So yesterday I said that I loved working with flowers. I can't explain why. It all started when I was a child, and some relatives (my grandmother's brother and his wife) had this flower shop we would sometimes visit with either my mother or grandma, or both. They would let me go in the back and pretend that I was a florist with real tools and flower "scraps" and. I. was. in. heaven. This, to me, would be the one thing that never feels like work: spending my time surrounded with flowers. The gardening, which I've learned from my father, is also an offshoot (haha) of that, which tends to the same happy/inner peace feeling.
But back in the day, it never occurred to me to pursue this as a career: I loved school, was good at it, so eager to learn and read and think, and also going to university seemed like some kind of a societal obligation. Flower arranging was a lackluster one-year vocational program taught in high school, as opposed to say art or design school, so it had little appeal to me at the time. Unlike what I've seen in Europe, there's not much of a culture of having fresh flowers everywhere here, of spending money to make them a constant part of your life. Flowers are grown far away, thus are less fresh and more expensive, and I suppose all of this has made a lot of florists surf the easy but vile carnations/ferns/baby's-breath bouquet wave. It's a catch-22.
But I've always done it, for myself, for parties, as well as for 5 weddings (including mine). The idea of doing this professionally has been in my head for a while, of course, and I've been encouraged a lot by family and friends. As part of my recent what-do-I-really-want-to-do-in-life questioning, I decided to give it a try. I am a million miles away from quitting my day job, but I told myself, what do I have to lose?
So in order to build a portfolio and get a real feel for the job, I decided to offer my services (really inexpensively for now) for weddings and other parties. I'm not quite yet at the stage where I advertise myself much outside of word-of-mouth, but still, Montreal people, please spread the word, if you can!
I am extremely thrilled to say that last week I have landed my first "pro" gig with Jenny, an absolute doll of a Chicago native who's going to marry her Quebecer fiance on October 17. They are both theater people who have worked with Robert Lepage, and are getting married in the theater where her man used to work in Quebec City. She first saw our wedding featured on Budget Savvy Bride and reached out. Next thing you know, she has booked me! :-)
She sent me amazing-looking collages (from which you can tell this is a very creative person with a great eye) of the look she was trying to achieve, and I really liked it. Her colors are black, white, and dark red (that shade between bright red and burgundy which I usually refer to as "the perfect nail polish color"). She wants berries incorporated, and loves a natural, simple, autumnal, "wildflower" look. For her white bouquet, I am thinking about spider mums, daisies, mini-roses, berry branches, mini calla lilies, and perhaps dahlias, which I love but might not be able to find in mid-October (they're a quintessential September flower). The bridesmaids would have a smaller version in red with similar flowers. Boutonnieres could be either tiny berry sprigs or a small daisy, simply adorned with an understated ribbon. As for arrangements for the reception, she has collected vintage mason jars and small bottles which we will fill with a few small flowers for a "scattered" look.
I am SO excited about this, and really hope I can make her dream vision come true. She's on a tight budget, just like I was, and I take it personally to make her wedding look like it cost much more than it actually did (same thing I tried to do). I'm a wedding vendor, people. Could you have ever guessed?
Monday, August 31, 2009
So yesterday I said that I loved working with flowers. I can't explain why. It all started when I was a child, and some relatives (my grandmother's brother and his wife) had this flower shop we would sometimes visit with either my mother or grandma, or both. They would let me go in the back and pretend that I was a florist with real tools and flower "scraps" and. I. was. in. heaven. This, to me, would be the one thing that never feels like work: spending my time surrounded with flowers. The gardening, which I've learned from my father, is also an offshoot (haha) of that, which tends to the same happy/inner peace feeling.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Because I don’t hate mine, and will always do it the best I can. But. There’s something missing. I’ve been doing this for ten years. Over this decade, my general sentiment has gone from sheer relief about having a job, to the fun challenge of having so much to learn, to thinking that your work is not your life, to thinking that it’s just a means to an end, to reasoning myself that not many people probably do what they really like anyway. The void feeling has been there for a while, and starting this blog in March 2008 has certainly helped in giving me a renewed sense of balance and accomplishment. But it has also made me realize that this is where my heart truly is, and that my motivation and drive are so much greater when doing something I really like.
M is in a similar situation, and so we often talk about it, and always come to the same conclusion: unlike what were thinking in our mid-twenties, we now both feel that it’s probably VERY important to spend your life doing something you really enjoy… Because life is short and it seems to make little sense otherwise, you know? I guess we’re both creative people (in different ways) who ended up in corporate jobs because one must work and pay the bills, and because there’s a big part of me that’s scared of putting myself out there, and has always known the bohème life of waiting tables in between freelancing jobs and poetry readings was not for me.
Our jobs are providing us a good standard of living, and we do enjoy this a lot. I feel silly even bringing it up in a sense, because we’re far from going through a living hell... I never feel bad coming in to work in the morning, I do my job, I’m good at it, and hey, I’m paid to write, me, the little girl who kept telling everyone I would one day write, and I do –what I write is very technical and the opposite of creative and as far away from literature as possible, but nonetheless, I do.
In fact, I’ve been avoiding this topic for a while, because I tend to walk on eggshells whenever addressing anything remotely related to my professional life. I’ve been afraid to freeze my doubts for eternity and perhaps one day giving off the wrong impression to a potential employer or the like… But I finally decided to talk about it since I figured we must certainly not be alone feeling like our jobs do not fulfill us completely, and that this doesn’t make us any less capable of doing them anyway (because you never know what will happen, maybe this phase will pass, maybe no other way is possible, etc.)
The thing is M and I both feel, I think, that a change of life would be welcome. What would it be? I have no idea. I hope we can one day live abroad, if only temporarily, because this experience changed my life and I think it would be a fantastic opportunity for a child. I also said that by the time LP starts school I hope to be able to work from home more and be there for him. I don’t have much of an entrepreneurial streak, but M does, and I think for him the eventual way out of the 9-to-5 (which he’s having more trouble with than I do), includes being his own boss. Over the past year and a half, we’ve watched our friend Julie with both pride and acute interest, because she did exactly what we both dream of: launching her own business, the crazy success of which is *almost* overwhelming, while doing something she loves so much it never feels like work to her.
This is what seems like a true success story to me: not people who make tons of money (although I’m certainly not averse to that), but people who LOVE their jobs. Julie. This girl I once met who quit her finance job to become a yoga and snowboarding instructor. That guy who used to be my editor, who dropped everything to do upholstery. People you read about who spend their life traveling for TV or publishers. People who work with dolphins, or reinvent themselves by starting a small vineyard from scratch…
There are two things that I truly love to do (and fortunately they are not mutually exclusive): writing (things that are a little more personal anyway), and arranging flowers. For M, it’s photography and graphic design. We both recently realized that all of this could be channeled and packaged into the world of… weddings. Could this be a first step towards something, or not? Ich weiss es nicht. That’s all. Unfortunately I don’t have a crystal ball or magical solution.
Friday, August 28, 2009
I don't think I'll ever get over the complete pleasure and satisfaction of harvesting, and then eating, something you've grown yourself.
People ask me how I can find the time to do this on top of everything, and why do I bother. Well, sometimes during the summer I do think it's a bit of a hassle to water, weed, fertilize and inspect plants (the biggest enemies to tomatoes are slugs) day in, day out, however busy or tired I am.
But then this time of year comes and I remember why I do it. You can laugh but my daily tomato harvest is a big high for me. I can feed my family with my own hands, so to speak! The hard (OK, not that hard) work has paid off, and now, just like the Fable de Lafontaine says, I only have to sit back and enjoy the fruits (literally).
I cannot even begin to describe how good these tomatoes smell and taste. We keep them out of the fridge and will gorge on them daily for at least another month (this has been an especially good year). Sometimes we eat them like apples, out of the plant, warm from the sun's rays. Put simply, they taste like a breezy afternoon in the Italian countryside.
Now you might understand why I don't buy big, suspiciously round, mealy, flavorless, ripened-in-trucks tomatoes from the supermarket anymore. I've been spoiled and to me they symbolize everything that's wrong about the way we eat (cherry or grape tomatoes usually taste OK all year long, though). I'm thrilled that my son will learn that this is what a tomato should taste like. And all it takes is about 4 months of a little TLC.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
We have a clear idea about the kitchen
So in the meantime we’re tackling operation bathroom! I’m talking about the upstairs one, which had been redone a decade or so ago (but unfortunately not with much taste), so it’s a much smaller and less expensive project than the kitchen.
We’re basically gutting the 5’X7’ room, leaving only the bathtub (because it’s still nice, and this alone would have doubled the cost and complexity). We got a new eco-friendly dual-flush toilet, and will also replace the really impractical (for a main family bathroom) pedestal sink. After endlessly looking for a vanity that fit our dimensions, style and needs, we came up with the idea of building one ourselves with mix-and-match kitchen cabinet parts sold at the Home Depot. We got a shallow, square sink that simply mounts on top of it, requiring only a small hole for plumbing instead of a custom fitted top. Voilà, half the price!
Additionally, we’re replacing the eyesore wall tiles with part tiny blue glass mosaic and part glossy white subway tiles. We had originally planned to keep the (blue) ceramic flooring, but then realized that it didn’t go with the mosaic at all. So we busted the budget a bit and went for $10-a-piece white marble tiles. Still, unless we have major surprises, our
Last weekend I took LP to a kids birthday party and came back to see that we didn’t have a bathroom anymore! M spent all day removing all the tiles, one by one and proceeding really carefully on the walls, since otherwise we would have had to replaster everything. We were surprised to find out that the flooring had been installed directly on top of a 60’s style small-size mosaic, original to the house. It's different shades of beigey-brown and quite ugly, but I was still impressed at its great condition. I think it was set on concrete, making it really durable. Can you also imagine the amount of work? I’m pretty sure mosaic was cut and assembled manually then, and did not come with a mesh backing like it does now!
We’ve moved to the (cramped) downstairs bath/laundry room, which is not exactly ideal in the middle of potty training! But LP is being a real champion through it all. He hates showering, but we have no other choice, do we? Everything should be finished within a few weeks (thanks to my wonderful husband who’s working really hard, painting until 11 PM and such), especially since we have a long weekend coming up. I can’t wait until it’s done, and not only because since I couldn’t look into the mirror after I dressed this morning, I was already at the office when I realized that my light blue bra looked like neon under my white blouse...
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
On Saturday my sister and I took our mom to the spa, as a belated birthday present. We had never done this and it was a great girls’ afternoon out, which we’ll now try to repeat every year…
We had scheduled massages, so after a few hours of Finnish sauna/Turkisk hammam/cold pool/hot Jacuzzi etc. I was looking forward to that. We showed up right on time, and I watched about a dozen people being greeted by their respective therapists, then disappearing into the candlelit silent zone. I stood there for a few minutes, alone, with drippy hair, starting to think that maybe there had been a mix-up with times… Then I saw this gorgeous man coming from the other end of the room, tall, fifty-ish but fit and dressed in head-to-toe fitted black, semi-long hair, devil-may-care attitude, confident smile. Wait, but the man was coming towards me, then saying my name! He was my therapist! And when he told me his name it all clicked and I realized that all this rock star quality to him was due to the fact that he had… actually been one.
I recognized him from my teenage years, when he had been a local few-hits-wonder and his songs were playing non-stop on the radio. It’s not that I had ever been a huge fan or anything, but I felt a little intimidated nonetheless. I felt a bit silly, not really wanting to say anything (he probably hears it ALL THE FRIGGIN’ TIME right?), self-conscious as to not look weird and probably looking strange exactly because of that. When I gave back my locker key, the receptionist asked me how I thought he was with a little knowing smile and near wink, while she didn't ask anyone else…?
He was a GREAT therapist by the way, like nothing I had ever seen (making long movements with lots of pressure, stretching and twisting my limbs, using his elbows and knuckles a lot). But I couldn’t completely shake off the (slightly uncomfortable) feeling that there I was naked in a room with him (although, you know, obviously covered up and in a totally professional setting, etc.), and that back in the day, a lot of women would have probably killed for that… Is that weird?
I suppose it’s not a bad job, and I guess there’s a bit of a parallel between playing the guitar and massage therapy (both are very tactile?) The schedule is probably flexible, leaving lots of free time for music. It’s also not a big secret for anyone that the
I couldn't find much on him (What? No Wikipedia article?), but here's his last album cover
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
While sorting through photos recently I came across this one, and had an earnest, somewhat nostalgic laugh. Somehow I had almost completely forgotten than M and I used to share the house with three cats.
Three cats?!!! Yes, and we’re not even really cat people. I’ve loved my cats and grown fond and respectful of their breed over time, but strangely we’re both (big) dog people. We kind of accidentally came to take care of all of them. Jujube, the gray one, was given to me by my friend, who had become way too allergic to her. It was either that or she would be put to sleep, so I reluctantly accepted, then began to appreciate her as a roommate. Stitch, the small tabby (and my favorite), was rescued back at my old apartment as a tiny weeks-old kitten abandoned by his mother, who had cut off all his whiskers so he wouldn’t survive. Neo, the huge black-and-white one, was M’s, well, technically, his ex’ who ended up leaving him behind.
So it came that for over two years we lived with them, and they had to live with each other. They had very different personalities and couldn’t stand each other much. They would sometimes call a truce and sleep all together on the bed or the couch, but each would have to respect each other’s comfort zone. The picture was taken the night I brought home a huge crate of hand-me-down baby boy clothes (I was about 6 months pregnant), and proceeded to sort them out by season and size. The cats were really curious, and wanted to “help”. Stitch is wearing one of these stupid collars because days earlier he had gotten into a fight with the neighbors’ cat, Picasso, who had bitten his neck. When we took him to the vet she informed us that he had a heart murmur, and that one day, unexpectedly, we would probably just find him “asleep”. That explained both why he was rejected by his mother, and why sometimes he would pant so hard he had to stop and lie down for a few minutes.
Once when we came back from a weekend in
A few days later what the vet had predicted precisely happened. I took it hard (before LP came he had been my “baby”), but having a real one to take care of really distracted me and allowed me to move on soon enough. Then, a few months after that, as LP became increasingly mobile, we sent over Jujube to my father and stepmom, because we knew that she had no patience and would attack the baby as soon as he pulled her tail or something. She still lives there and recognizes us, although I don’t expect her to be around for long. She was born in 1992, and is starting to show signs of kidney failure, so my only hope is that she passes peacefully after a great life of being the affectionate but feisty alpha female in three different families, leaving behind a long trail of scared vets and male cats with bruised pride.
[LP and Neo were sometimes friends...]
For about one year after that we only had Neo, who, if he had been a human, would have lived in a psychiatric ward. He had “issues,” big ones I’m not even sure a potent cocktail of antidepressants/antianxiolitics/antipsychotics/OCD meds could have fixed. We thought being the only feline in the house would help, but his behavior just kept getting worse, and at some point he would just pee anywhere around the house at random (we had him checked and physically he was fine). One day, after researching and trying multiple things, we got at the end of our tether, and started to feel that our now-beginning-to-walk kid had to be the priority. We couldn’t find a family or a shelter to take him because of his problems, so regretfully we had to do what we really tried avoiding for years and years, giving him chance after chance after thousandth chance. We promised ourselves that we wouldn’t have any pets
ever for a while (well, we have a goldfish now).
Back then, we kept complaining about our society of cats, about the sheer hassle, about their constant bickering, about all that hair. But in retrospect I think we kind of miss them now, how they would fill the house with their presence, how there was always one willing to cuddle and purr, how at night I always had to go around making sure each one was back in before closing the door (Stitch had figured out of to open the patio door with his paw, and the other two would wait behind him to get out). It will be fun telling all of that to LP one day.
Monday, August 24, 2009
After an intensive Cars phase, we’ve recently moved to one where all LP wants to watch is Pooh’s Heffalump Movie (which he calls “Lumpy”, after the baby elephant character). It’s a little less tongue-in-cheek funny than Cars (for grown-ups, at least), and it has no kick-a** soundtrack. But it’s still cute, and so far, we haven’t gone nuts.
Unsurprisingly, he identifies with the young characters, Lumpy and especially Roo, instead of with Pooh Bear or Tigger. Each time Lumpy finally finds his call (meaning that he has come of age), he cheers loudly, the joy always genuine and renewed, as if he’d never seen it before. Because in a bonus feature the director talks about how heffalumps (elephants) love to eat “rumpledoodles” (i.e. oatmeal cookies with raisins and coconut) and provides a recipe, we baked “biscuits de Lumpy” together. It all started well enough as you can see, but quickly went downhill when I didn’t use my Silpat mat on the cookie sheet because I couldn’t find it quickly and wanted to maximize the kid’s good mood/attention span, only to discover 10 minutes later that 1-the non-stick coating of my pan didn’t work anymore, and 2-I really should have followed my instinct when thinking that a cookie recipe without an egg and baking powder wouldn’t exactly turn out right. By the time they were exerted out of the pan and had cooled, LP was involved in some other game and not even remotely interested in eating the flat, chewy, sticky, too-salty disks.
We’ve just recently moved LP into his own toddler bed, and although the transition is better than we expected, it’s not always completely smooth. So in order to reassure him, we always remind him of the scene where Roo gets tucked in his own “big boy” bed by his mama, and by some miracle, it usually works. He sometimes even brings it up on his own, his little voice quivering with emotion and uncertainty.
Songs in the movie are all performed by Carly Simon, the easy-listening 70’s icon. Although not a fan of her (or anything much from that decade, for that matter), I must say I’ve grown into liking these songs, which often stay in my head for a while. I don’t know, she adds a certain emotion and depth to the thing (yeah, I’m still talking about a friggin’ Winnie the Pooh animated feature here). None of the songs know how to exactly find by tender/bittersweet spot like this lullaby, played when Roo goes to bed dreaming of waking up as a grown-up the next day. I now sing it to my son nightly, and how I manage not to cry I don't know...
Little Mr. Roo
For the moon
So many things
You've got to do
And no time
Little Mr. Roo
Let the stars
Shine over you
Don't grow up
Save some time
Let me see
That sleepy yawn
On your face
Close your eyes
I will love you
Little Mr. Roo
The moon shines
Silver over you
No one knows
You like I do
And little Mr. Roo
For the moon
Don't grow up
Friday, August 21, 2009
OK, so, granted, the life of well-off people kind of fascinates me. The life of ditzy celebrities really doesn’t, but give me a portrait of people living normally but within a financial range that I can’t even imagine and I’m really interested. New Yorkers, especially. I’m not sure why, but they're a breed of their own, for the good and the bad. No wonder that city has become such an important megalopolis, when you consider the odd mix of drive, balls, determination, ambition, arrogance, hard-work, good taste, vision, confluence of wealth, etc. of its inhabitants.
This article was discussed on the Huffington Post, with a totally snarky and mocking tone to it: how could you ever feel sympathetic with people who complain that they’re just “getting by” with $300,000 a year, right? Pfft. So you can’t get your hair colored every three weeks anymore? Boo-hoo.
But then I followed the link and read the original story (from the Washington Post). And something happened. I kinda felt myself on their side. In fact, I quite liked the divorced mom portrayed, and thought she was actually miles away from a rich bitchy princess who’s out-of-touch with reality. I saw a successful woman who was still sensible and nice, who kept it together and seemed to be very loving and involved in her three children’s lives.
So she has the big house in a wealthy community, the designer wardrobe and the nanny.
It didn’t mean she didn’t struggle with being the breadwinner and maintaining everything, with her recent divorce and her ex’ younger new wife, with longing for the childhood summer house her family has lost, or with being the only single woman in her circle (while knowing that unlike her ex, being in her late forties with a demanding career and three kids, she probably won’t find love again). I could actually relate to that. Has success, especially when honest and self-made, become a bad thing? We are all someone’s poor and someone’s rich. Ten years ago I thought that the income we now have would mean one could pretty much spend whatever they want. Of course, it proves to be far from the case. There is no upward limit. Like stated in the article, even though it might seem inconceivable to the majority of us who fall somewhere along the scale of middle class, among the world of the wealthy she’s really at the entry-level.
I don’t think these people should be pitied, and I don’t think they think they should be. Everyone is well-aware that even during a financial crisis, “hard times” do not mean the same thing in
Thursday, August 20, 2009
…when LP “graduates” levels at daycare. It won’t be as traumatic this year as it was the last (when we moved him from an outstanding daycare a little far to a really good one right by our home), that’s for sure. He’s moving upstairs with the “big kids”, will have a new teacher (which he already knows and likes), and will be in a group partly made of new kids. But he’ll still see and do activities with his other “friends” and teachers all the time. Unfortunately, except for C, his morning teacher (whom we love so much), who’s accepted a job at… our old daycare.
He loves going upstairs and seems to understand the different, non-baby, scheme. He’s been going there often in the last few weeks to ease the transition, and overnight, it made him more aware of his bodily functions, enough to make tremendous potty-training progress in a matter of days (while he’s there. At home we’ve been spending a lot of time in the bathroom singing songs lately, but no results yet. It’s frustrating but I don’t want to force him; it figures that it’s easier at daycare, with all the facilities made especially for kids, teachers who have all become experts at this, as well as the encouragement of seeing everyone else going).
I know it’s no big deal but this is a time for reflecting on time past and wrapping things up (even if only in your head), and it still makes me emotional. This is the second time we’re going through this, and I can’t believe LP has been going to daycare for nearly two years already. There will only be two more of these changes before the big send-off to school (sigh).
I used to love this time of year as a child, going back to school, the idea of starting over… All the novelty was so exciting and positive for me. But I don’t know how our mother felt about it, if she was just happy to have us out of the house or proud to see us grow up and navigate ever-increasing levels of life’s complexity, but also a little sad that every new year meant that the days when we were just the babies she was singing to sleep were farther and farther away.
I’ll certainly cry a little on the last day LP’s current teacher is there, knowing that she’ll give me a scrapbook of his year, and knowing that this is the last chance we have to show her our infinite appreciation.
Meanwhile, I have to shop for presents, for her and his afternoon teacher (who’s staying, but will not take care of him anymore). I never really know what to give them. You want to do something significant (these are people who changed more of your child’s poop than you did in the past year, and regardless of the fact that it’s their job, it’s no small feat and only a fraction of all the time, love and care they showed), but at the same time not too big that it would make them uncomfortable. Chocolates and other sweets are bad: these are all females watching their weight. Bubble bath seems a little cliché and corny, unless you do really high-end. If possible, you want to do the same gift for each, and they couldn’t be more different women. I’m leaning towards gift cards, even if they’re a bit impersonal, or maybe pretty potted orchids or something alike. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Remember how before the wedding I posted about wanting to walk down to my just-about-to-be-husband (-there was no aisle-) to the sound of The Postal Service’s such
Well, little did I know, he had an idea of his own about it, and had planned a little surprise for me too. This is what he wanted to hear while our son and I made our way down to him:
Try to forget how creepy-looking Robert Smith has become over the years. I think his voice is still just as unique and powerful. (Incidentally, this song is also featured on the excellent soundtrack of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.)
So, in the end, which one did we play? Well, none. It turns out that the orchard’s sound system broke down two days before the wedding (well, it wasn’t a fully-equipped wedding venue with a DJ, only a place where you go to taste ice cider, and we were well-aware of that!), and so we were able to play music inside with our iPod base, but not outside as I had envisioned.
And you know what? Oh well. That moment was absolutely perfect (and will remain very clear in my mind forever) anyway.
[LP kept on pulling my hand and saying: "On y va? On y va?" (Are we going?)]
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I’m fairly healthy. I eat well (90% of the time), I’m active, my BMI is 21, my lifestyle is quite balanced, I don’t have any allergies or conditions… There are always nagging little things, though. I don't have extraordinary energy levels. I’m a little too emotional and let myself stress out easily. I’m anxious, a natural worrier in spite of myself, always struggling a little in order to feel completely secure. Sleep is definitely where I lose a lot of points: I sleep too lightly, have very vivid dreams, always had trouble falling back to sleep, and get insomnia as soon as the slightest thing is bugging me. In consequence, I rarely feel rested. I’ve also had this knot in my back, right below my right shoulder blade, for years and years. I’m not constantly in pain, but there’s always this discomfort that comes and goes.
Last year I began getting massages at work, where a therapist comes every two weeks. At first I did it more for relaxation and stress relief; I had this idea that they were a luxury and an indulgence. But then I noticed that they were really great on my back too, and that I did not feel as good when I didn’t have them. Now I view them as essential. The therapist explained to me that the knot was actually an accumulation of toxins (the muscle’s discharge), something which frequently happens because it's a big tension spot. The rough massage and hard pressure (I feel totally sore for two days after) increases circulation and helps release the toxins, but it's only a temporary fix.
As strange as it may sound, this made me aware of a lot of things going on in our bodies but that we don't really tune in to. Toxins accumulating in my body! That can’t be good! I can’t get massages every day, but I now feel the need to address this issue, thinking that it will probably improve my well-being as a whole (and not just my back discomfort).
I also recently read an extremely interesting interview with a New York acupuncturist named Jill Blakeway, who specializes in treating women suffering from infertility (if you’re wondering, I ended up there through Babble, my daily parenting read). I’ve never done acupuncture. But I remember when I got pregnant I had the phone number of one in my purse, and I was about to call her, because someone had told me it helped her get pregnant after a long time trying and I was ready to give it a shot at this point.
Blakeway’s approach really speaks to me because she combines traditional Chinese medicine with the Western one, instead of considering that they are mutually exclusive and eternal arch-enemies. I do believe in Western medicine and doctors: my dad is one, I would never reject it as a whole. But I still think there are a lot of things it doesn’t understand or take into consideration.
The piece made me reflect on my difficulty to conceive, despite my age and seemingly good health. When I went to the fertility clinic, they ran tests to verify that I wasn’t prematurely menopausal, that my tubes weren’t blocked, and so on. Then they decided to put me on drugs (which I ended up not taking, 'coz I finally got pregnant naturally). Similarly, at my last ob/gyn routine appointment, the doctor told me: "If you ever want to be pregnant again and see that it's not working after a few months, don't wait too long, call me and I'll prescribe something to regulate your cycle."
I am not dead opposed to taking drugs, but I'd rather avoid them when I can. The approach Blakeway discussed in the interview seemed SO refreshing, so different, so much more comprehensive and thoughtful and, dare I say the bad word, holistic. Acupuncturists base their "diagnosis" and course of action on the state of your body and mind as a whole, on a multitude of visual clues as well as other pointers you'd never thought would be related, like your sleep habits, culinary tastes and food cravings, or elimination functions. She says she has great success with women who were told they needed fertility treatments, only by making them become aware of how little lifestyle changes can matter, teaching them to listen to their bodies and cycles, and improving their health in general.
I am starting to believe that everything is in fact related, that there are many things you're not necessarily aware of that can impede on your health, balance or well-being. I'll never know for sure what caused my sub-fertility, and I don't know if things like acupuncture could make a difference if we ever try to conceive again. Not to sound too esoteric or anything, but I'm beginning to see things that I would have never thought of before, like my natural anxiety maybe causing less than ideal conditions for implantation, perhaps an hormonal imbalance or a 'qi' deficiency, call it what you will. I am now very curious about acupuncture and its potential for balancing things out. Toxins accumulating in my back or not, I think my body is telling me it's in need of a bit of a tuning.
Monday, August 17, 2009
M still has two weeks of vacation banked up, and I can take as many as I want (but they’re unpaid). Since we already went on a trip to
So we had this crazy idea: let’s not go anywhere now and undergo home renovations instead! First, there’s an interesting federal tax credit for expenses incurred until next February (one of the strategies implemented by the government to stimulate the economy). Second, our house was built in 1964, so it’s not exactly old, but it’s at an awkward age where a lot of things have to be redone. And third, we actually love that kind of stuff. We do! Before we had a kid, it was a totally legitimate activity, like we would wake up on a Saturday morning and go: “Let’s paint a room and add ceiling trim!” or “Let’s redo the flooring in the stairs landing!”
But since LP was born, we haven’t done much, only minor fix-ups. I mean, I may be really bad at this multitasking/super mom thing (and I know I kinda am), but it took me TWO MONTHS to do 25 wedding thank-you notes, so. Still, we miss it, and I noticed that recently, looking at home decorating mags is giving me an itch. Everyone in their right mind would say OK, for our first real project as a family, we’re going to start with something manageable, like reorganizing/redecorating the home office, right? But instead we decided to redo the kitchen AND upstairs bathroom. Only the two biggest projects possible in a house. Simultaneously.
Let’s start with the kitchen, since its prep work is what we’re taking care of right now. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you the culprit of our kitchen renovation:
An original Thermador double electric range from the 1950s, purchased three years ago in an antique store in
We fell in love with it and bought it for a song, because I think the guy had had enough of seeing such a bulky item in his store, and it was “as is.” He didn’t know, and we still don’t know, if it was working (ovens need to be plugged in a special outlet with a different voltage, so it’s not something you can easily have on-hand). After successfully bringing it to our basement (which was an adventure in itself), we cleaned and inspected it (it’s in excellent shape and all the parts are there), but we couldn’t just put it in to replace the one we now have. It’s 40 inches wide, compared to the 30-inch North American standard. So we waited for the right time, which is apparently now.
In order to put it in, we need to retrieve 10 inches of space. Technically easy, but since our dishwasher is adjacent to the oven, it means we need to find a new place for it. And this is where it gets a little complicated.
Our plan is to take down the corner wall that closes the kitchen from the dining room/living room, and install a big corner island/breakfast bar that would now mark the separation instead. This island would replace the current (movable) one that we have, provide additional food prep space, and house the dishwasher, along with our wine cooler and microwave. On the other side, we would put a few stools, thus creating an additional place to have informal meals and a future homework/crafts projects station.
In short, because in the world of renovations one thing always leads to another, what started off as a 10-inch gap means ending up:
-Replacing the countertop and getting a new sink (ours is crappy and about to fall apart anyway)
-Installing a narrow shelf next to the new range (to make up for the remaining space the departing dishwasher will leave), where I'll put my recipe books
-Replacing the backsplash tiles, because they’re dated and won’t go with the new range
-Taking down a friggin' wall
-Having a custom corner island built, then fitting it with the new countertop
-Bringing plumbing and electricity to the new island
-If possible, while we’re there, installing a second small sink in the island
-Redoing the flooring, since the wires and pipes will have to run underneath it
-Getting stools, a new hood and a new microwave oven (I think M has had this one since university).
Additionally, we will need to reshuffle things in the dining room a little, and decided to also change our cheapo and generic dining room set, which I’ve been waking up at night to hate for the past four years.
Enough work for you? I think the only thing we WON’T do is change the cabinets, which were updated by previous owners in the mid-90s and look okay. We contacted a technician who specializes in restoring antique appliances, and who lives about two hours from here. He seems really nice and excited by the project, so at some point soon we’ll hand the beast over and let him play with it. Since a range is little more than a big metal container and heat insulator, I’m sure it won’t be that difficult to get it in working order (the same functioning principles still apply to ovens now, and it will probably only be a matter of replacing the wires, elements, burners and thermostat with new parts).
We also chose a countertop material, tiles, and a new sink, and only have to come up with our full plan. Once everything is ordered, it should take about four weeks for things to arrive. We’ll obviously need some help from experts (for plumbing and electric, the structural aspect of the wall demolition, etc.), but otherwise we will more or less do everything ourselves. I will keep you posted about it!
Friday, August 14, 2009
As you might know by now, my friends Gretchen and Larry, parents to five year-old Prince Liam the Brave, have launched a charity called Cookies for Kids Cancer to raise money for pediatric cancer research. The principle of the organization is simple: get people involved locally by organizing bake sales and raising awareness.
Recently, Philosophy, a great line of skincare products with a heart and a conscience, has decided to partner up with the cause. From now until October 15, they will give 100% of net proceeds from the sales of their Oatmeal Raisin showel gel/shampoo/bubble bath combo to Cookies. You can purchase it for $16 on their website: can you imagine, being a good cookie and smelling like one too? Furthermore, they plan to unveil a social media blitz on Facebook and Twitter, with hopes to rally their large base of fans and followers (over 23,000 people total). Along with a few other people, I have been asked to write a first-person account of how I became involved and what inspired me to act. This text, which I decided to also post here, will be displayed on the Philosophy FB fan page, along with a (shorter) call to action on Twitter. This is a GREAT honor for me.
I first read about Liam and Gretchen in Parents Magazine. Although I had always been sensitive to causes involving children, I had recently become a mother myself, and this seemed to decuple my empathy, drive and indignation. I still don't know what touched me so much about Liam's story, but that night he entered into the deepest part of my heart and never left. I could see a bit of my own son in Liam, and I simply couldn't bear his and his family's ordeal. I found their blog and started following their story, getting to know them, admiring their strength and spirit. I had to do something, and so I reached out and tried to help. It's been nearly two years, and since then a proxy friendship has developed into a real one with the Witt family, something that, despite the grim context around it, truly warms my soul.
I got involved with Cookies for Kids Cancer last year, organizing a bake sale in my hometown of Montreal, sharing the story of Liam and other brave little fighters around with very positive responses, and raising $263. I intend to do it again this year and will not stop until I beat my own previous record. There are a lot of worthy causes out there, but I've definitely found mine. I want to give back for this incredible luck we've had to be able to raise a healthy boy. No child should ever have to suffer due to a lack of treatment options!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The base fact is that the
Do I have an opinion on this? Certainly, but I’m not American, and I haven't fully read the bill, so no one really cares. I can respect people who have different views and opinions than mine, as long as they are informed and respectful.
What I hate though is the way the Canadian system has been portrayed in the media as a fear-mongering tool. Apparently, people have been flooded with ads describing the Canadian system as a terribly chaotic, soviet-like one, where people die every day waiting to be seen by doctors, where bureaucracy is ludicrous, and where people have no choice but to come to the
I don’t think our system is perfect, and I’ve already blogged about it (here and here). I will never be afraid to somewhat criticize what could be improved. The main problem is a shortage of doctors, which no one seems to be able to really pinpoint or correct. Some waiting lists can be long, mostly in certain specific specialties and when your case is not urgent, and it has been established that in some rare occurrences, people have died before seeing the doctor. It also happened that during an acute period of crisis a very small number of patients were sent to receive treatment in the US (while still being covered), but I mean, I don’t view this as an indicator of a completely faulty system, but rather of one that promptly admits a problem and reacts when things do not go as well as they should.
Do I think the Canadian system should be applied to the
For a great overview of how our system works, you can refer to this NPR piece, but in short everyone is covered, there are no restrictions on doctors and locations, no rationing on service. You don’t have to pay when you receive care, and the system is funded by taxes (for a very cost-effective 10% of the GDP). Hospitals are public, but doctors are like private business owners who bill the government for the work they’ve done. While people sometimes describe the system as “socialized medicine,” it is actually “socialized insurance,” where it’s the risk (not the care), that is shared and pooled by the whole population, and covered by a single payer (the federal government). The quality of care is great, and if bureaucrats are supposed to be running it and budging in, they must be extraordinarily discrete as I’ve yet to meet even one.
There is no such thing as a perfect system. My experience is nothing but coincidental and very partial evidence, but overall I would say the good overwhelmingly surpasses the bad (delays were perfectly acceptable 95% of the time, and when they weren't, I made a couple additional phone calls and got us faster appointments elsewhere, only making it slightly less convenient for us). While some Americans might fear a nationalized system like the plague, it’s the idea of negotiating with and putting your health and life in the hands of insurance companies whose whole business model is to cover you as little as possible that terrifies me.
Yes, we do have high taxes, but it still blows my mind to think that American families have to pay an average of between $15,000 and $25,000 a year for adequate coverage. When receiving the already terrible enough blow of bad health-related news or job loss here, no one has to worry about their insurance and their coverage. No one has ever had to go bankrupt because they were unlucky enough to get cancer or multiple sclerosis.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
There’s something about an image like this which makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Little shoes left in a corner, by little hands that were so eager to hop upstairs and go play. They symbolize so much, telling the world that this house is inhabited by a small being, who changes its dynamics completely, rules over his small-scale universe, and fills it with laughter and life (and tears, and tantrums, and snot, too).
We live in a very family-oriented neighborhood, populated with kids of all ages. At the beginning, it was just the two of us. Except for the retired folks down the road, we were the only kid-less couple around, along with these two neighbors from across the street. This was enough of something in common for us to befriend them, a couple in their late forties, who lived with a big, jumpy Golden Retriever named Chanel. We never asked why they didn’t have children; that’s not the kind of thing you ask. Some people just don’t want kids, we thought.
Then LP arrived and with my growing bump appeared telling empty boxes in our driveway on garbage day: high chair, bouncy seat, stroller, and so on. We never told them we were expecting, but of course they figured it out and after that, I noticed the woman was a bit distant and weird. One day, when LP was maybe four months old, the man revealed, in a single breath, that they had spent years and years trying, on their own and then with heavy medical assistance, every drug and procedure imaginable, that it had cost them the equivalent of a second house. Nothing worked.
I think about them often. When do you draw the line, when do you give up on this dream, which is not only a selfish one but also the strongest and most fundamental human instinct there is? Do you ever completely turn the page and feel you had closure on wanting to have a child but not being able to? I know they could have always adopted, I would have, but maybe at this point they didn’t have any money left, and were too brokenhearted by this ordeal already, or maybe they couldn’t envision raising a child that wasn’t their (biological) own.
M and I had trouble conceiving, and it was tough, really tough, seeing the months pass by and scrapping the "maybe" thoughts I couldn’t help but have every time and starting over again. In retrospect, it seems like nothing, and really it was. It took time, but it worked, I had a normal pregnancy, and a healthy, beautiful baby who changed my life and continues to bring me to this place where I’m happiest every day. We didn’t have to go through the financial, physical, and emotional roller-coaster of fertility treatments, where the amount of money you put is in no way a guarantee of success or a preventative agent against deep, deep heartache.
I suppose time heals these wounds, but seeing us leap into parenthood from the other side of the street must have hurt. I don't think it's mean or petty from them, it’s just human nature. They live on, they go to work, take care of their garden, take their dog for walks, have their roof repaired, have friends over for dinner, chitchat with neighbors, get new cars… They have a seemingly full life.
But I can’t help wonder... Once you’ve dreamed about tiny shoes hurriedly left at your doorstep, can you ever forget about that dream? Can you ever view your home/life as complete?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream
Our motorcycle weekend, in 6 words: Open road, so many corn fields.
And if you're still here, there’s the full version:
We almost didn’t go, when my in-laws couldn’t make it our way after all. At the last minute M arranged for LP to spend the weekend at his (single) sister’s and it turned out to be a great idea. He seemed to be invigorated by the change of scenery and it felt as much of a little break to him than it did to us. He was all smiles and excited when telling us all about his weekend.
So in the end, a little later than we thought, we left on Saturday morning, and headed straight to the nearest border station, a 25-minute ride on the slab (how highways are very negatively referred to in the motorcycle world. In short, the slab is something you must try to avoid at all costs). Unexpectedly, there was a 2-hour wait, so we quickly turned around to our backup, smaller station, which was just as full, as was our third and last back-up one.
We had laid out a nice itinerary in
The orchard was packed full of people, making us fully realize why they wouldn’t have accepted to hold our wedding later in the season… It felt great and emotional to be back there, like it still held some of our good vibes, but maybe I was the only one feeling that.
The blossoms of your wedding day have turned into fruit… I know this is corny but I still think it's a great metaphor for a marriage…
We then finally crossed into
M’s favorite part of the trip was getting to ride again on his favorite road ever to do on a bike: the scenic 108 pass between Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch, which is beautiful and narrow and full of curves and excitement (and closed in the winter).
We headed back to
Riding on beautiful roads, at a somewhat slower pace outside of our usual daily commute, totally reconnected me with how much I love being on the bike. It’s a bit of a cliché but it’s tough to explain it otherwise, after you’ve gone for a while and let go of your apprehensions and let your mind wander a bit, the feeling is incomparable. When the sun is out, when the wind blows just slightly in your face, when the light hits the horizon with a certain intensity, when you suddenly breathe in the bright, fresh, sweet smell of wildflowers, when the music is good (among other things, we listened to Alain Bashung (RIP), Dallas Green, +44, Coldplay and The Killers’ Springsteen infused newest), it’s pure bliss. Kerouac is never far.
And for the requisitory tidbit of LP while we were gone: during a walk with the stroller, he ordered his aunt to stop in a very urgent manner, which made her jump to his side and ask: “Gosh, what’s wrong?” Nothing. He had just become mesmerized by a parked car and wanted to look it over. A bright yellow Porsche, of all things.
P.S. Did you know that bikers have a secret handshake? When you cross another motorcycle on the road, you must do a little left-hand wave, and hold it for as long as there are bikes in front of you (that can be long when you see a big group of people traveling together). There are also additional rules, like technically people on Japanese racers do not wave to people on Harleys, who fall on the opposite end of the spectrum, and so on. But since M’s bike is a bit of an in-between oddity (a BMW), he told me he just decided to wave to everyone. So, for good measure, and to make fun of him a little, I made sure to wave at every cow that we saw.
Monday, August 10, 2009
The special issue of InStyle Makeover I recently received had an interesting, but weird article analyzing the diet of three different women for a week, pinpointing what they did right and what they could improve. I always like that kind of thing: don't you think what you eat reveals so much about you and your life? In this case, it was a bit of a shock though, because, it made me feel like some sort of an ogre. OK, these were all high-power New York women, and I suppose this puts them in a world of their own, but still, how could they properly function while eating so little? One woman wasn't eating all day (saying that believe it or not, "her life didn't work like that..."), then compensating by having a big dinner at night, and obtaining a third of her (already insufficient number of) calories from... champagne. Another one would only have juice for breakfast, and bagged lettuce for lunch, without any proteins or carbs. Lunches for the third one were like: some cheese and a piece of fruit. My stomach is churning just because I'm writing this.
I could never skip a meal, even if I wanted to. I am always hungry, everyone keeps teasing me about it. I have a bigger appetite than a lot of people, including M sometimes. I try to eat healthy and watch my weight, but it would never occur to me to stop giving my body what it needs. I would be a dangerously aggressive (and ravenous) zombie if I ate like these women, even for a single day. OK, so they're thinner than I am (actually probably underweight), but how thin does one need to be? I'm like 130 pounds (for 5'6") and a size 6, so it's not like you actually have to stop eating to be so. Also, depriving yourself of food but having plenty of booze? Insane.
Anyway, I am always astounded to realize that some people really don't think about, and simply don't care about food, only viewing it as a means to an end. Whereas, I think about it probably way too much for my own good.
Just for fun, I decided to do the same exercise for a week. (Yes, I know, Maggie Mason, I'm breaking all your rules. I promise this is only a one-time experiment, and I will never post about my lunch again).
My conclusions: it does feel funny to see it all written down, seems like A LOT of food. Also, I'm in a bit of a breakfast and lunch rut. And I definitely have a tendency to be more in control at work but pig out at home and during weekends. But overall not that bad, I guess.
Breakfast: small homemade muffin (made from organic flour), organic yogurt, half a pink grapefruit. 3 cups of Japanese green tea. Lunch: "taco" salad with veggies (tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, radishes), seasoned crumbled tofu and shredded cheese. Snack: one cup of sweet cherries, cup of jasmine tea. Dinner: steamed mussels with oven-baked fries and dijonnaise, homemade coleslaw, glass of ice tea, glass of organic soymilk.
Breakfast: muffin, yogurt, half a pink grapefruit. 3 cups of green tea. Lunch: big green salad with veggies, leftover mussels, one hard-boiled egg and an entire avocado. Snack: about 15 almonds, a piece of dried papaya, cup of jasmine tea. Dinner: baguette with cheeses, pate, artisanal salami, cherry tomatoes and cucumber spears. Glass of lemonade, glass of soymilk.
Breakfast: two small slices of apple-raisin bread, yogurt, half grapefruit, 3 cups green tea. Lunch: green salad with veggies, tuna, crumbled goat cheese and artichoke hearts. Snack: one apricot, one cup of fresh berries, cup of green tea. Tandoori flavored potato chips. Dinner: whole-wheat pasta with olive oil, Parmesan and sauteed veggies (garlic, scallions, mushrooms, zucchini). Glass of soymilk, small bowl of homemade ice cream.
Breakfast: two small slices of apple-raisin bread, yogurt, half grapefruit. 3 cups green tea. Lunch: green salad with veggies, shrimp, almonds and edamame. Snack: one cup berries. Dinner: roasted chicken with wild rice, creamy broccoli salad with raisins and red onion, Swiss cheese, glass of white wine, three chocolate cookies. Snack: sweet and salty kettle popcorn, glass soymilk.
Friday (brisk walk, lots of stairs)
Breakfast: muffin, yogurt, half grapefruit, 3 cups green tea. Snack: one piece each dried pear, kiwifruit, and mango. Lunch: Tandoori chicken, veggie curry, Nan bread, fruit salad. Snack: plum. Dinner: whole-wheat spaghetti with meat sauce, Parmesan, glass of white wine, mini-cupcake.
Saturday (motorcycle weekend)
Breakfast: bowl of muesli with raspberries, blueberries, and milk, yogurt, cup of green tea. Lunch: half a club sandwich with fries and mayo, Diet soda (definitely the low point of the week. Felt totally miserable after. Will I ever learn?) Snack: all-natural high-protein energy bar, vitamin C packed smoothie. Dinner: green salad with chicken, figs, orange slices, red onion, cheese and almonds, small piece garlic bread, two glasses red wine.
Breakfast: whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese, hard-boiled egg, yogurt, banana, orange juice, cup of green tea. Lunch: panini with prosciutto, brie and tomatoes, side spinach salad with cranberries, mandarin oranges, and almonds. Snack: popcorn, natural tropical fruit juice. Dinner: Seafood lasagna, salad with veggies, glass of milk.
Friday, August 7, 2009
M and I are taking our (second) annual motorcycle getaway this weekend. We're leaving tomorrow morning, will be riding in Vermont and New Hampshire, then will be crossing back the border to stay at a fancy hotel not too far from where we got married, courtesy of my in-laws who offered this to us for Christmas.
I'm really excited about everything, the uninterrupted couple time, the little adventure, the nice hotel... I do feel a little rotten about leaving LP behind after a week that's been a little tough, but it's also important for him to spend some time with his grandparents (who are arriving tonight), and of course he'll have a blast. In fact, it's at all like the few last times, he absolutely won't mind us gone!
Nurturing "us" as part of a kid-less relationship, spending all day close together on the bike, going on a date, drinking wine, maybe flirting a bit, and knowing that we can sleep in the next morning is so rare and priceless that I can hardly wait.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
We've now been married nearly three months... All through the wedding planning phase I would sometimes ask myself: "will being married feel different? Is there a magical value to it, a deeper level of commitment I was never aware of?" I wanted to let a little time pass before answering, although I suppose this answer will continue to evolve as will our marriage.
So, yes and no. For me there hasn't been a eye-opening moment, and after the wonderful time we had during our honeymoon, we pretty much immediately settled back into our life as usual: a little hectic but still sane and quite happy, with couple moments stolen here and there when we can, and family life most often put first. But I guess this is what I fully expected since very little has changed, not even my name... From the start, it was much more of a "making things official" move than a "life-defining" thing.
I am now a wife, but I don't feel my role or duties are different -to tell you the truth, I already felt like one before, plus I know I was already completely part of M's family and vice-versa. My love for him hasn't changed; I never felt like I needed a piece of paper to validate that.
There is a little something, though. I love seeing him with his ring. I still love saying "my husband," although I only really say it in English (don't ask me why, it's just a linguistics thing). I love thinking about our wedding day, while smiling to myself and thinking: "We did it..." There's a fondness sometimes when I look at him, when I think about this insane, yet so heartfelt and hopeful, pledge we made to each other. I suppose that's the biggest change: we already knew we really wanted to try to stick together in the long run, but the fact that there was this one, big, symbolic moment of officially telling it to each other in front of the people we love does take it to the next level.
Family-wise, it's not that I thought we were less of a "real" one before, but there's also a little satisfaction in my heart in knowing that now, everyone will view us as such. We also made this promise for LP, and I enjoy knowing that this makes his situation more regular from a legal point of view, and I hope that for him this will be an added level of emotional security.
So there you go, much more pragmatic than romantic, I guess. But this is probably totally unsurprising if you know me or have been reading this blog for a little while, right?
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Thanks Jessica, for the Wedding of the Week post! Please go check it out...
Some people have asked me whether I got a case of post-wedding blues. Well, sometimes I do have the tiniest urge to get another wedding magazine, but I stop myself, because, obviously. I don’t want to remain in that stage forever. Moving on. There was a nice feeling in flipping through the pages and knowing that the next ones could bring new ideas, new color combinations, new possibilities, and now the anticipation is gone, it’s over, written in stone, behind us. But there will be other parties to organize, other projects, other ways to make use of my creativity.
Mostly, I’m glad to be past the planning stage, since when I plunge into that universe again it usually doesn’t take long before I get all flustered as THE CRAZINESS all comes back to me. Like when I flip through the channels, Say yes to the dress in on, and five minutes later I’m mad and want to throw things at the TV. Why does the pretext of a wedding lets people get away with such unacceptable behavior???
Like, bride comes in with her mother, who’s paying for the dress. She has a strict budget of $2,000, and you can tell that these are hard-working people who don’t have a lot of money, and the mom has probably stretched her resources already to come up with that figure because she wants to make her daughter happy. But of course, the (thirty-something, mother of two!) daughter gets lured into trying on a $5,000 dress and then no other will do. So it’s edited as a buildup of intensity where you’re supposed to be rooting for the poor, teary bride who only wants her dream dress and will her mom accept and make her fairytale come true? After the commercial break, she does (she’s totally pressured and looks miserable), and everyone cheers for such a happy ending! WTH???
How can you live with yourself, knowing that your own mother will probably have to 1- swallow her pride and beg her relatives for money, 2-take up a second minimum wage job, or 3-forgo vacations for the next 3 years just so you can wear your effin’ dress for 8 hours??? There’s no destiny principle in wedding dresses, the universe has not created this only one dress that is just right for you. If you pretend otherwise, you’re just showing bad faith. There are always other ones that you can try and love. And in the event that you really can’t even consider any other, you can also wait for sample sales, look for other sources, find well-made copies, have it reproduced by someone for cheaper, get it second-hand, ANYTHING but cornering your mom into a totally unfair and purely emotional assumption that the world is going to end if she doesn’t buy THAT dress RIGHT NOW. I’m not sure what annoys me the most, that individual way of thinking or the fact that the whole wedding industry is validating it.
So yeah, I guess I’m better sticking with women’s lifestyle magazines (that’s how Real Simple and MS Living are described in the industry) and HGTV for now.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
After I wrote about being a terrible housecleaning slacker a few weeks ago, I got some kind of a guilt shockwave, as if reading it made me actually realize how bad it was. It was the kick in the butt I needed to bring back a proper and regular maintenance routine in the house, in which everyone has a role (LP’s is to “sweep” the floor and to “dry wipe” surfaces, although of course, we’re not serious about it and this is all but a game to him).
This will never come easy to me, I’ll never excel at it, and I’m absolutely positive that I’ll never me up to par with, say, my mother, but I guess this is what works for our family, and what I’m willing to do. I hate cleaning, but an untidy house also brings its share of negative vibes, and I absolutely love the feeling of having just about taken back control and having everything clean and fresh-smelling, even if it only lasts for a few days and it is a crazy sisyphean task.
Part of my aversion to it comes from pure laziness, but part of it is also a reaction to that old widespread belief that people’s (and especially women’s) worth is directly proportional to the cleanliness of their houses, and which makes them totally overdo it for the wrong reasons (i.e. because of what other people will think and how they could be judged based on it, instead of for sanitary or quality of life purposes). I love my grandma to death, she’s an amazingly sweet and strong person who not only survived a heart attack at age 53 but still power walks a 5K every day at 77 (and dresses up in her tweed suit, heels and pearls to go have coffee with her sister at the mall), but the fact is she’s a complete neat freak. My mom really suffered because of it as a child and I guess constantly hearing her talk about it had a lasting effect on me, even though I must say my mom never threw in the towel (lame pun intended) and is still a good housecleaner, not to mention she is now kind of tsktsk-ing my own skills.
But I am not afraid to admit that I can be wrong and this was probably a case where I took the rebelling a little too far. Recently when my sister and I were discussing someone we know whom we believe has taken the rebellion against her health-nut mother so far that she’s basically made her whole family severely obese and instilled terrible lifestyle habits in her children, I realized what I had been doing what pretty much the same and certainly half as stupid. There’s wanting to do things your own way and not necessarily according to what you’ve been taught, and then there’s good old common sense. Life is more agreeable in a clean house (OK Child Protective Services, it was never that bad, just not that stellar either) for everyone, and if you don’t let it slip, it doesn’t have to take that long or be that painful.
And since people find their motivation in the oddest places, mine has been to do some research and complete my full conversion to household products that are both environmentally-friendly and toxin-free. I suppose this is not an abnormal path, but ever since I got pregnant about 3 years ago all of these environmental pollutants have become much more of a concern to me. This was another thing that irked me about the whole “obsessive cleaning” thing: that these people (women), by wanting to make their surroundings spic-n-span, have been actually poisoning themselves and their families. My great-grandmother was probably cleaning with baking soda, homemade soap, and vinegar. My grandma, and later my mom, then had access to a whole slew of new and “modern” chemicals that unconsciously taught us that the stronger a product smelled, the more effective it was (think about that nasty oven-cleaning foam, and to a lesser extend, the awful ammonia aroma of Windex). I really hate those, not only because they’re totally off-putting, but also because research is quite alarming towards these environmental toxins, which can have all kinds of harmful effects on our bodies and even those of an unborn child.
I’m not exactly ready to go back to vinegar-and-newspaper-only, although I know it is the most cost-efficient and natural thing there is. I’m an easy marketing target for great packaging and (especially) pleasant smells, so instead I’ve found several lines of products that both give me a better conscience and make house cleaning a less dreadful experience. I really like products from Method, a US company which totally embraces this philosophy, but there’s also Bio-Life, a house brand from Pharmaprix/Shopper’s Drug Mart, as well as other brands such as Attitude.
I’ve now completely stopped buying “traditional” cleaning products. Alternatives are widely available, inexpensive, attractive and effective, so why not? After we’ve cleaned, the house now smells like pink grapefruit, mint, lemongrass, cucumber, mango/tangerine, as well as tea tree and lime. Anyone else craving a smoothie right now?
Monday, August 3, 2009
My little darling is two and half this week. Does time fly or what. Even though I see him every day I’m still constantly surprised at how big and tall he is (14 kilos or 31 pounds, 96 cm or about 38 inches), at how quick he is to make connections and speak them up with complete ease. He’s making jokes, wanting to know how everything works, remembering things from ages ago, always asking us about how we’re doing (ça va bien maman?), showing that he cares about others… There’s really nothing babyish about him anymore… Except for his nighttime paci, I guess.
The other day, riding his tricycle in the living room, beaming with pride and going: “C’est juste comme le Tour de France!” (This is exactly like the TdF!)
One morning in the car on the way to daycare, announcing: “Moi je travaille à [the name of our town] (Me I working in …) Us: “Oh do you really? And what do you do?” Him: “Je travaille dans les camions” (I work in trucks).
Wanting to bring a book into the bathtub. His dad telling him that no, water is not good for the books. Him, thinking out loud: “L’eau c’est juste bon pour les petits gars?” (So, water is only good for little guys?)
I started preparing him to give up the damn pacifier for good, saying that soon, we will send it to “the babies who don’t have one”. I have a few friends who did this (take the pacis, put them in a box, then go to the post office with the child and actually send them off –to your own business address or something) with great success, because apparently it makes the child understand the official, concrete, definitive process and provides closure. But my kid won’t let me have it that easy. Every time I bring it up he tries: “Mais les bébés peuvent en acheter au magasin…” (But babies can buy them at the store…)
Yesterday after dinner, while speaking with M in our bedroom, I laid down on the bed for a few minutes. “Maman est fatiguée?” (Mommy’s tired?), he asked. “Yes, I kinda am”. He and his dad then went to run an errand while I stayed home and worked on some paperwork for my company. When they returned, I greeted them at the door. Looking really serious and concerned, he immediately took my hand and tried as hard as his little body could to bring me back to the bedroom, authoritatively saying: “Non…! T’es fatiguée… Vas dans la chambre, vas te coucher…!” (No… ! You’re tired… You go to bed, go lay down…”