Red Jellybeans…

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

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

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

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

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

They say it’s personality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My very own Minecraft…

Ever feel like you’re watching yourself live your life as though you were in a video game? Do you turn left? Or go right? Do you use a shovel or a bomb-thrower to knock out some zombies? What if the zombies are your kids that were just turned into zombies? What do you do then?

Minecraft zombiesLately I feel completely discombobulated – out of my familiar environment and with a to-do list longer than my arm I feel like I’m in the eye of a tornado. I know I need to loosen the reins – as an absolute control freak I have an unwavering belief that without me in charge how else could things possibly ever get done? (Said every obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic-tendency having control freak…)

When I wake up in the morning it’s like I’m walking straight into Minecraft – or better yet, a mine-FIELD – the slightest misstep and BLAST!

For those unaware, Minecraft is a video game my boys are obsessed with complete with zombies, weaponry and the ability to create new worlds (I’m osmotically aware of everything Minecraft).

Alarm goes off, I jump out of bed and head to the washroom because who can stand the full bladder any longer (speaking of which I swear that while my entire midsection grew after two pregnancies, my bladder seems to now be the size of an acorn)!! Brush teeth, wash face, decide that two-day dirty hair isn’t so dirty when you’re trying to get out of the door and quite frankly not heading to a high power meeting on Bay Street, although…moms in the school parking lot can be an even tougher crowd so a quick brush, some makeup and voila, I’m off to the races…

That is, until I have to wake them up…

When I was young I was drawn to those video games where the zombies come towards you with blank stares, arms outstretched in front, stiffly limbering forward, mouths agape. You would have to blast them with your laser until eventually, inevitably, you were overtaken. That’s exactly what it’s like waking up my two boys at ages 9 and nearly 6 every morning before school – only I’m overtaken in less than 5 minutes flat!

Wake up kidsEvery morning I turn on the light, I say “good morning” (in that terribly annoying and completely disingenuous happy tone that I use to mask my absolute terror that they will totally ignore me or start yelling at me to sleep longer and erupt my anger which feels like it’s on a precipice just waiting to ignite) and pull their very weighted bodies off the bed so that if I’m lucky, their autopilot will kick in the moment their toes touch the ground and we will merrily make it out on time. I’ve even resorted to reminding them that they have to rush to the bathroom (because they must need to use it) and when that doesn’t work, “Who’ll be first to go to the washroom, brush their teeth, wash their face and comb their hair?” – some friendly competition.

Today I had an extra reason to get them out of the house on time – I had a meeting with a very, very important person who had taken time out of their very, very busy day just to give me some very, very much needed advice on, well, the rest of my professional life. Mr. Niceguy would be taking “double trouble” to school and to make things easier on him lunches were prepared the night before and stored in the refrigerator, snow pants, extra shoes, and school projects all packed in backpacks (I lost 30 minutes of my life last night as well as the opportunity to watch the Bachelor because I had to cut out a million jigsaw puzzle pieces for the 9 year old with scissors that were not small enough and I swear my hands were trembling so much that I now fear I’ve finally entered the realm of hyperthyroidism or was it just that fourth cup of coffee today?)

In any case, I made it out the door – bleary eyed and all – and even though I still have a head full of matted tangles I’m presentable enough and only a few minutes late so I stake out the perfect spot and I’m sure this person will be here any moment…

…Hmmm…I’ve double checked my emails, the time on my phone, the time with the coffee shop and ok, 15 minutes is fashionably late, right?

…I’m really hungry and could really use that coffee now – I’ll send an email and just let them know I’m here…t + 22 minutes…

…I wonder, did I even confirm this meeting? Quick check of email and GASP!!! I didn’t even confirm! OMG…but what do I do now? Sometimes people don’t wait for confirmations and it’s only t + 27 minutes plus I sent all those emails letting them know I’m here!

OK think, think, THINK!! I’ll get a latte because that will grease my brain wheels and I did tell the baristas I’m waiting for someone and they’re giving me their full on pitiful stares like I’ve been jilted on Valentine’s Day!

…One latte down…one croissant inhaled …and still no contact until…PING! Oh my goodness, it’s my person and they’re not even in town! Ugh, how could I have been so amateur to not even confirm a meeting? Ugh! Ugh! UGH!!!!! *So embarrassing.

*SIGH* I guess I will just head out and find something else to do, after all I did promise the nearly 6 year old a new backpack and some kind of light up shoes for school. And the 9 year old was hoping for new play pants.

I guess it’s pretty obvious – I’m the zombie here. With so much going on I’m like the walking dead roaming around in my life, arms outstretched, mouth agape, limbering along with the blank stare.

At least my person is understanding and generous enough to give me a new meeting time but wait, what’s that on my windshield? A parking ticket???!!! I’m in a no parking before 10:00 am parking spot?! How did I ever miss that??!!

Incidentally, this author did get a chance to have that meeting and it proved to be a definite step in the right direction…and out of the eye of the storm!

Walking away

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

Trust me…famous last words

“Trust me”…whenever I hear these words I feel like doing the opposite.  Similar to “relax”, “everything’s going to be ok”, “it’ll only take a minute”, and “it’s nothing serious”.

Seems to me (and my suspicious mind) that these statements, these combinations of words, have all somehow come to be used in instances to disguise situations where their meaning is not quite the same as their intent.

I have trusted to my own detriment.  Trusted that my contributions were being valued.  Trusted that what I was saying was being heard.  Trusted that someone else would have my best interests at heart.  I have also tried to “relax”, believed that “everything’s going to be ok”, that “it will only take a minute” and that perhaps “it’s nothing serious”…and I have come to terms with the fact no good can come from hearing these words.

Where is all this coming from?  Why am I feeling so suspicious now?  Why am I on heightened on alert?

Years ago I attended a corporate retreat – the kind with all sorts of team building exercises and presentations, too much drink, tons of new people, staggers to breakfast completely hung over with a bunch of strangers with whom you have to network and remember, etc.  For a global company like the one at which I work, these kinds of “retreats” can really be quite extravagant and this particular event was so overbooked that attendees were asked if they would be willing to share a room.  I volunteered as soon as I heard that for my sacrifice, I would get “special recognition”.  Who doesn’t like recognition???  Well, aside from not having any space of my own, my “special recognition” wound up being a gift basket – a SINGLE gift basket to SHARENOT the kind full of spa goodies, fantastic condiments or gourmet cookies.  No.  This one had weird cheese product, pate and cheap wine – and all I got was regret and a bag of peanuts.

In any case, it was at this particular retreat, after a Myers-Briggs assessment, where I learned I was an extrovert…

…the act, state or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self…extroverts tend to enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive and gregarious…energized when around other people…prone to boredom when they are by themselves

So what happens when an extrovert, such as me, is immersed in hours upon hours of one thing?

Theorizing for a moment…at its most basic, Carl Jung’s theory of extroversion and introversion may suggest that sticking an extrovert in a room full of say, happy-go-lucky people, would probably put the extrovert in a similar (if not the same) state.  To continue theorizing, what happens when you expose an extrovert to hours upon hours of the Vampire Diaries?

For the past 4 years, I had been under a complete rock…after discovering the Vampire Diaries, I can’t stop.  I have finished over 20 hours of viewing in the past 3 days – which makes it two entire seasons over the past week.  And when have I found the time?  Between the hours of “they’re finally asleep” and the “crack of dawn”.

All this TV viewing has been in an attempt to forget about the stress:  2 summer colds (one for me and the other for the 3 year old down who’s throat I had to shove horse pill sized antibiotics 3 times a day for 10 days – it’s 2013!  Is there NOT a one-pill solution???!), lots going on at work, and all the usual stuff that comes with being a career woman and homemaker!  I have been feeling completely run down.

So, to survive I found the most unexpected salvation:  pretending to be like a vampire.  WAIT!  Not the sucking blood and killing people part.  The detached, heightened awareness, super strength part.  Like, when I get really mad and upset – say because I’ve been told to trust someone who clearly does not deserve it, or relax in a situation where surely one cannot relax, I remember to keep my powers in check.  I remember to be magnanimous, to have a grand presence and above all, spare those who seek to cause me distress.

But all of this has also manifested itself in the physical:  I walk taller, sneak about, I’ve been making these odd facial expressions like I can read more into a situation and see through people, and just the other day, while enjoying a sandwich over lunch, I snapped my head to the right, took a sniff and knew someone was eating ketchup 7 feet away from me… I have to fess up a little secret here – this is not all attributable to the vampire thingy:  I have a nose like a bloodhound and an absolute LOVE of ketchup, which in fact, was the only thing that helped keep my meals down during two pregnancies.  It is the perfect condiment – why didn’t they include a bottle of 57 in the gift basket??!!  

Last night I watched a marathon of 8 episodes – at about 45 minutes an episode, that’s about 6 hours’ worth – from 10 pm to 4 am.  And when I was finally falling asleep I saw flashes of light, and heard whooshing noises and footsteps.  Completely freaked, I forgot all my vampire strengths and woke up Mr. Niceguy:

Me:  Wake up.  PLEASE wake up!!  Shhhh…I think there’s someone in the house.  I saw flashing lights and heard footsteps.

Mr. Niceguy:  Ok, take the phone, if I yell, dial 911.  Don’t hesitate. [Seeing the terror in my eyes]  Just relax.  Trust me.  Everything’s going to be ok.

Me:  What?  No!!!  Where are you going?  Please…

Mr. Niceguy:  I’m sure it’s nothing serious.  I’m going to look around…it will only take a minute.

Me:  <GULP> [Oh. My. God.]

I stood completely rooted to the spot, between both boys’ bedrooms in the dark hallway.  I couldn’t hear him anymore.  And I couldn’t see him.  Did I really hear those things?  Did I really see those flashes of light?  And more than that, should I have let him go?  Can I really trust this situation?  Where is he?  I know I have to keep cool, I know I have to keep my wits about me…what’s taking so long??!!

And before I know it, he’s back.  And he’s checked everywhere.  And there’s no sign of anything or anyone.  And everything’s ok.  And the rules don’t apply here.  I can exhale.  I feel trust, I can relax, everything is ok and it only took a minute to realize that it’s nothing serious…or is it???

Vampire-Diaries-Comic-Con

Funky blues…Part I

Open.  Close.  Open.  Close.  Open.  Close.  Open…scan top…scan middle…scan bottom…nothing in the left drawer…nothing in the right…nothing in the door.  Close.  There is officially nothing to eat.  I’ve checked, double-checked and triple-checked.  The fridge fairy bypassed my house again.  Maybe I can scrounge up some chocolate or candy…

Cable?  PVR?  Netflix?  Nothing.  Well, nothing except another show about a couple getting to choose between three potential homes in some exotic locale of which it’s quite obvious which two they’d only choose if they were completely insane.  Again?  No thanks.  And it’s not shark week!!  My shows have all had their season finales too: Survivor’s done, the Bachelor’s done, 90210 (yes, 90210) is done for good and worst of all…no Glee until September!  Whatever will I sing along with?? And I absolutely, unequivocally will not watch any of the PBS shows that reside on my PVR – no, I did not choose them nor can I stand to get past their descriptions like the role of this agency or that in foiling some terrorist plot or new insights into some World War II battle fought in who knows where, who knows when, or better yet, what REALLY was behind the financial crisis.  I really should’ve taken the time to program some of my shows…

So, nothing to eat and no entertainment…a nasty combination for my constitution.

It’s morning.  I get up, get ready and get to work.  I need to focus on work.  I need to put more of an effort into my career.  But I can’t.  I’ve ignored these funky blues, pretended they weren’t happening, and now I’m just going to be a big girl and admit that yes, I am totally funked out.  And today my funk manifested itself in the ultimate act of betrayal:  my very yummy chicken burrito full of lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, cheese, burrito sauce and sour cream bottom-end exploded onto my brand new silk coral top and black silk skinny pants…I LOOK LIKE A BAG LADY, FOR GOODNESS SAKE and I am definitely going to have to spend the rest of the day on my chair pressed right up against my desk to hide this mess.  This is not helping my funky blues at all…

But I’m not good at being still…and since I can’t concentrate on work anyway, I’m going to make one more attempt at breaking out of this funk.  I’m going to do what almost always works and I pray, would not fail me now…I’m going to the shoe shop under my building!

I can feel the funk lifting as I step into the elevator…down, down, down…sniiiiffff inhale…pfhooooo exhale…’DING’ out I go.

Ahhh…I swear I feel lighter, there’s a bounce to my step.  Whatever will I get?  Cute pair of ballerinas or perhaps a pair of trendy sneakers to wear on the soccer field – the possibilities are endless!  I walk in…to my absolute, and utter horror, however, I am confronted by one of my most hated songs – you know the one from your teenage years full of angst, revolution and the one that was the backdrop to a bad dumping or a wardrobe malfunction in high school.  I feel heavy, worn.  If I could cover my ears, curl up into fetal position and cry out of frustration, I would.  But no, I’ll put on a brave face.  I’m not giving up.  This song will pass…and it does…except the next one is worse.  I swear I lifted my arms up in total exasperation and stormed right out of the store.

Should they not be putting together song lists to INSPIRE purchases???  Who’s in charge here???  Why aren’t they playing any Britney Spears?  Or J.Lo???!!

My funk has now taken a backseat to my anger.  I need someone or something to BLAME for my funktastic mood…ah ha…Mother Nature.

I can trace my funk to this time of year, Spring, when we all come out of hibernation expecting renewal and change (lots of pretty flowers and warm breezes certainly seem like the perfect backdrop for some magic!)  For me, spring also happens to be a time when I am once again evaluating and re-evaluating every aspect of my life…all while tackling the ultimate in mundane tasks:  the multitude of baby clothes/toys/gear that I STILL have to get rid of, the flipping of my closet (and let’s be real, everyone else’s too) from fall/winter to spring/summer, the seven pounds I still have to shed before bikini season, the pedicure I still have to get, the tidying up of the garden and how I’m going to make sure that we get enough fruits and veggies in our diet…

This evaluation I put myself through is just so exhausting!!  My brain hurts.  There’s too much to think about.  And I keep adding more to my list.  As a side note, I’m not particularly gifted in any one thing, but I possess an incredibly high level of curiosity and sometimes ill-placed high level of confidence which have resulted in a deluded sense of capability.  In other words, I think I can do anything but I can’t figure out what to do first!!  This is just crippling…how do I dig myself out of this quicksand and get out of this funk????

Mother Nature…it’s not you…IT’S ME!!!  Funk.