SCATTERBRAIN…if only for just one day…

I’m going to take a moment and date myself.  In 1989, Vachon (manufacturer of the pastry called “Flaky”) ran a commercial about a woman – a very scattered woman – that annoyed me to no end.  In those early teenage years I used to wonder how someone could be so scattered, so bewildered, and yes, flaky?  And now, in an ironic twist of fate, I AM HER!

There are days when it’s a wonder that I’ve managed to actually put myself together, get the kids to school with packed lunches and homework completed, and then myself to work.  How does one do it?  Autopilot mostly.  But this particular morning, my autopilot had a massive glitch and here’s what happened instead:

  • I forgot that I changed the station on my circa 1990’s alarm clock from the news to music in an effort to make my “reveille” much more civilized but though my intentions were good, all that resulted was that my dreams were set to great background ambience – in other words, I got up more than half an hour later than usual.
  • The 3 year old (almost 4) woke up with an extremely runny nose and I spent about 10 minutes trying to fish out…well, he calls them “burgers”…
  • The 7 year old remembered that he forgot to remind me YESTERDAY that Mondays are library days and since we’ve already lost one book, I thought it might be wise to spend a few seconds looking for the latest one borrowed before I end up funding an entirely new collection of books at the school library.  Only, it never actually takes a few seconds…AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!
  • Just when I thought I was finally ready to leave, a quick final glance in the mirror and I found more greys in an already, severely damaged section of my head thanks to the trials and tribulations of PREGNANCY from which, after four years, my hair is STILL recovering (on most days, side parts are sadly, a thing of the past).
  • My skirt hem came undone, the plastic thingy at the bottom of my car door is on the verge of falling off, my so-called winter boots which do nothing to keep out the cold also proved that they are useless in keeping out the snow and my poor toes have transformed into pale, blue nubs at the end of my feet, and after taking three times longer than usual to drop off the kids at school, I realized I had left my laptop at home and would be adding another hour and a half to my morning commute.

These occurrences must be a sign of my frozen brain – the electrons are just not firing.  So quick, FIND WHITE, STARK, PADDED CELL.  Failing that, stay at home; only then can one be sure to avoid more mishap.  Besides, change of routine can be good, so today is work from home day.  I can be much, much more productive – no disruptions, no social coffee runs, no discussions of how the weekend was (which in my case was a bit of a bust so fortunately, no need to rehash) and no temptations for a heavy, calorie laden lunch (poutine, pasta, chicken pot-pie…it’s that kind of a day…)  No, I will stay at home, get all of my work done tout-suite, and have a very healthy lunch which will surely fuel my brain to produce some of the best work ever seen!

Right.  Laptop fired up.  Logged onto work network.  Ready to go.  But wait…it feels a little cool.  I’ll just go and put on a sweater.  Yay, love working from home.  No high heels, or suit jackets required.  Wow, it’s still really cold and the house temperature appears to be normal…oh no, am I going though perimenopause?  (I have an irrational fear of menopause and everything related to it – seriously, just the mere mention of it sends me straight to anxiety-ville) But wait, that’s hot flashes, not chills, that must mean…oh no, am I getting the 3 year old’s cold??  Ukh…

I can’t concentrate.  Maybe I just need to tidy up – clear work environment equals clear mind.  Done.  Now what?  Write report or do research?    Speaking of research…I still need to book that hotel in Whistler and check out a good Prosecco for a very dear friend…  No!  Must do work.  Must be productive.  A quick glance at the bottom right of the screen and I’m saved.  No wonder I can’t think…it’s almost lunchtime.  Yes, surely I’ll be more productive after some nourishment.

Oh.  My.  God.  I am full.  I think I just need a nice, warm cup of coffee to help me digest…

The distractions are everywhere…the excuses, limitless.  But I finally hankered down, got some work done, recommended a Prosecco or two and even checked out some hotel options, and the truth of the matter is that it did take a lot less time to get stuff done here, than it would have at the office.  So now, I’m going to take my annoying, flaky self, and do something I never have a chance to do on a regular work day…PLAY.  The sun has peaked out from behind the clouds, the snow looks soooo inviting and despite my soggy boots, I’ve just gotta get out there because before I know it, I’m going to have to leave my little padded cell and re-enter the real world.

Snow day

Short…but oh, so sweet!

7 year old:  Mummy why is the sky blue?

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

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

bluesky.en

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

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

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

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

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

Red_Giant_Earth_warm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Niceguy:  Uhh…I don’t think so…

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

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

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

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

I told you so

What to expect when you’re expecting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:  Mom, it’s still NOVEMBER!!! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you the very best in 2014!

mother-and-daughter-holiday

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

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

me and zoom

The art of thinking…on one’s feet!

I’m often surprised at the vastness of human interaction:  in other words, it’s amazing what boundaries people will cross when relating with one another.  Specifically, my boundaries, which some may say are a little more narrow than others.  And in the face of having my boundaries crossed, what’s even more surprising is how often I find myself completely stunned, immobile and utterly incapable of thinking on my feet…

I remember when I’d go clubbing with my girlfriends in my late teens.  Back then it was pretty easy to get your hands on a fake ID…in fact, with a little creativity one could easily create their own.  In any case, there were three of us and we were inseparable.  All week long we would talk about which clubs we’d go to and with whom, plan outfits and so on and so forth.  We were a lot more daring then…  And while the first was the pretty one and the second was the sweetheart, I always liked playing the part of, for lack of a better term, smart ass.

Random beefcake:  “Hey.  Howzit goin’?  Can I get you a drink?”

Me:  “No thanks.”  Ugh.  I’m onto this guy…he’s just after one thing!

Random beefcake:  Puffing chest like a peacock.  “So, uh, you and your friends come here often?”

Me:  “Ya.”  Lame.  Please go away.

Random beefcake:  “You know honey, we didn’t wait in line.  I know some guys.”  Getting very full of himself.  “I could get you in whenever you like.”

Me:  “Hmmm…thanks.  That’s ok.”  Oh. My. God.  Gross.  Feeling like I’ve been drenched in slime.  Turning to leave…

Random beefcake:  Crosses boundary!  Grabs my arm and getting a little feisty.  “So it looks like my friends are hooking up with your friends so how about…”

Me:   Looks that would shoot daggers and kill in an instant.  Grab beefcake’s hand, remove from my person.  “How about what?  Look, I’m sure you’re a really nice guy.  But here’s the thing.  I’m studying international relations and politics.  I’m planning on being a diplomat or a lawyer, ok?  I don’t think there’s a match here.  So how about you just move on?”  Oooooh…harsh…walk away.

Now that’s thinking on your feet.  But somewhere along the way, that very self-assured girl took a bit of a back seat.  Call it having babies, call it changed priorities, call it growing up and being immersed in environments where the rules perhaps aren’t as clear…

In my thirty-X years, situations seem more complicated, the stakes are higher and thinking on your feet means keeping your head in the game… a game that knows no boundaries…

Like that certain person (we all know one) who, no matter what, will point out just how tired I look every single time I see them.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  Monday morning?  Tired.  Friday afternoon?  Tired.  Dressed to kill?  Tired.  Always tired, tired, TIRED!  Appalling.  And though this is a regular occurrence, it’s still surprising.

Is there no nicer way to greet someone?  Now, I’m not saying that one shouldn’t show care or empathy, or even concern at my once-in-a-while or more-times-than-usual haggard state.  But since when did that kind of small talk replace the inconsequential talk about the weather?!  I wish I could just reply, “Ya, what of it?!  I have this chronic condition, perhaps you’ve heard of it, it’s called: LACK OF WORK LIFE BALANCE-ITIS.  You know, like PULLED IN A MILLION DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS-EMIA…”  But relationships in your thirty-X years are complicated…  So instead, I do what I always do – I half whimper and smile.

Why be surprised?  Why assume that everyone respects boundaries?  Sadly, I’m often most caught off guard when I’m at work.  And I think this has more to do with the fact that thinking fast and being on my toes just doesn’t seem akin to looking at financial models and writing presentations or reports…not terribly life or death situations, right?  Wrong.

For example, the other day I was told by someone that if I made a mistake, just one mistake, at something that I was responsible for, that they would “kill” someone… nay (and here it comes) – with slit eyes, dark face and bony finger pointing towards me – that they would “kill” me!

Nuclear-Explosion-001Now THAT’S harsh.  Despite the (hopefully probable) fact that it was an obvious turn of phrase and common colloquialism, my boundaries had not only been crossed, but pulverized, like after a nuclear attack.  The situation was also just a little bit ridiculous.  As soon as the words were out, I think I just stood there, mouth agape, and the only thing that I did or said again (DAMMIT!!) was half whimper and smile.  Seriously.  Like why couldn’t I have responded with any of the following:

    1. Wow, that seems kind of violent.
    2. Whoah.  You know that’s against the law, right?
    3. I think the last time I threatened to kill someone (obviously as a turn of phrase) I was highly hormonal, 16 and in high school.
    4. Now that’s not being much of a team player.  Hey man, if I go down…you go down.
    5. Aha.  I get that you would like for me to be like a robot or some kind of droid that is incapable of human error.  I shall endeavor to rise to this impossible challenge.
    6. @#$% YOU.

Is it that I need more of a backbone?  Is it that I just shouldn’t care?  Or is it the fact that perhaps I need to remember that boundaries, for some, are meant for crossing.  So what if I just crossed my own first?   What if, I put aside sweetness, politesse, empathy and consideration?  Sounds like too big of a price to pay for not being me.  Though I am all for some witty repartee…time to get back in the game and master the art of thinking on one’s feet!

Chess piece

Lessons from a fish…seriously.

Every now and then we step out of ourselves and take on an alternate persona.  For me, this is akin to the person I become after a scotch on the rocks…or two…okay three!  And yes, I did say scotch; though I can be a pink, frilly cocktail kinda girl too – hand me a Prosecco with berries any day –I’m a closet scotchaholic!

That aside, after a couple down the hatch, I transform – it’s a chemical thing!  Now I’m not saying I’m one of those loud, obnoxious and mean drunks – ok, loud and obnoxious, never mean though!  But somehow, after a few drinks I’m brassier and ever so entertaining – at least by my own interpretation.  And I spend a great deal of my time trying to convince all those around that I am actually lucid; that my slurred speech and general incoherence should be no indication of my well-being.

Why fake through the situation?  Why not admit that yes, I have succumbed?  What am I so scared to admit?

Most of the time, I’m a pretty lighthearted, easy going (albeit somewhat complicated) extrovert.  But every now and then my extroversion gives way to a very introspective, insular side of me.  Call it a funk, call it the blues, call it taking stock, call it what you will…but it’s during these times when I wonder if I’m where I should be and doing what I want to do, or whether I’m just trying to keep afloat.  Isn’t it better to just be grateful for the stability I already have – whether it’s the roof over my head, a steady job and income, good friends and family?  True, these are all good.  But I want more.

And this time, the realization came from none other than Zoom, our family’s pet betta fish.  Every now and then, when it’s my turn to feed Zoom during all the chaos that ensues around me (usually at bedtime when arms and legs are flailing to get into the right arm and leg holes of pajamas, teeth are supposedly being brushed, and prayers are being said) Zoom comes to the top of his tank and waits.  And I swear, he’s looking at me…trying to say something…me and zoom

Perhaps it is strange to write about this fish.  Perhaps I should go back and talk about the three scotch I downed this past weekend, or something more comedic like the seven year old or the three year old’s latest antics, but I swear, this fish and I are kindred spirits and here’s how I know.

Zoom came to us by way of a birthday party favour.  I remember it well – it was the year all the children in my 7 year old’s class were turning five.  As we were set to leave, the child’s mother handed us a plastic bag with a fish and a small baggy with food.  While some would baulk at the idea and think, “Oh no!  Another responsibility!!”  I was delighted (perhaps even more delighted than my son!)   Then, about 6 months ago, Zoom started to display some very strange behavior.  He would ignore me.  He would hide in his fake plant all day, or play dead with his head down and his tail suspended above him.  I freaked out.  And I did what any one in my situation would do:  GOOGLED!  I refused to be responsible for fish depression or worse yet, “fishicide.”

After ruling out fish swim bladder disorder or some other fish ailment, I did what I do best:  I went shopping…to the pet store.  Close to thirty design decisions later (round tank or rectangular, coloured or natural gravel, toys or plants, etc.) we moved Zoom into a larger, more professional tank, in a much busier area of the house and the result?  A much happier, active and thriving betta!

Although not in words, Zoom had communicated that he was no longer happy in his original fish bowl – he’d outgrown it.  And this has served as a little reminder that perhaps I too need to be honest.  I too need to be courageous and face the music:  Have I outgrown my fishbowl?  Will I be happier in another?  How will that happen?  Who will move ME into a better tank?

Probably the most frustrating thing for someone as loquacious as me and with very large, grandiose (and perhaps somewhat unrealistic) dreams, is feeling invisible and not being heard.  It feels unjust.  Recognizing that I don’t have a plant to stick my head in and that perhaps diplomacy, humour and wit (not to mention charm and a killer smile) won’t always save one from circumstance – as I have repeatedly experienced while trying to weasel out of parking tickets, or getting out of sticky situations though it could be that perhaps I’m not as charming as I think or my smile isn’t so, well, killer – what does?  What does one do when utterly frustrated, overwhelmed and fighting every instinct to bang one’s fists, throw something and just run away?  And, quite frankly, how do you run away when you’re trapped in a fishbowl?

I think of my kindred spirit, Zoom.  I think of how clever this little fish was in communicating his needs and, well, I’m clever too.  Starting tomorrow, I’m breaking out of my fishbowl.  Charm, killer smile, diplomacy and brains…I’ve got all of these in my arsenal.  And who knows, perhaps I’ll lapse into a persona of courage, and before I know it, I’ll be celebrating in a dapper way with a Prosecco in one hand, and a scotch in the other.  The countdown is on…this year is going to be great!

scotch

‘D’ is for Double-standard…

Earlier this evening, Mr. Niceguy was preparing dinner – once again relieving me.  And I think mostly because I’ve been subjecting the family to fat free, low cal, protein and veggie rich fare which totally goes against his constitution.  That, and I’m officially off pasta (at least, most of the time…ok, as best as I can…all right I limit it to no more than two intakes a week unless there’s leftovers and well, then, it’s just wasteful if you don’t finish things off).  And Mr. Niceguy, like most guys I know, LOVES a meaty, hearty, saucy pasta.

We decided that two dinners would be better as I had indulged a little during the afternoon siesta with some salt and vinegar flavoured ‘chackers’ (part chip, part cracker?) so while he prepared his hearty pasta for himself and the boys, I prepared a nearly fat free  egg white and veggie omelet in my new, white ceramic non-stick pan.  And while dicing the veggies I blurted, “Oh wow.  Tomorrow’s this guy’s birthday that I used to have a massive crush on when I was 17!  I wonder what he’s up to…”

And I thought to myself – if similar words had come out of Mr. Niceguy’s mouth things would’ve gotten pretty ugly tout suite…and therein lies the inherent double standard.

I find men and women to be very different on this point.  And before I offend my kind, I’m just putting it out there as it is…for me…and if many a woman’s willing to admit it….probably for you too.   As a woman, there is nothing more off-putting to me than the walk down memory lane about the relationship that never was with the girl that was just too cool or just a snick out of reach.  That perfect girl next door, or perhaps that exotic exchange student.  The girl who was just so laid back and effortless.

On average, it takes me at least 20 minutes just to get going in the morning.  Up, a quick surf on the iPad (I have an addiction which may be the subject of another entry someday), run through outfits in my mind (black top, short skirt?  Too tarty for work…grey pants and white shirt?  Too dull.  Sweater dress with stilettos?  Hmmm….just the right blend of daring and demure).   Then comes the debate about washing or not washing my hair, full make up or natural look (both take the same amount of time…don’t kid yourselves and when you get to my age…there’s no such thing as truly au naturel), and then on to the jewelry…

I guess what I’m saying here is that I’m totally high maintenance and as laid back as I may seem about certain things – like I’m a hamburger and French fries kinda gal over a fancy four-course meal – there’s no way I would ever consider myself “easy-going.”

At best, I’m diplomatic with a dash of crazy.

So when conversations about the past come up, I have a very predictable response:  at first, I’m easy going, effortless and laid back.  But it doesn’t take long for the crazy to come out…

Me:  “So, umm….tell me about your university days…how many serious girlfriends did you have?”

Mr. Niceguy:  “Uh…I dunno.  I can’t really remember.”

Me:  Getting slightly hot under the collar.  “What do you mean you can’t remember?  Think…first year?  Anyone caught your eye?  Or when you were graduating?  Anyone you thought you’d take the plunge with?”

Mr. Niceguy:  “Why?  I mean, who cares?”

Me:  “Well, I’m just trying to get to know you better.”  Feeble.  Totally weak.  “Seriously?  You can’t remember?”

Mr. Niceguy:  “Well, there was that girl in high school that I also dated while I was in first year.  I think she became a doctor.”

Me:  Interrupting – “Really?  Who?  That girl with the dark hair?  A doctor?  Was she even good looking?  Did your parents meet her?  Did they like her?  What did your friends think?  Did you think you were going to marry her?  What was so great about her?  Did she hang out in your dorm room?”

Mr. Niceguy:  “Well, we didn’t last.  And after her…well, I can’t really recall.  There were some girls…but not any really serious girlfriends.”

Me:  Internally screaming, WHA???!!!!!!!  “Oh, that’s nice.  Ya…who would want to get serious during university?  I mean, sheesh, I would tell our boys not to get too serious too…”

Mr. Niceguy:  “Well, there was that one girl.  The ballet dancer.  I met her during a school trip.  I always wondered about her afterwards…”

Me:  HMMMPPPFFF.  Why did I start this conversation??  A ballet dancer no less…  “Well, if it means that much to you, you should just look her up and see what happened.”  Maybe she put on 60 pounds and drives a school bus!

So what happened right after I uttered those words while cooking side-by-side with Mr. Niceguy should come as absolutely no surprise:  nothing.  Silence.  And a smile while continuing our efforts to get dinner on the table.  Plus the realization, on my part, that perhaps next time I could extend the same kind of courtesy to Mr. Niceguy and not poke and prod him into revealing things that are perhaps better left unsaid…but then where’s the double-standard in that?

jealousy

Don’t panic! It’s just (Rough) Rider Nation!!

There are times when the duality of my life cannot be ignored and comes into stark relief:  on the one hand, I’m my own person, career woman, trying to achieve my own aspirations while on the other hand, full time mother and wife.  Isn’t it always present?  Yes.  But how about when you are given less than 24 hours that you will be spending the next 4 days in the Canadian Prairies?  Oh, and it’s going to be MINUS 27 degrees…WITHOUT the wind chill?!

Monday morning – up after hitting the snooze button at least 5 times (which by my alarm goes off every 8 minutes, so a 40 minute delayed start).  No one else is up because they wait for me…although had Mr. Niceguy been around, things would have been moving faster (most mornings he heads down the stairs and plants himself in his “command centre,” aka TV room, to catch all the pressing financial news from overseas that would impact his day).  But not today – Mr. Niceguy was away for the weekend and would not return until that night.

Jump out of bed, brush teeth, wash face, shout out to 7 year old and 3 year old to start getting dressed (doesn’t do much good but I’m hopeful they actually will be ready for a change!) hair isn’t sooo greasy so skip the wash, get dressed and down in 20 minutes flat.  Finish getting boys ready (see?) by throwing clothes on hoping arms and legs go in the right spots, grab packed lunches from the night before, brekkies in the car, and we’re off!

After dropping them off and then getting downtown and parking the car, I slow down and take a breath.  Latte in hand, I walked through the shopping concourse under my building, admiring the Christmas Décor and I thought to myself:  today is the day I slack.  Today is the day I walk around and take a little time for myself – I’ve had my little monsters to myself for FOUR DAYS and now it’s “ME-TIME”.  Perhaps I’ll do a little shopping over lunch…maybe get a mani/pedi, or get a head start on my Christmas shopping.

The lead-up to the holidays is my absolute favourite time of year:  people are generally nicer, everything smells of warm cookies and cinnamon, and the white backdrop to absolutely everything makes it all magic not to mention Christmas carols playing in all the shop stores…  And as for work, the thought that most of my assignments and responsibilities have been completed or at a slow point was very, very warming to me – like a hot cup of cocoa full of marshmallows and skads of whipped cream…yummmmmmm…..

Only that was not to be the case.  I got SOLD, so-to-speak, into a new assignment that would take me to the farthest , most desolate reaches of the land…Praire Country.  And the panic which gripped me was palpable – I could feel the cold, hard, long, bony, clawed fingers wrap themselves around me and pull me into the abyss that was work…

What would happen to my children?  When would I see Mr. Niceguy again?  Who would make dinner, fold laundry and band-aid boo-boo’s?  I think the 3 year old is coming down with a cold and the 7 year old is feeling neglected…who will be their mommy while I’m gone??!!

Well, 24 hours later, after the briefest of hand-offs to Mr. Niceguy, I was on a plane, prairie bound…

And despite the freezing cold, the people I met were wonderful – they warmed things up right away and even promised to get me a “watermelon helmet” (something Roughrider fans are known for)!  And it actually felt kind of nice to stop playing the duality game for a few days.  True, I was on the clock and spent virtually every waking moment working, but I could grab a coffee when I wanted, sleep uninterrupted, not attend the washroom unless it was for my own biological needs, no tantrums, no cooking, no cleaning…these were definitely some of the perks!

I thought being off the dual track was exactly what I wanted…and what I needed…until I made it to Regina, aka Rider Nation (for all those who don’t know – Regina was hosting the Grey Cup and the Saskatoon Roughriders faced off against the Hamilton Tiger Cats yesterday and as predicted, won).  Seeing all the families dressed in Roughrider Green all of a sudden opened the floodgates I had worked so hard to keep closed.  All of a sudden I couldn’t think of anything else other than getting home and wiping noses, answering to the hundreds of “Mommy” demands, and just be in the middle of my own little universe…my world…my family.

There are times when the struggle to preserve one’s identity becomes overwhelming – especially when one becomes a parent – and I find this to be true regardless of whether you are male or female.  I certainly found the transition to parenthood much more difficult than when I became married and was now considered someone’s wife.  But what is absolutely amazing is how much capacity we have for growth.  Despite the initial shock, disdain and fear that surrounded my realization that I would be shipped away from my family and will potentially have to continue to travel and be away for a little while, the people I met and the excitement that arose from doing something so completely different gave me an amazing opportunity to learn and grow.  That, and Roughrider Nation, it was a pleasure to meet you and congratulations on an amazing Grey Cup victory which I watched, curled up on my OWN couch, family in tow!  Thanks for the perspective…

IMG_1922

If it’s good enough for Gwenyth…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

La_nascita_di_Venere_(Botticelli)

I’m not mad…it must be the cows!!!??

I have this thing…this small tendency…this tiny faux pas about me that I just can’t seem to help…and I’m betting I’m not the only one.  I’m betting it’s just wiring.  I’m betting it’s just because of where I’m at, who I’m with, and the situations in which I find myself.  It’s not my fault!  In fact, it’s never my fault.  There’s always an explanation…

I feel like I’ve always been who I am.  Like I haven’t really changed over the years…well, not significantly.  I mean, my hair is straighter (I look 12 when it’s curly and no, that’s not cute and it is not the perfect remedy for aging either as I’ll simply look like an overgrown adult baby – something I think I’ve made clear in the past is intolerable!) My face is more angular while my curves are just getting curvier…but no, my personality remains the same.  And so, it follows, I have always maintained that there must be an explanation.

Is it just reluctance to take on responsibility or is it the fear that when responsibility is taken, it brings with it a GRAVE consequence?  Like maybe I’m not as good a person as I thought and therefore no better than the rest?  Maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am and therefore simply not good enough? (I find myself here quite often, but I digress…)  I don’t know.  It’s just that sometimes when not-so-pleasant things happen, it’s much easier to say, “It wasn’t meant to be.” Or, “It was destiny.”  And my own personal motto, “There must be a reason…”

Taking responsibility and accepting consequences is not something that’s taught like math, science or phonics…maybe it should be??

Mr. Niceguy and I went out for his birthday just this past weekend, a rare treat given that I have been in a complaining jag for the past little while:  I’m not tall enough, thin enough, my house isn’t big enough, I’m tired, the boys are driving me wildly insane, I need a vacation, I need a tan (yes, I said it!  TAN! TAN! TAN!!!!!)  I need to find the perfect coat/boots/haircut/work bag, and so on and so forth ad nauseum ad infinitum!!  One of my many series of complaints involves how rarely Mr. Niceguy and I go out and relive our pre-kids days when he would plan dates, pick me up and the sun would revolve around ME!…surely not unfamiliar?

Anyway, we went out for Mr. Niceguy’s birthday…a birthday dinner event that Mr. Niceguy planned himself!  (He’s Mr. Niceguy for a reason…)  I’m not sure if Mr. Niceguy has ever been analyzed, broken down and “Spincycled” so here goes:  aside from being devastatingly handsome (watch out Matthew McConaughey), Mr. Niceguy is a couple of years older than I am (a fact that I often grip to when I’m staring FORTY in the face with complete and utter DREAD).  Mr. Niceguy does NOT share my ethnic background so he’s not loud, not hot-headed or quick tempered, and often waits for the appropriate break in the conversation to respond (i.e. does not interrupt).  And he is very, very nice.  While he’s a lovely Monet watercolour – calm and rational, I’m more like a Picasso or Salvador Dali.  But it is his wisdom, openness and determination I envy above all his characteristics…

So for Mr. Niceguy’s birthday we went to a fancy French restaurant for some steak-frites!  Except, being on yet another diet to seriously try and shake the nagging, clinging extra poundage, I ordered a filet, dry, butterflied and cooked medium-well, with steamed veggies and a salad, no dressing.  And this got us thinking about our younger, carefree, pre-kids days, and another birthday some many, many moons ago…(ok, not THAT long ago…indulge me!)

Mr. Niceguy and I had decided that we would have a big night out:  dinner, theatre, club and then when we just couldn’t stand up straight any longer, we would stagger and meander to our third-storey walkup in midtown Toronto.  We were at a different steakhouse then and being the gluttons that we were, we indulged:  butter pan fried steaks, lobster tail, butter sautéed mushrooms, mashed potatoes and potatoes au gratin, topped with my absolute favourite dessert:  crème brûlée.  It should come as no surprise that after our feast, we made it only to the theatre and then called it quits…but the night would not end then.  Hours-upon-hours of payment would be exacted from each of us in turn…and through it all, despite my weakness, summoning what little strength I had left to clench my fists, I swore I would not let things go without finding fault!

The next morning, with matted hair, splotchy skin and at least five pounds lighter, I called the restaurant and explained what had occurred:  the sweating, the chills, the cramps, the nausea, the going green and the feeling like I should just move into the toilet and wrap myself up in my bath mat for warmth.  An utterly horrific night!  Thank goodness our apartment came with two bathrooms…  I theorized to the manager of that very fine establishment that perhaps they had served us a bad batch of meat?  Perhaps it had not been cooked to temperature?  Or perhaps it was some sort of bacterial infection?  I explained good-naturedly, and in an effort to help nip-in-the-bud any possible incidence of mad cow disease, that he must immediately ensure that no other patrons had been afflicted!  Having frequented this restaurant in the past, I was certain that something was off.  That something diabolical had occurred.  It couldn’t possibly have been our choices…

The manager patiently listened to my concerns and then finally in his most rational, gentle manner offered us a substantial gift card to return to the restaurant and to my complete embarrassment added, “Miss.  We’re terribly sorry for both your husband’s and your experience.  But I took a look at your bill and it seems that you chose a number of our richer dishes…all at once.  These can sometimes have an adverse effect as they are laden with lots of cream and butter.  We hope you’ll return and we can make some recommendations for you next time.”  Ouch.  We passed the gift card over to my parents knowing they would make better choices in the future…

With a bruised ego, I took responsibility.  I accepted fault.  And I lived with the consequences.  We all make mistakes once in a blue moon.  It was meant to be…

English: Salvador Dali with ocelot and cane.

English: Salvador Dali with ocelot and cane. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Get lost!!!! (in Hallowe’en…)

I love Halloween.  Dressing up completely fuels my imagination and so I was thrilled and ecstatic when one of my best friends decided to have a Hallowe’en party – costume mandatory.

I began discussions with Mr. Niceguy about coordinating our costumes.  Apparently, coordinating costumes is a foreign concept to Mr. Niceguy for while I was thinking Wills and Kate or Harry Potter and Hermione he was thinking, military guy circa before a time we were born.  What would I go as?  This was not a game of good guys versus bad guys.  It wouldn’t make much sense for him to go as a sniper and me to go as a vampire, now would it?

In any case, after a number of no-way’s and veto’s, we agreed:  we would be secret service agents, dressed in black suits, white shirts, black skinny ties, ear pieces, sleeve mics, fake guns and sunglasses – the 3 year old and 7 year old even volunteered their props!  The best part of pretending to be secret service agents was our plan to make an entrance by hopping the fence into my friend’s backyard and just “materializing” in front of her glass patio doors (I even downloaded the Mission Impossible song onto my phone as the theme for our appearance!)

HollyGolightly

Alas, Mr. Niceguy came down with a terrible cold and I was left to go solo.  With a wandering mind, perpetual ADD, and commitment issues, I decided!  I clipped on some fake bangs, put my hair in a bun, threw on a black dress, and transformed into Holly Golightly (aka, the timeless Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s)!

The best part of Hallowe’en is entertaining people…and even freaking some people out!  And though I had initially intended to do the freaking out part, I settled for being entertaining instead.  Despite the lack of a pair of long black gloves and the iconic cigarette holder, I daresay, this costume was a success!

Over the years I’ve really taken advantage of Halloween.  I’ve been Princess Jasmine, a Hawaiian hula dancer, an angel (complete with wings!) a 1960s go-go girl (who hasn’t?), and even a Japanese Geisha.  The trick is, I think, to pick something that is not a big stretch…

At this party, there were a number of different costumes:  the Queen of Hearts, her Knight in tights, a “Mad Woman” (i.e. Mad Men) a cat, 80’s girls (you can’t have a Hallowe’en party without them!), and even a pair of swashbuckling pirates…ARRRGGGGHHHH.  Then the doorbell rang…and I heard a pair of voices in the front hall.  The Mad Woman warned, “you do not want to see her.  She’s very freaky.”  What had our friend done?  My adrenaline started to pump…

disturbing babyIn walked the most grotesque “thing” accompanied by a giant, grimacing baby.  The “thing” had a deformed face with weird eyes and was very obviously a mask.  But the giant grimacing baby…it was so unnatural.  So strange.  It’s gigantic head was in proportion to the rest of its body had the baby actually been 5 feet tall.  It was an abomination!  It was a masterpiece!  My deepest, basic instincts took over.  I wanted nothing more than to scream, to push it away and to destroy it!  I was at once terrorized and mesmerized by the way it danced and pranced around the room.  Witnessing this costume had made repulsion and admiration, one.

Had my basic instincts taken over so much that I’d gone absolutely mad?

I recalled a Hallowe’en long before Mr. Niceguy… I had been cajoled into walking through a haunted house full of booby traps and monsters that would pop out of the shadows and try to grab you.  I remember our group walking through the maze – all holding hands, moving together in the dark.  Suddenly, a thing came out of the shadows and tried to grab a hold of me!  There’s a saying:  when you’re being chased, you only need to be faster than the slowest person (thanks Diary of a Wimpy Kid).  So I broke the chain and ran screaming out, leaving the fourth behind as sacrifice.  That fourth was my then boyfriend.

Though at the time I had regretted that I was willing to leave him behind for my own safety, and I had questioned and analyzed what my behavior truly said about the kind of person I was, today, I take a lighter approach.  Costumes, dress up and Hallowe’en are a time for abandonment.  The best part about Hallowe’en is taking advantage of the reprieve from the norm.  Of not feeling like you have to be responsible.  Of pretend, fear and hysterical laughter.  Of imaginations running wild.  Lose yourselves for one day.  Happy Hallowe’en.

Holly and baby

 

I’m a convicted felon!

Well, not quite…but I sure do feel that way…bridget1

About ten months ago I parked in a spot I really shouldn’t have, for a reason that probably wasn’t good enough…I had found the perfect dress for a very fancy wedding but when I went to pick it up, there was no parking to be found, except…

After swearing to Mr. Niceguy that I had absolutely nothing to wear, and scouring most of the stores near my work for an option (or two?), I ducked out of the house earlier than I had promised (okay, escaped) for a meeting I had to attend.  Even the MOST quintessential multitasker can use a few extra minutes!

What Mr. Niceguy along with most men don’t understand is just how difficult it can be for a woman when it comes to events.  No, I cannot just change my tie and therefore the whole outfit is new.  I have spent literally hundreds and thousands of dollars on dresses that have only been worn once or twice – I’ve even been known to buy a replacement dress or outfit just hours before because it was more perfect than the one originally intended!  But I digress…

My route was clear…no real traffic (given the horrible snowy weather) and I was in front of the store before I knew it…destiny was on my side!  But, destiny knows that I like a challenge and so despite my easy travels to the store, there was nowhere to park.

At that time, I was nursing an extremely painful injury sustained after a car accident which had resulted in sciatica; on most days, the pain would be a constant reminder of that single event.  So, ignoring my better judgment, I pulled the car into one many empty handicap spots rather than park significantly farther away.

I felt very guilty doing it, but the pain that radiated from my back, to my butt cheek and all the way down to my ankle was all the justification I needed – that and some quick thinking on my part as I called the store and informed the salesperson that I was going to jump in for a quick swish-swipe of my card and to please have everything packaged up for me and ready to go!

Upon entering the store I didn’t waste a single moment:  I handed over my card and voila!  I was with outfit.  With a very large smile across my face, I started on my way out of the store…but then something shiny caught my eye…a beautiful, bejeweled belt.  And surely this belt would really make my dress pop! Surely this belt was the finishing touch; the subtle green colour of the jewels would be a nice contrast to my dark hair and olive skin.  And after all that I’ve been through, don’t I deserve the opportunity to look really good?  Don’t I deserve the right to dazzle?  Ahhhh…the way the light reflects off the belt…it’s perfect! 

A second swish and a swipe later, I walked out feeling complete.  Realizing that I had spent much more time picking up my outfit than originally intended, I picked up the pace and started to rush back to my car as best as I could…only, Oh.  My.  God.  To my absolute horror, I saw a police officer the size of a house come into view after looking at the dash of my car.  I could feel the red heat rise up from my chest.  My hobble turned into a full-on limp run (picture Captain Hook running on his wooden leg), my garment bag dragging in the slush, bejeweled belt clasped in hand and I made it, right to my car door!!

Panting, totally out of breath, hair sticking to my face and cheeks flushed from the biting cold, I tried to compose myself and sweetly greeted the officer with a pleading look on my face…

But just one look told me that baby, although my dress was the bee’s knees and the cat’s pajamas, my goose was cooked, see.  This officer was the real McCoy, totally on the level, and wasn’t about to bend any rules for this doll, you hear?

In other words, like Bridget Jones in Thailand, I was totally screwed.

Bridget Jones in jailAnd more than 11 months after the fact, I finally made it to court.  The road was not easy – what with the occasional night sweats and the fear of the book being thrown at me.  But more than that, I truly felt bad for what I had done – the guilt that I may have taken a spot from someone who couldn’t even hobble…the atonement felt like justice being served.  But my reality was even more impactful.

On the day of my trial, I matched my demure outfit with my feelings of regret and attended court.  I stood in line with all of the other rule breakers.  And while I thought that I’d be surrounded by a motley crew of real evil doers, they were people just like me…my imagination had run wild and I’d forgotten – this was only traffic court.  From my seat in the middle of the courtroom I shyly looked around and saw him:  the house of a police officer.  I remembered that moment all over again.  How he wouldn’t let me explain.  And next to the terror and remorse that washed over me came just a little bit of anger for not having been heard.

To my relief, the prosecutor announced a massive reduction in fines for the guilty.  And while I waited to be called to the bench, relieved that I would tell my story and the “house” would have to listen, the most unexpected thing occurred…

Together with a handful of others, I was moved to a different courtroom, where a different justice of the peace was dealing harsher punishments than to what any of us had agreed.  And probably against better judgment, this time I found my voice.  This time I explained my situation.  And feeling a renewed sense of courage I explained that although I was guilty, I’d already come to terms with the reprimand of the other court.  At which point I was told that I should have simply applied for a permit and was lucky to not be receiving the full punishment of the crime.

And in a moment of absolute clarity, I agreed.

 

 

Thanksgiving…thanks goodness it’s over.*

Thanksgiving is not really a holiday I get all that excited about so I’m glad it’s behind me.  For starters, I am not a fan of turkey – whether cooked breast up or down, wrapped in bacon, stuffed with bread or rice, nuts and berries. It just seems like a wannabe Christmas…except it’s missing the best part, PRESENTS.

And Thanksgiving in Canada has nothing to do with the pilgrims in Massachusetts celebrating their first successful harvest and breaking bread with the Native Americans – so I always find it kind of odd when I see “pilgrim inspired” decorations – like the big black hats with gold buckles or historical pilgrim costumes. Pilgrim turkey

And finally, why turkey?  Why not something else all together different and more delicious, like a roast?  Or spaghetti?  Or roast and spaghetti?  Now that’s a fun and tasty meal.  I mean, were there really that many turkeys roaming about that someone thought, hey!  Now that’s a convenient meal?  After some digging, here’s what I found…

According to an article in Slate, turkeys have taken the centre stage as they were fresh, affordable and big enough to feed a crowd.  Furthermore, as cows and chickens were more useful alive and ham or pork wasn’t considered fit for special occasions, turkey became the choice by default, “because the birds could be slaughtered without a huge economic sacrifice.”  Seriously?  Poor turkey.  And they were cheaper (and apparently easier to deal with) than geese.  So these nice, sweet turkeys spend all of spring and summer eating insects and worms and grow to just the right size by Thanksgiving feast.  Well now, that’s enough for this girl to maintain the current status as non-turkey-tarian.

Regardless of the main dish though, I still always find a way to eat too much, lie flat on the ground and complain ad nauseam ad infinitum of a bellyache and turkey coma (despite the fact that I don’t eat the stuff), and pretend to be at least 4 or 5 months pregnant as I drunkenly (on food, not booze) waddle about waiting for dessert. But not this year.

The weekend started early for me as fortunately, I had a reprieve from work.  Though unfortunately for me, the boys also had a reprieve from school.  So after we kissed Mr. Niceguy goodbye (no reprieve for him which turned out to be the reprieve…my, how twisted the universe is sometimes…wait for it) boys and I decided to get dressed and ready to start our fun filled day of monitoring my computer should a work crisis arise and shopping for the ingredients of a fancy salad I had promised to bring.

And that’s when things unraveled.  Literally.  Moments after Mr. Niceguy’s departure (and seconds after my too short hot shower).  The 7 year old and 3 year old tore into my room, screaming with fits of laughter, all while I was trying to straighten my unruly hair…and that’s when I saw it.  Or should I say, them.  The 7 year old had a lump right in the middle of his forehead the size of a small quail egg.  It looked like it was the result of some sort of insect bite. And while examining him, the 3 year old came in for a look when I noticed that he had a lump the size of a small chicken egg on his neck!  But no sign of a bite or any other sort of trauma.  What could it be? Meningitis?  Mumps?  Mono?

All plans on hold while we rushed to the doctor’s office.  I knew we were done for (along with our plans to go up North the next day) when the doctor came in and exclaimed, “Ugh.  What’s that?”  Not a good sign.  No.  Twenty minutes later, and the explanation that it would either go away on its own (with a little help of some antihistamines) or become the size of a tennis ball requiring hospitalization, we walked out of the office – them ecstatic to be leaving and me completely panic stricken.

And in that state, we accomplished two Thanksgiving dinners.  Two dinners complete with family that we hadn’t seen in such a long time.  Truly lovely, yes, but these meetings always seem to give rise to the sorts of conversations that involve me having to recall people, places and events encountered at a time when I don’t even think I was sentient!  Like, “remember when you were a baby and you would only drink milk after your mother would drop blue food colouring in it?”  True story.  My peculiar particularities started at an early age…but no, I can’t remember!  Or,

did you know, we found out we were pregnant with you just months after we were married when your dad took me to the doctor because I was constantly sick to my stomach!

Great.  A guilt trip on Thanksgiving…  And by the way, gross!  Didn’t a stork deliver me?

But I survived.  And fortunately for us, the lump went down the better path, and started a slow shrink to normal, all under the extremely watchful eye of Mr. Niceguy, who was so worried that he decided to camp at the foot of the 3 year old’s bed until he drifted to sleep.

So Thanksgiving, I’m glad you’ve passed.  But I haven’t forgotten what you stand for and so here goes:

I’m thankful that the chicken egg lump went away.  And the quail egg lump too.

I’m thankful that my illusion of a stork delivery was blown out of the water…the truth shall set you free.

I’m thankful that time with family brings out shared history – and whether I was there or not, recall it or not, it will get passed on and form part of my legacy…and to that end, I’m also thankful that Mr. Niceguy hasn’t run for the hills!

Finally, I’m thankful to have had the luxury of not just one, but two thanksgiving dinners full of too much food, too much laughter and too much love…I know it’s much more than some will ever have.

*Not a typo…just how my mom has always said thanks.  Like “Thanks God”.  I love you mom.  Thanks God for you!  And you too, dad!

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m a GYPSY…and the sun revolves around ME!

11-successful-morningsEvery time I buy a lottery ticket…I get the chills.  Like I know THIS is the winning ticket.  This time, they’re going to talk about me, the nice girl from Toronto, mother of two sweet boys, financial advisor, married to Mr. Niceguy, as the winner of the largest jackpot in the history of the lottery.  I’ve even gone so far as to buy a ticket from a small, northern Ontario town with the hopes that I will have won because after all, most of the winners did not buy their lottery ticket at Bay and King.  Chances good?  Chances great!  And I dream of what I’d do with all my winnings…

Truth is…I hardly ever buy lottery tickets.  Which makes this fantasy all the more real for when I do, it’s because “something” compelled me to buy that lottery ticket.  (The most I’ve ever won was $20 and I’m just really hoping that I didn’t peak at 20 bucks…’cause that would suck.)

No matter.  It turns out the start of fall is also the start of McDonald’s Monopoly!!  And before you judge, YES, I LOVE McDonald’s.  I’ve never been a Big Mac combo kind of girl…but a drive thru giant Diet Coke with some small fries…ah, they hit the spot!  And what about piping hot chicken nuggets?  Yummm…and look, it’s not like I’m clueless about chemical contents, preservatives or genetically modified excuses for food but there’s just something about them!  It took me all of 5 minutes to get over being perplexed when they announced, “Chicken nuggets, now with white meat.”  Five minutes and just one bite of those finger lickin’ good nuggets…oops, sorry, wrong chicken product.

In any case, just this Saturday morning, for fun (ok, sheer laziness as I was all alone while Mr. Niceguy ran another obstacle course yay, Mr. Niceguy, boo single parent with two hyperactives for 12 hours) I took the boys to the local McD’s for breakfast and who knew we would end up with 10 monopoly stickers?!  TEN!  Surely I would be a winner…or on the path to “winningdom”?

It took every ounce of control for me to NOT order another round of breakfast (I asked and they promptly replied, “we’re full!”…also, my rationale kicked in and I figured we could always come back for lunch, or dinner…maybe both… (Don’t scoff!  We didn’t!

In any case, I peeled the stickers off so fast and this time, I have a feeling…we’re gonna win!  I mean, we got Park Place!!!  $100,000 is as good as mine!  Mine!  Mine!  Ooooh…my precious….

So what is this feeling, inherent, deep within, that drives this belief?  Is it just that the world’s my stage and I’m the main character?  Or am I the underdog that everyone’s rooting for to succeed?  Is it just that all of my various trials, tribulations, heartaches, trials, and tribulations (not a typo, worth repeating) must have EARNED me the-something-special.  Must have made me deserve the spotlight, the reward, the recognition!  (My name will be in lights!!!!)

Is it wrong to have hope?  Is it fallacy to believe in destiny?  Is it silly to think that our guts may actually be telling us something other than “you’re hungry” or “hurry up and find a toilet”?  Isn’t it true that sometimes, you just know?

Speaking of just knowing…it’s like paths.  And everything happens for a reason.  Or should we just go with,

Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see, que sera, sera  

I say NO.

The Huffington Post just recently posted an article called, “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy” and in it, refers to a fictitious person named Lucy, a GYPSY – Generation Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies – a type of unique yuppy that thinks they are the main character of a very special story.  YES, YES I say!  Lucy is me!!  But there is a catch, GYPSYs are unhappy because they are extremely ambitious and have huge (unrealistic) expectations fuelled and taunted by peers who embellish their own realities.  Add to the mix some serious entitlement issues and an over-inflated view of oneself…and therein lies the frustration which arises due to said unmet (unrealistic?) expectations.  So what is a Lucy to do?  The article suggests staying wildly ambitious, ignoring everyone else and stopping thinking that you’re special.

And here’s what I say.  I AM SPECIAL.  I’m going to keep dreaming, keep hoping, and keep wishing.  True, now more than ever we can see what someone else has, what someone else has accomplished, and perceive what someone else deserves…and this “Keeping up with the Joneses” may be the cause for one or twelve of my bouts of anxiety or funky blues lately.  But I herewith, forthwith, from now forward will NOT be reduced to a Lucy. 

What I truly want is really out there…I just have to be patient and find it.  And I. WILL. HAVE. IT. ALL.  It’s just the “ALL” that needs to be defined.  Now, how about a McNugget combo…like I said, I’ve got Park Place if you’ve got Boardwalk!

monopoly

PS:  Here’s the link to the article in the Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/generation-y-unhappy_b_3930620.html

I left my heart in….Vancouver??

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

Alice_In_Wonderland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo

What, me? A hypochondriac?

Aging is a funny thing.  Not laugh out loud funny…freaky funny.  And as my speed train gets closer and closer to the big X0 mark, I’ve started to notice the “funny” a little more…like those funny little lines they call “laugh lines” and crow’s feet, or how my once full cheeks, that morphed into a more chiseled high cheek bone look (ooooh Christy Turlington) in my mid-20’s, are now just a couple of deflated balloons…speaking of which…NO, I will NOT go there but you know what I’m talking about…shh!  Gravity it’s entirely your fault!!!

The seasons are turning and although I can still hold onto summer a little bit longer (read: loose summer dresses, tanks and flip flops), the reality is that I’m going to have to try and squeeze myself into last year’s skinny jeans…which incidentally, are the year’s before too-tight skinny jeans and I’m really not looking forward to an in-your-face I-told-you-so from my muffin top, thank you very much.  Unless it comes with muffins…mmmm…warm, blueberry muffins…..or I could shell out and buy a new pair but since I refuse to upsize, I’m just going to find myself in the exact, same squished predicament.

At any rate, this time of year continues to mark a time of beginnings (or endings?) – like the start of a new school year – despite the fact that I’ve been out of school for a decade and a half!  Somehow, I still haven’t grown out of that back to school/end of summer feeling…

Now that I think about it, with all this hindsight and wisdom that comes with age, going back to school at the end of every summer was probably more of a trauma than a “beginning”.  I mean, if I break it all down, after loafing around all summer – hanging out by the pool working on my tan (these were the days of baby oil, Coppertone no. 2, and boom boxes not skin cancer or 60 SPF and iPods), not having to worry about grades and homework, or whether I’d get asked to this dance or that – it was back to the grind.

The look of utter glee (akin to the Joker’s smile) on my parents’ faces when they would remind me that tomorrow the fun would end, that tomorrow there was school, that tomorrow I had to be responsible, get up, get dressed and go get good grades in order to not totally screw up my chances at a successful life.  Yay.  Back to school. And now, back to work.  To this day I absolutely abhor Sundays…

But it is this responsibility that fuels my view of beginnings and planning for success.  And what could be more appropriate than resolutions when it comes to making plans:  this year I will get that new job or promotion, this year I’m going to lose that nagging 7 lbs already, this year I’m going to plan that great South American adventure!  As an aside, who doesn’t want to go to Rio?  Carnivale?  To see the sugar loaf mountain and the giant Jesus?  To be surrounded by warm breezes and hot, Brazilian paixão??  (trans:  passion in Portuguese). Ahhhh…Ipanema….

I digress…as far as resolutions are concerned…mine start grand but practicality takes over and besides taking one’s health into one’s own hands is important…don’t we have more to lose at this stage?  OK, real reason?  They have to get done and arranging doctor’s appointments and checkups are easier than exercise and diet.  There.  I admit it.  And I’m just not satisfied with the attitude of those of my parents’ generation: 2 Tylenols and a good night sleep are not a good enough RX for me…particularly given my tendency towards hypochondriasis (real word, I swear!) and Googling!!

Speaking of which…I had a spot…on my back…a nagging, little, brown spot.  I could’ve sworn it wasn’t there a couple of months ago.  I worked myself up to the point where I asked the 7 year old what he thought of the spot…

Me:  Can you take a look at this?

7 year old:  What?  It’s your back.

Me:  THIS!  This SPOT on my back.

7 year old:  You have spots on your face.

Me:  [IRRITATED]  NOT my face!!  Forget my face.  And besides, those are cute freckles…well, no, not that one…or that one…oh my God, is that an age spot???   NEVERMIND THAT!!!   This one, on my back.  [Trying to reach over, angling to point out the spot while trying maneuvering in between two mirrors]

7 year old:  Oh.  It’s a spot.  A brown spot.

Me:  Does it look weird to you?

7 year old:  Huh?  I’m hungry.  When’s dinner?

Hmmmppphhhfft.

And like I said, I know me…hypochondriasis.  Sometimes I get worked up for no legitimate reason.  Like, oh my goodness, I’ve had a headache for three days, is it a tumour?  Or, oh my goodness, I can’t feel my arm, am I having a heart attack?!  But while I think all of these things, somewhere deep down, I think I know that I’m overreacting – a particular gift of mine, I’m told…particularly by Mr. Niceguy.

So how do you think it all went down when the brown spot was diagnosed as a little bit unusual?  Or a little bit odd?  And perhaps a good idea to remove?  OH BOY.  And typical me, I discover that all of a sudden I’ve grown really attached to that brown spot.  I realize it means more to me than I thought…like I’m that brown spot…I’m a little bit unusual, a little bit odd…I’m not worth removing, am I?

A good friend of mine who has a knack for speaking the truth and being utterly genuine – even though you wouldn’t think it at first glance given his extremely stylish exterior – once gave me probably one of the most real analogies about oneself during trying times…and in this case, during times of utter, full blown, hypochondria,

it’s like being a rolled up tube of toothpaste and they’ squeeze out the last drop of you by pushing out what’s left with their thumb through your neck.

Graphic.  And true, although we were talking about the proverbial “man”, “job”, etc.  That’s exactly how it felt…squeezed, used to the last drop.  Unappreciated.  Ready to be tossed aside.  A blemished model (as in car, not supermodel…)

And now, post (minor, minor) surgery I wait for this wound to heal.  Now I will have yet another scar of undeniable aging.  Though perhaps I should view it more like progress?  An opportunity?  It’s knocking…so I’m going to open that door.  After all, isn’t it better to just toss that old tube of toothpaste, pay the 4 bucks and get something new and shiny?  And who knows, I may even change the flavour this time.

toothpaste

I want my cake…and I want to eat it too!

It’s Saturday evening and I got a night off of preparing dinner – although I did mix the salad and made the potatoes – Mr. Niceguy took care of the main on the barbecue. It was delicious and as full as I am, all I can think of is now is pushing all that glorious food from our fantastic meal down with some cake.  If it were not for the countless empty calories and extra fat, oh the pleasure of eating perfectly baked and iced fluffy, soft, spongy cake…yummm……

It’s not like I have a sweet tooth – but the idea of consuming something so delectable, so sweet, more of a treat and pure indulgence – well, it’s intoxicating.  In fact, so intoxicating, that it’s enough to forget about the price that must be paid for such decadence.

A French princess (and oftentimes, Marie Antoinette) supposedly said, “let them eat cake!” to the French peasantry, then suffering from a famine and with very little or no access to bread.  The ridiculousness of this statement was that cake, which requires eggs and butter, was scarcer still.  She was oblivious to her peoples’ predicament – and downplayed their suffering and the price of famine.  And for some reason, my mind always wanders to this when I hear, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

Is it that same oblivion that makes me think that I can?  Like wanting more wisdom but to still remain blissfully ignorant…

Like wanting a promotion without putting in the effort, spending more time with my kids without risking my career, wanting a toned body without giving up on ketchup chips…and what happens when the cake is right there, staring right at you, and you just can’t have it?

The 3 year old has figured out how NOT to pay the price…with a scream that is so incredibly, ear piercingly, almost cause a car accident, loud!  Mr. Niceguy and I feel like hostages as soon as we’re subjected to it…it’s like someone is using mystical powers to make our brains explode within the confines of our skulls!  Excruciating!  But that’s his way of making sure that he gets to eat his proverbial cake.

My scream is not nearly as loud (and despite what Mr. Niceguy says when we’re in a fight, I AM NOT A TODDLER).  So I have to pay a price – akin to comforting a sweet, sick child and then paying by having a debilitating cold in the aftermath.  An odd example, true, but this comes to mind as earlier this morning when I escaped the insanity at home in an effort to grab a latte at the local coffee shop and pump my veins with some much needed caffeine, stood a sweet little girl right next to me, who probably just started back to school, coughing nonstop.  For a moment I felt so bad and tried to make her smile, but then her mom started coughing too and one dejected, miserable look from her told me that catching a bug for wanting to get out of the house and have some peace and quiet was NOT part of the bargain.

Ugh.  And now I’m caught in fantasy once again… I fantasize about what my life would be like had I taken an alternate path. Had I not had children, had I ignored Mr. Niceguy a little harder (let it be known here that HE pursued ME throughout our first year at graduate school and had it not been for his sweet temperament, sharp, witty mind, gorgeous face and washboard abs – yes I’m shallow – I may have resisted)?  What if I had decided not to go to MBA school at all and instead, followed my high school dreams?

My older cousin had a poster in her room of a really cool garage full of Ferraris.  And at 16 I wanted nothing more than to move to Malibu so that I could live in a beach house on the Pacific, with a Ferrari (or two) parked in the driveway.  I’d be surrounded by palm trees one if which would have a red surfboard with a yellow stripe down the middle leaning against it.  I would spend all of my days listening to the waves crash, looking for dolphins and surfing.  To fund my adventures, I would go into work for a couple of hours only each day as I’d be a $500-an-hour criminal lawyer and really, that’s all the money I would need.  THIS was MY fantasy.  Forget that I didn’t have a clue about what it meant to go to law school or for that matter, to get into law school and stay in law school (too much reading…yikes!)  Also, forget about the fact that I’d never surfed a day in my life…and still haven’t.  Blissful ignorance…

No matter.  Every girl, and I mean, everysinglegirl has a Plan B.  We’re smart that way.  My other path would’ve led me to Paris, the city of lights. A path that I pursued more seriously in my 20’s…  Ahhhhhh Paris….the city of romance, of art and fashion, architecture, music, food that’s incroyable, history, the center of times gone by and so on and so forth. And what girl does not dream of being whisked away by a Marcel, Olivier, Gaston or Jean Jacques?  Having grown up far away from where I am now, I was fortunate to have parents that valued learning multiple languages: by the age of 10 my ears were filled with Armenian, English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Today, sadly I am only 100% fluent in two. In any case it was a dream of mine to get an apartment off the Champs Élysées near the Georges V hotel, live off wine and cheese and simply fulfill one of my deepest desires to become totally fluent in not only the French language, but also the culture. I would tour around the French countryside as a French girl, let’s call her Estella, and before you judge it would work!  I have frequently been mistaken for French!

See, back in my 20’s, I traveled throughout Greece and Italy before going back to graduate school where, I was frequently mistaken for French – no idea why.  But imagine being mistaken for a French girl at a beach side bar FULL of Italians sporting face paint in Mykonos, during one of the key final FIFA world cup games between Italy and France?  Every time I got up from my seat to get a drink from the bar, I had to cross in front of all the die-hard fans and I would get the look of a million daggers.  I’ve never cheered as loudly for Italy in all my life as I did then, and when they lost I flew out of the bar as fast as my tanned legs could carry me!  Ever been around an angry mob of soccer fans??

Ahhhh…fantasies.  They all require some form of payment, some form of sacrifice.  And as vivid as my imagination is, I don’t think I could have ever dreamt up where I stand now.  At times, my path has been as clear as water, while at other times, it’s led me to places so unexpected and unbelievable.  Perhaps it is oblivion.  I know I’ve paid along the way, and although it doesn’t always seem it, I can honestly say my cake’s been delicious.

marieantoinette_cake

Heels, hoops and all…you better represent!!

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

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

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

What.  The.  #$%^?!!!!????  WHY???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superhero shenanigans

Pride and Prejudice…the spincycle version

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

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

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

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

Beep-beep-beep-beep…

Ooooooommmmmmmm…..

Beep-beep-beep-beep…

OOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!!!!…..

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRIDE-AND-PREJUDICE-1995_400

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:  [10 bucks] Tornado?

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

Me:  Tornadoes don’t happen in basements.

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

Scammer.

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

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

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

Misconstrued, misinterpreted, misunderstood.

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

Me:  [Whiny]  Whaaaaat??!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mars Venus

Underachiever…in the profession of potty training

Is being an underachiever so bad?  It sure seems easier than trying to claw your way to the top or compete with all of the overachievers…

Let me point out some of the things that an underachiever (probably) never has to do:

    1. Never have to toss someone under the bus – and for that matter…
    2. Never have to take credit for someone else’s achievements
    3. Never have to kiss anyone’s ass
    4. Never have to put in “face time” – hell, that you showed up is an achievement in itself
    5. Never have to play the comparison game, you know the one:  I have a better house / car / job / spouse / top / purse / vacation home, etc.
    6. Never have to pretend to read the newspaper and know about the latest market / economic trends, who won the game last night, and what’s happening outside of your own little fiefdom
    7. Never have to play golf
    8. Never have to pretend to like golf
    9. Never have to answer the phone if you don’t want to…except perhaps to make friends with the telemarketers
    10. Never, ever have to make small talk.

Now I’m not suggesting that tossing someone under the bus or doing any of the above are the keys to achieve, or that becoming an underachiever is by any means a glamorous aspiration…though it does have a particular appeal some days.  So, would it be so bad if you turned out to be one?

I am, literally, waist deep in toilet training my 3 year old.  YES, I know I may be late out of the gate but sue me, I have a full time job, a 7 year old that also needs my attention and a love life to maintain with Mr. Niceguy!  In any case, I was told by the teachers at his daycare that in order to progress to the pre-school, he would have to be toilet trained by September.  I was told this in January and figured it would be a piece of cake…like it (sort of) was for my older son.

March Break came and went, as did Easter, Victoria Day weekend and Canada Day Weekend…and still, I am no closer to having a toilet trained toddler! I have poured through books, internet sites dedicated to toilet training, mommy sites and blogs and even WebMd to determine if there was a medical condition impeding our success (God forbid I’m to blame!)  I even asked his GP who basically told me that I had to be patient and, in not so many words, to basically, lay off.

Let me digress and provide context here.  My parents submitted a picture of yours truly, their first born genius baby, at the ripe age of sometime well before 18 months, to a local publication, sitting gleefully atop the potty, reading the Beirut Business Journal.  Thanks mom and dad for that ingrained pressure.

Anyway, feeling utterly perplexed, I decided to turn to trusty Google and found:

…toilet training is a mutual task, requiring cooperation, agreement and understanding between child and the caregiver, and the best potty training techniques emphasize consistency and positive reinforcement over punishment – making it enjoyable for the child.

What about making it enjoyable for the parent???!  I guess I could have been more consistent and not raise my arms up in defeat every time he answered my questions, “Do you want to do pee pee in the toilet?  Would you like some chocolate?  I will give it to you if you go to the toilet?” and “Don’t you want to be a big boy like your brother?” with a resounding, “NO!”

Continuing on…I was dumbfounded to read about Elimination Communication, a practice that was recently observed in Vietnam where infants were potty trained starting at birth and achieve success by 9 months of age:

The 4 keys to Elimination Communication include: the baby’s signals, the baby’s natural timing, common potty timing, and the parents’ intuition. It is believed that a deeper bond is created between child and parent through the strengthening of this communication.

Well…I guess we missed THAT boat.  @#%@#$!!!!  I can only figure out one out of the four keys:  like I always have to go in the morning and so that’s likely common potty timing…but what is this about the baby’s signals?  The natural timing?  And clearly my intuition has been TOTALLY OFF AS HE IS NOW 3 YEARS OLD!!!!  Seriously?  The only signals I get are when we are in the full throes of the act – I defy ANYONE to tuck my kid under their arm like a football and reach a toilet / potty / any patch of grass in time!  And when you become a practiced sprinter like me (did I ever mention that I used to run 100m dashes in elementary school and was really good?) – even if you make it to the toilet / potty / patch of grass, good luck trying to get him to GO!!!!!!!!!

So during these past few weeks of “training” all while battling a bad back, acupuncture treatments, multiple loads of laundry (because let’s face it, the 3 year old could care less if there are “presents” in his undies) and tears of frustration while I ask all my other mommy friends (and even non-mommy single guy friends – that’s how desperate I’d become), I have decided to throw in the towel.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I have a brilliant, headstrong, loving and funny little boy…so, in this instance, and for the time being, I’m going to declare myself an underachiever…and I’m feeling more relaxed already…

Potty