Happy Pride Weekend!

This weekend is a double whammie if you live in Toronto (which I do). July 1 is Canada Day, where we celebrate what it is to be a Canadian and to live in this wonderful country. It is also Gay Pride Weekend, which is estimated to bring 1.2 million people to the city over the course of the event – one of the biggest such events in the entire world. I love the fact that they both fall on the same weekend and because really, so many things about what it means to be a Canadian are the very same things which allow our GLBT… community to fly the rainbow flag in every corner of this city and this country.

I am intensely proud to be raising my children in a country where they will be allowed to not only love whomever they chose, but also to marry them, have children with them, and have a happy, secure, joy-filled life. I have always had faith that when it really matters, when it comes to basic human rights and dignity, my country will not let me down. Sure, we have a long way to go in many respects but we are, if nothing else, folks with a whole lot of common sense. Probably comes from living in a country that is snot freezingly cold for so many months of the year and a lack of common sense would have left our ancestors dead in a snow bank somewhere. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to talk about everybody being equal and then not doing something about it. That would be very un-Canadian.

I remember when my kids were younger, maybe 2 and 5, some of us ladies were sipping some wine and somebody asked “So, do any of you think that your kids might be gay?” We had all given it some thought and we all had our answers, but I loved the idea that it was a question that we could even be addressed in casual conversation, like any other parenting topic that we discuss. I know that my kids will have love and support no matter who they spend their lives with, just the same as I expect them to show the same love and support to any of their friends who take a different path.  My younger son’s best friend has two mothers, who love him fiercely and my son spends a LOT of time over at their house. He sees that their family is different from ours, but he compares it  to the way his other friends who live with only one parent are different. Not good or bad, just different. I can’t resist giving myself and my partner a little pat on the back that we have raised children who is are unquestioningly accepting.

So, Happy Pride everybody. Keep up the good fight and I’m sure that Canada will come through for you. In the meantime, I will raise my kids to be proud of their country and to love unconditionally.

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My Laundry Is Giving Me Wrinkles

It’s Tuesday and Toronto just got hit with a humidex advisory. I am all for fresh air, but if the air in question feels like it’s over 40 degrees (that’s 104 for any Americans out there), then I am opting out. Apparently we’re just starting off a three day heat wave which makes me VERY grateful that we just had the air conditioner serviced and given a clean bill of health.
Not so for Monkey, who is home again today, running a slight fever and coughing like 70 year old lifetime smoker. He’s raspy and phlegmy and a bit lethargic but otherwise in good spirits. Not so for his cooped up mummy.
Opting out of the great outdoors is one thing, but being forced to stay in and endure the incessant drone of cartoons or youtube videos is more than a little nerve wracking when you’re supposed to be working. On top of that, I have realized that I can no longer ignore the laundry that is piling up. Cue the wrinkles.
I have mentioned before that I live in a house full of men. I have not mentioned before that they smell. Oh, I realize that it’s not their fault. They bathe regularly (even though we have to sometimes threaten Mini Me with loss of computer privileges if he doesn’t get in the shower RIGHT NOW!!), and generally don’t get very dirty. But…
Maybe it’s this whole perimenopause thing, but I seem to have developed the nose of a blood hound. I remember being like this during my pregnancies, when certain smells could cause me to dry heave. As it turns out, the dry heaving has not returned, but I have been seriously tempted to put a clothes pin on my nose to avoid the smells that emanate from the dirty laundry. I can feel myself frowning and wrinkling my nose, my whole face scrunched up as I sort through sweaty shirts and stinky socks, not to mention anything Monkey wears on his lower half, because he still has some problems with drippage (to put it kindly). Ugh.
It has gotten to the point where I have to consciously talk myself into relaxing my facial muscles because if there is one iota of truth to the “Make a face and you’ll stick that way” story, then I am screwed. Maybe I should burn some incense in the laundry room to distract myself of maybe I should put sachets of potpourri in the laundry hampers. Of course, the easiest thing would be to have them sort their own damned laundry. Hmmm. Now there’s a thought. Okay, I am off to look at laundry room organizational tools at IKEA. Muppet can’t complain about me buying new, fancy hampers if it’s for the sake of my sanity and to keep my face from prematurely ageing. Right? Right!

Heading Outside My Comfort Zone… and Loving It.

I was always one of those kids who dreaded having to do the school play. I would get nervous and feel nauseous. I would get shaky and be filled with dread. I was always part of the chorus, in the background, yet I still felt like I was being stared at. What if I made a mistake? Will people laugh at me?

I used to say that one of the great things about being a grown-up is that you can chose the situations that you find yourself in a lot of the time. If I was terrified of public speaking, then I just didn’t have to do it. Didn’t want to get in front of an audience? Then don’t. Simple.

So, why on earth am I preparing to go on stage with my classmates for my 6th (or maybe 7th, I’ve lost count) student belly dance gala? I guess I have learned that sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone can be fun, and even exhillarating.

Tonight, my friends and I will get all dolled up, cake on our stage makeup, put on our sparkly costumes and giant gaudy jewellery and go out in front of an audience filled with appreciative friends and family, as well as random belly dance fans, and perform our hearts out for 4 minutes, and we will love every second.

I do it because I love the art form, even though I still have so much to learn. I love the costumes and the music and the cheers of the audience. But, most of all, I love the ladies I dance with. We range in age from 14 to mid-50s but are all brought together by our love of this form of dance. We shake our shoulders, smile at the audience and shimmy our hips to applause and whistles and we feel complete joy.

Just writing about it, I can’t wait for tonight to see everybody again. We will cheer on the other students, clapping loudest for those who have just started out and who are probably as terrified as I was the first time on that stage. We will do each other’s makeup backstage and help pin together costumes, swapping acessories and acting a bit like girls at a sleepover. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Is Finding Balance a Myth?

I have been struggling lately with the idea of finding some kind of balance in my life and I think that in order to save my own sanity and that of those around me, I am going to take a deep breath and admit that balance is elusive, maybe even impossible and I am okay with that.

Right now, I am sitting in my backyard with a steaming cup of tea, laptop open in front of me and a beautiful male cardinal just came to perch a tree near me. It’s a beautiful, sunny day and the weather is finally cool and comfortable with not a cloud in the sky. Sounds ideal, right? Yet in the back of my mind are a hundred things that are keeping me from enjoying this moment.

I should be working because I need to take this Friday off and if I don’t make up my hours in the next two days, it means trying to fit in some extra time on the weekend when the kids and the guy are around to distract me and make me feel guilty for not spending time with them. I need to work on the choreography for my belly dance showcase on Friday night (Yes, I belly dance. No, I’m nowhere near a professional but our school has its spring student showcase this week.). I should be working on my costume for said showcase, which is nowhere near put together. I need to figure out what we’re having for dinner tonight and plan something to make for Friday when I am away and my awesome brother-in-law will be watching the kids. There is laundry to be folded and dishes to be done, a dishwasher to unload, and yet here I am sitting in my backyard blogging.

I also haven’t been to the gym in what seems like forever and my body is starting to complain about it. I have a history of lower back pain and I am not doing myself any favours by sitting and working at a laptop when I could be strengthening my abs and stretching my muscles.

I know that it all sounds trite and unimportant when I put it in writing and that is exactly why I am doing it. The fact is that my life has had no semblance of balance in the past couple of months. I have been constantly struggling to keep up with everything and feel like I’m doing a good job at nothing. And I need to just let that go.

I pride myself in being a feminist and a well educated woman, but I still buy into the idea that I am never doing enough or doing things well enough. Shouldn’t I be getting up an hour before the kids so I can go for a run or to the gym, then make them hearty homemade oatmeal and send them off to school with lunches full of homemade, healthy foods? Shouldn’t I be giving my undivided attention to my work while they’re gone, excelling at my job while miraculously getting all the laundry done, and then picking the kids up at 3:20 with a smile on my face? I should bring them home and make a healthy dinner from scratch that we will all enjoy, sitting together at the table, recounting our day, then tidy up, help with homework, and shuffle them off to a drama free bath and bedtime. And in between all that, I should make sure my nails are done, any (surely non-existent) grey in my hair is covered, my eyebrows plucked, legs shaved and clothes immaculate. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?Image

And yet, I would love to be able to do all those things. I am not good at being ‘good enough.’  I am a self-professed control freak, and that has to change.

Which is why I am sitting in my backyard. The tea is now lukewarm and the little dog next door keeps barking at me through the fence because she apparently can’t remember that she sees me pretty much every day. But my mind is clearer and I am feeling refreshed and happy. My lovely old cat just came out to see what I’m doing. She is now going to eat grass in the backyard and surely barf it up all over the dining room floor but that’s okay. She’s happy, I’m happy. I am going to ignore the dishes and the dishwasher and get to work. But first, another cup of tea.

Bad Days and Good Mornings

Yesterday was definitely one of those days when I felt like just running away from home. Not for any really good reason. It’s not like the kids were being particularly horrible or my partner particularly annoying. Nothing went really wrong.

But…

Do you ever have one of those days where everything seems to just catch up with you? I fully admit that I woke up crabby. I had enough sleep and the kids were quiet this morning, so there was really no excuse for it, but there I was, Grumpy Mummy, and no amount of caffeine seemed to fix it.

I looked around at my cluttered, messy house and felt stressed. Then, the cat barfed on one of the living room chairs and the second one turned out to have fleas. The 7 year old started making demands about breakfast and the dishes from the night before still hadn’t been washed. Muppet decided to catch up on all the sleep he had been missing the previous week of working late and stayed in bed until noon and Mini Me was glued to the couch and laptop, barely grunting acknowledgements of my existence.

I spent a glamorous Sunday tidying the house, while Monkey alternated between playing outside and throwing tantrums because his friends wouldn’t listen to his brilliant ideas for starting an art club in our driveway. Muppet left in the late afternoon for a ‘guys’ night’ at his friends place and I was left with two grumpy children and an even grumpier me. It did not go well.

Suffice it to say that by bedtime, I had Mini Me in tears because I was ‘too rough’ washing his hair for him (which I absolutely should not have been doing anyway because he’s TEN ) and Monkey was in tears because I didn’t cuddle him enough during his last tantrum, which apparently meant I hated him. Sigh.

I went to bed crabby and woke up unwilling to decide on my mood until I had at least some caffeine in me. So, I sat down and started to look at some blogs and, lo and behold, there were other moms out there who had a crappy Sunday too. It made me smile to know that I wasn’t alone and it made me realize that the power of blogging is that you can always find somebody to identify with, whether they’re in your city or halfway around the world.

It made me realize that I did the right thing by going back to this blog because maybe somebody out there will read my post and identify with me and what I’m writing, even if it’s just about my crappy mood on a sunny Sunday. And maybe I will make them feel a little bit better too.

Keep Your Girlfriends Close

I am very fortunate to know a lot of fantastic women that I call friends. When my partner and I moved into our downtown neighbourhood, I was a good four months pregnant with our second child, still working full-time at a pretty demanding job, and had gone deep into social hibernation.

As we walked to and from work that winter, me getting rounder and slower by the week, I absolutely thought my partner had lost his mind. He was talking to people we passed in the neighbourhood. Not just the friendly big city smile and nod of acknowledgement; the ‘Hi. I vaguely recognize you as somebody I see every day on the way to the subway’ smile. He was chit chatting. About us, our house (our very first), our kid, the kid on the way… I was dumbfounded.

Then spring came and so did boy number two. Stepping outside with him was like an open invitation for people to approach, to coo over him, to ask how we were doing. I learned that our little street was in the middle of a massive baby boom and there was well over 25 kids by that point, most of them under the age of 10.

But best of all were the ladies. I met them sometimes one by one and sometimes in an overwhelming group. I learned that sitting on your front porch on a beautiful night was an open invitation for people to join you. Wine would appear and somebody would grab some chips or the ‘good’ chocolate that we mummies keep for emergencies, hidden from the husbands and children.

We would talk about everything under the sun – how our kids deove us crazy sometimes, or how our husbands or partners didn’t seem to get how hard it was to be a mother working inside or outside the home. We talked about how our bodies had changed since having babies and compared notes on how we were coping with life’s challenges.

Our kids ranged from newborns to newly fledged teens and our ages were anywhere between the early thirties to over 50 but we were able to share with each other, to learn from one another. It made me realize the value of friendship, especially between women. We kept each other sane. We still do. People have come and gone from our group, some are closer than others. We have expanded off our own street to neighbours further out and friends of friends. Everybody is welcome to share a night with ‘the girls.’ When we get together, I can’t stop smiling. They have my back when I need them and they are always willing to share their good chocolate.

How Time Flies

Its been about a year since I basically abandoned this blog and now here I am back to give it another go. Why did I stop? I think I just wasn’t ready to consider the idea of myself as a writer, even if it was just for what is basically a vanity project like a blog. What changed my mind? A few things, really.

A year ago this past March I started a new job online doing updating and content maintenance for a website. It was a perfect fit at the time, working 10 hours a week from my kitchen doing a lot of basic research and admin. Now, a year later, the hours have doubled and the job has blossomed into content management, writing articles which I can publish on the site, and managing all the social media as well as following relevant blogs. It was just the kick in the pants I needed to make me realize that I can go back to my own blog.

So, here I am and here I go again. Wish me luck!