Growing Pains

Do you feel that?

That feeling of being out of place? The uneasiness. Like the winds of change are a comin’ and instead of the gentle breezes we’re used to, they’re coming in hurricane strength gusts; bringing with them so much unwelcome tension. It’s an unfamiliar lack of control that leaves me with a sour mood that is palpable in almost every aspect of my life.

I can’t take any more of it. I also can’t take any less of it. For myself, to ignore seems ignorant.

But what can I do? I can call, email, and write to my representatives. Ok… done. But this type of change takes time. Months and years. Most days I measure time in hours and even minutes. I can’t wait that long, and I’m not about to start letting bad things linger. So what can I really do?

I can control my own environment. I can block the wind. Stop the tension right in its tracks, at my doorstep. I can make my home a welcoming and relaxing place, for myself and others. I can make it a place where everyone feels like they belong.

While it’s something my husband and I have always aspired to do, I’m starting to figure out that now, for me, it means so many different things.

It means giving more than I receive.
It means getting rid of stuff.
It means less clutter.
It means taking care of the stuff I do have.
It means dreaming.
It means being mindful.
It means immersing myself in things I really enjoy.
It means moving on.
It means being present while I’m with my family any truly enjoying each other’s company so much that we forget about the rest of the world, if only for a second.
It means welcoming anybody, and I do mean anybody, who walks through my door with a smile.

It means taking care of each other.
That is, after all, what I’m here for, right?

It also means I’m going to going to jump on the hygge bandwagon. Google it if you don’t know what it is, but this explains it pretty well.

“Hygge is about being present enough to recognize and acknowledge an act, moment or feeling when the ordinary feels extraordinary.”

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Sharing the laughter and love.

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Being Santa

Bruegger’s is my favorite mommy/daughter date spot.

Our local chain is not very busy and we have a very relaxed routine when we’re there. We go in, order two breakfast sandwiches, and set up shop at a corner table for the 45 minutes it takes her to eat an entire sausage, egg, and cheese sammy.

Only once did I make the rookie mistake of ordering one sandwich for the two of us, foolishly thinking I could share with my 12 month old. She ate the whole thing and I was left with the tough outer shell of a bagel as my only sustenance. You live and you learn.

I took her there yesterday for an early lunch. We had a busy week ahead of us and I wanted to spoil her a little bit. We went about our usual routine. Ordered food, sat down, said “hi” to everyone there 6 times, and then got down to the serious business of eating.

A half hour later, when she finally looked up from her plate, she noticed that an older woman had (quite intentionally) cozied up to us at a nearby table. We all said hi to each other of course. I took the break in Kiera’s eating marathon as a sign that she might be ready for some conversation, so we talked about our day. About how Daddy was on a work trip. About how she and I would be going to Aunt Sarah’s for a Christmas party. Then we talked about Santa. As Kiera smiled and whispered “Tanta Tause” under her breath the woman next to us could no longer hold back.

“Does she know SANTA?!?”
“How old is she?”
“Oh my gosh she’s so young, that’s great!”
“She’s so big!”
“Does she like Santa?!”

The flood gates had opened. It was as if the “S” word was a secret password that gave us access to an exclusive Christmas club. A club in which an old woman, a young toddler, and a 32 year old believer were the only members. At least for the time being.

Kiera nibbled at the rest of her food while the three of us sat there and talked about Christmas. She told me about a Santa that visits a local chain every week night. I feigned interest; she tore a schedule and coupon out of her newspaper that she was reading and gave it to me.

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Just then an employee walked by and the woman abruptly stood up and said “excuse me, I have something to do”.

I watched her walk over to the employee and start doling out goodies from her bag. She had brought treats to give to the Bruegger’s employees. As they stood there discussing people’s work schedules, so that she could come back later in the week, I had a feeling of déjà vu; this has happened before.

But it hadn’t. Not to me anyway. It had happened to a friend, and she described it so well in her guest post that I was momentarily confused whether it was her memory or mine. That day, two years ago, she got to be a member of the Secret Santa club. Today, it was my turn.

I let myself think about how funny life is for a second but then quickly dialed back to present day and took this window of opportunity to start packing up our things to leave. I took Kiera out of her high chair and told her she could run around while I put the chair away. But she didn’t run around. She grabbed her coat and marched directly to the older woman, arms out asking for her coat to be “on”, before I had a chance to object. The woman happily obliged and as I hurried over to say thank you and pick up my billowy toddler, the woman whispered something to Kiera.

“I have a present for you today”.

She pulled out a baggie of M&M’s and said “I brought them for the workers who aren’t here, but you’re a good girl and I think you deserve them instead”.

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And then it dawned on me.

This woman IS Santa.

Here I am, just dipping my toes into my lifelong dream of having the official title of Santa Clause, as this woman was (presumably) long ago faced with the unfortunate milestone of retiring as Santa. But she chose not to hang up her Santa hat. She simply found somewhere else to wear it.

“Find somewhere to grow
Grow somewhere we’re needed”
(Hip lyrics for those following along)

 

I want to be just like her when I grow up!

Since this blog is slowly developing into a personal account of things I want to remember and things I want to be, I’m letting it evolve and adding this to my list of life goals.

I will remember this as the day that I realized I will always be Santa, because I always have been Santa. And that a small piece of me is even a little excited for the opportunity to someday be this example for someone else. When there is time, and money, and sleep. I will remember this as the day I got to be a part of the Secret Santa Club, when I was simultaneously united with a stranger and reunited with an old friend across the distance of two years. And I’ll remember this as the day I let my daughter take candy from a stranger, because she wasn’t a stranger at all.

She was Santa.

Happy Holidays everyone! If you’re out there being Santa, feel free to comment and share.

Breaking Down Walls

Yesterday started out as a great day.

Before leaving for work my husband and I made the short walk down to the school. Both equally excited about having the opportunity to vote for a woman as President of the United States. We discussed how cool it was that our daughter would never know a world in which a woman, or African American, had never been president.

As we walked home we were swarmed by dozens of preschoolers and kindergarteners just starting their day. Full of cheerful energy and absolute chaos. We laughed about how this would be our life in just a few short years, and I think we both found a little bit of solace in the fact that we were doing our very small part to help our daughter get a good start.

It was the perfect start to a perfect fall day. The sun was shining brightly. Firing up the reds, yellows, and oranges in the trees, the air was crisp. It was all very picturesque. Even thinking back on it now gives me the warm fuzzies.

But then the weather changed. It got dark, and cold.
And as the rain started to fall in Western NY, hearts started to sink across the country.

I threw in the towel at around midnight because I knew it was over. When my husband came to bed a half hour later I non-verbally requested an update, and he replied that there was still the slightest outside chance that things might fall her way. I told him the only reason he believed that is because he is a Bills fan, and he’s accustomed to hoping for the impossible. We both laughed.

But to be honest, it wasn’t really funny.

I woke up at 4:30 and had to grab my phone. I read that just a little over an hour had passed since Hillary had conceded. Hillary conceded. Hillary conceded.

For the second time in a few months, albeit for very different reasons, I felt as if the world (my world) was standing still.

Once again, I had to ask myself why. I’m not a political person, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand all the nuts and bolts of our political system. But, to put it in layman terms, at its core being the president is a job. A very complicated and demanding job, but a job nonetheless. ‘Job’ is a term I can understand. I have a job; I’ve offered other people jobs. Every time I’ve done so, my decision was based heavily on the person’s qualifications.

I voted for Hillary Clinton simply because she was more qualified for the position. And in a postion as complicated as say… the President of the United States… I do believe qualifications and experience are important. Tremendously important.

As it turns out though, qualifications don’t mean a lot to a lot of people. We are all entitled to make our own decisions about who we vote for, and why we’re voting for them. I get it, and I’m fine with it. But while I’m not a political person, by choice, I am feminist (oh no, I said the F word). At the root, I do see this as a feminist issue. I’m not fine with that.

The most qualified candidate did not get the job last night. Sometimes that happens. Them’s the breaks right? Sure.

But it happens more to females.

A woman needs to be stronger, smarter, faster, and work harder than a man in the same position to get the same result. It’s not fair, but it is a fact of life that women are just expected to deal with, while smiling. I’ve seen it happen on a small scale again and again in my own life, and I’ve now watched it play out on the world’s largest stage. Even the word feminist carries negative and “bitchy” connotations. I am a woman, with a brain and opinions, who wants equality. Therefore I am a bitch?

Clearly, it’s a sore subject and I’m tired of avoiding it. If Hillary were a man she would have won. I whole heartedly believe that.

But wait, we’re not done yet. Just to twist the knife, an incredibly misogynistic, chauvinistic, and degrading man got the job. She didn’t lose to just anyone. She lost to someone who represents the exact opposite of change and progress for every minority group in this country, including women. And this is just one of the many issues with our new president-elect, and probably not even the most pressing. It just happens to be the one I’m currently riled up about.

If there is a silver lining (because I have to try to find one right?) it is that this has re-lit a fire in me. A fire that had almost gone out, maybe because I’m lazy, or maybe because I thought progress was being made. Once upon a time I was that little girl who annoyingly argued about this stuff. Now I have a little girl. I have a responsibility. I have a woman to raise. I was hoping to give her a stronger foundation for the incredibly complicated social issues that she is going to face in her life. Issues that we were just barely starting to scratch the surface of.

Mostly when I tell her that she can be anything she wants to be, I wanted it to be the truth.

And while I still will tell her this little white(male) lie, I will also try to convey to her the reality of being a women. I will tell her that in order to get where she wants to go in life she might first have to break down some walls, or glass ceilings, or whatever symbolic term you’d like to use to refer to the real boundaries that do exist.

I will tell her that she might have to be a bitch.

P.S. Since I don’t like ending a day, or a blog post, on such a sour note. I’ll get off my soap box and leave you with this.

When my husband came to bed last night I was already scrolling through some old pictures, one of the ways I (like many others) make myself happy. After my joke about the Bills, we watched this video and it helped me end the day as nicely as it had started. I hope this makes your day better too.

https://www.amazon.com/photos/share/OVwPA5KIq8dxVgDsZbcwpZCKixZj5ybTDL0xo7Q4wFk

At 8 months old she was already breaking down walls, and I couldn’t be more proud.

Welcome Home

It takes a long time for me to process things. A long, long time. When big events or changes happen in my life it takes me weeks, sometimes months, to let them fully sink in. I hit play over and over again in my head. Concocting something that probably never existed in the first place.

For this reason I feel I have to write about this now, before it changes. Before misplaced nostalgia makes it into something it is not.

The Tragically Hip.

I’ve been hesitant to read what so many others have been writing about the Man Machine Poem tour. I would like to first decide what I think, what I feel. Before letting other’s words and thoughts infiltrate my own. But I haven’t been able to stop myself. I click on the next link before I realize what I’m doing. Desperately searching to find something that makes this make sense. But they are all just words. Words that will never, could never, accurately describe how any of us feel. And these of course are just words too, so bear with me while I make my own feeble attempt.

In order to keep myself in check, and because I have a tendency to ramble, I will try to keep this geared towards an account of the shows I was fortunate enough to be a part of. Yes, this will be absolutely littered with Hip lyrics. For that I make no apology. Who better to reference when describing how I feel?

After all, this is a little beyond anything I’m used to.

Ottawa: I spent half of the concert exactly as I hoped I would. Fully present, completely in the moment, consciously absorbing what I was experiencing. Clearly entranced. Musically I was impressed. Extenuating circumstances aside, I have not been that entertained by a hip show in a long time. There were songs that were performed for all of us, for the benefit of the entire crowd. Some songs I could have sworn were specifically directed at me. And during one song in particular, Ocean Next, it appeared as if Gord was singing only for himself.

The other half of the show I spent lost in my cloud. Of thoughts on life. Who I used to be, who I am now, who I want to be, and how do I get there? The heavy questions that plague some of us from time to time. Given the situation, I was forced to ask myself if I could face the inevitability of death with so much courage? Is having knowledge of your own demise a blessing or a curse? And of course 21,000 people walked out of that stadium having asked themselves their own personal versions of those same questions.

We get to feel small, but not out of place at all.

Kingston: I will not be able to describe what it was like to be in that city, on that night. But I will say that there was a buzz of excitement that I hadn’t noticed anywhere in Ottawa. Sure, the fans in Ottawa were excited. But also somehow cautious, maybe even nervous. This was not the case in Kingston. 25,000 people congregated in Market Square not because we had tickets to a concert. But because there was no other place we’d rather be. We were ready. Ready to show our support, appreciation, and love for The Tragically Hip. We were able to collectively say  Gord, we are here for you. This is what we will do for you. Rather than ask (as concert goers) what he would be doing for us. The city of Kingston made that possible, and I applaud them for a job well done.

Musically I could talk about how they succeeded in giving the entertaining performance that we were all hoping for. With the same songs, energy, quirky stories and dances that have been the highlight of the show for years. It was all there, they delivered on extremely high expectations. But what I really want to talk about are the overlooked moments. The missed lyrics, the quick glances of concern from the band. The far off look Gord had while he stared out at the crowd. The mental pictures you could clearly see him taking. His heart begging his brain to remember this.

And Grace, too. I need to talk about Grace, too.

A man, with terminal brain cancer, standing in front of us screaming an incomprehensible No for all he was worth. Throwing down the mic so he could wipe away his tears and use both arms to hug himself while he sobbed in front of a nation.

You could feel all of Canada stand still.

And then he snapped out of it, for us presumably. And he thanked us. He thanked us. For keeping him pushing. No my friend, thank you. Thank you, for pushing us. You are undeniably, ahead by a century.

To end the night, after the unprecedented third encore, the five of them stood arm in arm in front of the crowd for what we have all assumed will be the final time. Best friends with drinks in their hands and smiles on their faces. Emanating profound happiness.

That is what a life well lived looks like.

And when given the chance to preside over the stage Gord did not attempt a long last heartfelt goodbye, that even he might not have had the words for. He simply asked us to take care of each other.

That, I can do.

That’s what I’m here for.

Mid-life Bliss

I spend a lot of time in my car these days. The drive from daycare to my house only takes about 3 minutes, but my kid falls asleep on this short drive almost every single day. Imagine falling asleep that fast. Turning the car off usually wakes her up, and is a last resort in my book. So typically I drive around for 15 extra minutes, or I just sit in my car and wait.

The break in my day is not wholly unwelcome, and I end up listening to NPR a lot. It makes me feel like I’m doing something, when I’m not actually doing anything. I’ve started looking forward to the “All Things Considered” segment at 4:30. Audie Cornish’s articulate voice signifies the end of my work day. It is literally my 5:00 whistle, a half hour premature. I’ve caught a couple of stories from the “stuck in the middle: work, health and happiness at midlife” series and have to admit, I find them very interesting.

At 31 I have to hope that I am neither at, near, or past the mid-point of my life. But come on; I’m spending at least 15 minutes of everyday listening to talk radio. If that doesn’t scream mid-life, I’m not sure what does. And while the stories may not pertain to my age group, or to me in particular, they make some strong points.

I’ll consider it education for the inevitable. Advice to store away for the future. Like their suggestion to find a hobby. “An interest that is unrelated to work or family”. When is the last time I’ve done something I enjoy that wasn’t for/with work or family? I honestly don’t know, it has been a long time. But for now I’m going to let it slide. Because so far this stage of life is the best yet, and I’m loving every hobby-less second. Someday though, when the hazy memories of keeping an infant alive are behind me, I’ll revisit this and will need to be reminded to find something just for me.

I know you’re out there. Trying not to wake the sleeping monster in your own backseat, hypothetical or actual. And you probably need a hobby too. So here’s the link.

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for my blog. In spite of unofficially taking half the year off from writing, viewership is strong. Thanks to all my followers!

Some interesting facts to note:

Misery Loves Company is the most commented on post, proving that misery does indeed love company.

I have a loyal follower in Poland, who knew? Thank you Poland reader!

Two of the top 5 most popular posts were Guest Posts. WordPress has suggested I send thank you notes. Consider yourselves thanked!

Here’s to making 2016 my best year yet!

So Happy

A letter to my 18-year-old self:

You are somewhere you don’t want to be right now. What started out as a fun trip with friends to get off-campus and get some food has taken a downward spiral. There are two people arguing. Not in a mean or cold-hearted way, but in an incredibly annoying way. Like five-year olds bickering back and forth, comprehensible only to themselves and each other, but to no one else. There’s an urgency to the situation. One person is shouting directions, the other is adamantly shouting back that the direction giver, just perhaps, might not know everything there is to know about the world.

You’re in the backseat, frustrated that you’re unable to assist, car sick from the last second twists and turns. I know that at this moment you’d rather be almost anywhere else, and you definitely don’t want to be stuck in a car with these people again. You are unhappy and uncomfortable. But you do what you always do. Keep quiet and learn how to deal with situations like this, you find the best in them. You stick it out.

Thank you.

Because those two people arguing become your best friends. They will continue to bicker and argue like that for the rest of their lives, but someday, when you’ve learned to just sit back and watch the chaos unfold, these arguments make you laugh. You eventually find comfort in how predictable and familiar they become. Like nothing has, or ever will, change.

The direction shouter, the one being so demanding because he is about to poop his pants. Pay special attention to him, he will be your husband. He will always be shouting directions, to whoever happens to be listening, or to no one at all. He can’t help it.  And he will always be on the verge of pooping his pants. Again, he can’t help it.  You will reap many benefits from his gifted directional skills. He makes travelling very stress-free and the vacations you take with him will be amazing. But you will also go far out of your way to get to an approved bathroom location, and you will carry around lactaid pills for him. You choose him.

The maze of a housing development that you’re currently lost in. The one that can be blamed for your current state of extreme car sickness, and the subject of this ongoing argument. You will drive on these streets multiple times a day, as your baby girl babbles to herself in the backseat. That house you just passed on the left is where she will go to daycare. Where she will spend the majority of her time, grow up, and hopefully be loved enough to not notice you’re gone.

And the Wegmans that you just pulled into, to deal with your future husbands urgent bathroom needs, will be the Wegmans that you go to weekly. It will, for unknown reasons, become the Wegmans that time forgot and it will remain exactly as it is on this day. Someday, when you rush in to deal with your daughter’s urgent bathroom needs, you will go into this single unisex bathroom, look around, and laugh at the way life turns out.

And you will be so happy.