Category Archives: Story Telling

Saturday was a Mistake

It’s -26 on a Saturday morning. Before I know that though, before I check the numbers on my weather app, I foolishly tell my son we will go skating today! This is my first mistake. There will be no skating.

My second mistake is deciding that because of the freezing weather, I might enjoy reading in bed for a bit longer than usual. A second cup of tea, a few extra chapters. It seems harmless, but it’s a mistake. Kids demand me to get out of bed, I feel lazy for being tired, protesting their protests and I remember why the term ‘week-end’ is misleading if you are a parent.

Somebody said ‘Well read women are dangerous women’ and these days I’m more inclined to think ‘Well read women are miserable women’ because is it just me or does the more you read make you a tiny bit more angry, a tiny bit more antsy, a tiny bit more frustrated at the uphill battle in all areas of life on this doomed planet? This sudden dark turn is arguably my next mistake, but anyway, as the day inches toward 9am, I make my 3rd mistake by looking up a book a friend had recommended. Fed Up by Gemma Hartley. The subject of the book speaks to me so loudly I read multiple reviews and watch an interview while simultaneously regretting having this additional knowledge in my brain. What’s the subject of the book? Something about emotional labour…

My next mistake, Mistake #4, is holding a family meeting with my children where I impart partial wisdom from Mistake #3 onto the kids in order to avoid children who grow up into adults who perform emotional labour for free. Although I don’t use the word emotional – I use observational. Also thoughtful. Also organizational. I focus on housework. The mistake is in not really planning what I want to say, so currently the kids have multiple definitions in their head about what observational/thoughtful/organizational labour means and after the meeting, we spread out and practiced my preaching by observing what needed attention/cleaning in the apartment.

Mistake #5 is letting loose my keen sense of observation and a tally of all the things I will tend to.

  • The toilet paper rolls that never get replaced in the little toilet paper stand
  • The weird slurping sound the dog has made for days because her water needs to be refreshed
  • The soap/hair scum in and around the sink/toilet
  • That piece of garbage that has been sitting in the middle of the hallway for 4 days that needs to be picked up and moved to the garbage
  • The leftovers that need to be thrown out
  • The sweater under the kitchen table that has fallen and stayed there for over a week
  • The Christmas presents that don’t have a home, or that need to be mailed
  • The picture that is hanging on an angle
  • Watering the plants, tidying the pillows, vacuuming, picking up the tumbleweed hair balls that collect in corners, making the grocery list, taking out the frozen meat for dinner, planning for the following day so that it’s full but marginally restful, encouraging the kids to turn off Netflix, then having to do something with them, walking the dog, making lunch, having snacks ready, reading half a page of my book and feeling guilty, doing 50 leg lifts on one side and worrying that I won’t have the opportunity to do 50 leg lifts on the other side, and now I’m just going through my day, planning and watching myself and thinking about all the things that always have to happen.

Mistake #6 is the thought that it would help if I wrote all this nonsense down.

By 1pm, I face the afternoon, having promised my son we would paint his toy chest. Mistake #7 is choosing to listen to music (my music) while we paint, which sends my 11 year old into her room with a huff and leaves my son to comment on every. single. song. But the music makes me feel semi-independant, and levels my mood when things inevitably go sideways.

By 3pm, I have played two separate board games with two separate kids at separate times. I have completed three puzzles, finished two coats of paint on the toy chest, had a cup of tea, written a few sentences here and there, and journeyed with Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire and Leon Bridges. I look to the evening, where surely mistakes # 8, 9 and 10 are waiting. I have dinner to face, a dish I am uneasy about and I’m starting to snap at the kids because it’s been too many hours, and there are too many left.

By the end of the day, my only hope is that my mistakes don’t leave any lasting marks, and that perhaps on Sunday I will wake up wanting to keep track of Triumphs, and find time to do those 50 leg lifts on the other side.

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Suck it up, Buttercup

Suck it up, buttercup was a well used phrase by a friend of mine. Without fail, every time she used it, it surprised me. Coming from such a generous, empathetic, warm woman, it sounded shockingly harsh. With those four words I would suspiciously wonder if she had a dark side that I had never seen. I recognize the hilarity in that. It’s such a gentle instruction. And yet when she said it, it made me worry about the day she would use it on me. Oh, she used the phrase in passing, during a meal we ate or something. ‘Is there any balsamic dressing? No? Shoot.’ Suck it up, buttercup. Nervous smile. That’s about as dangerous as it got.
I’ve lost track of all the things I suck up – either willingly or begrudgingly. There are so many. Keeping a list is not an act of woe, but rather a triumphant war cry of my goddamn accomplishments. I get through because I suck it up, like a buttercup should, and I am learning how to see it as winning, not whining.
It wasn’t always like this. Quite the contrary.
I spent a decent portion of my adult life trying to fight this battle without protective gear. Decked out in honesty and vulnerability I forged my way through enemy territory and wondered why every altercation left me wounded. I wanted to fight with my soul bare, staying polite, beautiful and giving. No wonder my depletion levels got so low I came to a sputtering stop. No wonder my wounds are lasting; scar tissue for days. My depletion left me in a paralyzed shock and as I lay in wait for somebody to come and carry my unarmed body away to safety, I realized the hard and simple truth. There is a lot to suck up.
When I realized this, I spent another healthy portion of my adult life mourning. Then pouting. Vines grew over top of me, earth weighed me down. Spiritual decomposition at it’s best. It’s only been recently, inspired by buttercups that I had the brilliant idea to change my fighting tactics. Maybe I could protect myself in this life battle. Maybe I could stop baring and start conserving. Maybe. Battered and bruised, laying there in my beautiful nightgown, heart open, I heard her whisper in my ear.  
Ripping myself free of the overgrowth has been awful. With each torn root, I wonder how it is that I let this drag on for so long; continuing to believe that my bareness was an effective weapon. Digging myself up feels as though I’m making a tremendous mess for others, and I’m worried that I’m disturbing their garden. My nightgown is torn to shit. But things always gets worse before they get better. I read that once. The surprising news is that my amour is thick. It’s uncomfortable, for sure, and I have urges to shuck it off, crawl back into my cotton nightgown, and run out into the night and assault my loved ones with my tender self again. But I’m practicing life in this new armour and am learning that some positions offer less chaffing. There are some moments that I even forget I’m wearing protective life gear. Baby steps.
Because there is a lot of sucking up to do. Everyday I catch myself, and instead of it sanding away layers of my vulnerability, I slap it onto my armour and watch my protective layers grow. I need this radical shift in my life for a decent period of time. While I am not turning my heart-felt vulnerability off, I am removing it from plain sight. You need an access code now. That’s right, buttercup.
My friend passed away before I had the chance to experience receiving her most frightening, gentle ass kicking. Instead, probably more true to her intention, I hear her every day, carrying her words with me and seeing her animated hand gestures and shoulder shrugs as she uses this most complex metaphor to encourage my growth and survival.
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Thanks Jerry.

Jerry Seinfeld once said ‘There is no such thing as fun for the whole family’. I didn’t hear him say it, but it sounds like Jerry. Dry. Witty. True.

This simple statement has become a bit of a mantra for us. We say it every time something fun goes south. It’s a gentle reminder that it’s not really our fault. It’s the cause and effect of trying to find an activity that suits the needs/moods/interests/attention/fascination/imagination of 4 different humans.

Today was one such day. Would you like to come on a short road trip with us and then spend the rest of day in our company? If you need reassurance that your family is normal, or a reminder to never have one, this could be right up your alley.

8am: Everything is pretty normal. Dog has been walked, tea has been made. Kids are eating their weird breakfasts (butter/peanut butter/jam on crackers followed by a plum…?) and I’m excited about the day’s events. A short drive to the Bonnechere Caves. An Ontario marvel. A childhood memory I’m excited to pass on to my offspring. Then comes the question from my daughter “Is it going to fun?”

Um.

“What do you mean is it going to be fun?’ I ask/hiss/threaten.

“Yeah, like are we running around caves, or is it like somebody narrating the whole time like those movies I don’t like” (documentaries)

At this point everything turns on its head. I explain what’s going to happen, she sinks into a deep depression, and her brother starts to tease her. I channel Jerry and recite our mantra, and my husband predicts that everybody’s “play acting bad moods will soon turn into actual bad moods.”

10 minutes later I am doing angry dishes, he’s having an angry shower and my son is stomping around trying to fit in.

8:50: I find a note on my bed written by my daughter that is an example of her character and pulls everybody out of their funk. Well, not my husband. He was the last one to join us in the actual bad mood, so he lingers there for a tad longer, making him an easy target for me and my daughter to pick on and encourage to ‘let that bad mood go’. Shameless.

The road trip is only an hour and half. In that short time period all the predictables happen.

  1. Kids laugh and play until they are crying and mad at each other.
  2. My son finds a potato bug in the car and becomes best friends with it.
  3. My son loses the potato bug and we listen to “I want my bug back” for about 10 minutes.
  4. “Mom my penis is hard”…. okay, not so predictable.
  5. My daughter decides opening her window on the highway is the most dangerous thing she could do and refuses.
  6. “Mommy look at me” plays on repeat and I respond with ‘wow’ ‘oh yeah’ ‘hmm’ ‘huh’ in a monotone reserved only for the dying.
  7. “Stop hitting yourself”
  8. etc.

11:30: We arrive. The activity itself is a success. The kids are captivated, the caves are cool and our tour-guide is just awkward enough to give my husband and I some good material for the ride home. We park next to a family with kids named Ezekiel, Judah, Isla and We-Think-Our-Kids-Are-Miracles and I hide my eye rolling behind my sun glasses.

1:30: The trip home goes as one would expect. A bit crankier, a bit louder, my husband a bit sleepier at the wheel and I keep staring directly at the sun to catch this solar eclipse everyone keeps talking about.

3:00: Arriving home means dividing up tasks like feeding kids, walking the dog, buying the groceries and an hour later, it’s time for me to leave the family and go for a run. I don’t much like running, but I enjoy being alone, I enjoy the slight sense of punishment that running gives me and I enjoy a quick orgasm after. After my run my husband is off to punish himself at a boxing class and I am left to make dinner. I don’t like cooking, but I do like following instructions, so if I have a recipe I’m good. The kids hated it.

6:30 – 9:00: As evening wears on, my patience runs thin, my love dwindles. I just need everybody to go unconscious now so I can scroll through feeds, lie on the couch and conjure up energy for tomorrow. In a short span of time my son breaks a wood working tool, I force him to own up to it, we start one book, he chooses another, he picks two books, I begin one, he wants the other, I start that one while he cries with a blanket over his head because he wants to sleep with the broken tool, he finally shuts down, moves his pillow to the hallway to fall asleep, creeps into my room to say his entire bottle of water is travelling slowly down the hallway, my husband and daughter are spending a relaxing few minutes with each other so I put a stop to that immediately and bark at them to clean the kitchen, I clean up the water, I tell my son I don’t want to see him again tonight, he asks for a kiss, I kiss him on the forehead, he says ‘no the lips’ I kiss him on the lips, I barrel into my room and decide now is the time to capture the day in writing.

Of course even that activity gets interrupted by the rest of the evening. It never ends. But by 10:22 I am sitting in darkness, surrounded by unconscious people who will wake up and make everything loud again in 10 hours. In this moment, I think everybody is happy.

So there Jerry.

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(This post is dedicated to Shelagh, who challenged us to write one blog post a week for the next four weeks. To you Shelagh, a slice of life for you to snack on.)

Chronicles of a Single Parent

INTRODUCTION

Successes, mistakes, regrets and lessons are the themes of this chronicle. It will be a month long project, aimed at keeping me creative and armed with a sense of humour. It’s not a long time, I recognize that and I’m excited for the challenge, I’m excited for the change. As my mother texted, ‘A change is almost as good as a rest’.

My goal will be to write every day, an odd thing to fool myself into thinking I will have time for. I will be transparent, ruthless and will record 2 things each day that were awesome. I am hesitant to make it more than 2 – anything more than that seems wildly unrealistic.

To set the stage, I dim the lights, draw the stage curtain and invite you into a minimalist scene, where 4 people stand centre stage. A family. Tired, but well fed. A slideshow of images, cataloguing the last few months plays behind them. The typical: family tensions, relationship woes, toddler power struggles. The unusual: a couple of car accidents, depleted bank accounts, a job laid off. The slideshow ends with an audio text of a young man asking the man of the house to leave for a month and help him with his new business. Lots of work. Good money. The man walks off stage, waving and downloading new apps on his phone to make video chats easier. The woman of the house and her two kids stand in the spot light. Their faces grow in tension and the light fades just as all three are about to wail into the darkness….screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-5-20-47-pm