Bitchy Tuesdays and the 68 minute 20 minute drive.

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I swear I didn’t wake up this morning thinking this was going to be a bitchy day. I didn’t roll out of bed, snarl and crack my knuckles, ready to rumble. Hell – who takes on a Tuesday unprovoked?  I woke up and it was 26 below zero, crisp and clear and cold and beautiful and I was happy about that. I woke up happy, started my day calmly with coffee, a fuzzy bathrobe and a shower. I did the normal morning things that get me from horizontal (dreaming of hosting a huge dinner party in a Mexican farmhouse with no running water or electricity – no idea where that dream came from or why I remember it) to upright and mobile.

Leaving the house was where things started to go sideways a bit.  Sixteen year old girls and their mothers do not always move in blissful synchronicity. Sometimes, without warning, harmony and smiles turn to discord and gnashing of teeth, while the benign turns radioactive and toxic in a matter of seconds. Ommmmm.

So we left, we drove and we got to where the bus ought to have been but wasn’t. It wasn’t there, of course, because we were several pleasantry filled minutes behind the bus… (that was irony). From my home to her bus stop should be, with no traffic or red lights, a straight forward 18-20 minute drive. Of course that almost never happens. If she misses the bus, which has happened a time or two, we have a problem. The journey from the downtown bus stop to her school is an easy 7 minutes’ drive. The journey from her school back across the bridge to my office is, inexplicably, an agonizing 20 minutes on a good day. We’re talking bottleneck traffic jam backup swearing going nowhere late for work I guarantee it chaos like you just don’t see in a small city. There is a new roundabout, there is a new traffic light, there are 3 school zones and a two lane bridge to contend with, all leading out of a crowded suburb that everyone leaves in the morning to go… you guessed it, the same place as me.

This morning, there was also a car accident – a fire truck and a  flat bed and a couple of cars where they don’t belong…right in the intersection next to the two lane bridge just ahead of the roundabout. You’ve really not seen anything like it unless you’ve been on the Interstate 5 outside of LA at 5:15 on a weekday.  Every side road was bumper to bumper, and there was no getting out of there, period.

So the commute to work, usually a seamless 20 minute jaunt took me 68 minutes. Without coffee. But even that didn’t push me over the edge to bitchy… nah. Once the initial WTF are you KIDDING me happened, I kind of took it in stride. I got to work, told my tale and carried on.

The bitchy has come on by way of a few other things; small things, pissy little things and frightening large things that come with a separation and having teenagers and a new job and all of that real life. Many days I can surf on through it and emerge un-bitchy at the end of the day, but for some reason today those little things have sharp little barbs – they’ve been clinging to me. By the time I walked back into my place tonight I was about done with this day. It wasn’t done with me, of course – that’s how these bitchy days seem to roll.

But I have to thank you, big wide world of people I don’t know. This blogging (also known as utter self indulgence and naval gazing) has given me a new perspective. If I look at it differently, I’ve actually had a great day. I’ve been working on cultivating gratitude, and I’m learning it helps in situations like this. I have healthy kids, a great job, a car that can withstand -26 (it got to -27 as a matter of fact) and a pretty reasonable relationship with the husband from whom I am separated. I have a warm house with a fridge full of goodness and plenty of tea to calm my cranky old soul. My daughter had her moment of angst and anger where it was safe and appropriate…with me, her mom. I had my moment of cranky here, with people who can choose to listen or not (what a great freedom that is!). If I smeared anyone with my cranky today I can try to make it up to them tomorrow. If I sound Pollyanna now, that might just be what I need to fend off the bitchy Tuesday vibe.

Tomorrow is a Wednesday and we all know Wednesday is nothing at ALL like Tuesday. For one thing, it’s payday and that’s guaranteed to make me smile.  My car is plugged in and ready to take on the morning and there’s even a chance we’ll make that 20 minute drive in under an hour.

Here’s to Wednesday…

Just sit DOWN, woman!

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One recent morning I sat down at my kitchen table to savour my first cup of coffee of the day.

Yes, that is news. I sat down at my table. With coffee. To drink it. In one place. While doing nothing else but drinking my coffee.

As I sat there, uncharacteristically still, I realized I don’t remember ever doing that before. In the ten years I’ve lived in that house I don’t remember ever just sitting still to enjoy my coffee. As a rule, I grab my mug, race to shower, sip it while drying my hair, lose the mug when I go to the laundry room, find it again when I retrace my steps and finally throw it in the microwave to warm it, losing it again.

I’ll find the mug that night when I’m thawing something, or steaming some veggies. I discard the contents… two thirds of a mug full of a nasty, cold, bitter creamy brew.

I think this is something I need to work on. I have no excuse to be as busy as I am. I am sure there are many many working moms who find time to sit in calm reflection before they hit the ground running each day. No, that was NOT a joke… I’m sure there must be some out there somewhere….

Taking those few minutes each day to calmly begin, to contemplatively warm up my mind before I kick start my schedule has to be good, no? I am sure if I found time for that, I would be more creative & focused, kinder, with more patience and resilience.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaaaa!!!!!

Yeah RIGHT!

But at least my coffee would be hot ’til the last drop…

Sigh.

We are genius.

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It has recently come to my attention that I’m a freakin’ genius. No, don’t laugh… seriously! I have mastered a set of skills so highly specialized that many people don’t even know they don’t share them.

You’d think I’d hoard this magic, keep these powers to myself, but you’d be wrong. I WANT to share. I have willingly offered mentorship to anyone who is interested. Sadly, so few are interested… in fact I can say with honesty that, to date, no-one has actually wanted to learn.

So I will remain, for the foreseeable future, one of an elite few. A member of an unarmed group of specialists who know one another on sight, and know impostors in a moment. We are all around you.

We are the brave. We are the powerful. We know how to change a toilet roll, replace a paper towel tube, fold towels, sweep under the edges of the cupboard, sort laundry, close cabinet doors and refill liquid soap dispensers. We know how to empty the lint tray, pull gunk out of the kitchen drain and put a new bag in the trash bin. We understand that milk lives in the refrigerator, that food left out overnight goes bad and that brown bananas taste better. We know how to cap the toothpaste and collapse a stroller. We can tell you where you left your blue jacket and which type of peanut butter you prefer.

We are mothers. We are legion. We are genius. We are tired.

Sorry… I’ve already taken off my bra.

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Is there anything better than that? Taking off your bra? Walking in the door, shedding the boots, the socks, the belt, the earrings and necklace, and ohmigodgetitoffbeforesomebodydies… the bra. I don’t care how much it cost. I don’t care how pretty it is. I don’t care if the girls look like a million bucks when I’m wearing it. For the love of all that is holy get the damned thing off.

I am a lot smarter about buying bras now than I used to be. I check the underwire… I know what’s likely to kill me and what’s not, but it’s not fail safe. Dammit, those cross your heart hope to die pieces of feminengineering are a pain in my….soft bits. That’s right. My soft bits.

Why the HELL do I wear a bra? I don’t even have much to lift!  I realize now, living with teenagers horrified by any suggestion that their old ma is actually a girl, that I wear a bra largely to hide the occasional nipple hard on, to keep the old girls from moving, and to keep everything “dignified”.

Seriously? I suffer this kind of indignity for other people? Not even for me?! Hmmmm.

Maybe a rethink is in order. Would you REALLY be that horrified by the actual suggestion of a nipple under my (not transparent) shirt?

Yeah right. As if I could pull that off without walking around with a concave chest, bent in on myself to disguise the nakedness beneath my clothes.

Alright. I’ll keep it on during the day but lordy lordy, don’t stand between me and hoochy girl freedom the minute I run through that door at day’s end. And don’t even bother asking me to do anything after 6pm most nights… once that straight jacket’s been removed I am in, baby.. in for the night!

Of COURSE you’re my favourite child!

I love all three of my children equally, all the same, completely alike, except totally different. And sometimes it feels more like frothing rage or teeming frustration but really, it’s love… great big shiny gulps of love taken in deep breaths or short gasps.

It ain’t always a picnic, as we all know, but damn, it can be fun.  I can’t get over how every phase for each kid is still totally newImage to me. I remember that from when they were little; when our second was born, we thought we knew what it meant to raise a child…we were pros. HA!! They keep teaching you, again and again, that you don’t know much after all.

And I keep learning. My eldest is off on a date…that’s kind of cool once I stop obsessing.  I can’t ask for the guy’s vital stats now that she’s 19, and technically an adult. My son is… well, I can’t give you a certain answer on that since he was gone when I got home from the movie but hey, he’s 17. He’ll be back soon as he can’t cook and has no money. Youngest gal, home on her own when I returned had cleaned the kitchen. Yes. That’s what I said… cleaned the kitchen. Did I ask her? Nope. Was there any form of bribery? Nope. She wanted to be nice… aaaaaaaahh. That was a great big shiny gulp, right there.

How cool is that?  Today was her turn to inspire that little glow of parental satisfaction. Maybe tomorrow she’ll be the one making me tear my hair while her brother makes me laugh like a fool and act like a dorky kid… he’s good at that. And big sister makes me shine from the inside when she talks about her plans for school next fall… where she’ll live and what she’ll do.

I can look any one of them in the eye on any given day and truthfully, in that moment, declare them my favourite. And they CAN all be my favourite, in their own way. My eldest is my perfect, cherirshed first born. My son is the best boy I could ever imagine having, and my youngest is my favourite youngest, the darling baby of the family.

And I know I am the best mother in the world… no really…that’s what the Mother’s Day cards all say, so I know they must mean it, right? I’m their favourite Mom, and that’s pretty great.

Nothing that matters

When I was a teenager I used to go with my friend Sonia to Gastown, Vancouver’s historic, cobblestoned tourist Mecca. We would poke through shops, sip tea and generally act cool. One shop captivated us with its wall of small drawers…an antique cabinet filled with curiosities. Each stubborn old drawer revealed another odd, creepy or comical surprise; spare parts for dolls, mini whoopee cushions, fake vomit and vintage postcards. We spent ages systematically opening and closing each drawer, only disappointed when we came across rare duplicates or an empty tray.

I stumbled across the same shop this summer on a solo morning stroll through Gastown. Though the shop has changed hands at least once, the antique treasure trove remains, and I gleefully began the nostalgic opening and closing ritual. It’s rewarding to discover some things really do stay the same, even after so long.

As always, I left the shop with a small bag containing an inexpensive treasure; this time, a beautiful box of oversized matches. The box was creamy white with a lovely botanical print, all lavender flowers and butterflies. I was living in the city this summer, and savoured every opportunity to celebrate the simple beauty of a bouquet of fresh flowers, or a pretty candle on the mantel of my apartment.

I am the mother of three teenagers. My home is less decorated than reclaimed…it is a constant act of sheer will to ensure sanitary conditions and uncluttered thoroughfares. There is no decor, per se….rather a kind of chaotic visual thrum that can lead to maternal mumbling and gnashing of teeth.

The tiny act of purchasing a beautiful box of matches to light my scented candles was an act of defiance…a statement that even for me, even in my life, beauty matters. I have lit each of those matches with a kind of reverence. These matches were special, and once home in my chaotic Yukon home, I was reminded each time of the peace and pleasure the summer away brought me. I have used those matches solely for the purpose of lighting my candle…rationed them and kept them on my dresser, mine alone.

And then winter hit, and it was time to light the fire in the wood boiler. My husband spotted the matchbox….perfect! Extra long wooden matches! When he forgot to put them back, my son spotted them in the kitchen…perfect! Excellent for firing up his….glass sculpture he thinks I don’t know about.

I found the box, crushed and broken, containing two matches, on the counter. My reaction was out of proportion to the item’s significance. I was so SAD! No one understood. I took the box back upstairs and reverently lit my candle, breathed the scent and tried to recall the sense of peace.

Tonight I found the empty box discarded on the hearth, a fire roaring and the Christmas tree lit and decorated. My husband apologized, said he couldn’t find a lighter. My son looked at me like I had two heads. Mom….it was a MATCH! What’s the big deal.
I can’t explain it. It just was, to me.