Looking For The Answers

The tone in her voice said it all.

“So, what do you think?!”

Aside from the fact that I had no answers for her, the question bounced around my head. She has questions. Heck we all have questions. I find myself questioning myself more and more lately. Which, I find rather ironic, given the fact that I’m “middle aged” (if I live to 90) and you’d think I’d have my shit figured out.

Nope.

While I’ve gained confidence compared to my early adult years, I certainly would have thought that I would have more answers, more stability and more clarity about the future. I have, thankfully, have developed more confidence in myself, my abilities and my relationships. This, sadly, does not extend to other areas of my life.

Is this the point where the mid-life crisis settles in? When you get frustrated enough with the plan you set out for yourself when you were mere “child” in your 20s that you say “F it” and sell off everything to move to a Caribbean island?

<PAUSE> For the record, my particular skill set is apparently highly coveted and in one week there were two job postings in Jamaica alone that were TAILOR MADE for my skills and abilities.The Big Guy had to talk me off that ledge, let me tell you! <PLAY>

So when “she” came to me with her question, I thought, “She must think I have my act together!” Followed by “Boy, do I have her fooled!”

What did I actually SAY to her? That her decisions are hers alone to make. That this is the beauty of life; that we are the only ones who get to have that kind of power to make those decisions. This also prevents us from hating the individual who gave us the advice.

This doesn’t make our decisions any easier, and leaves us with the nagging questions…

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

I’ve always been cold, and when I’m cold, it’s painful. My brother in law used to tease me when I wore work socks layered over regular socks to keep my feet warm. The true arrival of spring (or fall) was when the work socks came off (or went on).

It’s no different now. Infact, it’s gotten worse. My hands will lose all feeling and become waxy when cold; classic Reynauds symptoms. As a female Canadian who lives in Canada, it’s rather challenging to keep yourself warm, while being anywhere in the neighbourhood of fashionable.

Which is why I was green with envy last weekend. Working at a Santa Claus parade, I saw scores of of trendy young mommies sporting the latest fashions in winter wear; black leggings, killer winter boots, and one of two options – an incredibly expensive knee-length winter coat (usually in black) and matching accessories, or an incredibly expensive sweater/vest combo (usually very colourful) and matching accessories. In both cases, the outerwear would NOT be zipped up, but casually left open, to adequately admire the carefully curated laying. My jealously was rooted in the fact that in either of those outfits, I would be in excruciating pain and likely praying for quick death.

Which reminds me of a time where I did actually pray for an expedited end. The Big Guy and I were at a winter resort in February, a kind of “Happy Valentine’s Day, We can’t afford to go South” sort of thing. One of the activities was snowmobiling. We jumped on the machine and followed the guide who would tour us around the more scenic areas of the Huntsville area. On the return trip, we had to cross the lake. It was late afternoon, the sun was waning and my body had officially given up on trying to keep up with the external frigid assault on my internal furnace. The Big Guy steered the snow sled across the frozen lake surface, wide open to keep up with the rest of the group, and to help minimize the bone shattering windchill. My face had long gone numb. My extremities up to my knees and elbows didn’t exist. It actually crossed my mind, “This is how I end. I freeze to death on a snowmobile in the middle of a lake.” But it didn’t happen. It just. got. colder. Nothing says “romance” like flannel jammies after an hour-long shower to thaw 3rd degree frostbite.

As much as I’d like to love Winter, our relation is complicated. I acknowledge it exists, but I refuse to be an active outdoor participant. I’m one step away from hibernating!

I’m the girl standing in Winners trying to find THE warmest, THE heaviest sweaters and being stymied with sleeveless shifts and rayon/polyester blends with plunging necklines. My favourite Christmas gift last year? My fleece onesie with a hood.

Let’s put it this way, if you ever hear me say “Whew, it’s just too hot in here!” you know I’ve been kidnapped.

But as they say, “Cold hands, warm heart!”

Sarah and the No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Day…er Week

I’ve never seen this movie, the one whose title I’ve blatantly stolen for this post.

I don’t care to ever see this movie.

I believe I have lived this movie. It was Tuesday of this week. Who am I kidding. It was all of last week, but Tuesday was especially horrible.

It’s never a good day when I wake up before my alarm. On Tuesday I woke up 45 mins before my alarm. And there was no going back to sleep because my annoying brain had already started itemizing the day’s events. Not a good sign. This was compounded by the throbbing in my left arm, because apparently I’ve developed tendonitis in my elbow and it hurts before I’ve even begun to move. Because, why not!?

Attempting to thwart my feelings of foreboding, I decide to assemble my smoothy as I make my breakfast, to ensure I would leave the house in good time. Moments later the blender is filled with fruit flies, and regardless of how many times I tried to remove them, finding them back-stroking through my almond milk was the limit for me and the entire mix was dumped.

I was late leaving as I reassembled the smoothy.

The computer at work, with which I have an rocky relationship at best, decided to pull work-to-rule action. Progress was at a snail’s pace. Because of the aforementioned fruit fly incident, I forgot to take my allergy medication, and I was completely and totally congested by 10 a.m.

With a work meeting scheduled for 2 p.m., I set up the meeting area, including the projection equipment. This involves a mobile screen on a tripod that I’m pretty sure was used for the first talkies. Just as I’m putting the final adjustments on the screen, the retractable screen does just that, and when it fully and completely recoils into the mustard yellow casing, said casing flips upward on one end from the force, and clocks me in the right temple. I saw several constellations and am still amazed that I did not use “language”. I likely had a feeling that I was being watched, which I was. A gentleman from another office witnessed the assault on my person and rushed to my aid.  As a gentleman would, he offers assistance, asks if I’m ok and demonstrates a suitable amount of concern for what he just observed. As an idiot would, I told him I was FINE, that I was sorry I caused him concern and that this stupid projection screen was not long for this world. With a quizzical expression, he asked again. Are you SURE you are OK? With as much grace as I could muster, given that the impact nearly dropped me to my knees, I wave him off and assure him, no harm, no foul. His face says it all; Sarah’s a nut job. Well, my friend, you’re not the first to think that, and I’m pretty sure the club will extend membership to you.

Moments later, when the initial sensation wears off, it is replaced with a new, stinging, sharp sensation. When that lingers, I decide to head to the bathroom, where I see blood running down my face – the start of which the gentleman would have observed and explains his disbelief at my demeanour. NUT. JOB.

An impromptu clean up job leaves my face swollen, lacerated and missing a significant amount of make up on the right side of my profile. The meeting I’m hosting is in 30 minutes. I have no makeup at work. I decide then and there, that we are going to run this situation, and not let it run us! Two hours later, at the end of the meeting, and with my face nicely inflamed and swollen on one side, I can’t take the sidelong glances any more and flat out own what happened.

“Whew, I’m glad you said something,” said my colleague, “because I wasn’t sure what was going on there!”

Well my friend, what was going on here on Tuesday is just a string of what has been happening, known more affectionally as The Shit Show. Perhaps you think I’m exaggerating. Adding a little flair to the story, some “Artistic Licence”? Oh gentle reader, if that were only the case.

After some therapy on said elbow, and waking up the next day feeling better than I had in a week, I bounce the elbow off a corner in the hallway and hit it so hard that I’m afraid of travelling bone chips. Back to square one. The only way I’m sleeping now is if it’s on my right side. And if I could stop have disturbing dreams…but we’ll leave those for the therapist I’m draining my kids’ education fund for.

Then this happens….

I can't make this stuff up!

I can’t make this stuff up!

I’m the centre vehicle. To clarify, this is NOT parallel parking. This is a PARKING LOT. I’ve just been blocked. Ironically, in an effort to change my karma, when I saw another vehicle about to block the vehicle beside me (after doing a 24 point extraction of my own vehicle) I called out to the driver – very nicely I might add, to advise him of the honest mistake he was about to make. He thanked me for my efforts by giving me the sharp edge of his tongue and slamming back into his car.

Oh, and I should also mention that the week before, my work vehicle died most unexpectedly, in a remote location, on one of the hottest days of the summer. The cause of this malfunction was so random that even the mechanic shook his head.

Loooong story short, stay away from me unless you have bulk bubble wrap. And just think, Mercury Retrograde starts TODAY! Not sure what Mercury Retrograde is? Basically everything I’ve described. I’m locking myself in my room now, because I’m certain I’m a danger to myself!!

 

Full Circle Moment

Once upon a time, a little boy invited all his friends in his neighbourhood to come to his house on his birthday. The date was set and his friends promised to come.

The day of the event rolled around. All of the children from the neighbourhood arrived at the allotted time, dressed for a party with gifts in hand.

The only problem was, it wasn’t the little boy’s birthday at all. And he hadn’t told his parents about his guests. His mother, mortified, sent the children home. With their presents.

This took place approximately 70 years ago.

******

Last week, First Born Son came home told and told me about a conversation he had with the young son of a family friend. His birthday was coming up and he wanted to invite FBS to his party.

“You can bring your Mom too!” he stated, and FBS recounted with a laugh.

Touched by the young man’s thoughtfulness, and chuckling over his precociousness, I headed out to find the perfect gift. Two John Deere T shirts for a “hard working” young man.

Although FBS couldn’t join me due to his work schedule, I took the gift to the wee lad’s house. There was no party. His parents weren’t even home from work. His grandmother, who is a caregiver for him and his older sister, was taken aback to when she came to the door. The boy and his sister were delighted to see me, and he gleefully took the gift and shredded the colourful paper. The grandmother sputtered appreciation for the gift, how kind the gesture was, how unexpected, how her daughter and son-in-law would be surprised to learn their son, the birthday boy, had made such a bold invitation.

This boy’s birthday was June 10.

The first story is about my father. His birthday was June 9.

The only thing more striking is the resemblance between this little boy and his grandson at the same age.

The only thing more striking is the resemblance between this little boy and his grandson at the same age.

Although it’s been two years since he passed, I found it somewhat comforting that this story, that he told us many times, came to me in the moment that I realized that I was invited to a party that wasn’t happening; for a young man who just wanted to have some people over to celebrate.

Happy Birthday Duddy!

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It’s all Downhill from Here

I’ve gotta tell you, it’s awesome to hear from people who read The Bowery Girl and ask “So, how’s the reno going?” I can’t say that I thought my mother was the only person reading the blog, as she has yet to succumb to an internet connection, so it’s rewarding to hear from you. Thank you.

Writing about the renovation means I can refrain from losing my MIND over the Jian Gomeshi trail. I am literally taking notes on stuff I want to rant about following the verdict in March. So there you go – mark that on your calendar. Something to look forward to.

As far as answering that reno question, well, it’s going. The Big Guy is an absolute workhorse on this project; after long days at work, he’s putting in late nights on the dry walling in the bathroom and the hallway.

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**Editor’s Note** TBG says he hates it when I post photos of him while he’s working, because he doesn’t like what he’s wearing. I advised him that when I change The Bowery Girl’s direction to a more fashion-forward theme, I’ll let him know. Until then, I’ll continue posting working man shots. Keeping it real here!

I am excited about an unexpected detail – we (I) decided to install transoms above the bathroom and the Master Bedroom doorways. Since the house was built in the early 80s, the only item of architectural interest is seizure inducing flooring. No, I’m not showing you that. You’d have to sign a waiver first.

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I found a local glass installer who had some remnants from his stained glass days and for a sweet price, we were able to get two panels of “Hammered Flemmish” glass. I’m sorry, every time I say that I think of an intoxicated Belgian and it makes me laugh. Originally he had two other samples for me to look at. I had picked one, and was on my way out when I saw this pattern on a larger piece of glass and hit the brakes. He would sell it to me, he said, but cautioned that it was his last piece and if it shattered when he cut, or when TBG installed it, we’d have to look at a new pattern. He’s not getting any more Hammered Flemmish. (Sorry, giggling.)

<PAUSE> If you really want to go down a rabbit hole, look up glass patterns. It will truly devour and afternoon for you. Start with “Pinhead Glass” and we’ll see you sometime next week. You are welcome. <PLAY>

No pressure on TBG when he received the finished pieces. No anxiety when the glass installer cautioned him AGAIN when TBG asked for advice on how to build a custom frame.

But the results are terrific. I knew he could do it!!

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I love how the light throws a pattern onto the ceiling. TBG does his own drywall work, and because we hate ourselves, we’ve incorporated odd angles all over the place. I’d like you to take a moment to appreciate the corners. They are awesome. That is all.

You might say, “Sarah, what are YOU doing to help with this project?” and I would reply, “Gentle Reader, I am FEEDING the man who is doing the work AND keeping his work clothes clean and at the ready.” Then I would add, “I am also the designer/visionist who brings exciting, yet time-consuming and stressful design elements for TBG to execute! I am also the head cheerleader and task master! That’s not NOTHING you know!”

The truth is, TBG is anal-retentive a perfectionist. The only thing I’m allowed to consider helping with is the painting. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to successfully complete a practical exam before I’m allowed to pick up brush on this project.

So, that’s all for now. Drywall is primed and we are looking to paint this week. Then flooring. Then vanity. Then toilet. Then I’m going to have the world’s longest spa day in this bathroom.

After The Big Guy of course!

 

Papercut

In an effort to give you a break from the reno madness (Lord knows I want to get away from it!) let’s talk about something that has bothered me for a couple of weeks now.

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As you may know, The Bowery Girl started as “The Bowery” and was a column in a community newspaper I used to work for. I have written for three newspapers, along with two periodicals. Last week, I found out that the paper it worked at during my college co-op and later as a freelancer, was no longer producing a hardcopy edition. Basically it’s finished. The Guelph Mercury was in its 149th year when it was determined by Metroland Publishing to be no longer a viable business venture. In an effort to find some aspect of “glass half full”, the statement released last week indicated that the online version would continue.

That’s kind of like saying, “The Titanic may be sinking, but we’ve got a couple of great lifeboats over here!” With the amount of staff left behind following the layoffs, they wouldn’t be able to fill a lifeboat.

Another paper I used to work for, the one in my current hometown, has also experienced serious downsizing. Pointing to financial considerations, the weekly paper has shut down its storefront, which it has enjoyed since its inception, and moved to a town 45 minutes away. This would allow them to allegedly reduce costs (one would argue that increased milage and decrease subscriptions due to public dissatisfaction would be larger costs). This paper is also owned by Metroland. Now before you think I’m throwing shade on Metroland, please know that I worked for Thompson Media, Southam Media AND Hollinger Inc. They were all terrible. In school, our teachers advised that you wanted to work for a Thompson paper first, because the excellent work ethic environment (read here – they worked you like a slave) along with the fiscal restraint, would position young journalists well for opportunities at the more plush Southam papers. They were wrong. Once my publication became a Southam paper (because community papers were swapped, traded and bought out like NHL contracts), we were told that Hollinger was where the REAL money and opportunities were at. WRONG again!

For me, it was a no-brainer that when it came to being a working mom and contributing to a household, I could not continue as a full-time journalist. I have never made as little money as I have when I’ve been a professional writer. Low income wages are the norm in this line of work, something I kicked myself for not investigating further before applying to college.

Truth of the matter is this; journalism, and in fact journalists, are not overly valued in today’s society. I’m not talking about Katie Couric, I’m talking about the workhorse journalists. The ones who write locally. From a corporate standpoint, editorial was always the losing end of the stick. Advertising is where the money was literally and figuratively. If Advertising cried, the Publisher wiped its tears. Editorial was the hanger-on. Necessary to fill the holes between display ads, or the pages before the classifieds, but otherwise Editorial cost money. Cameras, dark rooms, mileage.

I was angry to hear about the local paper moving away and losing its community profile. I knew it wasn’t a local decision, but rather a corporate one. And therein lies the problem. The farther away you are from the community, the less you relate to it. Faces and stories are lost in numbers and dollar signs. I interviewed hundreds of people while I was a beat reporter. I had people who came to me with stories ahead of other reporters and publications because we had a relationship. That’s what’s at stake with the closure of these  newspapers. The community needs a relationship with its newspaper. Cutting costs, focusing on spreadsheets, slashing and burning. It has nothing to do with community support, investment in people, connecting with the reader.

Sadly, I’m not sure that people understand what they are losing, or have already lost by not having an active and thriving newspaper in their community. You may feel you aren’t impacted because of your internet connection or (God forbid) you find out news faster on Facebook. But you don’t have the balance that comes with the Fifth Estate (no I’m not referencing CBC right now). You don’t have the experience, accountability and conscious that comes with an investigative journalist. You don’t know how your community is unique and why you should be proud to be a part of it.

I do think that was part of the problem; the slippery slope of cutting back coverage to reduce costs, reduce pages, reduce local content all due to a reduction in ad revenues. The public gets their information elsewhere. The paper makes further cuts. The public gives up their reliance on the paper entirely. The paper shutters. The community will suffer.

Is there an answer? I think there is, but the travesty is that no one is looking for it. That would require effort, and heaven help us, money.

I’m just sad that it seems it’s as hard as ever to see the value in the printed word.

 

 

AGGRAVATION

Some people are morning people (The Big Guy). Some people…ahem…aren’t (me).

Some people have so much pep in their step, that you want to put spikes in their slippers (The Big Guy). Some people can get there, but they need a little time to warm up (me).

So, imagine the double-whammy frustration that is TBG on HOLIDAYS! He wakes up almost as early as he normally does, has a big (noisy) love-in with the dogs in the kitchen – which sounds like a stampede of whining elephants with loooong toenails on a hardwood floors in an echo chamber, and then proceeds to clatter and bang his way through his coffee and breakfast routine. Then, because he doesn’t have to head out the door, is the epitome of “Sally Sunshine” when I come down the stairs, exalting the beauty of a 6:30 a.m. with no daylight. He then lists the various “exciting” and “interesting” things he plans for his day. I use quotes because, while I’m sure they are both exciting and interesting plans, I can’t say with any certainty, because my brain is still only on is basic Operating System, which is to say, I’m trying to figure out how to put socks on.

I’m not used to communicating with anyone in the morning since First Born Son moved to college four months ago, as Second Born Son takes after his mother (poor soul) and needs a “warm up” grace period that starts around 7 a.m. I’m out the door right around the time he can form words.

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TBG is bouncing around the kitchen, offering various frying pans and utensils, asking if I want eggs or cereal (answer: no freaking clue – my stomach is comatose!) He comments on what I’m wearing or asks what I’m doing in my day (answer: no freaking clue – that’s why I have a commute to work, to remember what I do for a living)

sunrise

This continues until I back out of the garage with him waving enthusiastically, dogs circling his legs, and a grin plaster across his face.

“Have a GREAT day!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I will, I think to myself, as soon as I have 100% brain consciousness!