Monday, December 17, 2012

Smothering sadness

What to do with the sadness? And really, what is my sadness, but a knowing but (for now) for the grace of god(?) my children live and laugh and breathe. And are not shot dead in the kindergarten room or on the bus or at the mall.

What do I do, when I read the paper and force myself to look, to see. I feel like a soldier in a war. No, that is not right, not at all. I am notbrave, nothelping. I am notsoldier, I am observer. Perhaps like a journalist, I feel it is not right to turn away from the page, the boxes where their photographs are. Some school photos so fucking similar to my daughter's friends I cry out and hit myself in the head.

I think about it all day, wondering if foolish parents (I judge, even now) have told their children, my children's playmates and if those children will then tell my children and what on earth under heaven I will tell my children about this world. And how it can be so beautiful and so miserably and wholly and completely fucked up that this could happen.

I was sick like this when 9/11 happened, but maybe because it was so graphic. Because I am not sick like I was then, it's not true, I am sicker, sickened, feeling blackness in my soul, that this has happened. And today, or perhaps yesterday, 10 little girls between the ages of 9 and 12 were blown up in Afghanistan, and my heart is aching and bleeding. And wondering, and angering, and I can't even think. Their mothers, in the US, their mothers would've already had their presents. Maybe even wrapped.

And I don't know how to protect my children. Myself. From not only that happening but from that happening.

Monday, August 20, 2012

working through it PART I

It is entirely possible that I've read more this summer than I've read in the last two years combined. Let me be more clear. It is entirely possible that I've devoured more, cried more, laughed out loud more, felt more, put my heart back together more, since the beginning of this summer.

When we first got married for some reason I let go of my lifetime ritual of reading before sleep. No matter how tired, how late, how drunk, I read. Even for five minutes. The same as no matter who I am sitting with at 7 a.m., I really would rather not talk to you. I'd much rather be reading as I drink my shake. The same as when I go to the bathroom I read. Whether it's the back of the toothpaste or a magazine article or the pages of my book, it all comes out better in the end if I'm reading while.

But my rituals are all back and I feel as though I'm tucking myself back into myself. I've realized that there are things about me that can, and most definitely should, change, and there are things about me that will never, can never, and shouldn't be tampered with.

Reading is one. I mean, for one thing, I've forgotten how it transports me away. Anywhere, anytime. To heartbreak to joy to weath to poverty to man to woman to somewhere inbetween. I guess it became for me what it was for the author of THE GLASS CASTLE, a way to escape what wasn't working out so well as a child.

And writing is the other ritual. For whatever reason (let me be honest here, I know the reasons and I'm cool with the reasons but not the happening) I let the writing go, moping about time and space and all that. Well, for reasons of mental health and happiness and that super annoying word, confidence, I need to write. More than that. I need to write, well and often and more often.

Monday, July 02, 2012


Writing for me is cathartic. Kind of like a run is for my body, it can be at once both incredibly difficult and completely easy. Sometimes my legs fly making my body seem light as air and others I feel heavy as though I am filled with cement, plodding and slow. At times words flow easily, falling out of my mind, through my fingers, more quickly almost than I can even type. And at times I stagger, searching, and write almost as though I've never done it before.

But in the same sense, if I just put one foot in front of the other or if I write one banal sentence after the other, and if I keep on doing it, day after day with weekends days of rest, I find that both running and writing become easier. Not that there won't be those days where neither feels natural, rather, that those days become gradually fewer and when they do come I am better able to cope.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Warm ups

Are blogs still around? Do people read them? Write them? I'm not sure anymore. I spent the last 2+ years away, immersed in other stuff like working and parenting and packing and unpacking. I kept up with the reading (just barely), subscribed to ever more magazines, and continued to call Amazon my best friend. But I stopped writing anything but grocery lists and reading anything on the computer.

I opened up this sad sack, this old blog, because of the commitment it entails. I need to have this thing calling me to warm up my fingers and drum up some business in my brain. The seed for the new book is planted and growing and as per, I can't just dive right in. I have to warm up. Just like the gym I guess.

The space has changed. That's one thing. The sounds are still the same, the kids and the music and the hum of the laundry. There is one more kid and in this spot the laundry is closer, but it is all familiar. I'm hoping that the words come back easily and flow the same rate, or perhaps faster and better, but that all remains to be told.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


And the drumbeat carries on.

I think I'm having a midlife crisis. How trite, you might say, wondering what precipitated such overused words. Such a passing thought may have never entered your head.

It started suddenly, this questioning of everything and sudden morbidity. An old lady was crossing the street. I looked at her, much like I look at anyone. No. That isn't true. I look at people differently. I look at other women to gauge how I look next to them. Am I fatter? Fitter? Prettier? Better dressed? I look at men to compare with my husband. I've yet to find one I like better, thank god. I look at kids to compare to my kids and babies to affirm that yes, my babies really are the best babies around.

But I rarely, if ever, look at old people. That is until lately. Lately I can't stop. I look at the old ladies going to the grocery store, taking their time in the parking lot, walking carefully. I look at the mothers and daughters, daughters perhaps ten years older than I, escorting mothers to doctors, to the mall, to wherever they need to go. I look at old ladies by themselves. And it hit me, this completely non-novel thought. I can't escape that. I can do what I can, eat right and go to the gym and wear sunscreen that makes me break out. I can pretend im my head that I'm not getting old.

But I am.

And there is no way, no how, that I can avoid it. I mean, other than the obvious, dying before I prefer. There is no way to circumvent the neck, the wrinkles, the sagging. The pain I imagine accompanies it all. The slow. The gait.

I read these women, these strong career women who I admire/dread/envy, like Barbara Amiel and Judith Timson, and these women are there. They aren't a few years away, like I am. They are if not right on the edge, then fully immersed in old. A few years ago they seemed ageless. Now they are aged.

I have nothing on this. No solution, no conclusion.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Be really good at 2 things

Last week my horoscope in the local paper told me to stop trying to be perfect and be really good at two things. I immediately thought of my new quest to become really good at doing laundry (no joke) since my housekeeper quit, kept reading, and no word of a lie, the horoscope specifically said this did not apply to laundry.

My husband has complained about my laundry lack of skills for a long time. I never remember to put things in the dryer and when I do, I never remember to take them out. I only in the last two weeks started pretreating stains, so all of our clothes have little spots and splotches on them. I fold like I never worked in a clothing store and had to fold things using a folding board. I don't know which things to hang, dry flat, and put in the dryer. I tried using this environmentally friendly laundry soap in the hopes of curing my itchy skin and doing one for the environment but our clothes started stinking so we're back to Tide. It generally takes about two weeks for clothes that went into the laundry to cycle back up the stairs to the appropriate rooms as as much as I hate folding laundry, I also hate carrying it upstairs.

When the housekeeper left I wallowed in denial for a while, then started a couple test runs. First I tried doing laundry every day, which totally sucked. Then I tried doing all of it once a week, which was completely impossible. I'm back to every day, which still totally sucks, but at least the clothes are being cleaned. A couple of days before the horoscope reading I decided maybe I could embrace the laundry. I started soaking items, checking shirts for stains, and scrubbing the bottoms of the children's socks with a laundry soap bar. Sunlight. I still hate it, but I was getting better at it.

But this horoscope has thrown me into a quandary. If I can only be good at two things, the two things that pop into my head immediately are be a good person to have a relationship with (i.e. wife, parent, friend) and be an even better writer. I like how I have my priorities down. If I become too good at laundry obviously one of these things will suffer, and we both know which one it ain't gonna be.

I think I just had an epiphany. Seriously, no joke. I just now got the whole problem. See, I've been on mat leave three times now. First time was cut short and there was never a doubt I would be returning to work, so I simply embraced mat leave and then kissed it good-bye when it was done. Second time I hemmed and hawed about working, and never quit; working contracts the whole time I was off and then going back to work when baby was eighteen months old. Now this third time I'm not going back. Not only that, I'm not doing anything on the side either. No work emails, no claiming anything on my income tax. For the first time since I was a child I had nothing to submit for tax season. The accountant even phoned to be sure.

I'm dragging this out. Sorry, backstory is always key to frontstory making sense.

So I'm not working, and have no idea if or when I will ever return. And so what is my job? My job, my purpose, my everyday, is to be the Housewife. Skills include multitasking, cooking, cleaning, consoling, disciplining, helping, volunteering, organizing. Duties are all encompassing and never, ever ending. And so, I should be good at all this stuff and love that I have the privilege of doing all this stuff.

Except here is the problem. I don't love the stuff that comes along with housewifery. Sure, I love the fact that if we aren't feeling great we can all stay in our pajamas. I love the coffees with my friends, the non-rushed grocery store trips, the fact that if the school calls I can be there. That I don't have to go to work sick, that my kids don't have to go to daycare sick, that my biggest worry is what the fuck to have for supper.

The problem is that my biggest worry is what the fuck to have for supper.

These are luxury problems. I get it. And the thing I also get now, that I may not have understood completely before, is that there is no answer. No way I can change the person I am and suddenly embrace the role and start meal planning and using colour coded calendars.

And you know what? While I care, that my two things to be really good at do not include the main point of my whole life right now, I also am savvy enough to know that this whole housewife thing is not the end-all and be-all of my existence. What matters to me are good relationships and writing, and the rest of it will get done. My kids perhaps won't rave about my skills, but really, that's just fine with me.

I'm the only person I have to answer to.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

dark side of the moon

This doesn't matter to you at all. It doens't matter who you are, or why you are here, or if you ever come back. It doesn't matter if you're not here. And it doesn't matter if that makes no sense to you, if of course, you're here.

It matters for me. To me. About me, around me, and only to me.

Weird, typing that. It is truth, honest to god, lipsmackin, for-real truth, but that truth still has the power to make me more than slightly uncomfortable. Because when is it truth that it doesn't matter about you, and it matters about me?

I've been through tough times in my life, but if you dig deep enough, so have we all. And, not to gloss it up with shine, our tough times in many instances are luxury problems. But I'm no philosopher or student of psychology or sociology (so much so that I obviously don't know which of those two would know the answers to this), but whatever is tough for you is tough. We measure by our own litmus test and what is tough is tough is tough. I think I may elaborate on this idea later, I think perhaps I am being unclear, but for now it will suffice that I know what I am talking about, and it doesn't matter if you do or do not.

Back to that again, and so soon.

I had a nice big bump on the road after Charlie. It had been veritable smooth sailing for so long I didn't believe it was happening. Chalked it all up to happenstance, to occasional, to this too shall pass. But it didn't fucking pass. And I was choking to death in sadness, choking on the realization that something fundamental had shifted. More than shifted. Been earthquaked and everything had been reshaped and there were enormous craters that I would have to navigate. It took a long time to cross. Perhaps still crossing? Perhaps.

I've always said that creativity comes with ... not a curse, that's not right. Obviously it's not true, I haven't always said it. Truth: I've always thought it, and maybe occasionally implied or inferred that creativity comes with a bit of crazy. Creative walks on the dark side of the moon. And I spent a good deal of time on the dark side lately.

The hopeful, the thing to which I cling (not sure if I like how that sounds but that's okay, it works), is that without the dark side of the moon there is no bright side. There is no good without bad. Dichotomy. Don't know how many papers I wrote on that concept in university, but I don't think I forreal got it till now.

I need a break now. This is hard and I am crying and I need to take a minute to breath. It's good to be back and I am back, and I don't care if you care or know. I'm back on my terms and my terms state that I must spend time here before I can spend time There. That creative comes by baring some, by honesty and digging and peeling, and that I can't go There without doing the work.

Year one

Mark the day. The baby is 1 year old. Meaning that in a flash, as per usual, a year of days has passed. Days of new, nights of sitting in the chair, feet on the stool, holding the best thing that there is in the world.

Clarity comes in strange ways. For me, it was this weekend, away from the baby. Watching the babies perched, on dads and moms, in the hotel, the airport. The babies, so sweet. So very, very, incredibly perfect. All of them, their bare feet baby feet, their eyes watching.

We are so lucky, to have babies in our world. And I am so lucky, to have my little baby sleeping upstairs, snug and happy to have her momma back. Happy to be held, to snuggle, to walk holding on tightly now, but now so soon.

Coulda been a princess, yes. It is true. But this is good, too, no?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Housewife Chronicles

This post also could have been known as Housewifing for Dummies, or Finding Your Inner Screamer. Perhaps (Housewifery) Housewives: 2012 It’s the blog that’s going to tell you not only how to peel potatoes properly, but also how to use all the skills you spent years acquiring in the workforce. As a housewife, you need to perform at your optimum, as though you were the CEO of your own company, because in a sense now, that’s what you are. I know. Heady news. You spent years in a cubicle, hoping for a $2 an hour raise, and here, in the blink of an eye, or more likely an 18 hour labour, you’re CEO.

Let’s back up. It’s very possible that you hit this site, thinking, “But I’m not really a housewife, I’m only on a maternity leave.” Listen sister, you’re a housewife. Being a housewife may be everything you ever dreamed about or it may be the stuff of your nightmares. Either way, for the the next six weeks, three months, or full year in Canada, you are a housewife.

Perhaps this is the culmination of some long held dream. Some women I know have never made a secret of the fact that the epitome of womanhood, to them, is to through in the workplace towel and stay at home with their kids. Some women harbor more secret dreams of leaving the rat race, and couch their decision not to re-enter the workforce in terms of feigned regret.

If you’re of the age I am, housewife conjures up many memories. I think, in no particular order, of aprons, meatloaf sandwiches, and being told to “be back by supper.” But the world has changed, my friends. Aprons are chic again, yes, but the meatloaf better be bistro style, made from organic, hormone free beef, and the “be back by supper” is now “let mommy organize a playdate with Madison so we don’t both go batshit crazy.”

In the interests of full disclosure I should tell you a few things. First, I am not a true housewife. I’m not good at it, and I stole all of these ideas from my friend Robynn, who is simply the best housewife I know. I have a cleaner, I drop my kids off every day that I can at their friends, and I look for ways to get out of all possible house-related work. So don’t email me and complain that you just found out I have a cleaner. I’m telling you now, I have a cleaner. If that affects our budding relationship, well, too bad for you.

This story, or the good parts anyways, really is in fact Robynn’s story but she refuses to listen to anything I say about the value of her knowledge, and since it’s another way for me to get out of doing housewifey things (my family will eat another meal on the fly today thanks to the fact that I’m doing this instead of leafing through a cookbook, planning ahead), I have to write it. It sort of works out perfectly, though, since I’d way rather be writing about what Robynn is probably doing right now than doing it myself.

The idea of the book came about after I had my third child. Charlie was five or six months old and Robynn came over one afternoon for a quick coffee while I was getting ready to hold my middle daughter, Sophia’s, fourth birthday. Robynn watched me slice potatoes for about two seconds before she took charge. “Here, gimme a knife. That’s going to take you forever.” Another two seconds later. “Where is your sharpener? How can you cut anything with these knives?” At this point I had to confess that I had never, in my nine year marriage, sharpened the knives. I also had to confess that it pissed me off, being basically unable to slice a tomato without completely squishing it, but the whole sharpening thing was beyond me. However, since we’d moved the previous fall, I did know that whereabouts of what I figured was the sharpener, so I dug it out. In the time it took for me to lean against the counter and cross my arms, Robynn had sharpened my knives. It was awesome. The knife just seemed so useful, all of a sudden, instead of annoying. It was at that moment that I had a serious “aha” moment. No, it was not, jeez, I should learn how to sharpen my knives; I now know I can count on Robynn for that. No, I realized that there were many obvious things that I should know, but don’t.

Of course, for the next few days, every time I used a knife I cut the end off another one of my fingers, but they healed up just fine.