Life

Someone to watch over me

Ahhh… a little Ella playing in the background, the smell of lilacs, homemade candles burning, the sounds of birds, a slight breeze tousling my hair, and the taste of vino on my tongue are things that embody my soul. Perhaps I am what you would call an old soul, perhaps my great Aunt Izzie rubbed off on me a little too well, or perhaps I am more sensitive to the little things in life. Regardless, one thing I know, to be truer than true, is that these simple little things fill my soul with the utmost joy. Surrounded by a world literally obsessed with the next best thing, the newest technology, or tomorrow’s big release, my soul yearns for the old. It desires the forgotten, the tarnished, the past. Whatever happened to the simplicity of music? The lyrical genius of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra? Why are Woody’s the preferred drink of choice to scotch or wine? And whatever happened to a night on the patio, a stiff beverage in hand, listening to the birds, smelling the lilacs and enjoying the breeze? Is today’s world too complex for that?

 

If you met me, you’d be surprised. I don’t appear to be a romantic on the surface; nor is my loving husband… on the surface. Charlie could be called many things, proper, quiet, goofy, good-looking, business-savvy, or even loyal, but unless you were me, you’d never peg him to be a romantic. But, I would. Underneath it all, very few know our true connection. Sure, we met in a fast-paced industry (I was his flight attendant, he he, I know… how sneaky), but it was in our slowest moments that we fell in love. Please remember, this nostalgic, old-world, side of me isn’t something I had ever exposed to another human being, and truthfully, I never intended to show it to Charlie. But, it just happened, naturally. Between boating, bbqing, and dinners out we found moments where just the two of us spent time together. Sometimes, we would sit on the end of the dock with a glass of wine in hand, just watching the sun set. Other times we would sit back, smelling the flowers, as the hours flew by. Bit by bit we realized we both were old souls trapped in the bodies of young millennials. Yup, I just called myself a millennial. But, never had I ever met someone so smitten with Frank Sinatra. A perfect match for my nostalgic love affair with little ol’ Ella. Charlie doesn’t drink much, he never has, but he would be hard pressed to turn down a really good glass of wine… or bubbly. As much as he loves fast cars, new technology, and watching the hockey game (well, we are Canadian, eh), he truthfully is the most settled outdoors, no phone, no television, and something cold and crisp in hand… and preferably, something a little old on the radio. Charlie was my first step in allowing myself permission to venture into the past.

 

As I mentioned, I didn’t always allow myself to revel in the past. As a young girl, I was dazzled by things that happened in days passed. I was nostalgic to the makeup, hairstyles, and fashion of young women who had once lived. I yearned for the manners of the past and old rules waiting to be broken. Truthfully, before Charlie, the only time I ever let myself delve into the depths of the past was in the presence of my great Aunt Izzie. What a wonder! That woman was incomparable to the women who exist today. No offence to any of you. I am sure you are all wonderful women, but Izzie was something out of old glamorous Hollywood. Furs, pearls, the world of art, and two stiff fingers of scotch, Izzie was one of a kind. She waited for no man. Trust me, I know because my great Uncle Jamie waited endless, but happily, for her. He worked hard, day in and out, truly fulfilled by her presence. She was fulfilled partially by Jamie, by the world of art, and the rest by upscale fashion. I remember sitting as a young girl and watching Izzie work away in her art studio. She would have a paint brush in one hand, a low-ball glass in the other, and twangy old jazz blasting in the background. The image may seem simple to you, but what that beautiful woman crafted on her blank canvas would have made you think otherwise. I suppose you needed to be there to truly appreciate the visual. At my core, I was who I was meant to be with Izzie. Unfortunately, being my great aunt, Izzie passed when I was a teenager. Far before I was ready for her to part from my life, but in tandem timing to her loving Jamie. They say the great loves never last long without their counterpart, and true to form, Izzie and Jamie lived strict to that sentiment. After Jamie and Izzie passed, my nostalgia shrivelled and fell to the wayside. Sigh, as is that which is life.

 

Sitting on my back porch, attached to a war times bungalow similar to that which Jamie and Izzie owned, I realize how far I’ve come since meeting Charlie and having Georgia join our family. After Izzie and Jamie passed, I tried desperately to fit in with today’s society, thinking I had to. I never realized the special little place that is carved out for each and every one of us to just be ourselves in life. I tried to keep up with today’s times, the current trends, and was left feeling exasperated. I could never understand how the life that other’s made look so easy, seemed to exhausting to me. Even until now. I supposed at some point I fell into who I am. I’m not sure when I granted myself permission to just be me, but somewhere along the way, it happened. If I had to pinpoint a time, I would say it was the moment when my eyes locked with Charlie’s baby blues. I didn’t know it at the time, but that melting feeling in my gut wasn’t just love. Nope. It also was my preconceived images of today’s woman melting away. Seated in the dark by this point, only the candles and my computer providing light to my darkened image, I finally realize how incredible it feels to slow down. I’ve always claimed to appreciate the smaller things in life, but tonight’s nostalgia brings new meaning to the old sentiment. How many of these little pleasures do you miss in a day? When Jamie was truly sick, overcome with dementia, and in his last moments of life, he used to recall the oddest moments. “Can you smell those roses Izzie?” He used to call out during our visits. “The breeze is nice tonight”. As a teenager, I used to think the old buggar was lost in his memories of Izzie, but now I know better. He wasn’t just lost in Izzie, he was lost in the simplicity of the things that truly made him happy. Thinking back now, it makes me smile. If my last moments of life are spent smelling the lilacs, Ella melodically playing in the background, candlelight dancing in the dark, and Charlie’s voice echoing in my head, I’d say I’d be a happy soul. So, my friends, give yourself permission to be who you are, slow down, and appreciate those little tick tocks as they pass by. You never know what will mean the world to you, until the world is no longer yours for the taking. Oh… And, to answer that begging question, heck no! Today’s world is not too complex for nostalgia of days passed. Why? Because it’s my damn blog, and I say so, that’s why!

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Life

Goodbye, Hugh

That stinging feeling, like a fresh sunburn, is unmistakable. That familiar weight fills your chest, your breath leaves your body, and your frame, once tall and strong, is now wilted and broken. Disappointment. Disapproval is hard to swallow, but more so when you’ve tried, tried, tried your best and yet, it still rears its ugly head. You know the kind I mean. The type where you stroll in, proud as a peacock, pleased with your astounding accomplishments, ready for the world’s congratulations; yet, to your dismay your efforts are squashed like a mosquito on a hot summers day, annoying and insignificant. We’ve all felt it. We’ve all known that one person who’s too hard to please, a boss, a parent, or a spouse. It doesn’t really matter who they are, only that they are all the same. There are a few things the population as a whole, regardless of race, country, culture or religion can agree on, but I promise you disappointment is one of those things. Recently, I was vividly reminded of this while helping a friend. Her pain was all too real as I watched events unfold which I could not control. I felt that hurt, pain, and disappointment as if it were my own. Realistically, it felt so real because I’d been there, in her shoes. Maybe a pair of shoes, a different time, or a different place, but I’d been there.

My good friend, Sarah, is a hard working, resilient, young mother. She’s not perfect, not unlike any human, but lord knows she tries her best daily. She struggles with intermittent work placement, adapts to her son’s unforeseen disability, and she’s plagued with an ongoing illness. On good days, Sarah has limited ability of her body, severe pain throughout her extremities, auditory and visual problems, forgetfulness, lethargy, and severe digestion issues. But, what is truly remarkable about Sarah is her ability to bounce back from her husband’s never-ending levels of perfection. The type that is frustrated with you if you’ve left the house with lint on your clothes, if you sneeze in the freshly cleaned car, and god help you, should you bring an animal around him. I think you understand what I mean. So, it’s a Friday and I happen to have a day off which I decide to spend helping out my good friend, Sarah. As I walk into her front entrance she’s hunched over her counter with a calculator, pen, paper, and a scarf tied tightly around her waist. “You doing ok today?” I inquire spying the brightly colored red coif coiling her frail waist. “Yes, thank you”. She just smiles, but I can see her wince with pain as she rises to stand. She’s scrolling through flyers, calculating grocery bill totals. They’re tight on money lately, but Hugh is exceptionally particular with his food… not unlike the rest of his life. So I snuggle in beside her and get to searching. An hour later we’re on the road. She has seven stores on her list to be able to afford the specific items Hugh demands, plus she’s due to help him buy a table set at Lowe’s, join him at Yoga, pick up their son and her cat. We all know it isn’t his and he certainly could care less whether the poor thing lives or dies. By the fourth store I can see Sarah fading. She hasn’t stopped to eat or rest yet. “Want to grab a little bit to eat?” I say, pointing to the hotdog stand at Costco. “No, thank you. I need to keep all of this for groceries.” I stand, staring blankly for a moment, studying her face to see if she’s kidding. She isn’t. “Are you kidding me? They’re a dollar fifty! He won’t even let you have a hot dog?” The words leave my mouth like verbal diarrhea. I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to. Before the poor thing could answer I turn swiftly on my heels and head straight to the hotdog lineup. Eff that… I understand being monetarily responsible, but geez! You send the poor, ill, woman out for a day of errands and don’t let her eat? Somewhere… someone has to step in! Fast forward a few hours and we’ve gathered all her groceries and even managed to squeeze in a few extra little goodies, Hugh’s Favorites… If you missed the sarcasm there, this is me making sure you didn’t. Ahem, Back to Friday. While picking up Sebastian, aka “Sebby”, the little guy demanded to have Daddy put him in the car. Hugh flings open the door and almost drops Sebby as he lets out a child-like sigh of disappointment. “You got the s&%t maple syrup? I hate this one!” He buckles Sebby in and slams the door. Stomping off like a three year old, mid-tantrum, oblivious to the on-looking company. Sarah doesn’t even get the chance to defend herself. They were two for $12! They’re still organic and made in Canada… She was so proud when she found those. I feel crushed for her. Hopping in his own car he flies off and leaves her to handle the baby, the cat (hissing and freaking out at the thought of a car ride), and all the groceries. My heart pangs. Crushed, exhausted, and nauseous she climbs into the car and drives home, silent as a mouse, for the long ride. She arrives home and Hugh is already out of the car. Its absolutely teaming cats and dogs outside, but he waits inside nonetheless. First, she scoops the actual cat up, covers her carefully, and runs inside. He watches, no movement towards the door. Soaked to the bone and freezing, she heads back outside to collect little Sebby from the car. He waits patiently, excited to see his mother when she returns. She scoops him up, covers him lovingly, and runs inside. By this point, Hugh is nowhere to be seen. “Go find Daddy,” Sarah urges as she heads back outside for the car stuffed full of groceries. Truthfully, she doesn’t want to leave Sebby alone for fear that Hugh has made himself unavailable entirely, but she can’t let the meat spoil either. Keeping one eye on the door and one on her task, she picks up as many groceries as possible and runs for shelter. Six loads later she makes it to the door, hands filled to the brim, marks turning purple where the plastic digs into her skin, and she taps the door with her foot. No movement. Eff. She taps again, no movement. She pushes slightly harder and the door flies open with purpose. Yikes. As she enters Hugh flies down the hall, enraged with anger. “Careful with the effing door, Sarah! What do you think it is, a soccer ball?” By this point she’s starving, overworked, exhausted, freezing, and soaking wet. She’s beyond taking sass at this point. “Why did you close the door on me? And, what? You can’t come out and help me? I’m soaking wet!” All good points, but he could care less. “Oh poor you, yeah, that’s it Sarah… how do you like it? Now it’s your turn for once.” He’s spewing hate by this point, not even making sense. Sarah tries to defend herself. She’s gotten the groceries and tended to all errands on her own for months now (also, let’s not forget the decades before she met her husband). Not to mention the grocery bills had been cut in half since she took over, but he acts like she’s a small child taking on responsibility for the first time. The disdain continues as he opens the grocery bags, carefully inspecting each item like quality control. She almost did ok, but she happened to buy rib eye instead of striploin steak (because it was 50% off) and yielded a few more thrashes. Eventually he retires to the television room, leaving Sarah to unpack the groceries, put away the dishes, and get Sebby down for night night solo. He’s too tired. He had a long day. Watching her move, rickety, filled with pain, and tears dropping from her eyes, she never slows. I could cry for her in this moment. My heart bleeds for her. I want to take him and shake sense into his dense skull, but I know my efforts would go unheeded. Eventually, I feel my presence becoming less helpful and more of an embarrassment, so I pack up and head home.

She tried so hard. I know its only groceries, but if you were chastised by an old schoolmarm every time you bought the wrong label, incorrect size, or undesirable type, you’d see groceries as more of a mountain than a molehill. I replayed the day’s events in my head. Sarah was so pleased with herself. That feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment being the only thing that held her glue together. I shook my head and tried to lift the weight of her day off my shoulders, but then a haunting thought chilled my spine. She isn’t perfect, humans aren’t perfect, so not only will today’s efforts be futile, but that of the future as well. How exhausting… She’s doomed to a life of constant disapproval. Hugh’s twisted face, filled with disappointment, judging her. It was at this moment that the Dixie Chick’s song, Goodbye Earl, crept into my head. How hard could it be? I flip open the computer and head to Google. How to get away with…

Life

Whisky, Wine, & Women Woes

At the risk of being branded a feministic-traitor and succumbing the noose, I have to admit; I admire the simplicity of men. In truth, I’ve always friended men quicker than women. Perhaps, my father’s intentions of my gender at birth have stuck with me all these years, perhaps, I’m a so-called tomboy; regardless, I just get men.

As I sit and write this, coffee in hand, I can already envision the steam rolling from my female reader’s ears. “Men are idiots. What is she talking about?” I can hear the tisks, sighs, and disappointment in their inner voices. But, as we commonly do, my female readers are over-analyzing my sentiments.

Basic Instincts…

Until Georgia came along, there were things about my childhood that I had miscalculated. As much as she presses my buttons daily, I must admit I was way worse. Sorry Mum and Dad… I didn’t play like a girl. I know… you’re thinking, “What the heck does that mean?” Until Georgia, I had no context for this either. One sunny afternoon Georgia and I head to the park. Watching the littles play there is an obvious gender divide. Little girls are swinging, chasing one another, playing house, or hide and seek; but, the little boys, on the other hand, are hunting for worms, digging in the dirt, throwing rocks, or sucking the rocks in some special cases. Then there’s Georgia. She’s covered in mud, rocks and sticks shoved in every pocket-like space of her clothing, chasing after the bigger kids. “My want to play too,” she shouts as she stumbles and flails after the bigger kids. My brain swiftly floats back to my own childhood; not unlike Georgia, I too was covered in mud, scratched, bruised, and running free. However, unlike my little free-bird, you’d have to look up to locate me. A tree, the stairs, or even atop the refrigerator, there was no peak too high, no ledge too daring, and no squeeze too tight for this little daredevil. I was carefree, no strings attached. I come back to my current day and my attentions are drawn towards the little girls. So much thought has gone into this game of house. The little alpha is assigning roles with purpose, making sure there is no confusion in the allotted job descriptions. Certainly, she’s a future CEO in the making. Sighhh… my stomach fills with knots, a weight deepens my chest and I feel smothered as I watch her in action. She’s reminiscent of a tiny, better dressed, mini Donald Trump. “How exhausting,” I can’t help but think. Then there are the little boys. I watch as they run, like little Kenyans, fast and free, squealing with delight. Smack. “Got ya!” The little redheaded boy has caught up to his older brother and smacked him with a stick. He he. I giggle, knowing I shouldn’t, but can’t keep it inside. I can feel his mother’s eyes burning a Grand Canyon sized hole in the back of my head. Obviously she was more like Mini-Trump as a child… “Georgia! Time to go!” I holler at my own little and head towards the car, avoiding eye contact with Mrs. Mini-Trump. Exiting the park, my flamboyant flair for the simplistic becomes abundantly obvious. I’m not saying women are complicated; so much as they are complex.

Money, Power, Respect

I fear I am giving away my age all but too easy; however, does anyone remember that Lil Kim and the Lox song, Money, Power, Respect? Probably not. I don’t think it was a smashing hit by any means, but it did stick with me. For my female readers, you’d do well to pay attention to the saying’s sentiment, as it is the Man’s Manual, so to speak. As I’ve been establishing, men are ultimately simplistic beings. Not unlike babies, pets, or even potted plants (no offense intended here fellas), these are their rules that guide them through the grand scheme of life. Money, power, respect might be a little too broad, so let me break it down for you; sex, sleep, and food are likely more accurate depictions. Seated shotgun in our truck and mid-grocery gathering, I quickly take heed to the speedometer rising, foul language flying, and the white of my husband’s knuckles spreading… fast. “Eff you, Jetta!” He screams as he flies around the little white car ahead of us. I grab ahold of the HS-Bar and close my eyes. “Ok, inventory time” I chuckle internally. “Check, check…. What time is it?” Three pm… breakfast was a ways ago now. I turn towards him and I notice the hangry demons dancing fury in his once peacefully blue eyes. I cautiously run my fingers along the back of his neck. “Charlie, babe. Are you a tad hangr… I mean, hungry?” The words, alive and dripping with tension, almost poured out of my mouth before I could stop them. “Yes,” he snorts, “why?” How do I put this nicely for him? “Well, I was feeling a bit famished, almost dizzy, and thought you… big strong guy… must be starved!” Side note: Ladies, just because you can inventory their day, doesn’t mean you should poke the bear with a stick… you’ll be keen to remember bears love honey. His demeanor instantly softens and his protector instincts kick in. Food o’clock it is! After a late lunch, Charlie sits back in his chair, clearly filled to the brim and pleased with himself. Pensive, he looks at me and says, “You weren’t hungry were you?” I just smile and sip my coffee. Ladies, the next time your grumbling bear rears his ugly head, do me a favor and slow down, inventory the situation, and you’ll be surprised if you can’t figure out what he’s in need of. It isn’t as complicated as you may think. Men are neither complicated nor complex.

Oh, Whisky!

As a mom, wife, and business professional, it’s unlikely you’ll often catch me referring to the seedy indiscretions of my terrible twenties; however, since I do take care to conceal my true identity, that’s precisely where I’m venturing. Ahhhh yes… for all my readers, I know in reference to the above statement all you heard was, today’s mission, should you accept it, is to uncover Etta Smith’s true identity and, likely, you’ve now pensively declared, challenge accepted. But, for those of you still tuned in, lets travel back to a time where my body lacked baby inflicted stars and stripes, my biggest worry was whether or not my lip gloss would out last the weekend’s OCD like reapplications, and I had zero war-wounded wisdom. My best friend, Emily, and I are traveling home from a deliriously un-sober weekend away. En route to our destination I could barely keep Emily’s bum in her seat, bouncing up and down with excitement and talking quicker than a hummingbird on coke. Day by day, her mood deepened, slowly descending from a sugar induced roller-coaster ride to stuck in the rain waiting for the bus kind of state. Sigh. I’d asked her a dozen times if she was having fun or if she felt ok, but her response stayed the same, “Oh yeah…” Really though? Why do women do this? It’s infuriating! If you’re pissed, just say so. In case she’d forgotten, my last name was Smith, not Matlock. At this age, I was neither old nor grey. I pull the car over to the side of the road and disengage the engine. Emily looks befuddled and nervous. “At the risk of playing twenty questions, can we please skip the pleasantries and just be out with it? Clearly something is eating at you, so damn well tell me what it is!” Emily looks shocked like a man who’s accidentally stumbled into the ladies locker room. It takes her a moment to recover, gather her thoughts, and meet me back in the present. “Well,” she begins with hesitation, “Friday I asked you if you’d want to move in together and you said to give you a couple hours to mull it over and you’d let me know!” Although Emily is tall, beautiful, and independent, in this moment she’s the smallest I’ve ever seen her. She’s compressed herself into a tiny ball and almost bonded to her seat. I think back to Friday. Did she hit her head? I answered her… I sit for a moment and recap the night. Same amount of drinks, same amount of food, but we certainly aren’t the same in size. Even at 5’2” I still outweigh Emily. I’ve played competitive sports my whole life and I’d be surprised if my left leg didn’t weigh more than her bird-like frame. After dinner I had surprised her with an ecstatic yes, but she clearly has no recollection of this. Alcohol’s a b#&@%! I pick up my phone and quickly scroll back to the photos from Friday night. The two of us are sitting at the table and Emily’s pointing down to my fries. The word “YES” is creatively spelled out. Clearly we’d interrupted some poor by-passer for a photo since selfies wouldn’t become a thing for at least another decade. I hand the phone to her and just wait, silently. Eventually she turns three shades of red, bites her upper lip, and apologizes. Now here’s the thing, I love Emily dearly, but episodes like this are a regular occurrence. My friends, ask any man. They never would put so much effort into staying miffed all weekend long. Likely, they would forget the second their stomach panged with hunger, their eyes grew heavy, or a largely breasted female seductively strolled by. No, if you’ve done something to wrong a man, believe me when I say there will be no Where’s Waldo Games in finding the reason. Simplistic at best, men lack complications at their core.

Ladies, you’ll have to forgive me. I’m sure I’ve managed to break some kind of unwritten rule of the female population; but as I mentioned I was born lacking the proper levels of estrogen to understand any of these rules anyhow. Now then, before you over-analyze my written word, please allow me to remind you of something certainly key. At no point have I attempted to declare which of the sexes is king or queen, nor have I ventured to prove that simplicity trumps complexity, nay, I implore you to see the underlying suggested tone. Men are simplistic. I admire simplicity. In a world where people plead daily with their maker for a handbook, a clearer set of rules, or some kind of direction, there has to be some kind of peace of mind. The buzz, the noise, and the static are overwhelming for all of us. And since it’s socially unacceptable to drink before noon, I choose to spend my wine-free hours in the company of men. At least… until I’m matched with my grandmother’s age. I learned at a young age senile and deluded are easily believed in elder age… “Oh, is it not noon yet? I could have sworn it was noon hours ago. Well, it’s open now! No sense in wasting good wine!” To my kids and future grandkids, I apologize for my lack of couth, but one day, you’ll too see the sneaky tricks for their worth. Until then, someone let me know when Costco starts to carry wine. I’ll be here with the boys.

Kids

“The Devil went down to Georgia”

Georgia, our three year old, is the devil incarnate. I can actually feel the prim and proper mom’s judgement seething through the screen and into my soul before this is even written. To be fair, she isn’t always the devil. Truthfully, Georgia is the most polite, goofy, sweet and deeply caring little soul you’ll ever meet; however, on occasion Dr. Jekyll disappears and Mr. Hyde comes out to play.

As a parent, be honest. Albeit you love those kids deeply, there are times you envision wringing their little necks like something from a Looney Toons Cartoon. So, let’s talk about that which goes unsaid. The other side of parenting. The stuff they don’t teach you in prenatal classes for fear of first time moms and dads going into instant shock. The moments you talk about later… much later… and refer to as “Well, it’s funny now…”

I give you, Exhibit A: The Thrashing Seal. We’re sitting on the couch post-feast and Georgia’s in my lap. She’s lovingly staring at me while we sing the wheels on the bus (for the 10 millionth time today) and she pauses. “My just love you, Mummy”. Her little voice is so sweet and innocent I can’t help but feel that string in my heart tug, the rock drop in my stomach, and I desperately try to hold back the flood gates in my eyes from busting like Niagara. Half hour later she’s in the bath. A normal Monday afternoon. She’s playing with toys, getting a tad too excited, and I can see my sweet little baby fade and the Devil set in. I could almost swear her head twisted round, not unlike that of the Exorcist. “Georgia, settle down. No splashing!” I try to soothe the demon rising within. Slowly, almost robotic, she turns her head toward me. Face somber and pauses for a moment. Her eyes lock mine and she smiles. S#&t! If you’re a parent, you know that look. The one that says, “I accept your bet, and I raise you, Mummy”. I scramble to my feet as quick as I can, but it’s already too late. She’s now standing, pouring her bucket of water to the floor and screeching with delight. “Georgia! Stop that!” My attempt to be stern is all but futile. I swipe the bucket, but she could care less. She’s belly-flopped into the tub like a fat seal and thrashing all the same. Covered with soapy bubbles and water, she’s too slippery to grab and I end up joining her in the tub… Fully clothed. Bursting with laughter, she’s actually cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West as she exits the tub with stealth, Mission Impossible style. “How the hell is she so fast?” Naked, soapy, and filling the halls with water she runs free like a high-nudist-hippie on a save-the-earth protest. As she runs free through the halls, I swear I can hear The Charlie Daniel’s Band’s, The Devil came down to Georgia slowly rising in my ears. Sigh. To all the perfectionistic moms out there… tell me now, how adorable and sweet this moment is. Georgia, 1; Mummy, 0.

Exhibit B, The Poop Machine. Potty training is a b*$#@, I think any parent can attest to that; however, Georgia naturally became interested, on her own accord, at a young age. “Hey, this potty training thing might not be so bad after all” I thought to myself as she pleaded with us to buy the little green potty in the store, but let me tell you I was wrong. Dear lord, was I ever wrong. So, Georgia was just shy of a year (yes, I said one year) when she developed an interest in the potty. Truthfully, at that age I don’t think she was motivated to use the potty with the thought of being diaper-free, so much as, it was a new toy that poop and pee went in. In hindsight, I now see the actual appeal. Fast-forward to three years old and she still wears diapers at naps and nighttime, but generally goes pamper-free otherwise. Before I begin, let me answer that begging question in the back of your mind, yes. My kid bathes a lot. I realize every written story results in Georgia in the bath, but she’s three. Tell me your kid isn’t a disgusting, sticky, filth-ridden mongrel throughout the day. If they aren’t, they probably aren’t living a fulfilled childhood, in my point of view. Anyways, where was I? Oh yes, the bathtub. So, we’re twenty minutes into Georgia’s afternoon bath and she freezes, mid play, like Jeff & Jodie in Today’s Special. “Mummy, my need to poop!” I fly across the room like Superman, scoop her out of the tub, and plant her tiny little butt on the potty. We sing songs while we wait and I notice she’s getting fidgety. Quickly she grabs the shampoo and with all her might squeezes until it erupts like Mount Vesuvius. “Georgia!” I’m desperately trying to stop her, but wildfire is already burning in her eyes and she’s dancing around the sticky puddle like an Indian Chief. As my tone becomes shrill she books it out of the bathroom and leaves me to clean up her soapy mess. As I am almost finished mopping up her wet-soapy-blob, she reemerges at the bathroom threshold, taking caution not to fully enter. Annoyed, I say nothing. “Mummy…” She pauses and waits for my response. “Yes, Georgia”. Sensing the disdain in my voice, I can see she’s hesitant to continue. Panic seethes through my body. Poop. She had needed to poop. Damn it! I’d forgotten. I quickly change my tone and urge her to continue. “What is it, baby?” She stares at me a moment further, judging my sudden change of disposition before she answers. She points down the hall and says “My poop on my chair” and flees like a dog let off leash. Eff. Are you kidding me, child?? I venture down the hall, into her room, and see a large, steaming, pile of poop on her crisp white faux-fur mat seated atop her chair. Georgia, 2; Mummy, 0.

Exhibit C, The Mud Bath. Not unlike many littles of her generation, Georgia loves Peppa the Pig. If you’re unacquainted with this shrill little beast, you likely don’t have children yet. Generally speaking, her love for Peppa is irrelevant in life except for a particular wickedly wet Wednesday in April. By lunch hour, Georgia had pleaded with me dozens of times to go outside to play. Annoyed that my answers had repeatedly fallen on deaf ears, I swiftly picked her up and carried her to the window. “See” I say with direction. “It’s raining outside. We can’t play outside if it’s raining”. She lets out a large exasperation of air and rolls her eyes. “Mummy, Peppa plays outside in the rain and jumps in muddy puddles. My can too!” Wow. Three years old and she’s already sassing me. God help me at sixteen! That ridiculous little swine has me beat. She’s right. It isn’t pouring, just spitting and Nanny and Pops had conveniently bought her a full rain gear outfit… Let me pause here a moment and say, in hindsight, this is where Wednesday went terribly wrong. As a parent, do not, under any circumstance, encourage rain play. There is no way in which it will end well. Moving on… Having been outside for some time now, she was actually playing quite well. Small jumps in muddy puddles, hunting for worms, and catching rain drops on her tongue. “This was an excellent idea” I was beginning to think, but not unlike most days, Georgia was prized to prove me wrong. Do you remember Slip and Slides when you were a kid? Good. That visual will be helpful here. Meandering along, staring at the ground, and hunting for worms Georgia hit a wet patch and ate it, face first. Wicked. Picking up speed to check her condition, I can hear laughter rising as she rolls to her back. Before I can reach her, she’s on her feet and running. Down the hill she goes, like a frog leaping into water. At one point her brightly coloured pink jacket was glistening in the rain, but no more. By this point, she was an accurate representation of a dinosaur-sized poop. As I finally catch up with her, that same evil fire danced in her eyes. I began to strip her down to her boots, but as I bend to remove her last article of clothing she runs free like a wild horse, naked, muddy, and dancing. Eff you, Peppa. Eff you and your stupid muddy puddles. By the time I wrangle her, hog tie her, and get her to the door Georgia, Mummy, and Bex (a.k.a. the dog) are heavily slathered in mud. Yet again, another trip to the bath. Georgia, 3; Mummy, 0.

At some point, after she’s had her, “My just love you, Mummy” moment and falls asleep peacefully, I’ll tell you stories of how sweet, innocent, and caring Georgia can be; but, for today’s purposes, I think I’ve made my point. I remember sitting in our prenatal classes. Charlie, my husband, gleaming with hope and pride is holding my hand. The two of us so excited for this sweet little baby to enter the world. The instructor is talking about how incredible and life-changing having a baby is. Little did I know, the the woman was a two-faced fanciful dreamer. Sure, she didn’t technically lie… having a baby is life-changing. And, at times it is incredible. But, sometimes it’s just incredibly exhausting. That’s what they neglect to tell you. Albeit, I’m quite sure there’s no point in terrifying all the new and hopeful couples before the little devil arrives. But, all I know to be true is that I am more acquainted with the song The Devil came down to Georgia now than I ever intended to be and Georgia’s score card has now risen to insurmountable digits. I look forward to the day where we can sit back, glass of wine in hand, and say “It’s funny now…” Plotting and planning which epic photos of our sweet little devil child will grace the highlight reel on her wedding day. Until then Georgia, keep up the good work. Mummy and Daddy came from the digital generation, we’ll make sure to record every beautiful loving moment, so that one day, these special moments can be relived by you too… and your new husband.

Life

Mountains & Molehills

Life never gives you more than you can handle. Wise words once bestowed upon me by my loving grandmother. She’s right, but she chose her words carefully. In reality, it should read more like, “never more than you can handle, but damn humbling”.
Previously, I’ve mentioned my inherent disposition. Timid and meek aren’t words I made myself familiar with in my youth. Self-assured, stubborn, strong-willed, even pig-headed, if you must, are all accurate depictions of my character. Let me wander a moment to make my point. So, I’m three years old and not so patiently waiting in the butcher’s lineup with my proper and polite English mother. The butcher, moving through molasses, is taking her time creating the perfect cut of meat. As she makes her way back to the counter to face us, I had lost my last ounce of patience. “That lady’s a son of a…” Needless to say, that was the last time my mother shopped in that grocery store. I speak my mind, whether or not it’s warranted. I am right. I am always right. I very perfectly do my research to ensure this. When I make up my mind, good luck to the poor soul trying to change it. So… living my childhood, through my teens and twenties, and wrangling my thirties I plowed forward like hurricane Katrina through Louisiana. Until one day, things changed. Suddenly, my tightly gripped handles of life were swerving into oncoming traffic and the tighter I held on the bumpier the ride got. I was now in new territory.

I remember the day clearer than most, even though my vision was doubled and the world was upside down. Wednesday. I couldn’t tell you the date, but the fact that it was Wednesday somehow stands out as relevant. Lord, knows why. My alarm sounded, as usual, but this time I swatted and swerved in the dark unable to locate it. Feeling as though I was rising from a triple bender slumber reminiscent of my twenties, I shook my head. Yikes. Ok, so don’t do that again. Swirling and twirling, the world went round. “To your feet” I thought. Desperately rising to my feet I quickly found myself grounded again. “Did I drink last night and forgot?” My foggy mom-brain strained to remember last night’s events… dishes, laundry, screaming baby, and bed. Nope. Not a lick of hooch. Let’s be honest, it’s not as though it hadn’t crossed my mind when she refused to go to sleep, screaming in agony over the newest tooth cutting through; but truthfully I had been too tired to put any effort into uncorking a bottle. Now standing in the bathroom I slowly, almost robotic, watched the blood drain from my face. Suddenly, the booming bang of my heart overwhelmed my ears. My breath quickly left my body and my knees buckled under pressure. But, instead of fading into the dark I quickly became reacquainted with last night’s pasta el dente. Hours later waking from, what felt to be, a drugged slumber I felt confused. I hadn’t experienced stomach flu like that. Ever. Truth be told, I thought I’d had a heart attack. Moving forward, episodes like this became commonplace, some more severe than others. Eventually, I began to lose dexterity. My right arm lost sensation and writhed with pins, needles, and pain. Soon to follow were my feet and eventually my left arm.

Fast-forward a year and a half and my daughter is almost three. “Sick”, “tired”, and “doctor” are words she knows, and uses, well. I wish I could reassure you, pat your tortured soul and give you the happy ending your heart is yearning for, but I can’t. The thing about being stubborn, strong-willed, and independent is that you refuse to neglect your duties. You don’t easily slow down. Truthfully, you try your best to keep your family afloat, in the green, and plastered with smiling faces. You deep breathe through the spins, nausea, and pain. You keep your thoughts to yourself, your pain hidden, and try your best to keep up. Unfortunately, this only works for so long and doesn’t do you any favors.

I watched a business, I painstakingly built, crumble. I watched a career I scratched and clawed my way up to disappear like summer fading into fall. I watched friends judge, discriminate, and walk away. I have even watched as family members second-guessed my health, my choices, and my direction. But, after enduring loss, agony, confusion, and anger a weight lifted. It took time, but one day I got it. Life never gives you more than you can handle. The words I had cursed over the last year and a half finally made sense. I know, you’re sitting there thinking I’ve actually lost it. I’ve headed to the coo-coo house never to be returned, but hear me out. Patience is a virtue. A valuable lesson I never learned as a child. However, when you’re sick and needing care all you can do is wait. You wait for the next referral, the next test, or the next medicine to kick in. Tick tock, tick tock. Eternally waiting. Being sick forced me to slow down. It made me become vulnerable, softer, and pensive; said qualities being the definitive opposite of my own. It allowed me to learn three intrinsically valuable lessons: don’t make mountains out of molehills, patience is a virtue, and go ahead and let your hair down.

Mountains & Molehills…
When you walk a tight line between the living and the dead, simplistic worries become irrelevant. Silly things couples quibble over seem bemusing to watch. Does it really matter who takes out the garbage? Whose turn it is to get up with the baby? Why does it matter whether the couch is grey or off grey? When there are no turns because mommy is singing to the porcelain gods again, you’re grateful to get a turn on that bumpy marry-go-round at all. You begin to see the beauty in life. Not just in the beautiful things, but also in those we discard like weeds. You see beauty in the simple tasks, in playing with your children, in working, or even in doing daily chores because your choice is now vacated. These things no longer seem like annoying obstacles, but privileges bestowed on the healthy. The lesson I learned is fight over the big stuff and let the little things be little. Don’t inflate the mundane to be Olympic in size. No ones winning medals by conquering those battles.

Patience & virtues…
Google, McDonald’s, and the Autobahn… society is obsessed with speed. As if it isn’t bad enough that we want all that and a bag of chips, we also want it NOW. Driving over the speed limit already, I can see the red car behind me quickly approaching my bumper. I look in the rear view at my daughter and she’s oblivious to the anger seeping up behind her. She’s humming her own version of “Old McDonald” to herself. My vision focuses back on the gentleman behind me, red in the face, clearly holding his breath, with his hands flailing. I can only imagine the commentary in that car. We reach a clearing up ahead and his red car flies by like a belligerent version of The Flash, screaming obscenities as he passes. Really? 68 in a 60-warranted foul language, rising blood pressure, and Evil Knievel like stunt driving? Lord help the old lady that pulls in front of him next. I sigh relief he’s passed and be thankful that I can still drive. Period. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but driving is a privilege and not a right. If I’d lost more feeling, had more pain, or my symptoms progressed in a different fashion, perhaps I’d currently be without a license. After a year and a half of playing the waiting game, I’d come to see the serenity yielded by a patient mind. It used to be so hard for me to just be silent. No books, televisions, telephones, magazines or distractions, just myself and my thoughts. I cringe thinking back to a younger version of myself, struggling to master tree pose because I couldn’t quiet my mind to concentrate. The lesson here folks, is freaking slow down! Your children will age much faster than you anticipate, your youth will fade quicker than you’d like to wager, and you’ll park yourself so steadfastly in super speed you’ll be lost and befuddled in retirement. Enjoy life, savor the little moments, and learn to just be.

Hair & Do’s…
As mentioned, I am right. Always right. If you’re not one of these people let me expand the scope of said neurosis for you. It isn’t just about having the correct answer; it’s also about looking just so, acting just right, and about being the one. Long story short, you strive for perfection. You want to look perfect, sound perfect, and be envied. This is a battle in and of itself for those blessed with health. The daily morning battle to primp and prime one’s appearance, the endless careful thought to ensure one’s words are poignantly poised, and that one’s image is always untarnished. But, when your biggest hurdle of the day is keeping your lunch down, preventing north from trading south, and not stumbling as you walk, things like your appearance, carefully thought out words, and your status fail in comparison. Eventually my makeup routine dwindled from twenty minutes to two, I stopped straightening my hair, and realized if they don’t love me for the goofy, funny, light-hearted, life-conquering warrior that I am, then screw ‘em. I flash back to a moment in my youth. I must have been around seven, old enough to have an intermediate knowledge of right and wrong. Perusing downtown with my grandmother, she begins to jaywalk across a main road. “Nanny, the do not walk sign is up”, I holler in dismay. Cool as a cucumber she turns and says, “It’s OK, dear. If they catch me, they’ll think I’m senile in age anyways” and confidently continued on her way. I didn’t understand her sentiment at the time, but I do now. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let your hair down and do as you please.

I won’t be so tacky as to say, “in closing”… so, I’ll just leave you with this. Don’t expect to read this and suddenly have your halleluiah moment. Even if some of this wasn’t a complete and utter lack of sense for you, you need your own substance to give my words truth. Reading the black and white alone won’t magically color the page, but one day, when you’re not expecting it, life will throw you a curveball and suddenly the black and white will be a rainbow of color. All in all, I guess I’m saying I don’t expect to blow up the world having written this, but perhaps create a small crack. Create something tiny, but memorable so that one day it may leave a mark as meaningful and vast as the Grand Canyon. Until that day, my friends, keep an open mind, hug your loved ones, and try to remember to be grateful for all that you have. Or don’t. It’s your life; you live it as blissfully ignorant as you please.

Love

The truth behind love.

Unfortunately, love doesn’t come with a handbook. God has too much of a sense of humor for that… what fun would it be if we all understood one another? Imagine arguing, tensions rising, insults flying, and someone hits the pause button. “Hand me the handbook, honey”. And, with that, the argument ends.

Let me make myself perfectly clear. Love is messy. It isn’t easy. It certainly isn’t simple. And, you’ll likely have to do things you won’t like, nor agree with, in the thralls of passion. But, damn it, it’s worth it.

Born to an Irish father and an independent English mother, timid is not a personality trait I possess. Passionate, strong-willed, or even stubborn as my husband likes to put it, accurately depicts who I am. Let’s just say I was born in this century for a reason, for if I hadn’t been, my life would have been significantly shorter. So, when I am explaining the keys to successful love, you’ll do yourself well to remember my inherited disposition. While you’re sipping your morning coffee and judging my well-learned words of wisdom, bare in mind these lessons took me longer and were more strongly resisted than most.

Lesson One: Choose your battles wisely.

I get it. You’re thinking, “Oh, here’s a gem I haven’t heard before”, but hear me out. I can’t count how many times I’ve read this, been told this, or been reminded of this. With such consistent repetition one would think the sayings’ true meaning would have set in long ago, but then again, we’ve already covered my pig-headedness, so let’s just move on. Naturally, we treat our spouses as children who need to be taught lessons. Shaped and molded into good pupils like play dough. So, when an engaging opportunity rears its’ ugly head, it’s all but too hard to resist it. “How will he ever learn if I don’t tell him?” In all fairness, your husband isn’t a child. He knows the garbage needs to go out, but he doesn’t want to do it any more than you do. You have a few options here. You can nag him until he yields and live with his resentment, take it out yourself and live with your resentment of him, or try something different. “Honey, you’ve had a long day. You seem tired. Would you like some help taking out the trash?” Worst-case scenario, he says yes and you two spend some time together… away from the televisions, electronics, and distractions… and jointly endeavor on said activity. What you’ve done may seem insignificant, but it isn’t. You’ve shown him kindness. We’re all human and at the end of a long, tiresome, day a little compassion goes a long way. In a relationship there will always be differences, of opinion, of background, or of nature, it’s what makes us human; but every day need not be a roller coaster of emotion. So, leave the highs and lows to the big stuff and save the teaching moments for your children.

Lesson Two: Be a good pupil.

 Your partner may not come with a handbook, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to be learned. In life we study and research things like scientists. Buying a new car, boots, or even a toaster, we weigh the pros and cons, study the details, and read the manuals so we understand how they work. We don’t walk into Canadian Tire, grab the first toaster, head to the cash, take it home and stuff bread down its’ slices. No. We carefully choose the best-suited toaster for us and learn how to use it. So, why do we take the time (sometimes decades) to carefully select the best-suited partner, yet never learn how they work? Let me explain. I have the most energy in the morning, so that’s when I clean. I do the dishes, sweep the floors, and tidy up. But, my husband is slower moving in the am, not unlike sleeping beauty slowly rising from her drugged slumber. Let’s cut to the chase and just say he’s not cleaning first thing. That’s okay because we’re different. You need to study their personalities, their actions, and even their bodies. You need to know the curves of their frame, their in’s, and their out’s. When you come to know something well, you appreciate it. Not unlike that of a fine wine. Our culture is object obsessed, the newest toy, the best makeup, or the newest technologies. People line up in drones, hours before stores open, to get their hands on the newest thing. Conversely, you don’t see people doing that for one another. We live in our heads, with our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, so it’s easy to think of you first. “Doesn’t he know how tired I am? I made dinner, I’ve done the dishes, and now I have to take the damn garbage out too?” I hate to break it to you, but he’s thinking the same thing. “I dropped the ball at work today. I really did. I got into it deep with my boss, I missed that deadline, and now she’s nagging me too”. But, if you’d known him, studied him, you’d have seen the exhaustion, the stress, and the defeat in his body language and heard it in his tone. Long story short, the buttons broken on the toaster and your still shoving the bread down the damn slices and wondering why it won’t toast. It needs fixing before it can do what you need it to.

Lesson Three: You’ve got hands for a reason, use them.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor of my fourth grade class, I still hold the vivid memory of learning the most annoying, bloody, song of my youth. Well, besides Lamb Chop’s this is the song that never ends… If you didn’t watch Lamb Chop as a child, consider yourself lucky and skip the trip to YouTube. Where was I? Oh, yes. Grade four. (singing) My body’s nobody’s body but mine, you touch your own body, let me touch mine. Well, I think it’s safe to say teaching standards have risen since the early 90’s, but you get the message… keep your hands to yourself. My friend, this isn’t the 90’s and we certainly aren’t in grade four. Your hands need not be kept to yourself any more. Touch. It’s the simplest principle. A hug warms the heart, a hand on the shoulder brings comfort, and a stroke through your child’s hair is instantly soothing. Do me a favor and think, really think, how many times a day you lovingly make contact with your partner. It’s likely less than you think. Humans are like icy sculptures. The more you touch them, the quicker they melt. Now, remember, we’re referring to love partners. Please don’t head into work tomorrow and test-drive this theory on your boss. I’m not responsible for the sensitivity training you’ll likely receive post-haste. But, that being said, do try it out on your partner. Don’t just talk to them. Touch their arm, their lower back, stroke their hair, or hold their hand (yes, even at home). You’ll be surprised how increasing your touch increases your connection. Love is not fostered through words and union alone.

By this point some may have given up reading, others may be thinking, “Seriously? That’s it?” But, for those of you who are reflective you’ll be honest with yourself and think. How often are you too quick to react? To pick a fight? How well do you really know your partner? How well did you study their manual? And, how much do you actually take in the opportunity to slow down and touch? We’re all busy. Someone will always be late. Something will always seem more important. Patience and appreciation is key. I promise you. When you’re old and grey, you won’t be thanking yourself for watching the game, sending that email on time, or looking up what Jane and John did while on vacation last weekend. But, you will be thankful for loving fiercely and being loved. For connecting with another’s soul. And if not, than you’re Hitler and what the heck are you doing reading an article on love anyways?