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!

Brains…or guts??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Que Sera, Sera…

Despite my resistance, the unavoidable has happened. I am now officially, most definitely a not-cool-middle-aged-mom-person. I was still cool when I first had the 10 year old now over a decade ago, when none other than Rob Lowe said he was the cutest thing ever at a very hip Yorkville restaurant – I took it as a personal compliment because of course, I made this child and so must have rubbed off on him? I even clung onto my coolness (though just barely) when I gave the 10 year old a brother. At that point, I could still be considered “young” with a new family. Still fresh to the job and still just a young, hip, downtown chick.

vintage-laundryNot anymore. My delusions of cool have most certainly faded and now I’m just middle aged. And most definitely like one of the moms you see in the laundry detergent.

I felt the shift last week while I was driving the boys to school when I came to the realization that their favourite music just sounded like a whole lot of loud noise, that playing “this much” with Nerf guns was a sure sign that they may grow up deranged especially in this unhinged world we live in, and that my irrational fear of them one day turning into that which I most dread in this world (teenagers) would inevitably materialize. NOTE: Not only will this be sad because they are growing up much too fast (cliché, but true) but also because it means that I am even more of an uncool middle aged person than I thought!!!

When I first became a mother, I recall thinking, “I am going to be the coolest mom and this job will not define me. I will be my own person, my own self and still a hip trendsetting renegade. True, I love this little human being more than my own life and would sacrifice anything for his happiness. But get those Gap sweatshirts and mom jeans away from me, and I refuse to just roll out of bed, no makeup on, sleep still in my eyes and tie my un-brushed, unwashed, and unkempt hair in a ponytail just to make lunch and get them to school on time! That’s for the birds!” Today was day 4 dirty hair day and I don’t remember brushing my teeth…check toothbrush, bone dry…nope, didn’t make it.

Could it be that I’ve just deluded myself into thinking I was ever cool? That I could fight the forces of nature and just skip middle age and go straight to coolly eccentric older person?

Recently, I’ve taken on a boatload more work…or should I say, work and volunteering opportunities. I’m still volunteering for the Zoryan Institute (a non-profit organization dedicated to the research and analysis of genocide and human rights violations – which fills my soul and is definitely my contribution to my genocide-surviving-grandparents’ legacy), and now I’m also co-chairing the telethon committee of the one and only ARS Armenian Private School which I attended as a child and which is now passing on my culture and heritage together with a top-notch education to my boys – and the kids of my relatives…and those of my friends!

But the bills have to get paid and so I’m also doing some work for a fantastic newspaper you may have heard of…TorontoHye (!!) and finally, putting my training to work, I’m helping to sell a metal fabrication business. And there are even more things in the pipeline so yes, I’m busy. Maybe I’m just too busy and need to dedicate more time and effort to being cool…but then, that’s just SO NOT COOL!!

While it’s incredibly liberating to be comfortable in your skin, to know what you want and to know how to go and get it, is a consequence of this ‘mid-age liberation’ letting go to the point where the delusions of grandeur completely fade away and we just don’t care at all? And so we let things just go to the wayside and don’t make an effort anymore? Is THAT what causes our cool to fade and the mom jeans take over???!

mom-jeans

Years ago, before I had the boys, I remember looking at old photo albums in Mr. Niceguy’s basement of his mom. We lost her too soon and it was my way of trying to get to know the person that she was in an effort to get to know the man that I married. I recall that in her early years as a mother she had a very elegant figure, long, glossy, blonde hair and would wear cool blue jeans – even a bandana! Then as the children got older, her hair got shorter, her clothes became more conservative and she transformed into the woman that I came to know, into Mr. Niceguy’s mother. A steady, warm, loving and selfless matriarch.

I remember when people would say, “You couldn’t possibly be a mother! You look so young!” and with a small smile and polite, “thank you” I would hide the fireworks going off inside me. Those days are falling further and further behind…

I once met a psychiatrist who said something very interesting to me, she said that what I sometimes labelled as crazy (as in, I’m acting crazy, I feel crazy, my kids are making me crazy), she labelled as passion. She also mentioned that passionate people were often guilty of over-analysis…and that perhaps it was best to just accept things for what they are…and let other things, go.

So here it is, I accept you, not-so-cool-middle-aged-mom-person. For I cannot change you. But in an effort to still see vestiges of my “true, twenty-year-old self” I will remember to every now and then break the “I’m-a-proper-mom-and-good-example-to-my-kids” rules and climb over the construction tape just to scrape my name into a freshly poured, concrete sidewalk – and then promptly walk (run) away with a smile on my face when I get in trouble…like today.

I leave you, readers, with a song that my mother used to sing to me and my sister – in the wise, wise words of Doris Day:

When I was just a little girl I asked my mother
What will I be?
Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?
Here’s what she said to me

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera, what will be, will be

When I grew up and fell in love I asked my sweetheart
What lies ahead?
Will we have rainbows? Day after day?
Here’s what my sweetheart said

Que sera, sera…

Now I have Children of my own they ask their mother
What will I be?
Will I be handsome? Will I be rich?
I tell them tenderly

Que sera, sera…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Stop muzzling me!!!

“You can’t do that!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_6894

Green eggs and ham!

One of my favourite people is moving on and another is hitting a major milestone – you could say they’re both on the cusp of change which I’m resisting…

Seems like the start of summer has always been full of change:  the end of the school year, the start of a new summer job, a trip somewhere exotic and of course, the promise of a summer fling!   These changes were always easy to accept, but as we age, it seems we move farther and farther away from these “fun” changes and approach different kinds of change – riskier change:  do I risk a steady paycheck and quit my job to pursue my dream?  Do I leave the man that’ll make a perfect husband and son-in-law and follow my heart?  Do I pick up and move across the world to chase my destiny? 

Another birthday comes, another candle is added onto the cake.  Why is change so hard to accept?  Is it the fear of the unknown?  Does the law of physics have anything to do with it?  (You know, an object in motion, stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest.  However in this case, the status quo or the “known” is akin to the “rest.”)  Is it sheer laziness?

Whatever their reasons, most people tend to resist change – and some with utter and abject vehemence.  Like the other day, when I was rushing to get the kids to school – ok, truth is that with just several days to go to the end of school (at time of writing), I was late…waaaaay behind and I couldn’t be as I’d been chosen to be a parent chaperone on the 5 year old’s field trip!  The bus would surely leave without us and then I’d have to find a way to make it up to him like having to bribe him with (again!!!) this gift or that and I’m seriously turning into the worst – parent – ever!!!

A furious man driving, as seen from behind the wheel. Shot using a very wide fisheye lens.

A furious man driving, as seen from behind the wheel. Shot using a very wide fisheye lens.

Anyway, we raced out the door, toaster waffles hanging out of our mouths, into the car, en route to school…only the intersection was blocked!  So irritating!  Didn’t we all learn in driver training that you are NOT supposed to block intersections?!!!  While a couple of cars made way, one remained steadfastly put, despite having ample room to move.  Suppressing my inner, road-rage-prone monster, I lowered my window and asked kindly, “Pardon me, sir?  Would you mind moving a little forward and letting me through, please?”  He snapped, “I’ve gone as far as I can!  I can’t move any further!”  Fortunately, he got dirty looks from all those around and moved up all the same, letting us through.

Why was he so opposed?  Why are we all so resistant when faced with the impetus for change?  Is it because we’ve just become comfortable with the status quo…even if that status quo became the status quo only a moment ago?  Confused?  Think of it this way.  Imagine having to get across a stream.  To do so, you have to jump from one rock to the next until you make it across.  Each rock represents change from one to the next.  When you’re preparing to jump you are most uncomfortable – most fearful of change – and as soon as you land, you are at once relieved and comfortable again.  Change can be risky…you could land in the water and most situations in life aren’t so bad that you would actually fall in the water and drown.  Most of us draw on ourselves to figure things out – to swim to the next rock, if you will.

A-Family-Crossing-Stepping-Stones-On-A-River

So now, my one friend is reaching a major milestone and while I’m happy that she’ll now be in the same decade as me, she is also the last of our “Fantastic Four” to reach it.  In a way, we have now all moved on to adulthood.  If I think about it enough though, I no longer have to feel like she could still claim to be in her thirties when I couldn’t so that’s not such a bad thing, right?  Pfft.  But that’s really not what’s bothering me at all.  I pretended like hitting that milestone was no big deal…but now that I’m in the decade – and becoming ever more entrenched – I’m not only facing change but fearing it!

My other friend is doing what I only dare to…in my dreams.  She is moving her family halfway around the world to realize a goal that she set for herself – to rediscover and make a go of it in our homeland. To some, this seems crazy – I admit it did to me at first too – leaving the creature comforts of home, the routines, the stability and security for something completely different, new, and unknown.  For me, all I can think of is the loss I’d feel of leaving behind my friends, my family, MY LIFE!!!

I do not like them, Sam I am.  I do not like green eggs and ham.  I do not like them here or there, I do not like them anywhere.

2739-3-green-eggs-ham-dr.-seuss-liteLike the stodgy, unhappy character in the famous Dr. Seuss children’s book who does not want to try something new like green eggs and ham, I admit it, I fear the unknown…I fear change.  In particular, I fear the kind of change that is thrust upon me like, “You’d be perfect for this new job – c’mon you’d be a fool to turn it down!” (despite the fact that you weren’t looking and are enjoying being master of your own domain…) or “I know you like roller coasters…who cares if this one is higher than any you’ve ridden before, you’ve just gotta try it!” (despite the fact that while you love adventure, perhaps you prefer the kind with both feet on the ground…waaaaaaay on the ground.)

But just like the Dr. Seuss character…you’ve got to try it, because you just might find that you like green eggs and ham!  Interestingly enough, one of the key traits that all happy people exhibit, aside from living in the present and trusting that everything happens for a reason, is that they all embrace change.  So join me, let’s embrace change this summer!

Life’s too short to make up all sorts of rules for ourselves that keep us from realizing its full potential.  Take a look around.  What change have you been resisting?  Why are you resisting it?  What is the chance that you’ll slip and not land on that next rock?  Will it be the end of the world as you know it?  I mean, really?  Then DO IT!  If I can ride the Behemoth roller coaster at a peak height of 230 feet (despite my hypochondriac woes about dislodging some blood clot, popping a spinal disc, or having an instant heart attack), who knows, then perhaps being fully immersed in this decade isn’t so bad…and my other friend?  Well, she’s just a plane ride and an email away…

Behemoth

In recognition of International Women’s Day

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

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

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

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

Moms and Motherhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mothering Two Boys

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

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

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

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

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

Men

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

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

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

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

The Elusive Balance

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

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

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

Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Really Important

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Lettuce

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

Oh…to be in a cocoon

On this blustery, winter day, I’m wrapped up in my large duvet, trying to block out all the fighting and the fake gun shots (POW!  POW!), the million-and-one questions, requests and demands, just trying to find a quiet place to get in touch with my inner thoughts.  My cleaning lady quit and after the fifth (yes, FIFTH) load of laundry this weekend, I’m spent.

Incidentally, during one such load of (thank goodness) darks, when I went to put the washed clothes in the dryer I heard a *CLINK*…I ignored it.  Until I looked back into the washing machine and to my horror, found crayons…CRAYONS!!  So oh—my—GOD!!!!  Now I have to dig through half-wet clothes and turn out all the pockets because five loads of laundry were not a big enough chore?!  And if they find their way into the dryer…I’m screwed!!!!  WHO KEEPS CRAYONS IN THEIR POCKETS??!!

I know I shouldn’t blame them…they’re just kids.  They’re having fun.

And I can kind of see the humour in it.  I’m a horrible mother.  Why couldn’t I just turn their pockets inside out before I started the load?!  Ugh.  No matter now…

Crisis averted…I’m lulled into a false sense of accomplishment until I move onto the next:  cleaning “boy” toilets (eew), the kitchen sink, the floors, and dusting and I’m just about ready to admit failure again, abandon my intentions of becoming the best domestic there ever was and simply hire another cleaning lady.

duvetcoverFor goodness’ sake, in addition to all of the above, I’ve stripped the beds of all their sheets and mattress covers and, being a big believer of continuing education, I’ve even watched various online video tips for housework including one teaching an orgasmic, idiot-proof method of stuffing a duvet into its duvet cover!  Yes, this “new generation” of YouTube-ing everything and equating housework with emotional highs and true accomplishment is a new twist for me.  I’m SO PUMPED to try this out!

In truth, the video captivated me because it equated the method with a burrito roll and quite frankly burritos and I are super tight.  Like really tight.  Like Angie and Brad tight.  I can’t walk by a burrito and not eat it.  Chicken, beef, pork, veggies, cheese, eggs…put virtually anything in a burrito, hand it over and I’m in my happy place.  Add sour cream, some pico de gallo and that’s what I call orgasmic!

Incidentally, the idiot-proof method took much longer than my usual haphazard “Girl Fight” style of blindly stuffing my the duvet into the corners of the cover and now I’m upset with myself for having put so much faith into this fail-safe, quick, life-saving, orgasmic method.  Completely let down and feeling like I’ve been cheated on by a bad ex-boyfriend, in true homage to the burrito, I’ve rolled my idiot self up in my uncovered and totally naked, king-size duvet.

So back to where I started this entry, here I am, lying in fetal position; I’m desperately trying to drown out the wails, the complaints, the incessant questions and unrelenting complaints from my world.  I’m desperately trying to drown out my own wails, complaints and incessant questions and unrelenting complaints.  Like, “is this what a so-called balanced life is supposed to be like?” and, “I quit my job to be able to focus more on my family / personal life but I just can’t seem to find focus” and most of all, “is this what I went to graduate school for?!”

The thoughts swirl around me like an F5 tornado.  I can see all the different parts of my life but I can’t seem to catch any one.  Everything is a blur and in this total bewilderment I hear a tiny voice whisper, “give in”.  The blur morphs into a haze…and like a caterpillar waiting in its cocoon to turn into a graceful butterfly, I drift off into a blissful slumber, leaving the world behind…for now.

duvetcocoon

 

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

The art of thinking…on one’s feet!

I’m often surprised at the vastness of human interaction:  in other words, it’s amazing what boundaries people will cross when relating with one another.  Specifically, my boundaries, which some may say are a little more narrow than others.  And in the face of having my boundaries crossed, what’s even more surprising is how often I find myself completely stunned, immobile and utterly incapable of thinking on my feet…

I remember when I’d go clubbing with my girlfriends in my late teens.  Back then it was pretty easy to get your hands on a fake ID…in fact, with a little creativity one could easily create their own.  In any case, there were three of us and we were inseparable.  All week long we would talk about which clubs we’d go to and with whom, plan outfits and so on and so forth.  We were a lot more daring then…  And while the first was the pretty one and the second was the sweetheart, I always liked playing the part of, for lack of a better term, smart ass.

Random beefcake:  “Hey.  Howzit goin’?  Can I get you a drink?”

Me:  “No thanks.”  Ugh.  I’m onto this guy…he’s just after one thing!

Random beefcake:  Puffing chest like a peacock.  “So, uh, you and your friends come here often?”

Me:  “Ya.”  Lame.  Please go away.

Random beefcake:  “You know honey, we didn’t wait in line.  I know some guys.”  Getting very full of himself.  “I could get you in whenever you like.”

Me:  “Hmmm…thanks.  That’s ok.”  Oh. My. God.  Gross.  Feeling like I’ve been drenched in slime.  Turning to leave…

Random beefcake:  Crosses boundary!  Grabs my arm and getting a little feisty.  “So it looks like my friends are hooking up with your friends so how about…”

Me:   Looks that would shoot daggers and kill in an instant.  Grab beefcake’s hand, remove from my person.  “How about what?  Look, I’m sure you’re a really nice guy.  But here’s the thing.  I’m studying international relations and politics.  I’m planning on being a diplomat or a lawyer, ok?  I don’t think there’s a match here.  So how about you just move on?”  Oooooh…harsh…walk away.

Now that’s thinking on your feet.  But somewhere along the way, that very self-assured girl took a bit of a back seat.  Call it having babies, call it changed priorities, call it growing up and being immersed in environments where the rules perhaps aren’t as clear…

In my thirty-X years, situations seem more complicated, the stakes are higher and thinking on your feet means keeping your head in the game… a game that knows no boundaries…

Like that certain person (we all know one) who, no matter what, will point out just how tired I look every single time I see them.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  Monday morning?  Tired.  Friday afternoon?  Tired.  Dressed to kill?  Tired.  Always tired, tired, TIRED!  Appalling.  And though this is a regular occurrence, it’s still surprising.

Is there no nicer way to greet someone?  Now, I’m not saying that one shouldn’t show care or empathy, or even concern at my once-in-a-while or more-times-than-usual haggard state.  But since when did that kind of small talk replace the inconsequential talk about the weather?!  I wish I could just reply, “Ya, what of it?!  I have this chronic condition, perhaps you’ve heard of it, it’s called: LACK OF WORK LIFE BALANCE-ITIS.  You know, like PULLED IN A MILLION DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS-EMIA…”  But relationships in your thirty-X years are complicated…  So instead, I do what I always do – I half whimper and smile.

Why be surprised?  Why assume that everyone respects boundaries?  Sadly, I’m often most caught off guard when I’m at work.  And I think this has more to do with the fact that thinking fast and being on my toes just doesn’t seem akin to looking at financial models and writing presentations or reports…not terribly life or death situations, right?  Wrong.

For example, the other day I was told by someone that if I made a mistake, just one mistake, at something that I was responsible for, that they would “kill” someone… nay (and here it comes) – with slit eyes, dark face and bony finger pointing towards me – that they would “kill” me!

Nuclear-Explosion-001Now THAT’S harsh.  Despite the (hopefully probable) fact that it was an obvious turn of phrase and common colloquialism, my boundaries had not only been crossed, but pulverized, like after a nuclear attack.  The situation was also just a little bit ridiculous.  As soon as the words were out, I think I just stood there, mouth agape, and the only thing that I did or said again (DAMMIT!!) was half whimper and smile.  Seriously.  Like why couldn’t I have responded with any of the following:

    1. Wow, that seems kind of violent.
    2. Whoah.  You know that’s against the law, right?
    3. I think the last time I threatened to kill someone (obviously as a turn of phrase) I was highly hormonal, 16 and in high school.
    4. Now that’s not being much of a team player.  Hey man, if I go down…you go down.
    5. Aha.  I get that you would like for me to be like a robot or some kind of droid that is incapable of human error.  I shall endeavor to rise to this impossible challenge.
    6. @#$% YOU.

Is it that I need more of a backbone?  Is it that I just shouldn’t care?  Or is it the fact that perhaps I need to remember that boundaries, for some, are meant for crossing.  So what if I just crossed my own first?   What if, I put aside sweetness, politesse, empathy and consideration?  Sounds like too big of a price to pay for not being me.  Though I am all for some witty repartee…time to get back in the game and master the art of thinking on one’s feet!

Chess piece

Don’t panic! It’s just (Rough) Rider Nation!!

There are times when the duality of my life cannot be ignored and comes into stark relief:  on the one hand, I’m my own person, career woman, trying to achieve my own aspirations while on the other hand, full time mother and wife.  Isn’t it always present?  Yes.  But how about when you are given less than 24 hours that you will be spending the next 4 days in the Canadian Prairies?  Oh, and it’s going to be MINUS 27 degrees…WITHOUT the wind chill?!

Monday morning – up after hitting the snooze button at least 5 times (which by my alarm goes off every 8 minutes, so a 40 minute delayed start).  No one else is up because they wait for me…although had Mr. Niceguy been around, things would have been moving faster (most mornings he heads down the stairs and plants himself in his “command centre,” aka TV room, to catch all the pressing financial news from overseas that would impact his day).  But not today – Mr. Niceguy was away for the weekend and would not return until that night.

Jump out of bed, brush teeth, wash face, shout out to 7 year old and 3 year old to start getting dressed (doesn’t do much good but I’m hopeful they actually will be ready for a change!) hair isn’t sooo greasy so skip the wash, get dressed and down in 20 minutes flat.  Finish getting boys ready (see?) by throwing clothes on hoping arms and legs go in the right spots, grab packed lunches from the night before, brekkies in the car, and we’re off!

After dropping them off and then getting downtown and parking the car, I slow down and take a breath.  Latte in hand, I walked through the shopping concourse under my building, admiring the Christmas Décor and I thought to myself:  today is the day I slack.  Today is the day I walk around and take a little time for myself – I’ve had my little monsters to myself for FOUR DAYS and now it’s “ME-TIME”.  Perhaps I’ll do a little shopping over lunch…maybe get a mani/pedi, or get a head start on my Christmas shopping.

The lead-up to the holidays is my absolute favourite time of year:  people are generally nicer, everything smells of warm cookies and cinnamon, and the white backdrop to absolutely everything makes it all magic not to mention Christmas carols playing in all the shop stores…  And as for work, the thought that most of my assignments and responsibilities have been completed or at a slow point was very, very warming to me – like a hot cup of cocoa full of marshmallows and skads of whipped cream…yummmmmmm…..

Only that was not to be the case.  I got SOLD, so-to-speak, into a new assignment that would take me to the farthest , most desolate reaches of the land…Praire Country.  And the panic which gripped me was palpable – I could feel the cold, hard, long, bony, clawed fingers wrap themselves around me and pull me into the abyss that was work…

What would happen to my children?  When would I see Mr. Niceguy again?  Who would make dinner, fold laundry and band-aid boo-boo’s?  I think the 3 year old is coming down with a cold and the 7 year old is feeling neglected…who will be their mommy while I’m gone??!!

Well, 24 hours later, after the briefest of hand-offs to Mr. Niceguy, I was on a plane, prairie bound…

And despite the freezing cold, the people I met were wonderful – they warmed things up right away and even promised to get me a “watermelon helmet” (something Roughrider fans are known for)!  And it actually felt kind of nice to stop playing the duality game for a few days.  True, I was on the clock and spent virtually every waking moment working, but I could grab a coffee when I wanted, sleep uninterrupted, not attend the washroom unless it was for my own biological needs, no tantrums, no cooking, no cleaning…these were definitely some of the perks!

I thought being off the dual track was exactly what I wanted…and what I needed…until I made it to Regina, aka Rider Nation (for all those who don’t know – Regina was hosting the Grey Cup and the Saskatoon Roughriders faced off against the Hamilton Tiger Cats yesterday and as predicted, won).  Seeing all the families dressed in Roughrider Green all of a sudden opened the floodgates I had worked so hard to keep closed.  All of a sudden I couldn’t think of anything else other than getting home and wiping noses, answering to the hundreds of “Mommy” demands, and just be in the middle of my own little universe…my world…my family.

There are times when the struggle to preserve one’s identity becomes overwhelming – especially when one becomes a parent – and I find this to be true regardless of whether you are male or female.  I certainly found the transition to parenthood much more difficult than when I became married and was now considered someone’s wife.  But what is absolutely amazing is how much capacity we have for growth.  Despite the initial shock, disdain and fear that surrounded my realization that I would be shipped away from my family and will potentially have to continue to travel and be away for a little while, the people I met and the excitement that arose from doing something so completely different gave me an amazing opportunity to learn and grow.  That, and Roughrider Nation, it was a pleasure to meet you and congratulations on an amazing Grey Cup victory which I watched, curled up on my OWN couch, family in tow!  Thanks for the perspective…

IMG_1922

Disco and dads…a tribute to Fathers Day

Long commutes don’t make for happy commuters, however, when my long commute is accompanied by disco backbeats, it’s a groovy ride.  Lately there seems to be a disco revival on the airwaves with songs like Daft Punk’s Get Lucky and Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines.  To me, disco is the epitome of dance music – from Donna Summer, to Gloria Gaynor, the Bee Gees and everything else in between, disco makes me wanna shake my groove thang, baby!

I also really love the look of disco:  big hair and hoop earrings, sequin crop tops, bell bottom jeans and metallic strappy sandals.  Fun, flirty, FOXY!!  So as I start daydreaming about what outfit to wear for my debut on Soul Train, I also begin reminiscing about my childhood during the disco era…

My dad introduced me to disco while we lived in Saudi Arabia – parties and social events among the ex-pats took centre stage in a country where non-residents had to live by a different set of rules.  He bought my sister and I disco medley eight-tracks and cassettes which we would listen to seated across the front row of our very large Buick Park Avenue (no seatbelts) on our way to go rock climbing on the hills just outside Taif or swimming in the Red Sea.  To us, my dad was Superman…he spent countless hours playing with us, taking us on adventures and teaching us things, without ever exhibiting any weakness…there was nothing he couldn’t do!

What was his kryptonite?

After a pretty hectic couple of weeks at work, when my husband complained that he was “coming down with something” and had general aches and pains, I knew it was time to brace myself… while most men are extremely capable and have strong conviction (stubbornness), they are no match for the common cold.

Typical stages are as follow:

Stage 1:  Subject pouts and is generally grouchy.  Higher than normal level of stonewalling when asked if something is the matter.

Stage 2:  Levels of grouchiness now complimented by grumpiness.  Subject declares that they are not feeling 100%.

Stage 3:  Subject has succumbed and is now staying home from work and cancelling all other commitments.  Although still grouchy, subject appears almost sad and defeated and now, really looking the part wearing the “I’m not 100% uniform” consisting of old sweats which have been worn for at least 48 hours straight.  The beard/facial hair is coming in, hair is greasy, and there’s a general mustiness wafting from the couch (aka the “day bed” or the convalescing spot in front of the TV).  This stage is further characterized with random balls of scrunched up (blech…used) Kleenex and empty chip bags all over the house (including in our bed), as well as multiple sachets of chicken noodle soup and used teabags in the disaster zone formerly known as the kitchen.  The subject’s cold has taken over!

Stage 4:  Subject’s significant other begins to come undone…nothing is where it should be, there is one more person to pick up after, and I am running constant interference between the children and the patient!  I am getting totally overwhelmed…and no longer looking “100%”.

As an aside, I came across the term “man cold” from Urban Dictionary:

The name ‘man cold’ disguises the true terrible, debilitating disease…nearly all men will die from …unless they are administered immediately with large amounts of mindless TV such as daytime TV, or childrens’ cartoons…essential that they not move from bed or a comfy sofa to allow for rehabilitation, and must have tissues and man cold medicine…brought to them constantly by a nearby female.

***I will preface here that although my husband does not expect any of these things, he will not accept ANY help. No advice on how to be more comfortable, and certainly, no comments on his improvement….why????  Lest I jinx it???!! 

I will further preface that even if I have a cold to end all colds (you know the ones with puffers and antibiotics, excruciating headaches, bouts of hot flashes and chills, and a pitstop at the bathroom every 15 minutes) I still make myself go to work, get food out on the table, do homework and read a bedtime story (well…maybe not that last bit…)

Stage 5:  Subject feels better.  There is a grand public announcement of improvement and survival of the great adversity.  Subject struts around like a superhero that has vanquished his evil foe.  Significant other raises a white flag to exhaustion…but wait!

Although it appeared as though things were finally back in balance, I made the mistake of declaring that I desperately needed to take a break.  Not five minutes later I was asked to fetch a glass of water no less than four times, asked where a particular lego character was (recall: the man cold has turned my house into a warzone and lego characters ARE TINY!!), whether I wanted to play baseball in the backyard, what we were having for dinner, and so on…

Stage 6:  Nuclear stage.  I lose it…but things aren’t at radiation levels quite yet…not until I’m diagnosed by my husband while he now runs interference on his way out to start the festivities with our two boys that hmmm…perhaps I’m not behaving normally.  Perhaps something is up with me.

And just as I’m about to follow him outside and use my incinerating heat vision, a disco melody starts to play in the background, and I remember my groove…I Will Survive.  I look outside, and I see him running around the backyard at 100% with my boys who have looks of excitement, awe and admiration, and I get it.  That although my boys are probably doomed to put their future significant others through the same cycle, like their father, and like my father, their kids will be their only kryptonite.

Casting stones from glass houses…

This next piece is dedicated to a very talented graphic designer, Sho Demirjian, at Blue Mango Graphic Solutions.  Collaborating with her has resulted in this fantastic image which I think really encapsulates the “magic”…  Thank you.

Let me start by saying…I haven’t fallen off the 30-day challenge wagon!  130 squats, 80 crunches and a plank held for 140 seconds and I’m not feeling squished in my jeans…on my way to bikini beach ready!  Things really seem to be going my way…

But no.  Massive signal problems for the subway so once again I squish my way onto the train.

Generally speaking, I like to mind my own business on public transportation…you never know who (or what) you may encounter – I have been shouted at, shoved, knocked over, asked what planet I was from, and run into all sorts of other people I “should” remember.  So this particular morning, I have my nose buried in my latest favourite book (Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella – I just can’t put this down!!) when I overhear a conversation:

“Oh hi Cindy?  Cindy, it’s Mike.  Cindy, I’m on the subway.  I’m just at Eglinton Station.  There are signal problems on the Yonge-University-Spadina line and so I’m definitely going to be late.  I guess I’ll just miss the meeting and catch up with everyone later.”  Only, we weren’t at Eglinton Station…we were much farther along.

This man, this “Mike”, had lied and I thought, wow, what a dishonest individual…how shameful.  And he didn’t even care that everyone else around him had heard his lie – we had all become his accomplices!  And for some reason, I felt horrible for this poor Cindy especially when, no exaggeration, two stops later, he made the call again and once more lied about his location.

I was thrilled when the train finally arrived at my destination and I jumped off…

LUNCHTIME!!!  Standing in line, waiting to order a sandwich and two I-bank types (you know these guys…über confident wearing the most fashionable Strellson and Brooks Brothers suits with great hair and abnormally white teeth) just stood in the middle of a very busy food court and like peacocks who fan their feathers to intimidate and attract at the same time, start talking in very loud, booming voices about what they feel like eating, the people they know, the weekends they had, and so on, and so on, and so on – each was trying to one-up the other.  They’re attracting a lot of attention.  Oh brother.  It’s like watching Thor and Superman posture for the title of Greatest Superhero of Bay Street.  Only the gig is up – they’re neither!  Please.  Besides, I’m a fan of Spiderman…Peter Parker is ever so sweet and humble – and I can totally relate his spidey senses…a combination of female intuition and my “mom radar”!

Work complete…rush home…prepare dinner for out of town guests…can’t wait!  But…what’s this???!!  While sweeping the front steps, I witness a neighbour from around the corner leaving a little “gift” from his dog in my garden refuse bag…  I mean, I’m glad he didn’t leave it on the street, but to deposit your pet’s excrement in someone else’s garbage WHILE THEY ARE OUTSIDE AND IN YOUR FULL PURVIEW???!!!  Is there NO shame??  It’s not like it’s an empty coffee cup!

We’ve all been there, right?  We’ve all exaggerated or told a little white lie to get out of something?  We’ve all puffed out our chests and pretended to be more than what we are, no?  And certainly, we’ve all done something we knew we probably shouldn’t, but did it anyway for one reason or another. But how much thought have we given to what other people may think?  Should we not be more concerned with the impression we leave?  Should we not be more concerned with their judgement?

I continued to think of this the next day…en route to dropping my kids off at school.  When, to our surprise, we arrived at the school, which due to an unforeseen power outage, was closed.  So, doing what any other resourceful woman would do, I took them to work with me…downtown…on Bay Street…in an office full mostly of male accountants and finance types.  Not exactly a daycare.

A little background as I haven’t spoken too much about my work – I am a financier (aka financial advisor).  I build financial models, write business plans, develop financial strategy, and negotiate multi-million dollars in long-term debt using forward interest rate swaps, among other things. And on this particular Friday, I was hip deep in a particular transaction.  And I brought the almost 7 year old and 3 year old to work.  Without any preparation:  no diapers, no snacks, no colouring books, no iPad!!  And here’s what happened…

They tore through the hallways like it was a private racetrack…

They did NOT use their indoor voices…

They ran through nearly 100 sheets of paper and drew all over my desk and nearly my walls…

They raided the supply cabinet (I should’ve expected that one)…

They emptied out my goody drawer (emergency stash of chocolate and candy for late nights and complex model building fuel)…

They had aromatic bodily functions…

And worst of all, they started World War III while I was on a conference call…with my boss… and I couldn’t reach the mute button as they were precariously balancing on a swivel chair each trying to push the other off while drawing all over my white board!!  Oh, and did I mention?  My office is TINY and has a glass wall…it’s actually called a “fishbowl” office.  WE WERE ON TOTAL DISPLAY.

I was absolutely mortified.  Horrified.  I had done such a good job separating my personal and career life.  Though I have often spoken of my funny and crazy boys (not crazy insane, but crazy cute, or kooky) all I could think was what impression I was now leaving others with:

Wow…poor woman…those two are just insane…

Oh, another woman trying to climb the corporate ladder and have a home life…there’s a “balancing act” gone totally out of whack…

She really should do a better job controlling those kids…

Thank goodness I don’t have kids yet…

Oh brother.  I can’t tell you how fast I loaded up all the files I needed on my laptop and got the @#% out of there!  And as if that wasn’t enough…the shenanigans continued all the way to the car and that’s when I totally lost my marbles.  In the middle of the financial district I absolutely lost my mind and just let out all of the morning’s frustrations.  I did NOT care how I looked.  I did NOT care what people thought.  I did NOT care that I was now a spectacle.

And you know what?  Doing what I needed to do…what I wanted to do…well, it felt damn good.

Funky blues…Part II

A week has gone by, and I still can’t shake the blues…but at least it looks like we’re actually going to be on time today.  Kids are dressed and fed, bags are packed for school, and just as we go outside to load everyone up in the car…DISASTER! Oh. My. God. There is rotten food everywhere…I forgot to close the garage door last night and raccoons got into my green bin!! GROSS!!!

A quick clean up later I’m thinking, crisis averted, when up the driveway comes my cleaning lady. My existing cleaning lady – the one that keeps rearranging all of my stuff; the one that keeps breaking things in my house; the one I’m putting off letting go because I’ve never “fired” anyone in my life.  I wasn’t expecting her!  Especially since I am actually trying out a new cleaning lady…TODAY!!! And who is set to arrive any minute! What to do now???!!! I blurt out, “Oh…hi! I wasn’t expecting you today.  But…ummmm….great.  Go ahead inside, I’ll just be a minute.”  Quick, send text. No response. Call….pick up, pick up, pick UP!! “Hi, it’s me.  I’m so sorry, part of our roof fell off last night and I really don’t feel comfortable having you come here while they work to put it back on.  Us?  Oh, geez, we’re fine…thank you for asking.  I will pay you, for sure, I’m so, so sorry! See you next week.  Thank you so much.  OK, bye.”

Before you judge…part of the roof DID fall off last week (some trim thingy) and tomorrow a roofer IS going to come and put it back on…so…not a lie…just a stretch??

I hop in the car with the rest of the gang who have now (thank goodness) offered me a ride to the subway.  Purse?  Check.  Spare bag with shoes?  Check.  Latte?  Checkity, check, check! Things are starting to go my way…I think I’m going to shake this funk after all…I mean, what a comedy of errors this morning, right?  And I survived.

This subway is disgusting.  It is crowded and hot.  I hope I don’t almost faint again.  Focus…perhaps I should turn off Zero Dark Thirty and just stare at the ground – somehow torture scenes seem too akin to what I feel like I’m going through right now.  Hmmm…why don’t they have the AC on? OUCH!!! What the…OUCH!!!!!  Some totally oblivious woman has not only just stomped on my foot with her big, high-tech sneakers but when I turned to see what was going on, she clocked me with her giant backpack.  And now there’s a medical emergency and I’m stuck here??? Oooofff. Funkity, funk, funk!

It’s eight hours later…I did make it to work, had a not-so-productive day evaluating my life again and managed not to cover myself with my lunch this time – so all in all, not so bad.

And now I’m at my son’s baseball game (which I signed him up for as a way to at least cross one more item off my list). We’ve been in our neighbourhood for close to five years and this is a great way to get involved – and yes, this new-ish environment will be just as tricky for me as it will be for him…I just wish I wasn’t in such a funk…

I look around…there’s a group of women who seem like they’ve been on this circuit for years: they have their folding chairs, their travel mugs and hunter boots (on this unseasonably cold and rainy Tuesday evening I am wearing a thin t-shirt and converse and willing the sun to come out) and they appear more interested in comparing notes over their latest acquisitions, recipes and social agendas. I swear that if I were to look closely enough at the grass by their feet I would see tiny little brass plaques denoting their respective, individual plots of land at the park – undoubtedly passed down for generations.  I know this because I got the “once-over” when I was carrying our gear to “their territory” so I did a quick 180 and changed course…I’m too funking drained to deal with this…

But…oh no.  I’ve now wound up with the really nice and inclusive group.  You know these people – they are overly sweet and complimentary.  They want to know every little detail about you and where you come from, seem oblivious to the fact that you only met five seconds ago, and for some reason, believe that you are just as interested in every detail about their lives: “We’ve been at this league forever!  You’ll love it!  We live right over there…see my house?  What about you?  What street?  What number?  My son, X, has been playing for the past two years but just look at him, he can’t focus or listen – X!! PAY ATTENTION TO THE COACH!!!!! – I swear that child is going to be the end of me.  You know, he won’t eat any vegetables??!! What do I do? You must have some ideas?  Which one is yours???” Oh boy.

So now I’m sitting by the dugout. This really is the best spot anyway – near all the kids and I can really get into the game.  Little-by-little I’m feeling not funkadelic anymore, but bewildered.  I’m trying to figure out how I got here.  And how I’ve let my funk dictate so many of my moves…like not making an attempt to get to know some of these people, or worrying about the consequences of each and every decision I’ve made up to this point, or the consequences of each and every decision I have to make hereafter.

I look up and start to really watch.  To my surprise, I notice that my son has joined, I mean really joined, his team without hesitation.  He’s talking to all the other kids and having the best time. He got thrown into a situation he knew nothing about, or had control over, and is doing just fine.

As the innings progressed, I found I was enjoying myself and letting go of all of my other wonderings…the noise in my head grew quieter as it was replaced with cheers, squeals and my favourite, the crack when the ball connects with the bat.  Then, to my utter astonishment, the game has ended and I am being congratulated by the coaches: “Your son had the hit of the game!” And all of a sudden, I knew that we had accomplished what buying a new pair of shoes could ever achieve…I was out of the “spin-cycle”…for now.

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.

Role reversal…?

Originally written for Mother’s Day…

About 7 years ago, I was standing just outside “flower row” on Avenue Road.  It was a very special Sunday, Mother’s day, and people were buying flowers for their mothers/sisters/grandmothers/aunts/wives.  Meanwhile, for me it was just a typical downtown Sunday, where I had just come from having a very satisfying meal at one of my favourite brunch places, looking every bit the rotund mother-to-be…43 pounds more heavy, 6 weeks pre-baked, prego lady…the perfect subject for a feel-good TV interview piece about Mother’s Day.

A reporter got one look at me and ran right over, practically salivating!  She prepped her cameraman (who also looked really excited but I think more because he could finally get his shot and get out of the madness) smoothed down her perfectly coiffed hair, and then turned to me.  After a quick, three…two…one…the mic was in my face and… “Hi!  We’re here in downtown Toronto on this very special day.  It’s Mother’s Day!  Miss, I mean, ma’am, tell me, how special is this day for you?”  I stood there totally frozen.  Why was this woman waiting for MY answer?  I shrugged and said, “Well, it’s kind of not a day for me, is it?  I mean, I’m just pregnant – I don’t have any kids yet, so I don’t really think of this day as anything especially meaningful.”  At this point she looked at me like I was from outer space…and like she was about ready to tear my head off…so I added, “Umm…I mean, until I have this baby, I think this is still a day for my mom, not me.  But I’m excited???”  Cameraman and reporter both looked at me, mouths agape, shocked…incidentally, I didn’t make it on the 6 o’clock news…

Was she waiting for me to gush:  “Awww…this is the best day.  So amazing!  I can’t wait to be a mother!  I can’t wait to meet this little baby!  I’m experiencing the miracle of life and it’s going to be the best thing EVER!”  Well, that’s just not me…I never heard the birds chirping or saw the clouds part – I had no idea of what I was getting into…and how much I would change as a result…

Seven years later…it’s 11:15 pm.  I just got home from work.  I’ve had one of those days…in fact, more like one of those weeks!  Up at the crack of dawn, drop one kid off at school, while my husband stayed at home and took care of the other (a big ball of ooze thanks to spring allergies and a cold), followed by a 15.5 hour stretch at work.

And the first thing I thought of when I came home?  “Where’s my dinner?”

For anyone that’s seen the movie Pleasantville, there’s a scene in it where the father, a stereotypical 1950’s man that goes to work, while his “little woman” takes care of the house, makes marshmallow salads, and cares for the children, comes home and gets all snappy because things have been turned upside down, his wife has “seen the light” and hadn’t prepared dinner. I felt very much like this man – like everything I knew had been turned upside down.

Here I was clinging onto the middle rungs of the corporate ladder and during this latest stretch of work insanity, my husband’s the one making lunches, wiping noses, overseeing homework and having chats with the other moms in the parking lot!  He’s the one who has become the centre of our home.  He’s the one who knows where things are and what’s happened on Lego Ninjago.  He’s the one they look for…

Don’t I want to be the one to take my kids to school, chat with the other moms in the parking lot and still have time to watch Bold and the Beautiful and do homework?  But also, don’t I want to achieve something that’s just mine…leave my own mark?

Like the pendulum of the clock, I keep swinging back and forth and at close to 1:30 am in the early morning, I decide I’m done.

And I’m strangely satisfied.  I remember that as a mom, I have the gift of continuously witnessing breaks in the time-space continuum – something I never saw before; moments, where I see myself in my kids’ laughter, tantrums, and surprise.  I can almost feel them experiencing life as my heart quickens when I see their absolute joy or total devastation and I’m forever perplexed and amazed at how quickly the world becomes a better place after a simple hug, a high-five and a smile.

I wish I could go back and answer the question I was asked seven years ago, all over again.  I would say to that reporter, here’s what Mother’s Day means to me:  That although I still think this is still more of a day for my mom… that it would apply to me soon.  That although I have no idea what I am getting into, I hope to do a good job and make sure that my kids will laugh loud, genuine laughs every day.  But being a mom would not define me completely and I hope that my kids would also get to know me.  After having said all of that, we’re just going to take things as they come, and figure things out as we go.

Humanity…never ceases to amaze

Champagne?  Don’t mind if I do…ooh, it’s Cristal!!!  Of course!  Only the best for my uncle’s 65th birthday! I can’t believe it!  This party is totally high class:  great band, great food, fabulous looking people and just look at my dress!  I’m wearing the most gorgeous black and white ballgown – it’s enormous!  Fantastic!  Magical!  Ooh, and now I have a mask on.  It’s a masquerade ball, oh how elegant!  And my hair is so long and gorgeous and shiny.  My lips are ruby red.  I never want this to end…

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.  “Mommy, I cold.  I wanna eat something.  I wanna change.”  These were the words of my 3 year old this morning…at 5:25 am!!  A whole hour before my alarm was supposed to go off!  And poof…there went the dream.  I jumped out of bed and started walking with my eyes closed.  Sensing my clumsiness, he held my fingers with his little hand and guided me to his room…at which point I was really debating a detour to the bathroom given my sense of urgency!  But he’s one of the loves of my life, trusts me implicitly, loves me unconditionally, and I would never let him down.  So on I went.

This was a morning like every other – preceded by a typical Wednesday night (Survivor night!)  Tired mom, comes home from work, rushes to get kids fed and ready for swimming classes.  Then back home, bathe them, feed them again (I swear they are machines), read one a bedtime story and then the other, then run downstairs for some QT with my cutie!  Forget that I haven’t had dinner – a handful of almonds, the rest of that half-eaten Aero bar and some fruit gummies will suffice.

In any case, after my “rude awakening” this morning, I was treated with the gift of walking to the subway by myself and the luxury of buying a latte before hopping on the train – no kids to take to school, no bags to pack and no lunches to make!  Had I won the lottery???  Yes sir!

And there I was, latte in hand, watching Twilight: Breaking Dawn on my iPhone (for the fourth or fifth time) when suddenly I started to feel like I lost my breath.  My head started to get very, very warm – my body actually felt like it was on fire.  I put my hand on my chest and it felt very cold and clammy.  My legs felt like they couldn’t support me – I felt dizzy – I couldn’t think – what was I going to do?  With what strength I could muster, I squeezed my way off the extremely overcrowded train and as I was walking, I started to feel tingles and like my surroundings were just fading away…

Luckily I made it to a bench and put my head between my knees.  And the next thing I remember was being so grateful for the humanity of the two women on either side of me.  There I was, a complete stranger (albeit well dressed in my cute little summer dress, faux snake skin ballet flats, and gold hoop earrings) looking ready to be sick or pass out; perhaps a great inconvenience or a complete lunatic.  And in my most vulnerable state, these two women didn’t appear at all worried about who I was or what I might do to them.  They didn’t think about whether or not they knew me, trusted me or whether they could get something from me.  They just wanted to help.  They just wanted to make sure I was ok.

All I could think of while I tried to regroup and pull myself together to get back on the train was how I could repay their kindness…and how I regret not asking for their names.

It’s times like these that really make me feel grateful.  That help me to forget about all the craziness in our world today:  from pressure cooker bombs, to injustices, and perpetual inequality.  It also helps me to forget about the little things – if only I was 7 pounds lighter, if only my butt/arms/legs/stomach were more toned, if only I didn’t have soooo many greys (I do a good job of hiding this fact…most days).  And it makes me feel connected outside of my immediate circle.  It makes me feel like we’re all part of one big whole – which although has some ugly bits, is full of greatness too.

Whoever you were, the girl in the cute summer dress with the faux snakeskin ballet flats and gold hoops that almost fainted at the Bloor Street subway stop thanks you.  Thank you for the reminder.  I know that because of your kindness, your humanity, I was able to have a moment of weakness in a safe environment.  And thanks to you, tonight, when I put my head down after a long day at work and after chasing my two boys around, I can continue my dream at the masquerade ball, unscathed.