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.

One Last Time

You woke up at 6:00 this morning, about 30 minutes earlier than normal. You were angry, scared maybe, definitely not happy. Maybe your teeth were bothering you, maybe you just wanted mommy, maybe it was nothing at all. I went into your room, hugged you as you stood in your crib, picked you up, and wiped your tears. You nuzzled in to my shoulder and immediately fell back asleep. Not wanting to wake you, I laid in the nearby chair and that’s where I stayed for the next 30 minutes. Under the ever-increasing weight of you, with your head resting heavily on my collar bone, and your fidgety feet tickling my knees.

Like clockwork at 6:30 you pop up and quietly stare through the darkness until you recognize my silhouette. You smile and say “oh hi!” As if you thought I was actually your mattress, and you think this is some happy accident. You’ve done this for three mornings in a row. And I’ve secretly loved every second of it. Should I be making a routine of this? No. Could I get you to settle down in your crib for that last 30 minutes if I really tried? Probably. Would I start every day of the rest of my life like this if I could? In a heartbeat.

It feels like stolen time. Being needed by this baby, who is just on the cusp of outgrowing her baby-ness.

You will always need me of course, in some form or another, but it won’t be like this. As a new mom I’m acutely aware that there is a last time for everything. Fortunately or unfortunately, it is a fact of life. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the should haves and could haves rob me of these moments. Moments like these are mine for the taking. I’ve learned enough by now to know that you do not get them back once they are gone.

But I also know how quickly habits form, and I do want to do right by you, so this was the last time my dear. Tomorrow when you wake up screaming at 6AM, needing more sleep but not knowing how to get it I’ll go into your room. I’ll help you lay back down without picking you up. I’ll pat your back, and gently remind you how to sooth yourself back to sleep. I’ll let you know that everything is ok and I’ll quietly leave your room to go back to mine.

Or maybe I’ll pick you up and cuddle with my baby.

One last time.

Cloud Nine

My kid just turned a year old, and I just had the best year of my life.

Hands down, no competition. Incredible. People tell you a lot of things about having a baby, but no one ever told me how much fun it was going to be! Maybe enjoying this year was a conscious choice on my behalf, or maybe I’m just pig-headed. But I’ve been dead set against letting anyone get in the way of my happiness this year and I’m pretty damn proud of myself for that.

Life can feel a little solitary though, when you spend most of your time with a small mammal who doesn’t know how to effectively communicate yet. I’m ready to come back to planet earth, and maybe even get a hobby. I still have things to say and a lot of happiness to share. Now more than ever. I’m not “taking care” of anyone by keeping it all to myself. But let’s be honest, the last thing this world needs is another mom-blog. So forgive me while I try to perfect that compromise and let me dispel some myths about parenthood I’ve heard in the past year while hanging out on cloud nine with my kid.

  • The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. False. This is so incorrect in so many ways that it annoys me to even think about it. Motherliness is not born unto you with the child. If you don’t have enough self-awareness to recognize the care giving qualities you already possess, and also have the ability to improve upon them after a child is born, this might be a bumpy road for you.
  • Raising a pet is nothing like raising a child. False. To the chagrin of many of my friends, my childless self made many comparisons between babies and dogs. The dog as an eternal toddler. In no way do I regret saying this. Clearly one is a bit more monumental than the other, I’m not trying to be absurd. But there are indeed a lot of similarities. If you need a list please inquire, I will provide you with one.
  • You will never feel like you’re doing enough. False. Completely false. I accomplish more in one day than I used to in a week, and I feel fantastic about that. Sometimes I actually stop doing stuff because the thought “you’ve done enough” runs through my head. My kid and I both go to bed each night with a smile on our faces and (insert #sorrynotsorry) that is enough.
  • You will not have time to use the bathroom. False. If you do not have time to go to the bathroom you either A: are not using all of your tools correctly (aka cribs, car seats, swings, doors, leashes (this last one is a joke (sort of))) ; or B: are taking entirely too long in the bathroom. It might be time to revamp your routine.
  • You will lose friends. Here’s a curveball for you. True. Some people respond in… let’s say puzzling… ways to this big change in your life. When someone is unwilling to grow and change with you, then you must move on without them. Forward is simply the only direction available to you right now. Fortunately it is very easy to see what is most important because it is literally staring at you in the face. Smiling, drooling, giggling, burping, and just generally being really cute.
  • Maternity leave is not a vacation. False. Maybe not in the traditional sense, sandy beaches and whatnot. But life is what you make of each and every day. If you and your baby are healthy and you want your maternity leave to be a vacation, make it a vacation. No one is stopping you but yourself. Go for walks, go out to breakfast, be a tourist in your own town. Or actually go on a vacation. Why not?
  • Everyone will give you advice, but don’t listen to any of it. This one is both true and false. It is true that you will be the recipient of a lot of advice, from both strangers and loved ones. (I once had an in-depth conversation about pacifiers with the cashier at Walgreen’s). Listen to all of it, why wouldn’t you? But you have to know your kid, yourself, and your life well enough to decide what will work for you.

 

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.