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

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Life with BOYS!

Dedicated to my two moms – my own, who is responsible for all of my good and my bad, and my mom 2, who gave me one of her most prized possessions…Mr. Niceguy.  Now if only she could’ve left me with the instruction manual…

Another long weekend is upon me and the pressure is on to have fun and go on adventures – for this is what it means to be in a household full of boys.  No time for just relaxing, no desire to sit and simply read a book while sipping on a fancy coffee and listening to the birds chirp, and certainly no yearning for the trendy shops and restaurants in Yorkville…

When I was toiling away downtown at my “high-falutin” finance career, I used to live for long weekends…an extra day off work, extra time with the kids and who knows, maybe even a sleep in.  But now all of that has changed.  Life as a stay-at-home-and-work mom is different and most of the time, long weekends actually mean an extra work shift at “the plant” that you weren’t expecting!

When I think back even further, back to the days before the 7 year old and 4 year old were even on the scene, things were even more different still – I’m reminded of just HOW different particularly when I compare my life to the lives of singletons or people who don’t have children.  Sometimes, I hear them rave about recent escapades, spur of the moment getaways to exotic places and I sigh…

If there was a contest to see whose life had changed more and the only 2 contestants were me and Mr Niceguy, I think I would win.  And in his highly logical and rational way, he would concede defeat by stating that I would win only because of the limitations I impose upon myself…

Recently, the 7 year kid brought home an assignment and at the end of it, he had to choose five words to describe his mom (me!).  Among those chosen were funny (true…I have a good sense of humour I think) , pretty (well what mom isn’t pretty to their children), fun (I work very hard at that one), smart (that will surely only last ‘til he hits grade 6 and then I won’t be able to keep up with the homework and the cat will surely be out of the bag!) and lastly, I suppose he ran out of single words here, I quote: “doesn’t like adventure”.  I.  Was.  Floored.  Me?  Not like adventure?  Say what??!!  When did that happen?!

I’m the girl that lied to her parents about going camping and flew to LA for the weekend to (hopefully) catch a glimpse of the boy I had a crush on.  I’m the girl who, upon obtaining acceptance to graduate school went across the Greek Isles and Italy with nothing but my two best friends, a back pack and a smile (and as many cute sandals as I could cram…).  I’ve been to topless beaches and raves that would last until the break of dawn.  I could run just as fast as anyone, climb higher, drive faster, dance harder, and up for virtually any new experience!  And against all odds, I married Mr. Niceguy – an extreme adventure, if you ask me, given that the expectation for any nice, Armenian girl is to find another nice Armenian boy, make Armenian babies and add to the Armenian population!

But somewhere along the way my priorities shifted…I traded my passport and stilettos for my “Mom-UV”, weekly soccer matches and “gourmet” Mac and cheese.

What’s worse still is that when, in my horrified state, I told Mr. Niceguy about the assignment, he agreed!  Or as he said, he could see where the 7 year old was coming from.  But in my defence, this is what my boys classify as adventure:

1.  Running around in nothing but their underwear and holding martial arts demonstrations

2.  Asking me to take them to the park so that I can be the “pusher” of the swings

3.  Watching Mr. Niceguy play with a remote control truck in any random, dusty, abandoned parking lot – who, by the way, is just one big kid and doesn’t do the best job of sharing his toy as it, together with all of its accessories, cost more than my designer bags and non-existent, figment-of-my-imagination designer shoes (oh Manolos…I should’ve bought you when I had the chance!!)

4. Throwing rocks in the smelly lake or dirty river while I ward off rabid dogs and other unidentified wildlife – did I mention that if there’s a mosquito within a 100 mile radius, it will find its way to my body and have a royal feast?

5.  Getting in the “truck” and driving to destinations unknown and staying overnight in “family oriented” accommodations that are void of restaurants that require reservations

6.  And the dreaded leaving of the city for the “North” where there are no lights, no shops and yes, NO SOCIETY!!

Of course I’m not going to like their definition of adventure!  To know me is to know that my kind of adventure requires a passport (and some mascara)!  In all fairness, I’m not all THAT high maintenance (or as high maintenance as I’m making myself out to be).  Throw me on a beach and I’m in my happy place.  Take me to some ruins and hand me a map, and I’m ecstatic. There’s just something about adventuring with boys that brings out, well, a different side of me…

So I guess these days, I don’t really seek out adventure – I’m too exhausted and too overwhelmed by how quickly time is just passing me by…  Yet, somehow adventure finds me.  It remembers that I crave it.  It remembers that I love it.  And somehow it knows that in my life with boys, I need it.  For without it I’d be miserable: my horizons would not expand, I would not be challenged, and most of all, I would not feel what it’s like to really be alive

My most recent adventure was sitting on the stands, watching my son be trained during a once in a lifetime soccer training session with the FC Barcelona soccer school coaches.  I sat there, during a torrential downpour and watched my 7 year old have the adventure of a lifetime, an adventure I was having vicariously through him….one that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

One day, and certainly sooner than I’ll be ready, I’ll be able to once again hop on a plane at the drop of a hat to one exotic locale or another…though perhaps not a topless beach – at least not without good SPF!!

Me Adventure

Ugh…homework!!

Dedicated to a very dear friend for whom I promised to (try) and be funny again!

Although I often forget to be grateful for the roof over my head and the food on my plate, as someone who’s been out of school for more than a decade, I never forget to appreciate that I no longer have homework!

lighten-homework-loadAs a Type A personality, I had virtually all straight A’s throughout my school career.  I diligently studied for tests, poured all my effort into assignments and yes, completed every shred of homework – no excuses.  So what happens when a Type A and a Type B collide over Grade 2 homework…

According to Wikipedia, Type A’s are “ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, sensitive, truthful, impatient, always try to help others, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point, proactive, and obsessed with time management…they are often high-achieving “workaholics” who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.”  While Type B’s “generally live at a lower stress level and typically work steadily, enjoying achievement but not becoming stressed when they do not achieve. When faced with competition, they do not mind losing…they may be creative and enjoy exploring ideas and concepts.”

When Friday afternoons roll around and it’s time to pick up my boys from school my first question is always, “do you have any homework this weekend?”  Of course, the 4 year old’s response (thankfully!) is always “No!” but the 7 year old kick-starts my anxiety with a simple shrug of his shoulders and an “I dunno.”  And so, it begins.  I start wondering, when are we going to do all his homework?  How much does he have?  Is it going to take me hours and hours???  Why can’t he be more motivated?!  Doesn’t he realize that Grade 2 homework is the first step to the REST OF HIS LIFE??!!!!

One of the greatest challenges of being a parent is raising a child and trusting them to become independent and have the courage to stand up for themselves and go after their dreams…whatever they may be.  I’ll digress here:  throughout my formative years I wanted to be many things:  astronaut, painter, even an army general!  But as time goes on, reality (and social pressure) sets in …my dreams of becoming a fashion designer transformed into becoming a chemical engineer (no idea what they do but a particular dignitary was visiting my school and I couldn’t very well disgrace my VERY traditional Armenian parents by choosing such an “outlandish” career)!  Incidentally, I did neither.

In today’s world, our choices are virtually unlimited and children have the gift of potentially making a real living following their dreams and passions.  But today’s world is also more competitive than ever…which makes being a mom, harder still!

Like most 7 year old boys, mine is not quite a Type A.  So when it comes time to ask him to centre in on his homework, I already know I’m swimming upstream – see, unfortunately I do not have a cool laser gun that pops out of my arm, nor can I shoot fireballs out of my eyes and defeat evil takeovers of the universe!  I’m seriously lacking in the super power department for that’s what’s required to capture my 7 year old’s attention!

So it’s Sunday night, an hour to bedtime and after studying for two spelling tests and doing some required reading, we turned to his last piece of homework:  writing a poem.  WHAT?!  Poetry?  In Grade 2???!!  Completely bewildered I turned to a friend who suggested making it fun by choosing a song together and “simply” replacing the words.  Easy enough, right?  NO.

Honestly, there I was, my Type A self, pouring everything I had into this “poetry assignment” and there he was, my little Type B, cycling song after song just so he could play around with my iPhone!  I’m trying to come up with words for his poem while he’s more interested in the cover art!!!  My nerves were getting shot!  I begged!  I pleaded and here’s what I got:

Stuart was a little mouse,
He lived in a great big house,
His brother’s name was George,
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, adventure

WHAT?!  I kept explaining that he had to rhyme with “George” but he just stood there staring at me, a blank expression on his face.  Perhaps it was the crazed look in my eyes, my nails digging into our dining room table, the beads of sweat appearing across my forehead, my hair starting to frizz or simply the fact that I had gone from shouting to an almost possessed person whisper…or perhaps neither of these things that finally lead us to this…

Me:  *exasperated, worst parent ever as have now resorted to begging and pleading* Please.  For the love of God and all that is holy, please, just choose one song and stick with it.  It’ll make things easier.  You can’t keep bouncing all over the place.  We’ve been at this for over 45 minutes!  You’ve just really got to focus and it’s almost bedtime, tomorrow’s a school day…

Him:  *shrugs shoulders* Maybe I should take a break.  Can I go play outside?

Me:  You played earlier.  Look, we have to finish.  You have to do your homework.  You must be prepared.  This is all about your future!  Trust me.  You have to pay attention, get good grades and then you will be able to open doors to all kinds of possibilities.

Him:  *sprightly*  What doors?  Where?

Me:   *!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  trying to keep it together…* The.  Doors.  To.  Your.  Future. – not actual doors, you know, just a metaphor for possible paths you could take…look, it’s even bath night, we don’t have much time left…

Him:  YAY!  Bath night!  Can I play in the bath?

Me:  UUUGGGGHHH.

It took every ounce of me to not take his exercise sheet and pencil and try and “forge” a poem!  I mean EVERY-SINGLE-OUNCE.  True, that would have been the absolute worst form of parenting but I’ll admit, I WAS DYING TO DO IT!!

Realizing that I was now on the verge of going against everything I stood for, I walked away and gave him his space.  And you know what, he did it.  I was his crutch and when I removed my (psychotic) self from the situation, he demonstrated that he could be a self-actualizing, independent thinker.

I guess more than one of us completed our homework this weekend…

A+

Mirror, Mirror…

QueenSnowWhiteMirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

These words haunted me most of my childhood – my fear held me captive to the Queen in Snow White because even at that very young age, I think I always knew that she and I had a common connection…

Growing up, I would spend hours in my mother’s closet:  my mom grew up in the “Paris of the Middle East”, also known as Beirut, Lebanon.  There, she had dresses made for her for virtually every outing, the most fashion forward shoes, handbags and accessories, and of course, the ultimate makeup trousseau.  So while she would be cooking in the kitchen or socializing on the telephone, I would sneak into her room to play dress-up and try on her makeup.

Maybelline-Trousseau-BoxMy mom taught my sister and me to take care of ourselves.  Unfortunately, while I was a “closet princess” and very much appreciated watching her use the amazing palette of 30 eye shadows, I was still very much a tom boy, just as she had been.  My mom was incredibly patient with us – she encouraged us to play with cars, engineering sets and lego – but she knew it was important to pass on some “feminine lessons”.  My dad, on the other hand, who I think was appreciative that we were two of the most rough-and-tumble girls, did, I believe, express some frustration at one point when I walked in from my grandmother’s garden covered in thorns after falling into a rosebush, with scraped hands and knees for the umpteenth time and exasperated, he exclaimed, “If you’re not careful, no man is going to want you covered in all these scars!”  I recall replying with, “well, then I don’t want that kind of man!”  But in growing up, I’ve come to learn that looks are very important, indeed, and I’m not just referring to beauty.

Looks are the initial little appetizer – a certain something that draws one in, repels or causes query.

I can best describe the above by referring to art.  A watercolour by Monet evokes a sense of peace and calmness.  While perhaps a Salvador Dali may cause one to scratch their heads.  But a recent appearance of a “little friend” on my chin that likely would qualify for its own zip code, turned me from a Van Gogh to a disjointed Picasso and I felt, did more to unleash parts of my psyche long buried putting me in company with that very evil Queen…

See, a few nights ago I started to feel that familiar pressure on my chin…I had so many “appearances” to make over the course of the weekend:  birthday party, Kung Fu lessons and socializing with parents, a long overdue girls’ night, and a long list of other endless gatherings.  And when I woke the next morning, one look in the bathroom mirror and there it was:    my very unwelcome “friend”!!   I just wanted to hideout – no amount of concealer would do!  Spackling it on only made it look worse!  And the thought of buying zit cream at the drug store like in my angst-ridden-teenage-years seemed like the worst option of all!  Hot compresses, cold compresses, windex, hydrogen peroxide…would nothing return me to my normal state?

So at each occasion I could feel “my friend” taking centre stage – I tried desperately to conceal it with my hand – but then I looked like a crazy person rubbing an imaginary beard or one that was highly philosophical:  “Hmmm…yes…I agree with what you’ve said but what would Emmanuel Kant say?”

During my conversations I sensed that my friends were not listening to my words but staring (mouths agape) at my chin – and lo and behold, this “friend” of mine was transforming from simple red bump to Everest!!)  I could hear the words of Austin Powers in my head, “Mol-ee, mol-ee, mol-ee” and I wanted to withdraw…to fade into the wallpaper.

tumblr_lzgpv8lj8M1r0kcy7

But I am not the type to withdraw for too long.  Anger welled up inside of me – one that surely the Queen must have felt.  For this friend had caused me to abdicate my throne.  And while I’ve never considered myself as worthy of a spread in Vogue, I have grown quite accustomed to the predictability of my looks – now reduced to repulsion and query.  Why do looks have to matter so much?  Why can’t my words be enough?  And if looks are the appetizer why do I have to dish out the appy that like an oozing, slimy delicacy, raises the eyebrows and garners repulsion and query???!

But, like all of my over-dramatizations (and the weekend), this too, came to an end…and fortunately, one that was timely.  Perhaps next time I’ll remember not to put too heavy a weighting on my first impressions…

Delayed at Procrastination Station

This one’s for Mr. Niceguy…who ever so sweetly purchased a book for me all about being Happy!  xoxoxo

Once again I find myself in procrastination station but instead of beating myself up, I got a little help from none other than the Big Man upstairs…

It’s 1:05pm and just over 96 hours ago, with the prospect of a long weekend ahead, I had compiled a list of much needed projects to complete:  tackle new outdoor lighting, replace kitchen faucet which has been on the fritz for over 3 years (no word of a lie but a fritz that just doesn’t really merit the effort), consider applying for a blogging gig, and buy outfit for special dinner in my honour.

Oh, and of course, being one who is very involved in my culture and community, I have about a million obligations borne out of my volunteering.  So where do I begin?

Here I thought that leaving a job that afforded me with very little time to manage house, home, family and self, would now provide me with the kind of space I needed to “get it all done.”  Not quite.  But then, I can’t blame it all on the work – or no work.  For you see, the reason for my procrastination is not because of laziness, fear or an unwillingness for change.  Rather, it is my absolute tendency towards being ever-so-slightly, a self-diagnosed ‘haver’ of ADD.

royal-tenenbaumsLike just this past weekend out of the sheer goodness of my heart and inherent, perpetual guilt, I had agreed that Mr. Niceguy, the 7 year old and 4 year old would accompany my parents to a post-church Easter dinner.  While I wasn’t thoroughly excited to attend this dinner, I’m glad I did for what I observed would have provided much fodder for a Wes Anderson movie (think The Royal Tannenbaums or The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)…

As we took our seats, I thanked the heavens that I’d had the wherewithal to bring along gaming devices for the boys for like most large-scale dinner events, we were in it for the long haul.  At every place setting there was one ruby coloured egg to be used for the “Easter egg wars” (he or she who has the last remaining, uncracked egg, wins!) and a cookie in the shape of the cross.  While the priest announced that we were not to touch the eggs, the cross appeared to be fair game and while I was busying myself with my own diversions, before I knew it those crosses were being held by guns by the 4 year old (!!!) and while he virtually stood on his chair yelling, “Pow!  Pow!  Pow!” I had to fight my every instinct to crawl under the table or smack that cookie out of his hands and politely asked him to please refrain from such boorish behaviour and to recall that God was watching him from above and so every single Octonaut toy would be confiscated by Him, never to be returned again.

Seemingly, everything was now in the “all clear” and I could return to the task at hand:  research for one of my volunteering commitments.  When all of a sudden, I heard a light rustling…and a little bit of a ‘crack-crack’.  Then that sweet, sulphuric, signature smell that can only mean one thing…an egg that would never make it to the egg wars.  Staring down both of my children, asking them to reveal to me who had broken the egg, they looked at me with those cherubic eyes and swore it wasn’t them.  So I turned, and right next to me was a bag, which formerly housed the cross cookie (now gone), filled with none other than ruby coloured eggshells, used tissues, and all sorts of other garbage…there on MY bread plate left by a neighbouring dinner companion!  This person had also hijacked my fork and was ever-so-slightly inching her seat over so that my claustrophobia started to kick in!

I felt grossly violated – at least my personal space did.  In an effort to avoid an absolute meltdown, I buried myself in my phone – from Instagram and Facebook to the new Realtor App (always getting ideas…) and Houzz – and neglected much of what was going on around me.

I began to block things out and in turn, found solace.  So what if I couldn’t be enjoying the sun, watching the world go by at a café with a latte in hand, so what if I was on automatic pilot and had responded to the dozen or so questions from my children about when the dinner would finally be served or for that matter, what we would be having for dinner, and so what if I was blatantly bribing them to stay put, stop using the cross cookies as guns and stop asking about the egg fights that they could stay up later and watch the shows they’d missed since they had to be at this event.  I was trying to survive.  Until…

Lo and behold, all of a sudden, I came face-to-face with the priest – and unfortunately I was the one uncensored.  My face was frozen in a weird sort of scowl slash look of disgust as I thought long and hard about the contents of that bag now on my bread plate, the lady at the next table making strange pucker faces at a baby who probably couldn’t see farther than its own hand and didn’t have the neck muscles to turn away, and the smell of cigarettes that somehow kept wafting over thanks to a group of “young adults” that kept ducking outside for a quick smoke making my throat constrict and my eyes water.  Had he been alerted by the “higher-ups” of my uncharitable thoughts?  Had God himself sent him over to remind me that there are more important things than my sense of space or my laundry list of things to do?  Either way, there he was, right in front of me.

I don’t consider myself a religious person.  But I do believe that there is something greater than us all.  Connecting us all.  And the thought that there is someone that watches over me and keeps me from, well, I’ll just call them life’s great burdens, is comforting.

96 hours after listing all of my “grand plans” I have accomplished nearly nothing…but I did watch the 7 year old make it as a finalist in the egg wars and the 4 year old try and skip stones at the beach afterwards while Mr. Niceguy and I took stock of our present.  I think I’ll hang out here, in procrastination station just a little while longer…although wait, what’s for dinner?!

sign from heaven

(Extreme) Spring Cleaning…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Battle of the Sexes!

This week I have thought a great deal about the never ending battle of the sexes…and I’ve concluded, women win.

We survive continuous changes from puberty to our death, and we do it in stride!  Women are reminded virtually every 28 days of a “weaker state” yet we overcome.  We can bear another human being.  We can go through “the change” and still come out the other side while physiologically, the greatest challenge a man has is his daily routine of shaving a beard.

Now I’ve completely distilled it.  I’ve used a trump card that can’t be beat.  I realize this may be fighting dirty but I know I’m right.  For this week I have endured.  I have lasted.  I have won.

I have been ruminating about the battle of the sexes because I’ve been surrounded by two, very feverish children with undulating colds and a very ill Mr. Niceguy, poor, sweet Mr. Niceguy, who has been in a state of malaise.  And at every turn I have been met with one runny nose or another and the fear that every surface is contaminated with germs and so I must guard not to touch, sit, eat, smell or even look at anything!  Still, after a very extended weekend in our virus-laden house, I have endured.  I refuse to succumb to the illness that has gripped every male person in my household.  And I have concluded, it must be because I AM A WOMAN!!

I am told, women have stronger immune systems and we eat better, are neater, better at organizing, etc.  Surely that can’t be the only claim to superiority?  No.  The battle between the sexes has been raging through the ages and here’s how an article in the Mirror begins:

Men joke that women can’t parallel park, women say men have all the emotional intelligence of a plank of wood…

male-vs-female-brainThe article actually does go on to cite that Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found unique differences in brain connectivity between males and females:  male brains are structured for perception and coordination (like ducking if a ball was being thrown straight at them) while the female brains are wired for coordination between analysis and intuition (like examining evidence in a high profile crime case and knowing when your client is lying to you).

Essentially, we are two different species when it comes to how our brains work.  But like the article asks, who’s best?  I’m quite certain it will (unjustly) be a tie…

From the standpoint of intelligence – women win.  They have been scoring higher and higher scores on IQ tests and likely that is due to the fact that we, as women, have had to deal with greater complexities in the last century such as juggling family life while building a career.  Male brains are also adapting to the faster moving modern world, however not at the same pace as women’s.

Women also win when it comes to medicine – female doctors are said to be more cautious in that they order more vital tests, more likely to prescribe the right drugs and essentially, are less likely to tell a patient to swallow two Tylenols and call back in the morning.  I can’t say I’m one to speak on this as I’ve known great male and female doctors…but yay, another point!

We know women are great multitaskers – after all, they have to be.  And this may be an unfair challenge, but take it from me, as a woman, sometimes I wish multitasking was not an inherent, ingrained requirement.  Having said that, we win.    We are superfast at making dinner, doing homework, paying bills, writing up proposals and preparing lunches for the next day…ALL AT ONCE.

What I didn’t know, and was so happy to read about, is that we make great bosses – this is because I am bossy and now I have validation.  Truth is, however, that female bosses are fairer and make decisions that are more likely to benefit all stakeholders (also, if you don’t believe me or the Mirror, the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics found that female-influenced companies are generally more successful than those dominated by men).  Hear that?  Stand up women and let’s take over the world!

brain scanHere’s where we lose: at throwing, driving (WHAT?!), sleeping (no surprise) and at boozing.  Hmm…so what if I can’t throw a ball like Blue Jays’ pitcher, R.A. Dickey?  And ok, apparently men’s brains are better than women’s at visualizing 3D images which helps when it comes to parallel parking – I would like to add here that I am the QUEEN of parallel parking, even with my oversized Mom-UV!  Truth is, in general, I do have to agree with this one.  And sleeping – why of course men are better.  Remember that multitasking thing?  That doesn’t just shut off because it’s 11pm and time for bed…  And as for boozing.  I had to laugh – I am the cheapest date!  Apparently it’s because men are full of more water and so do a better job at metabolizing alcohol.  So touché, besides, I’m full of more brains…

So that’s it and just as I predicted – 4 to 4.  But is this really an even split?  I mean, can we weight these?  Surely intelligence must count for more than throwing?  Unless of course you had to “throw” a lasso to swing yourself out of a burning building?  But dare I ask, how would you know whether a lasso would be the thing to throw if it were not for intelligence?  Am I being too petty?

Uh-oh.  What’s that?  *cough, cough*  My throat is feeling scratchy.  My eyes are tearing up and watery.  Oh…I feel so tired, my body hurts, my head hurts…oh no!!  Can it actually be a TIE?

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The (unexpected) joys of travel???

Travel can bring out the best (and worst) in people.  It can be stressful trying to get from point A to point B which is unfortunate because it can also be an opportunity to learn and grow.  With the airline industry being what it is these days, unless you’re in an opulent, first-class suite on Emirates Airlines (dare to dream!) expectations for air travel are typically quite low and the attitude is certainly one of:  to it and through it! 

Air travel is fraught with perils of all things negative; at every turn chances are high that in one fell swoop you feel what’s like to be on an island in the South Pacific fighting in a multi-round elimination challenge to “win immunity” – or in this case, to board the plane, find room to stow all of your belongings, claim your armrest and get to your destination.

From packing the trunk with overstuffed suitcases (including the extra one that had to be brought along due to the weight allowances which were only discovered the night before), to the unpredictable traffic en route, to the ridiculously long lineup for bag tags (despite the fact that care and effort were taken to print boarding passes the night before), the dreaded security line (which, has much improved since the days of trying to juggle holding a finally sleeping infant, collapsing a stroller, and removing shoes all in one go while fending off glares of other passengers) and finally to the gate, onto the plane and into the “ever-so-coveted” **full blown sarcasm here** middle seat – the mode of travel for the foreseeable future as the windows are coveted by the 3 or 7 year olds and who can survive a tantrum in closed quarters? 

Suffice it to say, gone are the days when Mr. Niceguy and I could spontaneously take off with merely a carry-on between us, drinks at hand.

I practically grew up on airplanes.  Thanks to my dad’s career which took him to Saudi Arabia for nearly a decade, we spent much of our vacation times and certainly all of our summers, jet-setting (totally privileged!) making my sister and me expert travelers.  Air travel back then was also much more glamorous and much simpler – at least that’s how I’m going to choose to remember it…

Catch me if you can

Bitten by the travel bug and sprinkled with a dash of wanderlust (together with my commitment phobic tendencies) to me, there is nothing more exciting than going somewhere new and immersing myself – ok, not just anywhere but places where I can shop, lounge on a beach, shop, check out historic ruins, shop, pick up a new language, shop…you get the idea?  I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in the West Coast.  I braved March Break madness and took a flight to visit my sister and her family in Vancouver – Mr. Niceguy, 7 year old and 3 year old all in tow.

Having forgotten what it was like to travel during March Break (this not working thing is still new!), I was not expecting the chaos at the airport that comes with school holidays.

Boarding passes in hand, we made our way to the bag drop off and just when I thought things were going well, while getting some assistance from an airline attendant, a woman bud in front of the 7 year old and 3 year old who, diverted by all the excitement had left a large gap in front of us.  This woman just sauntered into line not minding that an agent of official capacity was speaking to us, not caring that she cut in front of the 50 or so other passengers who were patiently waiting, and certainly not at all concerned that she took advantage of my children!

I will not profess to be cool headed – those who know me or who have read my entries in the past know my longing to be a flighty, cool, hipster chick that lets things roll but alas, I have failed miserably.  Being Armenian, I have a predisposition to the “Armenian temper” and 0 to 60 and back down to 0 is something I can do in a split second.  However, this time, I stayed at 60…ok, 100.  See, this woman took advantage of my children who were surprised to be overtaken; she also took advantage of me and of all the other rule abiders.  She hijacked my travel experience!  I felt my eyes alight, my body temperature rise and I was poised for a fight and when she next paused, like a Maserati Gran Turismo, I maneuvered my cart and we overtook her but not without adding in my shy anger (the kind when you’re about to have a confrontation but can’t look the other party in the face because you really wish you weren’t having this confrontation but you will forever regret that you let yourself be a doormat), “you budded” ever so quietly lest the extremely proper and non-confrontational Mr. Niceguy hear.

She had the nerve to respond loudly, “well, we’re all going in the same direction anyway.”  WHA?I  My instinct took over, my inner struggle subsided and I just scoffed, “Ya, that’s right” and boy was I proud of myself…Mr. Niceguy was proud of me too, having witnessed the whole thing.  I felt so grand and dignified…and surely, this was magnified (and validated) by the fact that I was about to be bumped into the fast security line legitimately

Quick, boots off, lap top out, cell phone, pockets emptied, belt whipped off, push children through the checkpoint, get through checkpoint, boots on, repack bag, snatch children’s hands from conveyor, grab phone, beg children to stop trying to climb up on conveyor, fill pockets, yell at children in front of masses to take seats at far end where I can keep an eye on them, whip belt back on as pants now starting to fall, and no one, I repeat, no one, needs to see my favourite, comfy, “wedgie-proof-travel-undies”, glare at children while I walk over counting to 10 in my head taking long, measured breaths and reminding myself that it’s all about the journey…

As I said, for me the excitement of boarding a plane trumps just about anything.  Forget about the budding lady or the fact that my children were totally out of control, I had the golden ticket:  passes to the Air Canada lounge…this trip was about to get a whole lot more decadent…

After all my years of corporate travel (and only two or three visits to the lounge thanks in large part to budget cuts and middle management) I, nay, WE had arrived.  I was worried about how disruptive the 7 year old and 3 year old were going to be…but perhaps I should’ve been more worried about me.  I couldn’t believe my eyes:  eggs, bacon, waffles, fruit, fancy yoghurt, exotic juices, mouthwatering pastries, and specialty coffees to my heart’s content.  All of a sudden 4 hours of sleep and waking at the crack of dawn didn’t matter.  Croissant dangling in mouth, latte in hand, I got to the magazine table:  Cars, business, fashion – I didn’t have to choose, I grabbed them all!  My troubles melted away….my cares melted away…my fear of having to sit next to the 3 year old for 5.5 hours melted away…like I said, we’d arrived…I could almost imagine being in that Emirates Air suite…

emirate suite

But how long do those kinds of sentiments really last when you’re travelling by air?

We got on the plane and to our happy surprise, were well accommodated. And despite the fact that I once again found myself squished in the old, reliable middle seat, my neighbor was extremely kind and helpful.  I tend to conserve energy on flights with the 3 year old (you have to be ready for the 8 minute circuit:  change dvd, go to washroom, change movie on screen, get something to eat, open window cover, close window cover, turn volume up, adjust headset, adjust air, change dvd again, go to washroom again to finish what was left unfinished…you get the drill) but my neighbor was so great that I partook in some light conversation, shared my Goldfish crackers, and even threw in a few jokes for good measure!

What happened next, however, came completely out of the blue.  After a (typical) seat mix-up that took the airline some time to sort out, a woman took the seat in front of the 3 year old.  She had barely occupied her exit row seat with ample leg room for more than a minute when she stood up, turned around, looked at my 3 year old and said, “Now you make sure not to kick my chair.  I don’t like that.” 

If I asked what you thought of this woman, what would you say?  How would you take that?  Would you wonder why she spoke directly to the 3 year old?  Would you ask about the tone in which she made that statement?  Certainly, you may wonder about your own state of mind at the time which would affect your perception when she uttered those words.  Like if you were feeling particularly upbeat after a visit to the VIP lounge, would you take it well?  Either way, you have by now probably imagined what she looked like and perceived what she meant…

I was surprised.  Up to that point, the 3 year old had been an angel (the 8 minute circuits had not yet begun).  The plane hadn’t even taken off yet – no cross check, no safety movie, nothing.  Yet, this woman felt the need to make this statement.  Regardless of whether she was a sweet, lovely woman with a kind face – what happened next was even more surprising.  The entire 5 rows behind her on both sides of the plane had witnessed the event.  Had witnessed this tall, cratchity and grey woman with small, evil and squinty eyes, and a tone that was not quite sweet but stern, make this statement.  She became vilified.  All of those passengers condemned her.  And sadly for her, the occurrence was exaggerated,

“Did you hear what that @#$%^ said?  To that poor little boy?  His feet probably don’t even touch the chair!” 

“That evil woman wagged her finger and said that she would be very disappointed in that poor, little baby boy if he makes a single sound!”

“Wow, what’s wrong with that woman?  Some people are just crazy!”

I actually started to feel bad for this woman.  Unlike the woman who budded in line, in this situation I had 5 rows of people come to my defense – actually, to the 3 year old’s defense.  That felt really good.  What felt even better was the reaffirmation that sometimes keeping cool and maintaining my composure is of greater benefit than losing my @#$%!

In this woman’s case, however, I think had she looked differently or approached things with a little smile, she probably would not have been labelled as such.  Also, had she tried to not intimidate but rather, to request, no defense would have been required and her personal brand would likely not have been tarnished.  Never one to pass up an opportunity, after the initial shock subsided I decided to remain magnanimous and instead highlight discipline, “That lady is going to get mad at you if you don’t behave.”  But I think the 3 year old had learned that “preventative maintenance” would not work having picked up on the fact that the tall, cratchity lady had no credence and there were 5 rows of passengers who would back him up no matter what.  So started the 8 minute circuits…

I won’t go into the details of how I survived the rest of that plane ride…but survive is what I did.  So it should come as no surprise that my initial thoughts are also reinforced:  travel, the opportunity to learn and grow, to see human nature at its best – and worst!  Thankfully, I had a belly full of yummy pastries to get me through it and maybe, just maybe, someday I will make it to that Emirates suite…

kidsonairplane

Photo  was taken by Ma1974 on flickr

Frenemies…a necessary evil?

I’m feeling a little vulnerable…coping with the dreaded Identity Crisis is hard…much harder than I actually thought.  Once again, after years and years (and years) at the same job doing the same thing and referring to myself in the same way, I am now charting my own course.  And while I figure out exactly what that is and where I will go, I feel discombobulated, disadvantaged and confused.  [As an aside, I take full responsibility for part of the “discombobulation” which stems from my particular A-D-D-like nature:  I have so many ideas, see so many possibilities, and have so many desires that it’s hard to pick just one!  While some may call this a lack of focus, I say…well, that’s probably quite true!]

I know in my heart of hearts that the decision I have made is the right one (not just for me but for my family), although it seems that today and at this moment my “self-sabotaging” nature has got the better of me.  For example, while I had hoped for a very smooth transition into my woman of the world or female conqueror being…instead, I feel more like that circa 1952, Betty Crocker baking, bon bon eating, woman of the house…and I put myself here!  Truth is, I know that’s not who I am – nor is it someone I could pretend to be – but the reality is that I went from one uphill battle to another…from working in a very male dominated industry with extreme expectations to altering the perception that just because I’m on my own and I’m at home doesn’t mean I’m now a “Lady of Leisure”!  (Not that it would be a bad thing…?)

I keep wondering…am I letting down the Lean-In generation?

With International Women’s Day coming up on March 8thhave I let down the entire female species? 

Here, in my new office (the local Starbucks), I am left with the thought that these sentiments are akin to the whole frenemy conundrum – yesterday I caught up on the latest Glee episode which centred around frenemies and complicated relationships. Frenemies…we can all point to one or two in our circles…and just in case, here’s a definition from Wikipedia (which I think is très apropos!)

“Frenemy” is a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy” that can refer to either an enemy pretending to be a friend or someone who really is a friend but is also a rival.

For me, my frenemies have almost always fallen into the latter category.  I have been fortunate to have some of the most solid bunch of friends:  from my near and dears who challenge me and support me through life’s ups and downs, to my mom friends who have helped me tap into my inner nurturer and saved me from an unbreakable cycle of diapers and drama, to my work friends who are always up for a bitch session and a beer…like I said, I have been lucky.  But I’ve also been lucky – really lucky – to have had frenemies.

Frenemies can really make you feel small, unsure of yourself, and down.  Like try spending hours upon hours getting deflated balloonready (ok, maybe just minutes upon minutes as who am I kidding?  I can’t remember the last time I actually had hours to primp), picking that perfect outfit to go along with those brand new shoes which you know are KILLER statement pieces and will make any girl swoon and you show up and POOF.  You’ve been trumped.  Her shoes are more killer.  Her outfit, to die for.  Not a hair out of place, not a single nail chipped, not an unconfident bone in her body.  What’s worse – she’s totally oblivious to all of your effort at taking centre stage.  Fssssssss….like a deflating balloon whose fate is sealed, you try and endure.

But, frenemies have had their place in my life – and they certainly continue to.  They have fed my competitive nature, my need for rivalry, and my love of the game; they drive me to find that 10-letter word complete with a Q, X or Z with a triple word score, or fight tooth and nail to find a way to build hotels across Park Place and Boardwalk.

Without frenemies I perhaps wouldn’t have strived more, tried more, dared more and risked more.  Perhaps not right at those moments where I’d been defeated (while I was slinking in some corner wishing I could blend in with the drywall)…but definitely later.  They fed my dreams and desires and just when I had been ready to take myself out of the competition, they put me right back in.

I’ve often thought:  just stop competing.  Stop worrying and getting anxious about what you don’t have and focus on what you do.  Be present.  Be now.  Perhaps that works for some Zooey Deschanel-looking hipsters who are laid back and free spirited – but that’s not me.

With International Women’s Day right around the corner, I hope you will forgive this following imposition.  Let us women, all of us, agree to accept each other for who we are and the parts that we play.  There’s always so much to learn from everything…and every-ONE around you.

Besides, if I have frenemies, then I must be one too….onward and upwardTRUMP!  

onward and upward

Coming out of the dark…

‘Coming out of the dark’ was the title I gave the first chapter of a book I started to write nearly 8 or 9 years ago…I only got about half a page down when I abandoned the idea.  Perhaps it’s in the cards for me still…

There are (many) days when I wake up and think to myself, how am I going to get everything done?  I have a list that’s at least as long as my driveway (the longest in the City of Toronto – just saying, not actually…or perhaps?) and I’m just not sure where – or how – to begin.  This is a conundrum.  For example, writing this very entry is on that driveway-long-list, and I haven’t even really decided what I will write about.

Should it be about the fact that I’m sitting at my desk for the fifth-to-last time?  And that the lights in my office keep flickering on and off like torture – I’m sure to get a headache from all the flickering which really won’t be fair as the Bachelor is on tonight and I swear I’m going to lose it if he says, just one more time, to a blubbering girl with his Spanish accent, “Look at me.  Pliss.  Look at me.  Me.  Yes.  Look.  I no wanna see you cry.  That hurt me.  Pliss.  Don cry.”  The headache will just make me want to whip off my slipper and toss it at the TV screen…the TV screen that is, in just a few days, going to be my lifeline to civilization.

clare-the-bachelor-crying-juan-pablo

Come to think of it, tossing that slipper won’t be so bad considering that every time I wear those slippers, I get little electrical shocks when I open a drawer/hug my 3 year old/reach out for a napkin you name it!  I mean, last night I spent a good 10 minutes that I don’t have Googling, “What to do when there’s too much static electricity in the house” and “How to train yourself to become immune to static electricity” and finally “Harnessing the power of static electricity.”  After all, on any given day there is an energy crisis and quite frankly, since we’ve looked into alternative sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, why not static electricity?

If an entire monster town can be powered by a child’s screams or laughter, then why not think about static electricity?

Incidentally, I did read about an attempt to charge a cellphone with static electricity…

Ridiculous.  About as ridiculous as this flickering light…which has now stopped flickering.  And so I’m sitting in the dark, in my inner office with a view of three walls and a hallway…who actually thought that this kind of muted taupe-grey and faux wood would actually promote productivity?  I am at least fortunate enough to have a mildly interesting print hanging on the wall of the ocean…at least I’ve always thought it was an ocean…or is it a lake?  Perhaps it’s just a puddle…I don’t know.  But now that I look at it, all it is, is a series of more shades of taupe and grey.  Hummpphh.

I wonder if it’s grey outside…perhaps a quick glance out the window…right…just another wall.  No matter, what I do know, is that it’s cold.  Cold and windy.  On a more positive note, over lunch I thought it would be a good idea to shop for a bathing suit cover-all…I’m really willing the warm weather to return…HAAAAAAAAAPSHOOOOOOOOO!!!!  What was that?  HAAAAAAPSHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!  Oh no!  A sneeze!  Two!  I knew it!  This morning on the subway a young buck-wishes-himself-next-titan-of-industry (aka a man who fancies himself a highly important corporate person) was sucking on a cough lozenge and I must have caught this cold from him!  He kept breathing on me and I could smell his cough lozenge and it drove me crazy the way he kept rolling that huge lozenge in his mouth for EIGHT subway stops such that I could hear it clicking and clanking against his teeth – I wanted to shrink and just disappear – oh my skin is crawling just thinking about it…

WHY IS THE LIGHT STILL OFF????  DID MY GLOBAL PROFESSIONAL SERVICE FIRM FORGET TO PAY THE BILL????  Sheesh.  Must be because I resigned…YES!  I resigned.  About a month ago (I was nice and sweet and gave a month’s notice in order to transition properly and because, well, it seemed like the thing to do given I’ve been here for over a decade.)  But seriously…would I really be singled out like that?  And the thing is…it’s not like I’m just sitting here writing this entry.  No.  I’ve had some very important work to do all morning – and it’s all happened in the dark.  Ironic.  I have to smile.  I’ve often wondered if a lot of the time while doing my job here I was “in the dark” – be it the dark side or really “in the dark” and not realizing that there was so much more out there for someone like me…

Weird…the light just went on.  Like a light bulb in my brain.  And oddly enough, I’ve just tackled one more thing off my list…actually two (hint: this article and my little announcement). Time for something more.

Promise to provide a more “Spincycle-ish” entry next week…but then, this qualifies…doesn’t it?  Promises, promises…

In the dark

SCATTERBRAIN…if only for just one day…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow day

What to expect when you’re expecting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:  Mom, it’s still NOVEMBER!!! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you the very best in 2014!

mother-and-daughter-holiday

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

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

me and zoom

Lessons from a fish…seriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

scotch

‘D’ is for Double-standard…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jealousy

If it’s good enough for Gwenyth…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

La_nascita_di_Venere_(Botticelli)

I’m a convicted felon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in a moment of absolute clarity, I agreed.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I say NO.

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

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

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

monopoly

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

What, me? A hypochondriac?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:  Can you take a look at this?

7 year old:  What?  It’s your back.

Me:  THIS!  This SPOT on my back.

7 year old:  You have spots on your face.

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

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

Me:  Does it look weird to you?

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

Hmmmppphhhfft.

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

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

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

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

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

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

toothpaste

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

marieantoinette_cake

Heels, hoops and all…you better represent!!

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

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

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

What.  The.  #$%^?!!!!????  WHY???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superhero shenanigans