The Spring Break that isn’t

In Canada, they don’t call it “Spring Break” because the break actually happens before Spring.  It’s called March Break.  After enduring two winters, I now believe it’s because by the time March arrives, every Canadian is ready to make a break for it.

My kids have two weeks off from school and nursery school.  Most of the kids in this area get one week, but my kids are extra-special sparkle snowflakes (that’s sarcasm, in case you missed it) and get TWO.  This year, as with last, we did not participate in the Great Canadian Temporary Migration, and are instead here, enduring fluctuating temperatures and the occasional irritating snowfall.

My two closest pals here have abandoned me for warmer places.  One is in Playa Del Carmen Mexico, and the other is somewhere in Florida.  I have blocked out where for everyone else’s sanity.

Last week, the first week of March Break, I filled the week with random playdates.  This was both brilliant and semi-masochistic: it meant I had to maintain a level of clean and tidy that I don’t usually achieve. The kids had fun, we went through loads of playdate food, all went well.

This week, I have not filled the week, thinking I’d need a break from the constant maintenance (nut sweeps for allergic friends; spotless bathrooms for new friends; toy tossing, etc). The fact that we don’t have 3 or more playdates this week means my social 6-year old is filled with sadness. “What?! NO ONE is coming OVER?” It’s the end of the world, darling. Do your homework. My not-so-social 2-year old is grateful, I think.  By the end of last week, she was getting very territorial over her favorite things, having done her best to share (even though that’s against the Toddler Code) with lots of friends.

I didn’t intend for this to be a snarky rant, so I won’t also tell you that I’m tired of being creative in the kitchen and would really love to let go of that insistent feeling that my children should eat well-balanced meals. It’s my own demon, and I’m working hard to let her go.  Last night, we had pancakes. They were delicious. It’s now close to noon, and I don’t really have a good plan for tonight’s dinner. I’m hoping inspiration hits after I’ve visited the torturist dentist with my 6-year old this afternoon.

Winter in Canada

Snow. Cold. Snow. Brutal Cold. That’s how winter works here.  We do try and make the most of it.  This year, we didn’t get to Winterlude due to nasty colds and arctic temperatures.  Because we have tons of snow and giant piles as we move it around, Matt built a sled run in front of our house.  The girls have a great time scaling the piles and sledding.

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Unnecessary drama

“What other people think about you is none of your business”

The internet attributes this to far too many people, so until I get a reliable source, I’m going with unknown.

The first time I heard this, I wasn’t very keen on it. It seemed too simplistic. As I’ve grown older, it resonates a bit more, maybe because I’ve lived long enough to learn to not care.

It’s been a revelation, really. My life is busy. Not as busy as some, and I’m certainly not competing for the “Busy” title. We are all busy with our own lives. As I spend my time raising my daughters, organizing my household, and maintaining some semblance of a social life (does going out for brunch once a month with ladies count? Okay, good), I just don’t have time for the stupid drama.

And yet, it infiltrates like those cloud farts you walk into at the grocery store. One minute, you’re just looking for low sodium chicken stock, the next minute your olfactory senses have been assaulted and you realize you’re tasting it as your eyes water. And that taste is never good.

As the years go by, the more I realize we’re all still teenagers, we just have more responsibility. Some of us have let go of the dumb games and silliness, some haven’t. I try to spend my time on people that build me up, rather than those that tear me down. I work hard to build my tiny community with ladies I relate to, I admire, I enjoy. But there seems to always be that person, infiltrating my solace and safety with drama.

Why on earth would you spend your time criticizing people you don’t know to someone else? Why do that? A dear friend of mine had to listen to drivel regarding many people she knows and cares about. I feel for her, I do. And I’m glad it wasn’t me, truly. However, I wish I didn’t know as much as I do about that conversation, because it annoyed me. It took over too much of my energy, as I wondered why this person would say some of the things they did. And before you berate my friend, she did defend, and did try to diffuse, but some battles are just impossible.

I spent time considering whether I cared what that impossibly nasty person thought of me. Not really. Was I worried my friend believed the things that were said about me, other friends, other acquaintances? No, not really. I finally realized, it’s the act itself. The tearing down others so that they could build themselves up. That act bothered me. It’s the same baloney that causes working mothers to be pitted against stay-at-home mothers. We’re all working, just some of us take home paychecks. We’re all mothers. Why can’t we focus on what bonds us, instead of what separates us? Why do we insist on judging without a clear picture?

A different friend said to me, “Women build each other up and support each other. And that is the type of women we want to model for our daughters.” That woman is wise, and you understand one of the many reasons she is a dear friend.

I just don’t want to devote the energy to people who tear down others. It’s stupid, and divisive, and worthless. And yet, I can’t cut this person out of my life, sadly. I have limited their access as much as I can, but still, they infiltrate. I’ve decided they’re the grocery store fart-mine. Sometimes I’m forced to step in their bullshit, and it tastes and smells terrible, but at least I don’t lose limbs and can walk through it to safety, where good things happen with people I care about and who care about me. I’m tired of things that aren’t my business entering into my consciousness.

This Old House, part un

Before she died, one of my mother’s favorite things to chat about was this house I live in. She’d often suggest it as a way to “revive” my neglected blog. I’m not putting these stories down just for her, but because she’s right. They’re ridiculous and deserve to be shared with the world.

First, a little background. Since our time here is limited, we rent our home. It’s the most economical relationship for us to have with property, and since we’ve been in the house almost two years, I can promise you: IT’S A SMART DECISION.

The house, according to the realtor who represented it when we first arrived here, was built in the 1920’s. I’m not so sure that’s accurate, but I haven’t been able to stir up any definitive data contradicting or supporting that assertion with my vast Google skills. I have turned up all kinds of fun minutes from some development meetings regarding a neighboring home that two owners ago really didn’t want built. When you live in an old, gentrified area people get picky about hedge height and all kinds of other things. I’m sure if I were an owner and not a tenant, I’d have opinions on large modern homes going up around century-old sleepy ones, but I’m just a visitor here, so it’s amusing more than anything else.

Old homes have charm. They also have all kinds of issues. I’m not even sure where to begin with some of the issues this home has had in our short tenure, so I’ll just try to start from the beginning.

When we arrived here, we lived in a hotel for a month or so. It wasn’t an easy transition due to lots of things that aren’t worth going into now, just know I was REALLY looking forward to full-size laundry facilities when we moved in. And the day we moved in, the ancient dryer died.

We figured it out when the same load ran for 3 hours and still was sopping. Oops. Our owners are in the UK, so we deal with the management company they hired. Thankfully, that company is very responsive, and they sent someone out right away. Since the dryer was elderly, the parts were more expensive than just replacing it, so a day or so later, a new dryer arrived.

The gentlemen who brought it in spoke only French, which isn’t surprising since Quebec is just across the river, and barely installed it. They took away the old beast, gave a bit of show to connect the new dryer and left without much word. My dad and Matthew finished hooking it up. Apparently, what scared off the installation guys was the nearly 200 feet the dryer vent has to run across the basement.

This was our first introduction to old homes: modern things often have to be made to fit. Why they sent the line all the way across the house is a mystery, when the washer and dryer are opposite an outside wall, but someone at some point decided it was a good idea, and until someone other than us decides to fix it, we live with it.

About two months later, the washer died.

Contemplating Grief

I’m not setting out to be depressing or sad.  I’m just posting some of the things I’ve written, lately, as I unload my brain, a bit.

I said that death changes the living. For six months, I’ve been learning how to grieve. People said it would get easier; that it wouldn’t get easier, you’d just learn to live with it; that it’s hard. Lots and lots of messages. In the wake of her death, I changed. Six months later, and I’m probably closer to the me that my loved ones are used to and I feel more like myself, mostly. But I’m different. Matt said in those early days of mourning that I was more quiet. Avery will ask on days where I’m crabby or sad if I “Miss Grandma?” because it’s the easiest explanation for her to grab. Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, it’s just a crappy day, kiddo.

I have several friends who lost parents. Each in their own way has been an amazing comfort. One answered my bizarre grieving questions with permission to marginalize everyone but myself. Another talked through the surprise and awe of grief. And another remembers me, every time the 2nd of a month comes around. Knowing I’m not alone helps, but also understanding that grief is as personal as it gets makes sharing difficult, sometimes.

Grief didn’t just change me. It changed my dad. He was my mother’s caretaker and partner. She was mobile, in full control of her faculties, but her health could sometimes be a challenge. He was the chief grocery shopper, the main housekeeper, and the other ear for doctor proclamations. Now he wanders around the house and finds things to keep him busy. We all assumed he would end up a widower, which sounds morbid, but isn’t: his health was and is far better than hers. What none of us anticipated is how lost that would leave him feeling. They were together for decades. Married longer than they’d lived apart. Married as very young adults. While in the end Dad took care of the basics, Mom was the cruise director. He has lots of time on his hands.

Don’t get me wrong, he is managing well. Far better than anyone could expect, although I don’t really know what that means. He’s finding a new sense of community, and learning how to keep himself busy with other tasks. Sometimes his adventures surprise me, because I’d never have guessed he’d attempt some of the things he does. His grief sometimes overwhelms him, which is understandable. I find I’m much more compassionate for his grief than my own.

Death changed our relationship, too. I worry more about him. Before Mom died, I knew without thinking about it that if something happened, there would be someone to let me know. Now? If I haven’t talked to Dad in a few days, a nagging sense of dread will creep in until he returns my call. Being so very far away hurts and frightens me, and yet I also recognize the reality that I must continue to live my life, too. I still rely on him to be the wise anchor with sage, pithy advice or insight, but I feel his fragility more than I used to, even if it’s just perceived. And he’s more careful with me, too. He keeps me updated with things that I usually just knew a bit about before, and he’s careful about sharing some aspects of his grief, because grieving for a spouse is so very different from grieving for a parent.

My mother and I were close, and like many close relationships, there were complicated aspects. It isn’t worth re-hashing, just worth acknowledging. I never expected that her dying would cause those tensions to evaporate, and it didn’t. However, I find them less important, now. They live as characteristics, like her eyes which were steel blue. Or her hands, which were slightly larger versions of my own, only with a beautifully maintained manicure, even if her nails were unvarnished. The things that bothered me before she died still bother me. Why couldn’t she choose differently? But now? They are only questions, without the passion and frustration behind them. That quiet patience that has filtered in over those things is maybe the biggest surprise as I confront my own grief: I have yet to feel anger toward her for dying, and I don’t know if I ever will. It’s as though I used up all the anger and frustration while she was living.

New look, new post

I left blogging for a while. There are so many reasons that may sound more like excuses: My children needed me. I needed to find myself in a new place. The words weren’t forthcoming. All are true, and there are remedies for all of them.

Why am I here, now? The words. My children are older and they still need me, but I have a bit more time where they will occupy themselves. The words keep rattling around in my head, and my fingers have been itchy for a keyboard.

So many things to discuss. My mom died. I want to talk about it, and I think I probably need to talk about it. Well, write about it. I’ve talked about it since it happened. Death changes things; it changes the living. Those changes have been difficult to grasp, and surprising. What else? My kids, of course. Two-and-a-half and six-and-a-half are fun ages with great inspiration for storytelling. And, of course, this city which I have grown to adore and this house which makes me so glad I don’t own it while also making me so appreciative for the opportunity to live in it.

Want to come along for the ride, again? Ok. Strap in. I’m still sideways and a little off center, I promise. I haven’t lost my sense of humor. I’ve gained a bit more tarnish and a few more cracks in my armor, though.