Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A pessemist in optimist's clothing

I like my life as a pessimist - I wouldn't trade it!  When life is (insert adjective) hard, unfair, dreary, mundane, challenging, bitterly disappointing, as it often is, the expectations of a pessimist are exceedingly lower than those of the optimist, thus the outcomes of many situations are really not that bad, generally speaking. I expect the worst in a situation, and when something less than that is the the actual result, it is 'bonus; free game; play again'. Optimists have much farther to fall when it all falls apart.

Two weeks ago I was involved in a violent collision on a ski hill.  The irony is that, while it was my first time on skis in over 22 years, I was in perfect control and looking pretty hot on my trick skis. It was the student, who, having lost control and rocketed straight down the hill like a bullet, hit me and sent me flying like a rag doll. I landed on my back, head pointing down hill, and didn't move for several minutes because I wasn't actually sure if I was alive or dead. It was not immediately apparent to me whether the bright light beckoned me to the great beyond, or if it was just the sun shining on me. Clearly by virtue of the fact that I have written this it turned out to be the latter.

So, the pessimist in me thinks this really sucks.  My ski season is over. I had chosen to embrace a winter sport to pass the time until the return of motorcycle season.  Now it is just going to be a cold, miserable winter wherein I will impatiently count down the days until spring.

However, I have also come to the alarming realization that as painful and slow to heal as the fractured and dislocated radius may be, and how cumbersome and restricting the cast is, and how slow and frustratingly onerous every normal task has become, the timing of the crash could have been altered by a split second and I could have snapped my neck instead of my forearm. I could be paralyzed. Or dead.

So in the grand scheme of things, the pain, this awful cast, and the excruciatingly long countdown to spring don't collectively seem so bad.

But please don't call me an optimist. I still believe life sucks and then you die. I just borrowed the optimist club jersey..... it is damned cold out there!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The "ish" factor - learning to chill reaches a whole new level!

So, it was my birthday last week. No big deal - it was relatively uneventful - just the way I wanted.

But something happened. It was one of those moments that made me go 'hmmmm'. Not quite a light bulb moment because it wasn't earth shattering or anything. But nonetheless it was significant enough that it made me stop and think for a moment..

Wait. This story requires a little bit of setting up.

First, MY schedule runs on a clock that is different than anyone else's. Sometimes it is Newfoundland time. Sometimes there's a time zone that is, oh, about 15 minutes behind the rest of the world. When I book appointments, they're done in half hour window, as in "I'll meet you between 3 and 3:30". That's smart for me. I aim for 2:50 and I'm pretty damn sure I'll arrive by about 3:20, which puts me right in the window of time I booked, thus saving me from dreaming up an excuse about why I'm late.

Second, there's my Dad. If he says he'll arrive at 3:00 p.m., he doesn't mean 3:01. He doesn't even mean 2:59 (although he's been known to arrive a minute early and throw me right off). And it doesn't matter if my watch has a different time than his. Only his watch counts. It's like he synchronises it directly with God himself every morning. "Tina-Marie, if you arrive at the train station at 7:31 to catch the 7:30 train, you've missed it." (Heaven help me, I've hear that a million times in my life, and the part where he annoyingly calls me by my real name could be the topic of a whole other post someday!) I've already told him that when he dies, we're going to schedule his funeral for 11:00 a.m. and then start at about 11:12, just so I can see if he makes the coffin rock back and forth in post-mortem agitation.

Now, about my birthday. Tuesday November 9th at 9:00 a.m. I received a phone call from my Mom (Dad can't hear on the phone so well anymore so he gets Mom to call and he just yells at her in the background if she diverts from the message he's trying to send me.

"Happy Birthday Tina."  "Thanks Mom," I reply.

"Dad and I would like to take you to lunch today, but we're gong to a meeting this morning so it will have to be after 12:00."

"Ok, that would be nice" I replied.

We agreed on Swiss Chalet at Yonge and Green Lane.

And then it happened.

We're making our plans and I hear Dad in the background:  "We think we'll be done by noon, but why don't we say 12:30ish in case we're running a little late".

Now, 12:30is coming out of my Mother's mouth would be no big deal.  She and I speak the same language on this one. But.... DAD? 12:30ish?

The planets are no longer aligned and all of the absolutes in this world have been altered forever.  Hell, I 'm left wondering if the earth is, indeed, round!

ISH has never been in my Father's vocabulary. I'm just waiting now for snow in July. Better yet, I should go and buy a lottery ticket!

Or, maybe, just maybe, he's learned to chill and enjoy retired life. Honestly, I think this behaviour falls into the realm of an anomaly. Or maybe its just one of those things that will happen on the 9th of November every year.

Monday, November 1, 2010

61 Days...

For me the worst day of the year has arrived. I hate November 1st.

It signifies the beginning of the most depressing 61 days on my calendar and I brace myself. Its almost like inhaling deeply and preparing to hold my breath for the countdown to January 1st.

There is nothing redeeming about the month of November - not even my birthday. It is a dark, dreary, depressing month. It is not shocking that there are more suicides during this 30 day period than any other on the calendar. Christmas music starts playing in the malls and stores today and by December I'll even have to take my iPod to do the grocery shopping to avoid it. And ironically, the music means nothing - a clear juxtaposition to the throngs jostling for position in line, fighting for parking spots, and frantically engaging in consumerism in an empty hope of finding some satisfaction in it. Songs in which I once found solace like "O Holy Night" have been reduced to the status of a meaningless commercial jingle.

The days are getting shorter and my body craves the fleeting bursts of sunshine that will be rationed so sparingly.

There will be incredibly tasteless plastic decorations everywhere I look. My own family will clutter our house with trinkets and garland and lights and all manners of tackiness.

And the expectations! Which side of the family gets their Turkey dinner at our house on the 25th? Who will be left disappointed or angry? The visits, the parties, the big meals. People eating and drinking to excess and then providing the diet and fitness industries with their best time of the year in January.

There's such a frantic desperation to this time of year and I find it incredibly hollow and sad.

Yes, you're right. I sound exactly like the Grinch. The difference is that in Dr. Seuss' rendition that Grinch's heart grows five or ten sizes with the revelation that in Whoville "it" remains real meaning even without all the presents and lights and bling.

Toto, I don't think we're in Whoville any more.

Inhale deeply. Hold. Pray for January. May I find strength........

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The First Ever....

So.... Calgary just elected its first ever Muslim Mayor.
So what!?
He was the choice of the people. Clearly he won the election for varied reasons: his platform, ideas, ability to engage the electorate and cause them to buy into his vision for Calgary, his effective use of social media. Did he win because he is a Muslim? Did anyone step behind the ballot box and say, "hmmm I think it is about time we elected a Muslim".  Who cares that he's Muslim? Is Naheed Nenshi qualified to do the job? Time will tell whether the people's choice was correct but regardless of the outcome I can pretty much guarantee that Mayor Nenshsh's religion will not be a factor.
The Hon. Glen Murray, was the first ever openly gay Mayor of a major North American city, representing  Winnipeg, Manitoba from 1998 to 2004. Did the people of Winnipeg decide it was time to have a gay guy running things or did they just chose the candidate with the best credentials?

George Smitherman kissed his spouse in front of a group of reporters "an action normally seen only by heterosexual politicians". So what? They're gay and they are married.  Did we expect them to shake hands?

Kim Campbell was Canada's first ever female Prime Minister in 1993. This may be a bad example since her abysmal failure might have been, in part, due to her gender because lord knows the powers that be on the bible thumping religious right don't like feeling emasculated. But nonetheless, did Canadians say "we need a woman running things"? No. They were voting political right in Canada and she happened to be at the helm.

And of course, probably the most notable first ever was watching Barack Obama become the first ever black president of the USA. Did Americans decide it was time to elevate some poor descendant of slaves and give him a shot? Or did Obama actually win because, oh I don't know, he knew what he was doing?

Muslim. Gay. Woman. Black. Am I the only one seeing a pattern here? Not a white heterosexual male in the bunch.

And so why is it that anyone who, through ability, knowledge, character and sheer determination, earns a position of power, either politically or in the private sector, becomes some kind of freakish "wow check this out" kind of news story? Because anyone who isn't a white heterosexual male shouldn't attain such things?

You're right: of course that's a ridiculous notion. Why then is it that we as a society continue to make a big deal when it happens? The simple answer: prejudice, bigotry, and racism.

Harsh, I know. But I believe this to be true. And it continues to be perpetrated by the media, as well as by the formerly marginalized groups who now lay claim to the very bastions of power that they could only once dream about.

So this morning on Canada AM, the story went like this:  "Calgary elected its first ever Muslim Mayor in a close race last night".

In my perfect world the story would have gone: "Naheed Nenshi, a 38 year old business professor, narrowly defeated two opponents to become Mayor of Calgary last night. Nenshi's platform included a promise to limit urban sprawl, and to make neighbourhoods more fun, safer, and greener. The mayor elect holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Calgary".

Now, I'm not bashing white heterosexual males here: I happen to love white heterosexual males! But when was the last time we made a big deal about one's religion, or the fact that he kissed his spouse prior to the start of a press conference?

We are all guilty of prejudice, bigotry and racism.  Every race, every gender, every sexual orientation. I guess it is too much to ask that we can all be judged only by our individual merits. Or maybe my ideal world is far too simple a place! I can dream though......

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thankful for Thomas Edison

You know, I hate swimming in the same direction as everyone else. I've spent most of my life swimming up stream, either because it is my nature or it is by choice, and I'm just determined not to be the same breed of fish as everyone else. (Interesting topic for another time!)

Either way, it kind of bugs me when I fall into thinking about "what I'm thankful for" on Thanksgiving. Ideally, I would do that every day of my life. But for many varied reasons, it is impossible not to fall into step with the rest of the world on this particular weekend.

So, I'm thankful for Thomas Edison. Yes, I mean THE Thomas Edison - of phonograph and motion picture camera fame. He also invented something that seems to have become a recurring image and theme in my life of late: the light bulb.

During the past 13 years I have experienced euphoric highs and devastating lows. Being diagnosed with Lupus in 1997 was a defining time in my life, even though I was determined that the diagnosis would not define ME. But in some ways most surprising, it did.

As a result of this diagnosis I have made some fabulous choices and I have made many that were on the verge of cataclysmic. Being faced with one's own mortality has a funny way of bringing about profound change: Challenging everything that was once the norm; examining my interaction with the world around me;  being forced to look deep into the core of my very being and coming to the devastating realization that mine has not been a life of purpose, but rather of reaction fuelled by anger, hate and hurt.

Living with a life altering health challenge that's here to stay has forced me to face issues head on which have deep roots in my childhood and have profoundly affected my past, to a lesser extent my present - but  I have determined, not my future.

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hand of an extended family member. It is not something that I ever planned to parade for the world, but my need to close a dark chapter in my life once and for all precludes my silence on the subject any longer. And the fact that I was, at last, recently able to share this with my parents 30 years or so later allows me to finally turn a corner and be free.

Over the past year and a half or so, I've done some very difficult, painful, intensely private, introspective work in order to be well again. Where my personal demons consumed me and caused me to behave self destructively at times, I'm finally learning to live with purpose; I'm learning the meaning of forgiveness, and I am realizing that  the journey we know as life is much easier when one doesn't have to carry such heavy suitcases filled with remorse, regret, anger, hate, and self loathing.

So back to the light bulb. Sometimes over the past while, I've struggled to get my head around certain concepts as I focus on building a future of fulfillment, joy and peace. And I want the answer for something in particular to come so badly that my brain hurts. Sometimes I wait for what seems like an eternity.  And then, it happens -  a light bulb moment, and its brightness fills even the darkest reaches of my being with a sense of calm understanding and and the light of knowledge. And the joy and delight in these revelations is that they just happen, sometimes at the least likely of times and in a manner that seems completely random, even though I know it can't be.

I wonder if Thomas Edison understood that his invention, while important to modernization of the world, would also provide strong symbolism to our quest for deeper knowledge and understanding of the universe and the supreme being that created it.

I have so much more work yet to do. But I continue to be thankful for Thomas Edison, whose invention shines light on the fledgling seeds of all the good things I hope will grow and help me become the best person I can be.

"Many of life's failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."  - Thomas Edison

May I never give up.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

We saw Heart in Concert last week, and it seemed odd to be amongst the younger segment of those in attendance. In fact, it didn't feel like I fit the demographic at all.  There were "old" people rocking and shouting and singing with passion and excitement.

Even the mosh pit was old! Thankfully I didn't see any walkers or canes jockeying for position.

Ann and Nancy Wilson are 60 and 56 - but man, Ann can still belt out those notes and Nancy struts and dances with that electric guitar and kicks her legs in the air as well as any 30something rocker I've ever seen.  She was totally sexy and hot - the only tattletale exposing her well preserved secret being her hands when the jumbo tron showed a close of up of a wickedly intense guitar riff.

It seemed like everyone there was desperately hanging on to the past. Balding, grey haired men dressed 30 years younger in jeans and women in sexy rocker chick clothes and high heels.

Its ironic. I think all the time about never going gentle into that good night. Aging 'gracefully' is not in my game plan. But at the same time, I couldn't be paid to go back and re-live my 20's or even my 30's for that matter. I like right now, regardless of the fact that "that good night" looms constantly closer.

As a significant group of the population in general ages, there is something to the saying that "40 is the new 30" and "50 is the new 40". Everywhere I go I see "old guys" on motorcycles, driving sports cars and playing sports.  I have a couple of female acquaintances in their 50's who run marathons and have hot bods to rival any young thing I've seen.

Being the very youngest of the "baby boomer" generation, I love watching my older boomer brothers and sisters living like they are 30 somethings. They inspire me to stay young. I hope I'm still a rocker chick when I'm 60, and I hope I'll still be on my motorcycle when I'm 70 or 80! And because it seems like this generation never gets too old to do the things that "young people" do, I'm dying to learn to play the drums. You never know, I may get tired of real estate and want to run away to be in a rock and roll band.

Do not go gentle into that good night...... kick and scream and make noise all the way! I know that's what I'll be doing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Graduate

Lauren's going to kill me I just know it. It doesn't matter what she says, I AM going to cry on Thursday night when she gets up on stage at her Grade 8 grad to deliver her address as class Valedictorian.

It hit me today as we did a dry run with the dress, the shoes (the oh-so-grown up shoes at that!) to make sure no last minute alterations are required. Where has the time gone? My goodness she's so tall and so stunningly beautiful.

I will never forget that Monday night. Murphy Brown was on TV. I was restless and edgy - and probably a little cranky, but justifiably so. Our two little boys, Andrew-5 and Matthew-2, were tucked away in their beds. Lawrie was probably watching TV and definitely giving me my space. Then it was time. A call to my parents in Mississauga and they were on the way. Construction on the highway delayed them to the point that we had to leave for Southlake the minute they pulled in the driveway 3 hours later.

On the way to the hospital, I wondered, for the first time, whether I would have a boy or a girl. I was afraid to wish. But I really wanted a little girl to name Lauren. I had dreamed about her all my life. But I would have been content with another boy too.

When we arrived at the hospital, I remember dropping into a wheelchair like a ton of bricks because I was afraid I would bring a child into the world right in the parking  lot.  Please don't cringe - this is not becoming one of those too-much-information-labour stories.

I got upstairs, Lawrie foolishly went in search of reading material because he thought this might be hours long like the first two. By the time he arrived in the room the main even was almost over!

Heck, the Doctor didn't even make it for the final curtain call.

And there she was. Our beautiful Lauren - the perfect little girl I'd been dreaming about having since forever. I never cried so hard and with so much all consuming joy in my entire life, which now, was complete.

Fast forward 13 and one half years. I could not be more proud of the little girl who has become a beautiful young woman.

And she says don't cry! Honey I've already purchased the waterproof eyeliner and mascara. I think it'll be September 17, 1996 all over again!

I can't wait.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dressed up in my Sunday best...

People suck. Well, maybe not all of them - there are a few good ones out there. But for the most part, yes, they can be very disappointing.

And, there are certain places where I've foolishly assumed that the people I know through that association would be of a certain moral character - silly me for thinking that belonging to a Church means that a person would operate with integrity and in a forthright manner. In fact, some of my worst experiences, particularly in business, have been with people who call themselves "born again" Christians. The term, and its implied sense of superiority, makes me shudder.

I respect people who are the same - 7 days a week. I don't know a lot of them, but I find myself drawn to those who are "the real deal". Maybe its because I am, that I can sense it in others. And because I am consistently the same, flaws, positive attributes and all, I find that people love me or hate me. That works really well for me as long as they have the strength of character to be honest about it.

One can be all prayerful and religious all day every Sunday, and fail to realize that  the rest of the world really judges the thoughts, actions, and attitudes which manifest themselves through every day living during the other six days. A million hallelujahs, hail Mary's or whatever on one day of the week just doesn't cut it.

I think this applies to every extreme form of religion. And here's the funny thing - every single "religion" in the world was formulated by people.

Whether you believe in God, or some kind of supreme being; whether you just chalk it up to "karma" or "the universe", what it really boils down to is making the choice to operate from a place of being genuine. And maybe a touch of honesty thrown in for good measure.

I guess that once I got past being so disappointed and angry with all the religious people I know, I started feeling sorry for those who wear their religion like some misplaced badge of honour, only to behave in a way which would repel others from ever wanting to join their ranks.

Where's God in all that? Nowhere. Just as I suspected. The building's real pretty though!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lest we forget

On May 15, 2010, Private Kevin Thomas McKay was set to ship home after his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, he never made that flight, and instead ended up with a free ticket to ride the Highway of Heroes.  He died on the 13th May serving our Country by helping others who do not enjoy the democracy and freedom that we take for granted.

I sat on the edge of my bed watching TV that day and I cried. My daughter came into the room and asked me what was wrong. Barely able to contain myself, I nodded towards the TV and she sat with me to watch the rest of the report. Lauren, hating to see me upset, looked at me with her wondering eyes and asked "mummy did you know that soldier?"  I shook my head to indicate no, and she looked at me puzzled and asked why then, I was crying.

I was crying because I could picture Mrs. McKay cleaning her home in Richmond Hill, planning a welcome home dinner, and possibly even stocking the fridge with her young man's favourite brand of beer in anticipation of his return. This is not entirely different from my anticipation when Andrew, who is only a year younger then the youngest soldier to die, came home from college a few weeks ago. My heart broke for that woman because only a mother can understand the anticipation turning to relief that comes when her children are home safe, whether it be a school trip for 6 hours-30 km away, 8 months in college 3 hours away, or 10 months on the other side of the world. A relief that she will never experience.

And let's even suppose that my imaginary scenario is completely wrong and a little too "June Cleaver".  Consider for a moment that Mrs. McKay is a senior partner in a prestigious Bay Street law firm, and she had the housekeeper clean, her favourite caterer prepare a lavish meal, and a delivery service stock their bar with the finest liqueurs and imported beers.

Either way, she'll never have the opportunity to embrace her son and tell him how proud she is of him. An even though her little boy became a man a long time ago, she will never again share in his accomplishments and beam with pride at his successes in life.

And when I explained all of this to Lauren, she cried too and gave me a big hug and said "mummy please don't be sad". But it is hard not to be.

146 mothers have experienced a pain that no parent was ever designed to endure.  The youngest soldier to make this supreme sacrifice was 20 years old (I could be his mother) and the oldest was 45 (my age). And whether their mothers are 45 or 70 their pain is unfathomable.

To the 144 men, and 2 women who have died in combat roles since April 2002; to the sole female in Afghanistan in a non combat role to have her life taken; to the male civilian and the female reporter who also served and died: Thank you.

It is at times like this that I am happy to leave the political arguments about Afghanistan to the politicians, at least for a moment, while I pause to shed a tear for the human tragedy, and share in the agony and grief of 149 mothers across our great nation, while at the same time I selfishly pray that I will never totally understand how they feel.

Because they are there helping others find some kind of workable democracy, I am free to pursue my dreams and goals without fear of oppression, discrimination and persecution.  Because they are there promoting peace and teaching others to become self sufficient I am free to dress as I wish, express myself freely and and participate in my country's democratic process.

We do not need to wait for November 11th to remember.  In fact, we must not relegate our gratitude to one solitary day of the year, preceded by two weeks of wearing poppies on our lapels. It is only when we take our freedom for granted, that we risk losing it.

I will never forget.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

And the Oscar goes to.....

Helena Guergis! In what has to be the most impressive theatrical piece I've seen on television in quite some time, Ms. Guergis managed to skillfully blend a number of personalities into one slick PR package with the ability to elicit reactions ranging from sympathy to sexual arousal from every male in the country, all within the span of 20 minutes. And the contrived little emotional breakdown during which no mascara was ever smeared - nice finishing touch!

I mean, who wouldn't  be turned on by those beautiful brown eyes, wide in disbelief, straight out of some schoolgirl fantasy porn flick, saying "what did I do, please, please tell me. I don't know what I've done". I can just picture her boss walking into the room telling her she's been a bad girl and has to be punished. But I digress, and that imagery is beyond disturbing.

Peter Mansbridge asked her if perhaps, in spite of being in and around politics all her life, she might have been a bit naive? Ok, that's one word for it. Personally I'd say the chick just doesn't get it. Exactly when did she think she's smack her pretty little head on the glass ceiling of the Conservative Corporation? Never? Honey in that misogynistic world, your charming personality and that sexy little girl voice gets you a ride for as long as the big boys aren't tired of you. Flavour of the month.

The sad part is, throughout the interview Ms. Guergis asserts that she's just been completely engrossed in working hard and doing a good job, yet the media and Ottawa have no interesting in examining her record and accomplishments. And beyond the titillating tales of airport temper tantrums, sex, drugs and hookers, the rest of the country doesn't care. How sad.

And ultimately this three ring circus serves to divert attention from the real issues. Issues like the treatment detainees who are tortured in undemocratic nations, the choice by this government to take women's reproductive health a step back, by, oh 30 years or more globally, the cessation of funding for women's groups, gay groups, and a list of other offenses as long as my arm.

Helena Guergis is an interesting woman. She's stupid and brilliant at the same time. Stupid for believing that a bright, attractive, sexy, successful woman in a bi-racial marriage would ever go places in an ultra right-wing social conservative political party, and brilliant for realizing how to use those same attributes to get even when it got ugly. Her political career doesn't have to be over. She should run against the Conservative candidate in her own riding and show them all.

Who knows who is telling the truth here. We may never know. But the diversion sure creates one helluva screen behind which Mr. Harper can continue to do his dark and dirty work, out of the spotlight, dismantling  the rights and freedoms of those of whom he, in is infinite right wing wisdom does not approve.

Be very afraid.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Flat on the Floor

I own a pair of flat shoes!  Yes of course, I have running shoes for physical activity, but I'm talking about actual flat shoes, actually sandals - as in something to wear 'dressed up' going out in public.

Its crazy how these things happen. I'm 5'1" and long ago vowed that I'll do my best to avoid being the shorty in my family for as long as possible.  With 4 or 5 inch heels I may make it to Christmas if I'm lucky.  So it is actually surprising that I bought flats! Tracey doesn't like them... oh the sandals are hot enough, but when I walked into the office she kind of wrinkled her nose and said... hmmm I'm not sure I like you short! Oh god, she doesn't like me short? I AM short - I just hide it well!

But really, this is a two part story - first the fact that I ended up with flats, and second, how it came to be....

Doing my part to ensure the success of Lauren's grade 8 year, I found myself in a shoe store last week. Actually not just any shoe store but one that I frequent on a regular basis. 

But I'm telling it all backwards. On the weekend, I was informed that a large papier mache project was the focus of the weekend's homework, due Tuesday. Required items included a whole lot of white glue and two shoe boxes.  Hmmm no glue. No shoe boxes. No really... no shoe boxes! ALWAYS hide the evidence is my motto!

So off to Staples in Newmarket for a huge tub of white glue. And, rather gratuitously located a mere 200 metres across the parking lot is The Shoe Company. I hadn't been in for a while, and well, I DID need two shoe boxes.

In less than 3 minutes, I had found a very hot pair of black platform shoes - zipper, open toe, to die for sexy with a pair of jeans. I found my size. Done! One down....

I found a second pair, candy apple red, and beyond the first pair in sex appeal into the dimension of 'these definitely look better in the air'. Oh baby! And guess what - they didn't have my size.  I am, to this day, disappointed beyond belief.

Wandering the rest of the store it occurred to me that, with summer pretty much here, I could use some cute footwear to pair with shorts. And then it happened, an adorable pair of Steve Madden gladiator sandals jumped off the shelf and right into my path, making it impossible for me to continue walking. They were my size! I stopped, set the first shoe box on the ground and tried them on. It was at this moment that the very store manager who was witness to a two year old incident which has made me legendary in the store, happened down the aisle and almost fainted. Luckily I caught him and stopped him from hitting the ground and grievously injuring himself.  As he regained both his balance and his composure, he looked at me and, shaking his head in disbelief, said "honey, you are in the wrong aisle!"

I bought the sandals! I have no clue whether I'll wear them often, but they're just one of those things worth having in the closet.

The rest of the weekend was very busy, and Lauren was left to her own devices to finish her model of the Grand Canyon (I've never been one of those moms who does the kids' homework). Monday night, after a long brutal day at work, I came in late, kids already in bed. There in the kitchen was a spectacular paper model of The Grand Canyon. And I smiled, knowing that I had done my part to assist with my daughter's education, and that Steve Madden helped save the day

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sleepless in Simcoe County

I hate these kinds of nights, and boy am I grateful they are not a very regular occurrence!

Stupid me, for falling asleep at 9:00 p.m. 

12:30. Wake up from a crazy dream and look at the clock. Ouch, I was SO sure I had been asleep a lot longer than 3 1/2 hours.  I think it could be a long night.

1:00. Downstairs to watch TV for a bit.

1:30. Back up to bed.  1:40. Have I only been laying here for 10 minutes? Isn't it amazing how slowly time moves when I can't get to sleep.  1:45. Send a message to Tracey to see if she's awake too!  Cool, she is, so we message back and forth on Blackberry messenger for a while, but she's tired and tells me to go to sleep.

My brain won't turn off, and I wish I would just stop thinking about thing. Work, money, my health, the kids, how busy this week is going to be, how much I need a vacation, the fact that my real estate license is up for renewal on Tuesday and I still need 13 more credits.... and other thoughts of people, places and events that are not suitable for public consumption.... The noise won't stop!

2:15. Log onto face book and see if anyone is online to chat.  Of course not-everyone else is in bed - like I should be.  2:27. Fix up my profile on Linked In and see that a fabulous client has written a wonderful recommendation for me - read it over 3 times and feel gratitude....make a mental note to ask her if I can also publish it on the website.  2:42. I get this brilliant idea to set up a new twitter account for real estate - Tracey's gonna love this, although we both know I'll be the only one who will keep it up and running.

3:10. Go grab some orange juice and pause for half a second to consider whether adding a shot of Grey Goose will help me get to sleep.  Better not... bad idea....

Walking back down to the basement to resume my night prowling on the computer and the stupid cat jumps on me and scares me half to death -man, if it wasn't for Lauren this cat would be dropped off at the back door of a Chinese food restaurant.... (get over it Tracey, I'll never be the animal lover you are!)

3:42. It occurs to me that I could have been making good use of this time by completing some of those credits that have to be finished by Tuesday so I don't temporarily lose my real estate license like I did two years ago. Hmm... I'm noticing a pattern here, and beginning to wonder of my ability to procrastinate to the point of peril may just kill me some day.....

4:28. I wonder if any of my early bird friends are awake. Notice the talk about procrastination and how easily the ADD kicks in and I'm off to something else.

When I was really sick and taking lots of terrible medication that kept me awake almost around the clock, I used to bake every night. My family was stuck in the cross hairs of mixed emotions: feeling bad that I was so ill, but loving that they were waking up to fresh muffins and bread every morning.  Mmmmmmmaybe not.  It was a good thought tho, which, fortunately passed almost as quickly as it came into existence.

4:37. It occurs to me that if I publish this blog, that all the people on the distribution list might send me a nasty note and ask to be removed. Or maybe not. You all know I can be quirky and off the wall right?

My I-pod died so I can't even sit here and groove. Nobody to message; I think either Paul will kill me if I call them this early....It's almost 2am on the west coast so Matthew won't be impressed. Tracey needs some sleep so I won't bug her. I've talked about having a very short list of friends in a past blog, and it seems the list of friends I can talk to at 4:43 is even shorter.

The birds are chirping... omg they are annoying. I have a headache - the kind I get when I know I should have been sleeping for the past 4 hours.

I think its gonna be a long day, and an even longer week.....

4:45 If I try now I can maybe get in 2 hours. Goodnight!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Clean Slate

No, no no..... I'm not confessing to a 20 year old murder, revealing something very personal about changing my life, or quitting my job. 

The clean slate is a new journal. I picked this one up because it had a sexy cover.  A high heeled shoe and a shopping in New York theme.  It has a nice side flap with a magnetic closure.  Oh, and the pages are deliciously blank and just waiting for my thoughts, reflections, musings, rantings, wit, and scribbles. And a journal is not like this blog. Here, I test my ability to write for an audience.  Here, I'm a wannabe columnist hoping that someday an editor or publisher will stumble across my public missives, find them to be relevant, poignant and amusing,  and offer me a job at the Toronto Star, or Maclean's Magazine. (Heck, I'd even consider the Sun).

But the journal, now that's private. My deepest, (sometimes darkest) most intimate thoughts. Something that almost no one ever gets to read.  I can write things in a journal that I could never say aloud. And that is empowering, and maybe a little scary if my writings were to found after I had left this world.

Much is made of the new electronic gadgets which can hold dozens of books in memory. It is like carrying around a small computer with an entire library. I guess that's practical for people who travel or have limited space to keep a library.  But there's just something about a book. When it is bound beautifully it is, to me more appealing than a piece of jewellery. The smell, the texture of the pages, the hard cover - something to be cherished and represents the hard work, intellect, eloquence of some very articulate people.  It also represents freedom. The freedom to be creative, to say anything, to express one's opinion for the world to consider.

And even more beautiful are the blank pages of a new journal. I've held this new one, opened and closed the flap and flipped through the pages.  It is a solid little book and I just love it.

Now I stare at page one. What do I feel like writing about?  At this moment I do not know for certain. Even thought its content may never face the scrutiny of an audience, it is a monumental decision, and will set the tone for months of scribbling and musing.  And it is kind of like this blog in that there is no schedule for when I will write, or what the topic might be. Sometimes I will be in the middle of something and a completely unrelated thought will beckon me to the keyboard and I will just start typing spontaneously. Actually, this is the way it happens most of the time. And sometimes, there are dry spells - times when there is nothing inside me to pour out on to a piece of paper, or to make my fingers dance across a computer keyboard. Those can be frustrating times because creativity, and the gift of expressing myself with the written word is just part of who I am.

My new journal - I will hold it and caress it for days, flip thought its pages, and then, all at once, I will open it to page one and begin writing spontaneously.  I can't wait for that moment. Until then I will carry it with me everywhere I go so that I am ready.

I love the clean slate of a new journal.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ring Tones

So last week a friend called me to say hi. He is someone with whom I enjoy conversation and it was nice to hear from him. We caught up about this and that -a little business, a little personal, a little bit about plans for the weekend - the usual stuff about which friends chat.

Then, apparently, I freaked him out by telling him he has his own ring tone. I could hear it in his voice... umm okayyyy, I have a ring tone (nervous chuckle) awkward silence. 

I paused to think about it, and, as I seem to be doing more of lately, I considered it briefly in someone else's pair of shoes - specifically, his (gawd I look hideous in a pair of men's size 8 1/2 or whatever they are). I guess it could startle a person - especially someone who knows me well, but not that well yet.

The clouds parted and I saw the light after a separate and unrelated conversation with another friend about psychotic people - or more accurately, women.

Its all making sense to me now, and makes me wonder what lengths a gal has to go to so that people believe that what you see is what you get.

Ring tones for me are a matter of practicality. My blackberry is my life: my business life, my family life, my social life, my volunteer life. And in my life people fall into four basic categories:  people with whom I want to speak, people with whom I have to speak, people I with whom I can't be bothered and will always send to voicemail so I can return the call when I'm psyched up for the conversation, and people who are teetering on the brink of a couple of different categories. Enter the ring tone.

My husband and kids each have one. They fall into categories one and two.  Tracey has one, although I have no idea why because apparently people under 40 don't talk on phones - they only text, BBM, or IM. I called Tracey once, and she was like, 'why are you calling me'. Oh I don't know, maybe its because I refuse to get bifocals and I can't illegally text and drive with her ease...  But I digress.

In an earlier post I spoke of cleaning house and the list of real friends getting shorter. Well it is. And they all have ring tones. There's nothing scary about that.... no neediness, no clinging on for dear life. Just an easy way to tell, in the odd event that my phone is more than 18 inches away from my person, whether or not it is is worth jumping for.

If its just a plain ring, it doesn't have life or death significance, usually. If it is someone trying to sell me something they can wait. If it is a new or prospective client, I'll return the call within 10 minutes. I really do have to kill the notion that I am an automated realtor who takes calls 24 hours a day. Sometimes I actually have lunch or take a bathroom break, and at neither time do I wish to prove my multitasking prowess.

Ah but a ring tone - that is absolutely going to be a friendly voice and a nice break in my day. Do you have yours yet?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sucks to be so angry!

So, this woman is on TV today picking up her HUGE Lotto 6/49 payday. 20 or 40 million or something - really quite irrelevant when you're talking about a sack of cash that big.

What a neat story. The stuff of story books and fairy tales - scraping together loonies and twonies to buy what ends up to be one lucky, life changing purchase.

I was happy for her. How nice that she wants to help her family and do good and all that. We all dream of what we'd do with an obscene amount of money (shoes baby!) A little bit of escapism never hurt anyone.

But there's a sad part to this too. I came to realize that money can buy a heck of a good time and a lot of shoes, but there's not a chance it can buy contentment, or peace. You see, the lady with the millions upon millions of dollars is so sad and angry that, on national television she had a message for her ex-husband: "Sucks to be you!". Wow.

I can relate because I've been to those dark, lonely, angry places and I know how completely hopeless a place that can be. Granted, the man may have been abusive, made her life hell, and completely smashed her down. But guess what - he's still doing it and he's still in control of her life, and $300 million, let alone 20 or 40, isn't going to fix that.

Recently, I completed a word study to get my head around the concept of forgiveness, and the "A-ha" moment came when it finally dawned on me that the word forgive is a verb, not an emotion. It is a choice, not a "touchy feely" thing. And the inability to forgive is akin to a disability - it blocks a person and does not allow them to really love and find true contentment.

So, as much as I am happy for Ontario's latest member of the nouveau riche club, I feel sorry for her that in the big house, driving the nice car, wearing the fabulous clothes, will still be a sad, angry old woman.

It really does kinda suck to be her.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sorry Eh? Not so much!

I wonder where it all started - this terrible habit of self-deprecation. "We're Canadian, so we're nice; not in your face; we don't brag; we play nice in the world sandbox". Whose brilliant idea was this, because they don't speak for me.

A commercial for President's Choice products talks about how their food feeds our athletes and how we have something about which to brag - "but not too much - after all, we're Canadian". Galen Weston acting like a subservient wuss is not only offensive and demeaning, but it is not inspiring me to buy his family's pre-cooked convenience food.

Russian media is having a pity fest because, well basically, they SUCK in these Olympics, so they make comments about how we have a permanent inferiority complex living next door to the world's most powerful nation. Hmph... we're taking our pucks and going home because those mean Canadians beat us at hockey. Somehow this becomes a slam on our military too - and a general we hate Canada rant. Any Russians who share the sentiment of their media are quite free NOT to emigrate to one of the highest standards of living on the planet. Better yet, they are quite welcome to move to that crowded crime filled sardine can south of Windsor.

Our women's hockey team had the Americans for lunch, then spit them out and walked away with a gold medal. Then they partied and had a good time and everyone is up in arms because, oh my gosh, they were drinking beer and sharing a cigar. Oh that's right, we're not supposed to brag and carry on! Let me tell you this: Well behaved women rarely make history! So, I say way to go Hailey et al! You are my heroes.

The media is partly to blame for keeping the fairy tale alive that Canadians are just 'nice' people who are meek and conciliatory and quietly live in the shadow of our Big American Brothers.

Well not this Canadian chick! I proudly wear the maple leaf anywhere I travel in the world because, frankly, I'd rather not be mistaken for an American! As of today we are tied with the Americans and Germans at 8 gold medals and I'm damn proud. Our Canadian women kicked ass in hockey, and I'd like nothing more than to see our men do the same, even if they are inferior to the female talent we produce here (that's a whole other post...).

There's no inferiority complex here. I'm Canadian and I cannot imagine wanting to be anything but Canadian.

So, here's to showing the world what we're made of as the Olympics wind down. 200 million to 20 million population tells me we produce more winners per capita than our neighbours to the south. Bring it.... we can lay it down with the best of them.

Oh Canada....without apology to anyone, anywhere, is MY home and native land.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Too Hungry for a slice of Entitlement

This post runs the risk of falling into the category of "when I was in school we walked 5 miles through the snow uphill both ways every day". Except it has to do with being in my profession. Apologies to all who aren't, but somehow I think you'll get it, nonetheless.

When I was new to Real Estate, I was hungry. It had to work - failure was not an option because there weren't many more quarters in the huge glass jar to roll so I we could buy milk for the kids. (Slight exaggeration but you get the idea). My pager never left my belt loop. I practically slept with it on. I worked between six and seven days a week, and I missed a LOT of soccer and hockey games. Like I said, I was hungry.

Eight years later I still conduct business like I'm hungry.

Which brings me to what kinda got me hyped up today.

It was a little busy - dropping off feature sheets, showings, working the phones to procure multiple offers on a hot new listing. My pager beeps, and it is a message to call a local number. As always, I call back within 5 minutes. The lady wants to see the hot new listing - the very one I hope will sell in multiple offers tonight. I have no idea how I'm going to fit her in, but I know that in the best interests of our client we have to get her in there today in case she wants to submit an offer too.

So I do what any top producing realtor with a share-the wealth attitude would do. I put out the word to my colleagues, thinking particularly of the newbies who could use a break.

Imagine my surprise when the first person to return my call is the third busiest person in the office (after me and my partner Tracey). He saw the page, knew he could help and got right back to me. These are likely bona-fide clients with a little hand holding, so I'm quite pleased with the results and I know the situation is in good hands!

Now, digressing for a moment, I hear stories all the time of new Realtors who think they are going to walk into a brokerage and "interview the manager or broker" like they are all that and the brokerage would be lucky just to have them. "How many leads will you hand me?" is the question I hear most. I laugh, thinking I could be absolutely rich if I had ever been "handed leads".

Its all about old fashioned hard work. Not waiting six hours to look at the blackberry or return calls. Getting out there and meeting people, conducting open houses and hanging off every word out of the mouth of the company's top producers. Things I still do.

It becomes apparent on days like today why it is so true that 10% of us do 90% of the business.

When I got a call six hours later 'wondering if anyone had taken care of that client', I really wanted to laugh, but I couldn't.

God help me if the hunger pangs ever go away.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Matter of Convenience

Most people take stock around the first of January. Given my proclivity to swimming upstream just because I don't do anything the easy way, I wait until a little way into the year to analyze how its going so far.

I've realized something. The less friends I have the happier I am. It's time to cut the fat, as it were. I have a ton of acquaintances - that's the nature of my business. I'm always out schmoozing, working a room, making strategic alliances.

But when I'm feeling bummed and I just want a friendly "hello" who do I call or text? The list is short, and getting shorter as I raise my expectations of what a friend should be. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about being needy, wanting a perpetual shoulder to cry on or that sort of thing. I'm talking about just touching base, knowing that whether I need something or not is irrelevant. Sometims just the voice of a friend or a quick joke by text does the trick. Once in a while but hardly ever it involves dropping what you're doing and being there for me. I have been that to a lot of people - un-reciprocated in some cases. And the thing is, being a friend can sometimes be inconvenient, but the worst case scenarios I expect from a true friend is "In the middle of something babe, let me call you in 20 minutes". And then they do.

And when one is all that to other people and it doesn't go both ways, it becomes evident that what really exists here is a friendship of convenience, for the other party, not me. Or really maybe it was nothing more than acquaintances from the beginning.

Yep, it's time to do some trimming. It might seem shocking to some that I'm dumping friends in a public forum, but you know what? They'll never know, because the one's I've dumped are the ones who will never read this anyway.

It's all good.

Less baggage, good to go. Get on board or get outta my way. Lock and load baby its gonna be a great year!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's all good....even when it is not....

I have to thank my good friend Keith for that bit of wisdom.

Today feels blah. Everything about it. Never mind the hallmark holiday we know as Valentine's Day - it is just a blah day.

Business is OK but not great; I'm tired and need a break; gotta send Andrew more money so he can eat; lost a client for no good reason other than that he's fickle, and we busted our butts for him. Jerk. It is just one of those days.

Then I think about Keith. He's been through a lot more tough stuff than I have lately. I've been calling him up on a regular basis just to make sure he's been hanging in there. But you know, for all he's got going on, I can still hear him smiling through the phone. And if I said let's go for a drink, I'd go pick him up and he'd give me a big hug and tell me all that's good in his world.

Given that I'm predisposed to bouts of melancholy, I wonder where some people get their inner strength. I believe some people are just born with an optimism gene - something apparently missing my my DNA. I wonder at their ability to be up... always smiling, always seeing the bright side of any situation.

Today, I feel like going home, crawling under the covers and getting lost in a mindless afternoon of television.

Now, people often tell me I'm strong. I guess I would have to agree with that, but I can't seem to do it in the same chipper way as those eternal optimists for whom one would never know had a care in the world if one wasn't in that person's inner circle. I'll be miserable, moody and depressed, but I'll get through.

So, to all the "Keiths" in my life - and especially Keith himself - thanks for your ability to help me believe that it's all good, even when it is not. You're all annoying as hell but I'm glad you are in my life. :)

Tomorrow will be a better day!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bridezilla's Got Nothing on Me Baby!

Lauren is in grade 8. We've put down a deposit on the grad trip, and talks about where we're going shopping for a prom dress have begun.

I wasn't anticipating becoming emotionally involved in this but I'm getting in deeper with each passing day. As Lauren's excitement grows mine does too. Funny how it wasn't the same with her older brothers - at least not to the same extent. After all, a tux is a tux. But all this talk of a dress and shoes and makeup and hair and I realize how much fun it is to be the mom of a beautiful, smart young woman who is quickly growing up before my eyes.

I've already made the pledge to myself - I will not exert undue influence on her choice of a frock for grad festivities. Short of stopping her from dressing like a trollop, I will allow her the freedom to express herself as she sees fit. Somehow I know we'll be on the same page, or at least within the same chapter of the book.

What I will do is be there to make sure everything goes perfectly for her. And that's where it starts to get scary. Lauren wants to make sure her hair is perfect that day, so I've booked her cut and colour and a trial run of the 'do' about a week before the big day. Then, while I was at our hairdresser's I phoned the school, confirmed the date for Grade 8 grad and booked the hair appointment for 1pm that day - knowing full well that my daughter has done such a good job promoting our stylist that at least a dozen other girls from her school are his clients now too. I'll be darned if Lauren will be out in the cold for a hair appointment on her big day. We're in baby and it'll be impossible to convince us to give up our precious time slot.

I'm already checking the new stock as it comes in to my fav shop. They have a registry there which prevents other girls at the same school from buying the identical e dress once we've procured it. I have an "in" there and I get to see everything before it is put out on the floor.

Oh yeah, I won't interfere with her choices - the day is all hers. But she won't ever forget that mom helped make it all happen and cheered from the sidelines all the way.

The only thing left to do is make sure I pick up a waterproof mascara for June 24th. Prom is a blood sport so let the games begin!