Synchronicity

Do you believe in God?  Or that some being exists “up there” in the universe and is all knowing, all seeing, with your best interests at heart?  What about destiny, or fate…that everything happens for a reason and that your path has already been chosen for you. Do you believe that not-so-modern but certainly North American notion that you should go out and make your own destiny – that only you are in charge of your life and it will be what you make of it…and yet, there’s something inside you that tells you there’s more to it than that…

They say that life is a series of choices – like the movie, Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow (a definite fave of mine).  You wake up in the morning, you’re running late so you skip getting that coffee and make it to your desk and realize you’ve missed a spontaneous meeting with your boss and nothing seems to be going your way…  Or, you say, “hey, I’m going to be late anyway…I could really use a cup of coffee” and you line up, grab your tall-lactose free-nonfat latte, get into work late and discover that your boss is out of the office so no one’s the wiser and you can just ease into your day – perhaps by writing your next blog post or something…

True story.  Mine.  Was it coincidence?  Or just good luck?  Or was it, synchronicity?

So what is synchronicity?  Is it just a fancy word for when things are all seemingly going “in sync”?  Carl Jung, famous psychologist and founder of analytical psychology “scientific-ized” this concept.

Synchronicity holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.*

In other words, and to put it in more of my own, plain language, when things just seem to happen out of nowhere and somehow they all just make sense.  Like when you feel like you can’t seem to find the right dress for that special event and lo and behold, the dress was hanging in your closet the whole time – you just needed a new belt and pair of shoes to make it all come together which you ended up buying because the shoe store next to your favourite dress shop had a 40% off sale sign that drew you in.

But synchronicity is not just about the frivolity of shoes and dresses…no.  Now what if that outfit that you put together ends up being the very one that the hiring manager at the company you recently applied for a job at, really admired and wished she was wearing?  So…she couldn’t help commenting on it at the event you both find yourselves and you, not knowing who she is or her role, happen to make a comment like, “Yes.  It makes me feel like a million bucks!  So much so, that I’ve forgotten how nervous I am for my upcoming interview.  Imagine if you could go into interviews wearing your favourite stilettos and dress?”  And the hiring manager says, “I’m sure you’ll be great!  Where did you apply?”  And…as I said before, lo and behold.

Interesting?  Coincidence or synchronicity?  Another way to describe synchronicity is to say that “the universe has your back”.  That saying, “be careful what you wish for – you just may get it” that’s all part of this idea.  Is it energy?  Is it some higher being?  Is it God?


So here’s what I believe.  And what I’ve really come to notice.  It’s very hard to make sense and logic out of the idea of things happening out of nowhere and without a plan.  For someone like me, who is extremely analytical – yes, even when I’m in my imaginary, movie-like world – I need scientific reasoning.  While synchronicity was a significant part of Carl Jung’s contributions to modern day psychology – the science of psychology – the idea itself still seems, well, “paranormal.”

Thanks to my ongoing journey as a student of life, and hence, the new book I’ve been reading called The Artist’s Way, I’ve tried one exercise in synchronicity and it’s had me questioning my black and white views on cause and effect.  I’ll share it with you.  The idea is to accept (accept blindly, I might add) that the universe (or God or whatever you may believe) is actually acting in your interests.  To put in a nutshell, rather than plan for what you want, just declare what you want – the how you get there will present itself…by way of synchronicity.  Today, we refer to some of this as networking.  A friend of a friend who has a colleague who has the answer we’re looking for.  How much more interesting it would be if that chain of events was viewed as synchronicity.

The next time you’re encountered with a “coincidence” just stop for a second and think about it…did it just seem to come out of nowhere?  And yet, did it somehow answer a question that was in your head?  Hmmmm….

In the meantime, perhaps the most “synchronistic” thing that has ever happened to me – other than the time when I was so stressed out I really needed desperately to release some steam in a foreign city and lo and behold, the regular pianist at the restaurant I went to was absent and so the manager allowed me to play the piano to a round of applause and a wonderful feeling of joy and renewed reassurance in myself – has been becoming a mother.  This month, take a moment and remember yours.  The path to and of motherhood is full of challenges, chance, happenstance and wonder…and we could use a whole lot of synchronicity!

*As it appears in Tarnas, Richard (2006). Cosmos and Psyche. New York: Penguin Group. p. 50. ISBN 0-670-03292-1.

Brains…or guts??

What do you think is the most important organ in your body?  Is it THE BRAIN – after all, it is your command centre.  How about your heart?  Surely the largest organ, our skin, plays a significant role too as it holds everything together and protects us from the elements?  Since this is not a scientific inquiry…at least, not really, I’m going to say it’s the organ that stretches like a rope to about the length of a swimming pool…your guts.

There’s no arguing that the brain is our CPU – or central processing unit.  Here is borne logic, reason and analysis.  The way we see and interpret the world and how we in turn interact with it – it all comes from the brain…or does it?

Last month I touched upon the subject of “gut feelings” – while these may give rise to superstitious behaviours, I’m beginning to appreciate these “feelings” for their other capabilities.  In trying to navigate through life, I sometimes lose my way.  But I’ve been told that while I may think, analyze and use logic, in many situations (particularly important if I want Mr. Niceguy to “hear” me), I should also be consulting with my gut.  And lately, I’ve been doing just that.

Today I stand perfectly square and centred at the crossroads of mid-life.  In determining which path to take, I am trying to quiet the noise and listen more closely to what’s inside me… to my gut.  Most recently I passed up an incredible work opportunity – a decision I struggled with a great deal as it felt like this chance was handpicked for me…or who I think myself to be.  At this crossroad, however, I am weaving my chrysalis and am in transition and what I think I want may not actually be what I really want.

Oufff!  Why can’t we all be handed a map?!

Ingrained in many of us is the mentality, “when opportunity knocks, answer the door.” The idea that it’s wrong to let opportunities slip through your fingers – if you don’t grab it, it’s gone forever. But is that true?  Is the universe not much more benevolent than that?  Isn’t that just “Fear” talking?  Fear that IF I do or don’t do something then I’ll land in a stinky pile of regret.

I’m transported back to my Grandma’s living room in St. Catharines to countless episodes of The Price is Right and when contestants pass on the first showcase showdown (even though it’s a trip to Tahiti and a new car!) expecting the prize behind door number 2 to be better but no, all they find is a Sea Doo and a new washer dryer combination – a whole lotta “no thanks” for someone from Kansas.

Well, when I was faced with this recent choice, I quieted those automatic “GRAB IT!” fear signals from my brain and listened to my gut.  The payoff was not immediate.  Left muddling through feelings of inadequacy, cowardice, and like I’ve let down the modern female woman for not trying harder to find a balance, or the more traditional woman in me, for even entertaining something that would put my children second…I trust that my gut led me in the right direction.

In my search for greater fulfillment, perhaps my gut is leading me back to a time when practicality was not the key driver.  To a time when what people thought, and their expectations of me, was less important.  Perhaps my gut is leading me out of, and away from, attracting the same kinds of opportunities that made me stand up and (quietly) demand something more…only I’m starting to hear that voice inside me a little bit louder…a little bit clearer…and while I’m frustrated that I can’t always hear what it’s saying, or trust that it has my good intentions at heart.

Sometimes, stepping out and trying something totally different makes you realize just how big the world is.  I’m on a journey…

So where am I headed?  Wherever that inner tide will take me…and it’s scary to trust that it will all work out.  The world is big and full of opportunities – and experiencing it in new and different ways takes courage.  It takes fearlessness.  And feeling fearless, even for just a moment like when I, today, for the very first time in my forty-something years went to a movie all by myself, can become more of a habit.  That example tells you just how measured and analytical I can be…perhaps you were expecting that I bungee jumped?  Oh no…

The key, you see, is that feeling like I’m a small part of something so much bigger seems to make all my cares and concerns that much more manageable.  I guess it’s like finding religion…terribly appropriate for this time of year.

***I will add this as an addendum to the above.  While “mid-life questioning” applies to both men and women, I believe that women often don’t listen to their gut questioning and muffle that inner voice, after all, who can hear with all the noise?  We struggle with maintaining careers and families, struggle with feelings of inadequacy when we choose one over the other, and oftentimes, shelve our inner “artists” for the needs of others.  This can also happen at any time in one’s life…mid life age not necessary.  Yet, while I’m old enough to know that I can’t have it all, I refuse to give up on myself.  It’s time to trust in my gut and take my cobblestone path…be sure to get out and find your own in this big, big world!

“Very superstitious…writing on the wall…”

I have this fear that when I have a deep desire or longing for something If I say it out loud I may

  1. jinx it
  2. someone else might want it and worse yet, get it before I do, or
  3. by stating it, I’ve started a mythical countdown that everyone knows about so if I don’t achieve right away I may as well tuck my tail between my legs and shelf my desire with all the other unachieved dreams, brainchilds and bright ideas.

What is it about superstition and why does it plague me so?

There are days where I imagine myself to be walking through a long tunnel-like hallway with bookcases on either side filled with so many shelved ideas and longings…like when Harry Potter walks through the Hall of Prophecies in the Ministry of Magic.  I think to myself, I’m lucky to have so many ideas and thoughts – but I’m also cursed because the minute I choose my course I’ve all but set myself up for failure.

hall-of-prophecy

I mean, I’m a logical person…most of the time.  I’m modern.  I understand that superstition is, well, not real…though I’d be lying if I said the black cat, walking under a ladder, killing spiders, crossing over someone’s legs and broken mirrors didn’t send shivers up my spine.

Take when my basement flooded…on the day of my 15th wedding anniversary…the only day in our entire marriage when Mr. Niceguy used the words, “I have bad news”…

It was right after the 6 year old recovered from the stomach flu and on Christmas eve, when we finalized our plans for our traditional quick getaway to upstate New York with my parents in tow. This annual tradition is one that we all look forward to – incidentally, it is the reason I own a seven-passenger SUV even though we’re just a family of four.  Tangent: as an Armenian, there’s no such thing as a “family of four” it’s more like a family of ‘us’; my parents, my sister, her family, my inlaws, my cousins, my aunts and uncles…you get it.  If I could manage a large minibus that could tackle off roading and trips to the ski hills…believe me I would seriously consider it for my “family”.

But I digress…

On Boxing Day, while people were lining up to get into the malls here in Canada, we set off across the border to the quaint town of Victor.  For anyone wondering why Victor, they’d have to ask Mr. Niceguy who randomly picked this town a few years ago thanks to his love of road trips and his desire to simply visit a ski hill…but not ski.  (What???  Yes.  Among his other qualities, when it comes to emergency preparedness, obstacle courses, judo and yes, vacation destinations there is no greater enthusiast than Mr. Niceguy)  Mr. Niceguy is known for “random” getaways and by random, I mean random only to me because they are thoroughly thought out in Mr. Niceguy’s brain but come totally from left field for me.  In any case, my dad was eager to spend time with his son-in-law and grandsons while my mom and I were excited to return to the outlet mall nearby.

paris-day-shopping-by-luxury-car-in-paris-232554Incidentally, while we can attribute our hair colour or eye shape to genes and heredity, I can also attribute my love of shopping – the sport of shopping – to my mother.  At a very young age I was her companion on many a shopping trip like the time when my sister went with my dad to see the Mona Lisa, I visited some of the best Parisian department stores and boutiques.  It was then when I learned about fashion – the way silk drapes and organza hovers, how stitching would indicate whether a garment was laboriously made by hand, or whipped up by a machine, how a shoe could elongate one’s stature or cut it down to a stump.  I inherited that glimmer that I get in my eyes when I find that one piece, that one article that’s just right and the excitement in learning about the latest trends, colours, cuts and fabrics all from my mother…and yes, like an inherited birthmark, I take that with me everywhere, including to the outlet mall near Victor, New York.

Getting back to the impending sense of doom I feel when I decide on a course…  After a gluttonous and fun getaway, we returned back home the day before our wedding anniversary.  The trip had gone well:  we made off with some great deals and better finds, and I had managed to keep myself in check having been the perfect daughter, wife and mother…sometimes a bit of a challenge for my hot-headed self.  That night, we unpacked everything (abandoning our more typical ‘unpack-one-article-at-a-time-over-a-period-of-a-month’) and relaxed in anticipation of our big anniversary day.

I had decided that to mark our special anniversary, we had to do something or perhaps buy something for each other that would forever remind us of achieving our milestone.  And for anyone who’s made it to 15, I’m sure you will agree that it’s quite a milestone.  I will pause here to say the following: I often worry that life is passing me by too quickly and in a blur. I don’t know where the time goes and yet, I constantly find myself wishing days away.  This light-speed-paced lifestyle which I find myself having unknowingly adopted has resulted in me forgetting even some of the big moments so I started journaling again just so I can remember what happened in between the highlights of birthdays and holidays.  At the time, I remember thinking, “I don’t want to forget, I have to think of a way to mark this special day…”

Well…isn’t there that little saying, “Be careful what you wish for?”  I got it in spades.

“I have some bad news,” said he, “there’s water in the basement.”  “Oh ya?  OK…”  I though to myself, was this just an anniversary prank?  As if he could read my thoughts…wouldn’t THAT be nice after 15 years… “No, there’s lots of water.”  Needless to say, as I watched floorboards float by, and the pretty pattern of waves on my ceiling, my 15th anniversary became forever imprinted on my brain.  Had I brought this upon myself?  Had the universe heard my call?

Aaaah….hello superstition.  I had “put my idea out there” and in one fell swoop I had jinxed myself.

In the aftermath, however, perhaps being superstitious had some merit…but the outcome was completely different than what I thought.  Within one hour my entire basement had been drained of water.  Within one week, it was confirmed that the flood was not our fault, a much more sophisticated flood warning system had been installed and I was on the verge of ensuring that my basement would be dryer than it could have ever possibly been…and that it would remain that way.  And forever…forever I would remember that for a brief moment, on my fifteenth wedding anniversary, Mr. Niceguy and I were proud owners of an indoor swimming pool.

So if you ask me about my ideas or thoughts, my plans or dreams…I may share them with you…or if I’m feeling particularly superstitious you may see a wry little smile as I change the subject to something a little less…well…spine tingling…

Black Cat - Not Amused!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superheroes, surfer dudes and dads…

When it comes to cars, perhaps the one thing I’ve paid the least attention to is the roadside assistance package.  Mag wheels, spoilers, off-roading capability – these are the things I’m interested in…it’s not that I don’t value emergency preparedness, it’s that I’m fortunate to have a superhero for a dad who has gotten me out of every conceivable vehicular mess I’ve ever been in and who, virtually from the moment I got my driver’s license, handed me NOT my own car but a CAA (or AAA in the US) membership card.  I was given a physical representation of “responsible” rather than the teenage dream of a brand new car wrapped with a shiny red bow…would a library card be next?

But as teenagers, what do we really know anyway?

In our teens, our hormones have us wired to be adventure seeking daredevils – well at least they did me – ready to push some boundaries and certainly prepared to aggravate my parents’ collective temper and anxiety.  In fact, I recall going out with a friend on an “unauthorized road trip” significantly out of the city where we blew a fuse and had to use a flashlight as a proxy for headlights on a small highway with no streetlights just to get home…

With time and age, that CAA card has come to represent much more than the boring gift of responsibility.  I have come to appreciate it as my father’s acceptance that his daughters (yes, my sister got one too) would be released to explore the world.

My parents witnessed my many road trips to visit friends and head off to new opportunities in different cities, and all the while they took comfort that their daughter had that magic card in her wallet – to this day, my dad still pays for my CAA card and after the very first long weekend this summer, boy was I ever glad.

Once again Mr. Niceguy had signed up for an obstacle course this time one developed by US Navy Seals and I swear he’s living out his dreams of being a super “double-0” agent!  I admire him tremendously; a former cheeseburger and beer connoisseur, Mr. Niceguy is now in the best shape of his life thanks to an unwavering dedication and discipline to improving his physicality.

Bonefrog Challenge_20160521_090953_RJM_0735Incidentally Mr. Niceguy is also a constant reminder to me that I need to get off my duff and do a leg lift or put aside my third coffee and croissant…

So off we went, kids in tow, to the Bone Frog event in Charlemont, Massachusetts; aka the middle of nowhere about 2.5 hours outside of Boston.  This trip would do us some good as we would be giving my poor parents a break from our collective craziness and the 9 year old and 6 year old would have an opportunity to visit with some cousins.  Plus, travelling is in my blood and who doesn’t love Boston?

A lazy start to the day had us hit the road about two hours behind schedule but we were in no rush and were enjoying our conversation – all made possible by the liquification of our children’s brains in the backseat thanks to a portable DVD player, the iPad and Nintendo. I’ll go on record and say that I encouraged said liquification, though I did make them stop and look out the window as we passed some cows and horses.

Suddenly Mr. Niceguy said, “I’m losing power.”  Of course the first thing I thought was, what have YOU done to my beloved car?!?!?!?! And, ugh!  Just get out of the driver’s seat and let me take over!  But when he said, “we’re overheating” and I saw the white smoke coming out from under the hood, I realized we were in trouble.

IMG_8397Thank goodness for my superdad, and my CAA card.  At that moment, that card meant I didn’t have to panic – even though I did, a little…ok, a  lot.  While I made the necessary calls to get us on our way, despite my state of disbelief, calm, cool and collected Mr. Niceguy treated the boys to a little adventure in the middle of nowhere.  He took out our jackets and made a picnic blanket for the boys to sit on, brought them their crayons and colouring books, and turned our mishap into a memory.

Two hours later we were back on our way in a rental that was clearly loaned out to an owner of a kennel and despite the allergic reactions of Mr. Niceguy and the 6 year old as well as my asthma flare up, we were able to accomplish all of our weekend plans.

It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, though.  While the boys did get an adventure, I got anxiety – particularly when the 9 year old exclaimed, “Awesome!  What car do we buy next?” and every part of my insides were screaming OH MY GOD!!!!!  Mr. Niceguy ignored my thoughts of impending doom and said the following, “How lucky are we that this happened on a major highway and in daylight?” and “Thank goodness we didn’t hit a deer” also, “Lucky the car didn’t burst into flames, right?”  Hrrrrmmmppphhhh….

Parking brakeI resisted the urge to “pull a Mike Tyson”…and a good thing I did because once the nerves settled I could hear what he was saying, this cool surfer dude, and I allowed myself to get swayed.  Each time I would revert back to my  panic, he would make a joke like, “at least the tow truck driver wasn’t a serial killer” and I would go through my cycle again:  Tyson, no don’t do it, it’s not so bad, I can be cool too, but can I really, panic again, insert Mr. Niceguy…

So there it is.  I know I’m not being totally fair to myself when I say that my crazy often needs the balance of both my superdad and my super cool surfer dude.  Sure I can be cool to but in the wise words of my mom-in-law, thanks to my wonderfully calm, cool, collected and highly wise men in my life, I can take wings.  Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there – YOU are the best gifts!

IMG_8394

Thanks Mom…Just for being YOU.

Being a mom is part of my identity, but although I carry that invisible mom pass in my wallet (right next to the Costco card, the Gap Cash and every other points card under the planet), I sometimes struggle with my club membership. Is that all I am? Is that the most important part of me – being somebody’s mom? Does that membership card take precedence over my hard earned travel miles, gold card and driver’s license? True, I birthed two young boys, but sometimes it feels like the moment you become a mom, it becomes your whole identity…

The stakes are high when you’re a mom. So too are society’s standards…sometimes so high that they’re virtually impossible to achieve. I must keep a clean house that is totally “de rigueur”, be able to produce gourmet meals, my children must have manners, like to eat sushi, get A+ on all subjects and must excel in at least three extra-curricular activities, one of which must be “elite” or “extraordinary” like sailing, downhill racing or equestrian, and all of these are my responsibility – plus I have to look and act the part and in some instances hold down a full time job!

Well…I’m at a slight handicap here because I’m struggling to define myself beyond my “mom-borders”.  And I love it when the universe reminds me that my own definition of mom is allowed to be different.

Be trueBeing a mom is a raison d’être but certainly not my seule raison d’être, if you will.

I’m a wearer of many hats and among my many roles, my latest is that of construction project manager…ME! This is one challenge that I’ve readily accepted particularly this past month when my home renovation project really kicked into high gear. I have ignored family, friends, my children and Mr. Niceguy while I’ve poured over drawings and various engineering calculations, learned about air velocity and balancing, insulation and grading, and the list goes on. I’ve appreciated (virtually) every stressful second of it.

Despite the fact that we are temporarily being housed by my gracious parents (thank you, thank you, thank you!  They are readers and perhaps my only fans despite my many ramblings about them and I could use all the brownie points to make up for my constant outbursts, fits of rage and bouts of tears) I am still the primary caregiver of my children. It’s my job to make sure they eat their dinners, do their homework and not let their brains go to MUSH because they’d prefer to spend the entire day holed up in my parents’ basement in front of the big screen playing video games.

Vow Mr NiceguyI’d like to report that while I’ve assumed the role of project manager, my children’s brains have officially liquefied. I’m not entirely certain what’s making their guts move and I’m quite certain that it will only be by the grace of the Almighty that they will pass grade 4 and graduate kindergarten. Thank goodness Mr. Niceguy made a vow to love me for better or for worse…

All this because for the past month (or so…if I’m being honest), I put something other than being mom first. Go ahead and judge. But I won’t be blamed. And I refuse to take it on because I’ve already beat myself up about it enough, thank you very much, and I’m done. I’m a modern day renaissance woman and that means I’m a renaissance mom too after all, my teacher is one too…

My primary role model in the world of motherhood has been my mother. She grew up in a household filled mostly with boys. Not willing to be left behind, she would run alongside them – and oftentimes, ahead of them. She displayed as much grit, courage and bravery than any one of the others and while most girls her age would mind their chores and preserve their dresses, she was jumping from rooftop to rooftop along the buildings in Lebanon, sporting blue jeans and running off to the beach.

She is my non-traditional, traditional mom. And while she always makes sure that we are well clothed, fed and taken care of, she has a life of her own and I absolutely refuse to pigeon hole her into one role. Her life is a full adventure – and I hope mine will be nearly as full as hers.

It follows that I believe motherhood has to be the greatest adventure of all. There is no real, set, tried and true course – despite the fact that I’ve poured over dozens of popular baby books and scientific articles on child rearing. I could never have imagined the incredible joy that my children would bring before I became a mother…at the same time, I would never have imagined the feelings of tremendous guilt, frustration, and exasperation over little things like an unfinished plate of dinner or settling a child down to do homework and especially getting them to finally go to bed so that I could enjoy a moment’s peace after the never ending tidying, cooking, cleaning, monitoring and answering one hundred plus questions about the locations of any one of the following: “Mom, did you see my video game controller / the iPad / my book / my pencil / the red bouncy ball with the blue stripe – not the blue bouncy ball with the red stripe / my socks / my gym clothes / my special Pokemon card…blah, blah, blah!

I appreciate my role and the blessings (and heartaches) that come with it so I won’t feel guilty for the moments I yearn for the days of yore when dinner would be brought to me, when I could ask for my favourite dish, or when I take more than just a moment to pretend I’m something other than a mom. No. This month, when you write your mother a card, or bring her flowers, or just sit and think about her, take a moment to think about who she is (or was) as a person and thank her for just being her.

Me and Haig

Minecraft Part II: ‘Groundhog Day’, the luck of the Irish and finding me…

Forget it.  Not doing it.  I tried and it’s just not me.  I CANNOT GIVE UP THE REINS.

Last month it was all about abandoning my inner zombie and trying to be more chill, more relaxed, to trust and have faith thereby lightening my mental load – to try and be more present in my own life.  But I realize I’m going about it entirely the wrong way and here’s how I know…

st-peter-pearly-gates-fun-lolI’ve had a very full month.  Between the (what feels like, but obviously highly exaggerated) hundreds of projects and deadlines, for which, once again, I get paid in gratitude and brownie points (and hopefully a ticket to the VIP section when it’s time to meet Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates…), my discombobulation only got worse and when I tried to figuratively pull the ripcord from my parachute it malfunctioned and I came crashing down to earth at Mach 3 speed (in other words, I dropped like a fighter jet doing a nose dive at over 2000 mph).

But it’s been rewarding.  It has.  I swear.  I know everything happens for a reason and I know that sometimes we need to get pushed out of our comfort zone in order to grow.  I also know – no, I believe – that the universe sometimes forces you to get off the track or path you’re on because you’re just not supposed to be there (in other words, the universe believes you’ve totally f-ed up your life and has decided that it’s not going to wait any longer for you to get your @#$% together and it’s time for some tough-love and to totally uproot you from what you know, regardless of the tears, pain or fear, and put you back on course).

But one mustn’t read too much into the universe and the track and looking for signs and all that mumbo jumbo…right?  I mean…I have been getting a lot of LCBO and VRBO emails lately…it’s not like I’m supposed to be chugging back some whiskey on a beach somewhere…is it?  I mean, there has to be some modicum of control in one’s life…mustn’t there?

Back to how I know that I’m going about things the entirely wrong way.  Giving up control.  Well, that’s just not me.  I can’t do it.  I can’t let go of the reins.  It’s too much work, it feels too unnatural and quite frankly, I can just barely trust Mr. Niceguy with packing school lunches much less making sure that my children are actually dressed appropriately for the weather…yes, they almost ended up at the Toronto Auto Show in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops…IN FEBRUARY.  Truth be told, I find the need for an extra 5 minutes of sleep somehow breeds trust…

To be fair, Mr. Niceguy is very trustworthy, reliable and wonderfully supportive…when I haven’t been on a month-long quest of once again trying to figure out the meaning of my life, my purpose, my identity.  So needless to say, poor Mr. Niceguy doesn’t even know how to approach me for fear of encountering an emotionally unstable wreck that will likely bite his head off like a praying mantis.  Sorry Mr. Niceguy, it’s been tough for you too.  And it’s not a contest about whose life is harder, so I’m not going to play the “it’s hard to be a modern-day woman and pop two kids out of your body – that will never be the same again – find balance between being a mother and your old self, and balance between work and family, and, and, and…” card.  (I know, I just did…woman’s prerogative)

groundhog dayIt’s as if this entire past month has been one long bad hair day.  You know those days when you convince yourself that you can forego nicely pressed, clean clothes and makeup because who’s going to care really and perhaps you’re being far too shallow, so why not feel great about being a ‘granola’ (hippie-type) that embraces the all-natural, and just hop out of the door only to keep running into your ex-boyfriend or your public “frenemy” number 1?  Those days.  Like the movie Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray’s character Phil keeps repeating the same day over and over again until he learns his lesson, I feel like I’ve been frustrated – doomed until I get it right.

 

I can’t help but pause here and think with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, why can’t I be Irish?

luck of the irishTrue it’s totally unfair to distill any group down to just a few traits…I mean, as an Armenian I’ve been assumed to be as flaky as a “Kardashian” (I totally disagree with that view by the way and think that while I wouldn’t necessarily make the same life choices as Kim et al, I will go on record to say that she and her family definitely highlighted the Armenian Genocide and for that I am thankful).  Moving on, as an Armenian I’ve also been told that I must be shrewd in my business dealings or be related to a mobster, etc.  I mean, seriously?  I would, however, like a leprechaun to grant me the luck of the Irish for one day – I don’t ask for a pot of gold but their outlook.  Like how could one remain bewildered and confused with Irish mantras like, “There’s nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse” or “A good laugh and long sleep are the two best cures for anything.”  And quite frankly, I’d love to subscribe to, “What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for.”

But then, I still wouldn’t be me, would I?  Besides, with my dark Armenian hair and dark Armenian eyes, I wouldn’t pass as an Irish person anyway…

Perhaps I need to stop getting so bogged down in my own thoughts.  Or perhaps I should dive deeper and just know that eventually, I’m just going to rise back up to the top for air when the time is right.  And perhaps I should tighten the reins and truly take responsibility for all of my steps – put aside the fear of the unknown.  Forget about the potential pitfalls and possible failure.  Spinning wheels about the future only means I can’t appreciate my present so for now, I’m taking charge, holding on for dear life…perhaps with a sip or two of whiskey…determined not to repeat…

My very own Minecraft…

Ever feel like you’re watching yourself live your life as though you were in a video game? Do you turn left? Or go right? Do you use a shovel or a bomb-thrower to knock out some zombies? What if the zombies are your kids that were just turned into zombies? What do you do then?

Minecraft zombiesLately I feel completely discombobulated – out of my familiar environment and with a to-do list longer than my arm I feel like I’m in the eye of a tornado. I know I need to loosen the reins – as an absolute control freak I have an unwavering belief that without me in charge how else could things possibly ever get done? (Said every obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic-tendency having control freak…)

When I wake up in the morning it’s like I’m walking straight into Minecraft – or better yet, a mine-FIELD – the slightest misstep and BLAST!

For those unaware, Minecraft is a video game my boys are obsessed with complete with zombies, weaponry and the ability to create new worlds (I’m osmotically aware of everything Minecraft).

Alarm goes off, I jump out of bed and head to the washroom because who can stand the full bladder any longer (speaking of which I swear that while my entire midsection grew after two pregnancies, my bladder seems to now be the size of an acorn)!! Brush teeth, wash face, decide that two-day dirty hair isn’t so dirty when you’re trying to get out of the door and quite frankly not heading to a high power meeting on Bay Street, although…moms in the school parking lot can be an even tougher crowd so a quick brush, some makeup and voila, I’m off to the races…

That is, until I have to wake them up…

When I was young I was drawn to those video games where the zombies come towards you with blank stares, arms outstretched in front, stiffly limbering forward, mouths agape. You would have to blast them with your laser until eventually, inevitably, you were overtaken. That’s exactly what it’s like waking up my two boys at ages 9 and nearly 6 every morning before school – only I’m overtaken in less than 5 minutes flat!

Wake up kidsEvery morning I turn on the light, I say “good morning” (in that terribly annoying and completely disingenuous happy tone that I use to mask my absolute terror that they will totally ignore me or start yelling at me to sleep longer and erupt my anger which feels like it’s on a precipice just waiting to ignite) and pull their very weighted bodies off the bed so that if I’m lucky, their autopilot will kick in the moment their toes touch the ground and we will merrily make it out on time. I’ve even resorted to reminding them that they have to rush to the bathroom (because they must need to use it) and when that doesn’t work, “Who’ll be first to go to the washroom, brush their teeth, wash their face and comb their hair?” – some friendly competition.

Today I had an extra reason to get them out of the house on time – I had a meeting with a very, very important person who had taken time out of their very, very busy day just to give me some very, very much needed advice on, well, the rest of my professional life. Mr. Niceguy would be taking “double trouble” to school and to make things easier on him lunches were prepared the night before and stored in the refrigerator, snow pants, extra shoes, and school projects all packed in backpacks (I lost 30 minutes of my life last night as well as the opportunity to watch the Bachelor because I had to cut out a million jigsaw puzzle pieces for the 9 year old with scissors that were not small enough and I swear my hands were trembling so much that I now fear I’ve finally entered the realm of hyperthyroidism or was it just that fourth cup of coffee today?)

In any case, I made it out the door – bleary eyed and all – and even though I still have a head full of matted tangles I’m presentable enough and only a few minutes late so I stake out the perfect spot and I’m sure this person will be here any moment…

…Hmmm…I’ve double checked my emails, the time on my phone, the time with the coffee shop and ok, 15 minutes is fashionably late, right?

…I’m really hungry and could really use that coffee now – I’ll send an email and just let them know I’m here…t + 22 minutes…

…I wonder, did I even confirm this meeting? Quick check of email and GASP!!! I didn’t even confirm! OMG…but what do I do now? Sometimes people don’t wait for confirmations and it’s only t + 27 minutes plus I sent all those emails letting them know I’m here!

OK think, think, THINK!! I’ll get a latte because that will grease my brain wheels and I did tell the baristas I’m waiting for someone and they’re giving me their full on pitiful stares like I’ve been jilted on Valentine’s Day!

…One latte down…one croissant inhaled …and still no contact until…PING! Oh my goodness, it’s my person and they’re not even in town! Ugh, how could I have been so amateur to not even confirm a meeting? Ugh! Ugh! UGH!!!!! *So embarrassing.

*SIGH* I guess I will just head out and find something else to do, after all I did promise the nearly 6 year old a new backpack and some kind of light up shoes for school. And the 9 year old was hoping for new play pants.

I guess it’s pretty obvious – I’m the zombie here. With so much going on I’m like the walking dead roaming around in my life, arms outstretched, mouth agape, limbering along with the blank stare.

At least my person is understanding and generous enough to give me a new meeting time but wait, what’s that on my windshield? A parking ticket???!!! I’m in a no parking before 10:00 am parking spot?! How did I ever miss that??!!

Incidentally, this author did get a chance to have that meeting and it proved to be a definite step in the right direction…and out of the eye of the storm!

Walking away

Don’t JINX it!!

Another year over…a new one begins.

That’s the way I started my entry a year ago…not knowing what lay ahead and simply hopeful that I’d have a year full of wonder and growth – more love and happiness than sadness and regret.  I must admit that 2015 has been one of my best years but I’m going to say it quietly, in a whisper, because I don’t want to jinx it!

Have you ever found yourself taking stock of your life and realizing that at that very moment you have everything you could ever ask for but wouldn’t admit it for fear of jinxing it?

I mean, we can all think of more…like…I could do with an established career track, my children’s future spouses decided (perhaps we need to reconsider arranged marriages at birth?) and I’d love to have no mortgage and a bank account chock full of “fun money” on top of a retirement fund that would see me vacationing at least three times a year simply for “therapeutic” reasons.

Note: Ther●a●peu●tic refers to one’s desire to escape the cold and damp because one’s joints have issued a warning that sun and sand are the perfect Rx.  Therapeutic may also refer to the fact that when I’m in my retirement years, I intend to take up extreme adventuring (African Safari, zip-lining, senior citizen alpine racing, trying out a formula one racetrack, and applying to be one of the ‘older’ contestants on Survivor).  And let’s not forget retail therapy:  who wouldn’t love the opportunity to shop right off the runways of Milan, Paris and New York?  Dreams, I know.  But dream big and who knows what may happen?

But “more” aside, I will still say (in a whisper) that while I feel I’ve had the most fulfilling year yet, there still remains some unfinished business.  When I look around, I think to myself, I’m so blessed…amidst a world full of random shooters, terrorists, escaping as refugees and having to start a life all over again on the other side of the world, global warming, Donald Trump running for the highest office, and still struggling for Armenian genocide recognition…  I realize I’ve had it pretty good…I just don’t want to jinx it by admitting it!

I’m reminded of my school years… During exam week I’d turn into an OGRE: don’t talk to me, don’t bother me, if there’s a fire, please don’t try and rescue me.  One tracked and with singular focus all I cared to do was study. As soon as I’d completed my exams, I would race out of the classroom (and later on in university, the auditoriums) for I hated nothing more than that dreaded question, “how’d you do?”  because quite frankly, I’m highly superstitious.  Responding with an “I aced that mother@#$!^*!!!!” would only mean that I’m inviting God or the universe to knock me down a peg or two with a ‘C’ as opposed to an ‘A’ grade so that I could be more humble and more focused on the important things in life like having humility, being good to my fellow man (and woman), not coveting, and so on.

If it hasn’t been apparent, I am a type A (A+!) personality:  competitive, ambitious, highly organized, structured, and sometimes neurotically regimented. My doctor once told me that I was bordering on obsessive compulsive with perfectionistic tendencies.  I told her I couldn’t agree more.  But with this kind of personality comes also the characteristic of somewhat anxious coupled with a slight hint of neurotic.  And as an Armenian I also have a tendency to be slightly dramatic and sometimes even a fatalist – all in all, a recipe for tabbouleh.

evil eyeYet I still find myself in a near euphoric state: I’m relatively healthy, I have a wonderful family, a roof over my head, I live in a country where I’m free to dream and make my dreams a reality.  But it’s a NEAR euphoria and probably as close as I’m willing to admit.  Mr. Niceguy thinks I’m paranoid:  too many evil eyes, rubbing of blue stones, scratching of my ass and throwing of salt over my left shoulder.  We all have ups and downs and I’m in an upswing, so ride the wave because before you know it…?

Am I being overly anxious?  Is it the inherent type A anxiety that’s making me doubtful and concerned about making a declaration about my happiness and that it will surely be jinxed if I do so?  And while I’m on it, isn’t making such a declaration akin to bragging?  And bragging is surely not a good thing so now I will surely be knocked down for tossing it in peoples’ faces about just how lucky I am…

But I am lucky.  And blessed.  And thankful for every little bit of it!  In fact, we’ve all got some luck and blessing in our lives and we should most definitely declare it!

After all, surely happiness, positivity, optimism and contentment will breed more happiness, positivity, optimism and contentment?  Or is it just success that breeds success…  In any case, jinx or no jinx I’m going to decide that it’s ok to admit (to myself) that everything is ok – not super duper great – but good.  And that it’s ok to be content with all that’s been accomplished…after all, I would hate to make a mistake when it comes to prioritizing my goals for the new year.  I mean, who can predict what will come next?  All we can do is hope for is good health, happiness, growth and learning and that the sun will continue to rise in the east and set in the west…that’s all…nothing more…hear me universe? 

Happy New Year – I hope 2016 is a wonderful year for you and yours…

new year 2015

Traditions, traditions…??

Traditions are developed over long periods:  decades, centuries, millennia…or so I thought. 

It’s the time of year again when traditions take centre stage.  The holidays are approaching and everyone – every family, every social and religious group – has their own way of celebrating all based on their traditions.  But traditions aren’t just about holidays or special events; they also govern the way that we interact with one another in our day-to-day lives.

This year, I am spending the holiday season together with my own family, as a tenant in my parents’ house. For those who missed my previous post, let me catch you up.  Aged forty-something, mother of 2 boys and wife of one very Mr. Niceguy, I’m undertaking the ambitious project of renovating my house into my dream home (or as close to it as budget will allow!).

It goes without saying (though must be said as both parents are avid readers of my work) that my parents are making the ultimate sacrifice.  I’m sure that when my sister and I first moved out they must have breathed the largest sigh of relief: “Finally…”  They had accomplished what I believe all parents hope to achieve (which I now appreciate):  two married daughters, established, homes of their own – now they could relax.

Until they took us in.

Only months after they had taken in my younger sister and her family…

And only weeks after they completed their own renovations…

But (I believe) as parents, they’d signed a deal (perhaps with God or the universe) and in so doing, upheld their traditions of always caring for family so on November 2 (Mr. Niceguy’s birthday!!) we moved in.

I had prepared my brood for how they’d need to behave:  be neat and tidy, no eating in front of the television, no yelling/screaming/fighting/pretend skiing or car racing in the house/and always, always finish the food on your plate.  I thought I had it figured out what with years and years being under my parents’ roof – surely things could not have changed that much, could they?

What I hadn’t banked on was just how much I would change (or come into my own) after flying the coop…

Kim K ArmeniaWhen I married Mr. Niceguy I thought to myself, I will absorb this man.  I come from a culture that is as old as Ancient Egypt (and incidentally has produced some of the sexiest people in the world including Kim Kardashian!) while his is only a few hundred years old.  I will convert him to an Armenian and he will adopt all of our traditions, our ways of being – he will no longer be phased by my air-traffic-controller hand gesticulations or jump at my voice as I yell commands from just the other room as though I was on a trans-Atlantic telephone call circa 1979 – incidentally my dad still does this whenever he’s on a long-distance call…even if it’s just to my aunt and uncle in Hamilton!

Oh how wrong I was.  While Mr. Niceguy did get used to me and my ways (he loves the cuisine and even raises his voice above a whisper from time-to-time)…I hadn’t realized until I moved in with my parents just how many of his traditions I’d adopted.  He quietly, stealthily, converted me into a person who went from blurting, “Huh?” and “What?!” to “Pardon?” and “Please.”  Living with my parents, I see where so many of my quirks and foibles come from but having had time apart, you really do develop your own traditions.

Our life has become so individualized:  each of us has a schedule – I volunteer, write, and am managing our home renovation; Mr. Niceguy has a full time job and is constantly in training mode for one obstacle race or another; and the 9 year old and 5 year old are a couple of jumping beans bouncing between school, soccer, swimming, piano, skiing, judo, jiu jitsu and everything else in between!  We have what’s a very modern “grab-and-go” lifestyle.  We eat on the run, do homework on the run, catch-up on the run and perhaps the only two things we do staying still are video games and sleep.  (And TV for me!!)

Just the other day I was standing in the kitchen having breakfast for dinner:

Elegant mom:  What are you doing dear?  Why are you eating like that, hunched over your plate?  Why don’t you sit down?

Me:  ***Food stuffed cheeks***  Pardon?

Elegant mom:  I said, why don’t you sit down while you eat?  And what is it that you’re eating anyway?  Are you having eggs?  For DINNER??!

Me:  ***Swallow quickly – don’t talk with mouth full***  Yes.  It’s Wednesday.  Wednesday is Judo night.  I got the boys from school, cleaned up, did homework, made breakfast for dinner, and now I’m just eating quickly so I can get them to their class…

Elegant mom:  But eggs?  For dinner?  Surely dear they must need better nourishment.  They’re growing boys!  Look here, I’ve made green fasoolia with rice – why don’t you feed them what I made?  And where’s Mr. Niceguy?  Should I fill a plate for him?

Me:  ***Totally exasperated – I don’t have time, I don’t have time, I don’t have time…*** Mom I don’t have time!  I have to get them out of the door.  Mr. Niceguy will take care of himself!

Elegant mom:  “Take care of himself?”  No.  That’s not right.  He must feel comfortable and be well fed in our home.  You know dear, you must make time for good nutrition.  Look at you. Did you sleep well?  You know, if you don’t take care of yourself…

Carrie Post photoThis is one of just a myriad of interactions…in a day.  But I’m beginning to realize that perhaps I shouldn’t depart so quickly from my “old” traditions. While loud and food centric at times, these traditions are rooted in taking the time to have real interactions – not just those on-the-go – they value a slower, more humane pace and while I seldom have the patience for “twenty questions” (“Where’d you go? What’d you do? Who’d you see? Who’d you know?”*), they’re an indication of real, genuine interest and caring: the cornerstone of family.

So, while you make your lists for Santa this year consider the gift of family and good friends.  I am getting the gift of knowing my parents as the people they are now, Mr. Niceguy is getting a front-row seat to my history, and my children are not only getting to build memories with their grandparents, but getting first-hand experience with our rich and unique culture laced with ALL of our traditions.

Now, if only I could put a stop to the teen angst flashbacks that keep cropping up like my chubby days, the mean girls, the countless crush dramas, getting caught, the heartbreaks and, and, and…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, your families and loved ones.  May 2016 bring us all more of what will fill our hearts and souls, and make memories we can recount for years to come…

*Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City, recounting discussions with Aiden Shaw after moving in together to her girls.

christmas-wallpaper-196

 

Stop muzzling me!!!

“You can’t do that!”

“Stop. Let me show you how it’s done.”

These are usually the words that come out of my mouth. These days, however, they’re all I seem to hear – from Mr. Niceguy, from my mother, and even from the 9 and 5 year olds – and all I can think is, “PLEASE, DON’T MUZZLE ME!!”

IMG_6875In less than 72 hours I, a forty-something sometimes professional and always reaching YOUNG woman, will be moving house and home into a ten-by-thirty storage unit for the next … months and moving back in with my parents – Mr. Niceguy and boys in tow. Yes, we’re taking the leap that many homeowners do in a city fraught with ever-increasing housing prices (scarily so, I might add) and undergoing a major renovation.

For the past month, I have spent the better part of every, single day packing all of our belongings. Packing is no simple task: you must judge every scrap of paper, book, clothing, memento and memorabilia and assess whether it is worthy of holding a place in storage locker #B3304 (number has been changed to protect contents deemed valuable and quite frankly, with these few hours left, contents that just got lucky to avoid being scrapped and simply thrown in boxes like many of Mr. Niceguy’s concert tickets, boarding passes and music cassettes as well as high heel shoes that are obviously never going to make a comeback but hey…these fingers are now cracked, nails are broken, and back is sore).

IMG_6891On top of the packing, anyone who’s undergone a renovation in the City, also knows that one is fraught with red-tape: applications, permits, allowances, remediation, zoning, variances – all now common vernacular. Then there’s the other “red-tape” – the neighbours and the rounds of diplomatic sessions that must and should occur to ensure that everyone is aware of everything and so that after the upheaval ends, you still have friends.

Elegant mom 2The diplomacy does not end there because above all else, one has to now enter negotiations with the mother of all negotiators, literally, my mother. This classy, Armenian woman with Parisian breeding is now facing an invasion of her peaceful, beautiful, dainty world of the worst kind: my overly casual brood with very little regard for convention and etiquette – what can I say, they’re a bunch of boys!! Thanks in large part to the smoothing over by my father (from whom I’m sure I get much of my diplomatic skills), my mom was placated and her neuroses (which I also inherited) calmed…for now. If you ask my mother, the worst thing about MY situation is that it’s happening to her!

Oh yes, and add to that regular life: homework, piano lessons, soccer practice, swimming lessons, paying bills, planning family reunion holidays and I haven’t even touched upon the countless meetings and volunteer work (well done Zoryan). Add to that having to deal with the fact that the 5 year old has now started to refer to himself in the third person, “The 5 Year Old would now like a glass of water, get it mummy” and “The 5 Year Old does not like this lunch. Make him something else.” My life truly is in the spincycle – speaking of which, I think I have a batch of laundry I put in a couple of days ago which I have yet to transfer to the dryer…eeeewww!!!

Now that I’ve painted a clear picture of where things stand, it should be quite evident that I’m completely frayed, frazzled, and fraught with my own obsessions, psychoses, hang-ups and eccentricities and while I’ve been a champion of change, it is on one very, “Je suis Charlie” point that I just can’t get over: for all my training and natural talents at peacekeeping, I draw the line at being muzzled. While I am a diplomat at heart, I’m also a lover of the limelight, and a grabber of opportunity so it follows that my greatest punishment is not being heard.

Have you ever noticed how when you’re telling someone something – maybe a story or some kind of instruction – they cut you off before you’ve fully explained, totally ignoring your efforts at imparting words of wisdom, of significance and essential to the moment?

Before you’ve even arrived at the punchline, your listener has already detoured.

Perhaps it’s because I like to write, and definitely it’s because I’m loquacious – hey, I can be efficient if the situation merits. I’ve always liked to “speak in pictures”: when I tell a story or explain a process I like it to be vivid, to be in ‘technicolour’. I do it for the listener so that they may have a real and true vision of where I am and a sense of what I feel; to immerse the listener to the point where they feel like it’s their story and they know exactly where it’s headed. Like a good movie, reality often weaves a beautiful tale and so I delve, develop and painstakingly create. Every word, every image, every facial expression is carefully selected and revealed in a sequence to carry you into my world…

So how absurdly frustrating when I am interrupted, asked to be quiet, asked to hold my temper, asked to keep calm, asked to be understanding, asked to be conciliatory, asked to be, to be, TO BE SOMEONE OTHER THAN ME!!!! I feel like my life is being hijacked. My home is being ripped out of my hands (of my own volition, I know) and I’m having to regress back to my parents rules under my parents’ roof only now it’s not about sneaking out to go clubbing with my friends or with that “odar” boy…

After a much needed tête-a-tête, and the laying of some ground rules and boundaries (not to mention some very sage advice from my mother to remain open-minded and calm), I am hopeful that at the end of it all, I will still remain friends with the people that matter most: my family. More than that, I hope to not regress to my teenage, rebellious and very stubborn know-it-all version of me and embarrass myself in front of Mr. Niceguy or the boys…

Time to be positive. Time to buck up and act my age. Time to set an example. Time to concede that sometimes muzzling is a good thing as it stops one from saying what they wish they could take back and later regret. So here goes: I see a learning opportunity ahead – I see my diplomatic skills reaching new heights – I see new memories in the making…now to survive it all.

IMG_6894

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

The “Me too!” Complex…

Me too fingersDo you have the “Me Too!” complex?  If you’re scratching your head wondering what that is, then like my sister, you don’t have it.  I seem to have it in spades.  Like when I ask my single friend, how’re you doing and she says, “Well you know…I’m out there.  Playing the field.  I’ve had amazing first dates but nothing’s materializing.”  And I respond with, “Me too!  I was great on first dates and just couldn’t convert it to anything more.”  And she looks at me with an expression that just says, “Huh?”

Yes, married to Mr. Niceguy with two lovely boys, a roof over my head, and really not much to complain about yet I’m still prey to the “Me too!” complex…

This syndrome, I have come to believe, mostly plagues those of us who care about what the other person is thinking, is needing, is wanting – to a fault!  I don’t believe it has anything to do with self esteem:  I’m a very confident person, most of the time, except when I’ve put on some water weight and I’m worrying that perhaps quitting a six-figure salary job downtown that most people covet wasn’t the right thing to do and whether my volunteering will ever lead me to something more than just a feeling like I’m doing something out of the goodness of my heart and convert to something material and whether I will be announced as the best teacher’s pet there ever was??!!

All that aside, I believe the complex stems from a need to relate; that basic human instinct of connecting to those around you.  So, what does that mean for people like my sister who are just so confident and articulate and rather steadfast in their beliefs?  Are they just more evolved?  Have they moved away from that instinctive behavior that would draw humans together so that they may have better odds hunting large game?  Or procreate?  Build societies?  Am I still a caveman?  Cavewoman??!!

Recently I was at an Asian fusion restaurant with some friends and the inevitable happened when I declared that I don’t eat anything that calls a body of water its home.

Friend 1:  “What?!  No sushi?”  Nope.  Gross.  Uncooked meat?  No thank you.

Friend 2:  “Really?  Are you sure?”  Yes.  Quite positive.  Been this way since about age 6 and the day my mom lied to me that the fish finger on my lunch plate was just a really fat french fry so I should just go ahead and eat it.  Thanks mom, you can count yourself among the reasons for why I have a massive distrust of trying anything new that ‘tastes just like chicken!’

Friend 3:  “How do you live?!”  Oh, I’m a walking miracle.  Seriously??!!

As one can glean, I’m quite strong about my position on seafood.  One could say I’ve had a number of years of practice hardening my view on the whole subject matter, though I did mention that I’d tried a vegetarian roll and one with smoked duck (yummm….???) so perhaps that counts???  Ok, perhaps the view is not as hard as I thought…

In any case, this syndrome has a way of taking over sometimes…it’s the likeability factor.  Like if we’re the same it’s more likely that you’ll like me, right?  And the FOMO factor (Fear-Of-Missing-Out).  Like if we’re not on the same page, perhaps we’re just not going to get along as well and then we’re not going to have shared experiences and build memories that we’ll end up cherishing forever like the kindred spirits we could potentially be.  Total neurosis??

The “Me too!” complex reminds me of when a group of kids gang up on another in the playground.  I recall this happening to me…

Back when I was growing up during an idyllic childhood in Saudi Arabia – believe it or not it was – I was part of a group of four girlfriends (Sex and the City in the making at age 9!)  One of us (not me) was the leader who seemed to decide everything:  what we’d play during recess, which boys we’d like, and who from the rest of us would be at the bottom of the pecking order any given week.  I recall when she tried to make me the bottom.  I was terrified.  I didn’t want my group of friends to turn on me so I made up some story about how naturally talented I was in tap dancing (never having had a lesson in my life) and quite literally, tap danced my way back to an upper rung.  She, however, seeing that now that the bottom spot had been left vacant, decided to throw down my other friend, the one I felt closest to in the four.  Something woke up inside me.  I felt a sort of responsibility toward my friend – because of me and my quick thinking (on my feet, no pun intended) she was now the one to be shunned.  I somehow found my voice and said, “No.  We’re not going to play with you anymore.  You’re mean.  I like her, she’s my friend and you can’t be the boss of us.” We broke off and were blissfully happy off on our own.  FOMO or no FOMO.

Yet today, somehow I still find myself in that playground from time to time.  It’s hard to hear your own voice in all the noise.  Sometimes it takes me a few “Me too’s” followed by geez…why did I say/do that?!  to remember my own.  As for the relating, perhaps we don’t have to feel exactly what the other person is feeling to be able to relate?  I mean, there is a large scale of relativity, is there not?  Yet it sure feels good when once again I find myself in a situation where I’ve seemingly put myself on the outs for declaring something, and someone else leans over and says, “Ya, I can’t stand the smell of seafood either!”

Me too birds

How far does our need for acceptance go??!

acceptance fishTo some degree or another, we all have a need to be accepted.  Whether it’s by friends, family, colleagues and even random strangers – like when I’ve just “been me” while saying something so asinine and I feel like I’ve instantly been blacklisted as they look at me like (a) I’m from another planet or (b) I’ve been living in complete isolation having only a volleyball named “Wilson” as a companion.  While I’ve always known that I fall more on the side of the spectrum that craves acceptance (I write a blog for goodness sake), I didn’t realize just how much until the other night.  My 8.5 year old, who, after a full day with his BFF, came home telling me all about this thing he discovered called, “Siri”…

8.5 Year Old:  Mom, we were talking to Siri!  It was awesome.

Me:  *Great.  Now he’s totally going to hijack my phone and get me into all sorts of trouble…*  Oh ya…what did you think?  Not that exciting huh?  I just ask Siri about restaurants or the latest movies or where the closest gas station is in an emergency.

8.5 Year Old:  Ummm…ok.  We asked it to show us the biggest butt!

Me:  WHAT?!

8.5 Year Old:  *In hysterics*  Ya!  Ya!  The biggest butt!!  At first Siri didn’t know what I was saying but then it showed me a picture of the person with a HUUUUUUUUUGE butt!!

Me:  *?????* 

He then proceeded to “demonstrate” this new skill on my phone.  After the hysterics, and obviously not amused by Siri’s sterile demeanour, my son ended his torture of my iPhone 5 with the following statement, “Siri, you suck.” and Siri replied, “That doesn’t sound good” and “I’m just trying to help you.”  Poor Siri.  All I could think was, OMG!!!  Now Siri is not going to like me.  Now she won’t help me with reservations, recommendations and witty remarks!  Wait a second…WHAT AM I THINKING???!!  And that’s when I realized just how deeply we (I) sometimes need to feel accepted…

Recently when I picked up my son from school he told me that someone made him cry that day.  He had been excluded and was feeling unsure of himself – I was amazed at how quickly he linked not being picked to play at recess, to who he is as a person.  Akin to having to speak to your children about the birds and the bees, storks, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, having to talk about self-esteem is right up there for me…where does one begin?

Perhaps one of the hardest things to face is when your child or any child comes to you distraught over being made to feel that they aren’t good enough, that they don’t fit in or that they’re simply, unwanted.  I can’t help but internalize their sorrow and their feelings of insecurity and inferiority; all I want to do is take away the angst and remind them that they are strong, smart, capable and good people.  Somehow, though, it’s not the same as when it comes from their peers…

Accepted conceptI was brought up to feel like I was special, important, and strong.  My parents gave me a lot of room to use my voice and demonstrate my talents and capabilities.  While I’ve tried to do the same for my boys, in this fast paced world of too much homework, actual work, extra-curriculars and social media I wonder if I’m doing a good job.  Some call it helicopter parenting – when a parent is there to solve all of their kids problems (in a nutshell) and basically tries to shield them from any pain or loss: “there’s no winner here…you both tied!  Hooray!”  I feel like I can fall into that trap very easily.  It doesn’t help when you’re as big a control freak like me!

Other times, I like to just let them sort things out for themselves; I’m more of a bystander.  But then the control freak side of me wonders if they’ll come out learning those important lessons…and whether they’ll destroy our house in the process.

Not any closer to knowing what to say or how to handle this particular situation, I decided I needed more information.

Me:  So tell me what happened.  What’s this about someone making you cry?

8.5 year old:  I feel terrible.  I wanted to play but they told me I can’t.  I didn’t know what to do…why won’t they play with me?

Now 5 year old:  I would hit them.

Me and 8.5 year old: You can’t do that.

Now 5 year old:  Then I would punch them.

Me and 8.5 year old: You can’t do that!

Now 5 year old:  Hmmm…(thinking)…then I would kick them and tell them they’re stupid.

Me and 8.5 year old: Nooooo!!!

Was the Now 5 year old onto something?  Is it right to fight fire with fire?  Have we become too sterile, too methodical and too considerate?

When I felt bullied or excluded while I was on Bay Street I would simply run to the third washroom stall so that no one would see me “get emotional” – there’s no crying in finance.  But that can’t be the right strategy!  Somehow we get through these awkward years – hopefully unscathed and better prepared for hard times in our futures…but how?

I decided to focus on building his self-confidence and remind him that the buck stops with us – we cannot control how other people will behave, all we can do is focus on how we will behave.  You can’t force someone to like you or to play with you, and while it’s important to stand up for yourself, remember that you still have to face those same people the next day so stand up for yourself without tearing someone else down.  So while it’s important to have compassion and empathy, to be diplomatic and considerate, it’s just as important to know your worth and your value.

I reassured my son that sometimes these things happen.  Sometimes people don’t want to play with you but that doesn’t mean that you’re not worth playing with.  And as for Siri, I made sure to tell her that I loved and appreciated her, to which she replied:  “I don’t understand, ‘Siri I love and appreciate you’.  But I could search the web for it.”  Hmmmppphhh.

snipy siri

Valentine’s Day…it’s coming!

swept off her feetAhhhh…Valentine’s Day.  I love it.  With Christmas and New Year’s long gone now, retailers have already done the flip and I don’t care that it’s contrived, artificial or just collusion between the card companies, chocolate companies and florists.

Valentine’s Day is a forced moment to stop and think about the one you love and to make that one person feel special…if only I could control the HOW when that person is me!

I can’t think of how many times I’ve instigated an argument with Mr. Niceguy over my (perhaps ever-so-slightly) unrealistic expectations around Valentine’s Day – and I have to say, these “discussions” are always initiated at the END of the day (when he no longer stands a chance and when I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’m not getting the moon and stars for Valentine’s this year).  For example:

Me:   Hmmm…so anything special happen at work today?

Mr. Niceguy:  Nope, just a typical day.

Me:  Wasn’t it extra pretty?  Like lots of pink and red hearts in all the stores down there?  I love the Valentine’s day decorations…

Mr. Niceguy:  Ya.

Me:  Remember back when we didn’t have any kids?  Oooh, and before we were married…how you used to send me flowers and buy me my favourite candy for Valentine’s Day?  *wistful*  How you’d plan the whole day like the time you took me skating at City Hall and then we went to my favourite restaurant for dinner?

Mr. Niceguy:  Didn’t you plan that day…and wasn’t that the time you got really sick and called the restaurant the next day because you thought they served us tainted beef when it was actually the fact that you ordered the pan-fried butter steak, the buttery mushrooms, the cheesy baked potatoes and then the extra helping of creamy mashed potatoes?

Me:  *HHHRRRMMMPPHH*  Nooooooo…not that time (thanks for bringing that up!)  The time you took me to the romantic French restaurant with the bread baskets that hang from the pulleys, the gorgeous fireplace, the wonderful wine…

Mr. Niceguy:  Oh.  Ya.  Ummm…

Me:  *Losing patience* Why can’t you plan a Valentine’s Day for me anymore?   Can you please plan one next year?  Please?

Mr. Niceguy:  Huh?  What?  I was just checking Arsenal’s standings in the soccer league…

Ya.  So that’s the way it usually goes.  But not this year.  This year I’m taking matters into my own hands.  I’m a smart, capable, educated woman who can totally be logical when she wants.  In fact, I resent that last statement.  I am ALWAYS logical.  So if I want something, I’m gonna make it happen.  I am going to sweep Mr. Niceguy right off his feet!

But wait…I’m the girl.  And isn’t Valentine’s Day all about showing the girl how much you love her?  Isn’t it about courting, wooing and making your lady feel special?  I don’t want to take that away from Mr. Niceguy.  Instead, I will trust that this year he will know exactly what to do.

Besides, I was testing the waters tonight and he kind of passed.  See, Mr. Niceguy’s absolute favourite meal in the whole wide world is roasted chicken and potatoes – it’s a comfort food that his mom used to make for him.  Imagine the smells of a roasting chicken filling the home…I wonder, could it be the key to Mr. Niceguy’s heart?  So to test this hypothesis, I made him his favourite dinner, except…

When I went to lift the roasting pan out of the oven, I think I may have tweaked my finger – it might have been heavy for just one hand but I carried it to the table all the same.  After our meal, while I was doing the washing, I noticed a large purple bruise on the inside of my finger and recalled…my GP asked me recently if I bled or bruised easily…HOLD ON.  Am I a closet hemophiliac?!  I asked Mr. Niceguy…

Me:  *Panic and concern with a dash of cute*  Look at my finger!

Mr. Niceguy:  *Sweetly*  Oh!  What’d you do?

Me:  *Coy and bashful batting my eyelashes*  I don’t know…I think I hurt it while lifting the casserole…do you think I’m a borderline hemophiliac?  I mean, I bruise so easily and when I cut myself it takes a while to stop bleeding…

Mr. Niceguy:  *Smiling as one would to a toddler*  Oh no.  I think if you were a hemophiliac, even a borderline hemophiliac, we would have known by now.  I mean, true, you are special and lots of odd things have happened to you, but I wouldn’t worry.

See?!  So sweet…so attentive.  Hypothesis validated.  I will prepare a roasted chicken right before Valentine’s Day, drop a hint or two and see where things take us…who knows, maybe this year I’ll get the sun and the moon and the stars and the flowers and the candy and the really hard to get reservations and the trendiest restaurant and a new bauble and…and…and…

Tangled

Happy Christmas!

We’re entering my favorite time of the year and unlike many, I don’t mind at all that it’s getting colder, that the days are getting shorter, and that soon the ground will be covered snow.  In the lead up to the holidays Christmas decorations are everywhere and people seem so much kinder, warmer and more tolerant.  Even those added extra hours of darkness don’t feel gloomy when I’m getting lost in all the magical, twinkling lights.  Like most, however, come March I’ll be willing the snow to melt and the warmth to return, but for the time being I’m just going to stop, press pause, and enjoy.

Despite all of the excitement around the holidays there are always those quiet moments when you can sit still, perhaps by a crackling fire enjoying a nice, hot latte (or something with more of a kick) and listening to some relaxing music…none of which I seem to have found quite yet.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to teach my boys about the act of making resolutions. Resolutions make us acknowledge the passing of the old and give hope for the chance of something new and better.  Ancient Babylonians and Romans made resolutions and they can also be found in more religious holidays like Lent, when sacrifices are made as a form of penance.  At the very least, resolutions can help us to seek betterment through change – and change can be a good thing, right?

So this morning when I asked the boys what they thought of the year ending and another one beginning here’s what happened…

Me:  Boys, the year is almost over.  Soon it will be January and we will start fresh again.  What do you think of that?

4 year old:  Hmmph.  NINJA TURTLES!!!!!!

8 year old:  The year ending is bad.  Like, really bad.  I don’t want change.  I want everything to stay the same.

Me:  Really?  Are you sure?  It’s not bad, it’s just an end and then we start over with a new beginning.

8 year old:  Well, ok.  But I still don’t want it to change…unless of course we get hovercars.

Me:  WHA?!  Hover cars?  Or hover crafts?  Do you mean hover cars like the Speedors in Star Wars or hover crafts that go on water and land?

8 year old:  Not Speedors.  The first one.

Me:  Huh?!  First one? (Totally confused)

8 year old:  No.  Not Speedors.  Hover cars.  Like in Mario Kart 8.  We could all drive around in hover cars…then I’ll be happy with the new year.

Me:  Ummm ok.  So I think we’ve missed the point – a new year means a new chance at starting over and we can do that by making resolutions.  Like, I’ll be nicer to my parents this year, I’ll work harder this year, I won’t play as many video games *under my breath: because now I’m dreaming about hover cars…*

8 year old:  Definitely to be nicer.

4 year old:  I-WANT-TO-COLOUR!!!!

Me:  *Getting frazzled* Ummmm…great!  (Turning to 8 year old) And what do you mean by “nicer”?  You already are super nice.

8 year old:  Well then I want HIM to be nicer (points at 4 year old).  And I know what I don’t want.  I don’t want my ears to grow so big that I can hear everything in the world because then my teacher will get really mad when I can’t concentrate on what she’s saying in class …unless I plug my ears with bass drums, of course.

Of course.   The conversation continued for at least two more blocks about gigantic ears being able to touch outer space and the various moves of the Ninja Turtles and Jedi fighters and I thought to myself:  this has been a huge year for me.  A year full of changes of risks – some of which have paid off while others, I’m still waiting to appreciate.  In some ways the year flew by.  In some ways, it took an eternity for how could I have filled in so many things in the blink of an eye?

The only thing I can say to you, dear Reader, is as follows:  I hope you had a year full of wonder and growth.  I hope you learned something new and saw something that made you stop and think – for therein lies the magic.  I hope your losses will be overcome and that your pains will subside.  I hope you didn’t add very many more regrets to any that you may already have.  I hope you can allow yourself to let go of those regrets and instead hold onto the small moments – the ones that seem so insignificant while they’re happening for they are what will remain in the years to come.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Merry Christmas

Wash, rinse, spin, repeat…

All about the never ending spin-cycle…and the little pauses in between.

survivor-2013-episode-8-480x270Last night the PVR was acting up and it took an actual three hours to finally catch up on my TV and watch the Survivor finale and wrap up show – I may as well have just watched it live.  GAH!!!!  I hate it when that happens.  Some question why I still watch Survivor – I’m a bit of an escapist and sometimes overly confident (add a dash of egotistical, judgemental and crazy and voila!) – I think I have quite the social game and am really, really good at puzzles so I think that I would totally make it to the final four provided I didn’t have to eat any weird fetus, maggot or some kind of larvae.  My paranoid self has just realized that actually writing this may actually tip off Jeff Probst and crew to include the Survivor Food Eating Challenge when I compete…one day….once I’ve actually applied….yikes!!!

I digress.  Mr. Niceguy kept telling me that it was time for bed as I kept nodding off but no, I wouldn’t have it.  I absolutely needed to see who would win and quite frankly, after a long day of cooking, cleaning, gardening, repairing, washing, and homework together with, “Mommy, I want this” and “Mommy, the 4 year old is bothering me” and “Mommy, I can’t find my [insert any ridiculously tiny toy that one would need binocular attachments and some kind of sonar or laser tracking device to find]” – it was my down time.  Thankfully, the phone beeps from a very late night round of texting from my other mommy friends who were obviously in the same boat jolted me awake and I was able to watch to the end…but no downtime ever takes place without exacting some form of payment, a lesson I would come to learn again…

7:00am – alarm goes off.  I was so tired that I didn’t hit the snooze like I often do but instead, turned it right off.  And all of a sudden, there I was, fascinator on, gorgeous two-piece and nude coloured shoes…no wait, that’s Kate Middleton.  What’s she doing here?  Oh my goodness, she’s giving me advice about how to host an outdoor party…how grand.  Wait, I must take notes and listen closely…what’s that?  She’s now talking about what to do when I’ve stepped in what??  And how to get rid of the stench???  I can’t pay attention to this!  Why am I even thinking of arranging this garden party?  How did I get here?  Oh no…it was that second dinner I had at midnight!  That’s right…I keep forgetting I’m not 20 anymore!!  Speaking of food…

Oh my God!  8:15am!!!  And Mr. Niceguy is still sleeping too!  We jump out of bed and being the nice guy that he is, Mr. Niceguy makes the boys’ lunch and I decide I can’t leave the house looking like I just woke up and must do something about the embossed sheet marks on my face.  So I scrubbed, moisturized and put on my makeup but unfortunately…no go.  The sunglasses will have to cover my cheeks and nevermind, I’m really pressed for time!!  Quick, grab jean cut offs from yesterday…it was so warm yesterday…argh…quit daydreaming…and pull a beachy look like Gisele!

Finally at school.  Only I’ve just noticed that it’s 11 degrees and one glimpse at myself in the school glass doors and I realize, perhaps today is not the day to try and emulate Gisele…oh, and more disheartening still, the only thing I have in common with Gisele are the freckles on my face.  A walk through the doors would add yet one more disappointment…pizza day.  Why couldn’t I have just checked the school calendar before heading out of the house??!!

So to wrap up, I’m essentially paying for a not-so-exciting-night full of after hour binge eating, TV watching and basically TRYING to carve out some ME time.  WHY IS THE UNIVERSE PUNISHING ME???!!!

I decide that I can’t face the rest of my day without my signature latte and that’s when I ran into a couple of women – other mom friends from school – one of whom is a very hip and cool marketing genius while the other, our local SJP with a downtown boutique full of the latest fashions.  Ever the shallow individual, all I could think was I hope I don’t get judged for my lack of fashion sense re: the t-shirt, cut offs and my signature Converse All Stars, and that the sheet marks had finally disappeared from my face (I swear if someone invents a cheek plumper similar to that instant lip plumper lip gloss that one can simply buy off the counter, I’M ALL IN!!!)

Trying to sheepishly order my coffee and avoid all eye contact to no avail, I was approached and greeted ever so graciously by them both…obviously ignoring my dishevelled and insane state.  And you know what?  I got praised for my writing and praised for a recent outfit I had pulled together for a last minute event and I was on cloud nine!  For just a moment, my insane cycle had been broken.  For just a moment, it was all about me.  Beaming, I thanked them both for their compliments, grabbed my latte and walked to my car…and then promptly dribbled coffee all the way down my shirt.

woman-coffee-stain-620km012213

What to expect when you’re expecting…

I’m borrowing this title…and taking it out of the “expecting” context – in the pregnancy sense, that is.  Having cleared out my bookshelves to make room for new reads in the new year, I noticed just how many books I bought on pregnancy, a mere 9 months of my life (how can I say this about such an important time? I’ve had children.  If you haven’t, well, all I can say is, you’ll see).  What I need is a What to Expect for some of life’s OTHER main events.  Like…

What to Expect When You’re Expecting…How to Handle the Holidays edition, or What to Expect When You’re Expecting…Post Holiday Survival Guide.

Since I can remember, the holidays have been a time I’ve looked forward to with all my being

Better than birthdays, better than a bonus day off, better than finding the secret stash of cash hidden in a sock, at the back of your closet, in an old pair of boots in case of an emergency:  to me, the Christmas holiday season always felt like I had won the lottery – there just seems to be a sprinkling of fairy dust in the air!

Most everyone is excited about the change in routine – a couple of days off work, holiday break from school, time with friends and family, and if you’re lucky, a visit from the guy in the red suit complete with a little trinket, or two!  Not to mention the absolute joy while watching the faces of the 7.5 year old and nearly 4 year old as they tear through package after package of carefully planned  presents (some educational, some that will surely encourage imagination, and others that will simply turn their brains to utter mush).  But the greatest gift for me does not come in a package:  it is the excuse to bring together friends and family, to feed them, entertain them, and watch as they relate under my roof; truly, the present I look forward to all year long.

However, to know me would also be to understand that I am by no means a Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver (love him!) or Barefoot Contessa.  Though I try really hard to be inventive and imaginative, inevitably, the stress of the holidays takes hold and things almost never turn out as I expected…or imagined…

For starters, though I invite my family over for the holidays months in advance and every year, I am amazed at how quickly they forget that they are ATTENDEES at the party, and NOT the hosts.  This of course is extremely typical in the Armenian culture – and especially with moms.  Nevermind that I own a home, am married, work for a living and have birthed two children, it seems there is still a seeming lack of trust (??!) around this annual gathering…

Mom:  Calls me at work, sometime late November.  Hello dear.  How are you?  I’m starting to make my plans for Christmas eve dinner.  What are you planning on serving?

Me:  In the middle of juggling at least three balls at once…  Hi mom…wait, what?!  Are you calling me at work to ask me about the Christmas eve dinner menu?

Mom:  Why yes.  Yes indeed.  What were you thinking of serving?

Me:  Mom, it’s still NOVEMBER!!! 

Mom:  But it’s December next week.  Your dad and I want to know so that we can prepare our plans for shopping.

Me:  BUT – IT’S – STILL – NOVEMBER!!  I don’t know what I’m going to do, I haven’t thought that far ahead.  Oh.  My.  God.  MOM!!!!   I’m at work!  Somehow I think reiterating this obvious point will change things???

Mom:  Yes dear, but you have to think of these things.  How’s everyone going to know what to bring?

Me:  Getting angry and loud…kick door shut before I totally lose my cool at the office.  It’s not a POTLUCK!  It’s Christmas eve DINNER!  And I’m making it!!

Mom:  Still totally calm tones.  Well dear.  You are so busy.  How about I make the turkey, the stuffing, the rice, all of the sides and bring a fruit platter.  Why don’t you just make a couple of salads.?????????????????????????????????

Me:  0 to 200mph / Defcon 1 / Full blown nuclear.  WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!  It’s MY house.  It’s MY dinner party. It’s MY menu!  Why can’t you just come over and be a guest?  Why do you have to take over?!!!  Why are you making me think about this NOW!??!   I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO BEFORE THEN!!!

Mom:  Still calm (HOW?!  HOW DO THEY STILL REMAIN CALM??!!)  Yes sweetheart.  But you’re planning a party and you don’t have a menu.  And we all know you’re busy.  It’s ok.  I will take care of things.  The family has been asking about what to bring.  We’re all trying to make our preparations.  But most of all, we just want to help you.  You’ve been so nervous and on edge lately…

Me:  Confused.  Defeated.  Exasperated.  Feeling guilty.   Look mom.  I’m at work.  Please, can you not make any more plans about MY party.  We’ll need to talk about this later.  I have to go now.  (Totally feeling shamed for screaming…it’s an Armenian parent specialty) Umm…oh, and thank you for wanting to help.

Mom:  Ok dear.  Nice talking to you.  Just take care of yourself.  All this stress isn’t good, you know.  Are you taking vitamins?  Oh, and don’t take too long to get back to us.  Bye!

Oh boy.  I swear it’s the same every year.  Why isn’t THAT what I was expecting??!  And needless to say, little did I know back at the end of November, that this conversation was just the beginning…a torturous couple of weeks at work, the Christmas eve dinner that had to be cancelled due to the ice storm and power outage, and then the absolute apex of unexpected events, the passing of our beloved Zoom.  The little fish I, without any premonition, wrote about some weeks ago…

If I was going to write some sort of a (survival) guide or manual, it would have the following title – What to Expect when all of your expectations are dashed:  Just go with it!  And that’s what we did;  it’s what I did.  Christmas Eve dinner became the very first New Year’s Eve dinner, I accepted help from all those around me, and in the end, it was my mom that brought the salad.

Wishing you the very best in 2014!

mother-and-daughter-holiday

Epilogue:  Zoom passed sometime between the eve and actual day of Armenian Christmas (January 5/6).  He will always be remembered by our household, especially the 7.5 year old who shared his room with him for just over 2.5 years.  I will forever be grateful for how he bonded our family together (in that special way that only pets can) and the little lesson he taught me:  to get up and go after what I want.

The above is dedicated to Zoom T. and to a very brave woman who lived Zoom’s lesson.  I hope to follow in both your footsteps…

me and zoom

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)

Pride and Prejudice…the spincycle version

One of my all-time favourite movies is Pride and Prejudice – the BBC version.  I’ve seen it more times than I can remember and at first, I thought the title should’ve been, “The Charming Mr. Darcy” (swoon).  But after watching it many, many more times, I came to appreciate its meaning…how both Elizabeth Bennett (the heroine) and Mr. Darcy both prejudged each other given their circumstances and ingrained thinking.  In the end, they realize that their prejudices were ill-found…

It’s just past 7:30 and I’ve decided to skip the 3 year old’s soccer game this morning  and instead decide to lounge around…beep-beep-beep-beep…

Hmmm…it’s Saturday.  Who could be texting??  I can’t really be bothered…I mean, it’s the weekend…everyone should just chill and relax, like me.  I can be the Queen of Relaxation – when I want to or more like, when I allow myself – I can be so good at it.  Mr. Niceguy has taken care of everything and the 7 year old is downstairs playing video games (sue me, it’s summer vacation).  Beep-beep-beep-beep…

Why does it keep beeping?!  It’s breaking my focus.  My concentration.  My zen.  Oooommmmm….

Beep-beep-beep-beep…

Ooooooommmmmmmm…..

Beep-beep-beep-beep…

OOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!!!!…..

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP…

OK!  OK!  I’ll just check it…OH NO!  Texts from my mommy friends…Oh.  My.  God!!!  The playdate is TODAY and I forgot that I was supposed to get up early and prepare!  Quick scan fridge…nothing.  Pantry….nothing.  Basement pantry….boxes of mac & cheese and our emergency if-the-world-comes-to-an-end cans of chili and space age/military grade, vac sealed meal replacement kits that Mr. Niceguy bought from some kind of disaster readiness website.  How could I let this happen?!  Incidentally, I’m more ready for the end of the world than I am a playdate!

Not a problem.  I can put it into full gear – besides, I’ve had a few hours minutes seconds to relax.  I am recharged, refreshed and raring to go!

T-minus 1hr 45mins:  In car, 7 year old in tow, pull up to grocery store.  Veggies, fruit, cheese, bag of chips (again, summer, sue me), juice, and a diet coke for me.

T-minus 1hr 30mins:  Need more caffeine!  Hit up a Starbucks…can’t do the day without my latte fix!

T-minus 1hr 24mins:  I wonder…if I add up all the time I wait for the baristas to prepare my lattes how long would that be…and why can’t they ever get my name right?? What if I started pulling some Bart Simpson name pranks…

T-minus 1hr 23mins 30secs:  REALLY?!  I don’t have time for this!!!  NEED MY LATTE!!

T-minus 25mins:  At home.  Fruit chopped, veggies chopped, cheese cut, house tidied up, beds made, teeth brushed (I had no time!), hair straightened (this could be a blog topic all on its own) we’re ready.

T-minus…THEY’RE HERE.  Kids all run into the basement and chaos ensues!  And moms can all relax, put their feet up, and dish!

I’ll digress now and say that I have chronic foot-in-mouth-itis.  I frequently say things that I shouldn’t say…and consequently, do things that I shouldn’t do.  For example, when kicked under the table to keep quiet or go along with something, I have often blurted out, “hey!  Whatchya kick me for?”  And after each occasion, I remember that perhaps I should’ve tried to be a little more incognito – and perhaps I should remember that my actions (and lack of discretion) result in the “outing” or inconvenience of someone else.

Sometimes I’m like a toddler with no filter.  I chalk it up to honesty and being an open book, but one mustn’t forget about tact…

So at this playdate, a few weeks ago, I said something I really shouldn’t have said.  Something that I didn’t even realize was in me.  And I remember the moment, the instant the words were out of my mouth:  I felt hot, I felt a flush rising from my chest to my face and head – I felt so uncomfortable that I just wanted to black out (like that may have been an easier out and I could’ve blamed my momentary lapse in judgment on something medical).  What I really wanted to do was to rewind, go back in time, and never utter those words which were made so carelessly and without any cognition. Thankfully when I apologized, she accepted my apology.

This was all the result of an ill-conceived bias…like group think and blindly following along with a majority’s views.  Like being under compulsion (Vampire Diaries reference here…and yes, I’m still addicted).  It can make an appearance at the most unexpected times – and when it’s someone like me, with no filter, it really can pop out of nowhere.

For example, when walking into someone’s house for the first time and there’s underwear in the middle of the floor.  Look, this really has happened to me and it made me feel totally uncomfortable.  It made me question what I thought about that person. Like who leaves their underwear on the floor knowing that they’re expecting company?  Who??  Feels a little intimate…no?

And now I was the one that had dished out the uncomfortable.  I was the one that had put someone else in a very awkward position.  I was the one who had “left underwear on the floor.”  And for a penance, have been feeling absolutely horrible – despite remedying the situation.  I’ve totally beaten myself up and cringe every time I replay that careless, awkward moment.  (You know that face…the “oooh” smush face and shrugging of shoulders made when thinking about it.)

But I think it’s time to move on and time to take it a little easier.  We all make mistakes and hopefully, we learn.  After all, that’s what I would tell my boys.  That, and I am fortunate that my mommy friend could look beyond this one instance.  She has taught me the lesson of being more gracious – and she was tolerant of my toddler-like ways.  Just like Elizabeth Bennett changed her views when she ran into Darcy after he had taken a swim in his “underthings”, the next time I see underwear on the floor, I swear to be more discrete, shrug it off and not jump to any conclusions…oh, and save everyone’s pride, including my own.

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