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!

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…

Spincycle Diaries:  Chaos Theory – the explanation for my insanity?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result

This according to Albert Einstein, one of the smartest human beings to ever walk the earth so it must be right, right?  So if it’s as simple as trying something different each time until you get the result that you seek or hope to get, why do some of us – namely me – have so much difficulty understanding this and are prone to rinse, repeat, redo, rinse, repeat, redo, rinse, repeat, redo…caught in a spincycle of insanity?

I’ll offer up a quasi-hollywoodesque-scientific reason:  Chaos Theory.

spincycle-octoberSee, I became the proud owner of a very big screen television – a dream come true, really. So now I get to watch The Bachelor, Survivor, and my favourite movies virtually in life-size. While most people would be excited during a renovation with the prospect of a gigantic closet, full automation or the latest and greatest kitchen appliances, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this TV. I dreamt up a list of all of my favourite movies that I would watch on this giant TV. As an official member of the Arsenal Canada fan club, Mr. Niceguy had a simple request: to watch the Arsenal vs. Hull City soccer match. The 10 year old was keen to hook up his video games – NO – and the 6 year old just wanted anything Netflix. Top of my list, Jurassic Park. The idea of watching a gigantic T-Rex on the screen both excited and thrilled me at the same time.

Needless to say, in a house full of boys, I’m still waiting for my turn.

But I digress, one of my favourite characters of all time is Dr. Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum in said movie. He is a mathematician and devotee of Chaos Theory. So what is chaos theory?  It is a branch of mathematics and the key to understanding the cause of my insanity.  In fact, I say this to all the moms out there, it may also be the answer for you.

Physics has had great success in explaining certain kinds of behaviour, like the regular movement of the planets in our solar system, or the way a pendulum swings.  These are what’s called “linear equations”.  Think of it this way:  if you have 5 apples and you eat 1 apple you are left with 4 apples; linear. But physics does not handle another type of behaviour, described as “turbulent”, or non-linear, quite as well.

You know what’s “turbulent”?  Boys.  Boys in September.  When they go back to school and everything is new and exciting, frightening and freaky, and their personalities are completely out of whack because I, their mother, still haven’t figured out just how to enforce an earlier “school time” bedtime and have been beaten down to now hoping that the time change, and with it, the dark will do my bidding.  All of a sudden I am once again dealing with umbrella sword fights in the car, backtalk, insubordination and a general feeling like I’m undervalued, unappreciated and just irrelevant and the 10 year old and 6 year old have already turned into pimply faced, hormonal teenage boys for whom I am simply the large megaphone from Charlie Brown (for those who are not familiar with the “megaphone”, it’s Charlie Brown’s teacher and when she speaks, the children only hear, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah”).  Incidentally, and just as a side note, I have a healthy fear of teenagers.  They can turn on you on a dime and before you know it, you’re wishing you were never born.

But back to chaos theory. If turbulent events are described as non-linear equations, then is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result really insane?  Perhaps being in a spincycle, then, is not a predictor of the final result. My favourite example is that which is used in the movie: a drop of water is placed on the back of the hand – the water, rolls down a certain path.  When the same drop of water is placed at the same spot, again, on the back of the hand, it now travels a different path because the hairs on the skin have risen or the microscopic cells on the surface of the skin itself have changed.  Thus, a non-linear, turbulent event.  Physics can only explain that the water will drip down, but which path it takes, is determined by numerous factors which may, or may not, come into play – chaos.

Now for a real-life example.  My kids like to play a (dreaded, awful) game – it’s called, “Opposite Day”.  Usually it comes up when they’re starting to get annoyed with one another and they’re on the cusp of yet another fight in the backseat of the car that I’m forced to referee through the rearview mirror during rush hour traffic on the way to school.  “I think you’re the greatest…” starts the 10 year old, “…on opposite day!” To which the 6 year old replies loudly, “So what you’re saying is, I SUCK?!  Well YOU suck!  MOMMY!!!!

So when I YELL at my kids to STOP YELLING at each other because good, decent people DON’T YELL over and over again and I’m going insane because this is the umpteenth time I’ve asked them to stop and I’m afraid that one of these days I’m going to get into a car accident (yes, I’m a hypochondriac and yes, that’s a very linear equation when it comes to me) is it fair for me to expect that at some point I’ll get a different outcome because children are non-linear equations?  I mean, they are turbulent and ever changing so perhaps at some point they will just please stop yelling??!!

In conclusion, while it may appear to most that I, like other mothers, am insane for trying to mold my children into good and decent contributing citizens of society by repeating the same requests the same way over and over again, I ask you to remember Chaos Theory. Eventually, we will get to the right outcome and therein lies the secret and answer to all my doubts about my abilities as mother…at least for now….until some part of the non-linear equation changes again….

Thanks Mom…Just for being YOU.

Being a mom is part of my identity, but although I carry that invisible mom pass in my wallet (right next to the Costco card, the Gap Cash and every other points card under the planet), I sometimes struggle with my club membership. Is that all I am? Is that the most important part of me – being somebody’s mom? Does that membership card take precedence over my hard earned travel miles, gold card and driver’s license? True, I birthed two young boys, but sometimes it feels like the moment you become a mom, it becomes your whole identity…

The stakes are high when you’re a mom. So too are society’s standards…sometimes so high that they’re virtually impossible to achieve. I must keep a clean house that is totally “de rigueur”, be able to produce gourmet meals, my children must have manners, like to eat sushi, get A+ on all subjects and must excel in at least three extra-curricular activities, one of which must be “elite” or “extraordinary” like sailing, downhill racing or equestrian, and all of these are my responsibility – plus I have to look and act the part and in some instances hold down a full time job!

Well…I’m at a slight handicap here because I’m struggling to define myself beyond my “mom-borders”.  And I love it when the universe reminds me that my own definition of mom is allowed to be different.

Be trueBeing a mom is a raison d’être but certainly not my seule raison d’être, if you will.

I’m a wearer of many hats and among my many roles, my latest is that of construction project manager…ME! This is one challenge that I’ve readily accepted particularly this past month when my home renovation project really kicked into high gear. I have ignored family, friends, my children and Mr. Niceguy while I’ve poured over drawings and various engineering calculations, learned about air velocity and balancing, insulation and grading, and the list goes on. I’ve appreciated (virtually) every stressful second of it.

Despite the fact that we are temporarily being housed by my gracious parents (thank you, thank you, thank you!  They are readers and perhaps my only fans despite my many ramblings about them and I could use all the brownie points to make up for my constant outbursts, fits of rage and bouts of tears) I am still the primary caregiver of my children. It’s my job to make sure they eat their dinners, do their homework and not let their brains go to MUSH because they’d prefer to spend the entire day holed up in my parents’ basement in front of the big screen playing video games.

Vow Mr NiceguyI’d like to report that while I’ve assumed the role of project manager, my children’s brains have officially liquefied. I’m not entirely certain what’s making their guts move and I’m quite certain that it will only be by the grace of the Almighty that they will pass grade 4 and graduate kindergarten. Thank goodness Mr. Niceguy made a vow to love me for better or for worse…

All this because for the past month (or so…if I’m being honest), I put something other than being mom first. Go ahead and judge. But I won’t be blamed. And I refuse to take it on because I’ve already beat myself up about it enough, thank you very much, and I’m done. I’m a modern day renaissance woman and that means I’m a renaissance mom too after all, my teacher is one too…

My primary role model in the world of motherhood has been my mother. She grew up in a household filled mostly with boys. Not willing to be left behind, she would run alongside them – and oftentimes, ahead of them. She displayed as much grit, courage and bravery than any one of the others and while most girls her age would mind their chores and preserve their dresses, she was jumping from rooftop to rooftop along the buildings in Lebanon, sporting blue jeans and running off to the beach.

She is my non-traditional, traditional mom. And while she always makes sure that we are well clothed, fed and taken care of, she has a life of her own and I absolutely refuse to pigeon hole her into one role. Her life is a full adventure – and I hope mine will be nearly as full as hers.

It follows that I believe motherhood has to be the greatest adventure of all. There is no real, set, tried and true course – despite the fact that I’ve poured over dozens of popular baby books and scientific articles on child rearing. I could never have imagined the incredible joy that my children would bring before I became a mother…at the same time, I would never have imagined the feelings of tremendous guilt, frustration, and exasperation over little things like an unfinished plate of dinner or settling a child down to do homework and especially getting them to finally go to bed so that I could enjoy a moment’s peace after the never ending tidying, cooking, cleaning, monitoring and answering one hundred plus questions about the locations of any one of the following: “Mom, did you see my video game controller / the iPad / my book / my pencil / the red bouncy ball with the blue stripe – not the blue bouncy ball with the red stripe / my socks / my gym clothes / my special Pokemon card…blah, blah, blah!

I appreciate my role and the blessings (and heartaches) that come with it so I won’t feel guilty for the moments I yearn for the days of yore when dinner would be brought to me, when I could ask for my favourite dish, or when I take more than just a moment to pretend I’m something other than a mom. No. This month, when you write your mother a card, or bring her flowers, or just sit and think about her, take a moment to think about who she is (or was) as a person and thank her for just being her.

Me and Haig

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…

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!)

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

Field trip through the ages…

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying the 7 year old’s class on a school field trip to the new Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto as a parent volunteer.  I was responsible for my son and two other boys from his class – together, Les Trois Mousquetaires, and with Athos, Porthos and Aramis to my d’Artagnan, we set off on our adventure:  all for one, and one for all!  The shenanigans these muskateers pulled were absolute classic from insisting that they knew more than the guides, to suggesting the existence of extinct mega-sharks (megaladon shark – more deadly than the T-Rex!) in the tanks to passersby – but these were no match to their absolute glee, exhilaration and delight over their adventure.  This got me thinking…

During my elementary school years, I remember looking forward to field trips with such excitement that I would lose sleep at night or continuously ask my parents “how much longer ‘til I go?” and prepare, redo and refine lists of things to bring, what to wear and weigh decisions about who to sit next to or pair up with.  Ahhh…the field trip.  So many wonderful things would happen on the field trip…

sea cucumberIn the early years, it was all about getting out of the routine of being in a classroom and – for the über nerd in me – the opportunity to learn by doing instead of by reading.  Growing up in Saudi Arabia had its advantages and I will never forget the one field trip that our school was able to organize (at the time, field trips were generally tricky for expats in Saudi for a number of reasons).  Aside from extracurricular activities at school that consisted of ballet, computers (which in the early 80s were a real treat) and survival swimming (I would swear that I could hold my breath for a full two minutes underwater and tread water for over 15 minutes fully clothed, shoes and all) this field trip supplemented my regular classroom learning and shaped me in a very profound way.  I was taken to the Red Sea where I was able to swim with many exotic species and was even given a sea cucumber to hold which in its frightened state, defecated on my hand.  True story.  And despite that one event, it was on that field trip that a love of adventure (and the sea) really took hold.

Years later in high school, field trips provided the opportunity to find the courage to sit next to the boy I had a crush on and was otherwise too shy to approach.  Somehow field trips broke barriers and allowed for the transcending between classes – and by that I don’t mean grades or levels.  There were the mean girls, the jocks, the nerds, the Italians, the preps, the headbangers, and so on and so forth.  I fell into none of these categories as my three very close friends and I were drifters and spoke to people in all groups regardless of boundaries – though that didn’t mean we belonged.  Again, I attributed this to my sense of adventure – never wanting to set roots or belong to any one group or place, instead experiencing as much as possible.

One particular field trip to watch a production of Shakespeare’s MacBeth led me to an on-again-off-again boyfriend and a relationship that would last throughout most of high school; a relationship that may never have been possible otherwise.  He ran with a pack that socialized only with a certain group, but it was on field trip day that I got noticed, as barriers came down and I was viewed through more objective lenses.

Years later, it would be the corporate retreat or holiday party that replaced the school field trip.  Call it what you will:  teambuilding, leadership training, soft skill building workshops, blah-blah-blah training.  The reality is that these corporate retreats are just adult field trips – nothing more than boondoggles and opportunities for hookups and scandal!  Though I never partook in the hookup and scandal part (for most of my corporate life I have been spoken for and have had enough wherewithal to not jeopardize things with my Mr. Niceguy), I certainly was not above the gossip, rumour or conjecture and it was amazing to see how a change from the routine, once again, would result in many a lapse in judgement, atypical behavior and regret.  And the holiday parties or socials were no different – just a retreat packed into a few hours rather than a few days.

My tendencies again, ingrained, once more would reveal themselves:  adventurous and fun loving and perhaps a little naïve.  I’ve written in the past about being emboldened by one such work party and ordering round after round of Kamikaze shots for “all my friends at the bar”, while standing next to the company president.  Though perhaps I haven’t written about my tendency to also have a couple of drinks, jump up on a bar (or any elevation really) and shake my groove thang!  Once again, I blame it on the field trip.  Regardless of my day-to-day self, field trips have a way of bringing out one’s hidden side…

So today, it was nice to see the beginnings of the “field trip persona” for my Trois Mousquataires…especially evident when Athos, or was it Porthos, or perhaps Aramis exclaimed, “this is the best day of my life so far.”  As a sort of d’Artagnan, or student to the ways of these 7 year olds, they reminded me of the simplicity of life and the ability to find pure joy in the everyday which triggered so many memories, flooding my brain.

It is a rare privilege to get a glimpse of people experiencing moments that will shape them forever – whether they’re moments of real learning, of overcoming, or even of regret.  In my case, I wonder…perhaps when these three musketeers are older, they will recall this field trip – with that same twinkle in their eyes – as the start of something…

Until the next field trip!!

three muskateers

Short…but oh, so sweet!

7 year old:  Mummy why is the sky blue?

Me:  Hmmm…*not sure but should give answer.  Am adult.  Older and therefore wiser.*  Why, it’s because of all those chemicals floating about in the atmosphere…

Mr. Niceguy:  Well, ummm, more accurately, it’s the way light travels from the sun in waves, like radio waves or energy waves, and through the gases and particles in our atmosphere… blah, blah, blah…

bluesky.en

7 year old:  Mummy, how long will the earth survive?  When will the earth end?

Me:  *My boy is so smart.  So inquisitive.  Wait, are we back in that death phase when he was constantly thinking about how people die when they reach one hundred and his time is running out?!*  Hmmm…thousands and thousands of years…

Mr. Niceguy:  Well, no.  That’s not quite true…

Me:  Yes it is.  I mean, sure it’s longer than that *whisper to Mr. Niceguy – he’s 7 (i.e. can we put it in terms that he’ll get please?!)* but you know what with global warming, and overcrowding, and…

Mr. Niceguy:  Son, there are a number of theories on this point.  And man is always coming up with new technologies and ideas to combat things like global warming, density and overpopulation.  The earth has a life of many, many millennia remaining Me thinking:  Just say billions for crying out loud!   Eventually we may travel too close to the sun and then it will be too hot for life to survive and…

Red_Giant_Earth_warm

When it comes to my 7 year old, and the 100+ questions I get asked daily, I often feel I have to have the right answer.

Even if I’m uncertain, somehow I must “logic” my way through

While some may say (ahem, Mr. Niceguy) that this behavior is perhaps unhealthy and we should teach our children that spreading the truth is more important than being right or appearing to be an all-knowing, wise shaman-type, omniscient being, well, with a bruised ego I retort, how about some confidence and the ability to think on one’s feet and use logic to argue a point?  Any takers?

Truth is, I do agree that arming a child with the skills to go and seek answers, conduct research and certainly to uphold good, moral values like truth, honesty and yes, humility is very important…but for now, just in this fleeting time, it’s nice being the alpha to omega, the end all and be all, for the 7 year old…before I know it, he’ll be calling my bluff and be too embarrassed to hold my hand in public.

At the age of 7, my parents were my everything.  While my dad was superman, my mom was the very beautiful wonderwoman.  And although this sentiment has persisted…it’s certainly not in the same form.

And then, there is that other issue.  That competitive issue.  The one when you know that there is that smarter, wiser, stronger and in my case, much calmer, more rational and certainly more logical person standing right next to you who is always prepared to be the voice of reason and truth…Mr. Niceguy.

I have a vivid imagination and I believe that puts me in good stead with children.  Sometimes teaching by consequence is just not enough like, if you stick your finger in an electrical socket you will become electrocuted with 10,000 volts.  Or, when you don’t eat your vegetables, your body doesn’t get the fuel it needs in the form of important vitamins and minerals – the building blocks – to perform.  I resort to my grandparents’ methods:  “If you don’t eat your veggies, you won’t grow properly and you will just make the devil happy and more powerful.”

So when the universe throws me an opening and things all go my way…

7 year old:  Mummy what’s the closest planet to the sun?

Me:  *AWESOME!!!!!  I GOT THIS ONE!!!*  Mercury!

Mr. Niceguy:  Uhh…I don’t think so…

Me:  *AGHAST. *  What?!  It’s Mercury?  You know, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus (tee hee) and Neptune

Mr. Niceguy:  I think we’ll need to check on that…

Me:  *Huh?*  Check on what?!  Google it!  Wikipedia!  I know I’m right.  It’s MERCURY!

Later that evening Mr. Niceguy confirmed my answer with the internet and told me I was right.  And I smiled the most beatific smile.  It feels so good…wouldn’t you agree?

I told you so

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

Heels, hoops and all…you better represent!!

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

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

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

What.  The.  #$%^?!!!!????  WHY???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superhero shenanigans

Trust me…famous last words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:  <GULP> [Oh. My. God.]

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

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

Vampire-Diaries-Comic-Con

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.

Good intentions…

It’s still spring and I am full of good intentions – to get outside more, to garden more, to exercise more and top of my list this year?  To make better, healthier food choices.  But most of my good intentions tend to take me down paths I wish I never traveled…

On a good day, I’m pretty obsessive.  On a bad day, I’m an obsessive compulsive!  Over the long weekend, the family and I decided to try out a new grocery store that opened up quite a distance away – see, I’m a closet foodie wannabe and was ecstatic about getting my hands on more Lebanese goodies.  I went from counter to counter:  deli, meats, prepared foods and my favourite, NUTS.

In an attempt to make better, healthier food choices, I have decided to cut down on the amount of processed foods I consume – save except for diet coke and Splenda in my lattes.  I have also decided to not eat chips – potato chips only as I could not do without my pita chips or Tostitos (besides they’re not as high fat!)  So, naturally, I would buy a bag of yummy peanuts.  Much healthier than chips and packed with protein!  Hooray!

That was how it all started…

Once again I had been running around all morning and hadn’t had a proper meal.  So when my three year old went down for his nap, I put on a previously taped episode of Bold and the Beautiful and tucked in.  Half a bag of peanuts and some ketchup chips later (sue me, it was long weekend), I found I had horrible cramping and spasms and my stomach had ballooned out to at least double in size…I looked four (ok, maybe five) months pregnant!  And very, very sad.  When I googled, “stomach pain after eating too many peanuts” I got:  aerophagia.  A condition when you eat something too fast and swallow air.  So what?  Now I was full of peanuts, ketchup chips and air???

It’s about two hours later and I’ve turned every shade of green.  Before I know it, I’m hugging porcelain and my boys are wondering how come I haven’t started reading them a bedtime story.  And all I could think of was:  Who’s going to hold my hair???

Days gone by I remember some wild nights with my BFFs: the one who would always get lucky and have a swarm of guys surrounding her like satellites, the one who would always play mother hen and do the driving, the one who would always wind up on stage dancing, and the one who would need her hair held back while she blew chunks and cursed the gods for once again, allowing her to cross the line.  Ahhhh…the good days.  I won’t say which one I was because truth be told, I’ve been them all!

In any case, after about 20 or so minutes, the entire episode behind me, I still managed to get in a goodnight story x 2 and feeling somewhat unsteady, made my way to bed.  And as I lie down I ponder three things:  (1) I hope the image of the weird looking excrement (I’ll spare you the graphic details) will be forgotten soon (2) after an excruciating 20 minutes with the porcelain my stomach is still “out” and (3) how soon can I have peanuts again?  I mean, it feels like the punishment doesn’t fit the crime!  At the very least, after all that, I should have been rewarded with some washboard abs!

After tossing and turning all night long, I wake up to some pretty serious pelvic pain…what could it possibly be?  Not one more complication, please!  I’ve dealt with two spring colds, one round of nasty antibiotics, a pulled QL (or some other combo of letters) muscle which I didn’t even know I had, and now something else??!!  I try to massage the area and eeeeeww!!!!   What IS THAT??!!!  I have a lump that is so painful to the touch that I just might die!  I show my husband and though he’s saying, “Oh, it’s probably nothing.  Don’t worry about it…”  I know he’s thinking, “Whoah!  Uh…that’s f-in weird.”  I’m lopsided.

How did an attempt to be more healthy turn into this?  How did my good intentions lead me so far astray?

A trip to my chiropractor confirms, that it is not a tumour and I won’t die in the next 24 hours (thank God because I wasn’t sure if I had cleaned my closet and I didn’t have time to take a shower and put on my good underwear).  It turns out that I have torn some ligament – that thanks to the repercussions of too many peanuts and ketchup chips, a fibre or something has ripped away from bone and is now totally irritated and swollen.  So with no pills to take and no quick fix I ask her (literally with watery eyes): “Will I be lopsided forever???!!”

All I can think is how erratic I’ve been and how I’ve lacked any sense of being responsible.  I would never have let either of my two sons chow down on half a bag of peanuts, let alone wash it down with ketchup chips.  And in what universe would someone equate indulging in all those peanuts with a healthy choice??!!!  I’ll tell you…sadly, in my universe – the one where half the time I can’t tell if I’m coming or going, I forget important playdates and deadlines, and have no time for just me.

But it’s all wrong.  I need to buck up, wise up, and learn that what may have worked in my twenties, just wasn’t going to cut it anymore!  That now I am a responsible woman, thank you very much, and that I can do this!!  I can be a model citizen (lopsided or not) to my kids, my peers and my friends!  In fact, I can be a model citizen for all the land!!

About a week has passed since this fiasco and I’m happy to report that I have healed.  I am no longer lopsided and all other “battle scars” of the event, including a very bruised psyche, have disappeared.  I actually did manage to have a couple of peanuts in a trail mix without even realizing it – I felt very good about that.  I’ve also managed to do a better job of reminding myself of important dates and deadlines.  I am definitely on the right path to becoming a better role model.  And my BFFs – the ones, who would hold my hair, hop up on stage with me, mother hen me and chase away the nasty satellites – suggested we all start a 30 day squat and crunch challenge to get back on track…that will surely be the best remedy of all.