The wee hours…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 cottage 2

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An egotistical indulgence…

Forgive this next entry, but my speed train has almost pulled into the station and I refuse to just travel patiently!  I’m trying to relish these last few moments before I have to disembark…

As spring turns to summer all I can think of is how can I relish these last few weeks – days – hours before I have to give up a decade that has shaped me so much?  It saw my confidence grow which in turn, gave me a better sense of self.  It saw me turn (more like bumble) into motherhood, not once, but blissfully and blessedly, twice.  It tested my every boundary and forced me to accept some very hard truths and change.  And yet, through all of the upheaval, it was kind as it surrounded me with great friends, a wonderful family and some of the most amazing opportunities and experiences that were beyond imagination…

And so you can see why I’m panicking?  Why I’m having trouble letting go?

It’s been just over a quarter of a year (good effect and makes things sound longer and more significant) since “the departure”.  The identity crisis is starting to take a back seat to this glorious weather and I’m starting to find my groove.  I knew it would take some time to get over the routine of career and that I would be overwhelmed with all sorts of emotion (again, dramatic effect but deservedly so).  I was certain in the fact that I would have to respond to the same questions over and over again…all while not knowing the answers myself.  Yet, stepping out of my boundaries has been good.  I say this cautiously because for the first time in almost forever the future is an empty canvas that I can paint however I like…and I must say, I am enjoying the vastness of it all.  And as one of my very dear friends said, being “unpredictable” – perhaps a word I would never, ever use to describe myself.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my biggest challenge was getting through homework, ensuring we made it to my son’s end-of-year school concert and finding a blender.  With my newly acquired wisdom – acquired because there’s now a little room to think about things other than spreadsheets, industry trends and interest rates – I decided that I should seek to become more healthy and stop avoiding entire food groups by blending them all together into a delicious smoothie.  We’ve all seen the commercials and the demonstrations…I was finally converted.

For three mornings in a row I had the following:  kale, spinach, swiss chard, strawberry, banana, pomegranate seeds, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, mango and pineapple all whipped up with greek yoghurt.  To my surprise, an absolute delight.  And yet on the first day, a massive headache.  Was it because I was sipping on this smoothie for most of the day?  I couldn’t get over this migraine!  It came and went for the first three days!  After some googling I found that I had put myself into a state of DETOX.  My smoothie was cleansing my system!  And all the toxins were bubbling up to the surface!

I blame these toxins…I believe I may have been in a drunken haze for in that migraine-induced, dizzyingly hyper-energetic state I decided that staying true to change was of the utmost importance and the key to life.  And in that inebriation, I decided to take yet another risk: after all they’re addictive, get my adrenaline going and make me feel A-L-I-V-E!!

While booking an exciting upcoming vacation, after much research into where to go and where to stay and what to see and what to do I decided to roll the dice!  There was Mr. Niceguy, the absolute voice of reason that with a smile on his face said, “You?  You’re really going to do thatYou’re going to take that chance with the hotel?  OK.  I know what I would do…but go for it!”

Was that a dare?  Did he not think I could go through with it?  And of all the words he said, why did I cling onto “but go for it!”  Did I miss the, but?

As the smoothie haze began to wear off, my old habits bubbled to the surface:  what if I’ve made a HUGE mistake? What if this place is horrible and I’ve ruined our family vacation?   And why won’t this headache let up???   Ugh!  To win big you actually have to get in the game and play.  But the frustration and the tears and the upset that ensued over the outcome…well surely I must have been a fool!  Surely I should’ve known better!

The duality was driving me crazy!  On the one hand, a wild-eyed thrill-seeker, and on the other, a tip-toeing super-planner afraid of regret.  It was time to end it.  For my remedy, and to restore balance in my universe, I popped open a Diet Coke (the nectar of life and I won’t hear otherwise) to accompany some ketchup-covered onion rings and you know what?  After a little recalibration…I think I’m quite pleased with the outcome.  While these final miles on the train are making me giddy, I can handle this next leg of my adventure…

Featurette.Smoothies

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

The Great Outdoors

If anyone’s seen the movie, the Great Outdoors, with John Candy and Dan Aykroyd, they’ll know that sometimes things can be quite unexpected…and it is in homage to this, that I name this post.

The Great Outdoors (film)

The Great Outdoors (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vacation is upon me…finally.  And this time, we are filling our time off with a short trip to the cottage which I’m spiritually allergic to:  I mean, no AC, no cable TV, no WiFi, and essentially, not much of a boundary between Mother Nature and me…  I’m allergic to anything in the “great outdoors.”  Call me urbanite – the closest I get to the great outdoors is the park around the corner where my kids sometimes play.

For example, take day 3 of our 6 day getaway to the family cottage – I swore I’d never stay at beyond a night (two if absolutely necessary).  My legs are swollen and itchy from the bites of creatures or scrapes of plants unknown, my hair is at least 4 inches shorter as it has curled up and bunched up into anti-nature dreadlocks, and my face is covered with ugly brown spots and freckles.  Despite all these little discomforts, I sat in awe of the most incredible thunderstorm I’ve witnessed in a long, long time.

The cottage has a very large picture window overlooking the lake, which, just moments ago, was being punctured by millions of the largest, hardest drops of rain while the “north shore” across the way gets ravaged by bolt after bolt of lightning.  And I’m watching the steam rise up from between the rows upon rows of trees in response to the cold rain.  It’s so ominous…

The storm has passed – I learned once that the longer the time between seeing lightning and hearing thunder, the further the storm had traveled and hence, the closer to ending.  I’ve just imparted a little wisdom here and since I’m on vacation, if what I’ve said is fiction, well, I chalk it up to days of totally being out of my element and being completely discombobulated.  But do look it up and Google it – let me know if I was wrong!  But now, with coffee in hand and a nice piece of toast, I’m literally floored by how majestic things seem up here.

When we first arrived at the cottage, while Mr. Niceguy and the boys were full of anticipation and bubbling with excitement, all I could think of was how I would stop myself from inevitably going absolutely stir crazy?  How would I fill the time without cable TV?  How would I entertain my highly active kids and keep them from driving each other (and me) crazy?  But with the sun’s heat radiating down on me, I began to give in to my surroundings as I began my usual eternal debate between lusting for relaxation and a deep, bronzed tan juxtaposed with premature aging and skin cancer.  Secondary to this consideration was which bikini to start this so-called vacation in:  sporty (very efficient for all water activities) or sexy (no tan lines but likely to end up around my ankles with every jump).

Truth be told, these are all moot points given that I still have to lose about 5 to 7 pounds for either to really look good…though who am I kidding? 

One glance in the mirror will confirm that I am not Jennifer Aniston’s doppelgänger, so once again, a moot point. 

I went with a mix: sporty top, sexy bottom…and after about 2 hours of the same cycle:  sunning, getting too hot, jumping in the freezing cold lake to my children’s squeals and utter delight, coming back out and starting all over again, I needed something more to do…so I toilet trained the 3 year old.  That’s right.  Toilet trained.  We are just about 100% there.  And I have to pause here because it was his 3 year old friend’s mom that actually gave me the idea.  Thank you.  She made the comment that her son would come over and take all of my extremely selfish, possessive and territorial 3 year old’s underwear (Cars, Curious George, the whole lot) since he wasn’t using them… I exploited this…and it worked!

I’ve always known my kids were lovers of the great outdoors, and this potty training unleashed one more aspect that can only be described as “pure boy”:  not only does my little guy use his simple potty seat, but along with his brother, he likes to go in the lake, on the rocks, along the path and pretty much anywhere can mark his territory.  Well I say, well done!  This achievement is HUGE for both of us!  Thank you possessive human nature and thank you great outdoors!

OK…so what next?  How else to pass the time?  By day 4, we started on fake accents.  Having grown up in Saudi Arabia, to parents who speak at least 5 different languages, my ears have forever been full of so many different sounds.  In fact, my sister and I learned to speak English while watching Sesame Street and Electric Company (American accent) and at a British private school combined with our Armenian mother tongue and our exposure to Arabic.  So for as long as I can remember, I can turn on most accents in a flash, particularly a London accent, but to pass the time, I’ve decided to work on all of the UK:  Scottish, southern England, Sheffield, Manchester, and so on.  And after a couple of beers, and the kids installed nicely in front of a movie, Mr. Niceguy and I have gone from the Beatles, to Trainspotting, to Snatch and Mr. Bean.  “I say, me finks we’re ‘avin a jolly good time!  Rather!”  How droll.

There’s been some real excitement at the cottage too…for instance, we went canoeing, something I hadn’t done in years…decades, really!  And I actually skipped rocks!  And following the 7 year old’s lead, I spent a great deal of my time swimming.  The 3 year old swam too, that is, until the incident with Jenny, a 3 year old, chocolate lab (I don’t know my dogs very well so this is an assumption).  In any case, Jenny was very excited to see us one afternoon.  So much so that without any warning, she jumped in the water and started to try and climb up on top of the 3 year old and his swim ring.  The only thing between this enormous dog and my 3 year old was my arm which got quite bruised in the process of trying to keep myself and the 3 year old from drowning under the weight of this dog!  But Mr. Niceguy (all toned up from his training) dove in and saved the day…my hero!

But adventures aside, the great outdoors has been good to us…and ok, I admit it, unexpectedly good to me.  Letting go of the urban noises and stresses was a very welcome change – as was all the time spent lounging, swimming and staring up at the sky.  If my inlaws will allow it, I daresay, I’d be up for a repeat same time next year…but only once…and only next year!  Oh, and now I hear the sweet call of the city…my phone is beeping and I have to go!

Great outdoors