Little Girl Writing


In beginning a memoir project, I decided to dig through my old journals just to get a feel for what fifteen year old me was thinking. Holy cow, I think I should have just closed it up and left it be. Teenaged angst, early views on relationships and the all-important she likes him-he likes someone else drama happening. I didn’t remember writing any of the events that transpired in those pages, but I remember the feelings. The awkwardness. The shyness. The melodramatic events of school dances and hockey games; movie nights and trips to the record store; history classes and failed math tests. How much I missed my Dad.  

I skipped ahead to my second year of college to compare. It seems I grew up a bit in that time. The theatrical expressions were lessened and I spoke more of the transition of becoming my own person from that of a little girl in a confusing world. I loved living in the city. I loved working with the kids in residential treatment. I loved feeling necessary, intelligent and valued. I grew in college. I grew from a little girl writing down her daily activities to a young woman experiencing a life independent of parent, familiarity and routine. My entries were less frequent as I moved through classes and newfound friendships; downtown escapades and girl retreats up to northern Ontario. As I read through my second year the absence of the mention of my brother’s death was surprising. Not a word about one of the most traumatic events of my young life was there.  

The glaringly obvious absence of such an event should not have been a surprise. I must have thought I had outgrown the use of a journal and had no need to write such drama down on pages. I must have been so overwhelmed with emotion, I couldn’t bring myself to record it at all. I wish I had. I wish I would have written every last detail of it. The shattering phone call. The train ride home. The days leading up to the funeral. The Thanksgiving dinner where we laughed until we cried. The devastation of watching my brother grow from an impulsive angry child to a more mature independent young man with his own apartment and a girlfriend, then having it all taken away in an instant. His life was moving forward in a more positive adult direction. We were all breathing sighs of relief. And then it changed.  

It could have been cathartic. I remember thinking as I walked away from those difficult days with my mother and my family and boarded the train back to school that I was returning a different person. I remember thinking I wasn’t the same after his death. I had changed somehow. I had grown.

I have been journal writing these past few months on a more regular basis. It may not be filled with all of the drama and angst of my teenaged years, but I find it soothing to write my thoughts on paper. It may not be cathartic nor reveal a secret hidden meaning of life, but it certainly gives me perspective on my life now and my life then. Perspectives on my changing world as my children grow from kids to adults, embarking on their own journeys and new discoveries; and how I continue to fit in to their ever-evolving lives. Apparently, my main reason for living right now is dinner prep and food organization.  

With all of life’s changes, it’s nice to take a look at where we were and where we strive to be. Maybe keeping a journal is another way of taking stock and reflecting on the journey. If you are a journal writer, take a look back occasionally to see where you were.  

You may be surprised at how far you’ve come.  

 

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Friday, Fall and Garden Gnome Gary

Friday is finally here and the rejoicing has begun. Even the dog is happy….for a change. The sun has finally appeared and all seems to be almost right with the world. Now if we can only get the world to cooperate.Fall is knocking on my front door and I’m thinking I should get my ass in gear this year to be ready for a festive season, unlike previous years where I bought a pumpkin the day of Halloween and made the kids carve it after school. It was an interesting looking pumpkin. Sort of like Quasimodo meets Mickey Mouse.  

This year, I should be preparing early for Halloween by making up some treat bags that have actual treats in them and not pencils or small ghoul-shaped erasers or left over Froot Loops…what? Desperate times….

Or, find some pumpkins and paint them freaky colours so my neighbours think I actually do something besides throw a random pumpkin on the front step and take a sharpie and draw on a weird-ass awkward smile…then blame the kids for not being ‘motivated with the spirit of Halloween’. Damned kids.

I’m thinking of scoping out a local field and thieving a hay stack to throw on my front porch. A) Field? B) Will a haystack fit in my Corolla? I should have asked that ever important question when I bought the car. Note to self, ask next time.

My garden gnome Gary has been hanging out in the front garden all summer. I found him toppled over face first in the dirt. Poor Gary. I stood him upright and vowed to include him in my fall-planning. I’m thinking I could make him more fall-like if I hide him inside a plastic skull and sharpie on some fake blood. He could become Ghoulish Gary by Halloween. I bet I’ll start a trend and the ‘hood will be filled with blood-stained garden gnomes strewn all over front porches…It’ll be like the Walking Dead only we could call it the March of the Garish Gnomes….WHO’S WITH ME??!!  

I love getting out the scented candles and lighting them on crisp fall evenings…yes, I just took that from a Good Housekeeping magazine. HAHAHAHA. So cute. The rest of us just throw on the washing machine and hope the fabric softener makes the house smell clean.  

There are so many DIY sites with awesome ideas for fall decorating, that I should check them out. Or not. I’ll see if any include Sharpies and colouring garden gnomes, otherwise I’m out.

My biggest tip to get ready for fall is stock up on that wine before we have another wine shortage crises and the world comes crashing down around our feet and we have to actually think of something creative to do with our time. Pffft…STOP ME NOW BEFORE I GO TO MICHAELS AND SUCCUMB TO THE SMELL OF THE CRAFT PAINT.

OH THE HUMANITY…..    

 

 

Mother Teresa Died in 1997 And I Feel Kinda Guilty About That Now

The warm weather is hanging around making me believe summer is not yet over, but I know better.  The Weather Gods are just lulling me into a false sense of security with all of this warmth, only to blast me with cold weather in a few days or so.  Then I’ll be shocked and appalled and lighting the fireplace and lamenting the summer.  I’ll be shaking and quivering with the chill, rummaging through drawers looking for warmer sweaters and the Snuggie I bought daughter for Christmas, one year.

Trying to de-clutter my environment is like trying to set water on fire.  I just get one thing away and two new things pop up.  I have so many things I want to do, that doing one thing at a time seems wasteful and boring and not at all accomplishing anything, when really, it would be so much better than spinning my wheels.

Maybe I should get my attention span checked out.  Can someone do that?  I just don’t think I can sit still long enough to take all the tests that are probably required to determine that shit.  Maybe there’s an online version, but then I would get distracted with the other stuff happening online, then one of the adult/children would need me to rescue them from the new devil-printer that seems to be possessed and prints whatever the hell it wants, or Hubby will need me to figure out the phantom pain he has in the back of his neck that’s really not the back of his neck but more like the back of his head that maybe some bug bit him while he on his walk because it really hurts….

Maybe it’s not my attention span at all.  Huh.

It’s a good thing I have hobbies and you people to walk this journey with me and tolerate all of my nonsense.  And wine.

Ps.  I just wrote this on the front of my agenda because at the time, I thought it was funny but now my Catholic conscience is getting the better of me and I feel guilty about the whole ‘dead’ thing.  I’ll be over here saying ten Hail Marys…

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And hoping my water will turn into wine because, Jesus.

 

Deep Breaths And Wine

The vacation planning and the ongoing struggle to remain a human being whilst juggling the tedious, yet ever-so-important mundane task of breathing is getting exhausting.  
If you just read that SENTENCE and you aren’t fainting from the mere lengthy run-on-edness, then yay for you! You have more stamina than most folks who checked out after ‘the’.  

I know, “vacation planning…Ooooh so sucky to be you right now”, but wait! I’m a let’s-stay-at-home-and-find-something-interesting-to-do-around-here-that-doesn’t-involve-lenghty-lines-and-blistered-feet-and-quotes-of-GAWDIDON’TKNOWWHEREIAMRIGHTNOW!-kinda girl. I love to go away at the beach, etc. but SOME people get so worked up a week before we go, it’s like dancing around a campfire in a drunken stupor knowing at some point you are going to go headfirst into those flames and it ain’t going to be pretty. And nobody wants to see that go down.

Vacation planning sucks. That’s what I’m saying.

It’s all good once the vacay has commenced, but this week is fraught with anxiety and hand wringing and exclamations of “WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE DON’T HAVE THAT BOOKED?!” Gawd, don’t have a cow, it’s not like there are NO HOTELS ANYWHERE IN TORONTO. Or…where are we going, again?  

Yeah, it’s like that.

I should heed advice and not get so upset when SOMEBODY rips my head off because THERE ARE NO GRAPES IN THE HOUSE. WHO KEEPS EATING ALL OF THE GRAPES?! Because, obviously the secret minions of grape-land come in late at night and eat all the friggin’ grapes and it’s really not the grapes that SOMEBODY is upset about, but the getting on the plane and hoping there was nothing forgotten and hope we have enough money for that and let’s not lose the kid this time or fall down and almost break your face, remember that?  

Yeah. Good times.

Truly a hard go at this stage in the game, and with the whole WRITING OF THE EXAM, THE SEQUEL going on, it’s a little testy around these parts.  

I’m basically trying to keep my head on straight and secretly ordering batches of wine to be delivered to my room once we get to the sunny south so I can drink away the voices in my head still screaming DID YOU REMEMBER TO BRING THE PAPERWORK AND YOUR STURDY NO SLIP SHOES?!  

Fuck.  

 

 

Parenting Tips For Surviving The Teen Years With Grace, Dignity and A Little Less Drunkenness

Adolescence, otherwise known as the slow descent into madness, or those lost years mommy raided the liquor store in search for more wine, or when the little darlings morph into bigger versions of Teletubbies gone awry, is a trying time for everyone; parents, teens, grandparents, teachers, babies, the dog, the mail-delivery person, the librarian with the big ass mole, the nice policeman who escorted you home after being caught outside the liquor store after hours banging on the doors pleading for them to “PLEASE OPEN I NEED WINE! I HAVE TEENAGERS!!!”….

The brains of average teenagers are still developing and pushing the limits. It’s one of the many fun and interesting ways they determine their place in the family; their role in the world and their intimate social circle. It’s also annoying as hell.

Limit setting and parents sticking to them is the key element to any good survival during this emotional roller coaster. They will yell, scream, slam doors and then use the ever favourite “Jan’s mom let her do it”. “AGAIN WITH THE JAN’S MOM?! I’m not Jan’s mom! I don’t care what Jan’s mom let her do! WHO THE HELL IS JAN?! Jan’s mom can stick it!! “ Natural and understandable responses to an illogical and peer-pressure kind of tactic that only ensues argumentative combative behaviour. BAD FORM, TEEN. But that’s what they know. Knee jerk emotional responses to having their asses slammed into a room with nowhere to go but to a ‘Jan’s mom’ kind of response. Stick to your guns! Not literal guns, but your limits. Stick to your decisions. You get it. DON’T CAVE!  

I could say here that communication is the key to any good relationship and speaking in quiet tones and providing a caring and open environment for them to participate in mature dialogue will assist in curbing the emotional upheaval….but that would be utter bullshit. Seriously. Teens are a ball of emotional crap wrapped up in a brain-fugue ire that speaking at all will only escalate the already shitty attitude they possess. I tend to throw my hands in the air and say “Jesus, help me with this child! Give him the necessary good sense that he needs to see the light!” and then proceed to speak in tongues. This generally confuses the shit out of the teen and he is so freaked out he turns around and goes to his room to try to call his father saying “Mom has lost it! Come home now!” And will never ask to go to another party/borrow the car/jump off a bridge, again.  

As a mother of three teens who are now adults, I can say you will survive. Motherhood be damned, the adolescent years are the most trying times; following of course after toddlerdom when the word ‘no’ was the prompt to put more toys in the toilet; the righteous pre-teen years where buying the right shirt was a major meltdown affair and of course the roaring twenties where there’s university exams, classes and staying out all night. Actually, now that I read that statement, being a parent kind of sucks. There is no decade safe where you can really sit back with your feet up and relax and say, ‘yep. We did it. We raised our kids.’ A parent’s work is never done and even now that my kids are no longer ‘kids’, I can say I still worry. We still argue (yes, Miss H even with Son), we still have to set the limit and toe the line and all that parenting lingo you read in all of the Parenting 101 books that kinda only work when the kid is already well-adjusted, graduated with a PhD and on his way to his own wedding. All those nice parenting books you bought will surely serve better as a nightstand where you can lay your bottle of wine after an afternoon of endless pleading and begging with the mail-delivery-person to please rescue you from your torment only for him/her/neutral to pry your death grip from his/her/neutral arm and run madly up the street….damned mail-delivery persons! (being politically correct is wordy, but not expensive)

Suck it up, Mommy/Daddy you’re a lifer now!

Ahhh, think back to the day when that adorable little pink baby was first placed in your arms and you promised him the world! And now, well now, he’s still kinda adorable and you would still give him the world if he wasn’t so damned stubborn like his father and have the intelligence of a snail. Then he comes home with decent grades and you think “Yesss. Finally, he has turned a corner. He is growing up” then he dents the car, or floods the basement with the garden hose or goes bowling with a frozen turkey and throws it through the front door.  

Yup.  

A teenager. The universe’s way of reminding you that young people can be stupid. We are the force that guides these young impressionable teens into adulthood with common sense, values and a wealth of information to make solid decisions; like bowling with a frozen turkey is way better suited in the basement using the hockey net. Duh…ANYONE KNOWS THAT.  

That’s why we also have wine. For when those guidelines are a little skewed, those decisions are a little off the mark and we struggle with guilt, ire and Jesus.

Good luck, fellow parents. You are not alone during this traumatic and challenging time. Remember, they will be around FOREVER. Also, the liquor store is open daily until 11pm. Make sure to get there early.

You. Are. Welcome.

 

    

 

The Unrelenting Echoes of Summer

The ‘hood battles are raging and the summer days are stretching onwards and upwards. No one is immune to the reaching fingertips of ire and impatience emanating from cranky neighbours who refuse to admit their age is getting the better of them. If one is to listen to them, the kids are running amok flailing wildly among heathens and hoodlums destined to dethrone the king of badness. Nothing good happens past nine- thirty peeps, and children left to pillage and plunder the village into the abyss of indifference and permissive dismissal are future adults destined for the Presidency of an American nation. Alas how are we to survive the madness?!Calm down, peeps.

The children are children playing in the backyards of responsible professional adults paying their taxes, abiding the laws of society and contributing to the well-being of community and ‘hood alike.

There is no crime here, only that of youth being restless and young on summer nights that have magically become windless and warm. The days where summer seems to last forever, where any kid of any age can dream of digging for buried treasure, swim in the depths of a backyard pool and savour the taste of s’mores and burnt marshmallows on a backyard campfire. Tents, giggles, sleeping bags, practical jokes, stolen garden gnomes (oh, my poor Norman where art thou?) all a big part of childhood and growing up in a safe environment surrounded by loving parents and committed neighbours to raising a generation of well-adjusted, educated, intelligent, compassionate and community minded young people.

That’s what my idea of a neighbourhood is.

Watching out for each other against the rallies of the occasional late-night thievery, lost dogs, wayward cats, and kids out past the boundaries of the park at the end of the street. Local spring clean-ups, bottle drives for hockey trips, Mummering Christmases, barbeques and the fence raising- shed building- deck erecting- construction that brings friends and neighbours together.

We connect to support each other in times of confusion and debt reduction, lost jobs, raised taxes, sky-high grocery bills and illness and heart attacks and even the death of someone’s parent or relative. It’s what they mean when a neighbourhood becomes a small village.

We become each other’s indirect relative.

A communal leaning post.

Friends. Allies. Fellow compatriots in a world where we embrace differences and stand up for the underdog. Where we denounce bullies, raise up kindness and understanding and assist at all costs.

It’s in the DNA of every Newfoundlander to have this innate sense of community; to feel responsible for each other because, hey, don’t I know yer father? At least, that’s what I was led to believe.

Let’s see more of that. Community. Fellowship. Understanding.

AND FUN.

Hey kids! Your loudness behooves me!

The kids running around playing spotlight after dark, the fires in the backyard pits, the barbeques, the late night dog walking, the chatting…

There is no room for fear of being loud or obnoxious. The sounds of laughter and squealing from children should be a sign of a healthy happy environment fraught with joy and the unending bounds of childhood activity.

It should be lauded as the epitome of strength of home and family; not sullied as unnecessary and appalling.

As the summer progresses, let the children play in the streets and wreak havoc in the backyards. Soon enough they will be grown and gone and our yards will echo with their lost squeals of fun-fueled delight from summers past. Youth is fleeting.

Let’s not wish it away.

 What?! I can’t hear you! Whispering sucks. 

 

 

The Fall

Sometimes I feel like the worst mother in the world. I don’t seem to ever have enough to give or I just don’t seem to give a damn. It’s brutal the feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that plague me. And that guilt! I think it’s a universal feeling. Mothers often question their ability to make logical decisions in the face of chaos and drama. Are we doing the right things? Are we making the right decisions? Is there enough wine in the world to get me through the next few years/decades/century?  My answer is probably not.  

Being a mom is hard.

Every time there seems to be a major catastrophe in one of my kids’ lives, I internalize it and blame myself for their struggles. If only I gave them this or if only I warned them about that or if only I was better at being a mom…it’s never ending.

Watching one of the offspring struggle with a life event is heart breaking and standing around waiting for him or her to come to his senses about it is even worse. I’m knee deep in that now and I can’t seem to get myself out; to convince myself it will all be fine in the end, it’s just a few more weeks and things will turn around. We’ll all laugh about it later.

Nobody is laughing right now.

I’m too busy stopping myself from giving in to my tendency to help; to come to the rescue; to bail him out.  

That’s not my job, but it sure feels like standing around waiting for her to grow up is taking way too long. And he sure doesn’t understand why I’m just standing here waiting and not putting out my hand to help.

I am helping. Just not her version of help.

I know what the issue is, but if I give in what would be the learning life lesson; the character building experience; the chance to grow from struggle?  

There wouldn’t be one.  

The child/adult needs this to happen. Consequences from actions. That’s how life works.

I just wish I didn’t have to be the eye witness to the fall and the struggle to climb back out.

But that’s my job.

I’m a mom, after all.