“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!

 

I left my heart in….Vancouver??

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

Alice_In_Wonderland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

marieantoinette_cake