If it’s good enough for Gwenyth…

There’s a feature in US magazine that makes a regular appearance, Stars – They’re just like us.  I used to think it was cheesey and really such a stretch – like who actually feels better about themselves when they see that yes, J.Lo actually pumps her own gas?  Really?  But about the time that I had the seven year old many, many, moons ago, I had an epiphany…

It was day 9, 10 or 11 back from the hospital.  Those days are all a big blur and I believe they are because my mind has made (and continues to make) the greatest of all efforts to shield me from the trauma I experienced.  I was the first in my closest circle of friends to have a baby.  Yes, I had been exposed to them and yes I come from a large extended family so babies were being born when I was in my late teens but it’s not quite the same until you pop one out yourself…somehow, you skip all the nasty bits.

Anyway…it was day 9, 10 or 11…and it was following one particular feeding that lasted over 3 hours with me isolated in the bedroom with just my baby boy, during a small dinner party hosted by me that I thought, with tear stained cheeks, there must be another way.  I had naively thought that my small collection of baby books would prepare me – albeit, up to that point I had focused mainly on the pregnancy part and didn’t bother to read about how things would turn out once the baby arrived – a grave mistake.

I should have heeded the warning signs:  I was terribly concerned about having the right hair and natural looking makeup for the delivery.  And I honestly thought that once the baby popped out, we would all get cleaned up and then poof, be back in the sanctuary of our home to start a full year’s vacation from work!

Baby would just be a project – and I would have all the time in the world to figure things out…

So when I was told I had to stay overnight because they wanted to observe the little guy I was slightly put out, but smiled and complied…until I was rudely awoken at 6 am and asked by a very cross nurse, “Did you wake that baby and feed him overnight?  When was the last time he nursed?!”  And apparently, before I passed out 8 hours ago wasn’t good enough – nor was my response, “Why would I wake him up?  He was asleep.  Do you have a bottle somewhere?”  The look of horror on that nurse’s face was laughable to me then.  There I was, this straight A student, this total cheeky, know-it-all with a plan, smiling away…but she had the last laugh, I’m sure of it.

People GwenythIn any case.  Day 9, 10 or 11, worst feed EVER, tear stained cheeks and I thought to myself.  Gwenyth had her daughter, Apple some months ago.  She’s a very busy lady and movie star.  How does she do it?  And while maneuvering with my son in my arms, I opened up a special issue People Magazine that featured all the celebrity moms and babies and there it was, my salvation, at the very bottom of the page, Gwenyth Paltrow’s nanny book.  Her nanny had written a book!  And the very next day, I got my hands on that book because I figured, if it’s good enough for Gwenyth, it’s good enough for me! 

Celebrities are an interesting breed.  They have teams of people scouring and vetting and basically seeking the best for their clients.  So why not jump on the bandwagon and benefit from all the legwork someone else has already done?  That book saved me and I don’t even know how many times I’ve quoted, “Gwenyth Paltrow’s nanny book” since.  So when I found myself at the end of my rope again a couple of months ago, I hopped on the bandwagon once more…

I’ve written many times about my absolute love and admiration of the ketchup chip.  It is perfect.  Thin, crispy, with the right balance of salt, sweet and sour.  And how my love of this devilish delight (together with my absolute lack of control and a side effect of some meds), ‘Kim Kardashian-ed’ my behind.  At first the curves were welcome – like historical days gone by, I carried those extra pounds around like they were a sign of nobility.  But after some time, they began to feel like a chained weight (pun intended) and with the realization that it is no longer the Renaissance and I am certainly not Botticelli’s Venus, the time came to make a change.

After 4 torturous weeks on a diet which did not allow partaking in any Hallowe’en candies, Mr. Niceguy birthday binges, or late night, thai-food takeouts, I am happy to report that if it was good enough to get Ms. Kate Middleton looking 5+ stars in her wedding dress, it was good enough for me!   Arrivederci extra weight!  Hello the real me – it’s nice to be back again.

So what’s the moral of the story?  First, though mostly silly, celebrity gossip can actually be more than just a source of entertainment – it can truly be a resource!  And second, celebrities or otherwise, in times of need, it’s nice to know you’re not alone.

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I left my heart in….Vancouver??

My sister is moving to Vancouver… and my heart is in a million pieces.

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My sister, let’s call her, Alice (as in, Adventures in Wonderland), is about a year and a few months younger than I am.  And given the small gap, my mom practically raised us as twins.  Side-by-side playpens, then matching outfits, and when I complained that I was an individual and did NOT want to be dressed like my doppelganger, in matching outfits but with different colours.  But for all this seeming closeness and similarities, we’re not very alike…

As the older sister, I have forever worried about my little Alice.  I felt I had to be responsible for her well-being and her happiness.  And these are all things I still do:  I still worry about her, I still feel responsible and will forever believe that it’s imperative that I keep her safe.

By contrast, Alice is a fun-loving Sagittarian struck with wanderlust that seldom dwells on any one thing (unless it’s a really, really big deal…though even then…)  She is the epitome of a strong character with a fun, fiery, free-willed spirit.  It should be noted here that she is also at least 2 inches taller than me and basically looks like a supermodel, or Gwenyth Paltrow…either way…at times it was not fun at all to be compared to her.  For example, when we were both pregnant, I looked like a very large, round beach ball…in fact, I was once told that I must be carrying twins despite the results of numerous ultrasounds and the opinions of certified medical professionals.  As for Alice, well…

she looked like a stick figure that simply had a little too much to eat during dinner.

During our childhood, Alice fueled my imagination.  Oftentimes, we would butt heads, to be expected when dressed E X A C T L Y  A L I K E, thanks mom!  Sometimes our fights would get quite physical (we were ‘tomboys’!) and during one such encounter, I recall pushing my sister who flew back about 8 or 9 feet and slammed against the wall.  The fight ended immediately and I remember looking down at my hands, thinking, I have superpower strength and could do some real damage – I MUST protect Alice.  She didn’t tell me that she had simply lost her balance – that crafty, devious sister of mine.  So for years, I didn’t lay a finger on her…and made sure no one else did either!

Continuing on in my very own imaginative world…at one time, I begged my sister to “switch ages” with me…making her the older sister, and me the younger.  In every, single, fairy tale it was the younger sister who was most beautiful, who got the prince and who was the favourite of the royal parents.  No story EVER talks about the older sibling…except as the one to hold the younger one back with rationale and reason.  And Alice, sweet Alice, humoured me and my obsession with fairy tales, magic and happily ever afters.  Until friends of ours just said that I was being crazy…so I abandoned that scheme pretty quickly as my smarts, that had taken a backseat to my imagination, returned.  But Alice never judged.

My sister and I also had some pretty wild adventures as adults…including almost getting kicked out of a 5-star hotel’s bar in a “dry town” with a curfew as we’d had one too many drinks and were chanting at the top of our voices.  Or flying on a crappy prop plane to Annapolis, unbeknownst to our parents, to attend a US Naval Academy formal and go to a Broadway showing of Les Mis!  Not to mention the many, many local adventures including teaching friends (including Mr. Niceguy who was then just a friend…or perhaps just a little bit more…) some very choice Arabic words that almost got us kicked out of a shawarma joint, singing at a downtown Korean karaoke bar, and many, many more…

But this taller, prettier, wittier, and cleverer sister of mine was also my savior.  Her favourite story, and mine, is a darker one…

At just 6 or 7 years old, my mom had dragged the both of us to an outdoor market in Saudi Arabia.  While she went from booth-to-booth looking at antiques, silks from the orient, and the latest fashion from Paris, I did what I do best…and wandered off.  I’ll pause here and fill you in on a not-so-dark but typical ME story:

Picture it.  Paris.  Early 1980s.  Me, about 9 years old, in a striped t-shirt with a bateau neck and puffy sleeves, slim, navy blue shorts, and lace up to the knee espadrilles, sporting a long, single braid, on vacation with my family.  We were roaming the streets, following my mom and dad from one shop to the next…when, Madonna’s Lucky Star started playing on a TV in one of the shop windows.  I stopped and watched, trying to commit every dance move to memory.  The next thing I knew, the video was over and I was standing on a very, busy street, in Paris, all by myself.  I started walking in the direction we had all been heading and not too long after, my parents appeared, fuming.  I fumed in return that THEY were MY parents and THEY were responsible for ME.  To this day, I know how to advocate…that’s a strength.  But wandering, daydreaming, being attracted to shiny objects like a goldfish…well, these are my weaknesses…

In any case, in that market, all those years ago, something drew me away from my mom.  Something caught my attention.  And moments later, someone caught my arm…a complete stranger.  Who started speaking to me in Arabic, compelling me to come with him, pretending to offer me goodies and candy if I just went along.  I remember not fully understanding what he wanted.  And when I started to put up a fight and say I didn’t want to go, his grip grew tighter, and his soft smile turned sinister, as he forcefully pulled me along.  It was then, that my unassuming little sister, with her 1970s Dorothy Hamill bowl cut, came to my rescue.  While I was still trying to pry away from that man’s grip, she bit his hand, hard.  She did not hesitate, not for one moment.  She was so determined that she even caused him to bleed.  The man screamed and let go.  And we ran for our lives and found my mom…whose face went ashen upon our retelling of the story.  And all I remember afterwards was the way my sister just stood there, as sweet as ever, no panic, no drama.

And now, all this time later.  I know I owe her my life.  The one for whom I was to be responsible, care for, and keep safe.  Though we may not speak every, single day (that would be a cruel sentence for such a free spirit, such as Alice), or see each other regularly, “my happiness is greatly bound by hers.”  And although my heart is in a million pieces, I know she will be happy.  So my little wanderlust bitten sister…safe and happy travels to you.  I will miss you.  But I look forward to when you return and in the meantime, to visiting…perhaps we can find another upscale bar to almost get kicked out of…

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