Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Harold and Harv

It would seem that I've made a couple of new friends. It would seem that I won them over with my parallel parking skills.

I met them about two months ago. I was pulling into a parking spot downtown, in front of a place I go every Tuesday. It was a small spot, just barely the size of my car, but I was feeling confident that day. I did all the necessary preliminary maneuvers, but as I shoulder checked, I noticed these two old men sitting on the sidewalk on colourful lawn chairs. My first thought, which feels silly to admit, was that I was worried about having an audience. As though everyone is always watching what I'm doing, as if anyone cares.

A while back, I remember saying to a friend that I sometimes wondered what strangers thought of me when I passed them in public - I mean, I have thoughts about strangers when I pass them, so why wouldn't they think about me too? But she gave me this look of disdain and told me I was full of myself. Maybe I am.

Still, parallel parking is a different beast when you have an audience. It just is. I don't know why; it's not like it reflects badly on your character if you can't back into a parking spot on your first try. It only feels that way. Right?

So anyway, I got super into this parallel park. I accessed my 16 year-old brain and imagined my driver instructor's ghost in the passenger seat (I'm not sure if he's actually dead, but, probably. I mean, he's a driver instructor. He gets into cars with teenagers for a living).

"Don't get worked up over it," said my imaginary ghost driver instructor. "Just line up that thing with that thing. Yeah, like that. Now turn that, yeah, like that. Okay, don't overdo it. Yup. There it is. There it goes. Just slow. Crank it. Go there. Good job."

And before I knew it, I had completed the most perfect parallel park of my life. It was beautiful. I felt my face glowing and resisted the urge to glance over at the old men for approval.

But when I looked over at my ghost instructor, it was my friend instead, and she had that look on her face again. "You're so full of yourself. No one is thinking about you." So true. They probably hadn't noticed. I blinked away all the apparitions and flung open my car door...

...to the sound of uproarious, two-person applause. The two old men were ecstatic. They had probably five teeth between the two of them, and I could see them all. They had a dog too, and even it was impressed.

"That was amazing," crowed one of the men. He had a long white beard and his voice was thin and tinny, like he'd almost used it all up. "You should be a truck driver!"

"Yeah," said the other, the one holding the little dog, "I've never seen anything like it!"

I laughed and carried on my way, basking a little in their adoration. I thought that would be that.

But they were there the next Tuesday too. They had an electric scooter flipped on its side with its wheel off. They were sitting beside it on their lawn chairs, looking at it.

"It's you!" said the bearded man as I exited my car. "Look what I've done here!"

I looked.

"I've gotten a flat tire. Luckily, Harv here can fix anything with wheels."

Harv, the one with the dog, nodded emphatically, but did not move. "I can," he said.

I had Sullivan with me. The bearded man, whose name I would come to find out was Harold, called him over. "Come and see this! I bet you've never seen anything like this before!" Sullivan had not.

They were there the following Tuesday as well. Harv had had knee surgery that week and was in a great deal of pain but was still his chipper self. "Guess what happened today, little lady! This dog ran away!"

"Oh no!" I said, sympathizing. "And you've just had knee surgery so you couldn't chase him!"

"It's okay!" said Harv. "He came back! He only went just right there!" He pointed to a spot a few feet away.

We chatted for a bit, and I went on my way.

They're there every single Tuesday. I know lots of things about them now, about their families and their surgeries and that dog. They live in the apartment building behind their lawn chairs; from what I've gathered, Harv lives on the second floor and Harold lives on the first. They think Sullivan is the coolest and he thinks their dog is the coolest.

Today, as I was putting Sullivan into his car seat, Harold called to me to not drive away until he'd come back, and then he disappeared into his building. When he came back he handed me three small toys - a car and two little action figures. They looked really old. He said, "These are for Sully. Don't let him play with 'em yet, he could choke. But maybe give 'em to him in a year or something."

And I thanked him and he looked so happy to have made me so happy, and to have made Sully happy too, in advance. It was all just really nice.

There's not really an ending to this story. I'll probably see Harold and Harv next week. I just wanted to write it all down because I like it. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

My Prerogative

I don't always believe in blogging for no reason. And I don't always believe in talking about blogging in blog posts. And I don't always believe in blogging, period. But today, I guess, I do. I can change my mind.

When one of my younger cousins was just learning to speak, we liked to ask her, "Hannah, what is it when a woman changes her mind?"

And Hannah, in a tiny little toddler voice, would squeak out some of the only words in her fledgling vocabulary: "It's a woman's prerogative." Just like that, like a sweet little parrot. We'd all laugh and coo and she'd beam, not understanding what she'd said but understanding that it was what we'd wanted her to say, whatever it was, and it was all very adorable.

It's what I think about whenever I change my mind now. It's my prerogative.

Sullivan's at that stage now, the talking and not always understanding and parroting and coming up with his own strange strings-of-words stage. It's my favourite. He's always using these big hand gestures and stuttering and trying to figure it all out. He says stuff out of the blue.

"Mom, you're going to wreck dad's heart." (I don't know where he got this combination of words from.)

"Mom, I love you when you're sleeping." (Okay...I don't...I don't know where he got this combination of words from either.)

"Winnie the Pooh is so polite!" (True.)

"Mom, you look dumb."

Obviously, we have to have talks sometimes. Like, when he said I looked dumb, for example, I was, you know, startled. At first. And then I realized how often I slouch into the kitchen on my way out the door and say to Barclay, "Ugh. I look so dumb."

So, obviously, I need to stop doing that.

I explained to Sullivan that we don't call our mothers dumb, and he looked confused for a minute and said, "Do you look fantastic?"

And I looked confused for a minute and said, "Okay, sure."

And he said, "Does dad look dumb?"

And I said, "We don't call anyone dumb, okay?"

And he looked confused again and said, "Can we call the dishwasher dumb?"

And I looked confused again and said, "I don't...think so? I mean. Well, yeah. But no."

Like, who put me in charge of this?

But it really is a fun age. He's still super into drumming and would watch instructional drumming videos on YouTube for hours if I let him - like, I put on a straight-up video of a guy standing in front of a drum set talking about paradiddles and he leans into the screen, unblinking, and when it's over he says, "Again." He made his own the other day too; I should upload it in case any of you want to learn how to drum. The other night I heard him talking to himself as he was falling asleep: "Hi. What's my name? Is my name Neil Peart? Yeah! It is! I am Neil Peart!"

Anyway. I also wanted to update you all on the gardening situation (I totally just typed "guardenting," thank goodness for autocorrect, what is wrong with me): I planted some fruits and vegetables in planters on my back porch and they're all alive still. I promise to update you again the next time something this exciting happens.

Lastly, I turned 29 on Monday, so that's a milestone I guess. I'm pretty old and pretty young now, compared to five year-old and 95 year-old me. I tried out Snapchat the other day and now I think I'm going to quit it because it makes no sense at all to me. I'm Instagram age. That's okay with me. Time to start exclusively wearing shoes that are good for my feet and yelling at the kids who play tag on my front lawn.

It's my prerogative.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Farmhouse Update #1

I went to the farm a couple of weekends ago and Mom took me to see what she's been up to on that old farmhouse. It's slow work right now; she's currently stripping the white-yellow paint off all of that beautiful old wood. Can you say 'tedious?' (I don't doubt you can, you bright young thing.)

She's already done the bannisters on the staircase and the doorway between the living room and the dining room. Next: baseboards.

Want to see some before and afters?



And the staircase... BEFORE:


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Bread, Thora Birch, and a Book Announcement

After the train wreck that was last week, I was going to sit down just now and write that this week has been better. But then I began to write about my morning and realized that it's just last week all over again. Hold me.

I was baking bread, see, and realized halfway through, right around the crucial no-turning-back point, that I didn't have any yeast in the fridge. I'd been so proud of myself for getting right to it so bright and early - I thought I'd have it finished by nap time - and now I'd have to run to the grocery store and set myself back. Sullivan and I were still in our PJs and hadn't had breakfast yet, so there was a lot of pants-putting-on and missing-other-shoe-locating that isn't usually a part of my bread making routine.

We made it out the door in record time, though, and guess what happened when I got to the cash register with my yeast?

I will tell you; it seems relevant: I opened my wallet and found an empty slot where my debit card should have been. In case you missed my last blog post, let me fill you in on the significance of this: I just got a new debit card last Thursday. I lost my last one last week. Into thin air. Poof. Smoke. Magic. Rabbits.

I stared at the cashier like an idiot for a few moments, and then said, in this really sad, really small voice, "I don't know where my money is."

And she said, "Okay."

And I said, "That's the kind of week it's been." There was a Canadian journalist who used to say that (or something like it) at the end of every news broadcast. I always hear his voice when it comes out of my mouth.

She shrugged at me, and I realized I shouldn't say stuff like this to cashiers. They can't do anything for me, probably just want me to be a grownup and take care of my stuff like grownups [supposedly] do. Probably just want me to pay or get out of the way.

Gasp, I thought. Am I turning into an oversharer? The woman in public who goes up to other women in public and empties her heart out, like a bucket, on the floor in front of them? Who thinks strangers actually want to know how you are when they ask how you are?

So I got out of the way. I offered to put my yeast back and she smiled kindly and said she didn't have much else to do (the store was dead; it was, as previously established, early in the morning). That was nice of her. I picked Sullivan up and made my way back to my car, wondering what to do next.

He was confused. We'd come to the store for yeast, picked out the yeast, brought the yeast to the cash register, and were now leaving without the yeast. "Mom? Where's the yeast?"

I sighed. "I can't find my debit card, so we can't buy anything right now."

He grinned at me. "Debit card." It was not an unknowing grin. He was implicating himself.

I set him down on the ground by the flowers at the store entrance. I held his little hands and studied his little face. "Sully. Do you have my debit card?"

"Yeah. I do."

Sully's little still; when he says, "yeah," it could really mean either yes or no. He doesn't always understand the question. But when he tacks an "I do," on the end, it means he knows what I mean and he means what he said. I searched his person.

Imagine my relief upon discovering my lost debit card in his jacket pocket!
Imagine my distress upon discovering that I'm raising a pickpocket!

I immediately thought of one of my favourite childhood movies, Monkey Trouble, starring Thora Birch. She adopts this monkey who was trained by a con man to pickpocket...anyway. It's not important. It's barely relevant.

Thora Birch was my fave back then though. You should know that about me.

(While I was writing this, I remembered that my bread was in the oven, and that I'd forgotten to set a timer. I'm beginning to suspect that part of my brain has actually shut down.)

This blog post is out of control. I'm just now going to get to the actual point, which has nothing whatsoever to do with bread or Thora Birch.

I wanted to tell you about something that has taken up most of my free time this spring: I've been co-writing a book with my lovely friends over at Coffee+Crumbs! It's all come about pretty fast: last November (I think?), we got an email from Harper Collins wondering if we wanted to write a book, and we said yeah, and they said ok, and so we did. It's a book of essays about motherhood, and it's really quite beautiful (to read but also to look at). Ashlee handed in the manuscript yesterday and it's due in bookstores next April, which feels like a very long time from now.

Ashlee wrote a much better, more thorough, book announcement here.

I may never be 90's-era Thora Birch, but I will be a published writer, and that, I think, is also good and fun.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Life of a Mediocre Juggler

I'm not a terrible metaphorical juggler.

(I'm an awful literal one, but it's not a skill set I'm all that sorry to miss out on.)

But as a word picture to describe how I am at keeping all the proverbial balls in the air? I don't stink. I'm not exceptional, like most of my friends appear to be - I can't, say, juggle flaming batons while riding a unicycle across a tightrope (this is how I see anyone who has more than one child or works a full-time job or has a clean house not just when they're expecting company*). I don't do swords and I don't do any kind of fancy behind-the-back-under-the-leg tricks. I can't even juggle more than two or three balls at a time, if I'm being honest - but I feel like I'm consistently trying, consistently doing the basic throw-catch-throw-catch-throw-catch...

This week, I dropped all the balls. All of them. I lost my debit card, first of all, and in looking for it discovered that I'd also lost Sullivan's health card. This made me extremely anxious - what other cards were in my wallet that aren't anymore? And where did they go?

And then I locked myself out of my car, downtown, with Sullivan in my arms, five minutes before nap time, only a few hours before we were supposed to leave town for a funeral. I was supposed to be down there getting my debit card replaced (I forgot to, in the end, and went a solid week without any money). And then I tried to call Barclay for help and my phone ran out of batteries before I could tell him where I was (other than "downtown"). Upon arriving back in town after an exhausting weekend, I completely forgot about an important commitment and a coffee date. My kitchen piled up with plates and pots and pans and mixing bowls, and dust bunnies began to burst forth from every nook and cranny - the large, cranky kind of dust bunny, the kind with teeth and claws. They did not come bearing chocolate eggs in pretty pastel baskets. Suddenly, I discovered that we owned all of the clothes in the world and they were all dirty, overflowing from laundry hampers I didn't even know existed. All the weeds in the yard began to rally together in an attempt to overthrow me and, indoors, Sullivan's toys did the same. I suspect there may have been some communication between the two, an alliance, if you will. That's what I get for opening the windows to let some fresh air in.

To top it all off? I had a book deadline on Friday, but in my head it was Sunday. I got a text from my boss (heyyyy, Ashlee) on Friday night at 10 pm, all like, "Hey, Suzy, where are all these thousands of words you said you'd send me?"

I was like, "What day is it, even?" She was super kind about it, and I made it by the skin of my teeth (ew, what a terrible expression), but still. It was dumb of me.

Such is the life of a mediocre juggler, I guess. Picture it with me: We're some kind of street troupe, all busking together on a sidewalk. My friends are throwing swords and kittens and full glass jugs of milk in the air while simultaneously standing on their heads and jumping rope and eating breakfast. And then I'm there with three squishy red balls on the ground in front of me, looking terribly confused. That's the state of things right now.

And now you may be asking yourself, "What is the point of this blog post other than a shameless cry for pity?"

There is none. Please pity me. That's all.

* This week, I asked Sullivan to help me clean the living room and he said, "Why? Are we having company?"