As this year comes to a close, my heart is so full. Full of love for Stu and Amira and the little family we’re growing. Full of love for our extended family and friends, who have come together in a beautiful village where Amira will be raised with love and laughter and celebration. And full of sorrow for those 20 families in Connecticut – 20 families – whose lives were changed forever a few weeks ago.
Since graduating from university 12 years ago, I’ve had six unique jobs in four different industries. And I’ve loved them all for their own reasons. All this variety has limited my depth in each industry, but has given me a breadth and a set us transferrable skills that I know will continue to serve me well.
But, there has been something missing in all of these areas – art. They all involved working with different people, working on different projects and stepping outside my comfort zone to some degree, but none of them involved art. And don’t give me that blah blah “you can find art in anything” blah blah. The industries were health care, banking, government and property management. I found fun and learning in all of them, but not art.
Over my 35+ years, many people have graciously said all kinds of nice things to me. Things like, “You look pretty today” or “I love your scarf” or, more recently, ” I really like your writing.” That’s one of my favourites. I also love, “Thank you for helping me”, not because I thrive on that acknowledgement, but because it is nice to know that I was there for someone when they needed it. That means the world to me.
I don’t usually hold up a compliment for too long when I get one. I usually savour it for a few sweet moments, then store them deep inside in a little gratitude box in my heart. I don’t wear them loudly, but I never discard them either. I go back to them when I need to, but usually they stay safely tucked away, never to be lost.
But there is one that keeps bubbling back up – one I can’t just tuck away. It gives me a secret thrill every time.
Being on maternity leave is great. Being home with the baby, having all this time with her, bonding with her, blah blah. All good.
You know what’s not good? The four walls of my house suffocating me all day.
Stu works from home, and he talks often about how he needs to just get out of the house because he he needs to just get out of the house. And while Stu works alone at home, he’s often on the phone or online with other people, having adult conversations, and making stuff happen.
I’m just doing everything I can to get her to sit up. I need to get out.
And so, Amira and I don’t stay home. We go out. We go anywhere. And over the months, I’ve compiled a list of the 6 best places to go with babe in stroller. Since I’ve done the legwork, allow me to share.
There are two women in my life right now who are single by chance, but mothers by choice. Both of them decided it was time to stop waiting for the right guy, took matters into their own hands, and are now wonderful mothers to two beautiful baby girls.
They both have support around them from family and friends, but by and large, they’re riding this wave alone. And I have to say, I’m so in awe so of them. Because I have no idea how they are doing this alone.
It’s one of the biggest cliches in the world, and nothing has ever been more true: Parenting is the hardest thing in the world. I know there are single parents all over the place who do it alone, and do it well. And I have to say, hats off to you. Because doing it with two people, and only one baby, already makes me feel like I’m in over my head.
A friend recently told me about a parenting book she was reading, and it included a section called something like “Babies need Mummies and Mummies need Daddies.”
I totally get this concept.
Since I’ve been on maternity leave, I’ve developed an interest in reality tv. I can see all your eyes rolling now, but hear me out, yo. You can miss whole chunks of episodes while you change a diaper or get some laundry or warm some milk, and really, you haven’t missed much at all. So it’s great tv when you need something on but know you can’t sit there and watch the whole thing. With that said, even I have standards. I won’t go near Jersey Shore. But I have enjoyed watching every episode of every season of Guiliana and Bill. Twice.
Because the summer allowed me to get all caught up with G&B, you can imagine my excitement when the new season started a few weeks ago, and G&B are having a baby boy!
In last week’s episode, their baby nurse mentioned the option of circumcising the little guy. She stressed that it’s not medically necessary, but that there are people who opt to do it for religious or cultural reasons, and she needed to know what they chose.
Confession: I miss going to the laundromat.
I dreamed of having a washer and dryer in my home for a long time, but now that I have them…well, you know me. They’re not the right washer and dryer. They don’t work properly. They don’t look nice. I don’t like that I have to go downstairs to use them and the carpet on the stairs is always dirty. I don’t like the laundry room. Complain, complain, complain.
Okay, I get it. And I’m grateful to have laundry facilities in my basement. Truly, I am. And I did often complain about doing the laundry when I had to lug it to the laundromat every week. But the truth is, I kind of loved the laundromat. Here are my top 10 reasons why:
1) I could do all my loads of laundry at once, without having to go back and load and reload and reload.
2) I like the hum of all the machines going at once. I find it very soothing.
3) It was a great excuse to eat a bag of cheesies and drink a ginger ale from the convenience store across the street – all that waiting around made me so snacky!
4) I like the smell of dryer sheets.
5) There was all that space on those large tables to fold my clothes.
6) All that washing and drying and folding and organizing – my kind of fun!
7) Waiting for the laundry meant lots of time to do nothing except read a good book.
8) Jesse, who ran the laundromat, was a good guy, and we became neighbourhood friends.
9) You’d see all kinds of crazies around the laundromat. I love those crazies. They reminded me how much I loved living downtown.
10) I got to walk by the pretty wedding dress shop on my way to and from the laundromat, and see the beautiful dresses in the window. The proprietors of the shop were kind enough to change the window display each week, so there was always new dresses to ohh and ahh over.
11) I always wished I’d meet Ron Sexsmith in the laundromat, like Stu did years ago. Alas, it never did happen for me. But that dream always kept me going back.
I’m going to say some stuff here that some people may not like. And that’s okay. We’re allowed to have a difference of opinion and still love each other around here. If you can’t do that, allow me to tip my hat to you as you make your way over to another, less offensive blog for now. Hope to see you back here real soon.
So here’s the deal:
There’s some shit going down on the other side of the world. It’s all over the news on tv and on the radio and in the paper and in social media.
A lot of people have been all up in my Facebook these days with their opinions on the recent flareup of violence in the Middle East. I’ve got people filling up my newsfeed with pro-Israeli reports and other people filling up my newsfeed with pro-Palestinian reports. And other people filling up my newsfeed with cat videos, which is the most offensive of all. But I digress.
I’m not an expert in politics in general, and I’m certainly not the most knowledgeable about Mideast politics. It seems that the issues run so deep and so far back and are so tangled up in culture and religion and economics that to truly understand the heart of the matter would take years of study and conversation and to be quite honest with you, my heart just can’t take it. Just scratching the surface of it right now is almost too much to bear.
Because I have a daughter who is both Jewish and Muslim. She has blood coursing through her veins that carries the history of slavery and oppression, of conquerors and pharohs, and of people who just can’t freaking get along. And truly, I worry sometimes about the weight she will carry in her life because of it.
The day will come when she will ask me what side I’m on. My opinion will matter not only because I’m her mother, but because I’m a Muslim woman who chose a Jewish man. And I still choose him, happily and wholeheartedly, every single day.
And also I know, in her heart, she will be asking me what side she should be on. But how can she pick a side? How can she turn her face to her left, trying to deny her right? How can she pretend that choosing in favour of one side isn’t also choosing against another, and that would mean choosing against herself? How can she choose between her mother and her father?
In our house, in our family, she will never have to. I am committed to this with all my heart, and I will shoot down and knock out anyone in our extended families who try to sway her to one side.
We are not going to get into who’s right and who’s wrong. Both sides have arguments that are valid, and both sides have arguments that hold no water with me. So they can have their reasons, and they are welcome to them. And that’s what we will teach our daughter.
And when she asks how she is to choose a side, we will tell her she doesn’t have to. All she has to choose is love. Each side feels they are right. Each sides feels they’ve been wronged. Love them both. Honour them both. Fight for them both. Not for one side to win, but for both sides to win. Not for one side to conquer,overcome, and defeat, but for love to conquer, overcome and defeat.
We will not pick sides. We will simply hold up love as our standard. That’s all she needs to know.
I had an idea a while back. It went something like this: We don’t change as we get older. We just stop trying to change. The more we stop trying to change, the more we come back to who we really are.
Allow me to elaborate a bit.
As children, we do what we love without much thought. We sing, dance, play, create and express ourselves fully and joyfully. When you are fully self-expressed, how can you be anything less than joyful? We lean towards those who show us love and kindness, and we avoid those who are mean and hurtful.
At some point as we get older, we start to change. We stop singing, dancing and playing. We start changing who we are – who we BE – to fit a mould or a stereotype or an ideal or an image. Our life gets overtaken by shoulds and shouldn’ts.
I should take this job.
I shouldn’t wear stripes and polka dots.
I should study that subject.
I shouldn’t sing in public.
I should. I shouldn’t. I should. I shouldn’t.
And mostly we get so stuck wondering and worrying about what other people think about who we are and what we’re up to, that we forget about I am, and I love and I’m happy. We change away from who we are, turning into some version of ourselves that we don’t quite recognize. We accept people in our life who makes us feel bad. We do things we don’t love – and don’t do things we do love – because we feel like we should. Or shouldn’t. We have to, or can’t, or not right now, or maybe later.
And my favourite: One day.
One day I’ll start painting again.
One day I’ll exercise.
One day I’ll have dinner with my old friend.
One day I’ll write that book.
One day I’ll open my own business.
One day…some day…
This leads to all kinds of drama. All the Who am I? questions and What’s my purpose? questions and I need to find myself inquiries. And then we read books (and blogs!) and talk to therapists and friends and listen to tapes and listen to Oprah and then something happens…
We find ourselves drifting away from those people who make us feel bad. We find ourselves colouring again. Or running. Or playing the piano. Or whatever it is that brings us joy. We stop worrying about what other people will think, and just live our lives with a little more love.
And we’re happy.
People say “You’ve changed.”
No, you haven’t.
You’re back to being you. Back to who you were always meant to be.
You’ve stopped changing.
The last time, there were 350 other people in the room, using up all the oxygen and leaving with me with no breathing room.
This time, there were only my 10 favourite people in attendance, and we were outside in the sunshine. I breathed deeply and felt the oxygen filling my lungs.
The last time, it was a beautiful snowy winter wonderland. Just what I always wanted. And all I wished was that I could bury myself under that snow and never come out.
This time, the sun shone down hot and scorching. It was sticky, sweaty and almost unbearable. And all I could feel was the beautiful warmth of it on my skin.
The last time, my hair and makeup were professionally done and turned out perfect. And I felt like a fraud.
This time, my hair was not what I had in mind and I had to re-do my dreadful “professional” makeup by myself. And it was perfectly me.
The last time, the food was divine. There wasn’t a speck of rice left on a plate. Everyone raved about it. I couldn’t eat a bite, because I was too choked up with dread to keep anything down.
This time, the food was terrible, and the service was worse. We sent in a huge complaint letter about it afterward. And still, it was one of the happiest meals I ever had.
The last time, I paid for drinks for everyone. All I wanted to do was drown myself in them.
This time, people bought me drinks to celebrate. And I didn’t need them to feel relaxed and happy.
The last time, all the voices in my head were screaming that I was making a mistake.
This time, the only voice I heard was the one singing a love song in my heart.
The last time, I knew it wouldn’t be the last time.
This time, I knew it was the last time.