Sight Lines


It’s Tuesday morning and we are walking to school down a neighbourhood street, the kind that invites speeding.

The street is straight and as wide as a French highway. Every street corner boasts ample sight lines, right into another beautiful, wide, straight, neighbourhood street. These neighbourhood streets are so close to two elementary schools that the children who live here do not qualify for bussing. They are expected to walk or bike. Yet the car — or if you live in an affluent suburb like Stittsville, the luxury SUV and the contractor pick-up — is King. The roads are designed for maximum visibility, which we have learned, invites maximum speed.

On our walk to school, I am holding my 5 year-old’s hand on one side of the street. My daughter is walking on the opposite side  because she’s mad at me.

Before we left, her brother threw her school bag on the ground instead of giving it to her and she said: “I’m not picking it up” and started leaving. I said “So he throws your school bag on the ground and you leave it here with your lunch and your homework. Who are you punishing exactly?” Her brother was long gone. She lashed out at me “SHUT UP. I don’t care about you, I don’t care what you think. Just stop talking.” And my heart just broke because it was the third time before 8 am I had been told by someone to shut up and the second time I had been told that no one cared. And that was after being yelled at by another angry child who had been asked not to swing a toy at the walls, accusing me of not caring about anyone. Never in my life have I met someone who worked so hard for people she doesn’t care about.

And so we walked towards the school and toward an incoming white SUV who had to swerve to avoid my daughter on one side, then swerve to avoid my son and I on the other side. In my impatience, I made a hand gesture signalling her to slow down and she did slow down just enough to roll her window down and yell at me.

“I’m doing 35!” she said as she sped off again through a stop sign. The stop signs are beautifully designed for maximum safety, with sight triangles the size of Texas. The visibility is so impeccable that you don’t even need to stop, you can see cars coming a mile away. A 5 year-old on his bike, maybe not. But he’s not the King of the road.

Who knows, maybe she was doing 35? Speed is hard to appreciate when the pick-up coming at you is so jacked that the front wheels are taller than your 5 year-old. You wouldn’t want to be stuck in traffic on the 417 with anything less than 10 inch of ground clearance. Everything looks too fast when it weights 2 tons and is coming at you, know what I mean? I don’t have a radar gun in my head, I only have a hunch that whatever the speed limit is, if you need to serve to avoid my child, it might be too high. Just a hunch. Just a mother’s heart that may be bruised but still skips a beat when you hurl a heavy-duty motor vehicle at the featherweight child she’s just been accused of not caring about.

My daughter crossed the street and came to see me. She said “Why was this lady yelling at you?” and I said it was because I had made a sign to slow down. “That lady looks like she might have a problem” my daughter answered.  And I said “Maybe. But how is that different from what you did this morning?”

“I said something you didn’t like so you yelled at me. I said something this lady didn’t like so she yelled at me.”

“I’m everyone’s anger doormat. People are angry and they don’t like it, so they look for someone to wipe their anger off on. You just used me to clean the anger you felt towards your brother. This lady used me to clean up the anger she felt at God-knows-what. We wipe our anger on people and we leave satisfied, for a moment. But the anger doesn’t disappear. Now I have to deal with it. Now I have to deal with the pain of having been yelled at, of having been told no one cares about what I say, of having been accused of not caring.”

Now I have to deal with the fear that the next time this lady drives by my family she’ll speed up instead of slowing down, just to show me who this street really belongs to. Anger doesn’t dissipate. It doesn’t evaporate. It communicates like a disease. It sullies everything it touches until all of us are trying to wipe it off something else.

Seeing is not caring. We thought that better visibility would make our roads safer,  as if seeing the other was all that carefulness needed to take root. We expanded the sight lines, widened the triangles, until we realized that carelessness expands to fit the space it is given.

We have worked diligently to eliminate friction points. To eliminate the need to proceed with caution. To eliminate the need to look the stranger in the eye, to see the other’s fear. We are trying to eliminate the need to mature, to become self-aware. To admit our mistakes. We make it possible for a grown woman driving an expensive vehicle to react with the maturity of a 10 year-old girl and drive away satisfied, having learned nothing but maybe taught two children that problems are solvable by denial and deflection.

And so carelessness expands to fit the space it is given, anger communicates like a disease, and sight lines become blind spots.

 

Cannabis, attachment, and teenagers, Oh my!



As many of you know, I recently took a position as Councillor’s Assistant for my own municipal councillor, Glen Gower (visit the website, subscribe to the newsletter, Follow All The Things), community advocate and overall great guy. When I worked for Pierre Lemieux on Parliament Hill I used to say “Pierre is the best boss so it’s all downhill from there” and, well, it looks like I knocked it out of park boss-wise again. My new workplace doesn’t feel like a boss and three employees but rather like four people with different gifts and abilities plugged into the same circuit for the same purpose. Glen often speaks of his work at City Hall as the work that “we” do and it’s one of the little things that go a long way in making people feel like they matter. I’m a lucky minion.

Working as an assistant is a weird space to occupy for someone who has been CEO, President and Self-Appointed Dictator for Life of her universe for quite some time. It’s challenging, especially when I feel the swell of strong feelings rising. I have to remember that if I wanted a voice at City Council, I was free to run against my boss and have my ass handed to me. It’s a free country.

In the meantime, I would be immensely grateful if you allowed this blog to remain my little corner of the Internet and didn’t assume that my opinions reflect those of my boss or the city. I’m going out on a limb assuming that my readership is small and loyal enough to protect me from the pitfalls of being a staffer with a personality. But if you make me choose between y’all and my paycheque, I’m going to have to go with the paycheque and a big gaping hole in my heart.  Check? Check.

Last December 13, the Ottawa City Council met for what some called “pot day,” a special council meeting to debate and otherwise equivocate on the impending licensing of cannabis retail stores in Ontario. Keeping cannabis out of the hands of children (by which Public Health means people under 25, Ontario means people under 19, Quebec means people under 21 and most parents mean anyone who was born to them) is the primary public interest concern driving the regulatory framework of cannabis retail. What “public interest” means differs based on your profession: Doctors doctor, Lawyers lawyer, Accountants account, and politicians represent their constituents with the range of wisdom and intellect we expect in nature. I’m not a doctor, no longer anything resembling a lawyer, I can’t math and was not elected to anything, but one thing I know how to do is impart a healthy dose of perspective and encouragement to parents who are wondering what the heck is going on with cannabis.

Cannabis is legal in Canada and regulated in Ontario by the Alcohol and Gaming Corporation of Ontario. The Ford government set the table for Ontario municipalities by taking away their powers to regulate cannabis retail stores through zoning by-laws. In essence, if a municipality allows retail stores somewhere, it has to allow cannabis retail. It cannot limit the number of licenses issued on its territory, it cannot regulate the clustering of cannabis businesses in certain parts of town, it cannot increase buffer zones around schools and daycares, etc. Many people compare the cannabis regime to alcohol sales through the LCBO  but in Ontario cannabis laws and regulations are comparable to cigarette laws and regulations. Got it?

As far as we know — and until it changes again tomorrow — cannabis will be available in 25 retail locations in Ontario starting this January. The retail license regime went from authorizing up to 75 licenses per distributor to 25 for the whole province overnight. Cannabis has been available for purchase online since last October so the question at this point is not when will legal cannabis come to your neighbourhood — spoiler alert: it already has — but rather when will it be available in brick & mortar stores around the corner.

As parents, the public discourse about drugs and alcohol has a sense of inevitability. We exist in a weird place of confused messaging from our governments whereby cannabis, like alcohol and gambling, is seen as just another business when it comes to revenues but a dangerous boogeyman when it comes to its impact on society. We are told to consume freely, but not too much, enjoy, but not too often, send as much money as you can in tax and duties but stop just shy of costing us more in treatment and social services, ok? It’s like abstinence-only sex education: stay far far away from this evil stuff until you reach this magical point (age, marriage) when all this truly evil stuff will suddenly turn good in a puff of glittery smoke. We put buffer zones around schools and hide products behind blinds as if children could walk out of school and accidentally step into a life of addiction.

I’m not concerned about legal cannabis. There I said it. As things are now — and have been since I was a teenager —  it’s easier to come by 10 gr of pot around any given high school than it is to buy beer. There is not a single contractor pick-up truck or delivery van in my neighbourhood that doesn’t reek of pot. If you think that pot shops herald the end of civilization, remember that your kid’s high school is currently the local pot shop.

My concern when it comes to drugs and alcohol is not whether my children — by which I mean anyone born to me, whether they are actually children, teenagers or full-grown adults — will try it but whether they will become habitual users or addicted.

I was in a relationship with an addict for two years. He had started drinking at age 12. In the province of Quebec, where alcohol is sold in corner stores to people over 18, he would walk out of his house to catch the school bus, buy a litre of wine at Mac’s milk, and drink it all before his bus turned the corner and picked him up. All the drugs eventually followed as they tend to do.

They say that cannabis is the gateway drug leading to stronger stuff but it’s not cannabis that causes the addiction, it’s whatever the addict is trying to numb. The root of addiction is not the substance, it’s the pain of illness, of loneliness, of dislocation. Cannabis doesn’t have to be laced with Fentanyl to become addictive: it only has to fill a hole, numb a pain, or scratch an itch. I learned the hard way that trying to control the substance without addressing the pain is an exercise in futility. And the pain is dyed in the fabric of the person, sometimes woven right into their DNA. That’s why our parenting leading up to the first time our children are exposed to addictive substances matters more than whether the pot shop sits 150 m or 300 m from their school.

Few parents understand how much influence they have on their teenagers’ lives and choices. Did you ever marvel at how quickly teenagers learn musical instruments? Or languages? Or sports? Or video games? Our teenagers are always learning. I can no longer count the number of times parents have told me with resignation that teenagers have to rebel so there’s no point trying to stop it. Teenagers have to become individuals, and while they often do it in contrast to their parents’ identity, it doesn’t have to be in opposition to it. As a parent, you can choose to be your teenagers’ foil or their sounding board.

Teenagers are wired for love and relationships. If we are not there — physically or emotionally — to provide the unconditional regard they crave, they will find it elsewhere. There is no option where our teenagers don’t attach: if we leave the spot empty, they will attach to peers or to whatever else fills the void. Behind a prickly exterior and off-putting manners, they yearn for connection. Even more: they yearn for connection with us. They struggle with the difference between agreeing and understanding because they crave our approval, not because they look down on it. 

Mental illness aside — a topic and I am not knowledgeable or experienced enough to tackle —  all the little things we do from birth to show our children that we care add up to a relationship that can withstand the onslaught of drugs, alcohol, and risky behaviours our children are exposed to in school and in the media.

I can’t promise that my children will never engage in risky behaviour. Some already have. But the best I can hope for is that when they feel the pangs of discomfort, when they have doubts, when they want to challenge the orthodoxy of their peer group, they will know that they can turn to their parents for comfort and guidance. That they will trust enough to give us a chance to fill that hole, to love them back to balance. Because in the end, when given the choice between unconditional love and some artificial make-believe, the real thing is what we all yearn for.

Parenting Quotes I’m Eating Back Today


This post was first published on Vie de Cirque in September 2014. I was having coffee yesterday morning and overheard a young woman talk about how having children wouldn’t change her routine, that it was all a matter of making the right choices. It reminded me of a blog post I wrote 4 years ago.

I once read a quote. It went a little like this:

“at the beginning of my career I had no kids and 12 principles; today I have 12 kids and no principle.”

I was blessed with 4 relatively compliant children before I gave birth to 5 more. When I was having children in my 20s, I believed <clears throat with embarrassment> that my success in raising easygoing children was no-doubt related to my stellar parenting skills. What I lacked in skills, I made-up in youthful exuberance. Now that I have experience and some skills, I will readily admit that I have no clue. It’s true. My experience parenting is like the used children’s shoes in my basement: no matter how many I keep, I can never find a pair of the right size, at the right time, for the right season.

Over the years, I have developed an expertise in each one of my children but here’s the catch: no matter how many children I have, they all come out as unique individuals. Never seen before and never to be repeated again. Isn’t human reproduction amazing that way? If 18 years of parenting has taught me anything, this is it: the lessons learned from raising this child are rarely applicable to raising that child. I still don’t know what I’m doing but I am more “zen” about it. Instead of seeing children as problems to solve, I see them as a puzzles to complete. I did not draw the picture, but with careful dedication I can help it come together.

When I think about my early years as a parent, it is often to eat back some pearl of wisdom with a generous serving of Humble Sauce. Gulp. Here are some of my gems.

“Children won’t draw on walls if they have access to paper.” Did you know that I spent the first 8 years of my life-with-children without a single drawing-on-walls incident? Then we sold a house and shortly before we moved my 3 year-old decorated a wall with black Sharpie. Now I have children who won’t draw on paper if they have access to a wall.

“I will never buy size 6 diapers.” Seems simple enough: if a child is big enough to wear size 6 diapers, he’s old enough to potty train. Right? Guess who just purchased a Costco-sized box of size 6 diapers for her 3-year-old child? Take heart, all you parents of late potty-trainers for it turns out that potty-readiness is completely out of your hands! The good news is that accepting this simple fact will make potty-training a lot easier for everyone involved.

“I won’t let myself get fat.” When I was dating my now-husband, he came to visit me at my parents’ house on his motorcycle wearing his full-leather gear. I was in the pool at the time and we couldn’t resist the temptation of taking a biker chick picture, him in his leather chaps, me in my bathing suit. I found out that I was pregnant shortly after and upon seeing the picture, my aunt – who had 4 children – said “Keep that picture because you’ll never look like this again.” I declared that I would not let maternity ruin my body. Well guess what?? Maternity never asked my opinion. Maternity took my body and turned it upside down. It moved my organs around and re-shaped my pelvis to its liking. It not only packed-on pounds as it was growing 9 healthy humans, it refused to lose even one as it was busy feeding them. I ran and I dieted and I ran some more. I stretched and planked and even starved myself at some point. It never went down. I got sick, I de-calcified my teeth, but I never lost a single breastfeeding pound. Today, after my easiest pregnancy and a beautiful home birth, I am breastfeeding a 4 month-old and a 3 year-old and I weight as much as I did during my last week of twin pregnancy. I am 60 lbs heavier than I was on that infamous picture 18 years ago and my dress size has more than doubled, going from 6 to 14. I’m definitely bringing booty back. And boobs. And legs.

“If your child is old enough to ask for breast milk, he is too old to nurse.” Refer to previous paragraph about nursing a 3 year-old. She’s been old enough to ask for milk for almost 2 years. She can explain the difference between cow’s milk (milk in a cup) and breast milk (milk in the mouth). Heck, she can ask for milk in both official languages.

What about you? Did you know everything about parenting until you had kids? What pearls of wisdom are you eating back today? Share in the humble pie!

The Yelling Challenge


(Before we get started, note that I use “yelling” as a catchall for the many ways in which our voice expresses anger, exasperation or plain old done-with-it-ness. I was reminded of that by my 9 year-old daughter this morning who accused me of “yelling at her” during church when I asked her to take her feet off her brother. I told her that had I been yelling during Consecration, everyone would be looking at me right now. It wasn’t yelling but it wasn’t exactly sunshine and ponies either.)
Yelling challenges are not what your children think they are. Paul — my husband — and the children often have a yelling challenge whereby everyone is encouraged to yell as much as they can for one minute. Those are the things you can do when Dad is in charge. Moms are challenged to steer their children in the right direction without getting angry.
 
I have done my share of yelling and paid my dues to the stop-yelling-challenges clubs of everywhere. With the help of carbon dating, I can pin my first hopeful foray into calmer parenting to my pregnancy with David in 2005-06. My fourth child was 4 years-old and this fifth baby felt like a new beginning, a chance to be the non-spanking, non-threatening, attachment-minded parent I admired. I’ve been trying ever since.
 
Here’s what happens when I stop yelling or threatening: stuff stops happening. The truth is that no one moves until I yell or threaten. You know what I’m talking about right? I call it the “Oh Shit” threshold.
 
What is that about anyway? Some say that children spend so much energy keeping it together for those who sorta like them — friends, peers, teachers — that they have none left for those who love them unconditionally. And while I find comfort in these platitudes, I still wonder why my children are so much nicer to their father than they are to me. I find no truth in the suggestion that my children’s attachment to my husband is faulty, that they perceive his love as conditional, that he exists in the periphery of their emotional lives, among the friends, peers, teachers and daycare workers. My husband is equally submerged in the murky waters of parenting. I can’t reassure myself with the myth of perfect attachment causing children to act like jerks.
 
So here I am, just a girl, standing in front of her blog, asking it why she has to choose between doing everything herself or turn into a screaming banshee. Both options have led me straight into the pits of burn-out and depression and I’m wondering if I can crack this nut or if I’m condemned to parent from a place of perpetual angst.
 
As adults we often forget how often children have to do things they’d rather not do. We take their dependance for granted and even resent it at time. We earn a living for them, hunt, gather, provide the shelter and safety that they are incapable of providing for themselves. In return, we expect them to eat the food we provide and stay in the shelter of our choice while we parent ourselves out of a job. Immaturity leaves children with little true agency. We may try to give them the illusion of agency while we lift them out of Ettenmoors but nobody is dupe. The process of maturing is where our way meets the highway: it’s the lifelong tug-of-war between our desire to go as far as we can on our own steam and our realization that we need others. In many ways, parenting is teaching our children to make room for others.
 
We were all born in a struggle between the individual wanting to grow fast and wild and the need to keep other people in our lives. Human babies are born with nothing but the need to form relationships. This is the only way they can survive. The back-and-forth between needing others and needing to be our own person creates that “oh shit” threshold. How far can we refuse to do something without compromising our survival (or if you are a grown-up, the survival of your marriage, the keeping of your job, the avoiding of the prison…). The relative height of this threshold and how often it will trip us as we learn to manage it vary with our individual temperaments and personalities.
 
Parenting is the work of sculpting a functional individual out of the primary matter we are given. The influence of the artist and the proprieties of the matter are present in every work of art. That’s why some people grow into functional members of society and others act like 3 year-olds well into adulthood. Lack of self-control, sulking, selfishness, impulsivity, helplessness: we were all 3 year-olds once. Adults who can’t flush their toilets, wipe their microwaves or return a favour without sulking exasperate those who have done the work of growing up, of letting the individual be formed and molded. The irritation is not born of being completely foreign to these lower instincts but from from having reluctantly grown out of them.
 
When I stopped yelling and blowing my lid, I expected that there would be a time of painful transition where nothing would happen. I reasoned that if my husband, who is the calmer, more respected, parent faced a lower “Oh Shit” threshold, lowering the pitch of my parenting would naturally lower the threshold. The children would not suddenly snap into respect mode but if I remained equanimous through the chaos, the balance of the universe would eventually be restored. It’s easy to slide back into old patterns when new patterns don’t bring about the needed change. I had the support and understanding of my husband and I knew that this change would be positive regardless of how long it took to see results.
 
So when did it all turn around? Well, I’m still waiting. Kind of.
 
I never saw results in the compliance department. My children are very impulsive — apple, meet tree. When I ask for something, most of them say no and walk away or simply ignore my request, leaving me with a choice between calmly doing it myself or losing my ever-loving mind. It’s difficult. I’m burned out from the amount of work I have to do without help. Every day I have to choose between burning out from doing everything for everyone or burning out from yelling at everyone. There is no smooth sailing. It’s my life and it’s a complicated dynamic of temperaments, personalities, habits and education. My biggest concern is not that don’t have a gaggle of compliant Stepford Kids but that the image of motherhood I project is one of constant exasperation. I wish they saw me doing something well instead of seeing me struggle with the simplest tasks, like bath time and meal time.
 
Yelling, like spanking, is not a decision, it’s a reaction. To eliminate the yelling, we have to eliminate the irritation. Our sensitivity to our children’s lack of cooperation is not a factor of how egregious the provocation is but of how burned out we are. The same light touch on the arm causes no pain on healthy skin and excruciating pain on burned skin. And it’s hard to heal a burn when something is constantly poking at it.
 
The yelling challenge is not to lower our voice but to lower our pain. It’s the impossible task of healing while walking through fire, of containing the uncontainable, of giving more than we were given, of paying one without robbing the other. It’s the challenge of loving unconditionally while acting like we don’t care.

Podcast Episode 13: The Deal with Teenagers Part 1


Today’s podcast is titled “The deal with teenager” and is the first part of a two-part series on handling the delicate balance of privileges and responsibilities with our teenagers and young adults.

Parenting teenagers is like flying a kite: it’s all in the art of giving enough rope and maintaining tension. Should the kite ever land in a tree, would you rather be around to help your teen untangle the mess or leave them to figure it out? Some parents will say “Let them figure it out on their own, they have to learn eventually.”

I take the longer view on that one: my teenagers might figure it out by cutting all the strings and burning down the tree, leaving them with no kite and a burnt down neighbourhood; or I might help them figure out how they can climb the tree, untangle the strings and, should they have to cut it, do it in such a way as to preserve as much of the kite’s functionality as possible. Then hopefully they will have learned something about getting kites out of trees and will be better equipped to do it themselves the next time it happens.

I once met a parent who was looking for advice on handling a request for money from a young adult child. We got chatting about lending money to our kids. She said: “I only ever lend money to my children because I want to teach them the importance of paying back debts.” I said: “I’ll let the bank teach them the importance of paying back debts when they repossess their cars. As for me, I’ll teach them that their family always has their back.” We worry a lot about what we might teach our teenagers by helping them out of a hard spot; but there’s a whole wide world of people out there who don’t love them. Let the world teach them hard truths: you’re the only one who can teach them unconditional love and support. I wrote a blog post about that, you can read it h e r e.

As promised in the podcast, this is a picture of our Subaru after it took a pick-up in the teeth. For the whole story, you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

The podcast opens with an update on my blogging and the deal with teenagers —  including how our car got smashed — start around the 8:30-minute-mark.

Thank you for listening and please come back for part 2.

https://fearlessfamilylife.com/8-things-i-still-do-for-my-teenagers-time-and-weather-permitting/

Just shoot me


“Mom drinking” by Colin

Every once in a while I get invited to give a talk, sit on a panel or chair a board of directors and a request for a headshot inevitably follows. It always feels something less than professional to send my latest selfie but all the other pictures of me were taken my children and involve either my less flattering appendages, booze, or both.

A nagging little voice kept telling me that I should pay for professional headshots but an even less pleasant little voice always answered “It’s not like you’re paid for these gigs, right?” Why should I fork real money to be reminded how old and doughy I’m getting? When there are guitars to buy and live shows to attend?

And so the little voices stood at a standstill on my shoulder until I had to apply for a job using LinkedIn, making my profile selfie my first chance to make a good impression. Chastised, I booked an appointment with a fellow mom and local photographer and started planning my 5 minutes of glamour.

This is what I look like in my head. I feel way cooler than I look.

First, I would get a new outfit. Simple but classy, I had it all figured out: new skinny jeans, a loose-fitting linen tunic with some new jewelry and a new pair of sneakers. Then I would book the few hours before my headshots for a haircut and getting my nails done. My bangs are almost nose-length, it was necessary anyway, and my hair person could style it for me, a skill I was not blessed with at birth. It would be a headshot session doubling as a day of beautification and pampering, the perfect antidote to a sagging spirit. Monday would be clothes shopping day. Tuesday would be eyebrow threading and leg waxing. Wednesday was hair and pictures. Everything blissfully booked while my children were at school.

It all came crashing in a thundering mess on the Sunday evening when I got the photographer’s email reminder. “We’re looking forward to see you tomorrow, Monday June 12th for your session” … I had it all planned out on the WRONG DAY! Right date, wrong day. I had nothing to wear, an overgrown haircut and bushy eyebrows.

In a panic, I hit my oldest daughter’s closet for a dress, any dress. Unfortunately, my oldest daughter, while statuesque, doesn’t have the right curves at the right place. One does not simply carry 9 children to term and expect to fit in a dress from Sirens, even in a size 10. I grabbed some XL shape wear with the desperate energy of the moribund and almost died trying to get it off. Relieved that the jaws of life were not necessary to get me out it, I reluctantly accepted that I was too shapely for shapewear. I grabbed a simple black and white dress from Walmart that made me look as grumpy and unkempt as the Walmart in my small town but at least it covered the right parts and I could take it off without calling the fire department.

The little voice of insanity kept whispering in my ear that Monday morning would not be too late to go dress-shopping. Like a Home Depot ad suggesting “You can do it, we can help.” Like the Scotiabank’s “You’re richer than you think” So many reminders that stupidity could pay off, if only, NO STOP IT!!

On the morning of the photo shoot, I concluded that the only way to avoid a desperate attempt at dress shopping and hair cutting would be to  go to the gym. I could shower and dress at the gym with only minutes to spare for make-up, which should discourage any delusions of grandeur but the most humble slapping of foundation and mascara. On my way out the door to drive the children to school I grabbed a curling iron, a flask of tinted moisturizer and my daughters’ mascara; threw the Walmart dress on top of my gym bag and attacked the day with a significant lump in my throat. The day of pampering and beautification had become just another fight with chaos.

After my workout and shower, my hair was kinked in its usual pony tail shape and I knew I couldn’t beat it so I might as well join it. I arranged my hair in a high pony tail and tried to curl some of it behind my back. I didn’t even know how to turn-on the contraption but maybe I could use it backwards with my arms extended on the wrong side of my head, the one without eyes. Once I found the “on” button, I let the device heat on a ziplock bag of bobby pins. I curled molten plastic into my hair repeatedly before cluing-in, combed it out over the next five days. So far so good.

Undeterred, I whipped my daughters’ new mascara out of my bag. My daughters, while genetically-related to me, have a gift for make-up. It’s a form of artistic expression. See for yourselves.

Is that a brush or a weapon? It depends on who wields it.

 

If your main consideration when choosing mascara is “can this brush maim me permanently?” you shouldn’t borrow it from my daughters: they’ve been using it without poking their eyes out since grade 1. This was my reflection as I beheld the sickle-shaped, black-paint laden, rigid object I was about to take dangerously close to my eyes.

I emerged from the gym’s change room with a “this is my normal face” attitude, hoping that no one had seen me wipe melted ziplock off my curling iron, and stepped into the car for a mad drive across town. I knocked on Sara’s door taking my first breath since breakfast and greeted her with an executive summary of my confusion and the effort exerted to get my butt into her studio. She laughed and said “On the other hand, this is exactly what you look like in real life. Sometimes I meet people at business events and I don’t recognize them from their headshots.”

She’s right isn’t she? I don’t wear make-up because it bugs me. I don’t have nice clothes because I hate shopping. I’d rather spend my time writing, playing music and answering emails about parenting struggles and victories. I’m not at an age and stage where I can  look polished and be a decent human being at the same time. Every morning, I choose being present and un-rushed to being properly dressed and styled because being-both-level has not been unlocked yet. This is who I am.

And this is exactly what I look like.

Photo creds: Sara McConnell Photography http://www.saramcconnell.ca/