In recognition of International Women’s Day

While I know I promised to write more regularly, an incredible opportunity to speak at the Armenian Relief Society’s annual International Women’s Day luncheon, occupied every spare moment for the past two and a half months.  From being buried in post-it notes full of ideas jotted down during all hours of the day…and wee hours in the night, to continuous editing and practicing in my car, in the bathroom, while cooking, and in front of any random and willing audience, I finally got it down.  This speech was delivered on Sunday, March 1st, 2015.  It is certainly geared towards a female audience, regardless, I hope all you readers enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed delivering it…

TTG SpeechGood morning.  I’d like to start by thanking the ARS (Armenian Relief Society) Rubina Chapter and today’s organizing committee for inviting me to speak at today’s luncheon.  It’s really such an honour.

When the committee asked me to speak today, they said I could talk about anything and I thought…oh, my goodness!  Where do I even start?  You know, a year ago I decided to take a break from my career and spend some more time with my family while I figured out what to do with the rest of my life.  Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be standing here in front of you.  But, with this opportunity at hand, I thought I’d talk about the challenges that thirty and forty-something women face in today’s world.

While it is a HUGE topic, I’ve distilled my very candid observations down to 5 major challenges that I believe young-ish Armenian-Canadian moms and women face these days:  moms and motherhood (gotta talk about our moms), men (another must topic), the elusive work-life balance, one’s identity and what’s really important…you’ll find out.  I wonder if some of my observations will hold true for you.  Agree or disagree, let’s start relating!

Moms and Motherhood

Challenge #1.  Our first glimpse of motherhood, comes from our own mothers.  Moms, you inspire us, you teach us, you support us – in your own controlling – I mean loving way.  My own mother is very smart, beautiful, talented, and very, very understanding…so understanding is she, that she’s not going to get mad or upset or offended by anything I’m about to say…right mom?

As a general observation, Armenians are very passionate people:  we’re passionate about food, passionate about our causes and above all, we’re passionate about our families.

So in a culture where family comes first, it follows that our parents’ happiness means everything to us – their approval is nearly always essential and consequently, one can be quite vulnerable to any critique.  If moms believe that they’re acting in our best interest, they don’t hold back.  They’ll tell you what you should or should not be doing, saying, wearing, eating and even thinking!

I mean, I’m forty, and my mom is still telling me what to do!  Not that being 40 really means anything because while I feel a lot more confident and self-assured, in some instances I’m still trying to be one of the cool kids.  I feel like I’m in a kind of limbo:  not old enough to be wise, and not young enough not to care.  Not old enough for a cosmetic procedure, not young enough to not consider the prospect of a cosmetic procedure…am I too old to wear uggs?!

But I digress…  Everytime I write a column for TorontoHye Newspaper, my mom and I have the following conversation,

[ARMENIAN]  “Talyn, ayt eench keuradz eyeer terteen mech.  Eench bedee gartze joghovourteuh?  Antzial amseuvah hotvadzeut shad avelee lav er.  Artyok, hoknadz e-yeer?  Lav goodess?  Tzezi hamar aghvor jash meuh yepem?  Chem hasgeunar tzezi.  Ays seroonteuh darper eh.  Gyankeuh avelee arak eh.  Mer adeneuh assank cher.  Akh, aghcheegeuss, assee koo amenen tjouvar dareenereut en.”

[TRANSLATION:  “Talyn, what have you written for the paper?  What are people going to think?  Last month’s column was much better.  Could you have been tired, perhaps?  Are you eating well?  Shall I cook you a nice meal?  I don’t understand you…this generation is completely different.  Life is too fast – things were not like this when we were growing up.  Oh, my dearest daughter, these are your most trying years.”]

Huh?   How many of you have had this kind of conversation?  How did we go from, I didn’t quite get this month’s column to these are your toughest years?!

When you’re young, it’s hard to understand why mothers do the things that they do.  I gave my mom such a hard time because I thought MY life was difficult.  Like the time I ran away from home for a few hours to my Armenian best friend’s house and promptly called my mother to let her know I was ok.  My mom told me that she understood I just needed the space and most of all, that she loved me.  I know now that she was probably falling apart inside.  I also know this because every now and then she reminds me…  Regardless, she stood by me.  And I know she’ll always stand by me no matter what.  So every time we have that conversation about my articles, she makes me strive more, reach more, and try harder.  And I just hope that’s what my two boys remember when I’m mothering them!

Mothering Two Boys

Speaking of my two glorious, young and active boys.  At this stage in their lives, we are their everything.  But the time where parents are everything to their children is fleeting.  So…with that in mind, I’m prepared to make sacrifices.

For example, I’m constantly having to go on “boy” adventures – I can see all you moms and aunties of boys nodding your heads – you know exactly what I mean.  My kind of adventures are more like a night out on the town with my girlfriends or an exotic trip.  Boy adventures, are like:

  1. Clothing optional sumo wrestling
  2. Or roughing it in the dreaded “North” full of mosquitoes with no restaurants, shops, and worst of all, without female companionship!!!!

It’s not easy being a parent.  Kids don’t come with an instruction manual.  They make you second guess your every move.  I’ve resorted to begging, pleading, bribery, and even manipulation – some days, I hardly recognize myself.  Unlike any other job, the job of raising our children is 24/7, forever, the stakes are infinitely higher and the pressure for perfection is omnipresent.  For while we won’t be their everything for long, they will be our everything for all time.

So moms, grandmoms, and tantigs, we get it.  Thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do.  Thank goodness, though, we don’t have to do it alone…which brings me to my Mr. Niceguy – better known as my husband and challenge #2.

Men

Men are an interesting breed:  so even keeled and wonderfully objective – so long as they’re not tired, hungry or sick of course.  Men (and boys) have such different priorities –underwear left in the middle of the floor or dirty socks left on kitchen counters is surely not the end of their world.  For them, the end of the world looks more like a favourite soccer team losing a match – the sorrow of which is quickly forgotten with a deep fried or sugary snack of some sort.

When you’re getting married, the focus tends to be on the wedding, how you’re going to sign your name and officially moving out of your parents’ basement.  Over time, real life will test you, will make you want to move back to the safe cocoon of your parents’ basement, but hopefully it will also transform your marriage into a real balanced partnership.

For example, I’m a bit of a dreamer and an optimist – Mr. Niceguy is logical and rational.  Oftentimes, he refers to me as “passionate” – not that kind of passionate – his way of saying I’m a quick-tempered, headstrong Armenian woman. I’ve become even more passionate as a mother, particularly while trying to discipline our children who are not listening to a word that I’m screaming and when he materializes from thin air and begins to lecture me on the latest scientific research on parenting.  Ya, I’m passionate all right.

In any case, accepting our differences has made us stronger.  Just because I think that the Bachelor should stay friends with the bachelorettes he doesn’t give a rose to, and he thinks that that’s totally absurd, doesn’t mean we can’t get along.  Men are certainly from Mars and Women are from Venus but we’re all living here together on Earth so I call a truce.

The Elusive Balance

Another balancing act we’re faced with today is work-life balance… the “Elusive Balance” – Challenge #3.  Here’s what I’m going to say about this – and if I may be presumptuous, mainly for the benefit of those, like me, who are still seeking their balance: balance is what you make of it.  There is no one formula.  And while that may sound bewildering, it means that you can have a hand in its design – if you’re brave enough.

Striving for a career only to find that it interferes with your personal life is devastating…at least it was for me.  That’s why I took matters into my own hands and am carving my own path – a path that likely would not work for someone else.  Finding balance also requires help.  On the career side, you absolutely need the right environment.  You also need buy-in, you need to build your brand and your value to the point where you are supported to have more flexibility because losing you or replacing you would not be an option.  On the family side, you also need support, and you need to dial back expectations…in my case, those perfectionistic tendencies.  There will always be feelings of guilt – I wish I was more dedicated to my job, I wish I was more dedicated to my family.  I wish I had the time to have a haircut, manicure and a latte in peace instead of freezing my butt off at an arena or constantly responding to the buzz of my Blackberry!

Finding balance and maintaining balance is tough.  What’s great, however, is seeing so many women taking charge and courageously creating the kind of life that they want, rather than what someone else imposes on them.  Bravo.

Identity

Challenge #4.  Identity.  What is your identity?  How do you define it?  Identity is influenced by a number of different things like your age, gender, language, history, religion, employment and so on.  Identity is not static and is shaped and developed by you over time.  And I believe, that at some point, we all stop and ask ourselves, “Who Am I?”  I tend to ask myself this question when I’m up at two in the morning wondering if I’m ever gonna get my act together – and if my lack of sleep has anything to do with perimenopause or something – totally FREAKS me out…I think I’m having a hot flash right now!

Most women face a real identity crisis at some point.  And as an Armenian woman, this identity crisis gains a further complexity.  While we struggle with building a successful career and balance that with a full and complete personal life, many of us also struggle with the DNA-programmed need to preserve our culture and our heritage.  I know in my case I was raised with a healthy dose of “Hayeren Khoseer” and “Azad, angakh Hayasdan”.

I call this my three-legged identity tripod:  career, family and being Armenian.  These are the things that define my identity – if any one of these three legs does not match the length of the others, I topple down.

When it comes to my identity, I also realize that I don’t have to be perfect.  And that it’s really important to take risks.  Risks make you feel alive.  They make you feel like you’ve achieved.  Standing here is a HUGE risk for me.  Risks force you to expand your world and look beyond what you think you already know.

As I said before, being Armenian is a big part of who I am.  I am married to a non-Armenian (“odar”) who challenges me, supports my ambitions and respects me and my heritage.  My children speak Armenian.  They are learning about our culture and heritage and which is one way that I am preserving a very important part of who I am and passing on that ingrained Armenian DNA.  I also volunteer at the ARS Armenian Private School (if you haven’t yet donated to Telethon 2015, please do so) and the Zoryan Institute – a centre dedicated to the education, research, preservation and documentation of genocide and human rights violations, particularly the Armenian Genocide.  Working there feeds my soul.

But being Armenian and staying Armenian has not been easy.  Perhaps it’s like blasphemy to say that on some days I wished I was French or Italian – so much easier to relate and to have people understand who you are and what you’re all about without the burden of struggling to survive.  But as I’ve gotten older, and hopefully gained more wisdom, I’ve come to believe that the hardest things are the ones worth fighting for…marriage, your children, your friends, your family…and yes, your identity.  These are important things worth fighting for.

What’s Really Important

And that brings me to the final challenge.  Challenge #5, discovering what’s really important.  Some recent news about a friend’s situation really put this in perspective for me.

We all get bogged down with our own problems from time to time, and lose sight of the big picture – that we only have this one life to live and that we must make the most of it.  Don’t we all wish that we were prettier, thinner, smarter, more successful, more laid back, younger and so on.   The challenge for us is to grab hold of the magic in this life, and that magic, in my view, comes from sharing, from connecting and relating to the people around you, from being present.

It is a rare privilege to get a glimpse or to be present when people experience moments that will shape them forever, whether they’re experiencing moments of real learning, of overcoming, or even of regret.  The moment that you can share your joys and regrets, they become real and allow you to relate to people in ways unimaginable.  And the relating, well that is your legacy.

The connections that you make are what carry you – are what will sustain you.  These bonds – whether created because you had a little too much to drink and your friend held back your hair while you were sick, or you created because a friend watched your newborn, colicy baby while you finally took a shower and got some rest – these bonds are what I’m all about.  And look, you’re not going to bond with everybody, but when you do, stop and remember the magic.  I do it by writing it down – and you relate to me when you read my stories.

Thank you.

Lettuce

(Blowing off some steam post speech…biggest fear is to speak in front of an audience  with something in my teeth!)

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Valentine’s Day…it’s coming!

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

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

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

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

Mr. Niceguy:  Nope, just a typical day.

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

Mr. Niceguy:  Ya.

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

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

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

Mr. Niceguy:  Oh.  Ya.  Ummm…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tangled

Oh…to be in a cocoon

On this blustery, winter day, I’m wrapped up in my large duvet, trying to block out all the fighting and the fake gun shots (POW!  POW!), the million-and-one questions, requests and demands, just trying to find a quiet place to get in touch with my inner thoughts.  My cleaning lady quit and after the fifth (yes, FIFTH) load of laundry this weekend, I’m spent.

Incidentally, during one such load of (thank goodness) darks, when I went to put the washed clothes in the dryer I heard a *CLINK*…I ignored it.  Until I looked back into the washing machine and to my horror, found crayons…CRAYONS!!  So oh—my—GOD!!!!  Now I have to dig through half-wet clothes and turn out all the pockets because five loads of laundry were not a big enough chore?!  And if they find their way into the dryer…I’m screwed!!!!  WHO KEEPS CRAYONS IN THEIR POCKETS??!!

I know I shouldn’t blame them…they’re just kids.  They’re having fun.

And I can kind of see the humour in it.  I’m a horrible mother.  Why couldn’t I just turn their pockets inside out before I started the load?!  Ugh.  No matter now…

Crisis averted…I’m lulled into a false sense of accomplishment until I move onto the next:  cleaning “boy” toilets (eew), the kitchen sink, the floors, and dusting and I’m just about ready to admit failure again, abandon my intentions of becoming the best domestic there ever was and simply hire another cleaning lady.

duvetcoverFor goodness’ sake, in addition to all of the above, I’ve stripped the beds of all their sheets and mattress covers and, being a big believer of continuing education, I’ve even watched various online video tips for housework including one teaching an orgasmic, idiot-proof method of stuffing a duvet into its duvet cover!  Yes, this “new generation” of YouTube-ing everything and equating housework with emotional highs and true accomplishment is a new twist for me.  I’m SO PUMPED to try this out!

In truth, the video captivated me because it equated the method with a burrito roll and quite frankly burritos and I are super tight.  Like really tight.  Like Angie and Brad tight.  I can’t walk by a burrito and not eat it.  Chicken, beef, pork, veggies, cheese, eggs…put virtually anything in a burrito, hand it over and I’m in my happy place.  Add sour cream, some pico de gallo and that’s what I call orgasmic!

Incidentally, the idiot-proof method took much longer than my usual haphazard “Girl Fight” style of blindly stuffing my the duvet into the corners of the cover and now I’m upset with myself for having put so much faith into this fail-safe, quick, life-saving, orgasmic method.  Completely let down and feeling like I’ve been cheated on by a bad ex-boyfriend, in true homage to the burrito, I’ve rolled my idiot self up in my uncovered and totally naked, king-size duvet.

So back to where I started this entry, here I am, lying in fetal position; I’m desperately trying to drown out the wails, the complaints, the incessant questions and unrelenting complaints from my world.  I’m desperately trying to drown out my own wails, complaints and incessant questions and unrelenting complaints.  Like, “is this what a so-called balanced life is supposed to be like?” and, “I quit my job to be able to focus more on my family / personal life but I just can’t seem to find focus” and most of all, “is this what I went to graduate school for?!”

The thoughts swirl around me like an F5 tornado.  I can see all the different parts of my life but I can’t seem to catch any one.  Everything is a blur and in this total bewilderment I hear a tiny voice whisper, “give in”.  The blur morphs into a haze…and like a caterpillar waiting in its cocoon to turn into a graceful butterfly, I drift off into a blissful slumber, leaving the world behind…for now.

duvetcocoon

 

Happy Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 year old:  Not Speedors.  The first one.

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

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

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

8 year old:  Definitely to be nicer.

4 year old:  I-WANT-TO-COLOUR!!!!

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas

This is MY forty.

Spincycle Diaries:  This is MY Forty…

A friend of mine, relatively to her forties, posted an article about being forty on Facebook prefaced with the comment, “I’m not sure I agree.”  My interest was piqued…

this-is-40-movie-wallpaper02When I was turning forty, I was more focused on my actual birthday than what it would mean to be in my forties.  My initial thoughts centered on how I would celebrate this milestone:  would I have a big party or fly away to some exotic locale – “Instagram-ing” every second?  Would I bring the kids or leave them behind?  I imagined all sorts of different outfits to wear to my great, elaborate party or otherwise, on a day filled with shopping, visiting museums and walking from Battery Park all the way up to Columbus Circle in New York City, alone, with Mr. Niceguy – stopping for burgers and beers along the way.

Yes, turning forty was definitely the focus – so much so that I had neglected to stop and think what it would actually mean to be in my forties.  Of the articles I’ve recently read, one author made a statement which rang very true for me:

I’ve never managed to grasp a decade’s main point until long after it was over

When I take a look back, I can see that my 20’s were full of learning and making mistakes, adventure, and romance:  I lay the groundwork for what would become a wonderful marriage and exciting career.  My 30’s brought a new set of challenges as I got deeper into my profession, started my own family and questioned the kind of person I wanted to be and the kind of legacy I wanted to leave.  So what will my 40’s be about?  With time growing ever more precious I’ve decided that I’d better figure this out toute suite! 

Probably the very first thing I’ve noticed about being forty is that I’m certainly making a much bigger deal of it than Mr. Niceguy ever did!  In all seriousness though, I’ve come to realize that it’s really important to appreciate the present.  All the worrying, the planning, the preparing – these are all distractions from the now, from the moments that we can never again have:  a first step, the first A on a project, basking in a moment of brilliance, or an unexpected ‘thank you’ for a contribution when you weren’t even expecting to be noticed.  Building a storehouse full of vivid moments is what will sustain us in the future and help us to keep going when times feel particularly tough.

This brings me to another realization:  many articles stated that we should not make comparisons between ourselves and others – comparisons only get us into trouble.  I believe this is true but given the right perspective, comparisons fuel motivation.  Like the other day, I saw Supermom in the parking lot – you know her:  fab, fit, forty and so together.  Supermom effortlessly juggles all the aspects of her life, is ever so charming and eloquent with her kids and never, ever appears frazzled, in other words, my antithesis.  After trying countless low carb diets and exercise routines, trying to keep on top of this project and that, and reading all the parenting books I can get my hands on, I’ve come to learn that although my thighs will always “kiss”, I will inevitably forget about a deadline and quite often, will make some parenting expert cringe, thanks to the Supermoms out there, I strive to take better care of myself, not sweat the small stuff and be a better mother.

My last realization is that in truth, I really have no idea what I’m talking about.  I mean, on most days, I feel like I’ve somehow reverted back to my teenage years, worrying about how to cover up the zit that just popped up on my forty-year-old forehead!  I do things I shouldn’t do, say things I shouldn’t say, even try hard to be one of the “cool kids”!  Like, this can’t be how a forty year old would behave, can it?  Turning forty has highlighted some of my deep-seated insecurities!  Should I spend more of an effort on my appearance and dress more appropriately for my age by ditching my Converse and jeans?  Should I act more grounded and finally start reading the newspaper instead of quoting the Vampire Diaries or the Bachelor?  Should I stop pretending that I’ll one day become President or Secretary of State?!  Should I start acting “my age”?!

No, I believe I should not.

Forgiving my presumptiveness, here’s what I think I know about being forty (and perhaps beyond).  That none of it matters.  While I have no clue as to what it means to be in this “club”, I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t say that I want to have a hand in its design.

I can say with certainty that by the end of this decade, I will seek out my children more than they seek me out now, I have to make more time for romance (despite the constant tornado called life swirling around me, no book takes the place of a night out with Mr. Niceguy!), I will have to work harder than ever before to not feel left behind by some new technological gizmo and that I may need to finally trade in my sneakers for more sensible shoes.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to make mistakes and cringe when I think of them (like hitting myself on the head while closing the trunk of my own truck in front of all the Supermoms, or the daily insert-foot-in-mouth-itis with which I’m plagued), or continue to pretend like I know what it takes to set world policy (there are worse things than pretending to be President!).  Most importantly though, I’ll learn to focus on what’s really important:  my present, and the fact that as time ticks on, surrounding myself with a circle of true friends and a loving family that I helped to build, along with my not-so-grown-up spirit, are really all that matter.

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

 

The Great Outdoors Pt. II: You can take a fish out of water…or can you?

Summer’s over…it’s back to school and (slowly) back to writing.  But just before I completely leave my beloved season behind, thought I’d share this little happenstance from just a couple of weeks ago…  (Dedicated to all those city girls that put in the effort for their families – and especially to TSM, a true lover of cottaging – how do you do it?!)

This summer, my top priority was to take a break from everything routine – my blog, homework, extra-curricular activities and most especially electronics – and to focus on the great outdoors.  At least I tried anyway…minus my addiction to Candy Crush (I had resisted for so long!) a game where the object is to match up coloured candy in various patterns in order to progress to increasingly more challenging levels. You see, one night, seeing Mr. Niceguy so engrossed in this game, I snuck a peak and got sucked into candy land myself – didn’t matter that I’d been getting facebook requests on a daily basis, but like a lemming I followed Mr. Niceguy into his candy cavern and I swear I now see everything in “candy vision”:  can I shift that car over there and blast that row to drive into that spot?  Let me fork some salad, a piece of kebab dunked in hummus which then snatches some rice – quadruple effect!!

Bachelor-In-Paradise-August-4-2014-Recap-250x200(The lack of) summer TV programming also helped with my goal of getting back in touch with Mother Nature and “a simpler lifestyle”… particularly once the World Cup ended (which, in essence, was a total nightmare for a die-hard Espana fan such as me) but just until a couple of weeks ago, when Bachelor In Paradise started and my Achilles’ heel started to itch…I gave myself the green light – after all, the show is set in the “great outdoors” (ok, not quite the great outdoors but a contrived resort on the beaches of Tulum, Mexico).  But since I too would be going to the cottage for our annual pilgrimage soon, I figured this little indulgence was justified…it would lessen my dread of cottages and whet my appetite for some sand, sun and water activities…I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Those who know me know that I’ve been quite vocal and unabashed about my dislike of cottaging.  It’s not that I don’t think it’s “of value” – particularly when it comes to children and forging a love of the outdoors, physical activity, creativity, and so on but still, I have to sit through hours of traffic to get to some remote destination where I “have the privilege” of doing all the cooking, cleaning, planning and entertaining…wait, isn’t that what I do at home anyway???!!  

I wasn’t always plagued with such an aversion; my “cottage allergy” has only become more severe since I had children.

Before then, I used to dislike cottaging because I was a bit of a priss and had a hard time letting go of my creature comforts like my favourite pillow, air conditioning, water pressure and the ability to flush the toilet as many times as I wanted (sit down you environmentalists – I do my part in other ways!) and not for strategic reasons like an inherent fear of clogging septic plumbing or worse yet, needing to drown out biological noises thanks to paper thin doors.  Before children, I could do it all and particularly well I might add when helped by a six-pack of beer, good company (especially when rehashing old camp songs and memories) and the ability to stay on the swim-party-sleep cycle indefinitely.  But post children…I’m totally out of my comfort zone and constantly fighting off the bloodsucking bugs (I’m referring to the mosquitos and black flies of course) that seem to relish in tormenting me!  So I ask…why bother?!

As a Canadian born Armenian growing up in the Middle East during its golden age, I had all the makings of a city girl and rugged adventurer!  As my family moved from one cosmopolitan locale to the next, my father, an avid outdoorsman, ensured that my sister and I developed a strong love of nature as he taught us to climb the mountains of Taif (Saudi Arabia), survival swim in the Red Sea and of course join scouting (or guiding as it were) to then rough it in the great Canadian outdoors.  While my sister ended up being much closer to Mother Nature, my relationship with Her was one that was more subdued.

The City captured my imagination – its noises and lights like a constant disco that I couldn’t get enough of – it filled my soul and for many, many years, I was happily at its mercy.  It wasn’t really until I had my boys that I really rediscovered nature – or at least was forced to rediscover nature – and I realized that if my relationship with nature was going to have any chance, I was going to have to put in the effort and let go of much more than I thought…

My struggle is best encapsulated by one particular incident from our recent trip (though believe me, I have many to choose from).  I nearly lost my mind when I handed my prized (and very-typically-not-backed-up) iPhone over to my 4 year old who was begging to take a picture of a speedboat on the dock.  While I was correcting his position (he kept taking snapshots of his own hand) he dropped my phone and everything went in slow motion:  phone, floating through the air, rotating over and over, slipping through the planks on the dock that was floating thirteen feet above the cold, black lake, and landing on the floatation device underneath – all with the gorgeous backdrop of the setting sun…AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!

I felt like I was in a movie…like I was having an out of body experience and I kid you not, I was Hugh Grant. Flopsy, awkward and positively cornered Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral – you know the scene, the one when he’s about to marry Duck Face at the church:  bugger, bugger, bugger…BUGGER!   But what came out of my mouth instead, first in utter disbelief followed by shock and catastrophe, in increasing crescendo and volume was one profanity after the next:  *Bleep* the cottage!  *Bleep* the great outdoors!  *BLEEPITY-BLEEP-BLEEP* the thought that I could actually let go long enough to appreciate any of it!!

coming undoneI could see my phone…balancing precariously on its edge…like my mental state…and at that moment I vowed not to abandon it – my only connection to civilization and the last vestige of who I am.  Never mind that I’d entered into a state of hysteria and was ready to tear each individual hair on my head, I would NOT walk away until the glow from the screen faded away.

Out poured all of my frustrations (at great volume, I might add) – the cooking, the cleaning, the refereeing, juxtaposed with the freedom and expanse of the great outdoors – I was a fish out of water and hated it.  I was coming undone.  I felt trapped and cornered and like I was slowly slipping through the crack myself…but surely this city girl had faced worse than this?  And it was in that one moment – in that break from the insanity – that I came up with part of a solution.  Hearing it through my wails and my tears, Mr. Niceguy took over, reached in and saved the day.

Embarrassed by my behaviour, I shrank away.  I took my beloved phone to my car, plugged it in to listen to some music and realized…that despite my absolute and complete effort to NOT partake in my surroundings, I had just survived an adventure…in the great outdoors, no less!  And despite a battered ego, I came out unscathed with a story to boot!  Perhaps it wasn’t all that bad.  Perhaps I could do it again – after all summer is virtually over and school is about to start maybe I could learn to be more of an outdoors woman?  Or perhaps next time, it can be a boys’ getaway instead…

running on dock

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

An egotistical indulgence…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featurette.Smoothies

Wash, rinse, spin, repeat…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

woman-coffee-stain-620km012213

Ugh…homework!!

Dedicated to a very dear friend for whom I promised to (try) and be funny again!

Although I often forget to be grateful for the roof over my head and the food on my plate, as someone who’s been out of school for more than a decade, I never forget to appreciate that I no longer have homework!

lighten-homework-loadAs a Type A personality, I had virtually all straight A’s throughout my school career.  I diligently studied for tests, poured all my effort into assignments and yes, completed every shred of homework – no excuses.  So what happens when a Type A and a Type B collide over Grade 2 homework…

According to Wikipedia, Type A’s are “ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, sensitive, truthful, impatient, always try to help others, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point, proactive, and obsessed with time management…they are often high-achieving “workaholics” who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.”  While Type B’s “generally live at a lower stress level and typically work steadily, enjoying achievement but not becoming stressed when they do not achieve. When faced with competition, they do not mind losing…they may be creative and enjoy exploring ideas and concepts.”

When Friday afternoons roll around and it’s time to pick up my boys from school my first question is always, “do you have any homework this weekend?”  Of course, the 4 year old’s response (thankfully!) is always “No!” but the 7 year old kick-starts my anxiety with a simple shrug of his shoulders and an “I dunno.”  And so, it begins.  I start wondering, when are we going to do all his homework?  How much does he have?  Is it going to take me hours and hours???  Why can’t he be more motivated?!  Doesn’t he realize that Grade 2 homework is the first step to the REST OF HIS LIFE??!!!!

One of the greatest challenges of being a parent is raising a child and trusting them to become independent and have the courage to stand up for themselves and go after their dreams…whatever they may be.  I’ll digress here:  throughout my formative years I wanted to be many things:  astronaut, painter, even an army general!  But as time goes on, reality (and social pressure) sets in …my dreams of becoming a fashion designer transformed into becoming a chemical engineer (no idea what they do but a particular dignitary was visiting my school and I couldn’t very well disgrace my VERY traditional Armenian parents by choosing such an “outlandish” career)!  Incidentally, I did neither.

In today’s world, our choices are virtually unlimited and children have the gift of potentially making a real living following their dreams and passions.  But today’s world is also more competitive than ever…which makes being a mom, harder still!

Like most 7 year old boys, mine is not quite a Type A.  So when it comes time to ask him to centre in on his homework, I already know I’m swimming upstream – see, unfortunately I do not have a cool laser gun that pops out of my arm, nor can I shoot fireballs out of my eyes and defeat evil takeovers of the universe!  I’m seriously lacking in the super power department for that’s what’s required to capture my 7 year old’s attention!

So it’s Sunday night, an hour to bedtime and after studying for two spelling tests and doing some required reading, we turned to his last piece of homework:  writing a poem.  WHAT?!  Poetry?  In Grade 2???!!  Completely bewildered I turned to a friend who suggested making it fun by choosing a song together and “simply” replacing the words.  Easy enough, right?  NO.

Honestly, there I was, my Type A self, pouring everything I had into this “poetry assignment” and there he was, my little Type B, cycling song after song just so he could play around with my iPhone!  I’m trying to come up with words for his poem while he’s more interested in the cover art!!!  My nerves were getting shot!  I begged!  I pleaded and here’s what I got:

Stuart was a little mouse,
He lived in a great big house,
His brother’s name was George,
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, adventure

WHAT?!  I kept explaining that he had to rhyme with “George” but he just stood there staring at me, a blank expression on his face.  Perhaps it was the crazed look in my eyes, my nails digging into our dining room table, the beads of sweat appearing across my forehead, my hair starting to frizz or simply the fact that I had gone from shouting to an almost possessed person whisper…or perhaps neither of these things that finally lead us to this…

Me:  *exasperated, worst parent ever as have now resorted to begging and pleading* Please.  For the love of God and all that is holy, please, just choose one song and stick with it.  It’ll make things easier.  You can’t keep bouncing all over the place.  We’ve been at this for over 45 minutes!  You’ve just really got to focus and it’s almost bedtime, tomorrow’s a school day…

Him:  *shrugs shoulders* Maybe I should take a break.  Can I go play outside?

Me:  You played earlier.  Look, we have to finish.  You have to do your homework.  You must be prepared.  This is all about your future!  Trust me.  You have to pay attention, get good grades and then you will be able to open doors to all kinds of possibilities.

Him:  *sprightly*  What doors?  Where?

Me:   *!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  trying to keep it together…* The.  Doors.  To.  Your.  Future. – not actual doors, you know, just a metaphor for possible paths you could take…look, it’s even bath night, we don’t have much time left…

Him:  YAY!  Bath night!  Can I play in the bath?

Me:  UUUGGGGHHH.

It took every ounce of me to not take his exercise sheet and pencil and try and “forge” a poem!  I mean EVERY-SINGLE-OUNCE.  True, that would have been the absolute worst form of parenting but I’ll admit, I WAS DYING TO DO IT!!

Realizing that I was now on the verge of going against everything I stood for, I walked away and gave him his space.  And you know what, he did it.  I was his crutch and when I removed my (psychotic) self from the situation, he demonstrated that he could be a self-actualizing, independent thinker.

I guess more than one of us completed our homework this weekend…

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Mirror, Mirror…

QueenSnowWhiteMirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

These words haunted me most of my childhood – my fear held me captive to the Queen in Snow White because even at that very young age, I think I always knew that she and I had a common connection…

Growing up, I would spend hours in my mother’s closet:  my mom grew up in the “Paris of the Middle East”, also known as Beirut, Lebanon.  There, she had dresses made for her for virtually every outing, the most fashion forward shoes, handbags and accessories, and of course, the ultimate makeup trousseau.  So while she would be cooking in the kitchen or socializing on the telephone, I would sneak into her room to play dress-up and try on her makeup.

Maybelline-Trousseau-BoxMy mom taught my sister and me to take care of ourselves.  Unfortunately, while I was a “closet princess” and very much appreciated watching her use the amazing palette of 30 eye shadows, I was still very much a tom boy, just as she had been.  My mom was incredibly patient with us – she encouraged us to play with cars, engineering sets and lego – but she knew it was important to pass on some “feminine lessons”.  My dad, on the other hand, who I think was appreciative that we were two of the most rough-and-tumble girls, did, I believe, express some frustration at one point when I walked in from my grandmother’s garden covered in thorns after falling into a rosebush, with scraped hands and knees for the umpteenth time and exasperated, he exclaimed, “If you’re not careful, no man is going to want you covered in all these scars!”  I recall replying with, “well, then I don’t want that kind of man!”  But in growing up, I’ve come to learn that looks are very important, indeed, and I’m not just referring to beauty.

Looks are the initial little appetizer – a certain something that draws one in, repels or causes query.

I can best describe the above by referring to art.  A watercolour by Monet evokes a sense of peace and calmness.  While perhaps a Salvador Dali may cause one to scratch their heads.  But a recent appearance of a “little friend” on my chin that likely would qualify for its own zip code, turned me from a Van Gogh to a disjointed Picasso and I felt, did more to unleash parts of my psyche long buried putting me in company with that very evil Queen…

See, a few nights ago I started to feel that familiar pressure on my chin…I had so many “appearances” to make over the course of the weekend:  birthday party, Kung Fu lessons and socializing with parents, a long overdue girls’ night, and a long list of other endless gatherings.  And when I woke the next morning, one look in the bathroom mirror and there it was:    my very unwelcome “friend”!!   I just wanted to hideout – no amount of concealer would do!  Spackling it on only made it look worse!  And the thought of buying zit cream at the drug store like in my angst-ridden-teenage-years seemed like the worst option of all!  Hot compresses, cold compresses, windex, hydrogen peroxide…would nothing return me to my normal state?

So at each occasion I could feel “my friend” taking centre stage – I tried desperately to conceal it with my hand – but then I looked like a crazy person rubbing an imaginary beard or one that was highly philosophical:  “Hmmm…yes…I agree with what you’ve said but what would Emmanuel Kant say?”

During my conversations I sensed that my friends were not listening to my words but staring (mouths agape) at my chin – and lo and behold, this “friend” of mine was transforming from simple red bump to Everest!!)  I could hear the words of Austin Powers in my head, “Mol-ee, mol-ee, mol-ee” and I wanted to withdraw…to fade into the wallpaper.

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But I am not the type to withdraw for too long.  Anger welled up inside of me – one that surely the Queen must have felt.  For this friend had caused me to abdicate my throne.  And while I’ve never considered myself as worthy of a spread in Vogue, I have grown quite accustomed to the predictability of my looks – now reduced to repulsion and query.  Why do looks have to matter so much?  Why can’t my words be enough?  And if looks are the appetizer why do I have to dish out the appy that like an oozing, slimy delicacy, raises the eyebrows and garners repulsion and query???!

But, like all of my over-dramatizations (and the weekend), this too, came to an end…and fortunately, one that was timely.  Perhaps next time I’ll remember not to put too heavy a weighting on my first impressions…

Delayed at Procrastination Station

This one’s for Mr. Niceguy…who ever so sweetly purchased a book for me all about being Happy!  xoxoxo

Once again I find myself in procrastination station but instead of beating myself up, I got a little help from none other than the Big Man upstairs…

It’s 1:05pm and just over 96 hours ago, with the prospect of a long weekend ahead, I had compiled a list of much needed projects to complete:  tackle new outdoor lighting, replace kitchen faucet which has been on the fritz for over 3 years (no word of a lie but a fritz that just doesn’t really merit the effort), consider applying for a blogging gig, and buy outfit for special dinner in my honour.

Oh, and of course, being one who is very involved in my culture and community, I have about a million obligations borne out of my volunteering.  So where do I begin?

Here I thought that leaving a job that afforded me with very little time to manage house, home, family and self, would now provide me with the kind of space I needed to “get it all done.”  Not quite.  But then, I can’t blame it all on the work – or no work.  For you see, the reason for my procrastination is not because of laziness, fear or an unwillingness for change.  Rather, it is my absolute tendency towards being ever-so-slightly, a self-diagnosed ‘haver’ of ADD.

royal-tenenbaumsLike just this past weekend out of the sheer goodness of my heart and inherent, perpetual guilt, I had agreed that Mr. Niceguy, the 7 year old and 4 year old would accompany my parents to a post-church Easter dinner.  While I wasn’t thoroughly excited to attend this dinner, I’m glad I did for what I observed would have provided much fodder for a Wes Anderson movie (think The Royal Tannenbaums or The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)…

As we took our seats, I thanked the heavens that I’d had the wherewithal to bring along gaming devices for the boys for like most large-scale dinner events, we were in it for the long haul.  At every place setting there was one ruby coloured egg to be used for the “Easter egg wars” (he or she who has the last remaining, uncracked egg, wins!) and a cookie in the shape of the cross.  While the priest announced that we were not to touch the eggs, the cross appeared to be fair game and while I was busying myself with my own diversions, before I knew it those crosses were being held by guns by the 4 year old (!!!) and while he virtually stood on his chair yelling, “Pow!  Pow!  Pow!” I had to fight my every instinct to crawl under the table or smack that cookie out of his hands and politely asked him to please refrain from such boorish behaviour and to recall that God was watching him from above and so every single Octonaut toy would be confiscated by Him, never to be returned again.

Seemingly, everything was now in the “all clear” and I could return to the task at hand:  research for one of my volunteering commitments.  When all of a sudden, I heard a light rustling…and a little bit of a ‘crack-crack’.  Then that sweet, sulphuric, signature smell that can only mean one thing…an egg that would never make it to the egg wars.  Staring down both of my children, asking them to reveal to me who had broken the egg, they looked at me with those cherubic eyes and swore it wasn’t them.  So I turned, and right next to me was a bag, which formerly housed the cross cookie (now gone), filled with none other than ruby coloured eggshells, used tissues, and all sorts of other garbage…there on MY bread plate left by a neighbouring dinner companion!  This person had also hijacked my fork and was ever-so-slightly inching her seat over so that my claustrophobia started to kick in!

I felt grossly violated – at least my personal space did.  In an effort to avoid an absolute meltdown, I buried myself in my phone – from Instagram and Facebook to the new Realtor App (always getting ideas…) and Houzz – and neglected much of what was going on around me.

I began to block things out and in turn, found solace.  So what if I couldn’t be enjoying the sun, watching the world go by at a café with a latte in hand, so what if I was on automatic pilot and had responded to the dozen or so questions from my children about when the dinner would finally be served or for that matter, what we would be having for dinner, and so what if I was blatantly bribing them to stay put, stop using the cross cookies as guns and stop asking about the egg fights that they could stay up later and watch the shows they’d missed since they had to be at this event.  I was trying to survive.  Until…

Lo and behold, all of a sudden, I came face-to-face with the priest – and unfortunately I was the one uncensored.  My face was frozen in a weird sort of scowl slash look of disgust as I thought long and hard about the contents of that bag now on my bread plate, the lady at the next table making strange pucker faces at a baby who probably couldn’t see farther than its own hand and didn’t have the neck muscles to turn away, and the smell of cigarettes that somehow kept wafting over thanks to a group of “young adults” that kept ducking outside for a quick smoke making my throat constrict and my eyes water.  Had he been alerted by the “higher-ups” of my uncharitable thoughts?  Had God himself sent him over to remind me that there are more important things than my sense of space or my laundry list of things to do?  Either way, there he was, right in front of me.

I don’t consider myself a religious person.  But I do believe that there is something greater than us all.  Connecting us all.  And the thought that there is someone that watches over me and keeps me from, well, I’ll just call them life’s great burdens, is comforting.

96 hours after listing all of my “grand plans” I have accomplished nearly nothing…but I did watch the 7 year old make it as a finalist in the egg wars and the 4 year old try and skip stones at the beach afterwards while Mr. Niceguy and I took stock of our present.  I think I’ll hang out here, in procrastination station just a little while longer…although wait, what’s for dinner?!

sign from heaven

(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

Frenemies…a necessary evil?

I’m feeling a little vulnerable…coping with the dreaded Identity Crisis is hard…much harder than I actually thought.  Once again, after years and years (and years) at the same job doing the same thing and referring to myself in the same way, I am now charting my own course.  And while I figure out exactly what that is and where I will go, I feel discombobulated, disadvantaged and confused.  [As an aside, I take full responsibility for part of the “discombobulation” which stems from my particular A-D-D-like nature:  I have so many ideas, see so many possibilities, and have so many desires that it’s hard to pick just one!  While some may call this a lack of focus, I say…well, that’s probably quite true!]

I know in my heart of hearts that the decision I have made is the right one (not just for me but for my family), although it seems that today and at this moment my “self-sabotaging” nature has got the better of me.  For example, while I had hoped for a very smooth transition into my woman of the world or female conqueror being…instead, I feel more like that circa 1952, Betty Crocker baking, bon bon eating, woman of the house…and I put myself here!  Truth is, I know that’s not who I am – nor is it someone I could pretend to be – but the reality is that I went from one uphill battle to another…from working in a very male dominated industry with extreme expectations to altering the perception that just because I’m on my own and I’m at home doesn’t mean I’m now a “Lady of Leisure”!  (Not that it would be a bad thing…?)

I keep wondering…am I letting down the Lean-In generation?

With International Women’s Day coming up on March 8thhave I let down the entire female species? 

Here, in my new office (the local Starbucks), I am left with the thought that these sentiments are akin to the whole frenemy conundrum – yesterday I caught up on the latest Glee episode which centred around frenemies and complicated relationships. Frenemies…we can all point to one or two in our circles…and just in case, here’s a definition from Wikipedia (which I think is très apropos!)

“Frenemy” is a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy” that can refer to either an enemy pretending to be a friend or someone who really is a friend but is also a rival.

For me, my frenemies have almost always fallen into the latter category.  I have been fortunate to have some of the most solid bunch of friends:  from my near and dears who challenge me and support me through life’s ups and downs, to my mom friends who have helped me tap into my inner nurturer and saved me from an unbreakable cycle of diapers and drama, to my work friends who are always up for a bitch session and a beer…like I said, I have been lucky.  But I’ve also been lucky – really lucky – to have had frenemies.

Frenemies can really make you feel small, unsure of yourself, and down.  Like try spending hours upon hours getting deflated balloonready (ok, maybe just minutes upon minutes as who am I kidding?  I can’t remember the last time I actually had hours to primp), picking that perfect outfit to go along with those brand new shoes which you know are KILLER statement pieces and will make any girl swoon and you show up and POOF.  You’ve been trumped.  Her shoes are more killer.  Her outfit, to die for.  Not a hair out of place, not a single nail chipped, not an unconfident bone in her body.  What’s worse – she’s totally oblivious to all of your effort at taking centre stage.  Fssssssss….like a deflating balloon whose fate is sealed, you try and endure.

But, frenemies have had their place in my life – and they certainly continue to.  They have fed my competitive nature, my need for rivalry, and my love of the game; they drive me to find that 10-letter word complete with a Q, X or Z with a triple word score, or fight tooth and nail to find a way to build hotels across Park Place and Boardwalk.

Without frenemies I perhaps wouldn’t have strived more, tried more, dared more and risked more.  Perhaps not right at those moments where I’d been defeated (while I was slinking in some corner wishing I could blend in with the drywall)…but definitely later.  They fed my dreams and desires and just when I had been ready to take myself out of the competition, they put me right back in.

I’ve often thought:  just stop competing.  Stop worrying and getting anxious about what you don’t have and focus on what you do.  Be present.  Be now.  Perhaps that works for some Zooey Deschanel-looking hipsters who are laid back and free spirited – but that’s not me.

With International Women’s Day right around the corner, I hope you will forgive this following imposition.  Let us women, all of us, agree to accept each other for who we are and the parts that we play.  There’s always so much to learn from everything…and every-ONE around you.

Besides, if I have frenemies, then I must be one too….onward and upwardTRUMP!  

onward and upward

Coming out of the dark…

‘Coming out of the dark’ was the title I gave the first chapter of a book I started to write nearly 8 or 9 years ago…I only got about half a page down when I abandoned the idea.  Perhaps it’s in the cards for me still…

There are (many) days when I wake up and think to myself, how am I going to get everything done?  I have a list that’s at least as long as my driveway (the longest in the City of Toronto – just saying, not actually…or perhaps?) and I’m just not sure where – or how – to begin.  This is a conundrum.  For example, writing this very entry is on that driveway-long-list, and I haven’t even really decided what I will write about.

Should it be about the fact that I’m sitting at my desk for the fifth-to-last time?  And that the lights in my office keep flickering on and off like torture – I’m sure to get a headache from all the flickering which really won’t be fair as the Bachelor is on tonight and I swear I’m going to lose it if he says, just one more time, to a blubbering girl with his Spanish accent, “Look at me.  Pliss.  Look at me.  Me.  Yes.  Look.  I no wanna see you cry.  That hurt me.  Pliss.  Don cry.”  The headache will just make me want to whip off my slipper and toss it at the TV screen…the TV screen that is, in just a few days, going to be my lifeline to civilization.

clare-the-bachelor-crying-juan-pablo

Come to think of it, tossing that slipper won’t be so bad considering that every time I wear those slippers, I get little electrical shocks when I open a drawer/hug my 3 year old/reach out for a napkin you name it!  I mean, last night I spent a good 10 minutes that I don’t have Googling, “What to do when there’s too much static electricity in the house” and “How to train yourself to become immune to static electricity” and finally “Harnessing the power of static electricity.”  After all, on any given day there is an energy crisis and quite frankly, since we’ve looked into alternative sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, why not static electricity?

If an entire monster town can be powered by a child’s screams or laughter, then why not think about static electricity?

Incidentally, I did read about an attempt to charge a cellphone with static electricity…

Ridiculous.  About as ridiculous as this flickering light…which has now stopped flickering.  And so I’m sitting in the dark, in my inner office with a view of three walls and a hallway…who actually thought that this kind of muted taupe-grey and faux wood would actually promote productivity?  I am at least fortunate enough to have a mildly interesting print hanging on the wall of the ocean…at least I’ve always thought it was an ocean…or is it a lake?  Perhaps it’s just a puddle…I don’t know.  But now that I look at it, all it is, is a series of more shades of taupe and grey.  Hummpphh.

I wonder if it’s grey outside…perhaps a quick glance out the window…right…just another wall.  No matter, what I do know, is that it’s cold.  Cold and windy.  On a more positive note, over lunch I thought it would be a good idea to shop for a bathing suit cover-all…I’m really willing the warm weather to return…HAAAAAAAAAPSHOOOOOOOOO!!!!  What was that?  HAAAAAAPSHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!  Oh no!  A sneeze!  Two!  I knew it!  This morning on the subway a young buck-wishes-himself-next-titan-of-industry (aka a man who fancies himself a highly important corporate person) was sucking on a cough lozenge and I must have caught this cold from him!  He kept breathing on me and I could smell his cough lozenge and it drove me crazy the way he kept rolling that huge lozenge in his mouth for EIGHT subway stops such that I could hear it clicking and clanking against his teeth – I wanted to shrink and just disappear – oh my skin is crawling just thinking about it…

WHY IS THE LIGHT STILL OFF????  DID MY GLOBAL PROFESSIONAL SERVICE FIRM FORGET TO PAY THE BILL????  Sheesh.  Must be because I resigned…YES!  I resigned.  About a month ago (I was nice and sweet and gave a month’s notice in order to transition properly and because, well, it seemed like the thing to do given I’ve been here for over a decade.)  But seriously…would I really be singled out like that?  And the thing is…it’s not like I’m just sitting here writing this entry.  No.  I’ve had some very important work to do all morning – and it’s all happened in the dark.  Ironic.  I have to smile.  I’ve often wondered if a lot of the time while doing my job here I was “in the dark” – be it the dark side or really “in the dark” and not realizing that there was so much more out there for someone like me…

Weird…the light just went on.  Like a light bulb in my brain.  And oddly enough, I’ve just tackled one more thing off my list…actually two (hint: this article and my little announcement). Time for something more.

Promise to provide a more “Spincycle-ish” entry next week…but then, this qualifies…doesn’t it?  Promises, promises…

In the dark

Marriage. That blessed arrangement…that dream within a dream…

One of my favourite aunties, though I can just barely call her that as she’s really so much more, recently sent me an article published in the New York times (perhaps Spincycle Diaries will one day grace its high brow pages…) about marriage.  Fitting, really, given the time of year what with Valentine’s Day, Family Day and spring being in the air…

???????????????????????????Marriage, as an institution, was not one that I entered in too lightly…though perhaps, I didn’t think too deeply about it either.  I mean, as soon as I’d laid eyes on Mr. Niceguy for the eighth or ninth time, I knew I wanted him to ask me.  Let’s digress for a moment…with Mr. Niceguy it was not love at first sight – no lightning or thunderbolt city (I borrow that statement from Tom, a favourite character in the movie, Four Weddings and a Funeral).  But apparently, for Mr. Niceguy, the moment he saw me, it was thunderbolt city for him (yay!)  He knew he would marry me…and so he very cunningly began his campaign to do just that.  So when he finally did get me to notice him, notice him I did.  And I knew that I was so intrigued and beguiled that I had to have him ask me to marry him.

But having a boyfriend, getting engaged and then even planning a wedding – these are not the real precursors to a happy marriage.  In fact, they are not at all related…though choice, now that certainly goes a long way.  I think of the wedding scene in Princess Bride.  Had the wedding to Prince Humperdink actually occurred, I think Princess Buttercup surely would have committed suicide eventually.

With nearly half of all marriages ending up in divorce, is marriage an institution that we should aspire to be in?

The only way I can think of to answer this question is as follows: it depends.  While marriage is not for everyone, for those who feel they have found the right person, it may very well be.  According to the New York Times article, The All-or-Nothing Marriage by Eli J. Finkel, marriages in general have become less satisfying…because of an “all or nothing” proposition.  In that, our expectations are just too high and so the institution of marriage is at a disadvantage when it comes to meeting our “needs.”  Cited as perhaps one of the bigger reasons for the decline in marital satisfaction is the lack of time spouses spend with one another; spouses, who spend time alone with each other, talking or sharing an activity, are likely to be happier.  While the institution of marriage may have initially served a basic need (protection, security, maintaining title, and accumulation of wealth) Finkel states that since around 1965, the self-expressive marriage emerged:  marriage as a means of self-discovery, self-esteem and personal growth.

So in keeping the “Self-Expressive Marriage” in mind…here’s what happened a few days ago…

Me:  So…ummm….it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow.  Uh…well, where are you taking me for dinner?

Mr. Niceguy:  *shrug* Huh?  What?  I didn’t make any plans.

Me:  *incensed* What?  Why?  Don’t you know me?  I love surprises and a chance to partake in such an important, albeit manufactured, holiday…why, how else will you express how much I mean to you?  (Self-discovery)

Mr. Niceguy:  *annoyed* Are you serious?  Do you really think that?  The kids have Kung Fu…

Me:  SCREW KUNG FU!!  I’m not showing up to Kung Fu with you – like ‘oh look at us, we didn’t even bother to make plans for Valentine’s Day’ oh no!  I DESERVE one day a year.  In fact, I get TWO days:  Valentine’s and my birthday.**  That’s just two out of 365 days – just 0.5% of the year – even less in a leap year.  You know I love it when you make plans to show me that you love me and you do things for me all the time, but this is a special day and, well, I want it.  Please?  (Self-esteem)

Mr. Niceguy:  Okay, okay.  I’ll see what I can do… (personal growth)

WesleyandButtercupThere you have it.  I couldn’t agree more with Finkel.  Such insight.  But I will add the following: overcoming adversity – kind of like the adversity overcome by Wesley and Buttercup (or like another fun favourite, like Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock’s characters in the movie, The Proposal).  Perhaps that’s a part of personal growth…but I think it should be a category of its own.  This may be a little mushy…so I’m warning you readers.

When I did enter the institution of marriage, it was on the heels of one of the biggest parties I’d ever attended, much less thrown.  But all of that pomp and circumstance, the sheer joy and bliss, would give way quickly as there was a lot going on for both of our families and for each of us – which I won’t get into here – but things that really tested our bond and our commitment to one another.  Many times I found myself thinking, can I do this?  And over the years, our bond has been challenged, time and again, for many reasons notwithstanding professional baggage or the trials and tribulations that come with having children.  In fact all of the kinds of things that cause one to “grow up”…

Yet…it is this adversity that has brought us closer together…me and my Mr. Niceguy.  While I wish we didn’t have to go through some of them, I am grateful that we’ve navigated through together.  This marriage thing is definitely for me.  Happy Valentine’s Day…

**Note…subsequent to the writing of this entry, we discovered that there are, in fact, THREE days a year that I get – the third being the wedding anniversary I share with Mr. Niceguy.  *GUSH*

the_proposal19

Field trip through the ages…

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying the 7 year old’s class on a school field trip to the new Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto as a parent volunteer.  I was responsible for my son and two other boys from his class – together, Les Trois Mousquetaires, and with Athos, Porthos and Aramis to my d’Artagnan, we set off on our adventure:  all for one, and one for all!  The shenanigans these muskateers pulled were absolute classic from insisting that they knew more than the guides, to suggesting the existence of extinct mega-sharks (megaladon shark – more deadly than the T-Rex!) in the tanks to passersby – but these were no match to their absolute glee, exhilaration and delight over their adventure.  This got me thinking…

During my elementary school years, I remember looking forward to field trips with such excitement that I would lose sleep at night or continuously ask my parents “how much longer ‘til I go?” and prepare, redo and refine lists of things to bring, what to wear and weigh decisions about who to sit next to or pair up with.  Ahhh…the field trip.  So many wonderful things would happen on the field trip…

sea cucumberIn the early years, it was all about getting out of the routine of being in a classroom and – for the über nerd in me – the opportunity to learn by doing instead of by reading.  Growing up in Saudi Arabia had its advantages and I will never forget the one field trip that our school was able to organize (at the time, field trips were generally tricky for expats in Saudi for a number of reasons).  Aside from extracurricular activities at school that consisted of ballet, computers (which in the early 80s were a real treat) and survival swimming (I would swear that I could hold my breath for a full two minutes underwater and tread water for over 15 minutes fully clothed, shoes and all) this field trip supplemented my regular classroom learning and shaped me in a very profound way.  I was taken to the Red Sea where I was able to swim with many exotic species and was even given a sea cucumber to hold which in its frightened state, defecated on my hand.  True story.  And despite that one event, it was on that field trip that a love of adventure (and the sea) really took hold.

Years later in high school, field trips provided the opportunity to find the courage to sit next to the boy I had a crush on and was otherwise too shy to approach.  Somehow field trips broke barriers and allowed for the transcending between classes – and by that I don’t mean grades or levels.  There were the mean girls, the jocks, the nerds, the Italians, the preps, the headbangers, and so on and so forth.  I fell into none of these categories as my three very close friends and I were drifters and spoke to people in all groups regardless of boundaries – though that didn’t mean we belonged.  Again, I attributed this to my sense of adventure – never wanting to set roots or belong to any one group or place, instead experiencing as much as possible.

One particular field trip to watch a production of Shakespeare’s MacBeth led me to an on-again-off-again boyfriend and a relationship that would last throughout most of high school; a relationship that may never have been possible otherwise.  He ran with a pack that socialized only with a certain group, but it was on field trip day that I got noticed, as barriers came down and I was viewed through more objective lenses.

Years later, it would be the corporate retreat or holiday party that replaced the school field trip.  Call it what you will:  teambuilding, leadership training, soft skill building workshops, blah-blah-blah training.  The reality is that these corporate retreats are just adult field trips – nothing more than boondoggles and opportunities for hookups and scandal!  Though I never partook in the hookup and scandal part (for most of my corporate life I have been spoken for and have had enough wherewithal to not jeopardize things with my Mr. Niceguy), I certainly was not above the gossip, rumour or conjecture and it was amazing to see how a change from the routine, once again, would result in many a lapse in judgement, atypical behavior and regret.  And the holiday parties or socials were no different – just a retreat packed into a few hours rather than a few days.

My tendencies again, ingrained, once more would reveal themselves:  adventurous and fun loving and perhaps a little naïve.  I’ve written in the past about being emboldened by one such work party and ordering round after round of Kamikaze shots for “all my friends at the bar”, while standing next to the company president.  Though perhaps I haven’t written about my tendency to also have a couple of drinks, jump up on a bar (or any elevation really) and shake my groove thang!  Once again, I blame it on the field trip.  Regardless of my day-to-day self, field trips have a way of bringing out one’s hidden side…

So today, it was nice to see the beginnings of the “field trip persona” for my Trois Mousquataires…especially evident when Athos, or was it Porthos, or perhaps Aramis exclaimed, “this is the best day of my life so far.”  As a sort of d’Artagnan, or student to the ways of these 7 year olds, they reminded me of the simplicity of life and the ability to find pure joy in the everyday which triggered so many memories, flooding my brain.

It is a rare privilege to get a glimpse of people experiencing moments that will shape them forever – whether they’re moments of real learning, of overcoming, or even of regret.  In my case, I wonder…perhaps when these three musketeers are older, they will recall this field trip – with that same twinkle in their eyes – as the start of something…

Until the next field trip!!

three muskateers