Thursday, 29 January 2015

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts for the week.... I had some, but the ol' brain just isn't working so well right now. Too many late nights I guess.

My phone was stolen on the m├ętro on the way home from work Friday. It was really crowded, and I was being jostled a lot, and I think whoever it was just unzipped my purse and took it right out. I know, right? I KNOW. Apple-picked. (Well, more like kimchi-picked. Or bulgogi-picked. Dammit, now I'm hungry.) I was so oblivious I didn't even feel it, but I sure felt the six-hundred dollars needed to buy out the contract and replace it. What bothers me most is my own negligence in not putting a tracking app on it, and not having backed up the photos. Good-bye, Christmas 2014.

We have no land-line, so  I couldn't text my husband to get his thoughts on buying a ridiculously high-priced bundle of happiness for Panda's birthday gift. Can you believe that I waited up until after midnight just to get his agreement for Frozen on Ice tix? Yeah, me either. It's not like there would suddenly have been a  rush on seats at 11:07 pm on a Tuesday, but I get these things stuck in my head and I have to do them NOW. I'm glad I got on it though, because that daughter of mine eats, breathes, and sings Elsa.

Of course there is always a silver lining to life's small setbacks, and losing my phone is no exception. I'd no sooner activated the new one than some pre-installed app popped me up on an old friend's Google+ feed.  G and I go back almost twenty years, and have a surprisingly uncomplicated history considering we once lived together as a couple for two of them. We always remained good friends, but with the curve balls life likes to throw, we've gone long periods without emailing. Last night I got to chat with him for over an hour.

We are moving apartments. I think. I don't know. I really need to sit down with S, decide our course, and make a blood pact to keep it. We can waffle on any decision, I tell ya. If we do move, we need to stay in the neighbourhood so Panda doesn't need to move schools. We need a four bedroom, so we can apply to foster. And we need a yard. All that adds up price-wise, and I find our neighbourhood isn't that reasonable to begin with. So, for the price of a rental, we could own. We could have a nice yard and get a dog. Settle down. But what if the market crashes? What if S gets a dream job in another city and we have the hassle of selling a house? So I guess we are better off renting.
See? Waffling. Belgium's got nothin' on us.


Friday, 23 January 2015

My Mother

Four years ago today, my mom died.

As the youngest child of Icelandic immigrants raised in rural British Columbia through the Thirties and Forties, she was resilient. She saw the privations of the Great Depression echo in her small farming community and saw the Second World War sweep her oldest brothers off to the Pacific Theatre. She lost her father at fourteen, and her mother at twenty-one. In a time when most women were homemakers, she worked in shops through her teens and by twenty, had completed college and taught her first elementary class. She would continue teaching for the next forty years. In an era when most women were married by nineteen, she didn't settle down until she found a man that she "couldn't push around." She was thirty. She didn't have children for almost another decade. And in all this, she saw nothing remarkable. Maybe because of her Icelandic roots, maybe due to her natural humility.

Mom was a true lady. Perhaps she was just a product of her era, but she never complained and I rarely heard her speak ill of anyone. Mom didn’t believe in raising her voice. She stood straight, dressed well, and had lovely handwriting. When she spoke she sounded straight out of a movie from the Fifties. I only once heard her drop the F-bomb in a heated argument- and when she did I dropped my glass of orange juice in shock. (She was prone to saying "oh, shit!" though, whenever she forgot something, which was a lot.) She was an avid reader, and by the age of three we knew that the best time to ask for and receive permission to do just about anything, or go just about anywhere was when she had her nose buried in a good novel.  She instilled a love of reading in her both her children, and now that I have my own kids, I understand – we book-addicts will say anything to get the kids to leave us alone long enough to finish the chapter.

She was stubborn, too, but arguing with Mom was like punching a pillow. She would listen calmly and attentively, then go do her own thing her own way regardless. The only time she could be swayed was when the argument was political or social in nature, and throughout her life I saw her let go of a lot of outdated notions about race and sexuality. One misconception that she held onto for a really long time was that all police everywhere were entirely good people, and she wasn't able to let that go until she herself was bullied into putting down her pregnant dog, which under provocation had snapped at a child. "I didn't think the police would ever be like that, be so threatening," she said to me. I remember giving her an incredulous look and telling her that I had known it since I was twelve. "I know," she responded a little sadly, "I guess you grew up faster than I did." She was sixty-seven.

Of course, no one is without her  faults. She was almost aggressively absent-minded and chronically late. She  forgot to pick us up from Girl Guides on more than one occasion, and only noticed when my father came home and asked where the kids were. We never panicked though, because we assumed she was just later than usual. Her parenting style can best be described as benign neglect – I don’t remember her ever helping me with my homework, or even checking that I’d done it at all.. She never asked to meet our friends’ parents. She often skipped our school events. Part of me thinks that as a primary school teacher, she was just exhausted by little kids by the time she got home to her own. But we never questioned that she loved us.

She drank too frequently, although she was never  drunk. In the long and quiet unscheduled days of retirement, it became clear that the two beer she’d always had when she arrived home in the evening was not a choice, but a need. She did eventually conquer it though, and her smoking habit as well.

She could tell a long rambling story about nothing for hours, and get snippy when we tried to get her to the point. She lived most of her life in a styrofoam bubble where nothing bad ever happened, and if it did, it had better have the good taste not to let itself be discussed in her hearing. I have slowly come to the realization that she found the experience of moving through a violent and unpredictable world to be profoundly upsetting.  She was about as far from sex-positive as one can possibly be, and the only time I ever heard her say anything on the subject was to say that she “tried it twice and didn’t like it.” I have one older sister.  (Which was fortunate, because I had a whole lot of bizarre notions about the birds and the bees that needed dispelling.)

What can I say? She had a lead foot on long drives, occasionally smacked me for sassiness, and gave advice like “Sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” She taught my nephew the phrase “ass over teakettle” and never forgot a birthday. She had the same three best friends since eighth grade until her death, and she could beat anybody’s ass at Scrabble or cribbage.

She was the best mother I could have had. Maybe she wasn’t perfect, but she was more than good enough. Being motherless is a particularly unmooring experience. I find I still need to ask her something almost daily. Who is that person in this old photo? Did I eat as slowly as Panda does? How much homework did we have in elementary school, and what grade did it start? And am I doing okay at the mothering thing?

Eventually you find a new normal, but it's never the normal you knew. And I guess it has to be this way, has always been that way. I'll be raising a glass of red to you tonight, Mom; I miss you.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Thursday Thoughts

A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.
-John Lubbock

And it's been a one of those weeks. One of those weeks when I would have sold off Panda to the travelling high-wire act just to avoid the homework drama, except Cirque Du Soleil is no longer returning my calls. Then the child came home with a note in her agenda that 'she said she was too tired to do her classwork.' Which is complete nonsense, since she got her regular amount of sleep, and even if she were feeling tired, is still not a valid excuse for slacking in class. Also, SO not my problem, lady, you are the one with 'classroom management' in your job description. I'd have been surprised, but it lines up completely with the intrusive and passive-aggressive notes to replace her headband because the school feels it is too large for her or that short sleeves and a cardigan are not appropriate winter attire. They're helicoptering the living daylights out of that girl and I do not appreciate it.

Also, I may not have completely outgrown my dislike of authority. (It's hereditary.)

It's been one of those weeks where our whole future feels like a high-wire act. We have vacillated between S retraining, working away, looking for a job-job here, or staying with freelance work so any times now I'm beginning to feel dizzy. There are just so many damn variables! If and when we finally nail that one down, we need to decide if we will move apartments, neighbourhoods, or not at all. Not at all means we can't move forward with fostering for another year at least. That's very much not okay with me, since we have been working toward this first step for a year already. Sometimes it sucks being a fence-sitter. Life would be a whole lot ...faster...? ... if S and weren't the type of people that will put off procrastinating until tomorrow. 

But there were some fun,  funny bright spots too!

overheard conversation....
Panda: Papa, I need another hooker.
S: A hooker?
Panda: yeah, I want another hooker. I don't have enough.
S: (totally nonplussed)
Panda: Hookers, Papa, HOOKERS! You know, for my closet? For my dresses?
S: ah... You need more hangers, honey?
Panda: Hookers, hangers, whatever. 
S: Actually, this is a pretty important one. It's 'hangers', alright?

And Pickle on the crowded bus...
(Points at lady beside us on bus) 'She has a baby in her belly, Mama. How did it get there? Did she eat it? When will it come out? But she didn't eat it, because then it would be poop. Panda says babies come out a mama's vagina. Does that Mama have a vagina? How did the baby get in there? Did she stuff it up there?" 
Et cetera. For five minutes or more, because that child's mouth-motor has one speed and it ain't neutral. He didn't pause for breath long enough for me to get a word in edgewise, much less answer a question. And he is LOUD, good heavens is he loud. A word of warning - this is what happens when you give honest scientific explanations to your children. I should have just busted out the stork story and let them sort it out at puberty.

How is your week so far? Are you a procrastinator too, and if you are, how do you talk yourself into making life's big decisions?

Monday, 12 January 2015

I wonder what Sesame Street is like these days?

Because children's programming sure has changed.

And ...

Luckily, the Rescue Bots didn't have any call girls in it, and the kids were able to watch Monster Math Squad on my profile (which now keeps suggesting I enjoy an episode of Animal Mechanicals or two.)

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Thursday Thoughts

Is it just me, or is the first week back to school after holidays always a complete mess? Meal planning has totally gone out the window, laundry is piling up, even with the fancy new large capacity washer. This is partly because I don't have enough whites to make a full load, unless every piece of white clothing in the house needs washing. The house is a total tip, but on the plus side, I think the fleas are gone. It dropped to -36 C last night so it's possible that they all died of cold.

Ah, homework, that dastardly scourge of modern education. Nothing puts parents and kids more at loggerheads than studying for spelling tests, except possibly the science fair. (S was the one who signed Panda up for that, so I am just going to hide in the bedroom with a book and box of chocolates until it's over.)  I am not sure how we are going to make it through the next 10 or so years, if spelling 'play' is so traumatic. I have never heard a child wail so desolately over remembering the order of four little letters.

Turning four has somehow reset my sweet Pickle's factory default from 'amiable' to 'auto-argue'. Nothing in the world will convince him that yes, orcas are indeed whales, and no, there is no such sport as skate car, where the object of the game is to kick a soccer ball through the window of a car (apparently no skates are actually involved.) He insists on being signed up for a weekend league. Yeah, I'll get right on that.

Speaking of misconceptions, there is clearly still some confusion regarding how the whole God thing works. We may have to take a trip back to Church to let the authorities weigh in, since she is  convinced that kids can increase their chances of getting awesome gifts from Santa by praying to him. She's already working on next year's list.

My thumb is finally healed from my mishap with the wineglass! Technically, at least. Yesterday the surgeon removed the 'button' stitched onto the top of my thumb that he. Oh, how I hated that button! The tendon is  reattached but still stiff  enough that it is frozen in position. It is still all swollen and weird. It looks like a fake thumb. Next time, I will drink the wine first. Then my reflexes will be dulled and I won't be able to catch the falling the glass.

Why hasn't anyone invented snow tires that have little retractable stud crampons that pop out and stick in the ice when you push a button? Like cat-claw tires?

I guess my heads not that full this week, because I've run out of things to say. I have no real way to end this post though so I'll do it with punctuation.

the end.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

"Should I stay or should I go? If I go there could be trouble...

...If I stay it could be double." Thank you, Strummer et al for that elucidating argument.

So, S and I are contemplating a move, and we are having a hard time getting our heads around things.

A really hard time.

We currently live in the one of the most economically depressed provinces, and the only one that has a language barrier to overcome. We  will always be outsiders. Taxes are insanely high, infrastructure is post-apocalyptically bad, and S cannot find a decent, steady job in his field. Or really any steady job. Housing prices keep rising, and since we are working with my salary alone, we might eventually manage a mortgage on a little three bedroom home in a sketchy area. But we can’t quite get to the four bedroom we’d need to move forward with foster/adoption, and I don’t want to live in gangland, even by Canada’s milder standards.  I suppose we could find something on the edge of nowhere, but the commute already eats up a good two hours of my day, and we only live ten kilometers from my work.

We could move back west.  Right now we are far from our families, not that we’d necessarily be close, even if we lived next door – notably excepting our fathers.  And possibly our siblings, since the break between is less lack of love than lack of commonality. Okay fine, we miss our families. We’d like to be closer, in all the layers of meaning that phrase holds. S should have a much easier time finding work- his field is still very specialized, but at least there would be no language barrier. Taxes would be lower, and with two reliable incomes we could possibly buy a house, have a yard, make the commute  more manageable. We could foster.  Life could be rosy…. But yet….We’d need to start over. Housing could be even more expensive, and daycare would be forty to fifty dollars per day, per child. The kids would lose their bilingualism, even in immersion school. Life would be grayer, more culturally homogenous. I’d miss my friends, and making new ones does come easily to me. Not to mention all the hassle of moving a family of four across this ridiculously large country – finding housing, jobs, pediatricians, dentists, family doctors.... And then there are the moving expenses.

On the (infamous) other hand, we could stay here.  I have a decent, secure job. Maybe S could learn the language, find a way to retrain in a more secure field. We adore this city, with its plenitude of parks, festivals,  and free outdoor pools. The culture is diverse and vibrant,  the food is fantastic, and the public transit system is extensive and generally reliable.  It’s politically left-leaning, which suits us well. Daycare is seven dollars a day per child. Seven dollars. The school system is decent, and my children will grow up fully bilingual. When they eventually get to higher education, tuition costs for residents are about half what they are in the rest of the country, and we have some of the finest universities.  We've built a life here, surrounded by amazing, supportive friends.

I think …I think…I think... I need help with this one. On one hand, this:

“And the danger is that in this move toward new horizons and far directions, that I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

And on the other, this:

“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”
― Judith Minty, Letters to My Daughters

 What would you do? Throw up your hands and head for possibly greener pastures, knowing that they could be full of gopher holes? Stay put and pour your energies into a better life here, and if sometimes you feel your pouring it into a pit, the rest of the time you are happy?

Tell me what you think in the comments!

Friday, 2 January 2015

It's 2015! We made it!

We made it! We made it to 2015!

Which is a great relief to me, because the last quarter of 2014 was hard. Not crushing-my-spirit hard, but grinding. "I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread," as Bilbo Baggins put it, sometime around his one hundred and eleventieth birthday. Now, I'm nowhere near that old, but you'd never know it by the way mornings feel these days.

So, Twenty Fourteen, let's tally up a little. You were well behaved for the first nine months (and I thank you, don't think I don't appreciate it) but then you threw this at me:

  • 1 smushed front bumper and 1 misaligned frame on the car 
  • 8 weeks of weekend-only husband, meaning 8 weeks of solo-parenting Sunday afternoon through Friday night - and he didn't get the permanent position
  • 1 injured thumb, 5 stitches and 3 weeks healing time
  • 1 thousand pantry moths
  • 1 broken clothes dryer
  • 1 more smushed bumper (same side) and 1 expensive garage door repair (thanks, winter ice. We'll reciprocate your love with a tonne of salt, next time!)
  • 1 operation to repair nerve and tendon in thumb, resulting in x amount of stitches, 12 weeks healing time, 14 Occupational Therapy appointments, and 1 thumb and 1 wrist that have lost most of the mobility
  • 1 insurance company that refused to pay for OT appointments
  • 2 cats with fleas (How? They've never been outside!)
  • 4 constantly runny noses (okay, now I'm nitpicking. But still....)
I'll forgive you though, because you balanced it out with a long visit with my dad, a lovely week at a cottage, S and our two amazing kids, and the love and support of a fantastic group of friends. So we'll call it even, okay?

And hello, Twenty Fifteen, you fresh-faced innocent! Come on in and let's have a look at you. We welcomed you with lots of good companionship and laughter and joy, but I have a feeling you might put me through the wringer a bit, too. So my promise to you, Twenty Fifteen, is to take better care of myself, both mentally and physically. That is going to mean less bad food and more good exercise. It's going to mean refusing to let the petty little tearer-downers into my headspace, especially at work. It's going to mean making some hard decisions about our future, and sticking to them. I don't expect a perfect year, or a prosperous one, but I hope it is a fulfilling one. I hope I can find my feet and lose my fear, love and be loved, support and be supported.

And I wish the same for all of you out there as well - May your year be fulfilling, replete with love and with clarity.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger at