Thursday, July 31, 2014

And so on...

So I think I was somewhere around birthdays in my thirties in this convoluted way I want to tell you about my vacation.

Birthdays became a thing I did with my immediate family, husband and kids, Earls, and more often than not my parents and sometimes my brother. And this was fine, no, more than fine. That's all I need.

My close and oldest friends would celebrate each of our five birthdays throughout the year, surmising (rightfully) that we needed to mark the occasion, if not the exact day, by getting together for a meal. Always nice. And over the years the annoyance that was there because of the date, made so clear occasionally by so sorrys and too busys and we can celebrate laters became less so, people became more considerate, and it was appreciated.

But this year was different. This year, it was a milestone. The last milestone was my 30th, which I thought would be fun to have a few friends over. I planned it for December 22, thinking so often people will go to a Christmas party or what have you, so perhaps they would want to celebrate my day. I baked a ham, I bought buns. I made food upon food and made the house pretty. One friend came, along with a couple of my husband's friends and their wives. One friend.

So given that, I was a little gun shy to mark the 40th. And also my social circle has grown large and vine-like, where it becomes difficult to roll around in the middle. It's like either invite a very small few or a very large number. I wasn't cool with huge, and I wasn't sure about small, so I hemmed and hawed. Husband asked, would you like to go on a trip? He says now he was thinking something like New York and the two of us, but I jumped and said a family trip! Turks and Caicos. We spend so little time together and that place is so magical I saw it all. Two weeks, leisure, sunshine, and what better way to celebrate.

Well. Let me tell you. There were better ways it could've been celebrated.

First, he didn't stop working on the overnight in Toronto. Meaning, we checked in at around midnight and fed the kids and went to bed. Except he didn't go to bed. He kept working, with the light on, at the desk about five feet away. I have trouble sleeping with any light at all, and this was very, very bright. Also I have trouble sleeping in hotels. And then I could feel my throat getting sore. All I could do was lie there thinking shut the fucking light off shut the fucking light off I had better not be getting a cold the fucking light is too bright my throat my throat.

This was not a good start.

We arrived, went to the condo, had appys and drinks on the beach. Magic. That place is magic, I swear. And then he got out his computer and started working again. And then he said I don't feel well. This is my husband, who really doesn't do anything at less than 100 percent. Including getting sick. So in between him working and being sick, I spent the first couple of days with the kids. Now, I too was sick, but I had a super bad cold. The kind with a cough where you sound like a foghorn, and people actually step back when you start coughing, sounding like if you just tried a littttttle harder a piece of lung might surface. So I wasn't sleeping. When I get a bad cold, a really bad one, it tends to settle in my chest and if that happens I typically can't shake it for a couple of months.

Off to the doctor I went, feeling that underlying feeling of WHAT A WASTE OF TIME I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M THIS SICK ON MY HOLIDAY. And walking back and forth to the doc in the blazing sun, sun which when you are lying on the beach is so fantastic, when you're coughing your head off toughing it out and walking instead of taking a taxi because that would be lazy, well, then the sun ain't so welcome.

Doctor gave all sorts of goodies, including a couple of inhalers. But I mean really, it's a cold and it's shitty but it's really just a bad, bad cold.

I'm not sleeping, or if I am it's in fits and starts not in my hugmongous king size bed that is the comfiest bed I've ever slept in, in air conditioned bliss. No, I'm sleeping in the living room on the pull out couch that I pull out and make up in the middle of the night so I can stack up five pillows and sleep sitting up, grandma style. I think what I'm getting at here is that I perhaps wasn't at my best. Perhaps I was feeling shitty, perhaps I was worn out. Perhaps the coughing was taking a lot out of me. Perhaps me being under the weather plus trying to be solitary fun parent while daddy laid in bed all day with stomach bug was hard on me. Perhaps I always try to make the best of it, and perhaps it was too much. Perhaps.

And then the kids started getting sick too. [*This is why a two week holiday is imperative - nearly everyone can get pretty sick and recover so that everyone still has days they feel well]. So they would throw up in the middle of the night, or maybe fall asleep on a beach chair at the bonfire and beach BBQ you paid $250 for even though they didn't charge you for the kids. Yeah, that much. And then child would be carried home, sleeping, and throw up all night long. And the hotel across the way with the amazing beach patio and the gorgeous food and the just perfectly divineness of experience was so nice, making chicken noodle soup to carry back, from scratch, but maybe that took something out of me, the sourcing and carrying and caregiving of it all.

And maybe the idea of the penthouse was super fun, and the penthouse itself was super fun, and the massive double patio with the beautiful dining table
 was just great, and the island with seating was so nice, and the beautiful round glass table in the great room with seating for six was really nice. But maybe it was really a long ways away, and when a person is coughing and hacking and not sleeping and holding hair out of the toilet for throwing up children and doing all this looking after, maybe the penthouse isn't so great when you want to BBQ and the BBQ is downstairs by the bar and you have to carry all the stuff down and then run back up and turn the water on to boil and then run back down to flip it all over. Maybe that's too much work. And so then you start eating out all the time, even though that wasn't exactly the plan, because while it's nice to eat out, each restaurant bill was well over a couple hundred dollars, and when you're burning through your budget like that it takes a bit of the fun out of it all. But you keep going. Because what else is there to do?

[epiphany just happened here, just saying]

And then your husband says let's go look at the potcakes. And if this life were a movie, if it was being watched on a screen, either big or small, the music would change at that moment. Or maybe the camera would slow down, and put emphasis on the moment. For sure the moment would be in all the previews. Maybe that phrase, somehow, would be included in the trailer.

"Let's go look at the potcakes," he said.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Title TBD as subject matter all over the map

Most people, when they go on vacation, do the same sorts of things. Lie on the beach, eat out, do a couple tours. Let me tell you about my last holiday.

I have to give this story some context though, so please forgive me as I back up a little. It was my 40th birthday last year, December 24, to be exact. I need to tell you a bit about that first before I tell you about the holiday.

December 24 sucks as a birthday, followed only by December 25 in terms of worst possible birthday dates. Pretty much the whole month is a write off, so it isn't as though I don't have sympathy for all the other December birthdays, and if I'm being realistic, the first few days of January are pretty shitty too.

December 24 is for family gatherings, for last minute shopping, for kids excited for Santa to come. What it isn't for is a birthday dinner, or a cake, or any sort of party. It isn't for wrapping things up in happy birthday paper, or beautiful birthday cards. It isn't for waiters singing happy birthday, handing you a piece of cake with a sparkler in it, because likely the restaurant is closed. It isn't for birthday parties at your house or someone else's house or for anything other than a tacked on, sort of "oh, it's your birthday!" from someone who is genuinely happy and thoughtful person who really is happy it's your birthday, but mostly because everybody's frigging happy on Christmas Eve.

Obviously this is nothing new. Obviously this has been my birthday my entire life, ground zero for Kristen McLeod, so I'm pretty used to it. The way I've handled it varies, however,  most of the time I feel apologetic about it. I tend to feel as though just by having my birthday on such an awkward day I've caused trouble, I've forced people to take time from what they would rather be doing, to acknowledge that this day is special for another reason. Gosh, even writing that the day is special for another reason feels like I'm asking for too much. I really need to sort this shit out.

My family was pretty good, we always had cake and I got to choose my special meal (pretty much always spaghetti, meatballs, ceasar salad, and garlic bread). My presents were wrapped in birthday wrapping. We celebrated me. My mother even gave up her family tradition of opening up Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve, since it had been coopted by what perhaps a thousand people have called her "greatest gift ever." It was back in the day before the elaborate children's birthday parties, thank god, so I do recollect having my grade 2 birthday party at a bowling alley, and I believe grade one had a piƱata. There are photos.
In my early twenties, when my life became more my own responsibility, I went out for about a thousand birthday celebrations. I think I had one, and periphery friends came, not close ones. It's hard, to vocalize this, because I feel ashamed that I care, I mean, it's just a birthday, right? And I get it. I really, honestly, do. It's Christmas Eve, for heaven's sake. And this isn't a story about how no one ever cared, or no one every got me a birthday card, or said happy birthday, or anything like that. Rather, it's more like when someone said happy birthday to me, I was always glad to deflect with merry Christmas.

When I got married things continued, meaning, I still had birthdays, they were still on an awkward semi-holiday, but somehow it felt better. My husband was really good with celebrating, and his family is massively into birthdays, so I did feel like the occasion was marked, and often, more than simply marked. We have a kind of tradition that works for me, where we go to Earls for a late lunch, and that's become the thing we do for my birthday.

I've noticed; what started as a story about a trip to celebrate that went awry in an obviously necessary discussion of some birthday shit. Which is not finished yet. Apparently this will take a few posts to work through. Hang on!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Part of the realization has to be that time is not going to come in large pieces, like a pie, to be divided up easily and evenly and competently. Instead, time will come in short bursts, a minute here, a second there, and rather than waiting for those minutes and seconds to add up now I understand something I knew before, but forgot. I have to grab them, tightly, and use them, properly. This is how it has to work.

There is no magic fountain of time. There is no just getting up at 4am because that isn't how I work. There isn't a lotto win coming, obvious, given I don't play, but still a rather frequent pop up fantasy where money really does buy a lot of things, including time.

Time comes at different spots throughout the day. In the summer it tends to be 4:00pm, when the kids are snacked up and exhausted from the pool and I can plunk them down to chillax, as the 3 year old calls it. In the fall it will likely be the mornings, when they are all in school.

Remembering that in the past the time was there was helpful. It's funny how the brain works, how it became utterly impossible to write. Impossible to sneak five or fifteen, impossible to get enough done to be able to with good conscience say no, this is mine. But the memories are waking up and cautiously I am asserting, taking, gingerly stepping forward. And this is good. I am walking.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I have a book on how to be a writer. It's my favouite book on the subject and I have quite a few. The woman lives in California and she writes easily, giving practical advice that when I took it a few years ago, seemed to work. I say this in a loose sort of sense, given that it's not like I was on a book tour today, I confess, I was picking beans at Nana's house and then cooking beans and mostly refereeing and failing miserable at personal goal of Not Yelling.

The advice was interesting. Things like, decide what a writer dresses like (in your own mind), and dress like that. For instance, if you think a writer wears black turtlenecks, wear black turtlenecks. Write every day. Send little notes to people, in the mail.

I followed all this advice, lived and breathed and listened and did, and lo and behold, I became a writer. I wrote a book, and had it torn apart and criticized and mailed it off and offered it up. Didn't go far, but I went further than many and I was (and am) so proud of that. I wrote every day, all the time. And if I wasn't writing I was writing in my head. I had a glass of wine while I cooked supper every night. I wrote for a living, even though it didn't pay well (I think one job I had was about 9 cents a word...who knew they even still paid in cents?!).

So I'm doing it again. I'm going to do the things that make me a writer and then of course it will follow. Of course it will.

I bought a new Moleskine, except white this time. Very pretty. I organized some clutter, get that shit out of the way. And with only a few (very) baby steps taken I caught myself writing in my head today. (*writing in head is thinking thoughts in sentences as though they were going to be written down. very satisfying when wanted, very annoying when middle of night and happening instead of sleep).

Friday, July 25, 2014

In the weeds

And then there's the weeding out. What would allow me to feel so incredibly fulfilled that I don't allow in the excess? Do I know? I think I know part of the answer, but only part. Or, if I know the whole answer it comes in snatches, not completely.

What I'm talking about, mostly, is the social. I'm naturally pretty social, what one would call an extrovert. I crave and love people and new experiences and busy. Which isn't to say I don't crave and love quiet, and calm, and solitude. For sure I want those things, most definitely. But I for sure and most definitely also love to be with people.


Do I fill my time and use my energy on people I don't need to be around or people who don't make me feel like a better person? I suppose the easy answer is if I ask that question ..........

But (and this is where I have to think), it's more complex than simple. In that, I am the caregiver for three lovely ladies, all of whom have separate social circles and friends and it is my responsibility to provide experiences for them. And quite often, that means I'm the one hosting the event or seeing the parent or whatever, in order to provide the social experience for my girls.

Maybe it doesn't need to be so difficult. Maybe I don't need to feel as though I have to give all of my energy to someone. Maybe the fact that it's usually the busiest in the summer should suffice to make it bearable. Maybe I need to be more clear about my parameters, about the things I care about and the things that offend me.

Maybe this is a good thing to mull over for a while.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

super fast

One of the things I forgot how to do was to snatch a moment if it came my way. To grab hold of time, any time, any amount, like it was a balloon floating past.

Plan was to attend the noonish yoga but brain was not thinking clearly and so was under impression that kids could be dropped off at cooperative nana's house and yoga attended, on time. However, somehow forgot that it takes more than 15 minutes to drive from south end of busy city to acreage east of Regina and back into city to park on downtown streets, where generally is no parking.

Once the inner tantrum was over and the resilience had been sourced was like, hmmm, now what to do? So many things, so little time but yet time that was not available until Just Right Now.

Perfect balance, of getting the shit done I need to do, so that I can get the shit done I want to do. And perhaps, if it all works out, yoga will still happen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


that's me!
So since I hurt my knee, which was June 4, I have been unable to go the gym, unable to walk around the lake, unable to move much faster than a turtle. Movement is crucial to my well being, so this has sucked.

Physio wasn't going so well and now that time has passed and of course with time's passing comes clarity, if not crystal, at least some sort of understanding. I think my I can do it on my own thinking, my surgery avoidance, my historical Bad Knees, all this has really messed me up and of course on top of all that I'm just plain getting older. Things take awhile to heal now. Anyways, when my super kind, sweet and very knowledgeable physio watched me weeping on the table he promptly scheduled me with a sports med doc to see what else could or should be done.

That just happened to be the week I was able to finally isolate that muscle that has been causing him such consternation - squeeze! squeeze! - to now avail. But now, the tiniest squeeze has turned into ten seconds and on Monday I thought, hmm. Yoga.

Yoga is a natural resting place for me, obviously a moving meditation. Where muscle by muscle, layer by layer, I can dig deep. And of course, the added bonus of a pretty decent workout at the same time. I hid in the corner, beating to my own drum while the instructor led the very full class through poses I mostly did in my head. But still. It felt so amazing to a) be there and to b) move, that I went back this morning, bringing with me Stella.

Of course we were late, rushing in at 9:30 a.m. on the dot, her nervous and me a little mad, and as we went up the stairs and I was saying no more talking, AT ALL, she said are we late? Of course we are, I said, just go in and do what everyone else is doing.

Except yes, we were late, but no, there was no one else there. Not a soul. And the instructor came and she modified the class for us, the ten year old with tight hammies from running so much, and the forty year old with tight everything from moving (not much) and being ginger about it all.

I could see how far my knee could go, turn my toes a little, stretch my arms to the side and realize how compacted everything has become. What a thing, to take that time in that beautiful golden floored room, to bend and stretch and wiggle and twist and breathe. Oh, to breathe.

And when we were at the beach this afternoon, where Stella was the oldest of all the children and I saw her a couple times, once teaching a five year old to breathe and stand tall, another time I saw her sitting on the grass in lotus, facing the water. Just sitting. At peace.

Yoga does that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Today the bigs are at tennis and the little is lying on the couch, resting. She was sleeping, she fell asleep in the car on the way home and for once when I carried her in she stayed asleep, snoozing gently in front of me in the sunroom. So quiet here. When I came back from the kitchen, where I was getting a huge glass of Pellegrino, she was lying on the floor. I asked, did you fall or did you climb down? No answer.

People came over to swim today, as usual in the summer. I feel myself getting tired, the socializing is wonderful but also a little like Christmas every day. The season is so short I feel like we can't (of course we can't) not do it - not have a little party every day. But sometimes I get tired.

And maybe (not maybe, for sure, most definitely, of course) I'm more tired today than other days because last night I had to put my dog to sleep. He's (no, not present, past, I have to work at that). He was a little old man dog. Sweet like the sweetest puppy, he was thirteen and had a bad back and an intense dislike (inability?) to go to the bathroom outdoors anymore. So it had to be done. However.

And so the babysitter came, she held Sophie who cried so hard, and this surprised me. Not that Sophie cried. That Noelle held her and Sophie was okay with that, since Sophie usually only wants momma but I guess since the consensus in the room, summed up by Stella, was that momma had murdered the beloved family pet, Noelle would do.

I couldn't sleep last night then. I sound like every other person who has been through this or anything traumatic when I say I just kept seeing it over and over but damn if I didn't just keep seeing it over and over. The moment when he was suddenly not. Not Henry, not alive. Just not.

Soon we will go get the ladies, as we say. And the ladies will be hungry and tired and I can't think what to feed them. There are things that sometimes become nearly insurmountable in my life on occasion and currently it is cooking. Something I love to do, and really this is usually very true in the summer. But lately it angers me when I have to cook for them. I think I know why, and it doesn't surprise me, that it is because my audience has no interest and generally doesn't much like what I prepare, that I always eat either alone or with the ladies. Of course it becomes mundane, annoying, grudge making. But this acknowledgement doesn't change the fact that it must be done, they must be fed. I think sometimes of Jeanette Walls, and The Glass Castle, and I know that I could totally be that mother. Lying around eating hidden chocolate bars and reading books while my kids starved. Perhaps not, but I can see where she was going with that.