Babes and Bellinis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Babes and bellinis

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Keeping “cool” in the sandbox…

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

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

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

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

IMG_8049Ahhhh…I think back to my singleton days…

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

Mr. Niceguy:  OK.  Usual gang tonight? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

My very own Minecraft…

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

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

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

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

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

That is, until I have to wake them up…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking away

Stop muzzling me!!!

“You can’t do that!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_6894

(Extreme) Spring Cleaning…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Field trip through the ages…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until the next field trip!!

three muskateers

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

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)

More than just a mommy in Strollerville…I’m a princess!

Some time ago we moved to our current neighbourhood, what we jokingly called, “Strollerville” (a term I first heard made by Professor Richard Florida).  At that time, the 7 year old was a new toddler, and the 3 year old was my next project.  Strollerville is the mecca of neighbourhoods for young (yuppie-ish) families – right on the subway line, which makes it easier to get downtown (I swear nearly everyone in this neighbourhood is either a banker, lawyer or stockbroker), within walking distance from some very well known and one-of-a-kind retailers, great schools and parks, plenty of free street parking, and easy access to the city’s major highways.

Yet, coming from a very chic and trendy neighbourhood downtown where children were almost never to be seen outside the 9am to 3:30pm window, and where the closest thing to a kid’s play place was the Baby Gap or the Potterybarn Kids on Bloor Street – which, ironically were almost always devoid of children – Strollerville was like being in a theme park with children everywhere!  And although I missed the sounds of luxury imports racing up and down our street, I knew that we had made the right decision for our little, growing family – particularly since I no longer was mistaken for “the nanny” when I would take my (then) toddler out for a stroll!

Strollerville is now my home and I’ve found that I’ve marked my time here in the most unexpected way. True, the trees have grown, the house could use a fresh coat of paint (thanks to my two little terrors), new restaurants and shops have popped up, and the little boy who would always ride the bus with his mom is not so little anymore…

My first weeks commuting to work were the most harrying for me.  I had to wake up an extra 45 minutes earlier just because we had moved 10 minutes away from the core!  Anyway, I would see this woman with a little boy, about the same vintage as my 7 year old, nearly every day on my way home from work.  They seemed to have such a connection – he was very sweet and quiet and never tested his mother, while she had the kindest disposition.  They even looked like each other.  He was very obviously the center of her world.

Now I’ll take a moment to digress here…I am no less connected to my two boys, who are definitely the centers of my world but I cannot recall a single day where I haven’t been tested, pushed, stretched, taxed, overwhelmed, etc. by them!  Particularly in public when their inner Satan chooses to come out and party.  I mean, simply recollecting the shenanigans of this past weekend, my birthday weekend, when they repeatedly begged to leave dugout seats (I repeat, DUGOUT SEATS) at a baseball game (after the top of the FIRST inning) and simply became more insistent with every minute culminating in both of them on my lap in inning 5, completely obstructing my view, each whining into my ears (too closely and spitting God knows what into my ear canals…eeew), and then breaking down in tears when I unexpectedly took all my frustrations out by yelling at the ump!

Or as recent as last night, when I was given a hard time because I’m planning to go out (sans les deux) with my other mommy friends and have too much food, too much wine, ice cream on the giant piece of (faux) Canadian shield in Yorkville, while wearing my too short for me shorts and stilettos, and pass judgement while people watching, without them. Here’s how that went:

Me:  So guys…just a reminder that mommy’s going out

7 and 3 year olds in unison:  WHY???!!!

Me:  It’s mommy’s birthday.  You want me to have a nice birthday, don’t you?

7 year old:  But your birthday passed.  How many times do you have to go out for your birthday?

3 year old:  Ya.  Issss my bertday (His “bertday” was actually 4 months ago)

Me:  No, it isn’t your birthday.  It’s my birthday party.  And mommy’s friends are going to take her out.  She deserves it.  [Note:  I am all flustered and like a volcano that’s moments from erupting…]  I’ve cooked and cleaned for you, I take you to school, I pack your lunches, I play with you, I buy you all the greatest toys and clothes, I go to work so that I can earn money to keep a roof over your heads, so guess what?  I’M GOING!

Them:  [Totally un-phased] can we come too?

Me:  NO!!!!!!!

Anyway, I hadn’t seen this woman in some time but today, as I hopped on the subway a little earlier than usual; there she was sitting just perpendicular to me, with her son.  He had grown so much…  Still, just as obedient and quiet as ever – she was reading the newspaper while he was busying himself with a Nintendo DS.  And when she thought the volume was too high, she gently leaned in, whispered something to him, and he, without a moment’s hesitation, turned it down.  I noticed that she didn’t wear a ring on her left hand – perhaps she is raising him by herself – and when I looked up at her face, I noticed that time had also moved for her.  No longer as youthful looking as when I first moved to the neighbourhood.  Her hair had more greys, and there were a couple of lines near her eyes that crinkled in just that way when she smiled at her son.  But she was no less beautiful, and no less lovely than when I first saw her those years ago…

I have no idea how long before my boys stop being boys.  But what time I do have, although laced with tears, frustration, bewilderment and anger, is also wonderful, loving, happy, and most of all, magic.  And just when I think that once again, things are just too hard and too complicated, I got the best belated present…

Them:  OK…we know you really want to go out.  Is that what you’re going to wear?

Me:  WHAT?!  WHY?!  I just got this today…doesn’t it look nice?  (Snap: why do I even care?  Honestly?  I just want my IV drip to start hooked up to a bottle of Pinot….)  Are you saying this to upset mummy?  Is this all because you really don’t want me to go?

3 year old:  I don’t want you to go.  [Figures]

7 year old:  I don’t want you to go either but…if you have to go, you have to go.  Hmmm…mommy, you do look nice.  You look pretty, beautiful…you know, more than a princess. [Melt]

Meandboy

I think it’s time to cut the cord…or is it?

Hello summer!  You have finally arrived!!  There’s nothing like that added glow from the sun, cute summer dresses, flip flops, a cold beer and an overall sexiness that comes from the heat!  Perhaps the only thing I would change is how frizzy my hair gets…

Summer always makes me nostalgic – I often recall that amazing rush of freedom when I would write my last exam and run out to party with my friends through to the hot summer nights which would then be followed by long summer holidays that felt like they shaped my life and forever changed me…

With all my nostalgia, it should come as no surprise that I’m probably the biggest daddy’s and mommy’s girl there ever was.  If I could still live in their basement, together with my Mr. Niceguy, the 7 year old, the 3 year old and our pet fish, Zoom, I would.  Of course, they would probably drive me crazy – and then my crazy would probably make them wish they could evict me, but being the nice people they are, they wouldn’t and, well, let’s just say that I’d hate for a good thing to go bad.

Being Armenian by heritage, my family is quite similar to Voula’s in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and not unlike the Kardashians (minus the rolling cameras, modeling contracts, and the big house in Calabasas) in that everyone is hip deep in everyone else’s life.  Armenians (at least my grouping) tend to be LOUD, all about food, LOUD, gesticulate with their hands when they speak, LOUD, and above all else, very passionate about family.

In a culture where family comes first, it follows that my parents’ happiness means everything.  More than that, their approval is nearly always essential and sadly, it is this kind of relationship that also makes me quite vulnerable to any of their criticism for they have absolutely no filter and if they believe they are acting in my best interest, the prospect of potentially deflating my ego or hurting my feelings will not stop them…

Take my thirty X girlfriend.  She, like me, is also Armenian and my seatmate on the bullet train to forty.  Just this morning, while dropping off her children at her parents’ house before going to work, her mom did the typical.

Mom:  Oh hello, dear.  What is that you’re wearing?

BFF:  What?  Why? 

Mom:  Are those shorts?  Should you be wearing them to work?

BFF:  They’re fancy suit shorts – they are for work.  And besides, they’re only just above my knee – it’s not like I’m wearing short shorts.  These are in style now, Mom.  And they look great with my blouse and my high heels – I’m very well put together.

Mom:  OK dear.  Whatever you say…but shorts are shorts.

BFF:  <DEFLATED>

How is it that our parents can just get to us that quickly?  Sometimes I wonder if I would be better off if I (could) just cut the cord – if I could separate myself from this kind of emotional roller coaster:  yes I know you were once parents too, yes I know you’ve lived much longer and are therefore wiser, yes I realize that the times we live in now can’t hold a candle to yours, and so on and so forth.  And somehow, the long walk to school in hip deep snow and all sorts of other trials and tribulations always seem to come up as they stress for the umpteenth time how things are so much easier for our generation…blah, blah, blah!

That same afternoon, after a very quick bite I spent the rest of my lunch running some errands which resulted in a quick walk up Bay Street.  Two women happened to be walking in front of me and snapped me out of my thoughts with their loud regales over their night out.  What I noticed first was how tall they were – in my case, I’m vertically challenged at 5 foot 4…5 foot 4 and a half on a good day.  What I noticed next was how envious I started to feel about their fun and fancy free story…

As I kept listening to their conversation (ok, eavesdropping but sorry, in my defence they WERE loud and as I explained above, I’m culturally preconditioned to respond to anything LOUD) my attention became drawn to their outfits, which fit their characters quite nicely.  The first simply wore black pants and a blouse (the “supporting role” in the last night’s wild night), while the second was wearing a dangerously short dress for work topped with a little black cardigan (the “lead role” and main benefactor).  As things progressed, I thought, wow, this leading lady should have chosen a better outfit for work – however would she manage to bend over…or sit down for that matter?  But I was snapped out of my wandering thoughts when I noticed a hole the size of a toonie right on her, well, caboose.

I walked behind them for about a block thinking about this classic dilemma: do I tell her or shall I just mind my own business? 

Me:  Ummm, excuse me.  Listen, I’m sorry to interrupt but I have to tell you that you have a hole in your dress –

Lead:  What?  Where?  Really?  [Support eyes me suspiciously]

Me:  Well, right in the back, right on your, ahem, bum.

Lead starts spinning around trying to see so Support gets in there and validates my claim.

Lead:  Omigod!  [Blushes beet red and is extremely embarrassed.]  I can’t believe it!  I love this dress!  Thank you so, so much for letting me know.  [Looks to Support]  I wonder how long we’ve been walking for…omigod. 

Me:  Maybe just take off your cardigan and tie it around your waist – you’ll be just fine. 

As I walked on, I thought of my own trials and tribulations over the years.  I thought of how glad I was that so many of my wild nights, drink, and strangers were behind me…for the most part anyway.  And I thought of my parents and how even though I might not want to hear what they have to say, I am grateful that for the time being they are still here to tell it like it is…Though the cord is short, it’s not worth cutting off…

Funky blues…Part II

A week has gone by, and I still can’t shake the blues…but at least it looks like we’re actually going to be on time today.  Kids are dressed and fed, bags are packed for school, and just as we go outside to load everyone up in the car…DISASTER! Oh. My. God. There is rotten food everywhere…I forgot to close the garage door last night and raccoons got into my green bin!! GROSS!!!

A quick clean up later I’m thinking, crisis averted, when up the driveway comes my cleaning lady. My existing cleaning lady – the one that keeps rearranging all of my stuff; the one that keeps breaking things in my house; the one I’m putting off letting go because I’ve never “fired” anyone in my life.  I wasn’t expecting her!  Especially since I am actually trying out a new cleaning lady…TODAY!!! And who is set to arrive any minute! What to do now???!!! I blurt out, “Oh…hi! I wasn’t expecting you today.  But…ummmm….great.  Go ahead inside, I’ll just be a minute.”  Quick, send text. No response. Call….pick up, pick up, pick UP!! “Hi, it’s me.  I’m so sorry, part of our roof fell off last night and I really don’t feel comfortable having you come here while they work to put it back on.  Us?  Oh, geez, we’re fine…thank you for asking.  I will pay you, for sure, I’m so, so sorry! See you next week.  Thank you so much.  OK, bye.”

Before you judge…part of the roof DID fall off last week (some trim thingy) and tomorrow a roofer IS going to come and put it back on…so…not a lie…just a stretch??

I hop in the car with the rest of the gang who have now (thank goodness) offered me a ride to the subway.  Purse?  Check.  Spare bag with shoes?  Check.  Latte?  Checkity, check, check! Things are starting to go my way…I think I’m going to shake this funk after all…I mean, what a comedy of errors this morning, right?  And I survived.

This subway is disgusting.  It is crowded and hot.  I hope I don’t almost faint again.  Focus…perhaps I should turn off Zero Dark Thirty and just stare at the ground – somehow torture scenes seem too akin to what I feel like I’m going through right now.  Hmmm…why don’t they have the AC on? OUCH!!! What the…OUCH!!!!!  Some totally oblivious woman has not only just stomped on my foot with her big, high-tech sneakers but when I turned to see what was going on, she clocked me with her giant backpack.  And now there’s a medical emergency and I’m stuck here??? Oooofff. Funkity, funk, funk!

It’s eight hours later…I did make it to work, had a not-so-productive day evaluating my life again and managed not to cover myself with my lunch this time – so all in all, not so bad.

And now I’m at my son’s baseball game (which I signed him up for as a way to at least cross one more item off my list). We’ve been in our neighbourhood for close to five years and this is a great way to get involved – and yes, this new-ish environment will be just as tricky for me as it will be for him…I just wish I wasn’t in such a funk…

I look around…there’s a group of women who seem like they’ve been on this circuit for years: they have their folding chairs, their travel mugs and hunter boots (on this unseasonably cold and rainy Tuesday evening I am wearing a thin t-shirt and converse and willing the sun to come out) and they appear more interested in comparing notes over their latest acquisitions, recipes and social agendas. I swear that if I were to look closely enough at the grass by their feet I would see tiny little brass plaques denoting their respective, individual plots of land at the park – undoubtedly passed down for generations.  I know this because I got the “once-over” when I was carrying our gear to “their territory” so I did a quick 180 and changed course…I’m too funking drained to deal with this…

But…oh no.  I’ve now wound up with the really nice and inclusive group.  You know these people – they are overly sweet and complimentary.  They want to know every little detail about you and where you come from, seem oblivious to the fact that you only met five seconds ago, and for some reason, believe that you are just as interested in every detail about their lives: “We’ve been at this league forever!  You’ll love it!  We live right over there…see my house?  What about you?  What street?  What number?  My son, X, has been playing for the past two years but just look at him, he can’t focus or listen – X!! PAY ATTENTION TO THE COACH!!!!! – I swear that child is going to be the end of me.  You know, he won’t eat any vegetables??!! What do I do? You must have some ideas?  Which one is yours???” Oh boy.

So now I’m sitting by the dugout. This really is the best spot anyway – near all the kids and I can really get into the game.  Little-by-little I’m feeling not funkadelic anymore, but bewildered.  I’m trying to figure out how I got here.  And how I’ve let my funk dictate so many of my moves…like not making an attempt to get to know some of these people, or worrying about the consequences of each and every decision I’ve made up to this point, or the consequences of each and every decision I have to make hereafter.

I look up and start to really watch.  To my surprise, I notice that my son has joined, I mean really joined, his team without hesitation.  He’s talking to all the other kids and having the best time. He got thrown into a situation he knew nothing about, or had control over, and is doing just fine.

As the innings progressed, I found I was enjoying myself and letting go of all of my other wonderings…the noise in my head grew quieter as it was replaced with cheers, squeals and my favourite, the crack when the ball connects with the bat.  Then, to my utter astonishment, the game has ended and I am being congratulated by the coaches: “Your son had the hit of the game!” And all of a sudden, I knew that we had accomplished what buying a new pair of shoes could ever achieve…I was out of the “spin-cycle”…for now.

Funky blues…Part I

Open.  Close.  Open.  Close.  Open.  Close.  Open…scan top…scan middle…scan bottom…nothing in the left drawer…nothing in the right…nothing in the door.  Close.  There is officially nothing to eat.  I’ve checked, double-checked and triple-checked.  The fridge fairy bypassed my house again.  Maybe I can scrounge up some chocolate or candy…

Cable?  PVR?  Netflix?  Nothing.  Well, nothing except another show about a couple getting to choose between three potential homes in some exotic locale of which it’s quite obvious which two they’d only choose if they were completely insane.  Again?  No thanks.  And it’s not shark week!!  My shows have all had their season finales too: Survivor’s done, the Bachelor’s done, 90210 (yes, 90210) is done for good and worst of all…no Glee until September!  Whatever will I sing along with?? And I absolutely, unequivocally will not watch any of the PBS shows that reside on my PVR – no, I did not choose them nor can I stand to get past their descriptions like the role of this agency or that in foiling some terrorist plot or new insights into some World War II battle fought in who knows where, who knows when, or better yet, what REALLY was behind the financial crisis.  I really should’ve taken the time to program some of my shows…

So, nothing to eat and no entertainment…a nasty combination for my constitution.

It’s morning.  I get up, get ready and get to work.  I need to focus on work.  I need to put more of an effort into my career.  But I can’t.  I’ve ignored these funky blues, pretended they weren’t happening, and now I’m just going to be a big girl and admit that yes, I am totally funked out.  And today my funk manifested itself in the ultimate act of betrayal:  my very yummy chicken burrito full of lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, cheese, burrito sauce and sour cream bottom-end exploded onto my brand new silk coral top and black silk skinny pants…I LOOK LIKE A BAG LADY, FOR GOODNESS SAKE and I am definitely going to have to spend the rest of the day on my chair pressed right up against my desk to hide this mess.  This is not helping my funky blues at all…

But I’m not good at being still…and since I can’t concentrate on work anyway, I’m going to make one more attempt at breaking out of this funk.  I’m going to do what almost always works and I pray, would not fail me now…I’m going to the shoe shop under my building!

I can feel the funk lifting as I step into the elevator…down, down, down…sniiiiffff inhale…pfhooooo exhale…’DING’ out I go.

Ahhh…I swear I feel lighter, there’s a bounce to my step.  Whatever will I get?  Cute pair of ballerinas or perhaps a pair of trendy sneakers to wear on the soccer field – the possibilities are endless!  I walk in…to my absolute, and utter horror, however, I am confronted by one of my most hated songs – you know the one from your teenage years full of angst, revolution and the one that was the backdrop to a bad dumping or a wardrobe malfunction in high school.  I feel heavy, worn.  If I could cover my ears, curl up into fetal position and cry out of frustration, I would.  But no, I’ll put on a brave face.  I’m not giving up.  This song will pass…and it does…except the next one is worse.  I swear I lifted my arms up in total exasperation and stormed right out of the store.

Should they not be putting together song lists to INSPIRE purchases???  Who’s in charge here???  Why aren’t they playing any Britney Spears?  Or J.Lo???!!

My funk has now taken a backseat to my anger.  I need someone or something to BLAME for my funktastic mood…ah ha…Mother Nature.

I can trace my funk to this time of year, Spring, when we all come out of hibernation expecting renewal and change (lots of pretty flowers and warm breezes certainly seem like the perfect backdrop for some magic!)  For me, spring also happens to be a time when I am once again evaluating and re-evaluating every aspect of my life…all while tackling the ultimate in mundane tasks:  the multitude of baby clothes/toys/gear that I STILL have to get rid of, the flipping of my closet (and let’s be real, everyone else’s too) from fall/winter to spring/summer, the seven pounds I still have to shed before bikini season, the pedicure I still have to get, the tidying up of the garden and how I’m going to make sure that we get enough fruits and veggies in our diet…

This evaluation I put myself through is just so exhausting!!  My brain hurts.  There’s too much to think about.  And I keep adding more to my list.  As a side note, I’m not particularly gifted in any one thing, but I possess an incredibly high level of curiosity and sometimes ill-placed high level of confidence which have resulted in a deluded sense of capability.  In other words, I think I can do anything but I can’t figure out what to do first!!  This is just crippling…how do I dig myself out of this quicksand and get out of this funk????

Mother Nature…it’s not you…IT’S ME!!!  Funk.

Humanity…never ceases to amaze

Champagne?  Don’t mind if I do…ooh, it’s Cristal!!!  Of course!  Only the best for my uncle’s 65th birthday! I can’t believe it!  This party is totally high class:  great band, great food, fabulous looking people and just look at my dress!  I’m wearing the most gorgeous black and white ballgown – it’s enormous!  Fantastic!  Magical!  Ooh, and now I have a mask on.  It’s a masquerade ball, oh how elegant!  And my hair is so long and gorgeous and shiny.  My lips are ruby red.  I never want this to end…

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.  “Mommy, I cold.  I wanna eat something.  I wanna change.”  These were the words of my 3 year old this morning…at 5:25 am!!  A whole hour before my alarm was supposed to go off!  And poof…there went the dream.  I jumped out of bed and started walking with my eyes closed.  Sensing my clumsiness, he held my fingers with his little hand and guided me to his room…at which point I was really debating a detour to the bathroom given my sense of urgency!  But he’s one of the loves of my life, trusts me implicitly, loves me unconditionally, and I would never let him down.  So on I went.

This was a morning like every other – preceded by a typical Wednesday night (Survivor night!)  Tired mom, comes home from work, rushes to get kids fed and ready for swimming classes.  Then back home, bathe them, feed them again (I swear they are machines), read one a bedtime story and then the other, then run downstairs for some QT with my cutie!  Forget that I haven’t had dinner – a handful of almonds, the rest of that half-eaten Aero bar and some fruit gummies will suffice.

In any case, after my “rude awakening” this morning, I was treated with the gift of walking to the subway by myself and the luxury of buying a latte before hopping on the train – no kids to take to school, no bags to pack and no lunches to make!  Had I won the lottery???  Yes sir!

And there I was, latte in hand, watching Twilight: Breaking Dawn on my iPhone (for the fourth or fifth time) when suddenly I started to feel like I lost my breath.  My head started to get very, very warm – my body actually felt like it was on fire.  I put my hand on my chest and it felt very cold and clammy.  My legs felt like they couldn’t support me – I felt dizzy – I couldn’t think – what was I going to do?  With what strength I could muster, I squeezed my way off the extremely overcrowded train and as I was walking, I started to feel tingles and like my surroundings were just fading away…

Luckily I made it to a bench and put my head between my knees.  And the next thing I remember was being so grateful for the humanity of the two women on either side of me.  There I was, a complete stranger (albeit well dressed in my cute little summer dress, faux snake skin ballet flats, and gold hoop earrings) looking ready to be sick or pass out; perhaps a great inconvenience or a complete lunatic.  And in my most vulnerable state, these two women didn’t appear at all worried about who I was or what I might do to them.  They didn’t think about whether or not they knew me, trusted me or whether they could get something from me.  They just wanted to help.  They just wanted to make sure I was ok.

All I could think of while I tried to regroup and pull myself together to get back on the train was how I could repay their kindness…and how I regret not asking for their names.

It’s times like these that really make me feel grateful.  That help me to forget about all the craziness in our world today:  from pressure cooker bombs, to injustices, and perpetual inequality.  It also helps me to forget about the little things – if only I was 7 pounds lighter, if only my butt/arms/legs/stomach were more toned, if only I didn’t have soooo many greys (I do a good job of hiding this fact…most days).  And it makes me feel connected outside of my immediate circle.  It makes me feel like we’re all part of one big whole – which although has some ugly bits, is full of greatness too.

Whoever you were, the girl in the cute summer dress with the faux snakeskin ballet flats and gold hoops that almost fainted at the Bloor Street subway stop thanks you.  Thank you for the reminder.  I know that because of your kindness, your humanity, I was able to have a moment of weakness in a safe environment.  And thanks to you, tonight, when I put my head down after a long day at work and after chasing my two boys around, I can continue my dream at the masquerade ball, unscathed.

 

The big “M”

A few weeks ago, after a very long day at work and longer evening at home, I found my husband at the computer reading intently.  When I asked him what he was up to, he told me he was reading about midlife crises.  Which got me thinking, isn’t that the time when middle-aged guys buy fancy (sport) cars and have affairs with (much) younger women?  What on earth was HE doing reading about midlife crises…Oh.  My.  God.  Was HE having a midlife crisis??  What does this mean???!!

Run upstairs, grab iPad, start research…FAST!

Psychology Today refers to midlife as: “Mortality and the idea that time is running out [which] can leave a middle-aged person feeling discontent and restless.  Often this 40- to 60-year-old may have a need to reassess life and its meaning.”

Hang on then…does this mean that I might be having a mid life crisis?  At thirty-X and fast approaching 40, am I middle aged?  I mean, I have more laugh lines and crows feet than I used to, and sometimes I huff and puff after just a flight of stairs.  Then there’s the music on the radio… sometimes it just sounds like noise.  And just the other day, I was driving home from work and a bunch of kids were crossing the street in front of me and I can’t believe their choice in clothes these days – my mother would’ve never let me leave the house looking like that!

Uh oh, I’m feeling warm, I’m feeling agitated…and oh my goodness, restless!!  I am in full, DEFCON 1 crisis mode!!!

I think I AM middle aged!!  I mean, I don’t think I can even remember the last time I did anything spontaneously like tried to get into the latest, most hip lounge/bar/restaurant on a Saturday night after 10 pm that didn’t have any high chairs, kids menus or crayons….what does this all mean?

I continued my search for an answer when Google took me in a different direction.  Apparently, in today’s kinder, gentler lexicon, we should no longer be referring to a midlife crisis as a “crisis”, but rather as a transition – a period of tremendous growth.  Transition?  Really?

I admit, I’ve been searching for how to leave my mark…searching for something more.  I ask myself regularly, have I done all that I want to do?  Achieved all that I want to achieve?  Should I just be content with where I’m at???  And then there’s the list.  You know…THAT list.  The one we all have.  And if you’re anything like me, you have a few of those lists:  categorized, colour-coded, time sequenced…the works.  I haven’t even started to knock items off MY list!

And now I’m middle aged???  I’m going through a midlife crisis?!  I mean…transition?  I’m so confused.  I yearn for the past when things were simpler.  The present seems so overwhelming and don’t even get me started about the future – positively, terrifying!

And wait, I didn’t even bring this up…my husband did.  The big “M” has infected my household!!!!

It’s all starting to make sense now.  Seemingly, out of nowhere, my husband decides that it was important to get in touch with his Scottish roots before he dies – he’s 41 and healthy as a horse.  For him, that means learning to play bagpipes.  Not guitar (mmm…sexy), or drums (cool), or even the piano (hello)…bagpipes.  See, when my husband was just a young boy, his mom would take him to a sweet, little old lady’s house for piano lessons.  She would pull into the piano teacher’s driveway to drop him off, and then he would have to make his own way home.  But instead of going in, my husband would sneak around to the side of the house, wait until his mother’s car was gone, and then kill time wandering around the neighbourhood for an hour.  This went on for weeks!!

And right now, at this very moment, my husband is “learning” to play his chanter (an instrument that looks like a long recorder but sounds like an elephant with a stuffy trunk) which he bought online and just arrived today. This instrument is to bagpipes, as a tricycle is to a bicycle…and, I mean no disrespect, I THANK GOD that we have not yet graduated to the real thing!

But NOW he practices.  NOW he’s making up for lost time.  And NOW I’m listening to the two other “chanter enthusiasts” try to get in on the act but daddy doesn’t want to share his precious new toy.  So instead, I’m surrounded by the noise of none other than my own, “pop-up boy band” comprised of the chanter-to-be-bagpipe player, the guitarist, and the drummer.

Akh!  I can’t think!

I have evaluated, re-evaluated and re-re-evaluated my purpose, my career, and “what I want to be when I grow up”.  I have given up, picked myself up and continued my search for MY holy grail more times than I can remember.

And what have I learned?  That the big “M” is indeed a transition.  That it is ongoing…like learning to play the chanter.  I’ve been through some of life’s most notable and trying times – all of which continue to shape who I am, and undoubtedly, who I will be.  And while the chanter is now in the hands of my 3 year old, under the tutelage of my husband and accompanied by the loud stomps of my nearly 7 year old, and I still feel like I’m nowhere near figuring everything out, I know that I have now, this moment, this memory during my midlife, that despite all of my transitioning, I will never forget.

Time…it’s never on your side?

It’s 8:45 am…train’s at 9:25 am – plenty of time to park the car, run up to the office, change into my sleek heels for the closing lunch, download files onto my laptop, go to the washroom, and casually walk to the train station right?

8:46 am…parking ticket in mouth, laptop bag on one shoulder, purse in hand, keys in other hand…oooh, I should grab my coffee cup and chuck it in the garbage too instead of leaving it to rot in my freshly detailed car…CRAP!!!  The coffee cup tipped forward and coffee has trickled down my right sleeve, then the cup falls in—total—slow—motion…there’s coffee all over my carseats and floor!!  Oh no!!  Oooh, but I have baby wipes!  Problem solved.

A quick clean up later and I’m in the elevator on my way up to the office.  Ahhhh….the only place in my life that’s JUST MINE.  No toys, no clothes or socks all over the floor, no one whining for my attention or asking me where this is or that is.  A real escape…

Oh.  My.  God.  It’s 9:05 and I need at least 12 minutes to get to the train station.  RUUUUUUUUNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!

This was my Monday morning.  And it seems to be the norm for me lately.  I’m always in a rush and seemingly out of touch with time!

Take my 6 year old’s hockey games.  The hockey rink is like my church.  I go there…because I have to.  Because it’s for a greater cause.  Because I have faith that my son could be a great hockey player if he just cared enough.  So I get up every Saturday morning, feed my son breakfast, fight over the importance and merits of sticking to something that you started (this time and for the purposes of this entry, hockey lessons) and fumble my way through a myriad of equipment:  neck guard, chest and shoulder pad, elbow pads, shin guards, the jock cup (this one always makes us laugh), the socks, shorts and jersey…and then those blasted skates!  Why can’t they just be Velcro???  I have broken more nails than I can count putting those things on!  And if it’s not a broken nail it’s the “lace burn” (akin to a rope burn) that kills me.  Those things are like weapons!  Trying to get a 6 year old boy to stand still, and then trying to get leverage to lace up the skate all while worrying about slicing your femoral artery – akh, the stress level!!!

And then once again, I’ve taken much longer to get all the gear on than anticipated.  And this means, of course, that I have less than 5 minutes to get to the arena.  And I still have to get dressed myself!  So I wind up at the rink with a t-shirt and (gratefully a bra), jeans, uggs and whatever jacket happens to be hanging by the door – and most of the time it’s my ratty “take the garbage out” jacket which is only a jacket in name and should really just be called a robe as I use it mostly to cover myself when I’m taking out the garbage in my PJs so as not to miss the garbage collection!!  So I’m freezing as I haven’t even bothered with socks and am walking my son onto the ice thinking about then sitting down in the “warm area” for 35 minutes of spacing out (we missed the first 15 minutes of practice, you see) when my son looks at me with those big brown eyes and says, “you’re going to stand over here and watch me the whole time, right?”  Oh boy.

Of course I comply.  And now that we’re where we need to be, doing what we need to do, I need time to go by.  But time’s just not going to cooperate with me, is it?

I watch the clock.  It feels like hours have gone by…but no.  Just 4 minutes.  Can it be?  I’m completely frozen.  My bum has officially turned rock hard from the cold (not the 10 squats I squeezed in last night for the first time in a month).  I swear I can no longer feel my fingers or toes and I feel like my nose is going to fall off.  Just 4 minutes?!!??! 

Why wasn’t time moving at THIS pace when I was trying to catch my train?  Get out the door in the morning?  Get the kids to school before the bell?  Sheesh.

And yet, sometimes, only sometimes, time really shows you what it’s worth when you’re going at just the right pace.  When you don’t hit the snooze button at all and get up when the alarm clock buzzes at the crack of dawn.  When you catch the subway right before rush hour, pick up a latte and croissant, and make it to your desk with more than seconds to spare.  When you get home, finish dinner and homework and find you can still squeeze in a funny movie, a quick catch up phone call or coffee, or play with the kids before bedtime.  It’s pure magic.

So now, I’m feeling the magic.  For just one more hour I get to sit here, on my train ride home, the sun is shining outside, I’m playing my favourite tunes, relaxing and I have absolutely nothing else to do.  Time and I are going at the same pace and though I know we’ll inevitably be out of sync as soon as the train pulls into the station, and I pull out my car keys to race home and get dinner on the table and start homework, I have now.