Thursday, 6 December 2012

Jasmine and nightmares

I've been offline for a couple of days.  Ear infection, low grade fever, general grouchiness because I still had to go into work and didn't feel particularly appreciated for the sacrifice of time I would rather have spent in bed with the covers over my head. 

I talked to my younger daughter tonight and I'm still trying to process the conversation. I haven't had nightmares in a long time.  Think I might be due for one. day started out with a jasmine flower, and a vote of encouragement. More on the latter tomorrow.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

December's blog challenge

Why write?  Why write for public consumption?

Writing is how I make things real, and I choose to live in the real world. 

The indescribably joyous moments which seem almost too fleeting and precious to put into words.   The fears that keep you awake in the middle of the night and the frustrations that bog you down during the course of the day.  The things that make you shake your head when you get a look at your local newspaper’s front page, or the incomprehensibly stupid conversations you overhear between the Stepford moms in the schoolyard at five minutes to the bell.

“Write what you know” is usually the first rule we hear when setting out on that journey.   It’s the easiest thing to write, or is supposed to be, because writing is an act of introspection, of instinctively trying to capture thoughts in words on paper, and the question of whether or not they can be coerced into making sense verbally is never one that needs to be answered.  The act of writing is one way I have come to know myself and the way I feel about a growing variety of subjects, and in the privacy of the pages of my notebook or the Documents file on my laptop, I have permission to experience a range of emotions which are not always permissible to share with others in as raw or as untenable a state as they can appear there.  The fact that I choose to share some of them through blogging is to me a measure of my growth as a writer, and is a source of pride, though tempered still with a measure of self-doubt.

The act of writing is something I voluntarily separated myself from for many years, and when I took it up again, after marriage and three children, thanks to a friend who encouraged me and wouldn’t take “no, I can’t anymore” as an answer, I struggled for a time to find my voice.  I wondered why I was having such a hard time, because, especially through university, writing was a joyous act in itself.  I took Liberal Studies, English literature and medieval history, I knew all my professors by their first names, and because of the informal nature of many of our class seminars, I was able to explore a creative avenue even in essay writing.  I wrote my eight essays, at ten thousand words apiece, for my Shakespeare class as a series of undiscovered pamphlets, which you may know was a common way of being published at that time, in a reasonable facsimile of Shakespearean English.  My eighteenth century poetry professor was delighted with my final  essay on Alexander Pope, written in rhyming couplets.  Eighteen years later, I could not understand where the ability, once second nature, to express myself creatively on paper had gone.

As much as I hate to say it, the condom in the seminal act of creative expression was my living situation.  I say that I hate to say it, because for a long time I would have described myself as happily married, but in retrospect, I realize that it wasn’t so much that I was happy with my life as it was that certain aspects of it gave me happiness, my three children paramount.  I understood finally, and it was a long and difficult process to arrive at that understanding, that my husband and I hadn’t had things in common, as much as that we had common goals, a laundry list if you will, and that once those items had been ticked off, we had very little to say to each other.  A stay-at-home mother who didn’t drive and lived in a rural community, my world became a very small place.  Making my computer a friend became a natural thing, and so I began to write again.

Write what you know.  I knew I was struggling to understand how I felt, and why, and that seemed like a good place to start.  That was the birth of my blog, or Notes, on Facebook.  My friends list, which began as people from school or work, came to include strangers, friends of friends who read my pieces through comment links that appeared off my profile, people who liked what I wrote.  That was a huge boost to my hungry and fragile writer’s ego, because it finally convinced me that I COULD write...they had no need to stroke my ego because they weren’t “friends”, therefore their praise was independent of any personal relationship, and somehow more trustworthy.  Does it sound stupid to say that their appreciation was more valid?  Stupid or not, that was how it felt in the beginning.  My ego is a little sturdier now.

Finding my voice, as I said, was difficult at first.  I resisted the first person narrative for awhile, because even when writing fiction, it appears at first blush that you are writing about your own experiences, and that is never more true than when writing erotica, especially when a jealous spouse is one of your readers.  Once I stopped fighting that natural tendency, it was so much easier, and I tentatively started posting erotic vignettes on LiveJournal.   A teacher of mine once encouraged me to compose a complete character sketch of anyone I ever created in my head, right down to a birth date.  Once that character comes to life in your brain, he told me, once you can immerse yourself in that headspace, the story will be easier to write. A reader once told me, months later, I have never met you, and I have no idea who you are in real life, but I have made love with you dozens of times in my move me to passion with your words, and for that I thank you.

About four years ago, I got a brief and shining opportunity to be a paid ghostwriter for an elderly lady who believed she had a story to tell.  I interviewed her for hours, took miles of notes, and she was excited about what I produced, but in the end, she decided not to continue.  She had suffered from depression, been hospitalized and underwent shock treatment, abused drugs and alcohol, felt that she shamed her Christian family by having sex when she wasn’t married.  While I respected her choice, I told her that I wished she’d made a different decision, and she told me that if I ever wanted to use the material she gave me as the basis for a story to feel free to do so.  And someday, I will.

I choose to live in the real world, and writing helps me to do that.  Without my pen and notebook, without my computer and my blogs/notes, without the opportunity to work things out in my head to achieve a measure of peace and acceptance, without the ability to capture feelings with words to prevent them from swamping me in mental miasma, I would not have made it through the disintegration of my marriage and feeling guilted into leaving my home and relocating away from my children.

I would not, without the willing punching bag of my laptop and a few friends I would trust with my life, have been able to deal with the revelation that my oldest daughter, now fifteen, was molested by my father-in-law when he lived with us, the summer she turned eight.  When I thought about that filthy f**king bastard putting his hands on her, defiling my beautiful innocent girl, I was incoherent with rage and nausea.  I burned to write it, to get the noise of the buzz saw out of my ears, to help choke back the scream that was just behind my tongue.

I deleted my LiveJournal account when I realized my ex-husband was reading it.  I don’t post very frequently on Facebook anymore.  Now that my daughters have accounts, it is no longer a safe place to write the angry things, the selfish things, the depressed things, the frustrated things.   I’ve written a lot of frankly incoherent things over the last couple of years and chose not to put them anywhere at all. 

That is, was, has been, reality.  I could ignore it, submerge it, and go mad...or I could write about it, and stay sane.

The choice is obvious, isn’t it?

Friday, 30 November 2012

THAT kind of day

I have mixed feelings about today.

The real estate lawyer who is the primary person I work with quit without notice.  He and the managing partner have been squabbling a lot, and I knew it was coming, but still.  DID NOT WANT.

Between the server clock issue and an unexpected writ that turned up at registration, NEITHER of my two no-prob deals closed today.  One closed in escrow, one extended to Monday.  On another six deals that I was working with another clerk on (a block of six houses in London), I found out this morning that my boss, in consultation with the client, intended to extend for a week.  They haggled all afternoon, and by six pm hadn't settled, so the agent is talking to the clients over the weekend and will work towards an agreement by Monday.  I was completely left out of the loop, which is frustrating in the extreme.

My boyfriend, who is wonderful by anyone's standards, does not get that I need some quiet.  He helped out today with banking on our closings, and had a good day, so he's chatty.  At the best of times, he could talk the leg off a f**king table.  Right now, I just want him to stop talking, but I don't have the heart to tell him.

On the plus side, a wonderful friend RAK'd me on a gift thread on Ravelry with two patterns I've been dying to knit, and beyond grateful, I've bawled a couple of times.

"I can’t speak of the excruciatingly sh*tty day that I had, but periodically peeking in on this thread made it easier to get through the day without running naked into oncoming traffic while tearing my hair out and screaming uncontrollably."

 I'm going to go to sleep soon, and tomorrow I'm going to see Life of Pi and I can't freaking wait.  And on Sunday, I may just break ranks with my usual day and go meet people to knit at the Purple Purl.

Yeah...that kind of day.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The trials and tribulations of a small real estate law firm

I had a post started for tonight and I fell asleep on the couch after dinner, and reading it now I can't get back into the flow I was in when I started.  So...substitute post.  Kind of sleep-stupid.  NO JUDGING MY PUNCTUATION.

We had a technology problem at work today.  It's not the first time, nor do I imagine it will be the last, but each time, it's a gut-wrenching, nauseating experience.

I work in a primarily  residential real-estate-based law firm. We do litigation, wills & estates, but real estate pays the bills, and keep the doors open. 

There are some things about our firm that are a little different.  One of the things I like is that most of our clients and business are very local.  When we get in agreements of purchase and sale, most of them are on streets I am familiar with in the immediate neighbourhood, from the Annex through to High Park.  Our clients enjoy the ability to make appointments in the evenings, or on the weekends, one of the main differences between being a small boutique firm versus a big Bay Street office.  We're a street-front office, so we take walk-ins for notarizing documents and people who decide they might need a will before they go on vacation in two weeks. 

We have two real estate lawyers who work in satellite offices, and remotely connect to our office.  If you call our main line, we can still connect your call through the phone system to the lawyer's extension, whichever office he's working in.  We have a cloud server, VOIP phone and fax lines, and many of the documents we require for daily business come in via either fax or the internet.

I've talked to lots of people who say they'd never get a VOIP line (voice over internet protocol) because what if they lost their line and had an emergency?  My home phone is a VOIP line, and I very rarely lose my connection, or perhaps a better way of describing it is that I very rarely have a problem that rebooting my router can't fix. 

Imagine then, if you will, having your business get phone and fax over VOIP, and losing your connection for a few hours.  Awesome, right?  Can't receive  new deals, which means we might not know we're actually representing a client.  Can't get mortgage instructions if the fax doesn't work, because a bank won't get a message that the fax line is down.  Worst of all, no incoming calls. 

Internet's down.  No email.  No Teraview, which is the online land registry office. Most of our clients connect with us via email or text message, and not being able to receive or respond to messages can be devastating.

In a real estate law office, the hour between four and five o'clock is both endless and far, far too short.  A technology problem can compound the stress of that last hour of the day and ramp it up into the stratosphere.

Today, our conveyancer software (the database software we use to keep track of and work our real estate transactions) needed to be tweaked - the customer service representative said, I just need to re-key your system, and that should fix the problem you're having, where your system stalls for thirty seconds, several times a day.

Rekeying crashed our brand new server.  Fortunately I'd already closed all but one of my real estate deals...sales clients had gotten their funds and their mortgages were paid out, and purchase clients had gotten the keys to their new houses.  We had one deal that was going to close later, because their mortgage was a last minute affair, so we knew it would be later in the afternoon.  No sweat, that one-thirty server crash.

At four o'clock, I started to feel differently.  You can only register a document in the land registry office until five pm, so a real estate closing has a hard deadline before you start getting into breach of contract territory.  Most times, you're on the same side as the other both want the same thing.  Purchasers want their keys, vendors want their sale proceeds.

Today, my last closing was an eager first time home-buyer who'd been rejected by his first mortgagee, and got his mortgage at the eleventh hour, the day before closing.  I signed him yesterday at six-thirty (commissioner of oaths for the win), but we didn't get funded until after 2pm today.  The other lawyer called me at 4:49pm and said, can you go into Teraview and make your land transfer tax statements, then I can sign for release, please?

I had noticed after the server crash that my computer clock had gone back to 9am, and that despite changing it a couple of times, it reverted back to what it regarded as the correct time, which was quite a bit earlier in the day.  How awesome if it could be that turn back time and just let it roll.

Teraview, however, has its own internal clock.  A clock which didn't jive with my (or K's) computer's reckoning of time, and which dug in its heels and said, uhn-uhn, can't do that.  K and I worked frantically for ten minutes before we finally had to give up, and I  had to call the vendor's lawyer.

Depending on the other lawyer, there can be a huge process after 5pm when a real estate transaction doesn't get registered.  Many lawyers will say, I've got your funds, you've got my keys, let's close in escrow, give everyone their stuff and register in the morning.  Some will say, after 5pm I want you to pay for another title search ($20 for a local search, more if it's out of your area) to show that nothing new has been registered on title before I commit to an escrow closing.  A few will say, suck it, the purchaser can stay in a hotel and the vendor doesn't get their sale proceeds and we'll extend till tomorrow.  I never know what attitude I'll get on the other end of the phone, especially if the reason the deal hasn't closed is a problem that originates with our office, so the call is always made with hat in hand.

Today I was lucky. The vendor's lawyer and I had agreed earlier in the day that we were both on the same side, wanting the deal to close.  Her clients had no problem releasing the keys, and in turn got to deposit their sale proceeds today instead of tomorrow.

Our IT guru will fix the server's internal clock overnight.  In the morning, I'll update the land transfer tax statements to enable the other lawyer to release the deed for registration, and then we'll register.  Another weekday, and a bunch more closings, as befits the last day of the month.

As much as I'm disappointed by having a hold-over closing, that disappointment is hugely mitigated by the memory of my client's face when he accepted the envelope that held the keys to his very first home purchase.  It's the very best part of my job.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

That (un)satisfying crunch

Up until ten minutes ago, I was having a stellar day.  The kind of day that, when you look back on it, you say, DAYUM, I did good!

Proof number one.  I woke up just before the alarm and hit snooze before the cacaphony seriously damaged my calm, enough to get the whole nine minutes of drowsing.

Proof number two.  Our first appointment brought me a perfectly toasted, still warm bagel with butter and swiss cheese on it, just when I was contemplating a run to Tim's.

Proof number three.  I had one real estate closing today.  The mortgage money was in the bank when I checked the bank account at 9:15am.  The redirection came before 10am.  My runner was back from the bank buying drafts and depositing our cheque for fees and land transfer tax before 10:45am.  I called the courier to send the closing package, which was delivered by 1pm.  We registered before 2pm, and when the client came to pick up her keys  at 2:30pm, I had her final report ready for pickup.  Shazaam.  That almost NEVER happens.

Proof number four.  Three last minute signing meetings, with all documents, including teraview transfers and mortgages, prepped super-fast, and flawless first time around.  This means that my sixteen closings on Thursday and Friday should theoretically be smooth sailing.  This rarely translates into fact, but today it was hard to believe that the world wasn't an awesome place.

Until ten minutes ago.  Steph isn't home from his three day kitchen-wrecking extravaganza, so I was on my own for dinner.  I knitted on a project I impulsively decided to start for giftmas, made excellent progress, and decided at 8:15pm that it was time to have something to eat.  I made myself an omlette, cheddar cheese, mushrooms and red peppers, sauteeing the vegetables first, then beating the eggs till fluffy and swirling them in a perfectly hot frying pan, adding the cheese and after it melted, the veggies.  Flipped it without it going everywhere.  Edges sealed with cheese.

First forkful, dripping with cheese, fragrant with black pepper.   I put this heavenly forkful into my watering mouth, only to crunch on a giant piece of eggshell.

How the hell did I miss that?

I am going to go sulk now.  Or something.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Some of my favourite pics

  I found yesterday's post emotionally exhausting.  Consequently, have a few of my favourite pictures.

Maddie, dancing on the dock at the cottage in Algonquin Park.  I love that I caught her in the air.

 Maddie and Mel, goofing around at a subway stop.  I'm told they kinda look like me in this pic.

Maddie, during a walking tour we took last summer.

Post pumpkin-carving, Hallowe'en 2010.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Every other Sunday, we do a big breakfast.  Pancakes, eggs if you want them, baked beans, bacon, hash browns with mushrooms, onions and garlic.  Sometimes we fry up some tomatoes with fresh basil and shredded parmesan, or slice up some fruit.  Cocoa with petite marshmallows for the kids, coffee or tea for the adults, usually followed up with the water of life or a nice hoppy beer while we're cooking.  We generally sit down to this extravaganza between twelve and one.  Sometime in that hour, I always get the sense that time is moving too fast.  We have to eat by six thirty, be out the door by eight at the latest to meet R at the appointed time.  There isn't enough time to fit everything in...almost always, someone wants me to colour their hair, paint their nails, read to me, ask me for help with homework, put songs on an iPod.  Never enough time for the hugs and the cuddling and the moments of stillness where you're afraid to speak, afraid to break the contented silence that connects you to the small head under your chin.

A few of Sundays ago, Steph & I indulged in some quiet time, movies and knitting and solitaire, when suddenly there was a loud crash, the sound of a raised voice.  My neighbour next door was yelling at his girlfriend, loud enough to hear the words, feel the angry vibration of them.  The chihuahua was barking.  My hands froze, mid-stitch, and my entire attention was focused on the noise of the angry voice.  Thigh muscles beginning to bunch, the onset of rapid breathing, eyes going in and out of focus, the beginnings of dizziness, self-hugging.  F**k you, you stupid f**king c*nt.  You f**king stupid tw*t.  You don't like it, you should get right the f**k out of here, there's the door.  Long minutes, but in reality really only two or three.  I was staring at Steph with wide unseeing eyes, and when he looked up from his computer screen, saw what was happening to me, in one simple smooth motion he took the broom and drove the end of the handle into the wall three times.  The voices stopped.

I wish at some time that someone had made a point of hearing or noticing R yelling at me, had interrupted his anger.  Many times over the years, I used to say to myself, he didn't hurt me, not really, but if I'd ever really believed that, belief would have crumbled in the face of the reaction I had to the brief spate of yelling and swearing next door that weekend.  I'll probably never lose that gut reaction; it caught me totally off-guard.

There was a thread started on LSG yesterday, where the original poster wanted to initiate a discussion about conflict, and why there were so many stories about people, mostly women, who accept the unacceptable from people in their lives, how they didn't understand how that could happen to someone.  The thread was only two or three posts old when I saw it, and I haven't read any of it since, but I wanted to try to articulate a response, at least from my own perspective.

Yesterday would have been my eighteenth wedding anniversary.  We had smoking hot chemistry right from the start.  We dated for a year and were engaged for a year before we got married.  We never had a real argument that whole time.  In hindsight, that could have been a red flag, because our first real argument happened three days into our honeymoon, where I locked myself into the bathroom to get away from him yelling at me, and where when I came out and crawled into the bed he wasn't in, he was out of bed with his face in my face, asking me if I felt stupid for being three days into a marriage with someone I was going to end up hating, assuring me it wasn't too late to turn back and tell everyone I'd changed my mind.  He always told me he was sorry the next day.  There were always periods of quiet, of him seeming like he adored me the way he said he did before that first fight.  Periods of laughter, of flowers and passion and promises.  Then, without warning, I would suddenly find myself on the wrong side of his temper.  There would be swearing, mocking, name calling, derision, contempt.  Breaking plates, throwing books, overturning a table.  Sometimes there was more.  He knocked my glasses off.  Put his hands around my neck and threw me into a wall unit in our living room.  Slapped me so hard I dropped to the kitchen floor.  The worst time?  I thought we were about to have make-up sex after a terrible, confrontational night, when suddenly his hands were twisted into my hair and he was pressing my face into the bed, telling me I had no privilege or privacy that he didn't grant me, and that what he gave, he could take away, because I had no rights....before he raped me anally and then pushed my face into his crotch, so I could lick my own sh*t off him.

I didn't start out walking on eggshells.  I didn't start out agreeing that I was wrong or stupid or ignorant to keep the peace.  I didn't start out with my head bowed so he couldn't see my eyes.

Once you say yes, it's okay for you to talk to me like me names, put your hands or your words on me in anger and know that you can't say sorry and make the memory of it go away, or give me back the peace of mind I had before you become less human.  Once you're afraid to say deny having your own opinions, your own dreams, your own become less human.  Once you start losing those little pieces of dignity and self-respect and pride and self-worth...that humanity becomes harder and harder to take back.  You don't give it up all at once.  It's peeled away from you in strips and chunks as you try to hold onto as much of it as possible, and you lick your wounds to take away some of the sting when it's gone, and you try to gather the shreds of your humanity around you, and survive another day, another month, another year.  I've said to different people when I try to explain, eventually, I felt like I was dying on the vine.

Sometimes, you get another chance, another choice.  The stories from people who look back on those lives and wonder how they could have done things differently, how they became people they never intended to be, those sock puppet accounts set up by people who are too embarrassed or too genuinely afraid to reach out to people to find some reassurance that they're not asking for too much...they're my story too, the same way that a happily married person goes to a wedding and hears their own vows instead of the ceremony being performed.  It's an uphill battle, learning to take back my humanity in bits and pieces, small decisions and big ones, putting the brakes on, learning to say no, and also saying, full speed ahead, yesyesYESYESYES, but I'm worth it.  My kids are worth it.

This weekend, we made homemade waffles with our big breakfast, and gorged ourselves.  In the afternoon, we played Chickenfoot and drank hot chocolate and listened to K-pop.  Nothing special...and yet everything special.  Ordinary.  Quiet.  Contented.   I'll never take those things for granted.  And when the kids disagreed, they lowered their voices without me raising an eyebrow, and used their words to resolve the problem.  Of all the lessons I have to teach them, this one is imperative.  Not negotiable, even.

I never want my girls, or my boy, to think it's okay to talk to someone that they love that way, or to be talked to that way.  They have a choice too.

- To hell with this.  I'm gonna live!
Kaylee Frye to Simon Tam, Firefly

Sunday, 25 November 2012


These days,when I pick the kids up or drop them off, Ren tends to have a bag of my junk, as he calls it, to hand over.  There was no way I could locate everything that was "mine" when I was packing, so that doesn't surprise me.  Sometimes there are nice surprises, long lost treasures that were carefully put away.  He handed me a gigantic Christmas bag on my birthday this year, and the kids were convinced that it was a birthday gift that Daddy had gotten for them to give to me, and I felt bad when I opened the bag, with a bit of a flourish, only to show them some second-hand books I'd bought in university - Ben Johnson and Ernest Hemingway and Henry James.  The last bag he gave me had a gift I'd given him to commemorate our first Christmas in our new house, a tiny gold-framed copy of Thomas Kinkade's "Home Sweet Home", originally sitting on a matching easel, which did not come back to me.  The glass was cracked.  What a lovely metaphor.

Last week I had asked to borrow a waffle iron that we'd gotten as a wedding gift.  I used to make waffles all the time for the kids, same as I used to bake with them all the time.  I took some of that gear with me, and left some, which I replaced for myself.  The waffle iron was one thing I figured they'd use, but when I took it out of the bag, it had a thick film of dust on it.  I couldn't find the recipe for yeast raised waffles, so I got one off All-Recipes, which was a little more elastic than the one I used to use.  I'll have to find that one again.  It made me kind of sad, after the kids whooped at the sight of waffles and the different ways they like to dress them - syrup, chocolate chips, raspberry jam, honey, Nutella, mango slices - having to wipe it clean and put it back in the bag to take back to him.

He shrugged when I handed it to him at dropoff.  You might as well keep it.  I never used it after you left.  Or before you left, when it comes right down to it.  It was never really the kind of thing I'd think about wanting,or using.  That was weird to me.  Did I just imagine all the times we sat down, as a family, to fresh, piping hot waffles, redolent of vanilla?  Did I just imagine he'd enjoyed it as much as the rest of us did?

Today would have been our eighteenth wedding anniversary.

What a lovely metaphor.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Part of my job description

Mel is coughing up a lung today.  She told me on Thursday that her dad had let her stay home from school that day, but didn't intend to let her stay home the next day, whether she needed to or not, because he didn't want her to feel sorry for herself.  She said she was looking forward to coming over, if for no other reason than she knew I'd baby her a little.

I woke up at 2am to get her a glass of water, rub Vicks on her back and chest, give her some cough syrup and hug her while she cried, till the remedies kicked in and she dozed off.  She's been bundled up on the couch today with kleenex, cough drops, ginger ale and a cool cloth.  I've indulged her grumpiness, as have we all, and she's feeling a little more spirited, now that we've eaten some dinner.  She managed to choke down some Buckleys, and even suffered a joke from Steph about how if she could swallow that, she could swallow anything.  Eww...that's my daughter.  There was laughter, and hugs all around.

She hugged me earlier and said, thanks for letting me be a suck.  I hugged her back and said, it's part of my job description.  I'll NEVER not want to do this for you.

Now that the coughing has settled down a little, we're going to put on some music and play Chickenfoot, and hope we all get a full night's sleep.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Friday Five

Going to pick up my kids shortly.

  1. Long but very productive day at work, which I am glad is over.  Check.
  2. Egg salad sandwich and a glass of wine.  Check.
  3. NO COPS at the door.  This is not something I ever thought I have to check.  Check.
  4. Nothing but lazy for the weekend. Check.
  5. I don't have a fifth.  I'm not even OCD, but there should be a fifth.  Check.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A date with Piscine

I found out last night that a long-planned kitchen renovation at Steph's brother's farm commences next Monday.  He's going to leave here on Monday morning to start the demolition, and come back on Wednesday night to help out with the banking with our sixteen closings on Thursday and Friday.

As much as I will miss him (and I'm really not a big fan of sleeping by myself, if you know what I mean, and I think you do!), the first thing that went through my mind was, I'm totally going to see The Life of Pi on Monday night.

I went through an incredibly difficult degree program, reading-wise - the Great Books (everything from Homer to Kant, and a shit-load of stuff in between, philisophy, literature, science, political discourse, plays, religion), English literature and medieval history.  We read Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems over three classes, and I never actually got beyond the first ten pages.  It induced instant paralysis, and I slept for a couple of hours each time.  I don't read anything anymore that I don't WANT to read.  If I start reading it and I don't like it, down it goes.  Life's too short.

Have you ever read a book that has completely taken you over? That was The Life of Pi for me.  I bought it on a whim at a bookstore to use up the rest of a gift card, on a table of 'reccommended' books because it won the Booker Prize in 2002.  I was totally enchanted by Yann Martel's story, which went on my "top ten books I'd take to a desert island" and has stayed there ever since.  I asked for, and received, the beautiful  hardcover edition illustrated with paintings by the Croatian artist Tomislav Torjanac.

A couple of years ago, I recommended it to Steph.  To say that he hated it doesn't quite encompass the depth and breadth of his feeling.  Worse was the encounter we had at one of his family get-togethers where one of his uncles, a literary type, when I asked him if he'd enjoyed my favourite book, he told me he not only  disliked Yann Martel personally, but said he'd found everyone who genuinely enjoyed it was trivial-minded and an insipid conversationalist.  I have a serious issue when it comes to this kind of conflict, especially anything that smacks of name-calling, and walked away from the conversation. Lame, I know.

I wistfully watched the ads that said The Life of Pi had been made into a movie by the incomparable Ang Lee, and that it walked away with rave reviews at the New York Film Festival, and thought how unlikely it would be that I would end up getting to see it in theatres.  Not that I'm opposed to seeing a movie by myself, or (more unlikely) finding someone else to go with, but I put the thought away as something that I'd be unlikely to do, just because of that residual wistfulness, wishing he'd go with me instead of sitting at home.  I consoled myself by thinking that I'd download it and watch it sometime.

Suddenly, knowing I'm going to have a few evenings to myself?  I'm so there.  And bonus!LYS visit, as the theatre I'm going to see it at is right down the street and around the block from a dynamite little yarn store.

Is it ridiculous, how childishly excited I am by this?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The ten minute window philosophy

So...I've mentioned my brother three times in the last couple of weeks.  If you don't normally think of your brother, don't.  Apparently it makes them call you REALLY early in the morning.

I live close enough to my workplace that I can set my alarm for 7:45, still get away with punching snooze, and get to work by 9am, including a quick shower.  Answering the phone at 6:45, I was too groggy to even say, what the hell time is it anyway?

My brother sounded chipper.  He's held a job since the beginning of the summer.  He's living with a girl and his life feels normal - paying his own way without feeling like he needs to go, hat in hand, to someone who doesn't want to help him out anyway (these someones would be our parents), because the "helping" always involves cash.   His last call for help was to my mother, near Mother's Day, to say, hey, great to talk to you, first time in ten years...can you lend me five thousand dollars?

He rattled on about things for a few minutes, and then said, oh Steph, I just realized I probably woke you up.  I'm really sorry.  I cut him off mid-sentence, it's okay, don't worry about it, I'm glad you're calling to chat instead of calling to tell me something's wrong.  He said, almost shyly, I was just thinking it would be kind of cool to see you, I mean, I know Christmas is coming up and you're probably going to be busy....

I'm glad my brain was on auto-pilot, and that my mouth went ahead and said, Christmas is supposed to be for family, so I think that's a good reason to get together instead of a good reason to postpone.  He burst forth and said, I've wanted to call you for such a long time, I know it's been six months since we talked last.  I keep thinking, I'll have an hour tonight to give my sissy a call and say hi, and that hour never happens, but I realized I have lots of ten minute windows every day that I could start doing some of the things that I never seem to get done.  I'm glad calling you was at the top of my list, even if it makes you tired today.

And I have to say, after I hung up and had a cup of tea and got human, I was glad he took that ten minute window to call.  Maybe now that I'm awake, I can apply that philosophy to my own outlook on life, instead of procrastinating until I've got that mythical "more time" window to do something meaningful.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Let it be a feast

One of the things I loved about being a stay-at-home mom, one of the things that I identified with most strongly, was cooking my family's meals.  I felt personally sustained as I fed them.  It's trite to say, one of the most important ingredients is love, but saying it's trite doesn't make it less true.  I knew that best when my marriage ended, and I spent eight months living with my dad.

In the kitchen, when I was married, my style of cooking wasn't drawn from any particular country or philosophy, but a mirepoix of various people I'd watched and things I'd learned over twenty or more years.  

My mother was Ukrainian, my father was English.  When I was a kid, that usually meant lots of eastern European soul food, pierogies and cabbage rolls and goulash, alternated with large hunks of meat with a side of starch and a green vegetable.  My dad dated an Italian lady after my parents split up, and the first time I cooked with her, age thirteen or so, we made fresh lasagna, from the piles of flour on the table that we kneaded with water and fed through the press to make our own noodles, the gazillions of tomatoes we canned to make sauce, the ricotta and hardboiled eggs and pounds of mozzerella.  His next girlfriend gave me a mostly-vegetarian/alternative cookbook by Jane Brody, which would inform my meat portion choices for the foreseeable future, and my first lesson in home-baked bread.

When I was in university and making more of my own food choices, I was mostly trying to stave off recurrent problems of constipation and anemia.  The constipation started after some minor surgery during first year, and the codeine in the painkillers afterwards, and was a painful vicious circle.  The anemia I came by more naturally - my body just couldn't seem to process iron.  When I was doing my own shopping, I was able to control both much better, upping my raw vegetables intake and lowering my meat consumption.  I was a slave to Crescent Dragonwagon's Soup and Bread cookbook, and invested in my first copy of The Joy of Cooking, an endlessly fascinating resource that twenty years later I still think no kitchen should be without.

Married, I did most of the cooking, and gradually increased the amount of time I spent in the kitchen till it was a huge part of who I was.  I made much of my kids' baby food from scratch, baked probably half the bread we ate, canned peaches and pears in the summer and tomatoes every fall, picked and froze strawberries and blueberries, made raspberry jam and garlic dill pickles, froze bones and vegetable scraps to make my own stock.  When we bought our house, I finally braved my fear of lighting the barbeque and cooked outside all summer, had a kitchen herb garden, grew my own tomatoes from seed, braided my own chilies and garlic wreaths.  The last year I lived with my wasband, I was making my own wine at home too.

Living with my dad when my marriage broke up only emphasized the sense of loss, mourning for the life I used to have.

My brother, as I've mentioned earlier in my still-a-baby blog, was living with my dad around the same time.  While I had veered off preparing gigantic pieces of meat being the centrepiece of a meal a long time prior, my dad had grown up this way, and my brother, like my father, was definitely what I heard referred to once as a meatatarian.  Don't get me wrong, I love a steak or a chicken breast as much as anyone...but the size of steak that would regularly land on my plate at my dad's house would have fed my family of five the way I served it, as an accent as opposed to the main part of the meal.  My dad has this amazing kitchen, with beautiful knives and stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, and watching him buy ready made salads and boil-in-the-bag vegetables to go with the steaks and pork tenderloins and chicken breasts that we ate every night seemed like a complete waste of that beautiful space.  I yearned to make spaghetti sauce or lentil soup and bake my own rolls to wipe the plate or the bowl clean.  They looked at me kindly, but it was pretty obvious they were not into eating what I wanted to cook.

I was grateful to be invited to live in my boss' basement for about six weeks while I looked for a place in the same neighbourhood as my office.  It cut my daily commute from four hours both ways to about fifteen minutes, and I suddenly had a new lease on life, not to mention a whole lot more sleep!  I had a bar fridge and a hot plate, a pot and a frying pan and some assorted cutlery, a couple of plates and glasses and mugs, and I felt like a chef in the best appointed kitchen on the planet.  I was reverent that first night, chopping garlic and green onions and a yellow pepper and sauteeing them with the couple of pieces of leftover salmon and scallops I'd had with my sashimi lunch, along with some white wine and a few grinds of pepper, set aside to cook a couple of handfuls of fusilli.  I ate my pasta with a bowl of baby greens and cherry tomatoes tossed with raspberry vinegar, and felt like I'd regained a little bit of myself.

Two years later, living with my boyfriend, who is a spectacular cook and who also works from home, we have fallen into a routine where it ends up being him who cooks most of the time. not only dinner, but he also spoils me by making and delivering lunch to me nearly every day at work. I eat and deeply appreciate the meals he puts in front of me, but there's no question I feel like I gave something up when I accepted him being the primary cook.  It makes more sense, with the hours I work, but I still felt dissatisfied.  I make a big breakfast every other Sunday when my kids are here, but quite literally, that's about it.

I have a friend who does direct sales for a company called Victorian Epicure, and about four months ago I placed a small order, because I like to support my friends.  On a whim, I bought raspberry vinegar, a couple of earthy uncommon spice blends, and some kaffir lime leaves.  The night she delivered my order, I told her that I really missed spending time in the kitchen, and she was nothing but encouraging.  Go for it, she told me.  You've proved over the last couple of years that you're a fighter and you can do anything you want to.  So...cook!

My boyfriend and I have a running joke.  That was terrible, I'll tell him.  I mean, thanks for feeding me, I appreciate you putting food on the table and everything, but it was really, really awful.  He'll respond by saying, I was aiming for you feeling like it had been eaten once before, so I'll have to try harder next time to thoroughly disgust you.  It's lame, but it's been going on for awhile with no signs of stopping.  I felt gratified when my first foray back into the kitchen, a deep dish double crust chicken pie with onions, carrots, celery and a ton of mushrooms, with a side of buttered potatoes, earned not only the remark, wow, that was beyond gross, but also the confession, this is so bad I'm going to end up making myself sick eating it...after three pieces.

Little successes.  Lasagna, albeit a far cry from my first, with no-bake noodles we inherited when his parents emptied their pantry when they had their kitchen redone, and with sauce I made from commercially canned tomatoes, and garlic bread.  A giant pot of lentil soup, with roasted vegetable stock made from scratch.  Herbed rosemary buns and barbequed sliders with assorted vegetables (asparagus, mushrooms, vidalia onions, cherry tomatoes and broccoli) grilled in a basket.  Cranberry-pineapple-zucchini oatmeal muffins.

Tonight I made carrot-ginger soup - super simple, just garlic, grated fresh ginger, chicken stock, carrots, cumin.  Sautee garlic & ginger, add stock, carrots & cumin.  Cook till carrots are soft.  Puree and serve.   Watching my boyfriend wolf down a third bowl of this warm, deep orange soup , greedily swiping slice after slice of rye bread and raw broccoli around the edges to catch the last drips, I had the sensation again that I had finally taken a little of myself back again.

If my life is a journey, let it be a feast.

Monday, 19 November 2012

AKC: Angsty Copper Pipes

I rarely knit for other people. 

I knit a slouchy hat for my older daughter, and a beanie for my younger one, and my son wants the handknit Nerwin for which I just got the indigodragonfly club package to start.  They are happy when I make them things, and they know it takes time, but there's no recognition really that they have a singular item.  I knitted a prayer shawl for a friend who was battling cancer, and her reaction was, oh, thanks, but I thought shawls were for old ladies.  And I made my father a hat and scarf from a baby alpaca silk blend yarn for Christmas a few years ago, and he was fairly pointed in his remarks about how you can buy nice winter accessories pretty inexpensively, so...was that all he was getting for Christmas?  He's not normally a dick about handmade items, especially because he makes them himself (his medium is wood), but yeah...not ever making you anything again, dad.

My boyfriend is a totally knit-worthy person, and wants very much for me to knit him a Jayne hat, but as he knows, I'm currently on a self-imposed yarn diet, at least for a few months, so I'm short on the yellow and orange yarn components that are necessary for this knit to take place.  He has two sons, and one of them has a boyfriend - all three of the boys are totally knit-worthy as well, but for Christmas, there's only one of them I'm expecting to have knit a gift for, and to me, it was a big deal to have something that was just right.

D is the kind of guy who will wear black until a darker colour is discovered.  He plays ultimate frisbee and is training to run his second Spartan race.  He's got a crazy album on facebook entitled "The Beard", wherein he showcases his talent for growing facial hair and carving it into interesting shapes.  He's a martial artist, a phenomenal cook and an adventurer who recently "went west, young man" to try something new before buckling down in his chosen hometown, O-town.  About a year ago, we were visiting him on a long weekend, and I asked him about his handknit socks.  It transpired that one of his roommates has a mom who is a sock knitter, and he was deemed knitworthy when his buddy told his mom that D was always trying to steal his socks because they had no carpeting and the floors were cold in the mornings.  I actually bought yarn to knit him socks, but I couldn't quite bring myself to start, because I rarely have finish-itis, and I have a bunch of single socks that never got mates.

I went stash-diving for a possibly candidate, and found that I had a skein tonal black merino-silk in worsted weight, perfect for a a quick accessory.  I totally covet knitting Longview, but I don't have nearly enough for even the neckwarmer, let alone the scarf.  I wanted something a little show-offy, but not extremely complicated, because I wanted to actually finish it.

I give you....Old Copper Pipes.

I am in love with these cables.  Two needles.  The madness of Kim O'Brien, aka indigodragonfly.  It's her yarn too...Angst for the Memories.  I might be a bit of a fan.

I can't wait to see D in this.  I think it suits him down to the ground.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Ten statistics for a slothful Sunday

  1. Minutes spent surfing assorted Robert-Pattinson-hates-his-life Tumblrs - 43
  2. Bags of chips eaten instead of real food consumption - 2
  3. Sexyfuntimes for "Have Sex with a Man with a Mustache Day" - 3
  4. Hours spent in an accidental nap - 1.5
  5. Toys I learned about on commercial breaks during The Princess Bride on Teletoon - 18
  6. Episodes of TBBT watched - 4
  7. Soup recipes bookmarked to try "sometime" - 14
  8. Telephone conversations with my son about Christmas lists and video games - 2
  9. Original number of statistics planned for this post - 35
  10. Rows of Giftmas knitting completed - 0

And THAT is how you do epic nothing!

Saturday, 17 November 2012


I had a sadness this morning when my internet connection hiccupped after publishing the comments people made on my post yesterday.  So I not only didn't get a chance to think about or reply to those comments, I spent the time I'd intended on a quick post instead trying to reboot my router, etc.  Heading out to a birthday party and then a visit with a friend I haven't seen in a long time to drink wine and squish I leave you a few pictures of the thing I photograph most consistently, other than my own kids.

 I love to garden, and I bought this hibiscus about three years ago, thinking I would have it outside on the deck for the summer, and then it would die because I had never been able to overwinter them.

I brought it inside and miraculously, it not only lived, but thrived when I located it right over a radiator that throws a ton of heat out.  I had blooms on Christmas Day, and on my birthday in January, and during March Break.

I am endlessly fascinated by it.  It's a deep orange with a pinkish heart.
 Later in the day it begins to fade, and finally it closes up.  One day of beauty.

But what a beautiful day it is.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Kids being kids, and asking about shaving your pubic hair

I had some debate happening on my facebook wall yesterday, with respect to the link I'd posted regarding Cameron Diaz giving a friend a hard time because she had pubic hair.  The first couple of people who posted  felt the same way I did, that to shave/wax or not was a matter of personal choice and comfort level, and a few comments about how sad it was that women were down on other women about their personal choices.  One of my girlfriends gave me a hard time about talking about razor burn, ingrown hair or ripping a layer of skin off, saying "you're doing it wrong".

I tried very hard, without going into specifics, to say that while I was comfortable with my personal choice without necessarily feeling I needed to share what that choice was, I wanted to be an advocate for choice without shaming, because I have two tweenage daughters, aged twelve and fifteen.  My girlfriend kept saying to me, all I'm getting is you advocating for the 70s Hustler look...let your kids be kids.

Hypothetically, let's say I have another friend with two daughters.  This friend's older daughter recently had sex for the first time, and my friend, while simultaneously ARGHWTFNODONTTELLMETHATBRAINBLEACH and thrilled at the proof of closeness between her and her daughter, was additionally dismayed at the conversation that followed the next time she had visitation with her kids.  The older daughter started shaving her pubic hair, much to the disgust of her younger sister.  When asked, the only reason she could come up with was that her boyfriend thought pubic hair was gross, and declared that women were supposed to shave legs, pits and pubes.

My friend said, WHY are you supposed to?  Do you want to?  It's not like there's pubic hair police.  And the only response her daughter had was to circle back and say, you're supposed to shave.  Or wax.  Or something.  Otherwise, your girl parts are gross.  The younger daughter was disgusted with this response, and said so.

Later in the week, the younger daughter phoned my friend to say that this had been a subject for conversation among some of her friends.  They all feel differently, but they all are expressing various degrees of puzzlement at "who makes these rules anyway?"  My friend's daughter said, I was so excited when I started growing pubic hair, because I thought it was one step closer to being a grown-up...and now I'm supposed to shave it off and look like a little girl with breasts?  I don't understand.  What if I never find a boyfriend who doesn't think I'm gross if I don't want to shave myself?

I'm not sure that I was able, even after taking it completely off-wall, to make my facebook friend, who doesn't have kids of her own, understand why I am so offended by the Cameron Diaz article, or the one that accompanies it about fur trim being disgusting in the PETA ad featuring Joanna Krupa.

Our daughters are growing up in a world where there's more than enough body-shaming going around.  I sympathize with my girlfriend in her statement, let your kids be kids.  Unfortunately, when a just-turned twelve year old can be upset about whether or not she needs to be worried about shaving her pubic hair, we don't live in the same world I did when I was twelve, and probably not the same one my girlfriend lived in either.

I'm glad that *my friend* has the kind of relationship with *her daughters* that pubic hair is something that can be discussed openly, frankly, safely.

Keep the lines of communication open.  No shaming.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

More of the gift that keeps on giving

Steph was leaving the house today and locked the front door, which was open, as he left.  Our ever-friendly neighbour (the big muscly tattooed psuedo-tough guy mentioned in "Looking at my life through someone else's eyes") was coming back from the store across the street and got very verbally abusive when he realized Steph had a) locked the front door and b) had no intention of opening it for him, forcing him to bang on the door to get let in.  A generous amount of swearing and arm gestures.  Steph snorted when he told me the story.  Wasn't going to reward him for not carrying his keys by opening the door for him.  He needs to understand that the door is supposed to be locked, like the landlord AND the cops told him.

He is jovial about the whole thing.  Me, not so much.

I know that he enjoys dealing with big guys who think when they see him that they have an advantage over him because he's 5'7" in his shoes that he'll be easy to intimidate.  As a fifth-dan black belt in jiu-jitsu with a specialty in edged weapons (both using them, and taking them away from people), he has taught more than a few people that it is a serious mistake to underestimate him physically.

I watched him one night smile at someone giving him the gears at a bar, who outweighed him by probably two hundred pounds and towered over him by more than a foot, who decided it would be fun to teach the little guy a little lesson.  Steph brought him to a choking, coughing, blubbering mess, forehead to the floor on his knees, without breaking a sweat and maintaining an extreme economy of movement.  My wasband is the kind of guy who pulls the "I'm going to break your fingers when I shake your hand" kind of crap, and told me ruefully that he couldn't use his hand for two or three days when they had a handshaking episode.  Steph could literally, easily, kill someone without too much effort on his part.  It gives him a boatload of mostly-justified confidence.  

When I'm with him, I'm not afraid of anything.

It's when I'm home alone that I'm concerned about.

I've already sent an email to the property manager, but it's gone two hours since I sent it and followed it up with a voicemail, and I haven't heard back.  They've been trying to evict these people because they've caused a substantial amount of damage, tenants (including us) have complained about them, and the property manager's office was recently told they were moving back to Hungary.  I think they dropped the whole court procedure, thinking it was unnecessary work.  

I can't seem to make him understand that I don't regard this as a peacock-y thing for territory or position.  He keeps telling me, they're Hungarian, they've grown up in a different culture, where there's no innocent until proven guilty, you're supposed to be intimidated by the police or a show of dominance by someone at the head of another clan, and now that they've seen I'm not, they're trying to figure out another way to dominate me because they regard me as the clan leader.

I feel threatened - not in that I think any of them would try to hurt me, but there's no doubt in my mind that none of them would have any difficulty being verbally abusive, either by yelling at me in Hungarian, or, as this guy did when he was standing behind the cops last Friday, F**K YOU, F**K YOU, F**K YOU BOTH.

I'm not interested in living scared.  That's why my marriage broke up. And right now I can't afford to come up with first and last month's rent all at once in order to move.

Is it red wine o'clock yet?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Just before wasband and I split up, I sent out the following message (edited for length) to my closest friends and family.  I could not bring myself to tell the same story over and over, when there was so much packing and stress and secrecy, and this seemed like the easiest way to tell the people I wanted to tell.  I included my mom on this list because we had stopped speaking to each other, not out of anger, but because we haven't been in the habit of being close for a long time, and I wanted her to know too.

After just over four years of trying to make things work, R and I have begun formal separation procedures. I expect to be relocating in the next few weeks, getting a place to live and continuing my job search nearer to a supportive group of family and friends. 

Here's the difficult part.  I am in a position where I have to leave my kids with R.  My lawyer indicated to me that if I had a job and a place set up, all things being equal, if it went to mediation or court that I would likely be awarded custody as the parent of record, but without a comparable situation to move them to, my choices were to stay here until next summer (which for both R and I is an unworkable solution), or to leave them with the marital home as their primary residence.  As a result, we have agreed to joint custody, which gives me full and equal say in their upbringing and allows a more liquid arrangement in terms of how often I have access to them.  It also, our lawyers have told us, will make it easier to accommodate changes to the arrangements.

Those of you who've known over the past couple of years, I want to extend my everlasting love and sincere gratitude, because I would be a screaming, drooling mess without you.  Those of you who haven't necessarily known or suspected,  you're receiving this because you have helped me through the worst parts, even if you didn't know you were doing it, and you have my love and thanks for kindness extended for its own sake. 

I ask your patience in one thing.  We have yet to tell our kids, one of which is R's daughter from his first marriage, and on my friends' list on Facebook.  Until more of the details were finalized, and until school was finished, we were opting to keep the news to ourselves.  All I ask is that for the time being, no references be made to this situation in public, specifically on walls on in statuses.  Six degrees of know how it goes.  

I have been very reluctant to say much of anything to anyone until it was all over, but I have also come to know, especially over the past day or so, that this last month will be agonizing.  Packing, paperwork, getting things together on the other end, not to speak of knowing I'm leaving my kids and their everyday lives, the garden I planted with so much love...frankly, I don't have the strength to go it alone in the most difficult stretch.  Feeling vulnerable isn't my favourite thing...but I hope to start changing that very soon.

I'm at the biggest crossroads of my life...where words are so inadequate, and where silence gets me no-where. If you are reading this, know how very much you mean to me right now.

I received an outpouring of loving and supportive messages from everyone who received that message.  Except the one I got from my mother:

I'm very sorry about your unfortunate situation...feel free to contact me directly rather than through a mass mail out..maybe you will feel you can talk to me sometime in the future

The expression, I had one nerve left and she got on it, was the understatement of a century.  The message I sent back is reproduced in its entirety.

I suppose I generally think of a mass mail out as an impersonal, factual thing, and I'm not sure how you could confuse me carving my heart out to tell the people I love what's going on, with something either impersonal or strictly factual.  How ignorant of me to think only of myself.  I apologize for intruding, and for believing I should include you in that aforementioned list.  I have never been clear on why it has always been my responsibility to contact you & make sure that the lines of communication stay open between us.  Does your phone not also make outgoing calls?  Just a rhetorical question, which by no means should be taken as a request for you to prove that it does. Thank you for your message of love and support for myself and my children in this very difficult time. It's good to know that I can always count on you when it matters most.  No response is necessary.

And none was received.

I emailed her, I guess two years ago, for her birthday, and she politely said thanks.  Again at Christmas, then my birthday, then Mother's Day.  Two years in a row, we, we have exchanged those cautious emails, nothing too emotional or revealing.  She has never picked up the phone to speak with my kids at their home.  Suddenly, a few weeks ago, she sent me a friend request on Facebook.  I thought about it for a couple of days, and then I accepted it, and waited to see what would happen.  That would be nothing.  And now the ball is in my court, because today is her sixty-sixth birthday and I have to decide what to do.

On one hand, I have no desire to speak with her.  Rereading her words to me fills me with all the bad feels.  I look back on a lifetime of not feeling important to her after she and my dad split up, and I'm not surprised that we are where we are right now. 

On the other, I look at her friend request, and wonder if she was reaching out to me for a change.  I wonder how I'd feel, looking forward, if something happened to her and I didn't take the opportunity to find out if we could try again to be friendly and actually be successful for a change.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The best kind of tired

I arrived at work this morning to find a message from my boss, saying that as he's listed our building for sale, the agent has booked an appointment for tomorrow at 11am to take photos and do the virtual tour video.  And whatever help I could give him to get the place tidied up to make it look okay would be greatly appreciated. 

It's 8:30 pm where I'm sitting.  I just got home.  I'm freaking exhausted, but given my mandate, I was not about to leave until I was personally satisfied that everything that could get done, got done.  I'm going to have a glass of wine, my awesome boyfriend is cooking dinner, I'm going to have a shower and say goodnight to my kids and go to bed.

Instead of a more interesting post, have a couple of pictures from our trip to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair for my daughter's 12th birthday.
 Maddie asked for two things for her birthday.  The first one was that after we watched the SuperDogs show, we made a ten dollar donation to local dog shelters, which is where 45% of all SuperDogs come to the program from.  She got to pick from a variety of stuffies, and chose the Boston Terrier to go along with her adoption certificate.

One of the friends we made at the petting zoo.

The other thing Maddie wanted at the RAWF was a giant pickle.  They were smaller (and less expensive) than in past years, but awesomely garlicky and incredibly bad breath inducing.  She ate the whole pickle, and a couple of Cajun pepperettes, on an empty stomach.  That's my girl.

Monday, 12 November 2012


Due to Remembrance Day being on a Sunday, the banks and the government took their usual day off today, and since banks and the land registry office are the two main points on the compass for a real estate office, I got a day off today.  Steph was headed to his parents' place today to help his dad with a computer presentation, and so it was a REAL day off.  Me, by myself, all day, drama-llama free.  It was freaking BRILLIANT.

I knitted on and off all day, and had a Firefly marathon going on in the background for company.

Cleaned ALL THE THINGS.  Living room, downstairs bathroom, kitchen, including a special going-over of the stove top, which was really disgusting, and the fridge, which tied the stove for things which most needed cleaning. 

Washed ALL THE DISHES IN MY HOUSE.  There is not one single dirty dish.  Anywhere.

Made a fantastically good, completely vegetarian lentil soup, starting with roasting vegetables for the stock.  My house smells incredible.

Steph does almost all the cooking, since he works from home most of the time, and while he is a fantastic cook, he is really bad at cleaning up more than is absolutely necessary.  I was literally itching to get in there when he wasn't around, so he wouldn't keep coming in and saying, you don't have to do that, love.  Oh yes, I really, really do.

And I did.  And it was good.

The dog is grumpy because I took her blankets outside and hung them on the line for awhile while I swept and vacuumed, which she also doesn't like.  Even fluffed-up, better smelling blankets are not enough to appease her.  She'll forgive me when I feed her, especially since I fried the egg wash from last night's dinner to add to her dinner.

Cranberry pineapple muffins baking now.  And when Steph comes home from work, I'll be able to greet him as he usually does me, with the smell of a wonderful dinner, a cold shot of vodka and a "the best part of my day just started" smile.

Off to a good start for the week!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day

 My paternal grandfather was a pilot with the RAF, and met my grandmother while on leave in England.  This is one of several photos I have that were taken by him either just before or just after they were married, during on of his leaves in WWII.

I look at the photos he took of her, and while in one way, they are of a person I don't know, in another, I can relate to the emotion on her face.  In the same way, I read the poem below every Remembrance Day to my kids, along with Flanders Fields, knowing it was one of his favourites for how it captured the emotions of a pilot, but at the same time feel like I've only come part of the way to really knowing him or who he was.  He very rarely spoke about his experiences in the war, but it so much a part of him. 

 High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941

We will remember them.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Today's going to be a good day, dammit

After this week of wordiness and stress, going to keep it short and sweet.

My baby girl is twelve years old today and we are going to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.  The one thing she wants at the Fair is a giant pickle - a Strubs special that they only do for the RAWF and the Calgary Stampede that you have to see to believe.  We'll go to the SuperDogs show and watch sheep shearing and look at cows and admire the horses.

Recharging my batteries with my kids is the best kind of stress therapy ever invented.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Looking at my life through someone else's eyes

All day I thought, I can't wait till five o'clock.   Going to go home, have a glass of wine and a grilled cheese sandwich and a shower and go to pick up my kids.  Steph called me mid afternoon and said, had a little trouble with the neighbours, who have a number of unaffectionate nicknames in my house.  What was the trouble?  They think we stole their baby stroller.

Neither of us drive.  Ages ago now, our wheelie-cart gave up the ghost, and about three months ago, we found the frame of a baby stroller in the garbage a few doors down, and thought we might be able to use the wheels to rehabilitate our cart.  On closer examination, one wheel was not in great shape, and it got relegated to the back yard as a "maybe later we can do something with this" object.  It has sat outside, rusting, ever since.

These neighbours have lived upstairs since late spring, early summer.  I could rant and rave about them for pages, but I won't.  Suffice to say, they are the greatest source of stress in my life.  They don't like keys, so instead of carrying them, they break the locks on the doors - two sets of locks have been replaced four separate times.  This means that anyone - the insane woman who pisses in the alleyway, the guy two blocks down who reportedly cooks meth on his barbeque, any of the 5,000+ homeless people in Toronto looking for shelter from cold or rain - can get into our tri-plex.  We normally have two locked doors between the street and the door to our apartment, but at any given time, day or night, those two doors are propped open, so there is zero security.

The access hallway we share with them has been photographed by us many, many times - since they've moved in, it's been full of bikes, furniture, baby strollers, computer equipment, skateboards, which we've duly sent to the landlord.  The landlord has in turn told them it's a fire hazard to block the hallway, but they consider it their storage area.  Hallowe'en night, despite repeatedly locking the doors by us and by the folks to the front, there were groups of people, little kids earlier in the evening, teenagers later, trick or treating inside, when they aren't supposed to be able to access our doors.  Their stroller went missing that night.

The other thing I would add is that Steph accompanied the landlord to the tribunal hearing two weeks ago, when the landlord tried to get them evicted.  We have not interacted with them AT ALL, nor have they with us, but they're obviously not our biggest fans since then.

This afternoon, looking out the window, one of them saw the piece of crap stroller carcass in the back yard, and took an iPhone photo.  Then they came knocking on the door.  Steph was cordial when they asked about the stroller and told him theirs had gone missing, offered to go and get it so they could look at it so they could see it wasn't theirs.  He left them at the the door to go towards the backyard, and six people barged into the apartment, one of them smoking a stinky European cigarette.

Those of you who know Steph, know he doesn't suffer fools gladly.  He was polite, but definite.  You need to get out of my house now.  Most of them backed out on their own.  Steph is fairly persuasive when he's being...definite.  The last of them, a big muscly tattooed psuedo-tough guy, ended up on his ass in the hallway, and Steph closed the door after him.  We have a metallic board with magnetic poetry on it on our front door.  This guy started pounding on the door so hard he knocked all the magnetic words onto the floor.  The smoker, an older lady, was shouting "Police! Police!" in Hungarian.

I was home by five-fifteen, not knowing anything except that there had been a problem related to the stroller, and that the police had been mentioned.  It was totally different to get a knock on the door and find two cops outside who wanted to search our apartment for a stolen baby stroller.

I know the limitations of my apartment.  I took it on short notice, mostly because it had a backyard - permitting a garden, kids playing and dogs - and I could get all my stuff out of storage.  I did not take it because it was beautiful or spacious.  We live tight.  There isn't enough room for all of us and our stuff.  I've been here for almost three years...I'm a good tenant, cooperative with both the landlord and my neighbours.  But, watching two judgmental, accusing strangers I wasn't expecting, walking through my apartment, through my bedroom to the door opening onto the deck, observing me and Steph and our space....I felt exposed in the worst way.

We rearranged furniture two weeks ago, and there are two pictures still leaning against the wall that still need to be hung.  There's a chair, currently homeless, that's got two knitting project bags, a t-shirt, a computer monitor, two teddy bears and an afghan piled on it.  Sable's comforter is under the table, and there's clumps of dog hair drifting around the edges of the hard furniture. My rocker has a wine stain on the cushion, a jubilant souvenir from Obama being declared President.  There's a gray cardigan and my last club shipment of yarn from indigodragonfly beside my laptop.  A pile of folded tea-towels ready to go downstairs to the kitchen.  The cowl I'm currently knitting, hanging over the top of the chair by my rocker, with the cable needle on the seat.  A roll of duct tape beside the PS3.  The ongoing bag of clothes going to Value Village on the floor by my bedroom door.  Two pieces of a wooden dinosaur skeleton and a toy soldier on the floor beside the summer/fall purse I switched out for a darker one a couple of days ago.  A copy of Sophie's Choice on the floor on my side of the bed next to an empty water glass.  The unmade bed with a laundry basket on it where I rummaged for socks this morning. The track bag that has winter clothes in it, and the one that has summer/fall clothes in it, mid-transition.  My ball-winder and swift on top of the laundry basket.

They did not find the stroller they were looking for, because we didn't take it.  The cops warned our neighbours, for what it was worth, not to block the hallway, to keep their belongings safely behind their own locked door, not in an area accessible to others, and that if they harassed us in future, they could expect to be taken out in cuffs.

Not exactly the way I expected to start my weekend.  One more thing I detest them for.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Is it Friday yet?

After the past few days, i can't wait for the weekend.  An unexpected visit from a girlfriend I haven't seen since the summer was just what the doctor ordered tonight...and just before she had to leave, she and the b/f started talking about ties.  He bragged he could tie a bowtie.  It's true. :)
All he needs is a polka-dotted shirt and a red nose.

Something more coherent tomorrow.  Got my kids for the weekend, and it's my baby girl's birthday on Saturday and we're going to the Royal Winter Fair.  Thanks for your good wishes and positive thoughts.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Collateral damage

When I was living with my dad after wasband and I split up, my brother landed there for awhile too, for similar reasons.  His marriage broke up because, as we all learned with varying degrees of surprise, that he was a drug addict - first percocets, and then oxycontin.  My dad was the one who pulled him out of the back of his pickup truck, where he was sleeping on a piece of styrofoam after my sister-in-law pulled a midnight move with her kids to get away from him, and got him into a rehab program.  When he got out of rehab, we were sleeping on opposite ends of the pool table in our dad's games room while we were trying to figure out what we were each going to do next.

He met a girl who was married to an alcoholic.  She had five kids and no life, and fell head over heels in love with my brother, who is gregarious and attentive and has known since he started talking what to say to everyone without meaning a damn thing he said.  The one thing they had in common was that they were both completely into him.  He didn't balk when she started bringing her kids over on the weekends and began telling them that this was going to be their new daddy.  He even bought her a ring for her birthday, and went with her when she got his name tattooed on her ring finger to wear under her wedding band.

If she'd been less into him, she would have seen him slipping back towards addiction, and would have realized the money that started going missing from her wallet wasn't her fifteen year old scoring the occasional twenty, or her husband taking money for gas or smokes without asking her.  My dad and I both recognized the missing money, and tried to tell her, but she refused to listen.  One day she texted me with the words "Ur bro just broke my heart.  Told me bye & not to call him again."  She came by my dad's house later, crying and half in the bag.  I had to call her husband to come and get her, and lie about being a friend of hers from school and how she bombed an exam and we'd gone out for a few drinks and it had hit her hard because she hadn't eaten since breakfast.  I was angry about being put in that position, and told her so.  I felt like collateral damage, because both of them did what they did and they didn't care who got hurt incidentally.

Fortunately for me, I had just started work and was saving for first and last month's rent, and wasn't around too much longer, so we never really came face to face again.  She would send me the occasional text or message over Facebook, but I live more than an hour away and I wasn't going to travel to see her to listen to her talk about how much she loved my brother and how she didn't understand what she'd done wrong.  She never wanted to hear about my life, otherwise it would have been easier to listen.

Last night she sent me a message over Facebook and told me her husband committed suicide, and it was all her fault, and he'd made sure she was the one who found him.  I was all, OMGWTFBBQ  and she asked me if she could talk to me.  I called her, not knowing what to expect on the other end.  Well, maybe that's not quite true.  I expected to hear her tell me she was still in love with my brother.  She did, and added for good measure that her husband had known about her affair, that back in February he'd been drinking and taunted her about it, which turned into her flying at him in a rage, whereby she was charged with assault and lost her three youngest kids to children's aid.  They had a huge fight a couple of weeks ago, where he brought up her affair and told her he knew she'd rather be with her f**k-buddy than with him, and she told him, too right I would.  She was afraid she would attack him again, so called a friend and spent the night on someone's couch to put some distance between them.  She came back to find him hanging from the second floor landing banister.

She's now living in subsidized housing on disability, where she is visited weekly by someone evaluating her mental state, and gets one hour of supervised time with her three youngest on Saturday mornings.  Her fourth oldest is living in a group home, where she is getting care for a mental disability.  Her oldest is living with her, because she's older than sixteen and can choose.

She did most of the talking, but said at the end of the conversation that she felt a lot better for having spoken with someone rational.  I hung up the phone after promising I'd give her a call in a week or so to see how she was doing, and wondered what the hell I could possibly say that would be more than a drop in the bucket compared to the miasma of guilt and sadness and agony her life has become.  And the worst of it is knowing that, after all that, she still talks about how much she loves my brother.

Ugh.  What a train wreck.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Unexpectedly grateful

I had to sign for a registered letter today and was chatting with the mail carrier, around three o'clock this afternoon, and commented happily on the little piece of blue sky visible over the buildings across the street.

"Nice to see blue sky, especially when it could get covered up soon by the smoke," he said.

Smoke?  Is there a fire?

"Yeah, just up Dufferin a couple of blocks.  There's like, five fire trucks and they've got the road blocked off."

When he left, I phoned my colleague K in a panic.  I live just up Dufferin a couple of blocks.  My Roma neighbours upstairs are hateful and stupid and inconsiderate, and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if they either deliberately did something destructive, or they left the door open, as they're wont to do, and the insane lady who urinates in the alleyway a few doors north finally went around the twist and decided to keep warm by lighting a fire in my front hallway.  Either way, I couldn't spend the rest of the afternoon wondering.  K was happy to babysit the ground floor while I made a beeline for home.

It was the building a couple doors north of me, and while there were five firetrucks and a bevy of police, it was the sidewalk blocked off, not the road, and no visible signs of fire.  Many of my non-Roma neighbours were out on the sidewalk gossiping, and the general consensus was that it was likely the insane lady.  She has lately been sleeping in the alley at night, and during the day pushing around a baby carriage with about four dolls in it, draped in ratty old afghans and hung with plastic bags, and she is at perpetual war with the guy who owns the laundromat.  So, yeah.

Unexpectedly grateful, more so than usual, that I have a place to call home.  Somewhere that I can be where I am surrounded by things that I love, where I can invite people I love to visit.  Somewhere with a comfortable bed and a fridge full of food, heat, light, wine, knitting, a phone that I'll talk to my kids on after dinner, and a television I'm going to be yelling at when the election results start coming in when pundits say stupid things.  Donated to the Red Cross again, thinking about those on the east coast who don't have what I do today.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Baby steps

What does knitting have to do with skating?

Most days, the only association between knitting, or knitted things, and skating should be the cold weather.  I have a beautiful knit-in-the-round sweater with a fair-isle pattern in the yoke, commissioned for me by Rob when we were going out in grade twelve, that I still wear every winter with a navy blue turtleneck and jeans when I go skating or tobogganing with my kids, and it rocks.  It's warm but not too warm, neutral gray with navy, white and true red, it still fits me well, and and to me it has come to epitomize outdoor winter fun.

Skating was one of the issues that the wasband and I had a major disagreement about, which became more major as our marriage came closer to ending.  While I agree that sometimes kids need to be pushed to do things they're not inclined to do, I don't subscribe to the viewpoint that they should be forced, especially by the cruelty of words or actions, to participate in activities they show no inclination towards.  He's good at a bunch of things, but teaching and inspiring little people isn't one of them.  Over the years, I watched him butt heads many times with my step-daughter over learning to ride a bike or skate or rollerblade, and the result was not fun, never a good learning experience and certainly not a bonding one, for either one of them.  As a bystander, it was a never ending nightmare, wanting theoretically to side with my husband...yes,(step-daughter), you really should give this a go, because once you learn, it will be one of those life skills you will enjoy and look forward to practicing....and yet being fundamentally unable to do so... Jesus, R, how can you talk to a seven/eight/nine year old like that?  As a parent, I wear my sarcastic hat more often than I care to admit, but he went beyond sarcastic into mean, and I couldn't countenance that, not with my step-daughter and not with the kids I gave birth to either.

We used to go to a family skate every Sunday afternoon every weekend that R wasn't working.  We had had a series of arguments on successive Sundays about skating.  The kids were progressively less enthusiastic about going, and when we went, I ended up trying to hold three clingy little hands, seething about feeling marginalized, like my spouse saw me as a babysitter that allowed him to move outside of our family zone by himself, angry that my kids were justified at feeling scared of their dad, who yelled at them in public every time they made a mistake and yelled at me for not supporting his position, while he skated alone and fast and free and angry that no-one was "trying".  I can't count the number of times those excursions ended in tears for at least one of the kids, and led to the "I don't want to go skating" refrain every Sunday just after breakfast.  As the winter wore on, the kids would beg me to say I didn't want to go skating, and to be honest, I DID stop wanting to go. 

One Sunday, we had an epic argument where he ended up screaming at me, neck corded, eyes popping and forehead veins prominent....goddammit, my kids are going to learn how to skate, and I don't care if they hate me by the time it's over....I stepped back, dry eyed, and said, R, go right ahead with YOUR agenda, but I WILL NOT be a party to you scaring them with your anger and frustration.  I freely admit that I dragged my feet that day and the weekends after that, started to take a little too long making sure the kids were ready to go, and one day he left without me.  It was a new low in our relationship, because to me, he was saying to our kids, your mother isn't important enough for me to wait for her, even to give her notice that I'm ready to go, but even at the time I can't really say that it surprised me.

I took my gear off, stumbled around my house in tears for a few minutes, and after I got a grip, got the pork roast I had planned to make for dinner ready to put in the oven, poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to assemble a sweater I'd been knitting on and off for the past several months.

I had become friends on ebay with an amazing fibre artist named dj runnels, under the ebay store name "Life's An Expedition", had bought some of her yarn blends, made a few items with her totally unique and fibrelicious  blends, and even inspired an article she wrote about blending yarns when garment knitting.  Pertinent to this story, I had bought several balls of yarn she called "Petit Fours", pale green and purple and pink, alpaca and cotton and lambswool, baby soft and squishy and decadent, and over time had accumulated enough yarn to make a turtleneck I'd found on Knitty .  That day, I sewed the front and back of the sweater together, and then grafted the raglan sleeves onto the body.  Trying it on before picking up stitches to knit the neck, looking at myself in the mirror, I couldn't decide whether to scream or cry.  One sleeve was about two inches too long, at the wrong end...the shoulder end, not the wrist end. 

I couldn't bring myself to frog that damn sleeve.  The yarn, as wonderfully soft as it was, was textured by virtue of six separate colours and fibres stranded together, and while the pattern itself was fairly simple, the yarn was not easy to work with, having six separate strands to a stitch.  As the Yarn Harlot says, "Experienced knitters don't make fewer mistakes than new knitters. They make bigger ones faster."

At the height of my distress, my family came home from skating.  I didn't feel able to confront R with my anger at being left behind on a skating excursion I hadn't been enthusiastic about going on anyway, and had to bluster my way through my kids' questions about why Daddy had left me behind and reassuring them that life was going to go on.  Privately, I folded the sweater up, along with my anger and frustration and my feelings of futility and hopelessness, and I haven't touched it since.

After we separated and I moved in with my dad, my knitting gear spent close to a year in storage, as did most of my clothes, books, my yoga and other exercise DVDs, cds and movies, skates and just about everything I associated with relaxation and enjoyment.  The storage unit was over an hour away from my dad's place and not accessible by transit, way off the beaten track on a service road.   If you had asked me why I'd packed the way I did, I would have told you I expected to find work and get my own place within weeks.  I spent months of days trying to find a job, and evenings despairing I ever would, with my laptop and a bottomless bottle of red, drunk facebooking.

It took spending a weekend in Toronto in February 2010 and getting introduced to Knitomatic (one wonderful LYS of many in the city that's now my home) to bring a little of my knitting mojo back.  I bought two skeins of Malabrigo and a pair of straight Harmonies, and at the store owner's suggestion, got a cool hat pattern and knitted during the winter Olympics, trying to get my project done before the closing ceremonies finished.

Although I finally got my gear out of storage and got reunited with all the things I hadn't seen in almost a year, including my knitting, I still haven't frogged that sleeve, and I cried when I photographed the sweater, such as it is, for my Ravelry project page.  Since starting to knit again, I tend to stick to accessories, rarely needing more than two skeins to complete a project.  But the sweater has moved from a box in my basement to being wrapped in plastic bag with some of my stash and my knitting books in a cabinet in my living room.  I took my kids skating last winter at an outdoor rink.  I wore my favourite outdoor sweater, we kept it short and low key, and they seemed to enjoy it...there were no tears and definitely no yelling.  I'm getting closer to being able to bring myself to detaching the sleeve, which is a step closer to frogging it.  

Today was our first really cold day in Toronto.  It will be time to take my kids skating again soon.  I hope one day they'll enjoy it.