A year in words

I’m not really one for resolutions, or regrets, or radicchio. (Although I am one for alliteration, at all costs.)

But I can’t help but look back on 2015 and think it was a raging success. I had some ups, some downs, and some life-turned-upside-downs, and (lucky you) they were all documented here for your reading pleasure. Here’s a snapchat:*

This year, I said yes. A lot. Like joining my husband and daughters for a family run instead of standing in my pantry eating handfuls of gummy bears. (I did that, too, and it was amazing.)

I said no. There were times, especially in the last few months, when I felt overwhelmed. On top of stumbling through my day job and dreaming of my dream job, I felt the pressure of the four million other things I should be undertaking. I had to slow down, practice self-care and say no to some less important things, so I could eventually say yes to more important things.

I pushed myself to write. And to call myself a writer. And to share my writing with you and a bunch of discerning five-year-olds. I pushed myself to run. And even though I fell short of a few running goals, and some writing goals, I’m still standing. (Which is the anthesis of running, so that should be obvious.)

I said goodbye. I found myself traveling alone to Nova Scotia twice this year, once to say farewell to a wonderful woman, and once to be together with my parents and siblings at a difficult time. These times were hard, but they made me forever grateful for everything.

I was surrounded by love. Lots of love. So much love. I learned a lot about my daughters, and they learned a little about me. (Mostly good stuff.)

And despite a few close calls, I made it into the New Year without losing a single person. Ok, ok, I did technically lose a person, but she was found relatively quickly and is now tethered to my body with rope and glitter glue. But I can proudly say that I made it into the New Year without losing a single person for a period longer than five minutes.

It was a good year. And I have a feeling 2016 will be even better.

Happy New Year!

*Possible new years resolution: Learn what snapchat is.

The girl on the plane

It’s not often that I find myself travelling alone. When I was in my twenties, most of my terminal hopping and orderly boarding was done solo, but since getting hitched and having kids, my airport experiences have shifted in flight.

I no longer have the luxury of time and tranquility that comes with traveling alone. I used to love lounging in an airport, coffee-sipping and people-watching, while more burdened travellers herded their children and awkward carry-ons towards their elusive gates. (Now I am one of those burdened travellers and can say that it’s about as enjoyable as it looked to me back then.)

The first time I boarded a plane I was eight years old. My slightly older sister and I were escorted to our seats by a friendly flight attendant while we sported special buttons that read, “I’m travelling alone!” (Oh, how times have changed.) My parents sent me and my sister to Ottawa to spend a weekend with our uncle. We (and another sibling set on the same flight, also travelling alone) were whisked to the cockpit for a quick tour and given warm, gooey cookies with milk. I was hooked.

There have been other flights since. There was the Halifax-Ottawa-Chicago-Amsterdam-Nairobi-Lukasa-Lilongwe milk run to Malawi when I was twenty. There was the longest 55 minutes of my life flying over southwestern Ontario on an 18-seater Beechraft during a lighting storm (I will never again be excited to sit in seat 1A). There was the first flight that my new husband and I took together, which surprisingly didn’t end in divorce. And the first flight we took with our newborn, which unsurprisingly did end in three shirt changes and a shortfall of diapers and clean soothers. (Flying with kids lends a whole new meaning to turbulence.)

My memories of waiting in the airport are even sweeter. Waiting in for my boyfriend to arrive from Ontario while I was still studying in Halifax; waiting for my sister to arrive at Heathrow when she visited me in the UK; waiting at the gate in Calgary with each of our newborns in our arms as family from the east coast ran down the moving escalators towards us. Airports have always meant something to me. When I was young, they were a gateway to a world I was itching to explore, and now that I’m older(ish), they’re an emblem of going home.

During my most recent round-trip, I was alone again. I was traveling to Nova Scotia to say goodbye to someone and I was sad. I saw young people flying alone, couples old and new, and many, many young families making the trek ‘home’ from Alberta to the Maritimes as summer finally begins. I bought my coffee, a chocolate croissant and a certain best-selling thriller that I’ve felt compelled to read for months now, and I sat. And read. And watched. And I felt grateful for everything.

Farewell

I remember talking to a friend shortly after the birth of her first child. She felt anxious more often than not, and admitted that when she heard the occasional sirens of a passing ambulance, she immediately and unequivocally believed that someone she loved was in it. That was never the case, but for a while she was consumed with this fear of an inevitable loss or heartache.

While her thoughts were a little extreme, I doubt she’s the only person to ever think this way. At some point we’ve all had our hearts in our throats when the phone rings in the middle of the night or there’s an unexpected knock at the door. Usually, it’s nothing. A telemarketer. Sometimes it’s my dear mother calling, whose been known to occasionally forget the time difference between here and there, unaware of the anxiety provoked by a 4 AM phone call from home. Sometimes, however, it’s real.

I traveled to Nova Scotia last week to say goodbye to my beloved aunt. She had been diagnosed with cancer, but her sudden passing was unexpected and devastating. She battled, admirably, and in a way that makes you question your own strength. Could I have ever been that strong?

Her children showed the same strength in their goodbyes as the community rallied around them. Their mother was given a Nova Scotian farewell, with family, friends, fiddles and bagpipes. When my family and I return to Nova Scotia next month, we’ll visit her at her final resting place, on a hill overlooking a river that leads to the Atlantic ocean. And I’ll know that she is at peace.

This post will self-destruct in 3, 2, 1…

Yesterday afternoon unfolded in a pretty typical manner, which means it was total chaos.

After an especially tense lunch and an emotional chorus of, “I had it first!” I finally get the kids to settle upstairs. I had been folding laundry for fifteen minutes when I realized they were unusually quiet. I decided to investigate.

My oldest girls had set up their puppet theatre as a ‘book market,’ which was as fantastical as it sounds. They beckoned for my business as I tip-toed around their pop-up shop with a fool’s load of laundry in my arms. It’s depressingly rare that I get a chance to play along so I was happy to oblige.

Then I saw whose books they were selling. My precious hardcovers, perhaps the only possessions left in this house that have remained hands-off, were strewn about the make-believe market. The dust jackets were torn and discarded, and my place in the pages lost.

And overreaction, maybe, but my mood turned on a dime (the asking price for my copy of Bird by Bird) and I told them in no uncertain terms: clean it up.

In the meantime, my two-year-old uncovered a long-abandoned bottle of nail polish – in a colour I knew I’d never wear and should have tossed long ago – and painted the bedroom carpet a violent shade of red.

Perhaps in shock, my immediate reaction was that I cannot possibly call the carpet guy again for another emergency stain removal. Sharpie ink, chocolate stains and spaghetti vomit have been business enough for him this quarter. (Does anyone else receive a Christmas card from their carpet cleaner?)

I stand, arms akimbo, staring blankly at the state of the carpet gore, while my girls wait curiously for my next move. Despite my deep-breathing attempts, I’m the parenting version of a ticking time bomb.

I’m also a walking heartache. I’m still reeling from the recent loss of our gorgeous girl Cheesecake. She had a habit of darting through doors just as I was shutting them. As I’m closing the bathroom door after grabbing some industrial-grade nail polish remover, I instinctually check beneath my feet for a flash of white fur. Nothing.

Sigh.

The phone rings and rescues me from the fumes of the stain remover. I assume it’s the debt collection agency calling again and anger continues to swell inside me. (No, Armaan does not live here. No, I do not know Armaan. Yes, we’ve had this phone number now for seven years.)

It’s not the debt collectors (lucky Armaan). It’s my husband. I can see from the caller display that he’s using the phone in his office. Which means he hasn’t left yet. Which means he isn’t pulling into the driveway this instant, as I had secretly dared to hope.

We hang up, because our tone of voice reveals everything about the kind of day we’re both having. I feel slightly sorry for him, because now he knows that once he leaves his bad day at the office, he’s coming home to my bad day here. Well, our bad day, because we’re in this thing together (it’s legally binding and everything).

I decide it’s time to turn things around. It’s Thursday afternoon before the Easter weekend and our spring vacation. The house is relatively clean, the chores are relatively done, and I still have a relative grip on my sanity. (As long as I avoid any and all thoughts about where my career is going and when my goals will evolve beyond finishing chores and laundry, but I digress…)

The red polish lifts from the berber after a few pats and lots of chemicals. My two-year-old appears to be sufficiently remorseful (and covered in red polish). I gently wash the paint from her palms with a milder polish remover.

My oldest girls have resumed their book selling, so I raid my husband’s vanity for pocket change and buy back my precious hard covers. We even have a little fun.

My husband arrives home earlier than expected, ready to tag me out of the ring if need be. He’s happy to see that we’re happy, and I’m happy to report that things have been diffused.

Finally, our vacation can begin with a bang. (And not my self-implosion.)

Happy Spring Break!

Cheesecake

IMG_1504Our darling cat has passed away.

Yesterday we said goodbye to our beautiful flame-point ragdoll, after we learned she was in the late stages of kidney failure. It’s a long story that happened in a short amount of time.

I held her in my arms when her heart stopped beating, and even though our hearts are breaking, I know they will be full again with the memories of her beautiful spirit.