well as an almost twisted sense of reverance, I feel like I’m losing my mind.  As an aside, it goes without saying that thanks to the “PTSD” brought on by the early days of parenthood which were laced with unforeseen, unexplained, and unbelievable levels of sleep deprivation, I am compelled to pay homage and respect to the power of sleep.  Those early days were like nothing I’d ever experienced:  infinitely harder than cramming for my hardest exam or preparing for a job interview.

Getting back to it, sometimes in this house full of boys, I feel like I’m in that same sleep deprived state… trying to navigate like an alien from another planet, or better yet, winding around like a drunkard.  Hyper emotional, totally unpredictable, yet somehow, fully functional.

It’s like I’ve arrived in my most elegant gown, strappy sandals, without a hair out of place, in perfect makeup and dripping with bling to a backyard BBQ complete with flip flops and finger food.

Misconstrued, misinterpreted, misunderstood.

And this was confirmed by none other than Mr. Niceguy…who in a moment of absolute, rational, logic, set me straight.  Kids in bed, tidying up complete, we put our feet up and started watching a taped episode of the Bachelorette.  And that’s when it happened.  Another poor guy, totally smitten with the Bachelorette gets sent home…and I’m defending how she was absolutely right to send him home.  How she was so gracious and kind and how her words would surely lead to a mutual respect and potential future friendship…to which Mr. Niceguy responded, gesticulating like an alien robot:  “Bleep, bloop, blurp!”

Me:  [Whiny]  Whaaaaat??!!

Mr. Niceguy:  You can’t be serious…they’ll never be friends!

Me:  Why not?  He’s sooooo funny…and so sweet!  I’d wanna stay friends with him.

Mr. Niceguy:  Ya.  Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.  There’s really no point to him being friends with her, is there?  Think about it…

And there it was…and there it is.  We often make light of our differences by magnanimously referencing the book with that very same title – and incidentally neither of us have even read it.  Still, it’s our way of diffusing misunderstandings, resulting differences and feelings of slight.

I don’t need to survive another crazy week to recognize that Mr. Niceguy and I have lasted as long as we have, despite roadblocks, hurdles, obstacles, bumps and sticky wickets, because somehow we have become totally aware and completely accepting of the fact that we are completely different beings.  And let’s face it, because Mr. Niceguy humours me by putting up with my meltdowns, crazy mood swings, my choice in TV (the Bachelorette and the Bold and the Beautiful, to name a couple) and declarations that I am the boss of this house (which totally fall on deaf ears), to name a few.

Though we may be from different planets, what I do know for sure is that we’re both on a fantabulous ride together!  Oh, and that my people add a lot of colour…and wishful thinking!  And if Mr. Niceguy were to read this, once again he’d say, “Bleep, bloop, blurp!”  Pffft….

 

Mars Venus

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.

Good intentions…

It’s still spring and I am full of good intentions – to get outside more, to garden more, to exercise more and top of my list this year?  To make better, healthier food choices.  But most of my good intentions tend to take me down paths I wish I never traveled…

On a good day, I’m pretty obsessive.  On a bad day, I’m an obsessive compulsive!  Over the long weekend, the family and I decided to try out a new grocery store that opened up quite a distance away – see, I’m a closet foodie wannabe and was ecstatic about getting my hands on more Lebanese goodies.  I went from counter to counter:  deli, meats, prepared foods and my favourite, NUTS.

In an attempt to make better, healthier food choices, I have decided to cut down on the amount of processed foods I consume – save except for diet coke and Splenda in my lattes.  I have also decided to not eat chips – potato chips only as I could not do without my pita chips or Tostitos (besides they’re not as high fat!)  So, naturally, I would buy a bag of yummy peanuts.  Much healthier than chips and packed with protein!  Hooray!

That was how it all started…

Once again I had been running around all morning and hadn’t had a proper meal.  So when my three year old went down for his nap, I put on a previously taped episode of Bold and the Beautiful and tucked in.  Half a bag of peanuts and some ketchup chips later (sue me, it was long weekend), I found I had horrible cramping and spasms and my stomach had ballooned out to at least double in size…I looked four (ok, maybe five) months pregnant!  And very, very sad.  When I googled, “stomach pain after eating too many peanuts” I got:  aerophagia.  A condition when you eat something too fast and swallow air.  So what?  Now I was full of peanuts, ketchup chips and air???

It’s about two hours later and I’ve turned every shade of green.  Before I know it, I’m hugging porcelain and my boys are wondering how come I haven’t started reading them a bedtime story.  And all I could think of was:  Who’s going to hold my hair???

Days gone by I remember some wild nights with my BFFs: the one who would always get lucky and have a swarm of guys surrounding her like satellites, the one who would always play mother hen and do the driving, the one who would always wind up on stage dancing, and the one who would need her hair held back while she blew chunks and cursed the gods for once again, allowing her to cross the line.  Ahhhh…the good days.  I won’t say which one I was because truth be told, I’ve been them all!

In any case, after about 20 or so minutes, the entire episode behind me, I still managed to get in a goodnight story x 2 and feeling somewhat unsteady, made my way to bed.  And as I lie down I ponder three things:  (1) I hope the image of the weird looking excrement (I’ll spare you the graphic details) will be forgotten soon (2) after an excruciating 20 minutes with the porcelain my stomach is still “out” and (3) how soon can I have peanuts again?  I mean, it feels like the punishment doesn’t fit the crime!  At the very least, after all that, I should have been rewarded with some washboard abs!

After tossing and turning all night long, I wake up to some pretty serious pelvic pain…what could it possibly be?  Not one more complication, please!  I’ve dealt with two spring colds, one round of nasty antibiotics, a pulled QL (or some other combo of letters) muscle which I didn’t even know I had, and now something else??!!  I try to massage the area and eeeeeww!!!!   What IS THAT??!!!  I have a lump that is so painful to the touch that I just might die!  I show my husband and though he’s saying, “Oh, it’s probably nothing.  Don’t worry about it…”  I know he’s thinking, “Whoah!  Uh…that’s f-in weird.”  I’m lopsided.

How did an attempt to be more healthy turn into this?  How did my good intentions lead me so far astray?

A trip to my chiropractor confirms, that it is not a tumour and I won’t die in the next 24 hours (thank God because I wasn’t sure if I had cleaned my closet and I didn’t have time to take a shower and put on my good underwear).  It turns out that I have torn some ligament – that thanks to the repercussions of too many peanuts and ketchup chips, a fibre or something has ripped away from bone and is now totally irritated and swollen.  So with no pills to take and no quick fix I ask her (literally with watery eyes): “Will I be lopsided forever???!!”

All I can think is how erratic I’ve been and how I’ve lacked any sense of being responsible.  I would never have let either of my two sons chow down on half a bag of peanuts, let alone wash it down with ketchup chips.  And in what universe would someone equate indulging in all those peanuts with a healthy choice??!!!  I’ll tell you…sadly, in my universe – the one where half the time I can’t tell if I’m coming or going, I forget important playdates and deadlines, and have no time for just me.

But it’s all wrong.  I need to buck up, wise up, and learn that what may have worked in my twenties, just wasn’t going to cut it anymore!  That now I am a responsible woman, thank you very much, and that I can do this!!  I can be a model citizen (lopsided or not) to my kids, my peers and my friends!  In fact, I can be a model citizen for all the land!!

About a week has passed since this fiasco and I’m happy to report that I have healed.  I am no longer lopsided and all other “battle scars” of the event, including a very bruised psyche, have disappeared.  I actually did manage to have a couple of peanuts in a trail mix without even realizing it – I felt very good about that.  I’ve also managed to do a better job of reminding myself of important dates and deadlines.  I am definitely on the right path to becoming a better role model.  And my BFFs – the ones, who would hold my hair, hop up on stage with me, mother hen me and chase away the nasty satellites – suggested we all start a 30 day squat and crunch challenge to get back on track…that will surely be the best remedy of all.