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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

10 Signs That I Need to Get A Job

September 16, 2013 3 comments

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This is not to say I don’t work. I work alright. I work day and night, weekends and holidays, with no pay cheque in sight. A bit like slave labour, but legal. It’s called Raising Children. Not to be left behind in these texting times, we even have acronyms, SAHM, SAHF, SAHP, or CEO when the mood strikes.

Lots of people have opinions about this job; but I’m not going there. Let’s just say I’m hanging them up – whatever they may be. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. Six years to be precise. But you know how the universe sometimes speaks to you? Well, now it’s screaming. Louder than the two-year old next door, which I didn’t think possible. It’s yelling at me by way of signs.

Here are one or ten signs that I need to get a job, depending on your attention span.

1. Garbage day has become freakishly important in my calendar, now ranking somewhere between Christmas and Labour Day. I know, it’s not a holiday, but it’s even better because it involves purging. And two men show up right at my door to help me do this – when else does this happen? Never, that’s when. (Note: those garbage bins are filled with stuff I’m sick of picking up. Bye bye.)

2. I’ve installed a water cooler in our house, and I find myself hanging around it, asking what my weekend plans are.

3. There is a glare on our television during the daytime that drives me insane when I’m trying to watch Orange is the New Black. While folding laundry, naturally.

4. I’m not done my bitching and complaining, not even close, but I’ve run out of people who will listen. Time for new material.

5. I used to have six hours of peace and quiet. Now I field about twenty texts from my children between 9 and 3. Mostly about their social calendars, which only serves to rub salt in my wounds that I have none by comparison. I was fun once.

6. Homicidal thoughts can’t be healthy. Purely mariticidal, I hasten to add.

7. Delivering their forgotten lunches and homework to school ignites me with rage that they have no respect for the work I do and the sacrifices I’ve made.

8. Complaints about my cooking fill me with rage that they have no respect for the work I do and the sacrifices I’ve made.

9. I’m developing anger issues.

10. The fact that I’m at number ten and haven’t even mentioned shoes yet, speaks volumes. Hello, mama needs a new pair of shoes? And then when I do indulge, that conversation. You know, the one where he says “Where are you going to where those? It’s not like you work.” Then I lose it. See number 6. Now you know the definition of mariticide.

I can’t find fulfillment at the bottom of a wine bottle. Trust me, I’ve tried. Time for plan A.

In your opinion, what is the absolute worst thing about being a stay at home parent? We’re venting here, so keep it negative.

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Summer – In a Word

September 3, 2013 1 comment

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It’s the generalization I have trouble with. And it’s always the summer. When was the last time you casually asked someone, how was your winter?

When people ask me tomorrow, on the first day of school, “How was your summer?”, as is friendly and customary, I’m momentarily confounded.

First of all, I have trouble remembering last week, never mind a two month period. Three months, if you want to get technical, but that hearkens us back to June and June is always a white-out . A cupcake laden, certificate wielding (best reader/runner/joker/slacker) month of gift bags of wine for teaching/driving my child/managing the team/feeding my family. Surely, June can’t count as summer.

Really what they mean is how was your July and August, the time since I last saw them. August was really only 4 days ago, if I need to break it down. I can get there, that’s not so far. July is a stretch, but August is doable. An image is coming – a soccer ball, a concert, sushi takeout. Okay, so that was the Labour Day weekend, not exactly August, but close enough.

It will do in a pinch.

My short-term memory aside, I couldn’t possibly summarize my summer in the three words it will take to past my acquaintance, so I leave it at “Great!”. Although not strictly true, there were moments of great, alongside those moments of frustration and wanting to clone myself.

Summer is never as idyllic as I hope. Or as simple as the name suggests. But it’s inevitable end is tempered by those three magical words.

Back. To. School.

Father’s Day Reflection

June 13, 2013 16 comments

Dad at work

It’s been twenty years since I’ve seen my Dad, so Father’s Day can be difficult. All those ads for barbecues and razors fill me with sadness because I’m not part of the marketing frenzy this holiday presents. Instead, Father’s Day is simply a time to reflect, a time to remember my Dad and who he was and what he meant to me.

It was cancer, an explanation used too often, but there it is. He died the day before Father’s Day, when the lilacs were in full bloom and the the dichotomy of that has never left me, lilacs being my favorite flower. He’d had cancer and a heart attack before, so it was somewhat of a shock to my naive twenty-two year old self that this happened, that he could actually die.

He was a character, my father.

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At times he drove me crazy, as parents are likely to do. There were moments when I wished he were different from who he was. Perspective is a funny thing, because looking back, it’s these same differences that made him wonderful.

Ah, there’s the rub, that’s what he would say.

He wasn’t perfect, but as a parent myself, I have a better appreciation for him now, knowing what the constant pressure of raising a family feels like.

And I only have three children. He had nine. It puts his fatherhood into its own category, right alongside the crazy category, but I’m thankful my parents persisted, being the ninth. Sacrifice was not fleeting, it was a way of life when you have nine children. I could not have done it.

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But he was indefatigable. He thrived in the chaos of our family, he was our wise and fearless leader, larger than life and full of stories. When he laughed, he threw his head back and it could be heard for miles around. The man loved to laugh.

Looking back, he seemed to be involved with anything that came his way – the church, the cancer society, the Kinsmen, whatever that is. On top of supporting us, he made time for positions on boards and volunteered heartily – yet frequently when I was walking home in the pouring rain, his car would appear and the door would fling open. He drove around until he found me.

He appeared in unlikely places at unlikelier times, and when no one else was thinking of me, he thought of me.

I once read that when you lose someone you love, it’s like a crater landing in the middle of your life that is never again filled; you simply learn how to navigate around it. And so it is. I miss him, but I’ve learned to live life without him, as you do. The world keeps turning. Last week I was in a used book store in Washington and I took a picture of a set of books he would have appreciated, maybe I would have given them to him for Father’s Day. In that moment, I felt the hole of his absence. Grief does that, creeps up on you, and you feel the loss and the shock, all over again.

He’s gone but not forgotten. I have his blue eyes and skinny ankles. His impatience and stubbornness, his passion for words, his love of sports. I see myself reflected in him, both his good traits and his bad.

He wasn’t perfect, but he was mine.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads, and especially to the fathers who are still with us in spirit, wherever we go.

Dad and I

A Teacher Who Made a Difference

May 21, 2013 2 comments
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Miss Ritcey, circa 1981, Alderney Elementary School

Her name was Miss Ritcey. She wore tweed skirt suits, sensible shoes, and a hint of a smile.

A few of us were pulled from our classrooms once a week and taken to the library to spend the morning with her. We sat in table groups, hardly believing our luck.

On our first day, she called us into a circle, and said quietly, “A boy wants to go home, but there is a man with a mask in his way. Who is the man in the mask?” We were allowed to ask her questions with yes or no answers. We fell over ourselves coming up with possibilities, before realizing the key to the answer was asking the right question. We finally got to the idea of sport, and then baseball, and the answer: the man was the catcher for the other team – the boy was afraid of being tagged out. It was drastically different from the Halloween or horror ideas that initially popped into our collective heads.

From then on, we were hooked. Unaccustomed to learning being fun or engaging, her class was like a mirage to a delirious desert traveler. Days spent in our regular classroom dragged by, while we waited for that quiet knock which signaled her presence in the building.

She lead us in discussions ranging from books to science. We did the talking. She mostly listened. Everything fascinated her.

When she did speak, she was quiet and deliberate and began all of her sentences with, “Now, people.” As though we were adults. As though we were important. As though she was giving the Throne Speech instead of addressing a motley group of kids aged ten to twelve.

For those few hours each week in the library, it was cool to be a geek. No idea was ridiculous. No question was stupid. No contribution went unnoticed.

We became our very best selves. Freed from chalkboard pointers, we dared to dream. We learned what it meant to think outside the box. We were encouraged to be different. We were encouraged to be daring. Miss Ritcey often smiled, but never laughed. We emulated her, and listened carefully to our classmates, used our powers of critical thinking to debate ideas rather than dismiss them out of hand.

She didn’t need to raise her voice. Robbie and Jennifer – prone to misbehaving – sat quietly for a change. We were all in awe of our wise teacher, mesmerized by her serene aura. Lulled by the calm oasis she created, despite it being in the basement of the school, where three rows of books amounted to the library. Her presence induced a pavlovian response to learning, cobwebs cleared from our brains and we readied for takeoff.

From grades four to eight, Miss Ritcey parachuted into our school, a Mary Poppins amongst mortal teachers. After that I never saw her again. I never kept in touch. She was constantly on the move, rotating schools around the city, and it was long before email existed. Dropping by to see her wasn’t an option. I haven’t seen or heard of her for thirty years, but I will never forget. Her voice was one of reason, her body was one of composure, her pores reeked wisdom and the palest scent of Chloe, and especially the unwavering respect she showed each and every one of us.

Miss Sally Ritcey, wherever you are, you encouraged us to believe in ourselves, instilled in us a hunger for knowledge, and a desire to be different. Thank you.

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” – Socrates

Who was the teacher that made a difference in your life?

The Maze of Uncertainty Under My Feet

April 18, 2013 2 comments
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While it may look like Greek, should Greek be a labyrinth of pipes instead of a language, this is actually our water heater. Ta da!

I’ve always meant to get acquainted with the inner workings of our house. Being the biggest investment I’ll ever make, I thought I would find the time to learn what the hell all those pipes and wires are all about.

My intentions were pure.

But our first house was a fifty-year old split level, and the mechanical room was located in what can only be described as a decrepit dungeon. The furnace and some other contraptions were perched on a mass of exposed rock. Many a creature made their homes amongst the dirt floor and granite, cobwebs made up the vast selection of art in the corners.

My enthusiasm for the details waned.

When I turned up the thermostat, the furnace kicked in. The water flowed plentifully from the taps. The mice staked their territory, and upstairs, I staked mine. All was good, and perhaps ignorance was bliss.

Then we decided to build a house, and I assumed this would be my chance. The mystery of what pipe held what would naturally unveil itself to me as I laboured alongside the many trades that came and went. But the only thing that unveiled itself to me was my impatience with the project, and how interminably slow it was. The plumbers and electricians came and went with their leather holsters and tape measures, and honestly, I was just happy to see the back side of them leaving.

In my haste to have it finished, I missed it being built.

So in the following years, when things occasionally went wrong, and I needed to direct a handyman/plumber/man with toolbox to the mechanical room, I would wave them in the general vicinity, because truth be told I couldn’t tell our air exchanger from our wifi portal. A couple of the wisecrackers, who understood my vagueness for ignorance, commented, didn’t you build this house? And I did what I always do when caught out; I pretended not to hear.

So when our hot water started disappearing three days ago, I willfully ignored it. But freezing cold showers can only be ignored for so long.

A nice boy from the local heating and plumbing shop (is it just me or do they seem younger and younger?) donned his booties and asked me to show him the water heater.

I froze. I should really have located the water heater before he came. Then I babbled about how we had just moved in, all the while moving towards the mechanical room where, surely, the water heater must be. Or was that the central vacuum?

As soon as I switched on the light he confidently strode towards a box in the corner, and I exhaled. There is nothing I loathe more than feeling like the dumb housewife that I am. I seized on this opportunity for learning; no tradesman gets to quietly go about his work undeterred in my house at $100 an hour.

So, how does this thing work, anyway, I asked.

To his credit, he actually tried to tell me. But as soon as he started talking, my mind left the mechanical room and entered the arena of what I should make for dinner. I instantly regretted my feeble attempt towards self-fulfillment. He rambled on and on. I stared past his full head of hair (not one of which was grey) at the maze of pipes, but then noticed he was quizzically looking past me. He stepped around me and flicked a switch that was beside my shoulder. A piece of masking tape above it read boiler.

There you go, problem solved. On his way out the door, I launched into my (now familiar) spiel, about how silly I am, I can’t believe I didn’t check that switch. Not that I knew that switch was there, mind you.

No problem, happens all the time, he lied. All this to say that ignorance, while blissful, can also be expensive.

Stay Gold, Ponyboy

April 12, 2013 5 comments

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As a parent, there is nothing better than introducing your children to things that you loved as a child, and watching the amazement on their face as they likewise are enamored by that same thing.

Or not, as may be the case. In fact, as always seems to be the case. That is to say, if I loved something as a child, it is almost a certainty that my children will abhor it.

Now, in both my and their defense, things like technology have come a long way in my thirty or so years (#liar!). With movies, for instance, special effects have evolved to the point where it is almost impossible for my kids to enjoy the same movies I loved. When I staged a screening of Pete’s Dragon for my children, my hopeful enthusiasm that they would cherish Eliot and Pete’s friendship as much as I did quickly went south when they started laughing in all the wrong places. Same thing with Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Shaggy D.A.

But they are vintage, I explained. It was a simpler time, you have to ignore the grainy picture, the poor acting, and the strange voice-overs.

They choose their movies now.

I moved on to books, and enjoyed a small window of success. I introduced my charges to The Paper Bag Princess and Where the Wild Things Are, with huge fanfare. When they asked me to reread these at night, my confidence in my tiny self was restored. Oh yeah, who’s your momma now?

As a fan of books, my kids are used to me shoveling them down their throats. I know, I know, I should back off, let them come to titles on their own terms, but I can’t help myself. YOU. MUST. LOVE. THIS. My enthusiasm gets the best of me. I can’t be tamed.

Yet with certain things I truly obsessed over loved, I tried to take a more delicate path, in order to ensure success. Since I know from past experience, when I return from the library with an armload of books for my kids, I’m met with three eye rolls, I have purposefully kept my lips sealed about the best book ever written for adolescents. The Outsiders, duh.

I speak for the generation of teenagers who listened to Kool and the Gang when I explain what The Outsiders meant to me. Despite never knowing how to properly pronounce The Socs, this book, about a family of orphaned boys and their peers, the Greasers, stole my heart and my imagination and made me pine for chocolate cake for breakfast. I went on to read every book S.E. Hinton ever wrote and wore out our Betamax machine replaying Francis Ford Coppola’s movie adaptation. Ponyboy, Sodapop, and Dally, ripped from Teen Beat magazine, adorned my walls. I committed half of the screenplay, including Robert Frost’s poem that Johnny reads, to memory, and in times of trouble I quietly utter, ‘stay gold, Ponyboy,’ which has been met with quizzical looks.

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This gem of a book I’ve been saving, wanting to offer it to my own flesh and blood at just the right moment. Several times I held it in my trembling hands in the library, only to kiss it and replace it on the shelf. It’s not time, said a voice in my head, similar to Darth Vader’s.

Then, goddammit, the school system stole my thunder, and my daughter brought it home for required reading – required reading being the kiss of death for any novel. (Note that the school telling you to read a novel and your own mother telling you to read a novel are radically different.) It took me years to come around to Charles Dickens after being force fed Great Expectations, so I can relate.

But surely, reading a book with your mother hanging over your shoulder, you know, just in case you had any questions about the context, or a need to expand and discuss on the themes presented, would only help someone enjoy it more. There is nothing worse than ambiguity, after all. I made myself available.

So, I asked her once or twenty times, what do you think? She looked at me with one of those looks. I backed off, but noted her progress, and when she neared the end I begged suggested we read it together. Savour the moment. Surely, this would be her ‘aha’ moment.

We snuggled in bed with the book between us. I bawled openly. She looked at me with a new strangeness. Through my tears I tried to bestow the magic that the book itself failed to reveal. S.E. Hinton couldn’t make her love it, but surely I could.

Yeah, that didn’t work.

It’s a hard lesson for me to learn, but I’m taking ownership. Thou shalt not expect my children to love what I loved as a child, ever again. I do, however, have my very own copies of Jane Eyre and The Catcher in the Rye, underlined in all the poignant places, should she ever want to take them for a spin. #HopeSpringsEternal

When Everything They Warn You About Is True

January 24, 2013 6 comments

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Just wait until they’re teenagers, people would tell me, as I struggled up a flight of stairs with a double stroller and a Baby Bjorn strapped to my chest, at least obscuring my leaky boobs if hurting my lower back. I was too exhausted to reply with a clever quip, but my deadpan stare surely said shut the fuck up.

Without saying they were right, because clearly they were spiteful, I acknowledge there is a certain truth to their words: parenting becomes more difficult, in different ways, when children are older.

The hard labour of diapers and car seats and stalking pediatricians is replaced with a constant doubt: am I doing the right thing?

I used to consult baby books, and whether it was Dr. Spock or What to Expect During the Toddler Years, there was a plethora of information, all with clear answers. But teething issues morph into texting issues, how much is too much? being the new hot topic.

Part of the problem is the world has changed. Technology has made the world I grew up in unrecognizable, and I grapple with new decisions, that have serious repercussions. When I wondered if my daughter should have a cell phone, I worried on both sides; whether she would spend too much time texting, and conversely that she would be left out of the conversation if she didn’t. Same thing with Facebook, Skype, Instagram, etc. I attended a lecture about the dangers of teenagers and social media, the message being use caution and hope for the best.

Okie-dokie, that was helpful. Two hours I won’t get back.

Then there are the age-old problems that I’m facing for the first time as a parent. Reports of drinking, rumours of drugs, whispers of sex; none of which are in our lives yet but are hovering on theĀ  horizon, far too soon. I want my daughter to have fun and enjoy her youth, and yet I quell a desire to lock her in her room every weekend.

With high school came makeup. One morning I noticed a hint of mascara, the next day it was a full-on smoky eye. The first day it was okay, fun! I even thought; the next day I made her take it off. The short shorts. The high heels. The cropped/backless/lace tops. No. No. No. Every morning she wakes, it seems she is a full inch taller and wanting to wear more makeup and less clothing.

As I deliberate the line between right and wrong, there is the attitude to deal with. What to do when your daughter talks to you like you are an imbecile? What is the appropriate comeback to shut up? Timeouts have had their time in the sun; I try to take away her computer, but then she can’t do her homework. Instead I take away her phone, but of course she simply uses her computer to talk to her friends. I try different measures, in the same way I continually try different brands of running shoes: I hope they will fix my injuries, but know they likely won’t.

These are just a few of the issues. Everyday there are more; more limits to set and more boundaries to create, which almost inevitably lead to lengthy discussions and the slamming of doors (sometimes hers, sometimes mine).

Attitude comes with the teenage territory, and the ground that we now tread on is full of potential landmines. I couldn’t see them back when I was pushing that double stroller, but to be fair I couldn’t see to the end of the day in that sleep-deprived state. As my friend explained to me the other day, all she wants to do is what’s best for her daughter. Something simple in theory, much harder in practice.

That could be what those seemingly spiteful people meant to say, all those years ago.