Que Sera, Sera…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mom-jeans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Que sera, sera…

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

Que sera, sera…

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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

Traditions, traditions…??

Traditions are developed over long periods:  decades, centuries, millennia…or so I thought. 

It’s the time of year again when traditions take centre stage.  The holidays are approaching and everyone – every family, every social and religious group – has their own way of celebrating all based on their traditions.  But traditions aren’t just about holidays or special events; they also govern the way that we interact with one another in our day-to-day lives.

This year, I am spending the holiday season together with my own family, as a tenant in my parents’ house. For those who missed my previous post, let me catch you up.  Aged forty-something, mother of 2 boys and wife of one very Mr. Niceguy, I’m undertaking the ambitious project of renovating my house into my dream home (or as close to it as budget will allow!).

It goes without saying (though must be said as both parents are avid readers of my work) that my parents are making the ultimate sacrifice.  I’m sure that when my sister and I first moved out they must have breathed the largest sigh of relief: “Finally…”  They had accomplished what I believe all parents hope to achieve (which I now appreciate):  two married daughters, established, homes of their own – now they could relax.

Until they took us in.

Only months after they had taken in my younger sister and her family…

And only weeks after they completed their own renovations…

But (I believe) as parents, they’d signed a deal (perhaps with God or the universe) and in so doing, upheld their traditions of always caring for family so on November 2 (Mr. Niceguy’s birthday!!) we moved in.

I had prepared my brood for how they’d need to behave:  be neat and tidy, no eating in front of the television, no yelling/screaming/fighting/pretend skiing or car racing in the house/and always, always finish the food on your plate.  I thought I had it figured out what with years and years being under my parents’ roof – surely things could not have changed that much, could they?

What I hadn’t banked on was just how much I would change (or come into my own) after flying the coop…

Kim K ArmeniaWhen I married Mr. Niceguy I thought to myself, I will absorb this man.  I come from a culture that is as old as Ancient Egypt (and incidentally has produced some of the sexiest people in the world including Kim Kardashian!) while his is only a few hundred years old.  I will convert him to an Armenian and he will adopt all of our traditions, our ways of being – he will no longer be phased by my air-traffic-controller hand gesticulations or jump at my voice as I yell commands from just the other room as though I was on a trans-Atlantic telephone call circa 1979 – incidentally my dad still does this whenever he’s on a long-distance call…even if it’s just to my aunt and uncle in Hamilton!

Oh how wrong I was.  While Mr. Niceguy did get used to me and my ways (he loves the cuisine and even raises his voice above a whisper from time-to-time)…I hadn’t realized until I moved in with my parents just how many of his traditions I’d adopted.  He quietly, stealthily, converted me into a person who went from blurting, “Huh?” and “What?!” to “Pardon?” and “Please.”  Living with my parents, I see where so many of my quirks and foibles come from but having had time apart, you really do develop your own traditions.

Our life has become so individualized:  each of us has a schedule – I volunteer, write, and am managing our home renovation; Mr. Niceguy has a full time job and is constantly in training mode for one obstacle race or another; and the 9 year old and 5 year old are a couple of jumping beans bouncing between school, soccer, swimming, piano, skiing, judo, jiu jitsu and everything else in between!  We have what’s a very modern “grab-and-go” lifestyle.  We eat on the run, do homework on the run, catch-up on the run and perhaps the only two things we do staying still are video games and sleep.  (And TV for me!!)

Just the other day I was standing in the kitchen having breakfast for dinner:

Elegant mom:  What are you doing dear?  Why are you eating like that, hunched over your plate?  Why don’t you sit down?

Me:  ***Food stuffed cheeks***  Pardon?

Elegant mom:  I said, why don’t you sit down while you eat?  And what is it that you’re eating anyway?  Are you having eggs?  For DINNER??!

Me:  ***Swallow quickly – don’t talk with mouth full***  Yes.  It’s Wednesday.  Wednesday is Judo night.  I got the boys from school, cleaned up, did homework, made breakfast for dinner, and now I’m just eating quickly so I can get them to their class…

Elegant mom:  But eggs?  For dinner?  Surely dear they must need better nourishment.  They’re growing boys!  Look here, I’ve made green fasoolia with rice – why don’t you feed them what I made?  And where’s Mr. Niceguy?  Should I fill a plate for him?

Me:  ***Totally exasperated – I don’t have time, I don’t have time, I don’t have time…*** Mom I don’t have time!  I have to get them out of the door.  Mr. Niceguy will take care of himself!

Elegant mom:  “Take care of himself?”  No.  That’s not right.  He must feel comfortable and be well fed in our home.  You know dear, you must make time for good nutrition.  Look at you. Did you sleep well?  You know, if you don’t take care of yourself…

Carrie Post photoThis is one of just a myriad of interactions…in a day.  But I’m beginning to realize that perhaps I shouldn’t depart so quickly from my “old” traditions. While loud and food centric at times, these traditions are rooted in taking the time to have real interactions – not just those on-the-go – they value a slower, more humane pace and while I seldom have the patience for “twenty questions” (“Where’d you go? What’d you do? Who’d you see? Who’d you know?”*), they’re an indication of real, genuine interest and caring: the cornerstone of family.

So, while you make your lists for Santa this year consider the gift of family and good friends.  I am getting the gift of knowing my parents as the people they are now, Mr. Niceguy is getting a front-row seat to my history, and my children are not only getting to build memories with their grandparents, but getting first-hand experience with our rich and unique culture laced with ALL of our traditions.

Now, if only I could put a stop to the teen angst flashbacks that keep cropping up like my chubby days, the mean girls, the countless crush dramas, getting caught, the heartbreaks and, and, and…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, your families and loved ones.  May 2016 bring us all more of what will fill our hearts and souls, and make memories we can recount for years to come…

*Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City, recounting discussions with Aiden Shaw after moving in together to her girls.

christmas-wallpaper-196

 

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

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

Role reversal…?

Originally written for Mother’s Day…

About 7 years ago, I was standing just outside “flower row” on Avenue Road.  It was a very special Sunday, Mother’s day, and people were buying flowers for their mothers/sisters/grandmothers/aunts/wives.  Meanwhile, for me it was just a typical downtown Sunday, where I had just come from having a very satisfying meal at one of my favourite brunch places, looking every bit the rotund mother-to-be…43 pounds more heavy, 6 weeks pre-baked, prego lady…the perfect subject for a feel-good TV interview piece about Mother’s Day.

A reporter got one look at me and ran right over, practically salivating!  She prepped her cameraman (who also looked really excited but I think more because he could finally get his shot and get out of the madness) smoothed down her perfectly coiffed hair, and then turned to me.  After a quick, three…two…one…the mic was in my face and… “Hi!  We’re here in downtown Toronto on this very special day.  It’s Mother’s Day!  Miss, I mean, ma’am, tell me, how special is this day for you?”  I stood there totally frozen.  Why was this woman waiting for MY answer?  I shrugged and said, “Well, it’s kind of not a day for me, is it?  I mean, I’m just pregnant – I don’t have any kids yet, so I don’t really think of this day as anything especially meaningful.”  At this point she looked at me like I was from outer space…and like she was about ready to tear my head off…so I added, “Umm…I mean, until I have this baby, I think this is still a day for my mom, not me.  But I’m excited???”  Cameraman and reporter both looked at me, mouths agape, shocked…incidentally, I didn’t make it on the 6 o’clock news…

Was she waiting for me to gush:  “Awww…this is the best day.  So amazing!  I can’t wait to be a mother!  I can’t wait to meet this little baby!  I’m experiencing the miracle of life and it’s going to be the best thing EVER!”  Well, that’s just not me…I never heard the birds chirping or saw the clouds part – I had no idea of what I was getting into…and how much I would change as a result…

Seven years later…it’s 11:15 pm.  I just got home from work.  I’ve had one of those days…in fact, more like one of those weeks!  Up at the crack of dawn, drop one kid off at school, while my husband stayed at home and took care of the other (a big ball of ooze thanks to spring allergies and a cold), followed by a 15.5 hour stretch at work.

And the first thing I thought of when I came home?  “Where’s my dinner?”

For anyone that’s seen the movie Pleasantville, there’s a scene in it where the father, a stereotypical 1950’s man that goes to work, while his “little woman” takes care of the house, makes marshmallow salads, and cares for the children, comes home and gets all snappy because things have been turned upside down, his wife has “seen the light” and hadn’t prepared dinner. I felt very much like this man – like everything I knew had been turned upside down.

Here I was clinging onto the middle rungs of the corporate ladder and during this latest stretch of work insanity, my husband’s the one making lunches, wiping noses, overseeing homework and having chats with the other moms in the parking lot!  He’s the one who has become the centre of our home.  He’s the one who knows where things are and what’s happened on Lego Ninjago.  He’s the one they look for…

Don’t I want to be the one to take my kids to school, chat with the other moms in the parking lot and still have time to watch Bold and the Beautiful and do homework?  But also, don’t I want to achieve something that’s just mine…leave my own mark?

Like the pendulum of the clock, I keep swinging back and forth and at close to 1:30 am in the early morning, I decide I’m done.

And I’m strangely satisfied.  I remember that as a mom, I have the gift of continuously witnessing breaks in the time-space continuum – something I never saw before; moments, where I see myself in my kids’ laughter, tantrums, and surprise.  I can almost feel them experiencing life as my heart quickens when I see their absolute joy or total devastation and I’m forever perplexed and amazed at how quickly the world becomes a better place after a simple hug, a high-five and a smile.

I wish I could go back and answer the question I was asked seven years ago, all over again.  I would say to that reporter, here’s what Mother’s Day means to me:  That although I still think this is still more of a day for my mom… that it would apply to me soon.  That although I have no idea what I am getting into, I hope to do a good job and make sure that my kids will laugh loud, genuine laughs every day.  But being a mom would not define me completely and I hope that my kids would also get to know me.  After having said all of that, we’re just going to take things as they come, and figure things out as we go.