Wednesday, March 30, 2016
I drove my favourite car almost into the ground. A little '88 white Honda Civic. After that I had a Toyota something, perhaps the worst ever car, made just that much more terrible after one of the children threw up in it. Even professional cleaning didn't remove the lingering smell.
Now for the past 5 years I have driving a white Honda Odyssey. A minivan. And freak, I love that thing. So comfy, so smooth. I call it my limousine and I'm only partially joking. I guess that makes me the limo driver but no matter, I love it.
I love the comfortable heated seat. I leave the seat warmer on almost all year round, I find it very soothing to have a heated bum. I love the back up camera even though most of the time it's too dirty to provide useful help. I love the doors that open and close by themselves. I love the fact that I can car pool lots of kids to and from things. Life is so much easier with car pools.
I love my van for allowing me the ease with which I can ferry around swim bags and groceries and track spikes and snacks and endless bottles of water. It takes me to yoga and every day there is an endless pile of loonies for the parking meter. It's not so old that it needs too much upkeep and it's not so new that if someone gets it muddy or dings a door it really matters.
I keep the van pretty clean, for how many people under the age of 13 frequent it every day, and for the fact that we live in a true four season province. But I have to admit, I swooned a little when I found a little plug in essential oils contraption that allows me to open the door now to wafts of "Energy" or "Gratitude." I will admit, it can get a little overpowering, and one day when puffs of smoke were coming off the little pad I freaked out a little and thought I was going to blow myself up, but generally I'm appreciative of the somewhat hippy-dippy smell that permeates the van instead of wet boots.
Even though it's older and doesn't Bluetooth anything I love that I can plug in my phone and listen to music or, more frequently, listen to my new thing, Audible. I can sit in the parking lot at the school and hear Elizabeth Gilbert's soothing voice encourage me to be brave with my writing, and tell me that it doesn't matter one iota if no one cares, listens, or likes it. It doesn't matter, as long as I do it. As long as I search out the big magic that comes with living a creative life, it won't matter how and for what I do it. Only that I do it.
And maybe Elizabeth Gilbert makes me love my van the most. Because she reminds me: I can be exactly who I am, and still be creative. I don't have to change, or be someone else, for this all to be true. And for that, I love my van, for giving me a private quiet place to listen.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
I can get a little bit nervous, going places I am unfamiliar with. And when this happens I get a little weird; like, I want to just stay in my hotel and hunker down. Husband encouraged me: no, you're going to go all this way, you HAVE to go to a basketball game. Me: what? basketball? that will cost a fortune. And how would we get there? And what time would it start? And what if I'm too tired?
As I got completely and totally airsick on the plane ride there and ended up taking a handful of Gravel, by the time we did arrive in wet and rainy Toronto I was groggy and in no mood to go anywhere, let alone a sporting event. Not my thing.
But it is the daughter's thing, and I figured fine, since we're here. I'd be the first person to tell someone to just do it, so we got the map on the phone, borrowed umbrellas from the concierge, and walked on over to the stadium? arena? Not sure what it's called: the location of the basketball court. No matter. We got there.
All along I had intended to buy the cheapest seats possible. In fact, I was hoping to spend approximately 30 bucks a piece. As soon as I got to the window I completely abandoned this plan and somehow spent 300 dollars on tickets. This may have been a mistake as the seats came with wait service, which was really nice. The girl next to me was drinking red wine. In a glass. This was much more fun than going to a Rider game, where it's either freezing or too hot and the lines to get a pink lemonade with vodka are 20 minutes long. The game was fun. Intense. Fast. Perfect ambient temperature, fun distractions when they weren't actually playing basketball. Which happens to be pretty much the only sport I can tolerate.
On the way back to the hotel the drizzle had turned into steady rain. My old iPhone was going on about 10 percent battery and the screen wouldn't work because it was wet. We walked around and around, trying to find the hotel we knew was so close yet so far. We walked past the Ritz Carlton, I pointed it out, glamorous in the dark, chandeliers glowing. Women in floor length dresses were getting into limousines, men in tuxes smoking outside. I wondered; was it the Giller Prize? We asked a cabbie to take us to our hotel. He scoffed at us (yes, scoffed) and said, your hotel, it is around the corner.
The next morning we experienced true luxury. We ate our continental breakfast in a beautiful room, each with enough room to spread out our own Globe and Mail. No fighting over sections. Coffee was Americanos, made to order, served by a delightfully interested employee.
And it was the Giller. So close.
Monday, March 28, 2016
So I wait, for my little line of 4 or 5 people in front of me, placing their items in the grey bins and figuring out how to line them up so they will fit through the x-ray machine, and taking off their belts and shoes, and I watch and wait and I notice that the family is still going through, it's taking a while, and I think, ha, good thing I didn't go to their line and it's my turn and I realize I didn't drop my bag off at check in, as a matter of fact I didn't check in at all, and my bag is literally the largest suitcase we have in our house because the medium one that I really liked broke and I haven't replaced it and I didn't want to bring the small one because it doesn't fit my hair dryer AND my boots. And holy cripes I have to turn around and do the walk of shame all the way BACKWARDS through the now excruciatingly long line and I have to snake through people who are perhaps not at their best, and not wanting to squeeze over so I can drag my mammoth bag past them.
And I run to the WestJet counter, well, that's a lie, I walked as fast as I could with this stupid knee, and I went to the first little machine where you punch everything in and it was out of service and the next one wouldn't work so I finally got someone to help me and we got the bag dropped and I had to go back and start over.
Luckily now I had missed the insane rush of people, those who were on time for their flights as opposed to me, who was now late-ish, so the line had maybe 15 people in it, nothing really, whew, and the man in front of me, standing there patiently, was the dad from the family who had budded. And he's like, what are you doing here? And I'm also like, what are you doing here? And he says, well, apparently my son packed a five inch knife in his carry on, and we obviously weren't aware of this. And I explain the walk of shame, and the dragging of the bag back to where it should have gone originally. And we end up having a very nice conversation about vacations and families and I forgive him for his wife's poor judgement earlier (I keep this part to myself).
I made my flight but instead of a big juicy burger, which I was dying for, I settled for a particularly terrible ham sandwich and a tin of Pringles. I ate the Pringles on the plane, next to a one year old baby girl seated on her mother's lap who also, oddly enough, had her own can of Pringles. Same flavour, even. I haven't bought Pringles in probably 5 years so that was kind of funny. I don't think her mother thought it was funny, though, that I ate mine as then the baby immediately understood that somehow this can could OPEN and there was FOOD inside. I felt sort of bad until the baby kept jamming her small baby foot into my side and I wondered inside my head, why, if the mom wanted to hold the baby for the whole flight, she didn't sit by the window and the dad sit in the middle, so the baby was only bothering the two of them and not the person who was getting away from her own small people. But I only wondered this a little bit, barely worth mentioning, because this is such a first world problem. And thank god most of my problems are first world problems.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
(Even though, truth be told, hate and anger toward them and all they do, are easily accessible. Within reach. Without stretching.)
Consider kindness, instead. Consider the $4 flowers at the till. Consider them, for someone else. Consider the smile, it's free. Consider the pay it forward movement or random acts of kindness. Consider the little things that add up and add up and add up, like a paintbrush stroking the world with beautiful colours, so does kindness create beauty. Same somehow.
Consider giving, time or money or effort or even, consider making time, to spend with someone who needs it. Someone you know or don't know.
Consider saying hi to the homeless, even if you don't give money. How is your day? Happy Easter. Consider that looking in their eyes is kindness. Consider a warm pair of socks, extra in your cart, tossed in your car, handed out with that smile.
We are few on our own, but consider the kindness that we can use to infiltrate. To create well organized or loosely organized cells of communication, working behind the scenes, consider the waves of impact as kindness floods airports and schools and streets.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
The writing is funny in the way it has only ever been funny when it is working and by that I mean something that is almost impossible to describe but perhaps it will become easier and easier to do. I hope, anyway. So the writing is funny in the sense that I think that the ideas float, they are available, and they are looking for a place to root and they come to me as they likely come to so many others and truly it is only my dedication (or lack thereof) that means I get to coax them and gently coddle them and water them and grow them and perhaps they will root and perhaps I will tend and then oh my gosh they are something.
And I can feel, if that's the case, the feeling that they have potential, perhaps the way that a parent feels with that new baby or a scientist feels with that supposition or a teacher feels with that certain student. The feeling of potential or maybe or perhaps.
I was trying to describe that feeling tonight to someone. This is terrible but perhaps it is easier, I had had a couple glasses of wine, perhaps it is easier with lubrication, with wine or with weed*, with too little sleep, with too much food, with a feeling of confidence or a feeling of precariousness, like that of standing on a ledge or in the wind, perhaps anyway it is easier to speak of those things that come and come and come again, those words and feelings and the stories. Those ones that live on the cusp, the edge, dangerously. How to explain, how they come and how I wield some control, but truthfully not much. Not much at all. The story is there and it is offered to me and I do my best but I don't own it nor do I control it. All I can offer is my abilities, by way, my words.
*weed is not my way but perhaps the way of another
Monday, March 21, 2016
I remember when I first started running, which I did because I'd packed on a good twenty pounds. A combination of hurting my knee, quite badly, and living on my own with access to things like delivery!! drive through!! pink wine!! made me rather fat. Clearly not because of the shape I was in, I was offered a job at a gym. I know. I must've been the motivator. So I'm working at the gym and I weigh myself*, in front of a super fit guy who worked with me, and I'm like, that can't be right. Using my memory, I can now look back and see the look of confusion on his face. He was kind though, as I continued to assert that the scale was broken he gently but also very firmly disagreed. It's crazy, though, I honest-to-god thought that the scale was not working. I for realsies had no idea, no CLUE, that I was overweight. Sigh. So it's true, I've proved my own rule. People do say the darnedest things.
I was training for a marathon, this was after I realized that no, the scale wasn't broken, also it wasn't a sexist scheme to make me feel fat that had all the clothing manufacturers making the sizing too small; so I'm training and running and one day a man came into the restaurant where I worked and he said, I saw you running across the Albert Street bridge today and I smiled, it's nice to have the hard things you do acknowledged, and he said, I could walk faster than you were running.
The darnedest things, hey?
And the other day I was discussing my project, the book that I'm writing (I'm trying to not feel pretentious as I write that and I wonder why, why I worry that someone will think I think I'm better than I actually am, and obviously I need to do some thinking about that but not today), and so I was discussing a plot point that I feel as though I need to nail down, and so we were kind of talking about this point and how the rules work and so on and the person said, incredulously, and you think there is anyone who will actually want to read this book?
Stopped me a little in my tracks, it did. It's so funny, I don't talk much about the plot of my book or the characters or the process or the vocab or pretty much anything because at this point I'm actually not interested in having anything come near me that might deflate this idea. And I'd gotten a tiny bit carried away, and mistakenly thought that the person I was talking to was supportive and interested. Whoops, duh.
Not the end of the world, not even a moment's pause because right now I am confident and the project is working and to be honest, I don't really give a flying fuck if this person reads it or doesn't read it. But it made me think, it did, about what exactly is the purpose of the little flick that things like this provide, never so bad that it's a friendship killer or the kind of thing you can point out without looking super insecure. But things that are for sure unnecessary and sometimes plain old mean.
I guess it's back to the fundamental lesson I try every single day to impart to the three girls in this house. Be kind, be kind, be kind. And this isn't something that I'm off the hook on, for certain I dip my toe in the black pool occasionally, I am aware. Hoping that with awareness brings change, and only more kindness.
*who weights themselves in front of anyone, let alone a super fit near stranger??? Looking back I believe I was rather clueless.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
It's kind of similar, that aha moment, that getting it, that I'm talking about today but it was less of an aha than a slow burn of understanding. A gradual and unwanted initiation. A club that, unlike having kids, I wouldn't want new members in and I hope most people don't ever join.
I know the members of this club because as I moved, slowly and painfully and tentatively, through the world over the last months, the members would be the ones who would look and see me. It's weird, I suppose I've done this either out of a desire to not stare or an awkwardness in the face of someone else's pain or maybe even the callousness of just plain old not seeing, but I think for my whole entire life up until this point I kind of blanked on injuries. I'm not a mean person, I cry for people I know and I don't know all the time but I think the things that made me cry were emotional injuries to people; those I could get, I could understand the pain of a broken heart of the sadness of losing a friend or whatever - I have a highly active imagination and ability to sink deep into the idea of someone's sadness. What I didn't have, and now I know and can never not know, is that physical pain and injury is just as awful.
And what takes my breath away sometimes, what brings me back to earth and drops me, rock solid and heavy, is that my pain, my suffering, my injury, wasn't even that bad. In the grand scheme of things pain that wakes you up every night, for hours at a time, burning and stabbing and just plain being mean, but goes away after twelve or sixteen weeks or whatever it's been, that isn't much. Comparatively, I mean. The people who experience horrific injuries - the car accidents and the horrific wounds and the painful diseases that strip away their sense of self, that wasn't me. At all. But still the impact was substantial and lasting and has forever turned me into another version of before and after. Same as I think of myself before and after kids, I am now before and after accident.
There were the people who slowed down, waited, opened a door and patiently stood while I limped my way through, staying even as I tried to shoo them away and then they would tell me no, they had a surgery and it was awful and they understood. The flight attendant from WestJet who told me in detail about his experience with pain. The man in the gym parking lot who lectured me on not being a hero because I left my crutch in my van, and then made me give him my keys once he'd got me safely over the ice and into the gym, and went and got my crutch out of the van so I would have it later. He hadn't been the one to experience the pain, he said, but his wife had and so he had that understanding. Quite often it was the family member of a person who would offer aassistance, explaining that their husband/wife/daughter/mother had gone through this last year/six months ago/sometime and they understood because they had lived it alongside. They had seen the rough moments, the sadness, the struggle.
So while I wouldn't sign up for this club, if the choice came today in the mail, with a little box to tick here for yes, here for no, I have to admit I wouldn't sign up. I would tick NONONO and pop it immediately back in the mail. While pain may have taught me things, I wouldn't choose it. But I guess in a nutshell, that's life, right? We don't get to choose, most of it, anyways. The rock bottom/top of mountain moments often have a heck of a lot more to do with chance than choice. But here I am, so I surrender with gratitude and I guess I can find the jewel in even this.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
We happened to be at the airport Friday night. We walked by a group of people, congregated under a television, watching the screen intently. I noticed that seated across from the TV, also watching intently, was a Canadian soldier. Dressed in his fatigues. Watching.
Before I looked at the screen I had that awful, sick feeling that since 9/11 I've had too often. The pit in the bottom of my stomach convulses. The sudden, intense worry.
I could see the ticker rolling across the bottom, I could see shadowy video of police. The screen changed to a shot of a soccer stadium, packed with people and I pushed Stella ahead, don't look, I said fiercely. And even though I had only caught a glimpse I knew something awful had happened, something terrible, again, and tears welled up in my eyes and my face was hot. I choked it back down, no point in crying in an airport, making Stella afraid. More afraid, I guess. She's already afraid. They practice lockdowns in her school. She handed the kindergartens out the bus window. She reads the news. My four year old was playing with a friend and I heard them recently, deciding what to play. Let's play lockdown, one said to the other. Sure, they agreed. Four year old explained later, lockdown means if you are in the bathroom there is a stranger danger in the school and you do not wash your hands. That was shocking to her, the not washing hands. She previously couldn't imagine a world where you wouldn't wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
We were at the airport, where an Air France flight departed later, after spending a few days in Toronto. And before this even happened, I had wondered. Am I crazy, taking my daughter to a big city on Remembrance Day? Is that like, asking for something? We went to a basketball game, and they had a ceremony honouring some World War II soldiers and I thought, here, this is where they would attack, here. Now. But we stayed, and enjoyed, and lived, and I was shivering with a level of gratitude for that. And a sense of unknown that I'm not sure has permeated our world, our safe, war free world, for many many years, was present. And to be honest, I'm not sure that low level vibration of fear has exactly left.*
*I can state now, 4 months later, that it has not.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
I have one who when she makes a plan she makes a plan. Like, there is no stopping this child. Lately her plans consist of cooking and baking, which is not something I'm thrilled to participate in, in my cramped and crappy kitchen. However, there is seriously no stopping her so today after she perused her cookbook for awhile she chose the always delicious caramel apple slices. We trucked off to the grocery store, handy as there was nothing in the house for supper as apparently I've gone off grocery shopping too, and picked up the bag of caramel candies, 5 granny smiths, and some pecans.
Peeling the caramels kept two of them busy for all of five minutes (I thought I would get more out of the tiny individually wrapped candies but when those girls set their minds to it they are fast, man) so there we were, nuts in the oven, toasting, while child stirred melting caramels. I was washing dishes and supervising stirring.
I'm like, I can smell something burning. You really have to stir. Her, mad. I am, I am stirring. Me, taking pot and removing from heat, stirring stupid sticky candies; Like this, really hard. Her, I AM, I SAID. This scene repeated itself a few times till I shrieked in fury. The oven! The oven! The nuts are on fire. And they were on fire, totally, a completely raging fire in my oven.
Now I've got all three of them in meltdown mode. Oldest grabs phone, hysterically. I'm calling the fire department, she says, dialling madly. Oh no you aren't, I yell, trying to decide if I could get away with leaving the fire to burn itself out. Instead, my thoughts slide to the fire extinguisher I have ready in my kitchen for times like this. I should've just thrown some water at it, now that I think of it, but no I have to be a hero and I USE THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER. Fire doused, immediately. In thick white chemical that burns our eyes, ears, nose and throats worse than the carcinogenic nuts wafting through the house.
I send them out to ride bikes. I realize they are all a little hysterical and perhaps riding bikes isn't the safest choice. I make them put out Sammy, our friendly little neighbourhood safety guy, hoping that he will force any madly racing drivers to slow down and not hit my wobbly girls.
I spend next hour vacuuming up chemical and burnt nuts. Then I wipe everything down ten times with wet paper towels. And I think, I'm not meant to do this. Domesticity is not my thing. I can play at it, that's for sure. I can cook and clean and care for people, but it isn't my natural resting place.
Case in point. A year and a half ago I tried to get the jump on my day, being one of those days you have to take your luxury mini van in to have it cared for. I put food in the crock pot and also baked banana bread. It was February, which is heavy winter here, and I called a taxi at 4:05 pm to take me and at that point toddler to pick up van. Watch for a car, I commanded her, while I decided AGAIN to get the jump on it and put the banana bread pans in water to soak while we got van. We had an hour to get to Honda, get van and get back as older children were at piano lesson from which they would walk home at 5:00 pm and if I wasn't there they would likely just stand there on the front step and freeze to death so I had to HURRY.
Toddler: car! I panic a little, how long has he been there? omigod, what if he leaves I'll never get another cab...we race out the door...
...and come home through the garage where I find the floor mat floating. Hmmm????? I think. Did the travelling washer pull away from the wall and spill water? Hmmmm????? And I sloush through water into the kitchen where the TAP IS STILL RUNNING and it is pouring not into the empty sink next to the full and overflowing sink, no it is pouring down over the front of the sink onto the floor. There is a veritable lake on the floor but I'm like, this is okay, I can fix this, it's just nice clean water, no big deal. Would help if I had a mop, I think to myself, instead of a stupid swiffer that won't pick up anything, but that's okay I will just use towels to soak it up and what is that weird beeping noise coming from the basement I wonder? And so toddler and I go downstairs and toddler says, the ceiling is melting, and indeed, it is melting, and it is at this point that I realize that somehow basement has been flooded from upstairs* and has come through walls and ceiling.
I grab phone and phone, who else, but my dad. Dad, dad, I left the tap on for like and hour and now there's water everywhere in the basement. The ceiling is melting. Dad thinks for all of ten seconds. Isn't your sink directly over your electrical panel in your basement? Um, yes. Is that wet? Uh, yes, it is. Water dripping on top of it. I'm not sure that's safe, exactly, he says. Maybe you need to call an electrician.
And that was not the first, no not the first, but perhaps the best indicator that I'm better off not being responsible for the lives of three little people. I mean, I'm the one who makes sure they eat and sleep and wash their fricking hands (I do my best on that one but it might be the biggest challenge yet). But the care and keeping of the home stuff, the mandatory maintenance like dishes and wiping and laundry and floors and the nice-if-it-gets-done stuff like changing the sheets and transferring winter/summer clothes and not burning it down/flooding it. That stuff is apparently beyond me.
That's okay though, I think. It takes all kinds.
*water went through heat vents and so marvellously travelled all over basement, emitting itself absolutely everywhere
Anyways, I have obviously no trouble paying people for their work, even to the tune of that much, although I have to admit I felt much better about the purchase when I realized it was a university textbook. I recall paying much more than that for one textbook, and no, I wasn't in any sort of course that would get me a high paying job, no med school texts for me, mine were feminism tracts and herstorys and I believe the most expensive was the bio text I needed for the Biology 200, reserved for Arts students. It was still quite hard, that class.
So this book that I bought and am super excited about is still on pre-order, so it's going to kill me with anticipation for months now. Critical Thinking, Science, and Pseudoscience: Why we can't trust our brains, by Caleb Lack, Phd. The book sounds like exactly what I need. I'm having trouble with the way everyone is an expert in everything, and how totally crackpot ideas get traction from people who don't know any better and then explode into the mainstream. And lots of these crackpot ideas are embraced by people I love + care about, and I never know how to refute them kindly and I'm hopeful that this book will give me some solid ground and a firm base from which to build my arguments.
And here is where it all becomes about me. I mean, it's my blog, so it's fitting, that every single blog post is a litany of what is going through my head right now, this isn't a style blog or a political blog or whatever else people write about these days. This is what I'm thinking, feeling, and generally working through. I'm more a work in progress, in every sense of the meaning of that, be it emotionally, parentally, physically, spiritually, friendshipily, etc. etc. etc.
What I mean is, I want for me to be able to stand up and name what is wrong when someone tells me their weirdo belief system surrounding whatever it is: that the government is hiding aliens, that the aliens are the government, that vaccines are from aliens, that vaccines are making us aliens. I want to be able to say, no, I have studied, I have learned, I can refute this and this is how.
And I already know that the people who have dived in deep, the people who believe this shit, they won't listen, won't acknowledge, won't budge, but then again maybe, just maybe, a sliver of light will show, and they will listen, and things can change away from this culture of fear and mistrust towards something more inclusive. Where we don't think the government and the man and the science is not on our side. Where we all feel the weight of personal responsibility, where we think that we must become experts in everything because the experts aren't really experts and they don't have our best interests at heart anyways.
Wouldn't that be kind of peaceful?