Thursday, September 11, 2014

Glasses may be my downfall

Likely due to high levels of Stephen King reading when I was young, which created an appetite for the apocalyptic genres in every medium, I spend a lot of time imagining how things would go down given a massive, traumatic event on the earth.

The event I worried about for many, many years was nuclear war. I got caught reading a book during class in grade seven, holding it under my desk and pretending to listen to my teacher. He took it away, and later said, if you're going to read during my class at least make it something worthwhile. I can't remember the name of the book (and I've tried valiantly over the years to figure out what it was) but it was about the aftermath of a nuclear war when the survivors lived underground.

Now I run through the very topical zombie apocalypse, due to a gorging on Walking Dead episodes. My biggest worries haven't changed, though, even with the shift in what exactly precipitates the apocalypse. First thing that has always concerned me has been my terrible eyesight. I mean, what if this happened in the middle of the night. Would I have time to grab my glasses? Perhaps not, if I was woken by one of my children screaming or the sound of a zombie rustling in my room. Maybe I would have to hightail it out of the bed and my useless eyes would become the bane of my existence, causing me to mistake humans for zombies and vice versa.

Or maybe I have my glasses on before the atom bomb strikes. What if a falling tree hits me on the face, and even worse than the long bleeding cut that could become infected is the cracked lens on one side. Will my life of foraging for non-radiation tinted food also consist of breaking into optometrist's offices, searching for +1.25 glasses or contacts?

Now of course I can add the lame leg. Husband and I have talked about this, and while it does sadden me on a personal level I agree wholeheartedly with his assertion that not only would he leave me behind (if you haven't seen me I walk really, really slow. Like molasses), but he might actually push me toward the zombies so they are distracted while he saves the children. The fact that he is saving the children of course negates any leg I have to stand on and be mad he isn't crafting a sled or something to drag me around with.

I worry about all the usual stuff, like food and firewood and how many windows we have in this house and how they really aren't all that airtight now and what would happen if the furnace was off and this house would be really cold and would it be warmer in the basement or on the main floor? And I think about all these people who are apparently preparing by storing heirloom seeds for food and learning how to can things and preserve things and shoot their own game and I think, ahhhhh, I don't know. I might just give up pretty darn quick. I'm not handy, my eyesight is poor. I've got shitty knees and very little survivorman type knowledge. I probably should've been weeded out of the world's gene pool long ago.

No wonder I get insomnia. I need to figure out some more positive things to think about when I go to bed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Simmer me down

When did it become so competitive? I can see it, I guess, if I think hard enough. The way we can know everything, if having access to YouTube and constant television and the Internet means we know everything. Sometimes I wonder, though. If we actually know everything, or if we have become faux experts in knowing the surface skim of everything.

My 10 year old needed to take a break from track and field this summer due to an injury. She was devastated and said, but what about the Olympics. I was like, what about them? How about we just run on a team and have some fun and try our best? When did it become the ultimate goal that you need to win? Be the Best?

I guess we've pushed in the sense that whatever you do you do your best. Somehow that got translated, likely in the telling; this is on us, not her, anyways it got translated into be THE best, not be YOUR best. Fine line. Easy to blur. From a to b becomes the world of a difference though, because be your best, do your best work at home, at school, on the playground, on the team, morphed slowly but surely into be THE best, at home, at school, on the playground, on the team.

I can see it at home. The very minor, unspoken, unacknowledged and likely even unknown competition between three girls. Who is the best at what. All of them defining themselves as themselves but also as not. As in I am -not a dancer, -not a track star, -not a pianist, -not the good girl or bad girl or shy one or intense one or funny one.

I am guilty of being their biggest assistant with the best issue. I have that fatal parental flaw, the one that says your life is going to be Perfect because mine sure as shit isn't. The flaw that thinks that if they just find their magic their life will unfold beautifully, play by play of and then this led to that and now, look how happy and successful they are. And that is all I want, really; it is for them to be happy and if happy is a rental house with one bedroom and some second hand clothes I mean sure I will be fine with that and then I know that I am not fine with that and it leads me back to the answer to the questions, and when did it all become so competitive and it leads me right back to me.

I have to figure it out. How to be the opposite of a Tiger mom. I am reading the book The Dolphin Way: A Parent's Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy, Motivated Kids Without Turning into a Tiger [aside: that title is WAY too long], and it is truly helping me to simmer down. Relax. Let me be a guide, a facilitator, not the crazy psycho parent I have to tame down every morning when I get up. Because besides having my face light up every single time I see my kids, my job is not to push with a cattle prod, which unfortunately is my natural inclination. Rather, my job is to support what gives them joy.

And sometimes that is going to be THE best, and sometimes (more often than not), that is going to be THEIR best.

Monday, September 08, 2014

(this actually happened Friday)

Today I went to my absolute favourite coffee shop for a visit with a friend. It's this perfect combination of elegant yet homey, with this gorgeous baking and delicious lunches (they call it picnic!) and really good coffee. The people who work there are all happy (that in itself makes me happy - how often does that happen? happy staff? I would keep going there just for that even if the food was crap) and the owners are, get this, identical twins with beautiful naturally curly brown hair. I mean really. The place oozes perfect.

So I'm sitting there with girlfriend, having girlfriend chat and thinking how happy I am it is Friday, and we made it through the first week of school and I didn't forget to pack anyone lunch and the whole issue of no friends in class seems to be receding and life is good.

And then there is a wasp and it's sort of hovering over my friend and the coffee cups on the table and I actually think to myself thank god it isn't attacking me and then IT IS ATTACKING ME and I do what I tell my kids, when wasps are bugging them, which is calm the fuck down, exactly, and I do my best to calm the fuck down except it starts embedding myself in my hair which causes me to stand up and start doing the exact opposite of what I tell my kids. Which is freak the fuck out.
I am yelping (there really is no other way to describe it. I was yelping). And shaking my head kind of twitchy, trying to get it off but I also didn't want to upset it and so I'd give this little shake hard enough that now, later, my neck is sore. My poor friend got up and said in her commanding voice she uses with children and perhaps the infirm, come, come outside, but I just couldn't go outside where there might be more wasps. So I yelped and jumped and she got the wasp off, somehow, and magically one of those super cute identical twins drowned it in a coffee cup.

And so we had our coffee and our visit and I forgot all about the wasp and then these two really lovely ladies who had also been having their coffee stopped by on their way out to tell us that they were glad it was a wasp. They thought I was having some weird kind of fit or seizure and were concerned I needed medical attention.


Sigh. Happy Friday.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Free range

Seriously I can't make this shit up.

Let me set the stage. It's a gorgeous September night, right after we've eaten supper and the wee one wants to go for a bike ride. She rides one of those glide bikes and she's pretty amazing on it. Oldest, wee, and I get on our helmets and decide to go around the block. The three kids have been doing this all summer long as I sit on the porch with my mangled knee, but now I'm able to get on my bike and sort of wing my leg around in simulation of how people ride bikes. Looks cooky but I feel as though I'm doing something.

We get around 3/4 of the block (I just wrote 2/3 and realized a block obviously has 4 sides so 2/3 does NOT work. My math skills are only improving, people!) and at that point it is the tiniest downgrade so I can just coast around the corner to the driveway; knee is sore so I decide to do just that. Oldest child is directed to watch youngest as they finish the final 30 metres of our journey. Note: she has been doing this all summer long, she is the most responsible 10 year old I know, and 3.5 year old is very good listener. Other note: 30 m could be way off, I really have no ability to judge a metre or more than one metre. Maybe 30 feet? 45 seconds of bike riding?

I pull up on driveway and wait. A BMW SUV pulls up with this older lady craning her head out of the window at me. And this is so funny I wish I knew how to make a voice recording of me imitating her because it is just that good. You know when people kind of fake a British accent, the really posh one? Or you see a really old, jewelry encrusted woman on a TV show who very obviously thinks she's all that? Yah, that's the voice. Excuse me dahhhling? she says, dragging the word out with that British inflection. Are those your children?  I seriously thought she was going to tell me how cute they were, people do it all the time. Ready to accept the compliment I'm like, yes? They are so faaar away from you, daaarling. I told them I'd get their mummy.

What. The fuck.

I am the furthest thing from a fast thinker, but it pops into my head that this is a joke. I mean, it really does. So I just stare at her.

The children could get in an accident, she says, all poshy. The woman driving is craning her curly haired head to look at me, probably trying to decide how mad I am. I think it was obvious. I was beyond mad.

I'm like, thanks for the tip. [I know, brilliant. I told you, I'm terrible at thinking fast and the only thing that popped into my head was, hey, fuck off and I still wasn't sure if it was a joke and then I'd be telling so-and-so's grandma to eff off, so I played it safe. My bad.]  They drive off, and still sort of hanging her arm of the SUV she's all, byyyye daaaarling.

So what's the lesson here? What's my conclusion? Seriously, what. The fuck.

I'm a huge proponent of it takes a village to raise a child, we need to be aware of our surroundings and watch out for each other and we're all a part of this community etc. etc. But to me, that means if my kid is at the park and falls off the monkey bars I'd appreciate it if you asked if she was okay, maybe dusted off a knee, that sort of thing. If she's lost you help her find mall security. What you DON'T do is question my judgement, to me, as a parent. Do whatever you want with your judgement to your BMW driver, question the shit out of whatever you see. Did you see that lady letting her kids ride their bikes? Whatever is this world coming to? I don`t care. Think whatever you want. But the definition of it takes a village does not mean condescendingly drip your ideals of right and wrong at me.

I don`t know, it was just so weird. I mean, I read that Free Range kids book a long time ago ( and LOVED it), and that's kind of what I'm trying to do. Assure myself that danger really doesn't lurk around every corner and life isn't menacing 99 percent of the time. It's work, it really is, especially for me with my ability to take any worry and build it into a monster that rents a room upstairs. But I can see how it happens, how this insidious seed takes hold of a new parent who thinks they are a rational and capable human being and then you're offered all this Advice which really is not advice, but more Do it Like This and it can make you question your own judgement. Shit like my eldest daughter wouldn't (couldn't) nurse and it nearly killed me, I mean it really ate away at me and tormented me and I tortured myself pumping for weeks and it wasn't easy pumping it was mastitis and poor milk production and so then I gave her bottles and one time in the Bay elevator this lady told me breast is best. Honestly.

So here's a thought. We don't really get to drive around and sort of offer our unsolicited Advice to parents. Feel free to drop me a compliment, maybe, like good for you for taking your kids out for a bike ride when your knee is garbage and you're obviously tired and maybe you have a bit of a sore throat. But don't you dare tell me you know better than me about what works for my family*.

*Unless you are my own mother or one of my very best friends.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Late blooming Real

Again with the I read somewhere (I obviously need to keep better track of what and where I read it), but I read somewhere recently that there is this whole plethora of people who are blooming late. I'm not talking about getting boobs or pubic hair, I'm talking about figuring out some passion or some talent that has perhaps lay dormant or even not been realized at all.

Of course I was all over this in my mind, it would be the answer to all my angst, the ha, the this-will-make-it-all-turn-out. The reason it will have never mattered that I got lost in the world of restaurants for so many years. The way I will say, yes, I was writing for a few years and then I had this third baby and we just love her, but of course it made it hard to have it all, nahnahnah. Because while I know that I was lost and struggling for all of my twenties and then decided to Take Charge and make all those stupid waitressing shifts Mean Something by really getting into it, really caring and really doing a good job at being a restaurant person, I know that always I was supposed to be writing and if I wasn't writing I was just sort of faking it that it didn't matter.

For sure I can do other shit. I can serve food, perhaps not anymore, but the detour in the fries with that world was not wasted, in that I now love cooking and eating. Two important things in my world. And I am pretty good at organizing things, like big things. Fundraisers and meals for a few hundred, awards shows and luncheons. Conferences. Interesting note to self: why am I good at organizing a three course sit down dinner for 200 and flying in speakers, but I can't seem to stay on top of the laundry? Ah, yes, good point. Because it's boring as HELL, that's why.

But what I'm good at is writing, and what I love, is writing, and when I'm my best version of myself, the one I only let out on Tuesdays and alternating Thursdays (kidding) is when I'm writing.

Now I don't just mean this, this blogging stuff. This is cool, this is fine, but it makes me terribly nervous and I'm not quite sure yet what the point is. I mean, just scratching the surface here, dipping a toe in, but putting stuff out there in public is a nerve wracking and scary thing for me and I'm forcing myself to do it to hold myself accountable to Become that late bloomer, that one where by the time I'm 51 I can fill in the blank somewhere under occupation, writer. I know, it's crazy, isn't it? 51.

Anyways what I meant there by the I'm my best version of myself when I'm writing is that I'm writing pretty much all day long. Thought pops into my head? I write it down. Lovely sentence? Write it down. Question for later? Need bananas? Pay bills? I write it all down, in a hodge-podge mess in a cool notebook (ahem, I wrote about the notebook, even) and once it clears the gate in my mind I can relax. I can let it go, if I need to (a worry or a round-and-round thought, I get those and they make me stew too much to keep them) or keep them, if I need to (the endless List of shit I have to get done, that if it isn't written down circles around me like vultures wanting to peck my eyes out...that may seem extreme but that's really how I feel. So even though I haven't I still feel as though I lost weight, because the thoughts and worries and words that float, untethered, are now grounded and made real (kind of Velveteen Rabbit style) and I am, if not weightless, lighter.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


I mean, who isn't writing about the first day of school? There isn't anything else on my mind. Not true. I have a list a mile long of shit that I didn't get done this summer, so technically I've got a lot on my mind, but the pressing point is this.


So the way my brain works, (which I always assumed was how everyone's worked; I've since discovered this is not true)  is I like to apply lots of angles to whatever I'm thinking about. I should try to explain. I like to connect things. Bring ideas together. See relationships.

On the weekend I read somewhere, I'm sorry I can't point you to where I read this, only tell you I read it somewhere in the vast pile of books on the go, magazines, and newspapers I dip into constantly. I read that some universities now have resilience training for their new students. Why? Because their parents have done everything for them and when they get to university on their own they are unable to cope with life without someone running interference for them.

All summer long we've been talking about how to deal with life's hurdles. We have a workbook, ages 6 to 12, and it explains what hurdles are, talks about how they might make you feel, and gives little assignments to help kids learn to cope with what life puts in front of them.

 My oldest daughter has a couple of really good friends and she has always had at least one in her class at school. It's kind of a thing, isn't it, that they always give you one really good friend? I mean, I thought it was a thing. So I was quite surprised when she ran up to me at lunch and bravely told me nope, no friends in her class. And I mean none.

My first feelings, other than heartsickness for her, was that I was super mad at the school for doing this, and that they would have to fix it. I mean, why should she be left out? And it's pretty much a guarantee. When there is a group of three in a class and you aren't part of it, you are going to feel left out.

Thank goodness I'm mellowing in my old age, or perhaps it's the fact that I just didn't have enough time right then and there. I didn't go marching into the office. Okay I'm totally lying. I DID go marching to the principal's office, but he was busy and so I had to leave to drive another daughter to a lunchtime piano lesson (cause what's better than driving around, stuffing your sandwich in your mouth in a minivan over an abbreviated lunch hour?) and the plan was to come back and talk to (at?) principal after lunch.

The hour in the minivan gave me just enough time to cool my jets and I realized: if I go and do this, I am not helping daughter develop resilience. Funny, I had to act against every super strong instinct which made me feel like roaring like a mama bear - how could you do this, put her in a class alone while all of her friends are together - it still boils my blood to think about it. But that's what I explained last night (and at supper and again this morning). You're going to have this really good friend. In life. At work. Wherever. And then they will quit or leave or not like you anymore. And if you don't know how to cope, well, I didn't do my job very well.

Because my job as a mother, in this house anyways, it to help you learn resilience. It isn't to fight your battles for you.