Red Jellybeans…

We’ve often heard that the only thing one can be certain of in life, is uncertainty. Call it change, call it growth, call it whatever you will, I call it – stress, discombobulation, and absolute chaos.

While knowing that the sun will always rise in the east, and fall in the west – I cannot count on seeing the sun every, single day. For some, this is not a big a deal. They roll with the punches and most of all, they don’t put as much stock into certainty. But for someone like me, someone who needs predictability and order to help me get through the day, it’s amazing just how much a little bit more to the left or a sudden change to the right can affect my world.

The end of the school year is always a hectic one – and it has been for as long as I can remember.

When we were kids, growing up on the other side of the world in Saudi Arabia, the end of the school year meant that we were packing our suitcases for weeks long vacations through Europe and to come and visit my dad’s family here in Canada. It meant that I could go from my daily routine of school, to being able to ride bikes down the hill at my cousin’s house (and try not to crash in the parked cars!) in idyllic Hamilton, or swing from the tire swing at the park near my grandma’s house in St. Catharines and best of all, walk down the street and buy a Freezie from the convenient store.

My mom would pack those suitcases for days, my dad would make sure all the papers, hotel reservations and tickets were in order. All I had to do was show up, little sister in tow.  Now it’s my turn. And there are days when I truly feel like I’m drowning in all the chaos; drowning in all of the choices and responsibilities; unable to see the calm.

They say it’s personality.

Some people have this innate ability to navigate their way through life without ever letting on that the pressure is getting to them.

I, on the other hand, am the epitome of a pressure cooker…with a release valve that seemingly appears to be sealed shut…until it’s not.

And it very loudly alerts all those around that I’m about to go off!!

I repeat to myself, over and over again, “I must try and take my steps more lightly. I must try and take my steps more lightly.” I mean, they will not define my every being. Yet the pressure in the cooker increases and it gets louder and I can barely hear myself above the FFFFFSSSSSHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Part of the problem is me, of course. Like most modern women, we want it all. Like most modern women, we don’t want to let any of the balls we’re juggling come tumbling to the ground because they’re important to us: partners, kids, family, jobs, friends, commitments and so on. Like most modern women, we even find it difficult to just put any one of those balls on the shelf or in our pocket even for a moment for fear that we may be missing out on something or worse yet, make the wrong choice.

Oh to have the strength of clarity…even in the face of uncertainty!

My seven year old is exceptional at limits and at being direct. He does what he does in such a way as to not even show any doubt in his decision making abilities and eventual choices. That is, unless of course it’s free dress day and he has to wear what his best friend is going to wear and I have to miraculously guess what that’s going to be!

In any case, every week when the boys would go to their swim class, as a reward for a job well done, they’d each get a quarter to use on the dispensing machines on our way out. These machines are a child’s dream: an assortment of candies and bouncy balls. My older son now has a healthy collection of bouncy balls – a testament to his many weeks of hard work and perseverance. My younger son, on the other hand does not. Not because he doesn’t also earn his quarters, but because he prefers to use his quarter to buy jellybeans, a consumable that’s gone within minutes.

I cannot understand the seven year old’s choice. The almost eleven year old and I are the same: we like stuff that lasts. Neither of us are good at delayed gratification (i.e. saving those quarters for something bigger in the end) but we sure do like our stuff. And those bouncy balls are a metaphor for things…material things…trophies! The seven year old is more like Mr. Niceguy: all about the experience.

One week, unable to let go, and accept buying jellybeans as a wise way to use his quarter, I asked the seven year old,

“Why do you keep buying jellybeans? Don’t you know we can easily get these at the store and you can have them whenever you want? Don’t you CARE about bouncy balls?”

To which he replied most matter-of-factly, “I CARE about red jellybeans.”

Point made. I was completely surprised and delighted all at once. This little boy had the freedom to choose but most importantly he had given himself the freedom to be at peace with his choice. There’s a lesson here…

Nothing is perfect – so it follows that uncertainty is a normal state. However, in it, there are elements of certainty: love, fun, laughter and our amazing ability to come through whatever it is we face – even if we’re not exactly who we were when we started. And while there will be days when the loud FSSSSHHHH of the pressure cooker seems to completely block my ears and keep me from remembering to take my steps more lightheartedly, I know I’ll get through them, one red jellybean at a time.

Epilogue: Modern day life is complicated. While many advances have contributed to increasing the length and quality of our lives, they have also presented us with more choices and options than ever before which can sometimes be daunting. Taking a step back, a deep breath and listening to what we really want despite what we think we want, as difficult as it can be, is a good way to move ahead. Try it…and have a safe and happy summer!

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!

 

Don’t forget the big things!

We’re into 2017 already…and what changes have you made? A little piece written before the clocks turned 12 on December 31, 2016…


Last year marked some unbelievable changes:  the images pouring out of Syria topped a new level of gut-wrenching gruesomeness, a truck ploughing into an innocent Christmas market in Berlin and, yes, a playboy TV personality actually made it to the White House.  Now, whatever your views – humanity has been shaken to its core.  I will not comment with my own personal position:  I’ve long learned my lesson that politics and religion are the quickest route to discord.  However, I do believe that there is a bright light in there somewhere…Trump’s ascension to Presidency while unbelievable does illustrate that which we often forget, anything is possible.

As part of the inherent good in our society, I believe that we all have a duty this year in 2017 to be more and do more and especially to think more about others.  To think about those who are less fortunate than we.  To view differences as enhancements and not barriers.  To celebrate the extraordinary and to try our very best to not fear the unknown, but take a step towards it.

Recently I saw a wonderful ad by Amazon – a priest and an imam, both friends, end up buying each other the same gift.  In one genius stroke the marketing group at Amazon leaves you feeling that there’s room for everyone and everyone’s belief on this planet.

It is now about 18 hours since I started writing the above and as luck would have it, the universe has plucked me out of my ‘magnanimity’ and once again thrown me into the pits of life.  Yes, for the past 17 hours I have cleaned vomit from every crack and crevice of my home, gotten down on bended knees and scrubbed every surface, and washed everything including a very large, luxurious king duvet.

It’s amazing how quickly ‘life happens’.  One moment I’m posting a photo of me and Mr. Niceguy preparing for a family feast and reflecting upon my good fortune for living in a country with no war, the rule of law on the brink of my favourite day in the whole year (Xmas eve) and in one fell swoop, gastroenteritis.  And not mine either.

It seems this is the pattern in life.  Big things take a back seat to the little ones.  And somehow, the little ones become the much bigger things, while the big things just, well, “happen over there.”  But I think it’s ok for that to happen…sometimes…especially when you’re trying to get the sick smell out from your rug – yes, that happened too!

The little things count…and I daresay, they count just as much as the big things.

Mr. Niceguy and I have often had an interesting repartee about things – like how my perspective can sometimes…well…be skewed.  Quite frankly, I believe his can be quite skewed too…albeit in the opposite direction.  Like when the nearly 7 year old projectile vomited all over the kitchen floor and the “splash and splatter” wound up all over the kitchen cabinets – even the ones behind him. And here’s a holiday scene for you, the poor little guy was standing in a puddle of, Hey!  When did he even have rice?  I don’t recall giving him any rice in the past two days!!  And what do you suppose that green stuff is?!

I was frozen to my spot.  Couldn’t believe what I was seeing – I mean that stuff was coming out with such brute force reminiscent of a volcanic eruption.  While Mr. Niceguy lifted 7 year old and proceeded to place him, clothes and all, into a tub, I muttered and cursed and pleaded with the powers that be, “oh, why me???” and to please end my torture – to just let me get on peacefully with my small existence and the planning of my beloved family dinner.

In one fell swoop I was at the computer googling what was wrong with my little guy and did it merit a trip to the hospital…while Mr. Niceguy, as cool as cool can be, cleaned our boy up, put him to bed, covered every surface with spare sheets and towels (AARRGHHH!) and simply carried on.

This pattern was repeated all night long:  I, woe is me-ing, and Mr. Niceguy just managing the situation at large.

img_0190Now, about 18.5 hours later, life has completely turned back around:  Mr. Niceguy is peeling potatoes, my roast is nearly done, my cheese pies (beuregs) are making the house smell divine, the 10 year old is still as happy as a kid can be on Xmas eve and the 7 year old is making a tremendous recovery.  All despite my lack of sleep, two-or-so minor mental breakdowns, and the (very prudent) cancellation of some guests’ attendance.

So as I prepare to sit for my Xmas eve meal in less than 3 hours…by the time, reader, you finish reading my article, you will be well into 2017, and there will be big things and little things and the little things will seem like big things, while the big things happen over there…

I hope each and every one of us remember the more important things, particularly when our little things stop being big things:  to make every moment count, to stick to our resolutions (they are really our deepest desires, I believe – like my desire to be 10 pounds lighter like I was at the start of 2016) and above all, to remember to have the Xmas spirit last throughout the year.

Hoping you’ve had a great start to 2017!!

 

 

Que Sera, Sera…

Despite my resistance, the unavoidable has happened. I am now officially, most definitely a not-cool-middle-aged-mom-person. I was still cool when I first had the 10 year old now over a decade ago, when none other than Rob Lowe said he was the cutest thing ever at a very hip Yorkville restaurant – I took it as a personal compliment because of course, I made this child and so must have rubbed off on him? I even clung onto my coolness (though just barely) when I gave the 10 year old a brother. At that point, I could still be considered “young” with a new family. Still fresh to the job and still just a young, hip, downtown chick.

vintage-laundryNot anymore. My delusions of cool have most certainly faded and now I’m just middle aged. And most definitely like one of the moms you see in the laundry detergent.

I felt the shift last week while I was driving the boys to school when I came to the realization that their favourite music just sounded like a whole lot of loud noise, that playing “this much” with Nerf guns was a sure sign that they may grow up deranged especially in this unhinged world we live in, and that my irrational fear of them one day turning into that which I most dread in this world (teenagers) would inevitably materialize. NOTE: Not only will this be sad because they are growing up much too fast (cliché, but true) but also because it means that I am even more of an uncool middle aged person than I thought!!!

When I first became a mother, I recall thinking, “I am going to be the coolest mom and this job will not define me. I will be my own person, my own self and still a hip trendsetting renegade. True, I love this little human being more than my own life and would sacrifice anything for his happiness. But get those Gap sweatshirts and mom jeans away from me, and I refuse to just roll out of bed, no makeup on, sleep still in my eyes and tie my un-brushed, unwashed, and unkempt hair in a ponytail just to make lunch and get them to school on time! That’s for the birds!” Today was day 4 dirty hair day and I don’t remember brushing my teeth…check toothbrush, bone dry…nope, didn’t make it.

Could it be that I’ve just deluded myself into thinking I was ever cool? That I could fight the forces of nature and just skip middle age and go straight to coolly eccentric older person?

Recently, I’ve taken on a boatload more work…or should I say, work and volunteering opportunities. I’m still volunteering for the Zoryan Institute (a non-profit organization dedicated to the research and analysis of genocide and human rights violations – which fills my soul and is definitely my contribution to my genocide-surviving-grandparents’ legacy), and now I’m also co-chairing the telethon committee of the one and only ARS Armenian Private School which I attended as a child and which is now passing on my culture and heritage together with a top-notch education to my boys – and the kids of my relatives…and those of my friends!

But the bills have to get paid and so I’m also doing some work for a fantastic newspaper you may have heard of…TorontoHye (!!) and finally, putting my training to work, I’m helping to sell a metal fabrication business. And there are even more things in the pipeline so yes, I’m busy. Maybe I’m just too busy and need to dedicate more time and effort to being cool…but then, that’s just SO NOT COOL!!

While it’s incredibly liberating to be comfortable in your skin, to know what you want and to know how to go and get it, is a consequence of this ‘mid-age liberation’ letting go to the point where the delusions of grandeur completely fade away and we just don’t care at all? And so we let things just go to the wayside and don’t make an effort anymore? Is THAT what causes our cool to fade and the mom jeans take over???!

mom-jeans

Years ago, before I had the boys, I remember looking at old photo albums in Mr. Niceguy’s basement of his mom. We lost her too soon and it was my way of trying to get to know the person that she was in an effort to get to know the man that I married. I recall that in her early years as a mother she had a very elegant figure, long, glossy, blonde hair and would wear cool blue jeans – even a bandana! Then as the children got older, her hair got shorter, her clothes became more conservative and she transformed into the woman that I came to know, into Mr. Niceguy’s mother. A steady, warm, loving and selfless matriarch.

I remember when people would say, “You couldn’t possibly be a mother! You look so young!” and with a small smile and polite, “thank you” I would hide the fireworks going off inside me. Those days are falling further and further behind…

I once met a psychiatrist who said something very interesting to me, she said that what I sometimes labelled as crazy (as in, I’m acting crazy, I feel crazy, my kids are making me crazy), she labelled as passion. She also mentioned that passionate people were often guilty of over-analysis…and that perhaps it was best to just accept things for what they are…and let other things, go.

So here it is, I accept you, not-so-cool-middle-aged-mom-person. For I cannot change you. But in an effort to still see vestiges of my “true, twenty-year-old self” I will remember to every now and then break the “I’m-a-proper-mom-and-good-example-to-my-kids” rules and climb over the construction tape just to scrape my name into a freshly poured, concrete sidewalk – and then promptly walk (run) away with a smile on my face when I get in trouble…like today.

I leave you, readers, with a song that my mother used to sing to me and my sister – in the wise, wise words of Doris Day:

When I was just a little girl I asked my mother
What will I be?
Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?
Here’s what she said to me

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera, what will be, will be

When I grew up and fell in love I asked my sweetheart
What lies ahead?
Will we have rainbows? Day after day?
Here’s what my sweetheart said

Que sera, sera…

Now I have Children of my own they ask their mother
What will I be?
Will I be handsome? Will I be rich?
I tell them tenderly

Que sera, sera…

Babes and Bellinis

Once again I’m reminded that Bellinis on Monday nights are exclusively for the twenty-somethings…and I’m not one. Why is it when you no longer have to carry around a fake ID card and can have access to all the alcoholic drinks you want at any time and virtually anywhere your body is the one that flat out says “no”?

Last night it was my best friend’s birthday. This particular friend is full of spontaneity: perhaps it’s because she’s also married to a Mr. Mocinho of her own (nice or good guy in Portuguese) and so she can afford spontaneity. In any case, she is always up for a quick jaunt out – be it a coffee date, manicures, dinner and a movie and this time, drinks!

BelliniSo on this particular Monday night, at Ms. Spontaneous’ request, we all agreed to ditch kids and hubbies, work and responsibilities and meet up for bellinis, a glorious concoction of ice and alcohol, in other words, a grownup popsicle – it was girls night out! I felt like I was back to my university days; drinks after a stressful exam well written or better yet, drinks for the sake of drinks. Better yet, “Thirsty Thursday” drinks – those random, raging gatherings that would often go well into the wee hours of the morning from which I’d have to do the quickest bounce-back so that I could function the following day as if the night before never happened.

Only it did. Only the bounce-back never came. Only I’m no longer a twenty-something.

Perhaps the conversation over the evening should’ve been the hint – rather than discussing boys or our favourite music bands, we discussed all matters of religion, child rearing, construction and careers. Rather than ordering that tipping point round, we thought better of it, cut the night prematurely and decided that at least 6 or 7 hours of sleep would be better than walking home.

No, I’m no longer a twenty-something. And I’m ok with that. With one more school year behind us, my rearview mirror is becoming full…

When I first starting writing this blog, the now double-digit 10 year old (actually, nine and just two days shy of 10 at time of writing!) was six and I was (as usual) complaining, rather, acknowledging just how cold my behind would get sitting rink-side while I waited for him during his hockey practice. My recent senior kindergarten graduate had only just turned two years old and had yet to make his debut in his mother’s ramblings.

Just two days ago, I convinced Mr. Niceguy and the boys to walk down the street from my parents’ house to a garage sale. I love garage sales. I find them so fascinating; just like I find playing with neighbourhood kids on the street a true privilege – something taken totally for granted in a peaceful, rule-driven, democratic country; growing up an ex-pat in Saudi Arabia I never experienced either.

Walking through garage sales I like to imagine the kind of life these articles for sale actually had…and the role they played for their owners: a lamp manufactured not in China but somewhere in Canada; a chair that came over on steamship from a great wood worker in England; and would I find that one piece of buried treasure? When my soon-to-be-10 year old bought me my very first present out of his own volition, with his own money, through no prompting of any sort – he created that treasure.

Within 30 seconds of browsing through this particular garage sale, Mr. Niceguy and the six year old announced that they’d prefer to “play outside” while the soon-to-be-10 year old and I sifted through collectibles, antiques, and lots of junk. Prepared to chalk our experience up to just that – as I normally do, we started to leave when all of a sudden, an old, run down, wooden chair caught my eye. The eternal project seeker in me decided that for five dollars, this would be a fitting pastime for me while I wait for my own large-scale renovation to be complete. It would add to my own story and years down the road I could declare that I bought this chair on that very hot day the summer we were living at my parents’ house at a garage sale. Only the story wouldn’t end there…

As I carried the chair towards its owner to make my payment, my son asked, “Are you buying that? That old dirty chair? Look at the paint on it – it’s all coming off. And there are spider webs on the bottom.”

To which I replied, “Yes. This is a treasure. Look at this solid wood; it doesn’t wobble, it’s strong. Someone built this with their hands – it didn’t get built in a factory. All I have to do is clean it and with a fresh coat of paint, you’ll see how great it can be again.”

old white chairAs I put the chair down and reached into my pocket for my money, unbeknownst to me, my son opened his play wallet and out of his meagre funds, bought me my chair. And when I handed my five dollars to the homeowner, she said, “your son bought you my mother’s old chair”. My son bought me my treasure.

Perhaps this story won’t resonate with everyone…perhaps it’s because you haven’t had your “treasured moment”. But in a week that started with just how much I longed for my twenties, for my spontaneity, for my bounce-back, I would not have traded the way it’s ended for the world.

As time forces us on, these little moments that fill up our rearview mirrors are the things that will define us – they are the markers of a life well lived. And as a mother of a now-10-year-old, I’m feeling the magic…I’ll enjoy a coffee on my new chair and take stock of a job well done.

Babes and bellinis

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

Keeping “cool” in the sandbox…

Isn’t it amazing how, no matter your age, you still find yourself in the sandbox?  That metaphorical playground for society, or your own social circle?  The one where “they” decide your status, as much as you think only you do…  And while in there, you’re either blocking your eyes from the stinging sand that’s being flung in your face or you’re fighting off the hordes from filling your “deep hole to China” that took forever to dig and taking the only shovel in the pit?  All the while, trying to maintain your “cool.”  Yes, the sandbox is truly a metaphor for life…

Lord of the FliesOne look south of the 49th parallel only confirms that even those who have reached the world’s pinnacle are very much playing in a sandbox.  In the run-up to the US Presidential elections, it’s amazing how candidates for the leadership of the world’s most powerful country can act, well, totally insane, territorial, and like they’re on the island with Jack and Piggy from Lord of the Flies.  I mean, Trump’s whole idea of building a wall is like barricading the sandbox from “infiltrators” and making sure that he doesn’t have to share his “shovel”.  And (I can’t believe I’m going to say this) given his polish, Jeb Bush could’ve been a more qualified choice for the GOP ballot but he just couldn’t hold onto his cool against Trump’s golden blowout.  No…I don’t believe we ever truly leave the sandbox…

As bewildered and confused as I can get when I find myself engaged in the sort of the behavior that I would equate with the happenings in an elementary school playground (“It’s my turn!” or “Oops!  Did she hear me say that?” and “She copied MY outfit!”), I’m also concerned about the kind of sandbox that our kids are going to inherit:  suicide bombings, being under high alert, curfews, and the sort of terror that one used to mostly see in the movies.  Thankfully my boys are still at an age where they only actually fight over real toys and not any metaphorical ones…

Though well advanced and in my early forties, I feel like my own innocence, my swagger, my cool, is also dissipating (and quite frankly, under attack).  Am I supposed to fight and try to hold onto it?  Most days all I want to do is watch the politicos vying for power in House of Cards and the hordes fight in Vikings rather than navigate the social scene and fight off the hordes myself.  I want to wear “Blublocker” sunglasses and block out the stinging sand, filter out the light, and climb out of the sandbox.  Press pause on the fight?  Peace out?

IMG_8049Ahhhh…I think back to my singleton days…

Me:  Hey, pick me up at 8:30 tonight so we can go to my BFF’s birthday party dinner for 9pm. 

Mr. Niceguy:  OK.  Usual gang tonight? 

Me:  Yes.  I even got us all on the guest list!  No waiting around outside.  Just please don’t wear messy jeans…dress code is tidy jeans.  And no sneakers…or purple docs.  ***Please, oh please, oh please, be cool in front of my friends tonight.  Ooouuff boys!!***

One of my very dearest friends put it well when she asked, “Will I ever be cool again?”  She recounted how she knew she was in a total state of “un-cool” because she kept looking at our children (in a very misty way) and saying, “God bless them” – akin to the style of the old granny who had Tweety Bird for a pet…remember her?

So is she right?  Did we actually lose our cool?

Somewhere along the way with all the baggage we picked up, did we just decide to put it down and never went back to retrieve it?

When she first brought it up my initial reaction was indeed to fight back.  I responded, “Who even cares?!”  Like any of that really matters anymore.  I mean, I’m just going to rock my mom jeans and comfy orthopedics if I want to.  I earned it.  I’m not going to sweat the small stuff.  I’m going to have my chicken soup for the soul.  But then I thought – wow.  How uncool.  And I know that’s not me.  And it’s not her either.  Nor is it most of the women of our generation.  We. Want. It. All.  Including that cool status we put down for a moment.  It did NOT go out the door as soon as we hit a milestone or start to pop babies and begin our families.  We just forgot to focus on it and we forgot about the sandbox…  Cool is just on PAUSE.

IMG_8051Unlike when we’re in our roaring twenties, we now know that we can push the pause button anytime we want.  PRESS.  Like my parents and my grandparents before them, I’m happy to say to my boys, “Oh, life is so easy for you now – just wait until you have kids of your own,” or “When I was your age I used to walk 5 miles to school in hip deep snow with no shoes on” Or my favourite Armenian saying, “When you get older, you’ll forget.”  UNPRESS.  I danced on the bars on the beaches of Mykonos!  I hopped up on stage and played the piano in a random restaurant in London!  I’m going to blaze my own trail, you don’t have to like it, you don’t need to “get it”, just watch me rock it – mom jeans or not.

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…

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.

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The story of Haji Khalil…my brush with Anne Frank

Anne Frank coverWhen I first read The Diary of Anne Frank, I couldn’t help but place myself in Anne’s shoes because her story, while so relatable to me as a young teenager, was also incredibly haunting and tragic.  I could relate to her awkwardness around romance and friendships, to her sometimes easy and at other times trying relationships with her mother and sister, and her love of Hollywood.  My awe of her also made me wonder about what it must have felt like to be an outcast, to have to go into hiding, to take such great lengths to survive only to end up dying in a concentration camp mere weeks before liberation and just shy of a sixteenth birthday.

I have read and reread the book over the years and each time, I sadly laugh at her antics, my heart swells when she finds companionship with Peter (the son of the other family in hiding), I grow tense and uneasy with every close call of discovery and then I’m horrified when I reach her final entry – the following line in particular:

“I’m what a romantic movie is to a profound thinker – a mere diversion, a comic interlude, something that is soon forgotten: not bad, but not particularly good either.”

Somehow her story always seemed unfinished.  Each time I’ve read the book I’ve looked for missed clues or hidden passages as my mind simply can’t accept such an abrupt end to this enigmatic yet relatable person.

Despite her teenage angst and feelings of insignificance (who, after all, hasn’t experienced the same during their teenage years?) Anne Frank is one of the most recognizable “survivors” of the Holocaust, even though she, herself perished.  Her story has left an indelible impression on millions, but for me, I’ve always felt a connection to her optimism and faith in the face of real adversity.  As an Armenian and a descendant of genocide survivors still hoping for justice, I can relate to that optimism…that faith.  But as a teenager, little did I realize that my connection to Anne would be greater than I could have ever imagined…

When the Armenian Genocide began in 1915, one of the earliest measures by Ottoman Turkish authorities was to collect the men in all of the villages and kill them.  Notable politicians, businessmen, and the intelligentsia were rounded up and murdered – including my great-grandfather who was hung in front of his pregnant wife and four children.  His only crime was that he was a successful Armenian businessman living in Ourfa, a province in Ottoman Turkey which was nearly homogenously Armenian.

While my great-grandfather had likely not foreseen his brutal death, he had made the necessary preparations should the family be faced with any unforeseen danger.  His plan hinged on the willingness, courage and integrity of his Turkish business partner, Haji Khalil.  Haji Khalil had promised my great-grandfather that he would take care of the family in the face of disaster and when disaster struck, he stayed true to his word and housed seven members of my family, including Azniv, my maternal grandmother, in the upper storey of his house for a year, unbeknownst to Ottoman authorities.

Haji Khalil cared for my family’s basic human needs by providing food once a night (which would have to last until the next day) and allowing them to bathe by arranging for his two wives and servants to be absent from the house once a week.  When two of my relatives passed away, Haji Khalil even buried them in secret.  Despite the immense potential risk to his own well-being, and that of his own family, Haji Khalil made good on a promise that he had made to my great-grandfather, an Armenian, and thanks to him, I am here today.

When I learned of the Armenian Genocide, I was quite young.  The documented photos of the atrocities were extremely disturbing but the images that my mind would conjure based on the words I would read about this dark and horrifying period of my people, were even worse; the slashing of pregnant womens’ bellies, young Armenian girls throwing themselves and their children in the Euphrates to escape rape, mutilation and captivity, the slow starvation on the death marches.  Speak to any Armenian today, and they will have a story for you.

Armenian Genocide Children

My paternal grandmother’s story is more typical.  Her father had been killed like most of the other men in her village.  Ottoman Turkish authorities then came to evacuate my grandmother’s family and when my great-grandmother stopped them from entering her home, they killed her.  Luckily, my great-aunt had been visiting that day and she grabbed my grandmother, her older sister, her newborn baby brother and fled from the back door of the house, unbeknownst to the authorities.  During the marches, the Turkish soldiers became aware of the gold that my great-aunt had hidden in her clothes so they attacked her and as a result, it became my grandmother’s job to carry her newborn brother.  At one point, Esther, my grandmother, had carried the body of her dead baby brother for two days during the death marches in the mountains from Erzerum to Marash in Turkey not realizing that he had died from malnutrition.  It was a group of older women that informed her that he had passed and at just four or five years old, the same age as my youngest son in junior kindergarten, she buried her baby brother on the side of the road under twigs and some rocks.  She was not as fortunate as Azniv – there was no Haji Khalil to save her family.

On the one hand I’ve always felt anger that my ancestors were subjected to such immense and cruel suffering simply because they were different – as Armenians, the lives of my ancestors had no value.  That the Ottoman Turks could commit such a horrific act, such a crime against humanity, genocide, vilified them to me.  On the other hand, there is the story of Haji Khalil.  A righteous Turk, without whom, my own mother would not be here today – for that matter, neither would I.  I owe him my life.  This dichotomy has always been challenging but it has allowed me to stay strong, to demand justice and to have hope and faith that the people of a nation with a dark past, are capable of taking steps towards recognizing and taking responsibility for past faults and allowing two nations to move forward.

While Anne Frank’s father’s business partner had been like a Haji Khalil to Anne and her family, her salvation would not come and her life would end in tragedy.  Unlike Anne, my grandmother and her family were not discovered and instead, the efforts of Haji Khalil allowed her to avoid death marches and concentration camps. Unlike Anne, the efforts of Haji Khalil allowed my grandmother to have a sixteenth birthday and to have a full and complete life surrounded by her mother, her children and grandchildren; she was able to pass along stories and traditions herself rather than through a diary.  My grandmother passed away 10 years ago, in April 2005, just shy of the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  On this centenary, I think she would be proud that my own faith and optimism are still intact as I do my own part in seeking more Haji Khalils…

Anne-Franks-Diary1

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

Philosophical mom

Today I planned to be my charming and witty self…instead I’m plagued with fever, a sore throat and consequently, find myself in a weakened state, philosophizing…

Mom somee cardIt’s been nearly 7 months – SEVEN WHOLE MONTHS – since I started on this new chapter in my life as stay-at-home-and-sometimes-work mom.  How did I get here?  When did this all happen?  Just the other day I was telling a friend that I’ve only just recently felt like I’ve started to get into the groove of my new situation.  For I believe that although I am very much a mother, my “mom gene” may actually be missing.

While many of my friends eased into motherhood, I have struggled, every single step of the way.

For years, my companions were spreadsheets, business strategies and financing contracts – the stress around soliciting financial terms and conditions or negotiating during high stake meetings was my permanent state. Oftentimes, when I’d be “playing hookie” and getting a much needed eyebrow wax or buying groceries, I would be reminded that I was at the mercy of work by the cold sweat that would instantly trickle down my spine and the breath that would get caught in my throat when my phone would “TING” with a new email.  Call it PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), call it habit, it’s that edginess and state of constant readiness that had taken over every aspect of my life.  Even when I’d try to slow down, there was something in me that would not allow it for nothing other than complete responsiveness would suffice…until I realized that the price I was paying was much too high.

So, MBA in hand coupled with more than a decade of experience at one of the world’s leading global professional services firm, I figured I could take all that I had learned and apply it to my new job.  No longer torn for having to choose between career and family, I eagerly accepted my new position.

My first order of business would be to deal with all the things that I had neglected over the years:  healthier eating, more exercise, doing homework right away after school rather than cramming it into the wee hours, and even doing some things I’d always dreamed of like finally improving my French, learning Spanish, and how to drive a stick shift.  My ambitions were lofty but the flow charts I’d devised in my mind made me confident that I had it all figured out.

In these last seven months, those flow charts, plans, strategies, and all the learning I did as a middle management plebe slowly unraveled – they may has well have been flushed down the toilet!

I came to realize that while negotiations in the professional world have certain rules and a logical tempo, negotiations with my children are like navigating through land mines (permit the metaphor) and nothing like any business dealing I’ve ever known.  There seems to be only one pattern in negotiations with my children best illustrated by the car ride to school this morning:

  1. My request to please cease and desist playing the flute in the car for it may cause the driver (me) to get into an accident (logical reasoning)
  2. Their blatant ignoring of me – they neither hear me, see me or show any indication of acknowledging my presence (savvy technique)
  3. My request repeated at a higher volume –they must understand that I hold their lives in my hands?!
  4. #2 again (persistence)
  5. Me turning into a crazy banshee lady screaming at the top of my lungs (*FLUSH*)
  6. Still no response – though I did get a millisecond of silence before they started again (mastermind geniuses using torture techniques)
  7. Me feeling guilty about acting like a crazy banshee lady and now overcompensating by resorting to bribery (loser)
  8. Acknowledgement and completion of request (winners)
  9. Utter defeat and feeling a failure as have become cause of ruined futures (digging hole)
  10. Picturing great catastrophic events like man-children permanently ensconced in basement playing video games and eating pizza. (burying head in said hole)

No, the job of “mom” is much harder, the stakes are infinitely higher, and the pressure for perfection is, on some days, omnipresent – and pungent, like a cloud of sulphuric acid.  Where did it say in the job description that I have to be all-knowing and able to answer the myriad of daily questions?  That I need to bandage every boo-boo and quiet the hormonal rage borne from an empty stomach?  And speaking of job descriptions, where’s the training manual?!!?

Slightly feverish, and now panicked that soon it will be time to pick them up from school and once again start on the crazy rollercoaster called motherhood, I’m on the verge of a breakdown…I need a (mental) sick day but I know I can’t possibly have one!  Suddenly, my philosophically-laced downward spiral comes to an end as I’m brought back to the present by that familiar “TING”…and you know what?  Just for one second, a tiny split second, I was transported back…but wait!  No cold sweat.  My breath is flowing freely and I realize – I am so lucky, my world is one that I am designing, flaws and all!  And my current bosses don’t know how to email…yet!

Philosopher

 

WANTED: The rest of my eyebrow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

missing eyebrow

(Extreme) Spring Cleaning…

Spring has sprung.  The amuse-bouche of warm weather we’ve had in the last little while made me get a jump on my spring cleaning.  Now I’m not just referring to dusting, vacuuming or mopping – rather the acquisition and purging of wardrobe, the home projects that we’re now ready to take on, or the much needed manis, pedis, highlights and root repair!  But now that my speed train has just about pulled into the 40s station, should I be doing more?

While I crossed off many of these “more traditional” spring cleaning items off my list throughout the week, an unexpected turn of events over the weekend left me thinking, perhaps I need to abandon the traditional, go more modern, enter the “seemingly” mainstream and engage in a different type of help.

In other words, maybe it’s time to consider some extreme spring cleaning…

The circadian clock or rhythm governs our 24-hour biological cycle:  sleeping, wakefulness, alertness and all sorts of other biological functions (that need not be mentioned).  Related, I believe, is the seasonal rhythm or cycle that we experience:  more babies are born in the spring and summer, blues that we feel due to the lack of daylight in the winter, and the need for revitalization once we’re out of “winter hibernation” – the “self-spring-clean” to get ready for summer. circadian

In my 20s, I would use this time of year to shop ‘til I dropped:  new wardrobe, new accessories, a quick visit to a spa with some friends, a trip to the hair salon together with an extreme diet of nothing but steamed rice and air-popped popcorn, a DVD exercise program and voila, a glamorous reinvention – spring cleaning complete.  But two 47 pound pregnancies later (NO, that was NOT a typo, YES I most certainly DID gain EXACTLY 47 pounds with EACH child), along with the passage of most of my 30s (OK, virtually all of my 30s…) and things are not so straightforward…they’re mostly just heading downward.  And while the circadian rhythm can be derailed with a late night TV indulgence, the passage of time cannot.

Just this past weekend while socializing with other mommies at not one, but two kids’ birthday parties (again, proof that more babies are born in the spring), it seemed I wasn’t the only mommy thinking about more drastic measures. We spoke of a number of things – like the mommy makeover that comes following a pregnancy (lift, tuck, etc.).  From the simple act of abandoning low-rise jeans – for these do nothing to contain the muffin top – to the seemingly more complex decision to visit a clinic for an injection or two, I can’t help but think that while I hadn’t noticed (or wasn’t looking) these more intense measures at “self-spring-cleaning” seem to have entered the mainstream.  Am I behind the curve?  Should I be considering these more drastic measures at self-reinvention (or for that matter, self-preservation)?  Do I even dare?

It seems quite unfair that with age comes wisdom but the price you pay is in the looks department.  I wonder, if somewhere in the universe, there existed a great big control room with a lit panel that let you push whatever button you wanted, like, “Looks and brains stop at age 25” would I push it?

Whether it’s while plucking my eyebrows or washing my face, I can’t help but notice that a light pull of my cheeks up to my ears seems to erase the past decade.  Or a smoothing of my forehead makes all those “worry lines” or “thinking lines” go away.  I look young, I look refreshed, I look at ease. I curse my wayward ways that led me down the George Hamilton path of perpetual tans!  And I remember how my mother would tell me in my late teens and 20s to stop furrowing my brows together so tightly because one day, those lines would stay, and to eat more vegetables so that my body would gain more nourishment and ward off illness and old age.

Still, the passage of time does not discriminate.  Whether I had heeded her warnings or not, those lines would still be here and I recall… I used to furrow my brows together because I wanted to appear pensive and because somehow, they took my mind on a journey of knowledge.  I worried because I wondered if I would be a good mother to the children I’d someday bring into this world.  And I indulged because with all the hard work and effort I put into obtaining my degrees and my career achievements, it was important to taste those fruits of my labour.

So while I don’t have the answer today as to whether I will one day undergo a more extreme spring clean and go through with a poke or a slice, for now, I’m content that at least in my own eyes, I can still rock it (albeit with a little extra bit of work!)  And although my face crinkles just that little bit more than it used to when I smile, nothing in the world will keep me from smiling (not even a few extra laugh lines!!)

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Sisters before misters

We’ve all heard the term, “Bros before hoes”…how about, sisters before misters?  We too have an unwritten rule of backing up our girlfriends and not being sellouts…

Some time ago, I was out and about with Mr. Niceguy at a park.  And though I’d love to say we were alone and were on a romantic stroll, gazing into each other’s eyes, whispering sweet nothings, and getting ready to settle down for poetry over a nice picnic with some beaujolais, baguette and brie…the reality was that we were chaperoning our children which meant screaming at one not to throw sand at the other kids in the sandbox, while pushing the other for what felt like an eternity on the swings while having this type of conversation:

Me:  Hey, how was your day?

Mr. Niceguy:  Hmmph.

Me:  Did anything interesting happen at work?

Mr. Niceguy:  Nope.

Me:  How are the markets?  Are they up?  Are they down?  Are they up and down?  (tee-hee)

Mr. Niceguy:  Yup.

Me:  So things are going well then?  TSX hit a new high?  Or they could be better?  Markets still reacting to Russian aggrandizement?

Mr. Niceguy:  Huh?  Ya.  Hey, what are we doing for dinner?  Where are the boys?

frustrated-momSo, it can be a nice change to run into other parents at the park.  I find it’s a good way to have some adult social time and to commiserate.  After all, how else are we supposed to get through the sleepless nights, the teething, the terrible twos, the not wanting to wake up and go to school, the nagging and whining and all that other not-so-great stuff?

While children are definitely one of life’s greatest joys, let’s be real…all good comes with some bad and having a support system to deal with some of their curve balls is an absolute must!

Anyway, on one such occasion we met a couple while at the park.  The conversation flowed freely and we were all enjoying ourselves, reveling in the happenstance for adult time while the children ran around, until the moment when the woman from the couple had to tend to her tantrum-having-toddler and her spouse came over and made a slight complaint to me…about her!  I was completely taken aback.  Now while what he said really wasn’t a big deal, it was really weird – not only because we’d just met but also because it felt like I’d been transported right back to high school, like to an episode of Glee – yes, I still watch it, and did you see Gwyneth last week?  She was AWESOME – where I was now put in a position of “high drama” and “inner conflict” and had to figure out “the right thing to do”…  My inner monologue started to work overtime as I broke out into a cover song and dance routine in my head.  Hadn’t this guy heard about “sisters before misters”??  Didn’t he know the code?  Things just got a little too intimate…

Now let me explain what I mean when I say, intimate.  Not intimate like being intimate with a loved one in the bedroom when you’re…well, NO!  Intimate like when you’re getting ready for a very important first meeting so you try and retry outfit after outfit and finally settle on a cute skirt paired with a sweater and booties that will carry you from that meeting to an après work drinks party that you just got invited to and can’t miss because since you left your middle-management-downtown-financial-district-career, gone are the days of regular Thursday night drinks and throwback parties where the beers are bankrolled and you don’t just talk about homework and compare extra curriculars but bitch about bosses, new initiatives and unreasonable work expectations.

After all that daydreaming, you realize that you’re going to be late and so no more revisions on the last outfit iteration and off you race to the subway (which before, was the bane of your existence, but now, an out-of-the-norm treat) only to realize when you get on the train that your sweater shrunk more than you thought after you freshened it up in the dryer (bloody merino wool and bloody hard-to-set-dryer-timer!!) and that you’re going to have to sit through an entire quasi-interview / meet-and-greet / bacon-to-my-bread meeting fidgeting with a now very tight and itchy crop top and though you try your best, you are no match for nature and you flash your still-not-washboard stomach and belly button to the utter amazement and surprise of not just you, but the prospective employer.  THAT kind of intimate.  (Oh, and true story by the way)

So how does one respond?  By now, I believe I’ve expressed (in rather eloquent detail, if I do say so myself) that while I can have the strongest of opinions, I can also be a cowardly jellyfish – I responded from a place of great surprise in between nervous giggles:  “Oh, ha ha.  OK.”  And while that would’ve normally been enough, the puzzled look on his face revitalized me enough to say, “Well, to each his own.  I think she’s doing a great job.” And walked away.  Though we’re not in high school anymore, it’s still sisters before misters…except where Mr. Niceguy is concerned, of course!

frozen sisters

 

The (unexpected) joys of travel???

Travel can bring out the best (and worst) in people.  It can be stressful trying to get from point A to point B which is unfortunate because it can also be an opportunity to learn and grow.  With the airline industry being what it is these days, unless you’re in an opulent, first-class suite on Emirates Airlines (dare to dream!) expectations for air travel are typically quite low and the attitude is certainly one of:  to it and through it! 

Air travel is fraught with perils of all things negative; at every turn chances are high that in one fell swoop you feel what’s like to be on an island in the South Pacific fighting in a multi-round elimination challenge to “win immunity” – or in this case, to board the plane, find room to stow all of your belongings, claim your armrest and get to your destination.

From packing the trunk with overstuffed suitcases (including the extra one that had to be brought along due to the weight allowances which were only discovered the night before), to the unpredictable traffic en route, to the ridiculously long lineup for bag tags (despite the fact that care and effort were taken to print boarding passes the night before), the dreaded security line (which, has much improved since the days of trying to juggle holding a finally sleeping infant, collapsing a stroller, and removing shoes all in one go while fending off glares of other passengers) and finally to the gate, onto the plane and into the “ever-so-coveted” **full blown sarcasm here** middle seat – the mode of travel for the foreseeable future as the windows are coveted by the 3 or 7 year olds and who can survive a tantrum in closed quarters? 

Suffice it to say, gone are the days when Mr. Niceguy and I could spontaneously take off with merely a carry-on between us, drinks at hand.

I practically grew up on airplanes.  Thanks to my dad’s career which took him to Saudi Arabia for nearly a decade, we spent much of our vacation times and certainly all of our summers, jet-setting (totally privileged!) making my sister and me expert travelers.  Air travel back then was also much more glamorous and much simpler – at least that’s how I’m going to choose to remember it…

Catch me if you can

Bitten by the travel bug and sprinkled with a dash of wanderlust (together with my commitment phobic tendencies) to me, there is nothing more exciting than going somewhere new and immersing myself – ok, not just anywhere but places where I can shop, lounge on a beach, shop, check out historic ruins, shop, pick up a new language, shop…you get the idea?  I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in the West Coast.  I braved March Break madness and took a flight to visit my sister and her family in Vancouver – Mr. Niceguy, 7 year old and 3 year old all in tow.

Having forgotten what it was like to travel during March Break (this not working thing is still new!), I was not expecting the chaos at the airport that comes with school holidays.

Boarding passes in hand, we made our way to the bag drop off and just when I thought things were going well, while getting some assistance from an airline attendant, a woman bud in front of the 7 year old and 3 year old who, diverted by all the excitement had left a large gap in front of us.  This woman just sauntered into line not minding that an agent of official capacity was speaking to us, not caring that she cut in front of the 50 or so other passengers who were patiently waiting, and certainly not at all concerned that she took advantage of my children!

I will not profess to be cool headed – those who know me or who have read my entries in the past know my longing to be a flighty, cool, hipster chick that lets things roll but alas, I have failed miserably.  Being Armenian, I have a predisposition to the “Armenian temper” and 0 to 60 and back down to 0 is something I can do in a split second.  However, this time, I stayed at 60…ok, 100.  See, this woman took advantage of my children who were surprised to be overtaken; she also took advantage of me and of all the other rule abiders.  She hijacked my travel experience!  I felt my eyes alight, my body temperature rise and I was poised for a fight and when she next paused, like a Maserati Gran Turismo, I maneuvered my cart and we overtook her but not without adding in my shy anger (the kind when you’re about to have a confrontation but can’t look the other party in the face because you really wish you weren’t having this confrontation but you will forever regret that you let yourself be a doormat), “you budded” ever so quietly lest the extremely proper and non-confrontational Mr. Niceguy hear.

She had the nerve to respond loudly, “well, we’re all going in the same direction anyway.”  WHA?I  My instinct took over, my inner struggle subsided and I just scoffed, “Ya, that’s right” and boy was I proud of myself…Mr. Niceguy was proud of me too, having witnessed the whole thing.  I felt so grand and dignified…and surely, this was magnified (and validated) by the fact that I was about to be bumped into the fast security line legitimately

Quick, boots off, lap top out, cell phone, pockets emptied, belt whipped off, push children through the checkpoint, get through checkpoint, boots on, repack bag, snatch children’s hands from conveyor, grab phone, beg children to stop trying to climb up on conveyor, fill pockets, yell at children in front of masses to take seats at far end where I can keep an eye on them, whip belt back on as pants now starting to fall, and no one, I repeat, no one, needs to see my favourite, comfy, “wedgie-proof-travel-undies”, glare at children while I walk over counting to 10 in my head taking long, measured breaths and reminding myself that it’s all about the journey…

As I said, for me the excitement of boarding a plane trumps just about anything.  Forget about the budding lady or the fact that my children were totally out of control, I had the golden ticket:  passes to the Air Canada lounge…this trip was about to get a whole lot more decadent…

After all my years of corporate travel (and only two or three visits to the lounge thanks in large part to budget cuts and middle management) I, nay, WE had arrived.  I was worried about how disruptive the 7 year old and 3 year old were going to be…but perhaps I should’ve been more worried about me.  I couldn’t believe my eyes:  eggs, bacon, waffles, fruit, fancy yoghurt, exotic juices, mouthwatering pastries, and specialty coffees to my heart’s content.  All of a sudden 4 hours of sleep and waking at the crack of dawn didn’t matter.  Croissant dangling in mouth, latte in hand, I got to the magazine table:  Cars, business, fashion – I didn’t have to choose, I grabbed them all!  My troubles melted away….my cares melted away…my fear of having to sit next to the 3 year old for 5.5 hours melted away…like I said, we’d arrived…I could almost imagine being in that Emirates Air suite…

emirate suite

But how long do those kinds of sentiments really last when you’re travelling by air?

We got on the plane and to our happy surprise, were well accommodated. And despite the fact that I once again found myself squished in the old, reliable middle seat, my neighbor was extremely kind and helpful.  I tend to conserve energy on flights with the 3 year old (you have to be ready for the 8 minute circuit:  change dvd, go to washroom, change movie on screen, get something to eat, open window cover, close window cover, turn volume up, adjust headset, adjust air, change dvd again, go to washroom again to finish what was left unfinished…you get the drill) but my neighbor was so great that I partook in some light conversation, shared my Goldfish crackers, and even threw in a few jokes for good measure!

What happened next, however, came completely out of the blue.  After a (typical) seat mix-up that took the airline some time to sort out, a woman took the seat in front of the 3 year old.  She had barely occupied her exit row seat with ample leg room for more than a minute when she stood up, turned around, looked at my 3 year old and said, “Now you make sure not to kick my chair.  I don’t like that.” 

If I asked what you thought of this woman, what would you say?  How would you take that?  Would you wonder why she spoke directly to the 3 year old?  Would you ask about the tone in which she made that statement?  Certainly, you may wonder about your own state of mind at the time which would affect your perception when she uttered those words.  Like if you were feeling particularly upbeat after a visit to the VIP lounge, would you take it well?  Either way, you have by now probably imagined what she looked like and perceived what she meant…

I was surprised.  Up to that point, the 3 year old had been an angel (the 8 minute circuits had not yet begun).  The plane hadn’t even taken off yet – no cross check, no safety movie, nothing.  Yet, this woman felt the need to make this statement.  Regardless of whether she was a sweet, lovely woman with a kind face – what happened next was even more surprising.  The entire 5 rows behind her on both sides of the plane had witnessed the event.  Had witnessed this tall, cratchity and grey woman with small, evil and squinty eyes, and a tone that was not quite sweet but stern, make this statement.  She became vilified.  All of those passengers condemned her.  And sadly for her, the occurrence was exaggerated,

“Did you hear what that @#$%^ said?  To that poor little boy?  His feet probably don’t even touch the chair!” 

“That evil woman wagged her finger and said that she would be very disappointed in that poor, little baby boy if he makes a single sound!”

“Wow, what’s wrong with that woman?  Some people are just crazy!”

I actually started to feel bad for this woman.  Unlike the woman who budded in line, in this situation I had 5 rows of people come to my defense – actually, to the 3 year old’s defense.  That felt really good.  What felt even better was the reaffirmation that sometimes keeping cool and maintaining my composure is of greater benefit than losing my @#$%!

In this woman’s case, however, I think had she looked differently or approached things with a little smile, she probably would not have been labelled as such.  Also, had she tried to not intimidate but rather, to request, no defense would have been required and her personal brand would likely not have been tarnished.  Never one to pass up an opportunity, after the initial shock subsided I decided to remain magnanimous and instead highlight discipline, “That lady is going to get mad at you if you don’t behave.”  But I think the 3 year old had learned that “preventative maintenance” would not work having picked up on the fact that the tall, cratchity lady had no credence and there were 5 rows of passengers who would back him up no matter what.  So started the 8 minute circuits…

I won’t go into the details of how I survived the rest of that plane ride…but survive is what I did.  So it should come as no surprise that my initial thoughts are also reinforced:  travel, the opportunity to learn and grow, to see human nature at its best – and worst!  Thankfully, I had a belly full of yummy pastries to get me through it and maybe, just maybe, someday I will make it to that Emirates suite…

kidsonairplane

Photo  was taken by Ma1974 on flickr

Short…but oh, so sweet!

7 year old:  Mummy why is the sky blue?

Me:  Hmmm…*not sure but should give answer.  Am adult.  Older and therefore wiser.*  Why, it’s because of all those chemicals floating about in the atmosphere…

Mr. Niceguy:  Well, ummm, more accurately, it’s the way light travels from the sun in waves, like radio waves or energy waves, and through the gases and particles in our atmosphere… blah, blah, blah…

bluesky.en

7 year old:  Mummy, how long will the earth survive?  When will the earth end?

Me:  *My boy is so smart.  So inquisitive.  Wait, are we back in that death phase when he was constantly thinking about how people die when they reach one hundred and his time is running out?!*  Hmmm…thousands and thousands of years…

Mr. Niceguy:  Well, no.  That’s not quite true…

Me:  Yes it is.  I mean, sure it’s longer than that *whisper to Mr. Niceguy – he’s 7 (i.e. can we put it in terms that he’ll get please?!)* but you know what with global warming, and overcrowding, and…

Mr. Niceguy:  Son, there are a number of theories on this point.  And man is always coming up with new technologies and ideas to combat things like global warming, density and overpopulation.  The earth has a life of many, many millennia remaining Me thinking:  Just say billions for crying out loud!   Eventually we may travel too close to the sun and then it will be too hot for life to survive and…

Red_Giant_Earth_warm

When it comes to my 7 year old, and the 100+ questions I get asked daily, I often feel I have to have the right answer.

Even if I’m uncertain, somehow I must “logic” my way through

While some may say (ahem, Mr. Niceguy) that this behavior is perhaps unhealthy and we should teach our children that spreading the truth is more important than being right or appearing to be an all-knowing, wise shaman-type, omniscient being, well, with a bruised ego I retort, how about some confidence and the ability to think on one’s feet and use logic to argue a point?  Any takers?

Truth is, I do agree that arming a child with the skills to go and seek answers, conduct research and certainly to uphold good, moral values like truth, honesty and yes, humility is very important…but for now, just in this fleeting time, it’s nice being the alpha to omega, the end all and be all, for the 7 year old…before I know it, he’ll be calling my bluff and be too embarrassed to hold my hand in public.

At the age of 7, my parents were my everything.  While my dad was superman, my mom was the very beautiful wonderwoman.  And although this sentiment has persisted…it’s certainly not in the same form.

And then, there is that other issue.  That competitive issue.  The one when you know that there is that smarter, wiser, stronger and in my case, much calmer, more rational and certainly more logical person standing right next to you who is always prepared to be the voice of reason and truth…Mr. Niceguy.

I have a vivid imagination and I believe that puts me in good stead with children.  Sometimes teaching by consequence is just not enough like, if you stick your finger in an electrical socket you will become electrocuted with 10,000 volts.  Or, when you don’t eat your vegetables, your body doesn’t get the fuel it needs in the form of important vitamins and minerals – the building blocks – to perform.  I resort to my grandparents’ methods:  “If you don’t eat your veggies, you won’t grow properly and you will just make the devil happy and more powerful.”

So when the universe throws me an opening and things all go my way…

7 year old:  Mummy what’s the closest planet to the sun?

Me:  *AWESOME!!!!!  I GOT THIS ONE!!!*  Mercury!

Mr. Niceguy:  Uhh…I don’t think so…

Me:  *AGHAST. *  What?!  It’s Mercury?  You know, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus (tee hee) and Neptune

Mr. Niceguy:  I think we’ll need to check on that…

Me:  *Huh?*  Check on what?!  Google it!  Wikipedia!  I know I’m right.  It’s MERCURY!

Later that evening Mr. Niceguy confirmed my answer with the internet and told me I was right.  And I smiled the most beatific smile.  It feels so good…wouldn’t you agree?

I told you so