Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Let them be

I caved the other day and bought one of those Mom Calendars. I frigging hate them, the way it's a mom calendar and not a mom and dad or even a Family Calendar. I mean, what do gay male parents do? Cross out all the moms and write dad? I digress. I hate the calendar because it reminds me of all the mommy culture crap, with it's competitive and very marketed nature. It's cartoony, which bugs me, I don't see why I would want my calendar to be colourful and cute. It isn't how I like anything in my life but of course since I'm a mom I should have the calendar along with my wineglass that says Mommy's Juice Cup (seriously, there is such a thing).

I needed the calendar though. See one of the things I do (or don't do) is be able to see the big picture. So I continue to sign the kids up for stuff and schedule dentist appointments and book my haircut all at the same time until I realize everything is bumping up against each other and I can't physically do it all. Let alone if I've got to this point, I can't do it mentally either.

This year I am ensuring a smoother (smoothish?) ride by writing it all down, putting it on the fridge, and studying it as though I'm doing the LSAT. It's taken my family planning confidence level out of the dumps, where it was, and elevated it drastically. So it isn't the planning I hate, or the organization. No, I need that, it's what will keep it all moving. Nope. It's the shitty calendar.

The thing that bugged me the most is there is a quote, right on the September page, that my daughter read to me right after I hung it up. Something like, "Men are made by their mothers."

What the fuck? I mean, seriously. Pardon me?

I don't think so, sistah. Men are made by their mothers biologically, so if that's what they meant my apologies all around. But somehow I think the point was more pointed. More along the lines of if you just do every single thing perfectly, you will make a wonderful man. Which can, of course, be extrapolated to whatever your daughter grows up to be, it's pretty much your fault. The saying is meant to come off harmless, uplifting, even. I imagine a woman reading it, her little guy at five years old, ready to head off to kindergarten and she's feeling a little weepy of course (although she might be also relieved, deep down inside). And here she reads this on her new, shiny calendar where she's planned that on Thursdays they will have pot roast, and it makes her feel all warm and cosy because it means that all the Effort, and I do mean effort with a capital e, all that effort will mean something because he will grow up strong and manly but also gentle and kind and he will never go crazy or hurt a girl and he will be everything he ever wanted to be.

Well, if it were that simple.
We are who we grow up to be all on our own. If you grow up and treat people like shit, it's on you. You. You can of course examine your life, your background, your upbringing. Examine the shit out of it, if you will. Learn from it. Dissect it. Pull it apart and put it back together again, if you need to. But if your mom was a bitch or your mom was the saint of all mothers it really doesn't matter. All that matters is how you deal with it and what kind of man (or woman, this applies all around) you become.

The pressure on mothers right now is incredible and more than a little ridiculous. If you breastfeed or bottlefeed you are somehow screwing up you child. If you homeschool, public school, private school, let them eat carbs, don't wash the fruit, put them in advanced math, buy them too much/too little, no matter what you do, really, you are setting yourself up for some pretty heavy judgement.

And don't you think we need a little, or rather, a lot less than that?

I do.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Best blog

I just stumbled across this AWESOME blog that I found on the Huffington Post, it's called Wide Lawns, and it's super funny.[edit: the blog is not on Huff Post, she writes there and her bio led me to her blog, just to be clear]. So I leave a comment not for any other reason that it was so good and I immediately liked the whole set up and I felt like I had to say something, just to really completely be there. Like, at the blog there.

So anyways this is kind of an aside but also important, I've been blogging here and talking to my life coach and just generally getting my shit together and I'm feeling pretty impressed by my Self, if I might say so. I've been blogging, yes, but it's been closed to the public and if I'm honest, it's pretty dreary stuff. It's exactly what I needed, for sure, I had to get all the crap out in order to have room for new. That's how I roll, I've come to know, if I don't write it down it sort of festers inside. Experiences, thoughts, ideas - I MUST write it down someway, some shape, any form.

Where I'm going with this. So I read a couple posts on this blog and I love them, they make me smile, and I feel motivated and connected and realize that yes, people still do blog and yes, there are good ones out there. And then I scroll to the top of her blog and I see a blog award for being funny and the first thing that pops into my head is maybe I could win one of those.


I mean, even I can see that there has been zero humour in my blog posts lately. I've been in-the-muck sort of stream of consciousness writing, from the gut and the heart and whatever else is the most personal, heartfelt emotional place there is. So perhaps not that award. Perhaps award for most raw? most therapy-like post? most obviously introspective leanings?

But it was so nice to be there, to stand on the edge like I am right now, ready to dive back in and be the writer I know I am. I read this on another blog today and I will have to find it so that I can give credit, but this is what I know.

My value does not diminish because of what I have been through.
And this is what I also know.

I am a writer.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Little bit

Today is a day of tired. Yesterday was too. Something as simple as a very slight cold, a few nights without enough sleep, a sore knee and wham bam I feel back at the beginning again.

Hopefully not, hopefully I've got some tools in my kit that I can use. Writing is one, most definitely. Didn't write yesterday and maybe the day before, that little bit of not doing has such a huge impact. Meditation is huge, a monumental miracle drug and for whatever reason it's been too hard to do.

Self care is the key. And knowing it's okay to slow down. And keeping the worry at bay. And doing the things that keep the worry pacified. Like making lists and checking them off, and resting, and accepting, and writing and gratitude and slow down.

Slow down.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Who am I from the inside out?

I spend a lot of time thinking about this question. Perhaps more than most. Or maybe not, how should I know. But I do know that people don't go around talking about their inner self, what makes them tick, what works/doesn't work for them, the way I do.

Maybe that isn't right. I don't feel as though I go around, constantly telling people what I'm thinking or not thinking, the exact status of my mental state, but I truly do go around thinking about my exact mental state all the time. Like, all the time.

There's that thing I tell my kids (or my friends). That thing about how when you're worried about what other people are thinking about, they are actually most likely thinking about themselves. For realsies. I mean, case in point. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what makes me tick. Or, not tick. The rapid hum of my life when everything is meshing can grind to a terrible halt given a slight lack of sleep or loss of control.

So. Question asked. Who am I from the inside out? I mean I don't know that I can answer that question. It seems at once both impossibly big and impossibly small. There is me, that raw and sensitive one-big-emotion, is that me? There's me that gets tired and snappy and can easily speak without thinking. Is that common? How do people control their mouths, anyhow? Whenever I think about going to a social event with certain people I spend a great deal of time on the way, reminding myself that lots of people are just fine Not Talking. And I paste that smile on my face, the one that is friendly and welcoming but not overbearing, the one that says I'm interested and I would of course be pleasant to talk to and I won't say anything rude or weird.

I mean, I'm my best critic, but I also have other critics who are quick to jump in and point out that thing I said wrong or why I shouldn't say that. I feel as though (metaphor coming) I'm a big dumb sheepdog that people generally like but who can also be seriously annoying, jumping all over you or spilling your drink or tracking in with muddy feet. That's me, with my words and opinions and just general too-muchness.

So Who am I from the Inside Out? I'm emotional, highly in touch with mine and others. I'm quick with my brain when it comes to words and ideas. I'm prickly sometimes, protecting myself from the disappointments life so often brings. I'm artistic, and I've written about that double edged sword a few times, how I feel as though I walk on the dark side of the moon as a trade for that. Aside: this whole tragedy of Robin William's suicide, and the amount of people writing about how art is so closely connected to madness makes me feel so much saner, if that makes sense. I've been talking about that for years. Now maybe everybody can see it may be true.

Who am I is not answerable in a moment, in a snapshot. In a quick blurb. Rather I will have to tease the answer out, dig deep underground. Peel it all back and see what's left. That's okay, that's what I'm here for.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Today I had this underlying feeling. Like butterflies in my stomach, only bad ones. Not good. I'm lying, the feeling showed up last night and sort of percolated all night. I acknowledged the issues, that was apparent, at the very least. But still I didn't feel good. Didn't feel at ease.

Of course it is unwise to expect to always feel fine, to trip through life as though it is no challenge at all. But neither is it wise to allow the worry to permeate the day, suds-ing through and ensuring it is always there, just below the surface.

I had my trusty little notebook so I did something I used to do but hasn't been part of habit or consciousness, oh, I don't know, since I let everything go.

I wrote it out, the worry. I spelled it out in no uncertain terms, the worry and how I felt about it. And it was magic, it really was. It was like the very second I put it down on paper, on the white page with the faint blue lines, the power was gone.

I mean the issue still exists. But somehow I was able to frame it (perhaps reframe it?) and somehow that reframing took the power of the worry away. I was able to look at it, examine it, think it through. And it became ever so much more bearable. Manageable. Handle-able.

I'm glad I remembered to do this.

Monday, August 18, 2014

My husband's uncle died recently and we went to the memorial service. They had a slideshow, of his life. It nearly killed me. Selfishly, all I could think about was my own life. I mean, don't get me wrong, I am so very sad for his children, his wife, his brother. All the people he was close to and connected to. But as I watched that photo montage of his life, of him digging in the dirt as a toddler, with his mom on graduation day, getting married - as I watched his life in old photos, it struck me (of course it did) that we all have that life.

We have the baby pictures, the photos of us with our sibling playing in the backyard. The jumping off the dock at the cottage, the pushing a doll in a doll carriage. Sleeping on a parent. Everyone has that one. The posed pics, the candid. The school ones. And later, graduations and convocations, parties and birthdays and celebrations. Weddings. Dancing. We all have it.

And at some point we will all be gone. And our families will watch that slideshow and weep. And mourn. And that's what I was thinking about as we celebrated the life of this man, a father of three, grandfather, brother, son, husband, friend. We all will die, and will be no more. Life will go on around the empty space that we used to fill until even that space has slowly but surely been filled. And we are forgotten - I don't know even the names of my grandparent's parents. I know I have access, I could look it up, but I know nothing about them and that is how it will be within another three generations for me. My children's children will have children, and to them I will be a distant existence; necessary, but also uninteresting. Let me rephrase; perhaps interesting, perhaps uninteresting. But unimportant.

This is rather glum sounding but really isn't meant to be. It is what it is and of course I cling to life as hard and fast as I can because I want to, for me, and for my children. But it's good to remember it is all so very fleeting.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Slow it down

I've been slowing it down. The pace, the movement, the reaction time. Take a moment before the beat, to breathe, to think.
My meditation is on a series where we envision this warm, liquid sunshine pouring in through the top of our head, spreading through our body, melting the stress. At the end of every session Andy, he's the guide, says to "flash" the exercise several times throughout the day. I'm not sure I'm at several, but for sure I do flash it, and for sure it is an instant relax, a sense of heavy calm that floods quickly through.

If I don't get everything done I wanted to, well, who cares. That's different for me, and probably without this horrific knee injury I would still be hurrying, cleaning up and putting away and getting ready. Now, sometimes, it is easier to realize hey, it doesn't really matter if I don't do it. For real. Doesn't matter.

I'm feeling selfish in a good way. I'm taking the time to read and study. Writing and writing and writing. Thinking and learning, stepping back and getting ready and moving on. I know that this day, this moment, is what it is, and if I remember anything at all, that needs to be it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I didn't go back yet, to the birthdays thing. I'm not sure anymore where I was going and I don't know what else there is to say about it. I mean, we got a dog, yada yada, life was really hard. We fought like crazy, almost hating each other. Almost? Maybe we did. The air was certainly icy cold for a while. The dog permeated every moment of my day. Every single moment. From the second I opened my eyes in the morning, when I knew that the minute my foot hit the bottom stair, when I would have to get the dog out of her crate and take her outside, to the last thing before bed when I put her back in her crate, I was responsible (unhappily) for a being that wasn't small and fluffy or independent or crazy smart. Nope. I was up and down, in and out, cleaning up pee and vomit and often enough, dog shit. The kids couldn't grasp how to teach a dog not to jump, so two were afraid and one, the one who should have been afraid, was instead fearless and constantly being nipped and bitten.

I became the worst possible version of myself. I was trapped, trapped in a house in the worst winter in decades, dealing with an animal I felt no common ground with. No joy. No connection. My little old man dog, my pal, my guy we got before we were even married, was miserable. I felt guilt and anger for this, too.

I became that person with a bigger dog (she wasn't that big but she wasn't small, either). I hate going to someone's house and having their dog sniff my crotch, jump at me, snag my clothes, get dog hair on me, and here I was, inviting people into my home to do just that. My house smelled, of urine and dog. There was hair everywhere. We burned out a furnace fan because there was so much dog hair clogging the vent. I wore my beautiful black jacket and was horrified to realize it was covered in long blond dog hair.

This wasn't our finest moment. Even looking back I see how completely and totally unhappy I was, and how that then translated into everyone else completely unhappy. I was the captain of the ship, and in my estimation, the ship was due to sink any minute now.

As I write this I waver. On one hand I'm embarrassed. Who can be so unhappy over a dog? Who is such a bitch? Funny. More shame. Why couldn't I be better? Why couldn't I train her? What was my problem. On the other I want to share more, more of the complete heartache I felt. How I felt usurped in my own home. Actually, I felt I had no home anymore, truth be told. I had no escape. No privacy. I no longer owned my moments.

It will take a while, I think. To work through this. To deconstruct it, label it, learn. To be able to talk about it without feeling as though everything is made of delicate glass and will smash loudly and wholly if it's talked about too much.

But this is a start.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Where am I vulnerable? Oh let me count the ways.

I fear I'm not that smart. This perhaps stems from exactly this. I was in grade four and I adored my teacher. I mean, I was completely besotted. It was her birthday and somehow some of us students convinced a mom to bake her a cake and bring it to school as a surprise. I went home and told my mum this, at the supper table, and said my teacher was turning 25. My mum said, she looks more like she's turning 35. So the next day I repeated that to my teacher. I told my parents I had done that at the supper table, at which point I got a sharp lesson in how things spoken at home weren't to be repeated at school. Fine, point taken.

Many years later, I think maybe I was in grade 11 or 12, we were recalling this incident. My mum was talking about her embarrassment; right after this went down she had to go to parent-teacher interviews. She was sick with nerves. The teacher was, understandably, cold. She said to my mum, Kristen is average. She won't have any trouble with school, but she will always be average.

Now, I know this was spoken in anger and revenge, and I knew it at the time. But somehow this stuck. Somehow, this found a soft spot, a tender spot, and from that moment on I knew I wouldn't be the editor of MacLeans. I knew I was destined for normal, for average, for nothing special. So on matters of intelligence, of feeling worthy and smart, I'm vulnerable.

I'm vulnerable with friends. I love wholeheartedly, unabashedly. Completely. I found my first best friend in grade 4 and she saved me. I was going through some serious shit at home, and of course that translated over the years into some serious shit at school, and she lifted me up like nobody's business. She was like a fiery little feminist, making sure that I was okay and I knew I was good enough. We grew apart, nothing dramatic. My second best friend was through high school, I loved her in that high school way best friends do. We were inseparable. Happy. That is, until she completely shunned me in the second half of grade 12, refusing to speak to me or spend time with me. I think at grad she let me take one photo with her. For memory's sake, not because she loved me anymore.

I'm vulnerable with feeling stupid (intellectually), feeling left out (like the kid not invited to the birthday). I'm vulnerable about what kind of parent I am (too involved? not involved enough? not enough patience? a yeller? occasionally sarcastic?). I'm vulnerable about my stomach, which always seems huge to me and crisscrossed with silver stretch marks. I'm vulnerable about my husband being really smart. I'm vulnerable about feeling like I'm lazy if I'm not doing something.

There is more, of course there is. But I need to start naming this shit, to get a handle on it. And then I need to go back to the birthdays, or whatever those two posts have morphed into, because that needs to be finished. But for today this will do.

Monday, August 11, 2014


It's working. All of it. And it's work.

I blog, I write, I scribble in my notebook. I think like a writer again. I read viciously funny books, dreamy books, books on parenting and being a better person. Newspapers. Magazines. I have ideas.

I write in a gratitude journal, I plan my days. I think about yoga, I stretch and bend. I remind myself to be positive. To let thoughts go. That thoughts are just thoughts, they are nothing.

I stumble and fall, getting angry, getting ashamed (so much shame...what is with that). I fail, miserably, every single day.

But then I get up, I dust off, I start over.

And it's working. And it's work.

Friday, August 01, 2014

The Potcakes

honest, it really is the nicest beach ever
I need to tell you what a Potcake is. I consider myself somewhat an expert, in the manner that mum's are experts in poop and vomit not because they want to be but rather because you get really good at waking immediately in the night if you have a puker anywhere in the house. Or after you wipe bums a thousand times and discuss poop qualities for hours both with said child (that was smooth poop, she says, I want to see it. Smooth poop? pardon, I say. It didn't hurt my bum), you become a poop expert. So in that vein I am a Potcake expert.

A Potcake puppy is a stray dog in the Caribbean, in Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, and Jamaica, named because they used to be fed the scraps of the bottom of the pot, where the rice had formed into a cake. The dogs had been brought to the islands by the ships and now ran wild. In T&C there had been a government run spay and neuter program but when the '08 recession hit it was dismantled. So now there is a dedicated group who run Potcake Place, a little rescue organization with excellent marketing in the touristy area of Grace Bay on Provodenciales.

Picture this. You are on holiday, weak from so much gorgeous sun you spend the first few days literally just standing there, like an idiot, staring at the ocean and feeling the sand. Everyone does it, it's just so perfect. You are sick, coughing like a madwoman, but Making the Best of it, because this is a very expensive holiday and a celebration and the entire family needs to spend this time together and needs to relax. You start noticing, or rather, you wouldn't have noticed this if the people were on fire but your husband has a radar for dogs, and HE starts noticing tourists walking puppies on the beach. And of course, these tourists are simply thrilled to death to have this adorable little dog on a leash, and they are holiday drunk with the thought of it all (on holiday and look at me, I'm doing something so GOOD and KIND and I'm enjoying myself too, this is what I imagine they are saying to themselves, and of course I'm imagining because even cold hearted me isn't immune to a small, soft, gentle puppy).

So now every time someone walks by with one of these puppies, which seems to be every day now, kids and husband run to them and discuss, reporting back to me name of dog, country of origin of walkers. 

Husband eventually says, I think I want to take the kids to Potcake Place to get a puppy to walk. And my chest is tight and I feel panicky and he says no, just to walk, but I know better, and somehow I can see it all playing out but I think of course this can't possibly be so, we can't possibly be getting a dog. We've had a thousand (maybe more) conversations about how I don't want a dog, we already had one and while I loved that little old man dog to bits once he was gone I had no interest, no inclination, no motivation, no nothing that said to me, let's get a dog.

So I think, surface breathing, all right, take the kids. And then of course I think, how can I not go? Family holiday. I need to go. So I go, to this tiny rescue place, where the kids (of course) fall in love with every single dog there and husband spends thoughtful time, down on one knee, it seems as though he is sensing or using some kind of radar or intuition, deciding which dog to walk. He chooses a little golden coloured pup, her name is Marilyn Munroe. They get outfitted with all the gear. The leash, the little plastic water dish that ends up being useless on the sand. The pamphlet. Off they go, to walk this little dog on the beach and be those people, who get stopped and questioned and I feel it all happening, rushing towards me, thinking on one hand this is going to happen, I'm helpless to stop it, to of course it won't . This is not, cannot, will not, be happening. We will not go home on an airplane, with a dog.

I read the pamphlet and I see my out. It says that every member of the family will be interviewed to ensure that the family is fully on board with getting a puppy. Aha, it's obvious to me that this will not happen then. I will answer their questions, go through their screening process and will fail. There is no way I won't. Husband and I have date night at the only shitty restaurant there, where I say how is this going to work? What do you see? Who will care for this dog? And he, too, is holiday drunk. He says things will change. I won't work so much. I will care for this dog, it will be mine, I will train it and look after it. And I think this is a good thing. This husband of mine he works too much, far too much, and he needs joy and happiness and who am I to stand in the way of that? And of course he will work less, he will have to, he will have this creature, this animal, that will need to be walked and taught and fed and loved. Anything that gets him home more, gets him relaxing, gets him a more full and joyful life, well that can't be bad. It can't be.

And a part of me still thinks, but I will fail the test. So here I have a win/win. I have not said, not definitively, no dog. I have a hard time with that, being That person, the dream crusher. So I hang on to the idea that the screening process will screen us right out. Sorry, they will say, so sorry, but everyone has to be on board and we sense strong hesitation from this woman. Sorry, we can't give you this dog, we understand how important it is for everyone in the family to be 100 percent committed to making this work. We can see even from her body manner she isn't into it. Look at how she sits in the corner, wondering at all these people clamoring over dogs. We are experts, they say. We can tell when someone is just going through the motions.

Except somehow their expert must've been off that day. Their protocols didn't get followed, their checklist was abandoned. No one asked me a thing, they all worked on assumption, that if she's here, if she's with this family, if they are saying they want a dog, she must want one too. Don't get me wrong, it's a fair assumption. They are busy, incredibly busy, with these abandoned dogs and strays and swim-suited tourists from every place on the globe, coming by, maybe taking a little mouth to feed off their hands. So they just packed up all her stuff, phoned the airlines, made it easy-breezy like nobody's business, and we had a dog dropped off at our condo the morning we were leaving for home.

I went away for my 40th birthday with my amazing family and somehow I was coming home with a live animal.