Tuesday, April 22, 2014

{oh grandma, I just wish chicken strips would fall out of your pants!}

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This weekend, my little sister graduated from college.

It was weird because, while to the people at college she is a perfectly grown-up grownup, to me she is and always will be about three and still has all her baby teeth. She is not old enough to drive. She is not old enough for diplomas.

To spite her for growing up and consequently making me older as well, I have to tell you a story about her that she hates for me to tell people. (But you know, because I'm a pretty horrible person to have as an older sister, I actually tell this story to everyone.)


When she turned nine, Elise had a birthday.

This, I know, is pretty standard. Let me finish.

You have to understand this first: she was a quiet kid. If you asked her what she wanted for lunch, she'd shrug and say, "I don't care." Even if she did care, she wouldn't tell you. Maybe it's because when we were little, The Golden Law of Being Company was that you ate whatever the host put in front of you, and you didn't ask for anything that wasn't on the table. There was this one time we stayed over at Grandma's house and, after being asked over and over what she wanted for supper but feeling fairly convicted that she wasn't supposed to say, Elise finally broke and blurted out, "Oh Grandma, I just wish chicken strips would fall out of your pants!"

With that one exception though, Elise kept The Law faultlessly, and it seemed to carry over into every other area of life for her to the point where it seemed as though she didn't have any opinions or desires at all. Which was why we were all very surprised when her ninth birthday came along and she actually had a legitimate birthday wish: Money.

No birthday presents, please. Just cash. And she wouldn't tell us why.

It was probably the most baffling to me, a fourteen-year-old whose favourite thing maybe ever was opening presents. I couldn't think of anything more boring than a birthday with no surprises. Just white envelopes with bills inside. I mean, I figured she had something pretty amazing she was saving up for, but for a nine-year-old to give up birthday presents I couldn't imagine what it was.

But, because Elise never asked for anything, ever, (save for one rash chicken strip wish) no one could deny her the one thing she wanted. So all she got for her birthday that year was money.

And that night, she collected it all together in one envelope and asked Mom to help her find the address for an orphanage in Haiti.

I wanted a boom box for my birthday.

Wherever she is right now reading this, she's probably a million shades of red. But Ceese, (that's right; I'm talking to you) there are a lot of reasons why I love telling people that story.

One of them is that this story isn't just about nine year-old you. It's about you then and you now and most likely you in twenty years. It's a perfect picture of the person you are all the time.

And maybe another reason is that I never really learned how to be good and sentimental. I feel awkward saying straight out, "I'm so proud of you." (I need to work on that.) But when I tell that story about you, I feel like people can tell. And I hope you can tell. I'm a very proud big sister.

Just like I was on Sunday when you walked across the stage and got your diploma. And just like I was a few weeks ago when I found out that you're heading off to Haiti next year to finally hold those babies.

Congrats, Ceese. Love you. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

{fire trucks}

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There are all of these places in the city that are very easy to forget about because I usually have nothing to do with them. Like the fire hall on 13th. I mean, I haven't forgotten it's there, but it still always kind of surprises me when I see the giant doors open and hear the sirens screaming from inside. Like I've forgotten that people need fire trucks sometimes.

I'm thinking about that this morning as I sit in the waiting room at Wascana Rehab absently rocking Sullivan's car seat with one foot. A little girl sits on the floor to my left, quietly turning the pages of a tattered storybook. She looks up at me and grins, and it strikes me that she isn't as young as I'd thought at first. A man whirs past in an electric wheelchair. 

Sullivan's eyes creep open and I rock him faster. They close. 

My mum-in-law works here so it's not like it's my first time in the building, but there's a vast difference between being here as a visitor and being here as a patient or, in my case, the mother of a patient. Kind of like there's a difference between visiting a fire hall on a school field trip and being the resident of a burning house.

That sounds much more dramatic than I mean it to.

Because it's a pretty minor thing that has brought us here. Sullivan sprained his neck on his way into the world and was diagnosed with torticollis a few weeks later, so we're doing physio for a bit until everything is as it should be. He hates the stretches, but he's doing really well. He gets to see his grandma at work and his physiotherapist is a really sweet lady who hates to make him cry. 

A middle-aged woman sits down beside me. She has two girls; one in a wheelchair, and one on foot. The one in the wheelchair has a big, toothy smile. Her hands hang from limp wrists in front of her and her feet are twisted inward at strange angles. The girl on foot, the younger of the two, glares at me when I catch her eye. She slumps into a chair and redirects her frown into a magazine, repeatedly kicking her feet into the floor beneath her. She looks like a brat, but maybe she's just bored.

"Mom!" The older girl's voice is loud and clear in the quiet waiting room. It surprises me. "Where's--where's my friend Jill?" 

"We're not going to see Jill today. We're just here to pick up your new wheelchair," says the mother. Then, more to herself than to her daughter, "We'll just need someone strong to help us load it up."

"I'll help you, mom. I'm super strong!" The girl's hands clench and unclench involuntarily as she beams at her mother, who is trying to reposition her daughter's feet on the wheelchair's footrest so they don't fall off when she wiggles her upper body like that. She looks tired and doesn't answer.

"Mom? Mom? Don't you--don't you think? I could do it? If I tried very hard? I'm strong. Jill says I'm strong." She offers that smile again, this time to a petite woman pushing a food cart across the hall. 

The mother's eyes follow the food cart down the hall and her words fall out in a rush. She's frustrated with the footrest, with a piece of hair falling in her eyes, maybe even with her daughter's perpetual optimism in spite of her twisted legs. "I know you're strong, honey. But to be any help at all, you'd have to be able to stand up. And how's that going to work? It's not, is it?" 

The room is quiet again. 

I'm watching it all and thinking about the fire truck thing again. Because people who need fire trucks don't wake up in the morning thinking that they will need fire trucks. Just like the people in this building all woke up one morning not knowing that they'd need it, that that day they'd have a stroke or that their toddler would be diagnosed with some kind of disease they couldn't pronounce the name of or that their healthy teenage daughter would be in a car accident. 

An old man shuffles by with the help of a cane, mumbling to himself out of the corner of his mouth. The receptionist is on the phone, laughing. The mother with the two girls looks ready to burst into tears and Sullivan is asleep.

Friday, April 04, 2014

{The Great Toasted Cheese Sandwich Cook-Off of 2014}

 photo IMG_9567_zps707f7371.jpg I have this group of friends who get together every Thursday night. It's been almost two years and we've only missed a handful of times, which is kind of amazing. I'd say we're like a family but it's more than that. We're like...sitcom friends.

A few weeks ago we were sitting around in Lynette's living room and we came up with a pretty amazing idea which definitely deserves to be talked about in capital letters: A GRILLED CHEESE COOK-OFF.

We'd actually been trying to think of a theme for Robyn's baby shower and one person had said something about spring and another person mentioned something they'd seen on Pinterest and then I'd said, "Grilled cheese!" Because why the heck not? It got vetoed as a shower theme almost instantaneously, but thankfully the idea was resurrected moments later in a slightly different context [because I have a hard time letting things go] and plans for The Great Toasted Cheese Sandwich Cook-Off of 2014 were set in motion. photo IMG_9581_zps0507ee93.jpg Picture it: Every team brings the ingredients for their own grilled cheese secret recipe. The sandwiches are assembled on site and then sliced into fingers so that everyone gets a sample size of every sandwich. There is voting and the best sandwich is awarded, obviously, a trophy.  photo IMG_9580_zps4f163813.jpg There were bacon weaves and caramelized onions and apple pie fillings and basil pesto and special cheeses and fancy sauces and one hefty vat of tomato soup.  photo IMG_9578_zps264c20f7.jpg  photo IMG_9579_zps5643755a.jpg  photo IMG_9582_zps412dd9db.jpg I didn't win. I mean, I won in the sense that I got to taste seven different gourmet grilled cheeses and get very, very full, but the trophy went to this East Indian one with basil pesto and goat cheese. I'm tempted to demand a rematch, just because I want more grilled cheese. photo IMG_9564_zps76ab0e5b.jpg

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

{dear me: you'll see}

 photo 533BA5C6-9FD1-4B8B-BE6F-B471754D2388-2512-0000015F8639DB41_zps64b59199.jpg "If you could go back just one year, what would you tell yourself?"
(A writing prompt from Sometimes Sweet)

There have been so many moments this year where I've glanced back in time at Me Then and thought, If I could only see Me Now. 

One year ago, Me Then was in this full-speed blind run. For once in my life, I wasn't really chasing anything, and I wasn't really running from anything. I was just going as fast as I could to see where I'd get.

I'd just spent three years chasing a baby. I'd grown up thinking that babies were slow and easy to catch but I was really wrong and, despite all my best efforts, I was not fast enough. It turns out that babies are more like lightning, or turbo jets, or cheetahs and less like molasses, or snails, or math class. Metaphorically speaking, of course. (Literally speaking, babies are not very much like turbo jets.)

There comes this point in every chase where you either catch it, or it gets away. And if it gets away, what then? A lot of people just start chasing something slower. Other people lay down and decide not to chase anything ever again.  I considered both options, and realized that both would leave me sad. I needed to keep running. I just needed to not be so close-minded about where, exactly, I was going.

So this time last year, as I said, I was in a full-out eyes-closed sprint. I'd just gotten back from CMW in Toronto, which I'd attended as media for a local music website. I had the flu, but I was gearing up for JUNO Week here in the city, arranging interviews and applying for credentials and pretending to be a PR student at the U of R to get myself a job backstage. I was also planning for a week-long trip to New York with my little sister to see her perform Off Broadway. I was making wee notebooks to sell at a local street fair and had just started filming little weekly segments on a talk show about live music. I was teaching piano lessons to a group of hilarious and amazing grade school kids and taking random side jobs here and there doodling and designing.

I really, really liked my life.

This past weekend, I heard someone on the radio talking about the JUNOS, which happened Sunday in Winnipeg. I felt a little pang of nostalgia, and I said to the person I was with, "I can't believe it's been a year already since all that."  And they said that Thing that everyone seems to be saying to me lately:

"Don't you wish you could have known last year where you'd be right now?"

I thought about it, and realized that I don't, honestly. Even if I could go back in time and tell myself where I'd be now, that that elusive dream I'd been longing after would for sure definitely absolutely be mine--soon!--I for sure definitely absolutely wouldn't.

Partly because you learn a lot of good lessons when you don't get what you want right away. (You learn about how you don't know best and about how life is not about getting what you want and about how to trust and wait and about how to be happy and content even while you're wanting something very much. You learn how you're not in control no matter what you do to fool yourself into thinking you are and you learn to chill out.)

But also partly because if I'd known the future, I don't know that I would've said yes to all the opportunities that came along in that time. As it was, I wasn't just trying to pass time until what I wanted came along, I was legitimately enjoying where I was at. Trying new things, seeing if maybe a new dream would start to unfold somewhere in there since it was looking like my old dream wasn't coming true any time soon or maybe ever. My future was very open and the possibilities were so endless, which made the present quite exciting. Like a game show where they give you the option of door number one or door number two or door number three and you say, "Can I have them all?"

As much as it seems like a curse sometimes, not knowing the future is a pretty fantastic blessing. So, if I could go back in time just one year, I'd probably say to myself, "I'm not even going to give you a hint about where you'll be this time next year. You'll see. Till then, don't waste any time or opportunities."

And probably, Me Next Year would say the same thing to Me Now.

Monday, March 24, 2014

{new york street art gallery}

 photo 240C23A8-3A52-46F6-A3FF-5909055C06B6-487-00000052A100EA22_zps8c2fc4f0.jpg I've been taking lots of walks downtown lately. Spring is actually happening now, and as the temperature inches upward I'm getting antsier and antsier to be out in it. In the colder months, I'm completely content to hibernate. I open the blinds and let the pale white winter light seep into the room like smoke. I sit in it, and I like it.

But if the sun is out, then I am too. And my favourite place "out" is downtown. Any downtown. Vancouver, LA, Edinburgh, Toronto, New York, London, Miami, Regina...

Regina happens to be the city centre I frequent most often these days--on account of living here and everything. It's Lilliputian. A few slight "skyscrapers", some traffic lights, a mall, a park, some restaurants. I like it though. It's big enough to make me feel small. It's city enough to attract some crazy people. It's small enough to make me feel big.

Anyway: I've been taking lots of walks downtown lately.

The other day, on one of these outings, I passed some graffiti on the side of  an office building that reminded me of a folder of pictures I have on my computer from my trip to New York last spring. I find that having some sort of malleable mission is the best way to explore a new place, so I'd taken my camera and gone out on my own one day specifically in search of interesting art on the streets. New York is home to a crazy lot of world class museums and galleries, but that day I decided that I wanted to be the curator of my own little art gallery.

(Don't you wish your city was this colourful?)
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