Red Jellybeans…

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

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

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

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

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

They say it’s personality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closet Claustrophobe…

All of us have these little things that make us, well, us. For instance, like many others, I’m often found complaining that I need to lose 5 or 10 pounds, haven’t had time to exercise, or just have waaaaaaay too many things on my plate.

Actually, I do have one quirk which makes me, me. Every night when I finally get the chance to relax after getting the kids to bed and the house tidied from the whirlwind that is the 10 year old and 7 year old, I wish to myself that I had the fastest metabolism in the world. All I want more than anything is to have a banquet-sized feast complete with fettucine alfredo, roast beef, spaghetti, and some very delicious Armenian delicacies (like mantee and dolma!) without ANY consequences. When I’ve admitted this to Mr. Niceguy he’s responded with, “Oooh, that sounds like fun!” Actually, it sounds more like the answer to all my prayers…!

But one of my bigger quirks? I am a “closet claustrophobe”. By that I mean, I am claustrophobic – some of the time. And I don’t make a big deal about it but I’m never sure when it will strike. There are guaranteed moments, however. For example, if I’m at a party and the music is just pumping and I’m really into the groove well, it doesn’t really matter how squished I am…until the girl behind me starts elbowing me and the sweaty guy dancing with her keeps inching into my personal space and I can feel his sweat invading my atmosphere and oh, there’s a drop and I’m about to lose my mind while I try to figure out how to break away on the one hand, and find room to show off all my moves on the other!

***BLECH***

It’s an odd feeling, claustrophobia. And it’s particularly harrowing when it just creeps up out of nowhere.

I wonder…maybe I was made for wider spaces – less density. And then, when I have all the space I could want, I feel like I’m haunted by ghosts. Where is the happy medium?

I recall one of the first times I realized I had claustrophobic tendencies. Mr. Niceguy and I had travelled to the fabulous Greek island of Mykonos – I know I write about Mykonos often but you see, once I discovered that little piece of heaven on Earth, I made it my mission to be there nearly 3 years in a row! Ooooh…when I think of those times…

The schedule was marvelous: awake sometime around 11am – just in time to have the last ham and cheese pastries at the little bakery around the corner. Then, walk through the deserted windy, cobblestone paths flanked on either side with whitewashed walls and blue-shutter-framed windows to catch the bus to Elia beach. All day long we would lie for hours on our rented loungers, counting time by the sun’s position and our deepening tans (ok, in reality also counting time by the number of cigarettes smoked, Coca Light’s and the number of songs listened to on my discman). Aaaaah…paradiso.

When the tans couldn’t get any deeper, we would head back to the bus and into town to start the night’s festivities that would carry well into the wee hours of the morning. Only one day, at the end of a successfully two-shades-darker-suntan day, there was an accident on the road which blocked the entire road leaving our bus stopped on an incline on a very tall hill (there’s only one main road that travels around the whole island).

The bus was packed with beachgoers eager to get back into town. Of note here is that the bus…was packed…with sweaty beach goers….at the end of a very hot day…crowding the aisles, with their arms raised to hold the safety bars along the top – sweat and hairy armpits everywhere. Oooh, and did I mention that in Greece when the bus stops on the top of a hill because of a minor motorbike accident in the middle of the only road it also turns off its engine? Yes. Important detail. No air. And the bus was so old that the windows would barely crack open.

I thought I would black out – blacking out would have been a welcome respite from my suffering in that wretched, hot hell – can’t you just feel how awful it was? Only I wasn’t so lucky. I recall turning into my own armpit trying to shield myself from my surroundings. I recall wishing I had an inside seat and wasn’t standing. I recall the cute brown leather change purse that a Brazilian girl was carrying and how it would be my salvation – every stitch counted, the pattern of leather committed to memory…all so that I could cope with the cold sweat trickling down my back which had nothing to do with the temperature and everything to do with feeling like a sardine.

The most glorious being, of course, when we finally made it off that bus and I could breathe deeply and normally, stretch out my arms and legs and just be grateful for life! I believe I started skipping back to our hotel…or perhaps I was skipping because it was dinnertime…

I would say that was probably my first and most significant experience with claustrophobia. Thankfully I learned from that situation. Like to always try and find a seat on the subway during rush hour. Or to always sit by an operational window. On elevators I almost never stand in the centre. When going out with friends and there’s an odd number, I often try to be next to the empty seat. And I almost never walk ahead because I feel like the person walking behind is going to catch me. It’s a funny quirk…perhaps it’s all the extra space I need for all of my baggage? Who knows.

In any case, if we’re ever having a heart-to-heart and I subtly start to back away…well, let me. It’s not that I’m not interested or listening, it’s just that I could use a little room. And if you do figure out how I can have a banquet-sized-meal before bed and lose weight at the same time, well, I’ll definitely lean in a little closer!

 

Brains…or guts??

What do you think is the most important organ in your body?  Is it THE BRAIN – after all, it is your command centre.  How about your heart?  Surely the largest organ, our skin, plays a significant role too as it holds everything together and protects us from the elements?  Since this is not a scientific inquiry…at least, not really, I’m going to say it’s the organ that stretches like a rope to about the length of a swimming pool…your guts.

There’s no arguing that the brain is our CPU – or central processing unit.  Here is borne logic, reason and analysis.  The way we see and interpret the world and how we in turn interact with it – it all comes from the brain…or does it?

Last month I touched upon the subject of “gut feelings” – while these may give rise to superstitious behaviours, I’m beginning to appreciate these “feelings” for their other capabilities.  In trying to navigate through life, I sometimes lose my way.  But I’ve been told that while I may think, analyze and use logic, in many situations (particularly important if I want Mr. Niceguy to “hear” me), I should also be consulting with my gut.  And lately, I’ve been doing just that.

Today I stand perfectly square and centred at the crossroads of mid-life.  In determining which path to take, I am trying to quiet the noise and listen more closely to what’s inside me… to my gut.  Most recently I passed up an incredible work opportunity – a decision I struggled with a great deal as it felt like this chance was handpicked for me…or who I think myself to be.  At this crossroad, however, I am weaving my chrysalis and am in transition and what I think I want may not actually be what I really want.

Oufff!  Why can’t we all be handed a map?!

Ingrained in many of us is the mentality, “when opportunity knocks, answer the door.” The idea that it’s wrong to let opportunities slip through your fingers – if you don’t grab it, it’s gone forever. But is that true?  Is the universe not much more benevolent than that?  Isn’t that just “Fear” talking?  Fear that IF I do or don’t do something then I’ll land in a stinky pile of regret.

I’m transported back to my Grandma’s living room in St. Catharines to countless episodes of The Price is Right and when contestants pass on the first showcase showdown (even though it’s a trip to Tahiti and a new car!) expecting the prize behind door number 2 to be better but no, all they find is a Sea Doo and a new washer dryer combination – a whole lotta “no thanks” for someone from Kansas.

Well, when I was faced with this recent choice, I quieted those automatic “GRAB IT!” fear signals from my brain and listened to my gut.  The payoff was not immediate.  Left muddling through feelings of inadequacy, cowardice, and like I’ve let down the modern female woman for not trying harder to find a balance, or the more traditional woman in me, for even entertaining something that would put my children second…I trust that my gut led me in the right direction.

In my search for greater fulfillment, perhaps my gut is leading me back to a time when practicality was not the key driver.  To a time when what people thought, and their expectations of me, was less important.  Perhaps my gut is leading me out of, and away from, attracting the same kinds of opportunities that made me stand up and (quietly) demand something more…only I’m starting to hear that voice inside me a little bit louder…a little bit clearer…and while I’m frustrated that I can’t always hear what it’s saying, or trust that it has my good intentions at heart.

Sometimes, stepping out and trying something totally different makes you realize just how big the world is.  I’m on a journey…

So where am I headed?  Wherever that inner tide will take me…and it’s scary to trust that it will all work out.  The world is big and full of opportunities – and experiencing it in new and different ways takes courage.  It takes fearlessness.  And feeling fearless, even for just a moment like when I, today, for the very first time in my forty-something years went to a movie all by myself, can become more of a habit.  That example tells you just how measured and analytical I can be…perhaps you were expecting that I bungee jumped?  Oh no…

The key, you see, is that feeling like I’m a small part of something so much bigger seems to make all my cares and concerns that much more manageable.  I guess it’s like finding religion…terribly appropriate for this time of year.

***I will add this as an addendum to the above.  While “mid-life questioning” applies to both men and women, I believe that women often don’t listen to their gut questioning and muffle that inner voice, after all, who can hear with all the noise?  We struggle with maintaining careers and families, struggle with feelings of inadequacy when we choose one over the other, and oftentimes, shelve our inner “artists” for the needs of others.  This can also happen at any time in one’s life…mid life age not necessary.  Yet, while I’m old enough to know that I can’t have it all, I refuse to give up on myself.  It’s time to trust in my gut and take my cobblestone path…be sure to get out and find your own in this big, big world!

“Very superstitious…writing on the wall…”

I have this fear that when I have a deep desire or longing for something If I say it out loud I may

  1. jinx it
  2. someone else might want it and worse yet, get it before I do, or
  3. by stating it, I’ve started a mythical countdown that everyone knows about so if I don’t achieve right away I may as well tuck my tail between my legs and shelf my desire with all the other unachieved dreams, brainchilds and bright ideas.

What is it about superstition and why does it plague me so?

There are days where I imagine myself to be walking through a long tunnel-like hallway with bookcases on either side filled with so many shelved ideas and longings…like when Harry Potter walks through the Hall of Prophecies in the Ministry of Magic.  I think to myself, I’m lucky to have so many ideas and thoughts – but I’m also cursed because the minute I choose my course I’ve all but set myself up for failure.

hall-of-prophecy

I mean, I’m a logical person…most of the time.  I’m modern.  I understand that superstition is, well, not real…though I’d be lying if I said the black cat, walking under a ladder, killing spiders, crossing over someone’s legs and broken mirrors didn’t send shivers up my spine.

Take when my basement flooded…on the day of my 15th wedding anniversary…the only day in our entire marriage when Mr. Niceguy used the words, “I have bad news”…

It was right after the 6 year old recovered from the stomach flu and on Christmas eve, when we finalized our plans for our traditional quick getaway to upstate New York with my parents in tow. This annual tradition is one that we all look forward to – incidentally, it is the reason I own a seven-passenger SUV even though we’re just a family of four.  Tangent: as an Armenian, there’s no such thing as a “family of four” it’s more like a family of ‘us’; my parents, my sister, her family, my inlaws, my cousins, my aunts and uncles…you get it.  If I could manage a large minibus that could tackle off roading and trips to the ski hills…believe me I would seriously consider it for my “family”.

But I digress…

On Boxing Day, while people were lining up to get into the malls here in Canada, we set off across the border to the quaint town of Victor.  For anyone wondering why Victor, they’d have to ask Mr. Niceguy who randomly picked this town a few years ago thanks to his love of road trips and his desire to simply visit a ski hill…but not ski.  (What???  Yes.  Among his other qualities, when it comes to emergency preparedness, obstacle courses, judo and yes, vacation destinations there is no greater enthusiast than Mr. Niceguy)  Mr. Niceguy is known for “random” getaways and by random, I mean random only to me because they are thoroughly thought out in Mr. Niceguy’s brain but come totally from left field for me.  In any case, my dad was eager to spend time with his son-in-law and grandsons while my mom and I were excited to return to the outlet mall nearby.

paris-day-shopping-by-luxury-car-in-paris-232554Incidentally, while we can attribute our hair colour or eye shape to genes and heredity, I can also attribute my love of shopping – the sport of shopping – to my mother.  At a very young age I was her companion on many a shopping trip like the time when my sister went with my dad to see the Mona Lisa, I visited some of the best Parisian department stores and boutiques.  It was then when I learned about fashion – the way silk drapes and organza hovers, how stitching would indicate whether a garment was laboriously made by hand, or whipped up by a machine, how a shoe could elongate one’s stature or cut it down to a stump.  I inherited that glimmer that I get in my eyes when I find that one piece, that one article that’s just right and the excitement in learning about the latest trends, colours, cuts and fabrics all from my mother…and yes, like an inherited birthmark, I take that with me everywhere, including to the outlet mall near Victor, New York.

Getting back to the impending sense of doom I feel when I decide on a course…  After a gluttonous and fun getaway, we returned back home the day before our wedding anniversary.  The trip had gone well:  we made off with some great deals and better finds, and I had managed to keep myself in check having been the perfect daughter, wife and mother…sometimes a bit of a challenge for my hot-headed self.  That night, we unpacked everything (abandoning our more typical ‘unpack-one-article-at-a-time-over-a-period-of-a-month’) and relaxed in anticipation of our big anniversary day.

I had decided that to mark our special anniversary, we had to do something or perhaps buy something for each other that would forever remind us of achieving our milestone.  And for anyone who’s made it to 15, I’m sure you will agree that it’s quite a milestone.  I will pause here to say the following: I often worry that life is passing me by too quickly and in a blur. I don’t know where the time goes and yet, I constantly find myself wishing days away.  This light-speed-paced lifestyle which I find myself having unknowingly adopted has resulted in me forgetting even some of the big moments so I started journaling again just so I can remember what happened in between the highlights of birthdays and holidays.  At the time, I remember thinking, “I don’t want to forget, I have to think of a way to mark this special day…”

Well…isn’t there that little saying, “Be careful what you wish for?”  I got it in spades.

“I have some bad news,” said he, “there’s water in the basement.”  “Oh ya?  OK…”  I though to myself, was this just an anniversary prank?  As if he could read my thoughts…wouldn’t THAT be nice after 15 years… “No, there’s lots of water.”  Needless to say, as I watched floorboards float by, and the pretty pattern of waves on my ceiling, my 15th anniversary became forever imprinted on my brain.  Had I brought this upon myself?  Had the universe heard my call?

Aaaah….hello superstition.  I had “put my idea out there” and in one fell swoop I had jinxed myself.

In the aftermath, however, perhaps being superstitious had some merit…but the outcome was completely different than what I thought.  Within one hour my entire basement had been drained of water.  Within one week, it was confirmed that the flood was not our fault, a much more sophisticated flood warning system had been installed and I was on the verge of ensuring that my basement would be dryer than it could have ever possibly been…and that it would remain that way.  And forever…forever I would remember that for a brief moment, on my fifteenth wedding anniversary, Mr. Niceguy and I were proud owners of an indoor swimming pool.

So if you ask me about my ideas or thoughts, my plans or dreams…I may share them with you…or if I’m feeling particularly superstitious you may see a wry little smile as I change the subject to something a little less…well…spine tingling…

Black Cat - Not Amused!

 

Don’t forget the big things!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Spincycle Diaries:  Chaos Theory – the explanation for my insanity?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result

This according to Albert Einstein, one of the smartest human beings to ever walk the earth so it must be right, right?  So if it’s as simple as trying something different each time until you get the result that you seek or hope to get, why do some of us – namely me – have so much difficulty understanding this and are prone to rinse, repeat, redo, rinse, repeat, redo, rinse, repeat, redo…caught in a spincycle of insanity?

I’ll offer up a quasi-hollywoodesque-scientific reason:  Chaos Theory.

spincycle-octoberSee, I became the proud owner of a very big screen television – a dream come true, really. So now I get to watch The Bachelor, Survivor, and my favourite movies virtually in life-size. While most people would be excited during a renovation with the prospect of a gigantic closet, full automation or the latest and greatest kitchen appliances, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this TV. I dreamt up a list of all of my favourite movies that I would watch on this giant TV. As an official member of the Arsenal Canada fan club, Mr. Niceguy had a simple request: to watch the Arsenal vs. Hull City soccer match. The 10 year old was keen to hook up his video games – NO – and the 6 year old just wanted anything Netflix. Top of my list, Jurassic Park. The idea of watching a gigantic T-Rex on the screen both excited and thrilled me at the same time.

Needless to say, in a house full of boys, I’m still waiting for my turn.

But I digress, one of my favourite characters of all time is Dr. Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum in said movie. He is a mathematician and devotee of Chaos Theory. So what is chaos theory?  It is a branch of mathematics and the key to understanding the cause of my insanity.  In fact, I say this to all the moms out there, it may also be the answer for you.

Physics has had great success in explaining certain kinds of behaviour, like the regular movement of the planets in our solar system, or the way a pendulum swings.  These are what’s called “linear equations”.  Think of it this way:  if you have 5 apples and you eat 1 apple you are left with 4 apples; linear. But physics does not handle another type of behaviour, described as “turbulent”, or non-linear, quite as well.

You know what’s “turbulent”?  Boys.  Boys in September.  When they go back to school and everything is new and exciting, frightening and freaky, and their personalities are completely out of whack because I, their mother, still haven’t figured out just how to enforce an earlier “school time” bedtime and have been beaten down to now hoping that the time change, and with it, the dark will do my bidding.  All of a sudden I am once again dealing with umbrella sword fights in the car, backtalk, insubordination and a general feeling like I’m undervalued, unappreciated and just irrelevant and the 10 year old and 6 year old have already turned into pimply faced, hormonal teenage boys for whom I am simply the large megaphone from Charlie Brown (for those who are not familiar with the “megaphone”, it’s Charlie Brown’s teacher and when she speaks, the children only hear, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah”).  Incidentally, and just as a side note, I have a healthy fear of teenagers.  They can turn on you on a dime and before you know it, you’re wishing you were never born.

But back to chaos theory. If turbulent events are described as non-linear equations, then is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result really insane?  Perhaps being in a spincycle, then, is not a predictor of the final result. My favourite example is that which is used in the movie: a drop of water is placed on the back of the hand – the water, rolls down a certain path.  When the same drop of water is placed at the same spot, again, on the back of the hand, it now travels a different path because the hairs on the skin have risen or the microscopic cells on the surface of the skin itself have changed.  Thus, a non-linear, turbulent event.  Physics can only explain that the water will drip down, but which path it takes, is determined by numerous factors which may, or may not, come into play – chaos.

Now for a real-life example.  My kids like to play a (dreaded, awful) game – it’s called, “Opposite Day”.  Usually it comes up when they’re starting to get annoyed with one another and they’re on the cusp of yet another fight in the backseat of the car that I’m forced to referee through the rearview mirror during rush hour traffic on the way to school.  “I think you’re the greatest…” starts the 10 year old, “…on opposite day!” To which the 6 year old replies loudly, “So what you’re saying is, I SUCK?!  Well YOU suck!  MOMMY!!!!

So when I YELL at my kids to STOP YELLING at each other because good, decent people DON’T YELL over and over again and I’m going insane because this is the umpteenth time I’ve asked them to stop and I’m afraid that one of these days I’m going to get into a car accident (yes, I’m a hypochondriac and yes, that’s a very linear equation when it comes to me) is it fair for me to expect that at some point I’ll get a different outcome because children are non-linear equations?  I mean, they are turbulent and ever changing so perhaps at some point they will just please stop yelling??!!

In conclusion, while it may appear to most that I, like other mothers, am insane for trying to mold my children into good and decent contributing citizens of society by repeating the same requests the same way over and over again, I ask you to remember Chaos Theory. Eventually, we will get to the right outcome and therein lies the secret and answer to all my doubts about my abilities as mother…at least for now….until some part of the non-linear equation changes again….

Babes and Bellinis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Babes and bellinis

Superheroes, surfer dudes and dads…

When it comes to cars, perhaps the one thing I’ve paid the least attention to is the roadside assistance package.  Mag wheels, spoilers, off-roading capability – these are the things I’m interested in…it’s not that I don’t value emergency preparedness, it’s that I’m fortunate to have a superhero for a dad who has gotten me out of every conceivable vehicular mess I’ve ever been in and who, virtually from the moment I got my driver’s license, handed me NOT my own car but a CAA (or AAA in the US) membership card.  I was given a physical representation of “responsible” rather than the teenage dream of a brand new car wrapped with a shiny red bow…would a library card be next?

But as teenagers, what do we really know anyway?

In our teens, our hormones have us wired to be adventure seeking daredevils – well at least they did me – ready to push some boundaries and certainly prepared to aggravate my parents’ collective temper and anxiety.  In fact, I recall going out with a friend on an “unauthorized road trip” significantly out of the city where we blew a fuse and had to use a flashlight as a proxy for headlights on a small highway with no streetlights just to get home…

With time and age, that CAA card has come to represent much more than the boring gift of responsibility.  I have come to appreciate it as my father’s acceptance that his daughters (yes, my sister got one too) would be released to explore the world.

My parents witnessed my many road trips to visit friends and head off to new opportunities in different cities, and all the while they took comfort that their daughter had that magic card in her wallet – to this day, my dad still pays for my CAA card and after the very first long weekend this summer, boy was I ever glad.

Once again Mr. Niceguy had signed up for an obstacle course this time one developed by US Navy Seals and I swear he’s living out his dreams of being a super “double-0” agent!  I admire him tremendously; a former cheeseburger and beer connoisseur, Mr. Niceguy is now in the best shape of his life thanks to an unwavering dedication and discipline to improving his physicality.

Bonefrog Challenge_20160521_090953_RJM_0735Incidentally Mr. Niceguy is also a constant reminder to me that I need to get off my duff and do a leg lift or put aside my third coffee and croissant…

So off we went, kids in tow, to the Bone Frog event in Charlemont, Massachusetts; aka the middle of nowhere about 2.5 hours outside of Boston.  This trip would do us some good as we would be giving my poor parents a break from our collective craziness and the 9 year old and 6 year old would have an opportunity to visit with some cousins.  Plus, travelling is in my blood and who doesn’t love Boston?

A lazy start to the day had us hit the road about two hours behind schedule but we were in no rush and were enjoying our conversation – all made possible by the liquification of our children’s brains in the backseat thanks to a portable DVD player, the iPad and Nintendo. I’ll go on record and say that I encouraged said liquification, though I did make them stop and look out the window as we passed some cows and horses.

Suddenly Mr. Niceguy said, “I’m losing power.”  Of course the first thing I thought was, what have YOU done to my beloved car?!?!?!?! And, ugh!  Just get out of the driver’s seat and let me take over!  But when he said, “we’re overheating” and I saw the white smoke coming out from under the hood, I realized we were in trouble.

IMG_8397Thank goodness for my superdad, and my CAA card.  At that moment, that card meant I didn’t have to panic – even though I did, a little…ok, a  lot.  While I made the necessary calls to get us on our way, despite my state of disbelief, calm, cool and collected Mr. Niceguy treated the boys to a little adventure in the middle of nowhere.  He took out our jackets and made a picnic blanket for the boys to sit on, brought them their crayons and colouring books, and turned our mishap into a memory.

Two hours later we were back on our way in a rental that was clearly loaned out to an owner of a kennel and despite the allergic reactions of Mr. Niceguy and the 6 year old as well as my asthma flare up, we were able to accomplish all of our weekend plans.

It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, though.  While the boys did get an adventure, I got anxiety – particularly when the 9 year old exclaimed, “Awesome!  What car do we buy next?” and every part of my insides were screaming OH MY GOD!!!!!  Mr. Niceguy ignored my thoughts of impending doom and said the following, “How lucky are we that this happened on a major highway and in daylight?” and “Thank goodness we didn’t hit a deer” also, “Lucky the car didn’t burst into flames, right?”  Hrrrrmmmppphhhh….

Parking brakeI resisted the urge to “pull a Mike Tyson”…and a good thing I did because once the nerves settled I could hear what he was saying, this cool surfer dude, and I allowed myself to get swayed.  Each time I would revert back to my  panic, he would make a joke like, “at least the tow truck driver wasn’t a serial killer” and I would go through my cycle again:  Tyson, no don’t do it, it’s not so bad, I can be cool too, but can I really, panic again, insert Mr. Niceguy…

So there it is.  I know I’m not being totally fair to myself when I say that my crazy often needs the balance of both my superdad and my super cool surfer dude.  Sure I can be cool to but in the wise words of my mom-in-law, thanks to my wonderfully calm, cool, collected and highly wise men in my life, I can take wings.  Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there – YOU are the best gifts!

IMG_8394

Thanks Mom…Just for being YOU.

Being a mom is part of my identity, but although I carry that invisible mom pass in my wallet (right next to the Costco card, the Gap Cash and every other points card under the planet), I sometimes struggle with my club membership. Is that all I am? Is that the most important part of me – being somebody’s mom? Does that membership card take precedence over my hard earned travel miles, gold card and driver’s license? True, I birthed two young boys, but sometimes it feels like the moment you become a mom, it becomes your whole identity…

The stakes are high when you’re a mom. So too are society’s standards…sometimes so high that they’re virtually impossible to achieve. I must keep a clean house that is totally “de rigueur”, be able to produce gourmet meals, my children must have manners, like to eat sushi, get A+ on all subjects and must excel in at least three extra-curricular activities, one of which must be “elite” or “extraordinary” like sailing, downhill racing or equestrian, and all of these are my responsibility – plus I have to look and act the part and in some instances hold down a full time job!

Well…I’m at a slight handicap here because I’m struggling to define myself beyond my “mom-borders”.  And I love it when the universe reminds me that my own definition of mom is allowed to be different.

Be trueBeing a mom is a raison d’être but certainly not my seule raison d’être, if you will.

I’m a wearer of many hats and among my many roles, my latest is that of construction project manager…ME! This is one challenge that I’ve readily accepted particularly this past month when my home renovation project really kicked into high gear. I have ignored family, friends, my children and Mr. Niceguy while I’ve poured over drawings and various engineering calculations, learned about air velocity and balancing, insulation and grading, and the list goes on. I’ve appreciated (virtually) every stressful second of it.

Despite the fact that we are temporarily being housed by my gracious parents (thank you, thank you, thank you!  They are readers and perhaps my only fans despite my many ramblings about them and I could use all the brownie points to make up for my constant outbursts, fits of rage and bouts of tears) I am still the primary caregiver of my children. It’s my job to make sure they eat their dinners, do their homework and not let their brains go to MUSH because they’d prefer to spend the entire day holed up in my parents’ basement in front of the big screen playing video games.

Vow Mr NiceguyI’d like to report that while I’ve assumed the role of project manager, my children’s brains have officially liquefied. I’m not entirely certain what’s making their guts move and I’m quite certain that it will only be by the grace of the Almighty that they will pass grade 4 and graduate kindergarten. Thank goodness Mr. Niceguy made a vow to love me for better or for worse…

All this because for the past month (or so…if I’m being honest), I put something other than being mom first. Go ahead and judge. But I won’t be blamed. And I refuse to take it on because I’ve already beat myself up about it enough, thank you very much, and I’m done. I’m a modern day renaissance woman and that means I’m a renaissance mom too after all, my teacher is one too…

My primary role model in the world of motherhood has been my mother. She grew up in a household filled mostly with boys. Not willing to be left behind, she would run alongside them – and oftentimes, ahead of them. She displayed as much grit, courage and bravery than any one of the others and while most girls her age would mind their chores and preserve their dresses, she was jumping from rooftop to rooftop along the buildings in Lebanon, sporting blue jeans and running off to the beach.

She is my non-traditional, traditional mom. And while she always makes sure that we are well clothed, fed and taken care of, she has a life of her own and I absolutely refuse to pigeon hole her into one role. Her life is a full adventure – and I hope mine will be nearly as full as hers.

It follows that I believe motherhood has to be the greatest adventure of all. There is no real, set, tried and true course – despite the fact that I’ve poured over dozens of popular baby books and scientific articles on child rearing. I could never have imagined the incredible joy that my children would bring before I became a mother…at the same time, I would never have imagined the feelings of tremendous guilt, frustration, and exasperation over little things like an unfinished plate of dinner or settling a child down to do homework and especially getting them to finally go to bed so that I could enjoy a moment’s peace after the never ending tidying, cooking, cleaning, monitoring and answering one hundred plus questions about the locations of any one of the following: “Mom, did you see my video game controller / the iPad / my book / my pencil / the red bouncy ball with the blue stripe – not the blue bouncy ball with the red stripe / my socks / my gym clothes / my special Pokemon card…blah, blah, blah!

I appreciate my role and the blessings (and heartaches) that come with it so I won’t feel guilty for the moments I yearn for the days of yore when dinner would be brought to me, when I could ask for my favourite dish, or when I take more than just a moment to pretend I’m something other than a mom. No. This month, when you write your mother a card, or bring her flowers, or just sit and think about her, take a moment to think about who she is (or was) as a person and thank her for just being her.

Me and Haig

Minecraft Part II: ‘Groundhog Day’, the luck of the Irish and finding me…

Forget it.  Not doing it.  I tried and it’s just not me.  I CANNOT GIVE UP THE REINS.

Last month it was all about abandoning my inner zombie and trying to be more chill, more relaxed, to trust and have faith thereby lightening my mental load – to try and be more present in my own life.  But I realize I’m going about it entirely the wrong way and here’s how I know…

st-peter-pearly-gates-fun-lolI’ve had a very full month.  Between the (what feels like, but obviously highly exaggerated) hundreds of projects and deadlines, for which, once again, I get paid in gratitude and brownie points (and hopefully a ticket to the VIP section when it’s time to meet Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates…), my discombobulation only got worse and when I tried to figuratively pull the ripcord from my parachute it malfunctioned and I came crashing down to earth at Mach 3 speed (in other words, I dropped like a fighter jet doing a nose dive at over 2000 mph).

But it’s been rewarding.  It has.  I swear.  I know everything happens for a reason and I know that sometimes we need to get pushed out of our comfort zone in order to grow.  I also know – no, I believe – that the universe sometimes forces you to get off the track or path you’re on because you’re just not supposed to be there (in other words, the universe believes you’ve totally f-ed up your life and has decided that it’s not going to wait any longer for you to get your @#$% together and it’s time for some tough-love and to totally uproot you from what you know, regardless of the tears, pain or fear, and put you back on course).

But one mustn’t read too much into the universe and the track and looking for signs and all that mumbo jumbo…right?  I mean…I have been getting a lot of LCBO and VRBO emails lately…it’s not like I’m supposed to be chugging back some whiskey on a beach somewhere…is it?  I mean, there has to be some modicum of control in one’s life…mustn’t there?

Back to how I know that I’m going about things the entirely wrong way.  Giving up control.  Well, that’s just not me.  I can’t do it.  I can’t let go of the reins.  It’s too much work, it feels too unnatural and quite frankly, I can just barely trust Mr. Niceguy with packing school lunches much less making sure that my children are actually dressed appropriately for the weather…yes, they almost ended up at the Toronto Auto Show in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops…IN FEBRUARY.  Truth be told, I find the need for an extra 5 minutes of sleep somehow breeds trust…

To be fair, Mr. Niceguy is very trustworthy, reliable and wonderfully supportive…when I haven’t been on a month-long quest of once again trying to figure out the meaning of my life, my purpose, my identity.  So needless to say, poor Mr. Niceguy doesn’t even know how to approach me for fear of encountering an emotionally unstable wreck that will likely bite his head off like a praying mantis.  Sorry Mr. Niceguy, it’s been tough for you too.  And it’s not a contest about whose life is harder, so I’m not going to play the “it’s hard to be a modern-day woman and pop two kids out of your body – that will never be the same again – find balance between being a mother and your old self, and balance between work and family, and, and, and…” card.  (I know, I just did…woman’s prerogative)

groundhog dayIt’s as if this entire past month has been one long bad hair day.  You know those days when you convince yourself that you can forego nicely pressed, clean clothes and makeup because who’s going to care really and perhaps you’re being far too shallow, so why not feel great about being a ‘granola’ (hippie-type) that embraces the all-natural, and just hop out of the door only to keep running into your ex-boyfriend or your public “frenemy” number 1?  Those days.  Like the movie Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray’s character Phil keeps repeating the same day over and over again until he learns his lesson, I feel like I’ve been frustrated – doomed until I get it right.

 

I can’t help but pause here and think with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, why can’t I be Irish?

luck of the irishTrue it’s totally unfair to distill any group down to just a few traits…I mean, as an Armenian I’ve been assumed to be as flaky as a “Kardashian” (I totally disagree with that view by the way and think that while I wouldn’t necessarily make the same life choices as Kim et al, I will go on record to say that she and her family definitely highlighted the Armenian Genocide and for that I am thankful).  Moving on, as an Armenian I’ve also been told that I must be shrewd in my business dealings or be related to a mobster, etc.  I mean, seriously?  I would, however, like a leprechaun to grant me the luck of the Irish for one day – I don’t ask for a pot of gold but their outlook.  Like how could one remain bewildered and confused with Irish mantras like, “There’s nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse” or “A good laugh and long sleep are the two best cures for anything.”  And quite frankly, I’d love to subscribe to, “What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for.”

But then, I still wouldn’t be me, would I?  Besides, with my dark Armenian hair and dark Armenian eyes, I wouldn’t pass as an Irish person anyway…

Perhaps I need to stop getting so bogged down in my own thoughts.  Or perhaps I should dive deeper and just know that eventually, I’m just going to rise back up to the top for air when the time is right.  And perhaps I should tighten the reins and truly take responsibility for all of my steps – put aside the fear of the unknown.  Forget about the potential pitfalls and possible failure.  Spinning wheels about the future only means I can’t appreciate my present so for now, I’m taking charge, holding on for dear life…perhaps with a sip or two of whiskey…determined not to repeat…

Don’t JINX it!!

Another year over…a new one begins.

That’s the way I started my entry a year ago…not knowing what lay ahead and simply hopeful that I’d have a year full of wonder and growth – more love and happiness than sadness and regret.  I must admit that 2015 has been one of my best years but I’m going to say it quietly, in a whisper, because I don’t want to jinx it!

Have you ever found yourself taking stock of your life and realizing that at that very moment you have everything you could ever ask for but wouldn’t admit it for fear of jinxing it?

I mean, we can all think of more…like…I could do with an established career track, my children’s future spouses decided (perhaps we need to reconsider arranged marriages at birth?) and I’d love to have no mortgage and a bank account chock full of “fun money” on top of a retirement fund that would see me vacationing at least three times a year simply for “therapeutic” reasons.

Note: Ther●a●peu●tic refers to one’s desire to escape the cold and damp because one’s joints have issued a warning that sun and sand are the perfect Rx.  Therapeutic may also refer to the fact that when I’m in my retirement years, I intend to take up extreme adventuring (African Safari, zip-lining, senior citizen alpine racing, trying out a formula one racetrack, and applying to be one of the ‘older’ contestants on Survivor).  And let’s not forget retail therapy:  who wouldn’t love the opportunity to shop right off the runways of Milan, Paris and New York?  Dreams, I know.  But dream big and who knows what may happen?

But “more” aside, I will still say (in a whisper) that while I feel I’ve had the most fulfilling year yet, there still remains some unfinished business.  When I look around, I think to myself, I’m so blessed…amidst a world full of random shooters, terrorists, escaping as refugees and having to start a life all over again on the other side of the world, global warming, Donald Trump running for the highest office, and still struggling for Armenian genocide recognition…  I realize I’ve had it pretty good…I just don’t want to jinx it by admitting it!

I’m reminded of my school years… During exam week I’d turn into an OGRE: don’t talk to me, don’t bother me, if there’s a fire, please don’t try and rescue me.  One tracked and with singular focus all I cared to do was study. As soon as I’d completed my exams, I would race out of the classroom (and later on in university, the auditoriums) for I hated nothing more than that dreaded question, “how’d you do?”  because quite frankly, I’m highly superstitious.  Responding with an “I aced that mother@#$!^*!!!!” would only mean that I’m inviting God or the universe to knock me down a peg or two with a ‘C’ as opposed to an ‘A’ grade so that I could be more humble and more focused on the important things in life like having humility, being good to my fellow man (and woman), not coveting, and so on.

If it hasn’t been apparent, I am a type A (A+!) personality:  competitive, ambitious, highly organized, structured, and sometimes neurotically regimented. My doctor once told me that I was bordering on obsessive compulsive with perfectionistic tendencies.  I told her I couldn’t agree more.  But with this kind of personality comes also the characteristic of somewhat anxious coupled with a slight hint of neurotic.  And as an Armenian I also have a tendency to be slightly dramatic and sometimes even a fatalist – all in all, a recipe for tabbouleh.

evil eyeYet I still find myself in a near euphoric state: I’m relatively healthy, I have a wonderful family, a roof over my head, I live in a country where I’m free to dream and make my dreams a reality.  But it’s a NEAR euphoria and probably as close as I’m willing to admit.  Mr. Niceguy thinks I’m paranoid:  too many evil eyes, rubbing of blue stones, scratching of my ass and throwing of salt over my left shoulder.  We all have ups and downs and I’m in an upswing, so ride the wave because before you know it…?

Am I being overly anxious?  Is it the inherent type A anxiety that’s making me doubtful and concerned about making a declaration about my happiness and that it will surely be jinxed if I do so?  And while I’m on it, isn’t making such a declaration akin to bragging?  And bragging is surely not a good thing so now I will surely be knocked down for tossing it in peoples’ faces about just how lucky I am…

But I am lucky.  And blessed.  And thankful for every little bit of it!  In fact, we’ve all got some luck and blessing in our lives and we should most definitely declare it!

After all, surely happiness, positivity, optimism and contentment will breed more happiness, positivity, optimism and contentment?  Or is it just success that breeds success…  In any case, jinx or no jinx I’m going to decide that it’s ok to admit (to myself) that everything is ok – not super duper great – but good.  And that it’s ok to be content with all that’s been accomplished…after all, I would hate to make a mistake when it comes to prioritizing my goals for the new year.  I mean, who can predict what will come next?  All we can do is hope for is good health, happiness, growth and learning and that the sun will continue to rise in the east and set in the west…that’s all…nothing more…hear me universe? 

Happy New Year – I hope 2016 is a wonderful year for you and yours…

new year 2015

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.

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Stop muzzling me!!!

“You can’t do that!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Battle scars…

“What 3 things would you change about yourself – your physically looking self – if you could?”

That’s how the game began with Mr. Niceguy this evening.  Perhaps it began because I crave female companionship having not seen my friends as of late.  Or perhaps I’m interested to see if he will delve at all into vanity – yes, he really is THAT humble (and nice)… ALL the time (well, almost).  Perhaps I had a lapse of judgement and just knew that the answer was going to be painful and by hearing it come from him, that it would give me the motivation to make a change…

In case you’re wondering, his answers were pretty tame.  Overall, Mr. Niceguy is self-confident and extremely content with what God (or the universe) bestowed upon him.  He is the type of person who, if he decides that he needs to make a change or improvement, will delve into a spreadsheet, lay out a staged plan complete with milestones, and just go for it.  In other words, Mr. Niceguy is my antithesis.  While I procrastinate, ruminate, and debate about my next achievement or goal, Mr. Niceguy has already reached his and is onto the next.

Sunset praiseMr. Niceguy is not a Type A personality by any stretch, while I most certainly am.  What he does possess is an unwavering belief that if he wants something, he should just go out and get it.  I, on the other hand, believe that the universe, cosmos and the Almighty will simply place it in front of me – all I have to do is reach out and get it.  I believe that everything happens for a reason.  Mr. Niceguy believes that things happen because we make them happen.  We do converge however on the “being at the right place at the right time” theory.

Shoe closetSo when it came to my turn to respond I couldn’t even make it past number two.  For starters, I said that I wish I had smaller feet.  My feet are not big – they’re average.  But they did grow (ever so slightly) with my two pregnancies; a closet full of gorgeous, vintage sandals cry out in agony over simply being for display.  Mr. Niceguy just shrugged and said, “okay”.  This is the kind of response that I expected playing a game designed for my best girlfriends with Mr. Niceguy.  Had it been any one of my BFFs, they would immediately have understood the implications of slightly (just a half size!) larger feet.  They would understand that cute running shoes just didn’t look the same – or cute – paired with skinny jeans; that they in fact looked clown-like.  They would laugh and empathize and join in with regales of their own battle scars.

My second response was that I wished for my gloriously flat stomach from my twenty-fifth birthday.  Mr. Niceguy perked up, turned towards me with a Mona Lisa-like grin and gave me a wistful look (the kind of look those actors in the soda pop commercials of the 80’s and 90’s would get when they’d crack open a bottle of an icy cold 7Up, smile and wipe the sweat off their brows with the back of their arms).  “Aaaaah…”

Aaaah?  AAAAAHHH???  Aaah what?!

When I asked, “what do you mean by, ‘Aaaah’?  I was at my peak at twenty-five, I know.  But I haven’t changed much, have I?  I mean, I just can’t see it.”  And immediately I could tell what he was thinking – THAT HE COULD.  “You have to tell me what you meant.  Honestly.  I won’t be upset.”  Bologna.  To which Mr. Niceguy responded, “Well, we all age.  It’s only natural to put on a few pounds as time goes on. ***BLOODY LOGIC***  I remember when I first met you, you had the figure of a movie star.  My mom even said so.”

what ifAnd there it was.  A reminder to NEVER play this kind of “What If?” games with your boyfriends, husbands or dare I say, any man.

I’m not sure what to think…I’m sitting here right now trying to process this whole thing and you know what?  I’m thinking that I truly don’t believe that I’ve changed all that much.  That somehow I’m still that same twenty five year old trying to figure things out.  That same adventurous and spirited girl always ready for a night out with her friends or who likes to dress up and dress down and at the ready for any challenge.  True, there are more days now when I think about one enhancement procedure or another, or worry about becoming incapacitated or terminally ill – whatever would happen to les deux?? (Now 9 and 5!)  But overall, still pretty much the same…  Oh!  Who am I kidding??!!  Mr. Niceguy struck a nerve!

Perhaps the worst part was that I didn’t have him agreeing that, ya, he wished for his twenty-five year old washboard abs too – quite frankly, thanks to his German-like efficiency towards goal achievement, he is in the best shape of his life (the 5 year old even calls him “The Hulk”).  And it’s true, he looks good…  I was alone in this game, faced with the truth of my reality.  Soooo what if I knocked back a few more cocktails this summer than I anticipated and indulged in a few more celebratory dinners complete with appetizers and dessert – I blame one individual in particular for whom we had no less than FOUR going away parties – my waistline thanks me for having missed the fifth and final one!

I’ve procrastinated, ruminated and debated whether I’ve needed to make a change for weeks.  Now Mr. Niceguy has pushed me into admitting to myself that yes, my skinny jeans are waaaaay too tight and this spare tire (or muffin top) is not as cute as the little “Buddha belly” I had in my twenties thanks to an unswerving devotion to cheese, bread and pasta.

battlescar 2So here it is…it’s been recorded now.  Thanks to Mr. Niceguy and his (near brutal) honesty, as of this very moment I promise to start to really think about how I’m going to go about getting a forty-something version of my twenty-something-physical-self back!  No girl ever wants to hear that she looked better before than at this very moment.  But as perplexing and disheartening as it was to hear, it reminded me that self-improvement is important – it demonstrates that the spirit continues to thrive!  And yes, I am extremely vain and no, I don’t care who knows it.  Nonetheless here’s where my forty-something self has an edge over my twenty-something self:  admittedly my abs won’t look quite the exact same – I know I’ll have to be okay with that – but at least I’ll strive for a better version of myself.  After all some battle scars will forever be worth it…

battlescar 1

The wee hours…

It’s 3:21 in the morning. My thoughts are so scattered – summer is nearing its end, and the kids will go back to school – should I go back to school? Should I leave the safe confines of this new lifestyle and go and pursue or learn something different? Oh. My. God. I really have to tell Mr. Niceguy that his breathing is SO LOUD in the middle of the night – not quite a snore but wow it’s all I can focus on at this moment: IN. OUT. Pause….IN. OUT. Peace….IN. OUT…repeat, repeat, REPEAT. How do I think? I can’t! Do I get out of bed? Am I really admitting defeat? I’m going to be such a terrible mess tomorrow and that’ll make it TWO DAYS IN A ROW of really poor sleep… Wow my jaw hurts…why? And my shoulder is hurting too…are these all connected? I MUST PUSH past these thoughts before my brain really turns on – but how???

3:56 am. I give up. Once again I find myself on our annual pilgrimage to the great outdoors only this year I’m hoping it will be different. This year I’m actually welcoming the escape from a very busy summer. No cellphones, no email, no Facebook or Instagram updates (ok…perhaps just decreased Facebooking and Instagramming), no need to be anywhere or see anyone. And I’m prepared for it…sort of. I mean, once I got us all settled here in “The North Land” – sheets on beds, food put away, children tucked into beds and us too with the promise of a restful sleep to be broken naturally by the sweet call of the birds at dawn and the sun breaking over the lake.

2015 cottage 1Perhaps my favourite (and if I’m going to be honest, only thing I like) about cottaging is the morning – I can’t seem to wait for when the sun is getting ready to break the skies over a still, glass-like lake. This is absolute stillness. This is the feeling of being in the present. No other thoughts can penetrate its majesty but now, at 4:06 am, I know I’m still a couple of hours away… Did I pack the kids’ sunscreen??

Why is it that during these wee hours of the morn things come to my brain at light speed?

Especially here, in the great outdoors?? It’s so quiet that I can actually hear myself reciting my own thoughts to myself over and over again…

I had a colleague once tell me how he dealt with this – he kept a pen and pad of Post-It Notes on his bedside table. When he would wake in the wee hours, also full of light speed thoughts, he would write them down on sticky notes, post them on his wall and no longer feeling prey to the fear of forgetting (**because we always seem to wake up in the middle of the night with the solutions to the world’s problems or how best to plan the 5 year old’s next birthday party or that one essential item which was left-off of the 9 year old’s back to school list or for that matter, what to do with the rest of one’s life) he would drift back to a peaceful slumber. Only, I forgot my sticky notes and one fatal flaw in this methodology is that I don’t even know how I’ll choose which idea to write down and for that matter, I CAN’T WRITE IN THE DARK! Should I invent a pen that shines a light while you write?? A “night-pen-light”?

justin_trudeau heartOh Google, I miss you. My faithful companion during broken sleep. You have all the answers to my light speed thoughts: what are symptoms of insomnia – anemia – paranoia – vitamin C deficiency? What is the likelihood of scurvy in the modern era? Are oranges the best source of vitamin C? Are they genetically modified? Is genetic modification really that bad? Stress versus genetic modification, which is worse? When is the world going to end? Where is ISIS now? Should I vote for Justin ? He’s sooooo dreamy… Wait, what are the symptoms of ADD?!!

Maybe a walk would help…but I’d need to carry around this laptop for light. Gosh my eyesight really isn’t what it used to be…Shhhhh…don’t want to wake anyone up but this tossing and turning is torture!

Now I’m on the floor – the cold floor of the living area – a welcome escape from the IN…OUT…Pause pattern, and a break from the heat. 4:21 am – Not long to go now. My stomach rumbles but I’m ignoring you – got a few pounds to lose otherwise I can’t get back into my skinny jeans. Eggs, bacon, toast, coffee or that yummy cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese…I wonder…am I doing the right thing? Has giving up my career to spend more time with my family been the right move? What will I do when they no longer need me the same way? And when will that be? Will it be sudden? Will I be ready?

I think of my mom…of so many other moms. Their words echoing in my full, yet empty brain: find your own path – don’t live your life solely for the sake of others.

With back to school just around the corner I’m forced into a usual “September pattern”. Playtime is over – it’s time to get back to business and start checking things off “the list”. Yet, my “playtime” has been full of so much learning, so many new experiences and such an unprecedented rate of growth despite hours and hours wasted on watching The Bold and The Beautiful (best soap opera ever), or watching Jillian Harris on Love It or List It Vancouver (tips for any number of my weekly home improvements) – and if I’m going to be honest, wondering what I would do if I was the Bachelorette (in another life of course because hey, I found my one and only Mr. Niceguy).

Habitually forced into a pattern of insecurity I remind myself of some of these experiences and my accomplishments – none of which would have occurred had I not drastically changed course. And while I may not have all the answers, aren’t I getting closer to figuring it all out? Or further? I don’t know…maybe the answer is just supposed to land at my feet and all I’ll have to do is know when to recognize it. Or maybe I have to put in the work and avoid not making the difficult choices…

Wait a second, doesn’t lack of sleep speed up the aging process?? The floor is getting warm and I’m feeling overcome with sleep. I want to wait ‘til the break of dawn but I can’t…or I won’t.

4:53 am. It’s almost here! But sleep, I seek you. I don’t want to solve the world’s problems. I don’t want to solve my own. I just want to drift…and hey, that’s ok, isn’t it? I mean, I am on vacation now, aren’t I? I can worry about all of these things later – like tomorrow, or better yet, next week? But back to school’s right around the corner!! Pfft…I’ll navigate next week.  IN…OUT…Pause…

2015 cottage 2

The “Me too!” Complex…

Me too fingersDo you have the “Me Too!” complex?  If you’re scratching your head wondering what that is, then like my sister, you don’t have it.  I seem to have it in spades.  Like when I ask my single friend, how’re you doing and she says, “Well you know…I’m out there.  Playing the field.  I’ve had amazing first dates but nothing’s materializing.”  And I respond with, “Me too!  I was great on first dates and just couldn’t convert it to anything more.”  And she looks at me with an expression that just says, “Huh?”

Yes, married to Mr. Niceguy with two lovely boys, a roof over my head, and really not much to complain about yet I’m still prey to the “Me too!” complex…

This syndrome, I have come to believe, mostly plagues those of us who care about what the other person is thinking, is needing, is wanting – to a fault!  I don’t believe it has anything to do with self esteem:  I’m a very confident person, most of the time, except when I’ve put on some water weight and I’m worrying that perhaps quitting a six-figure salary job downtown that most people covet wasn’t the right thing to do and whether my volunteering will ever lead me to something more than just a feeling like I’m doing something out of the goodness of my heart and convert to something material and whether I will be announced as the best teacher’s pet there ever was??!!

All that aside, I believe the complex stems from a need to relate; that basic human instinct of connecting to those around you.  So, what does that mean for people like my sister who are just so confident and articulate and rather steadfast in their beliefs?  Are they just more evolved?  Have they moved away from that instinctive behavior that would draw humans together so that they may have better odds hunting large game?  Or procreate?  Build societies?  Am I still a caveman?  Cavewoman??!!

Recently I was at an Asian fusion restaurant with some friends and the inevitable happened when I declared that I don’t eat anything that calls a body of water its home.

Friend 1:  “What?!  No sushi?”  Nope.  Gross.  Uncooked meat?  No thank you.

Friend 2:  “Really?  Are you sure?”  Yes.  Quite positive.  Been this way since about age 6 and the day my mom lied to me that the fish finger on my lunch plate was just a really fat french fry so I should just go ahead and eat it.  Thanks mom, you can count yourself among the reasons for why I have a massive distrust of trying anything new that ‘tastes just like chicken!’

Friend 3:  “How do you live?!”  Oh, I’m a walking miracle.  Seriously??!!

As one can glean, I’m quite strong about my position on seafood.  One could say I’ve had a number of years of practice hardening my view on the whole subject matter, though I did mention that I’d tried a vegetarian roll and one with smoked duck (yummm….???) so perhaps that counts???  Ok, perhaps the view is not as hard as I thought…

In any case, this syndrome has a way of taking over sometimes…it’s the likeability factor.  Like if we’re the same it’s more likely that you’ll like me, right?  And the FOMO factor (Fear-Of-Missing-Out).  Like if we’re not on the same page, perhaps we’re just not going to get along as well and then we’re not going to have shared experiences and build memories that we’ll end up cherishing forever like the kindred spirits we could potentially be.  Total neurosis??

The “Me too!” complex reminds me of when a group of kids gang up on another in the playground.  I recall this happening to me…

Back when I was growing up during an idyllic childhood in Saudi Arabia – believe it or not it was – I was part of a group of four girlfriends (Sex and the City in the making at age 9!)  One of us (not me) was the leader who seemed to decide everything:  what we’d play during recess, which boys we’d like, and who from the rest of us would be at the bottom of the pecking order any given week.  I recall when she tried to make me the bottom.  I was terrified.  I didn’t want my group of friends to turn on me so I made up some story about how naturally talented I was in tap dancing (never having had a lesson in my life) and quite literally, tap danced my way back to an upper rung.  She, however, seeing that now that the bottom spot had been left vacant, decided to throw down my other friend, the one I felt closest to in the four.  Something woke up inside me.  I felt a sort of responsibility toward my friend – because of me and my quick thinking (on my feet, no pun intended) she was now the one to be shunned.  I somehow found my voice and said, “No.  We’re not going to play with you anymore.  You’re mean.  I like her, she’s my friend and you can’t be the boss of us.” We broke off and were blissfully happy off on our own.  FOMO or no FOMO.

Yet today, somehow I still find myself in that playground from time to time.  It’s hard to hear your own voice in all the noise.  Sometimes it takes me a few “Me too’s” followed by geez…why did I say/do that?!  to remember my own.  As for the relating, perhaps we don’t have to feel exactly what the other person is feeling to be able to relate?  I mean, there is a large scale of relativity, is there not?  Yet it sure feels good when once again I find myself in a situation where I’ve seemingly put myself on the outs for declaring something, and someone else leans over and says, “Ya, I can’t stand the smell of seafood either!”

Me too birds

In recognition of International Women’s Day

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

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

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

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

Moms and Motherhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mothering Two Boys

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

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

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

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

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

Men

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

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

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

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

The Elusive Balance

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

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

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

Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Really Important

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Lettuce

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

Valentine’s Day…it’s coming!

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

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

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

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

Mr. Niceguy:  Nope, just a typical day.

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

Mr. Niceguy:  Ya.

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

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

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

Mr. Niceguy:  Oh.  Ya.  Ummm…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tangled

This is MY forty.

Spincycle Diaries:  This is MY Forty…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, I believe I should not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

running on dock